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How Can a Wife Protect Herself Against Abuse?

16 October, 2018
Q When a husband hits his wife, what can she do to protect herself and her children who have to witness this? What does Islam say about women's abuse?

Answer

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- The woman has to be wise enough to help her husband before resorting to any type of physical abuse.

2- She should not wait for physical abuse to happen many times until she takes an action.

3- In case of physical abuse, the woman must seek protection. She may leave the house and seek help from social services.


Responding to the question, Zeinab  Al-`Alawani, Instructor of Fiqh and Islamic Studies, Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, states:

I would like to emphasize the importance of the family in Islam and how it is given so much priority over many things.

The stability and future of the family must be maintained in a way that we need to prevent any problem that can negatively affect it.

The wife has to be honored and dealt with respect, kindness, and care. The family atmosphere should be surrounded with love, affection, and mercy.

Both husband and wife are required to work collaboratively to maintain peace and serenity in the family and to bring up their children in a healthy atmosphere.

Abusing the wife physically or emotionally is not allowed in Islam, and the Muslim husband is required to fear Allah and set a good example for his wife and do his best to have a successful marital life that is based on piety and righteousness.

Domestic violence is one of the most grave factors that destroy families. It is a real threat to the Muslim family, and therefore it should not be taken lightly.

It is unfortunate that some women do not report incidents of physical abuse except after it has become a habit and a frequent occurrence in the family, which minimizes the chance of successful counseling and conflict resolution.

Therefore, I would like to briefly give some important tips:

1- The woman has to be wise enough to help her husband before resorting to any type of physical abuse. For example, if he needs anger-management classes or counseling, she should be the first one concerned and try to assist him in this matter.

2- She should not wait for physical abuse to happen many times until she takes an action. She must act positively at the first occurrence. Possible ways of resolution may be seeking professional counseling, help from some friends or community members, or an elder in the family.

3- In case of physical abuse, the woman must seek protection. She may leave the house and seek help from social services. She must protect herself from any possible harm.

Domestic violence is a serious disease that affects the family, and there must be collaborative efforts to solve this issue by raising awareness, providing education, and providing support for troubled families in order to maintain peace and serenity in the family and to provide a healthy environment for children to grow up in.

Almighty Allah knows best.

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

About Zeinab Al-`Alawani
Dr. Zainab Alwani is the Founding Director of the Islamic Studies program at Howard University School of Divinity (HUSD). She is the Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and the chair of the Religious Studies Master of Arts program at HUSD. She is an Islamic scholar, researcher and community activist. Dr. Alwani is also the first female jurist to serve on the board of the Fiqh Council of North America and currently serves as the Council’s Vice-Chair. She is a member and a board member of various national organizations including, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights KARAMAH, and the American Academy of Religion. Dr. Alwani is currently serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Islamic Faith and Practice. Her research focuses on Quranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence, the relationship between civil and religious law in the area of family, women and gender, and inter-religious relations.