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Domestic Violence Series: Marital Disputes, Ego, And Shame

Domestic violence exists within the Muslim community as well, because all Muslims are human. The incident in Houston shows us that domestic violence can be deadly.

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An Act of Violence

There have been acts of violence when an ex-husband has killed his ex-wife and himself, like what occurred in Chicago this week and happened last month in Texas. An estranged husband unfortunately killed his wife, his four-year old daughter, and his mother-in-law. Then he turned the gun on himself and took his own life. Three entire generations were wiped out in an instant with one senseless crime. This tragedy rooted in marital disputes, my dear brothers and sisters, happened within the Muslim community in a Muslim family.

I know a lot of people think that when it comes to Islam, we know how serious the subjects of crime, murder, and suicide are. Many Muslims have this mistaken assumption, how would a Muslim even dare to think about doing any of these things? After all, we are all human beings, no matter what faith we belong to. But a moment of distress or weakness–don’t forget how clever Shaytan is–can bring a person to do things that they would never have thought themselves capable of doing.

Domestic Violence is Real

The rights we owe to other people, specifically between spouses, and in marital disputes, or divorce cases, is something that has been on my mind, even before hearing about this tragic incident. Since Ramadan has ended, my inbox has been exploding with messages from all over the country. Families have been sending me emails, all requesting an appointment for counseling. In the subject line for all of these emails is the word “urgent,” because these families are going through difficulty and hardship and to them it is of the utmost urgency to resolve their situations.

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When it comes to marital disputes, it’s a serious matter without a doubt! But why does it end like this? Why do people escalate to this level of such extreme domestic violence? May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) protect us all. My dear brothers and sisters, domestic violence is real. Domestic violence exists within the Muslim community as well, because all Muslims are human. This example shows us how serious domestic violence is –that it can be deadly.

Many of us, no matter how bad of a dispute we have with a spouse, think astaghfirullah, I would never do something like that. That family I spoke about earlier was a family who regularly attended their masjid. Even righteous and good people can become weak and make horrible decisions. We should never consider ourselves immune from any terrible act because Shaytan can always find that one gap, moment of weakness, or uncertainty. Shaytan strives to isolate people. He keeps whispering to them that they are terrible spouses. He keeps pushing people until they sometimes begin to believe that no one is there for them and no one can help them.

Money and Ego

SubhanAllah. When we think about what marital disputes boil down to, it’s all about money and ego. Those two things: money and ego. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has sent a message to all the brothers and sisters who are angry with each other because of the disputes between them in their divorce. Allah says it clearly in the Quran:

 

 

 

 

 

“Divorce may be retracted twice, then the husband must retain ˹his wife˺ with honor or separate ˹from her˺ with grace. It is not lawful for husbands to take back anything of the dowry given to their wives, unless the couple fears not being able to keep within the limits of Allah. So if you fear they will not be able to keep within the limits of Allah, there is no blame if the wife compensates the husband to obtain divorce. These are the limits set by Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah, they are the ˹true˺ wrongdoers.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;229]

You have two chances for making divorce to reconcile.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants us to take these two chances to make things better. No one should make their life miserable to give their marriage a second and third chance, but try to take those chances. Maybe the spouses will reconcile. (Please consult with a scholar for extreme cases of abuse).

Whether you return to them in marriage in honor or you release them with and in grace” is what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) commands us to do when a marriage is failing.

Even when things get worse and the husband is retaliating against his wife, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks him to “find a settlement between you” because it “is better for you.”

 

 

 

 

“If a woman fears indifference or neglect from her husband, there is no blame on either of them if they seek ˹fair˺ settlement, which is best. Humans are ever inclined to selfishness. But if you are gracious and mindful ˹of Allah˺, surely Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” [Surah An-Nisā’: 4;128]

However, when it comes to settlements, people fight for pennies and dimes. “Those mean people” come to settlement meetings and fight for every last scrap they can get. What a divorcing couple in this circumstance doesn’t understand, is whatever judgment they may get angry over in this dunya, is irrelevant when they’re waiting to be tried in a Divine court in which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will judge every case.

This temporary life in comparison to the eternal afterlife–why do we care? Whatever settlement someone may find upsetting or any other thing that happens to us in this life and world is all temporary, no matter what. So let’s make splitting up a marriage easy on each other. It doesn’t have to end in violence. Don’t let it get to that point.

The First File: Associating Partners With Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

The rights we owe to other people are so serious in our book of deeds. In a hadith in Musnad Imam ul Hakim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) tells us:

“There are three files within a person’s book of deeds on the Day of Judgement. One file contains what Allah will never forgive. Another file contains what Allah will overlook entirely. And the last file contains what Allah will question everything within it without leaving even a single matter untouched.”

But what are inside of these files? The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) goes on to explain the details of each one of these three files we carry on the Day of Judgement. “As for the first file, that contains what Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) will never forgive, that is associating partners with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in worship.”

That sin is something Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will never forgive, because after Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created us and gave everything to us; we still dare to ignore Him and thank others for what He did for us? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will never forgive the sin of shirk, or ascribing Divinity to anything other than Him, and this is also clear in the Quran.

 

 

 

“Allah will never forgive those who associate partners with Him, but He is willing to forgive anything other than that.” [Surah An-Nisa: 4;48]

The Second File: Transgressions Against Ourselves

“The second file which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) won’t care about at all contains the transgressions against ourselves.” These are actions that relate to our duties to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and affect our relationship with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Concrete examples of these types of transgressions are: messing up our fasts, a haraam thing we did, not praying on time, or looking or listening to something we’re not supposed to. As long as we repent and come back to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and ask him for forgiveness, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will forgive any of it!

The Third File: Wrong Against Others

The last file is a scary one. “As for that file which contains what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will never leave anything out of and will question everything from, it is the rights we owe to other people.”

These are all the wrong things we did to others, including, but not limited to: statements we said in backbiting, cheating others, or hitting someone. Every single action will be revealed. For these deeds, none of us can escape retribution. We will all have to pay for every bad deed within this file. I’m sure all of us are wondering now, how can I free myself on this day? This is so scary and dangerous for the believer! None of us want to think that we’ve done so much good in the dunya, but then end up with nothing on the Day of Judgment due to all of the deeds within this last file.

A Bankrupt Person

Empty walletAlong these lines, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “‘Do you know who a bankrupt person is?’ The companions replied, ‘Of course, it’s the person who has no gold or silver.’ The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) responded, ‘but the truly bankrupt person is when someone comes on the Day of Judgment with a pile of good deeds as big as the mountain range of Tahama.’”

The mountain range of Tahama reaches from Makkah all the way to Yemen. However, all of these good deeds come with strings attached. “But they cursed some person, hit another person, cheated yet another person.” In order to settle accounts, everyone who has been wronged starts taking this person’s good deeds from their mountain of deeds until they’re bankrupt and left with nothing. [Muslim; Riyad as-Salihin 218]

There is no other compensation on that day. Apologizing? It’s too late for that! No one will accept anything less than the wrongdoer’s good deeds. Not even our parents will accept our apologies. This is because that day will all be about our deeds. No one will care about anything else. If that bankrupt person runs out of good deeds then the person they have wronged will take from their bad deeds and throw them onto the other in compensation. These transactions of our good and bad deeds will happen until the person who wronged so many is completely doomed.

My dear brothers and sisters, think about it. Is this fate on the Day of Judgment worth it? Is it really worth whatever we may gain in this dunya to become bankrupt in the Hereafter?

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Recommends Counseling to Settle Marital Disputes

Let us also not bankrupt ourselves by doing wrong within our relationships. Divorce happens. Why would Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mentioned it in the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) if it wasn’t a possible solution? Divorce is an option for conflict-resolution in our deen, religion. When things are completely irreconcilable and difficult to bring back peace and harmony within a household, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gives people an exit out of this situation!

However, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) recommends for us that we undergo arbitration with trusted people. In the Quran, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) instructs a couple on the brink of separation to “bring a mediator from his family and a mediator from her family” in order to facilitate conflict-resolution.

 

 

 

“If you anticipate a split between them, appoint a mediator from his family and another from hers. If they desire reconciliation, Allah will restore harmony between them. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [Surah An-Nisa: 4;35]

Today we call this counseling! But how many people are not willing to consider going to marriage counseling? The majority of us! Honestly, especially among men. Let’s be real about this. Most men are willing to divorce their wife–to die for a separation–but they’re not willing to bring someone into their marriage to tell them what to do or not do. But that counselor is the expert! And that is what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is commanding us to do! “If you don’t know something, then ask the expert” for help in understanding. “We did not send ˹messengers˺ before you ˹O Prophet˺ except mere men inspired by Us. If you ˹polytheists˺ do not know ˹this already˺, then ask those who have knowledge ˹of the Scriptures˺” [Surah Anbiya 21;7]

Why did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) ask someone to represent both husband and wife? For them to deal with the issues on the couple’s behalf. When the judgment is given, someone will not be happy about it, no matter what the judgment is. I’m certain of this as a fact.

Prophetic Recommendation in Resolving Marital Disputes

Even the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) alluded to this when he mentioned how people during his lifetime came to him for mediating their issues:

“You come to me to rule between two of you. Some of you might be more eloquent in speech than others. I rule based on what I hear from both parties. If I rule in your favor when you have argued more effectively but not because you deserve it, you need to know I am giving you a piece of fire from Hell. So take the wrongfully favorable judgment or leave it.” [Sahih;Sunan Ibn Majah 2317]

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is warning the person that if a judgment is not rightfully theirs and they are fully aware of it, then it’s beyond the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) responsibility to do anything about it. Inevitably, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will right this mistaken settlement in His Divine court. There will be no friends, no excuse, and no cheating, lies, or fabrication to help someone standing before Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). These deeds are what are contained in that file in our book of deeds, the deeds we will never be forgiven for until the person wronged takes their retribution from us.

Extreme Emotional Reactions May Lead to Domestic Violence

Parents and elders of those having marital issues, this is a very serious matter you also need to pay attention to. What we saw in Houston was just a side effect. Let’s be real about it–unfortunately, marital disputes which lead to domestic violence can be a matter of life and death.

Parents and elders of those going through a divorce–be mindful of your role. Some parents experience extreme emotional reactions when it comes to their children going through a divorce. They might be thinking about what people will say hearing that their child is going through a divorce and they experience shame and anger. Some families are willing to smear everyone else’s reputation because their ego is too big and they’d rather control the narrative instead of letting others talk about it first. Sometimes it’s the parents who are the ones pushing the children to fight for everything just to satisfy their egos.

With all of this undue pressure and heightened emotions, do you think your child might not snap and do something like what we saw in Houston? And to make matters much worse, many of these parents also go on and say mental illness doesn’t exist. Parents and elders should be strategic in helping their child reconcile the marriage or move on with peace and goodness.

Counseling is good for you. Grieving because you’ve lost your relationship with your spouse and children is fine– learn to do it right with the help of a counselor. We don’t have to go and investigate the details of the Houston case. Who made what mistakes, what happened in the relationship, and etc. There’s no justification for a heinous crime like this. It doesn’t have to end badly like this if we as individuals and families take the measures I have mentioned.

An Imam’s Job Requires Bravery

Let us also understand the position of the imams when it comes to resolving marital disputes. Speaking on behalf of many imams, it is not easy for imams to get involved in these situations. When it comes to getting married, everyone wants the best shaykh to get them married. But when there are disputes? The last person they want to have involved is the imam because people generally would rather want to go to court to fight for their divorce settlement. But in situations when the couple do come to the imam for a ruling, remember that the imam rules based on the evidence and proof they have and tries to look for the best outcome for everyone.

However, many imams have stopped ruling between couples because they get bullied by families and angry husbands. A lot of imams are avoiding helping couples to reconcile or leave with graciousness because the imam faces personal consequences if the answer or ruling isn’t what someone wants. And as I mentioned before, in these rulings it is seldom the case where everyone is happy.

This job for imams is not easy. In a sense it requires bravery. There may be negative repercussions from a resolution because the imam can’t control what the person says or does after that. It’s a community crisis and vicious cycle. The imam is hesitant to help because the community is so vicious against the imams. The community isn’t willing to seek help from the imam because they don’t want to accept the ruling if it comes against them. It’s not an easy task and not an easy job.

Domestic violence is real, serious, and can be fatal. Make sure when you stand in front of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) with all of your deeds that your third file is clear. Make sure the first and third files are completely clear. What you have with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is willing to forgive, except for shirk. What you have with the people, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will hold you accountable for it until they forgive you. Understand the gravity of this.

Not Too Late: What You Can Do Now

The good thing is that it is not too late for us yet. Whatever injustice against people we have done, we can still fix that. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has made it clear that we will be responsible to answer for any of these wrongdoings. Go to whoever you know you have wronged and reach out to them.

If you’re scared or confused about how to reconcile a mistake, go to your imam, wise elder, or counselor and ask for help. Do whatever you need to, even if it involves paying a counselor, to clear your third file here in the dunya. After this life, there’s nothing we can do about any wrong we have committed against each other.

Ask yourself: who do I need to seek reconciliation with?

 

Related reading:

Domestic Violence And The Muslim Community

The End to Hitting Women: Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence | Imam Abdullah Hasan

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Sh. Yaser Birjas is originally from Palestine. He received his Bachelors degree from Islamic University of Madinah in 1996 in Fiqh & Usool, graduating as the class valedictorian. After graduating, he went on to work as a youth counselor and relief program aide in war-torn Bosnia. Thereafter, he immigrated to the U.S. and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He is also an instructor at AlMaghrib Institute, where he teaches popular seminars such as Fiqh of Love, The Code Evolved, and Heavenly Hues. He is currently serving as an Imam at Valley Ranch Islamic Center, Irving, Texas. Sh. Yaser continues to enhance his knowledge in various arenas and most recently obtained a Masters of Adult Education and Training from the University of Phoenix, Class of 2013. In addition to his responsibilities as an Imam, Sh. Yaser is a father of four children, he’s an instructor at AlMaghrib Institute, and a national speaker appearing at many conventions and conferences around the country. He is very popular for his classes and workshops covering a wide range of topics related to the youth, marriage, parenting and family life among other social matters related to the Muslim community. His counseling services, in office and online, include providing pre-marital training, marriage coaching and conflict resolution for Muslims living in the West.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. A Husband

    July 21, 2022 at 2:02 PM

    A few years ago, I married a woman just because of her pretty face and nice physique. She turned out to be verbally abusive, had unreasonable expectations, could not handle criticism, was very controlling and dominating, continuously threatened me with a false case of dowry, and eventually cheated on me with her boss in my bed, while I was away. The marriage ended in divorce. It could have ended with my suicide. I knew where my marriage was headed early in my marriage, so I was wise enough not to have any children with her, otherwise she would have run away with my kids and I would have never got to see them again.

  2. Truth

    July 22, 2022 at 1:06 PM

    It is not some shaitan which makes people violent, or money and ego. Domestic violence is about power and control, many people are sadists by nature, while many make horrible decisions due to anger that has been accumulating since a long time. Furthermore, counselling does not help anyone. If it becomes unbearable to live together it is better to seek a divorce than for it to reach a point where someone either commits suicide or murders their spouse.

  3. Fajr Dua

    July 30, 2022 at 12:29 AM

    Violence should not be acceptable in any relationship.

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