Domestic abuse is not condoned by Islam

Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown ~ 30 October 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

For anyone who might ask, “Does Islam condone domestic abuse?”, the answer is a resounding, “No, of course not”.

Violence committed against women by an intimate partner is a crime. Unfortunately, it is an all too common one worldwide. In the United States alone, 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by someone they know every year. It is important not to paint a picture that is tragically all too common the world over onto a single society.

For anyone, Muslims included, who operates under the assumption that Islam gives a husband licence to beat his wife, this is a misreading of the Quran.

The Quran says about itself that it comprises verses of clear and apparent meaning, muhkamat, and verses of ambiguous, unapparent meaning, mutashabihat.

The Quran goes on to say that only those in whose hearts is an illness pursue the ambiguous verses. The rule is that we understand the ambiguous verses in terms of the clear and comprehensive ones.

The single verse in question seems to allow for something called darb. This has been translated as “hit”. The problem is, the Quran said darb, not “hit”, because the Quran wasn’t revealed in English. What darb is in this single instance is ambiguous.

The situation becomes even more complicated when we see all of the more numerous references and injunctions to treat women well. “Treat them with loving kindness,” “Take heed for the good treatment of women,” “The best of you are the best of you to your families,” the purpose of the marriage bond is that “you might find peace and tranquillity in one another”. What kind of darb involves loving kindness, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t involve hitting.

The interpretation of any single instance of revelation must involve reading the entire tradition of scholarship as a whole, the Quran, the Sunnah, and the corpus of jurisprudential law.

We have explicit statements of the Prophet Mohammed reproaching anyone who might abuse his wife. The Quran states clearly that every “child of Adam” has been ennobled by the very fact of creation. This is inclusive of every human being.

The conclusion of jurisprudence is that it is unlawful in Islam to abuse, injure or insult the dignity of one’s wife.

At the same time, the Islamic view does advocate a male head-of-the-household model for the family. This demands of men that they be responsible leaders.

Leaders are also advised to take the opinion of those for whom they are responsible into consideration when making decisions that affect everyone. All the same, the leadership of any group is one, and the final decision about the well-being of the family lies with the leader.

Making the right match for marriages is important. Everyone, men included, can find someone in whose leadership they are inspired.

Injuring or abusing one’s spouse is a criminal act, full stop. When conflict and disagreement in marriage reaches a point where people feel they need to hit one another, that’s the point when it’s time for divorce. If we are ambiguous on this point, it will lead people to falsely believe that they have licence.

At any rate, we all know the real score here: we’re just asking our sisters, be gentle with the brothers, too.

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