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Ending Domestic Violence

ImageEach time the violence happens, the degree of violence tends to escalate, and the chances of it being lethal increase. This is why women must leave such relationships; the tragic death of Aasiya Hassan is a testament to this. However, and as is this case with almost all demographics of domestic violence, it will statistically take the victim seven to nine times to leave an abusive relationship.


Ignoring domestic violence is only going to worsen the problem.

What could be more ironic? A Muslim TV executive is charged with decapitating his wife. Aasiya and her estranged husband Muzzammil Hassan founded Bridges Television, whose mission was to "promote a better understanding of Islam and Muslims". Almost immediately, the term "honor killing" is thrown around by every Muslim-bashing blog and ultraconservative media outlet. Women's rights groups who admit they are not aware of the details of the case have been using the term also.

There is obviously nothing in the teachings of our faith that says in any way or form that a man should protect the honor of his "position" in the community by committing violence against a woman. Islamic law does not permit a man to beat his wife, so how can people ever claim it can justify killing her? Islam is innocent of such slanders. Islam has exalted the status of women and requires equal treatment for them; any transgression upon the guidelines of Islam is a mere backward and uneducated cultural practice.

The Aasiya Hassan case represents several areas where our community has failed. Following multiple episodes of domestic violence, Aasiya Hassan had filed for divorce on February 6, 2009. Several reports have stated that the community knew of the domestic violence taking place within the Hassan home, but nothing was done. Employees of Bridges TV gave a startling account of how Hassan treated his wife. Aasiya Hassan was popular at the station. Muzzammil Hassan was known among employees for having a temper; he sometimes would yell at and demean his wife, but at other times appeared to be a loving husband and father, the employee said.

Domestic violence is not limited to one community, but the signs are almost always the same. The scene isn't that uncommon. A couple has an argument. The female tries to walk away, but the male grabs her arm to stop her. As with the Hassan case, there is a duality of character in the assaulter. Many victims will say "my partner was very charming" or "I never knew." It just follows. Maybe a battle will happen, and the next day, flowers come. There's a period of forgiveness and then a honeymoon period, and then it falls back into the same cycle of violence.

Each time the violence happens, the degree of violence tends to escalate, and the chances of it being lethal increase. This is why women must leave such relationships; the tragic death of Aasiya Hassan is a testament to this. However, and as is this case with almost all demographics of domestic violence, it will statistically take the victim seven to nine times to leave an abusive relationship. Even if women do leave these relationships, they most often do not report the violence to authorities. Subsequently, domestic violence is in the league of rape and sexual assault when it comes to being reported, or rather, underreported.

Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, said Aasiya Hassan's death serves "as a wake-up call to all of us that violence against women is real and cannot be ignored … the Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence."

In the absence of greater resolve by the Muslim community, we will not remove the stigma attached to abusive relationships. We must provide safe havens for women who are battered and abused by men, whether or not these women are Muslim.  Islam condemns violence and abuse against women, and as Muslims, it is our responsibility to both talk the talk and walk the walk.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. One out of every three women is abused in one way or another according to the United Nations, and such figures bring domestic violence much closer to our own homes. As brothers and sisters of all faiths and backgrounds, we must work together to end such episodes of violence against females.

Here is what we can do stop domestic violence in our community:

Reporting violence: If there is any suspicion of violence, call the local law enforcement. You could be saving the life of another person! If we continue the "it's not my business" mentality, more and more women can lose their lives. Shockingly enough, relatives of Aasiya Hassan were aware that she was being abused, yet no one had the courage to pick up the phone and call the police.

For advice and support: If you or someone you know are victims of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

Victims, for a safe place to stay: Call your state's branch of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence if you need a shelter from domestic violence. To find your state’s hotline number, go to the State Coalition List.

Most importantly: Leave the relationship! A worker at a domestic violence organization can help you make a plan to leave as safely as you can. Also, Leaving Abuse Safely can help you think of ways to leave safely.

Use the law wisely: Getting a protective order can be an important part of a safety plan. If you get a protective order though, you should still take other safety planning steps to keep yourself and your children safe. Womenslaw.org provides free legal information and online support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Domestic violence should never occur under any circumstances. But it does, and when it does, there is help.

About Huda Jawad

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  • masooma

    I think there may be some mixed signals in our communities about this topic. A lot of scholars still encourage abused women to stay in the marriage and try to be nicer to avoid further abuse, to ‘change’ their husbands, etc. And there are still some people who blame the victim, as if the person is inciting/causing the abuse, there are still those who insanely believe in things like honor killings, and there is very little avenue within most Muslim communities for people in domestic situations to seek help as they are not really allowed to talk about it (spouses are covering for each other, what happens at home stays there and should not be discussed outside the family ever), and there are few places for them to turn without turning to Christian charities, etc., that may end up proselytizing or providing help that is a challenge to certain aspects of the faith like hijab, etc.

  • Mariam C.

    Thank you for covering this topic! long after the Hassan case is gone, there will be many more in our community. Muslim women do NOT have to suffer silently. We should revolt against heads of mosques who do nothing to stop this epidemic.

    Thank you Huda J.

  • Ali K

    would anyone know where I could find such articles in order to rebutt people and to have a better understanding myself?


  • Zaynab

    Powerful piece.

  • HiddenSoldier

    Sis. Masooma:

    It’s not just religious leaders and scholars who encourage the healing of sore relationships and marriages. Psychiatrists, marriage experts and councillors all encourage it too, as the effects of broken families are almost always detrimental for other family members too, such as children. As Sis.Huda mentioned, if women are expected to ”change” their husbands and remain in abusive relationships in the mean time, it’s almost always due to cultural pressures, not religious.

    Islam teaches us that a man’s faith and his respect for women are directly related. If he respects women his piety will increase and if he is disrespectful towards women, his piety will decrease. Surely Islam does not burden women with the responsibility of “fixing” their husbands in abusive relationships, particularly when it gets physical.

    Br. Ali K:

    Here’s something about the Western legal systems and the permission to “beat” their wives. Denied in this link, yet most law professors have reliable sources which prove that this law is/was authentic.

    Rule of thumb-“It is often claimed that the term originally referred to a law that limited the maximum thickness of a stick with which it was permissible for a man to beat his wife, but this has been discredited. Although British common law before the reign of Charles II permitted a man to give his wife “moderate correction”,” (just fyi)


  • frequent reader

    According to Islam, there’s no excuse for abuse of any kind. However, there has been confusion over what the Quran says due to a Sunni interpretation of chapter 4, verse 34. The said verse is often quoted as saying in part:

    [i]Righteous women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. Those from whom you fear rebelliousness, admonish them then desert them in the bed and then [u]strike them[/u]. Then, if they obey you, do not look for any way against them. Allah is High, Great.[/i]

    The term “daraboohuna” has been used. While the verb daraba has dozens of meanings, the most common is strike or hit.

    According to the Shia position, there are many steps involved for a man admonishing his wife, ratcheting up in intensity. None of them allow for violence, but they do have a deep psychological impact and should not be taken lightly. Banishing from the bed is obvious. But what about striking?

    The rules allow for a man to take a small stick, the size of a toothbrush and lightly strike his wife, not allowing for any physical harm to take place including blood to be drawn or bruising.

    I have heard women getting outraged even when the above example is given. It is my observation that the consequence of such striking is not small and that is why, perhaps, Allah has sanctioned its use for extreme circumstances to get the wife’s attention. If she is doing wrong things and does not listen to logical talk, Islam allows for other methods to impress upon her that she should change her ways.

  • AMR
  • Michelle

    What we need is a slow and systematic “re-brainwashing” of brothers and their mentality towards women. They need to recognise the difference between “culture” and “islam” and STOP using their backward cultures to suppress women. E.g. in some cultures, it is a norm to beat ones wife, as if its expected. It is only when their children, esp the sons grow up and are able to defend their mothers that this phenomenon stops. It is sad to see brothers responding to the question: “what do you look for in a wife”…”Oh I want her to be quite and shy so that I can “control” her…” Well, sorry brothers… the time is over when you can treat your wives as doormats and expect her to treat you with kindness and respect… Muslim women (atleast those growing up in the west) are becoming more and more educated and outspoken. I don’t blame all muslim men, I just blame those who have this arrogant and conceited view of themselves as being somehow supperior to women and have the audacity to justify their views. In the sight of God, men and women are equals spiritually… the only difference is ofcourse our physical differences, physiology and emotions. It makes me laugh to see brothers emulate the prophet saw in growing their beards (sometimes waist long) and viewing other muslims without beards as somehow less of a muslim, and yet do nothing to follow the way the prophet saw in the way he treated his wives. This is not the fault of islam, but rather the fault of ignorant and backward muslim men and their mentality… no doubt passed on from generation to generation by their backward and male dominated cultures.