Using Islam to End Violence against Women
In February, Muslim women in Scotland will officially
launch a new campaign to fight domestic violence. While violence against
women is a global problem that does not discriminate against
nationality, race or religion, some look at violence against women in
Muslim countries and conclude that there must be a link. However,
volunteers at Amina, a U.K.-based Muslim women’s charity, argue that
Islam should instead be looked upon as a solution to eradicate violence
To that end, they recently launched a campaign that will contest the
misperception that Islam encourages violence of any sort. Amina will
work with imams in the community and use Hadith (a collection of
traditions containing sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) and
Qur’anic verses to support the notion that, not only does Islam condemn
violence, but its text repeatedly emphasizes kind, fair and respectful
treatment of women.
The most commonly quoted Qur’anic verse that has been used to justify
violence against women is verse 4:34 of the Qur’an. It has been
translated by Yusuf Ali: “. . . As to those women on whose part ye fear
disloyalty (nushuz) and ill-conduct, admonish them [first],
[next] refuse to share their beds [and last] beat them [lightly] [udribuhuna];
. . . .”
The misinterpretation and decontextualization of the Arabic words
nushuz and udribuhuna have led to the pervasive
misunderstanding of this verse. For example, the word daraba (the
root of the word udribuhuna) has 25 different meanings, including
“to go away from” or leave for some time. Based on the latter meaning,
the transliteration reads: “As to those women on whose part you fear
disloyalty, first admonish them, then abandon their sleeping places,
then go away from them.”
Furthermore, the word nushuz here specifically makes the three
stages of this verse applicable only in very specific and serious
situations. Mohammed Abdel Haleem, a professor of Islamic Studies at the
School of Oriental and African Studies in London, argues that the word
refers specifically to infidelity.
One only needs to look at the Prophet Muhammad’s example and the general
message of the Qur’an to realize that Islam clearly condemns any sort of
violence against women. Verse 30:21 states: “And among His Signs is that
He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may live in
tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your
[hearts]: verily there are Signs in that for those who reflect.”
In addition to ensuring such messages are disseminated, Amina’s campaign
also encourages women and men to speak up against violence. It is an
obligation, they argue, that Muslims speak out against abuse and
adamantly oppose any false beliefs that Islam supports the mistreatment
Such work can be a pivotal part of the solution to violence if it
reaches religious leaders across communities. Imams tend to have a
substantial degree of influence over local Muslim communities as these
are individuals who are trusted and perceived as credible. Therefore,
working with them to ensure the message is delivered to both men and
women in the mosque is crucial. The combined voices of imams have the
potential to instill much-needed change in the treatment of women.
Such work could also happen at the family level. It is pertinent that
children understand from a young age the importance of respecting women
and treating them with kindness as per the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching.
This model of behavior needs to be reinforced at home and in religious
schools. Parents, particularly fathers, can act as role models in line
with the kind demeanor of the Prophet himself.
Islam provides very clear guidelines within its texts regarding all
aspects of life, including the treatment of women. This knowledge and
understanding, the very tool that has been manipulated for misogyny, can
be used to eradicate the problem of domestic violence in Muslim
* Nihal Magdy is a Muslim British Egyptian blogger and a marketing
specialist based in London. This article was written for the Common
Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: CGNews, Jan. 29, 2013, <www.commongroundnews.org>.
Copyright permission is granted for publication.