Domestic Violence and Islamic Teachings
By Adnan Ahmed
Yet again, a very despicable and deplorable honor killing incident happened recently when a Balochistan-based journalist named Shaheena Shaheen was shot dead in Turbat, the city approximately 700 kilometres from the provincial capital of Quetta. Shaheena was shot twice by unidentified men who left her body at a hospital and fled promptly thereafter. Shaheena Shaheen was a renowned social activist and a journalist from Gwadar. She has been affiliated with PTV Bolan morning show as an anchor and was also the editor of the magazine Dazgohar. However, the individual accused of her brutal killing in the name of so-called honor is her husband; an investigation into the homicide has been launched following medico-legal formalities at the hospital.
Nonetheless, such brutal and dreadful so-called honor killing permeates almost every echelon of our society, and domestic violence has also been a very serious and detestable issue in our country for generations. The statistics from different international forums, government and public organizations as well as NGOs reveal the incessant staggering rise in the domestic violence and abuse cases in the country. Although, the range of domestic violence is vast and varied in Pakistan, yet most victims are wives who face suffering in the name of so-called honor.
The last few months’ domestic violence statistics divulge that even well-educated people have been involved in domestic violence and abuse cases. About a month ago, news program producer Ali Salman Alvi allegedly tortured his wife Sadaf Zahra to death. An FIR was also registered against Ali Salman Alvi, according to which, there were signs of torture on his wife’s body. Initial post-mortem report suggests that Zahra was strangulated to death.
Another recent domestic abuse case happened in Lahore which also entered the limelight at social media when a man, identified as Shahbaz Umar, murdered his 25-year-old wife after she refused to let him marry for the second time in Lahore. The woman’s body was found at her house. According to the police, there were knife marks on her wrists. Zonaira, another victim of domestic violence case, also stirred outrage on social media in the recent months when her husband allegedly shot and killed Zonaira, in front of her mother and brothers in a deadly incident. The victim’s father explained in the FIR he filed that Zonaira had married her husband four years ago and he had tortured her numerous times in their marriage.
Pakistan has a very high rate of domestic abuse. According to a study carried out in 2019 by the Human Rights Watch, an estimated 30 to 40% of women in Pakistan have suffered same from of abuse. Violence against women includes honor killings, acid attacks and forced marriages.
There also seem to be staggering rise in domestic abuses amid quarantine and self-isolation in the country, as domestic violence cases have jumped by more than 30% in Pakistan. In 2019, a United Nations report divulged that the most dangerous place for a woman is her home; and according to the World Bank, almost one in three married Pakistani women report facing physical violence. Moreover, in the 2019 Women, Peace and Security Index, Pakistan ranked 164 out of 167 countries, only above Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen.
Although Pakistan has devised several laws for the protection of women; yet there is still a staggering rise in domestic violence cases in the country. The recent years reforms such as the Women’s Protection Bill, Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, the Acid and Burn Crime Bill, the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, and the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences in the name or pretext of Honor) Act of 2016, designed to protect women and prosecute ‘honor killings’, have come into law. And currently, the government has asked Interior Ministry for tabling another anti torture bill in National Assembly.
Seeing the state of affairs, despite the massive legal reforms, the country is suffering badly with regard to domestic violence issue. It seems as if a cultural shift is needed to de-normalize this behavior. For such cultural transformation, the role of religious beliefs and faiths are important; as the religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and to moral values as well.
Religion can be a catalyst in bringing an end to domestic abuse that is so prevalent in our society. Islam is not merely a religion – it’s a complete “Code of Life”. With regard to women rights; there is an entire chapter in the Quran that is exclusively titled “The Women سورة النساء”, the fourth chapter of the Holy Book. Further, there are the mentioning of the anecdotes or probable of myriad dimensions of families in the Quran as an example. For instance, there are husbands and wives who are happy with each other; “Adam and Eve”. There are Husbands and wives who are not happy with each other; “Noah and his wife”. There are Husbands and wives where wife is wonderful but husband is not; “Pharaoh and his wife”. There is mention of a very good man but terrible spouse; “Lot and his spouse”
Apart from such mentioning in the Holy Book, indeed the rights of women as wives are exclusive in Islam – so much so that the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in his Last Sermon, known as the Farewell Sermon especially laid emphasis to treat wife gently. The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: (Various versions of the Last Sermon of the Prophet) PBUH) is mentioned in several authentic Books of Hadiths)
“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. I enjoin you to treat women kindly for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”
Moreover, the Holy Quran and the Narrations of Prophet (PBUH) [Hadiths] are fraught with the mentioning of women rights especially as a wife. Following are some Quranic Verses and authentic Hadiths regarding the honor and dignity that Islam pays to women as a wife:
Firstly, Islam affirms marriages is based on Love and Mercy: “And among his signs to this: that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest and peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Certainly, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.”- 30-21
هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّـكُمۡ وَاَنۡتُمۡ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّؕ (2-187)
They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them
وَعَاشِرُوۡهُنَّ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِۚ (4-19)
But consort with them in kindness
· Allah also assures in the Holy Quran as:
وَالطَّيِّبٰتُ لِلطَّيِّبِيۡنَ وَالطَّيِّبُوۡنَ لِلطَّيِّبٰتِۚ
“Good women are for Good man”- 24-26
· Islam condemns cruelty and abuse: “There is to be no harm nor reciprocating of harm.”- Sunan Ibn Majah- 2341.
· Domestic violence is forbidden in Islam: “Do not strike the female servants of God.”- Sunan Abbi Dawud- 2146
“Do not hit them and do not revile them.” Sunan Ibn Majah 2341.
“How does one of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace here?” Bukhari (Sahih)
“You do not revile her face and do not beat her. And nor do you humiliate her.” (Hadith)
· The Prophet (PBUH) never raised his hand at His wives: His wife, Aisha (R.A) said; He (PBUH) ‘never once hit a servant, a women, nor struck anything with his hand”- Sunan Ibn Majah 2060. “The messagner of Allah, did not strike a servant or a women….” Muslim (Sahih)
· “Treat women (wives) well and be kind to them; they are your partners and committed helpers.”- Hadith.
· “The best of you are those who are best to their wives” Tirmidi (Sahih)
· “You give her food when you take food, you cloth her when you cloth yourself” (Hadith)
There is no doubt that Islam being a ‘Complete Code of Life’ gives immense and exclusive rights to the women as wives and deplore any sort of domestic violence against women. Indeed, if all men learn and remember the true injunctions and instructions of Islam with regard to women’s rights, there can be a moderate society with noteworthy decline in domestic violence.
Adnan Ahmed is a Telecommunication Engineer from Balochistan with a passion in research and writing