Regarding the recent UAE Federal Supreme Court ruling stating that a husband can beat his wife and children so long as no marks are left (reminiscent of Guantanamo-style torture sessions), Shaykh Jihad Brown of the Tabah Foundation responds that spousal abuse is unlawful under Shari’ah:
“Jihad Hashim Brown — the head of research at Tabah Foundation, which specializes in the interpretation of Islamic law — couldn’t comment specifically on what the courts did and didn’t say because he hadn’t read the ruling.
However, he said he feels confident that the UAE court didn’t sanction injury or abuse. He said sharia law is complex and has been open to interpretation.
But he argued that in Islamic law it is “absolutely unlawful” to abuse a wife, injure her, or insult her dignity.
“When a situation in a marriage reaches the point where people feel like they need to hit someone, that is time for divorce. Anyone who would abuse, injure or even insult the dignity of their wife, this has now become a criminal offense which can be prosecuted in a court of law.”
What Other Muslim Scholars and Imams Say About Spousal Abuse:
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf: Removing the Silence on Domestic Violence
Imam Zaid Shakir: The Problem of Domestic Abuse (Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse
Imam Khalid Latif: Real Men Don’t Hit Women
Fatwa Against Domestic Violence:
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani of SeekersGuidance issued the following fatwa:
“No, there is absolutely no place in Islam for abuse of one’s spouse–whether physical, spoken, or emotional. All abuse is haram.”
The Shari’ah On Spousal Abuse
For you Hanafis out there, the following explains the implementation of Islamic law by the Ottoman Empire: Ottoman Shari’ah Laws on Spousal Abuse – 16th Century Examples (Kufi tip to Sidi Yursil)
“Although several modern legal codes make reference to domestic violence, Islamic Law (Sharia) addresses it through the concept of darar (harm) that encompasses several types of abuse against a spouse. For example, darar can include the failure of a husband to provide obligatory support (nafaqa) for his wife, which includes food, shelter, and clothing … Darar also includes physical abuse against a spouse. The laws concerning darar maintain that if a woman is harmed in her marriage, she can have it annulled:
“The most important proof needed was the show that the husband had broken the marriage contract or that the marriage caused the woman harm) Sonbol 1996, 281. Physically assaulting a wife violates the marriage contract and is grounds for immediate divorce.
Ottoman law tends to treat cases of darar in accordance with the Sharia; this is reflected in a sixteenth-century fatwa from the Ottoman Seyhulislam (Sheykh of Islam) Ebu su’ud that reads: “Question: Zeyd hurts his wife Hind in many ways. If the qadi (judge) knows about it, is he able to separate Hind from Zeyd? Answer: He is able to prevent his hurting her by whatever means possible. (Imber 1997) [yk: note the Ottoman Shariat, interventionist policy reaffirmed in the 16th century]
Further evidence of Ottoman treatment of darar can be found in studied currently being undertaken using Sharia court records from the Ottoman period. For example Sharia court cases from Aleppo, Syria reflect the ability of women to seek retribution when subjected to abuse. The courts of Aleppo ruled against abusive husbands in several cases of domestic violence. In one court case from May 1687Fatima bt Hajj Ali filed a lawsuit against her husband testifying that he was abusing her, he had hit her with a stick on her body and on her mouth causing her to bleed. She claimed that he was constantly abusive. In her defense she brought along five witnesses. The court reprimanded the abusive husband, ordering that he be given tazir (discretionary corporal punishment).
Both Sonbol and Largueche problematize the connection between obedience and darar in the modern period as the patriarchal state commingles with the Shariah. These pioneering studies question the notion that modernization is a springboard for progress, as several areas of the law drastically limit the legal options afforded women in earlier periods.
Although in the rubric of Western Law, murdering a wife in a crime of passion has been placed in the same legal category as domestic violence, this is not the case in Islamic Law. There is no mention in the juridical texts of condoned or permissible murder of a wife. However, some modern laws, such as Jordan’s Penal Code (1960) contain clauses for “excuse for murder” or offer reduced sentences for men who murder a wife or female relative suspected of sexual misconduct. Authors such as Amira Sonbol and Lama Abu Odeh have argued that there is a legal connection between “excuse for murder” and “crimes of passion” in the European tradition through the focus on circumstance and the criminal intent of the murderer. Modern legal reforms borrowed from French criminal codes freed the criminal of responsibility so long as the element of surprise was present (Sonbol 2003) In contrast, crimes of passion, prejudicially called “honor crime” in the context of the Islamic world, have mistakenly been associated with Sharia despite their stark connection with tribal law.”
ref: Semerdjian, Elyse (2005). Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, law, and politics. pub: BRILL Academic Publishers
Muslim Organizations Combating Domestic Violence:
- Muslimat al-Nisaa (Baltimore, MD)
- Karamah (Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights)
- Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help (FAITH)
- Islamic Social Services of America
- Muslim Consultative Network (http://www.mcnny.org/): 10,000 Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence Initiative
- Muslim Alliance in North America (http://www.mana-net.org/) – Pledge Against Domestic Violence
- The M100 Foundation (http://m100foundation.org – 30 Nights 30 Grants Ramadan Initiative
- Issued two grants to Muslimat al-Nisaa
- Issued two grants to F.A.I.T.H
- Issued one grant to the Ayuda Anti-Trafficking Program
- Issued one grant to Islamic Social Services of America
- Issued one grant to Karamah