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How Does Islam View Emotional Abuse?

14 June, 2023
Q Dear scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. Physical abuse in a relationship is widely known and condemned, but what about emotional abuse in Islam? I think it's equally damaging and even more hurting, yet we don't really talk much about it. How exactly do you define emotional abuse and what does Islam say about it? Jazakum Allah khayran.


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

  1. It is not permissible for one of the spouses to abuse the other emotionally.
  2. If either does so, Almighty Allah will hold him or her accountable for that, and they should repent to Allah for this.
  3. It is clear now that the best guide to us to live a very successful martial life is to follow the Prophet Muhammad.

Goals of Marriage in Islam

In Islam, the marriage of a man and a woman is not just a financial and physical arrangement of living together. Marriage is a sacred contract, a gift of Allah, to lead a happy, enjoyable life and continue the lineage. The main goal of marriage in Islam is the realization of tranquility and compassion between the spouses.

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The relationship between the spouses should be based on tranquility, love and mercy. These three summarize the ideals of Islamic marriage. It is the duty of the husband and wife to see that they are a source of comfort and tranquility for each other.

What’s emotional abuse?

While the meaning of physical abuse is rather obvious, the meaning of emotional abuse might not be, and the abuse itself may be more insidious. Emotional abuse includes name calling, belittling, using threat of divorce as a weapon to manipulate the other, threatening with a real weapon (even with no intention to use it).

There may be other elements such as not allowing the wife to visit or contact family or friends. Even frequent teasing, though it starts in fun, may become a type of abuse if it takes the form of sarcasm or demeaning remarks.

Anger leads to emotional abuse

It is common for some people when they are angry to call others names or belittle them. If one gets angry quickly and easily with one’s spouse, it could lead to emotional abuse.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised us to control our anger, not to call each other names, not to use vulgar language, and not to point a weapon at another person. This advice was general for all, but it should be taken even more seriously within a marriage.

The Quran establishes these general guidelines in the following verses: 

{O you who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith. And whoso turns not in repentance, such are evil doers. O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.} (Al-Hujurat 49:11-12)

Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “It is not lawful for a Muslim to scare his fellow Muslim.”  (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet also said: “None of you should point his weapon at his brother, as Satan may provoke him (to hurt his brother) and as a result, he would fall into a pit of Fire.” (Al-Bukhari)

In another version: “He who (even) points at his brother with a piece of iron is cursed by the angels until he puts it down, even if the other was his blood brother.” (Muslim)

Elaborating more on this issue, the prominent Muslim Scholar and Da`iyah, Zienab Mostafa, adds:

Effects of emotional abuse in Islam

Emotional abuse truly damages and hurts as much as physical abuse does. In Islam, there is a special consideration of the relationship between the spouses. Allah says, {And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.} (Ar-Rum 30:21)

It is shown that the basis of the relationship between husband and wife is affection and mercy. In many Hadiths the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned that if a husband looks at his wife with kindness and mercy, Allah Almighty looks at them with His mercy, and if they shake hands all their sins vanish.

So, we have to study very well how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) dealt with his wives. In fact, he was very merciful, kind, and loveable, bearing in mind that there were some problems that they faced in their marital life but they dealt with these problems with extreme wisdom and kindness.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never abused his wives either physically or emotionally.

📚 Read Also: Verbal Abuse is Also Abuse

Therefore, neither of the spouses is allowed to abuse the other emotionally. This is prohibited in Islam. If either does so, Almighty Allah will hold him or her accountable for that, and they should repent to Allah for this. It is clear now that the best guide to us to live a very successful martial life is to follow the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.