Intervening in My Friend’s Marital Problems

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: I know someone who is married and is constantly taking abuse and being disrespected by his wife. He has children and is righteous. It is also questionable as to whether his wife is a Muslim as she has doubts about Islam. He doesn’t tell his family about his problems and is always looking very worried.

His parents have talked to his wife and she keeps saying she will change however it is evident that she persists in treating him in this way. I feel sorrow and anger due to his situation. At times i feel as though i should intervene and take matters into my own hands. What should i do?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question.

In the spirit of brotherhood, give your friend good counsel but respect his final decision. He may be trying to work on his marriage behind the scenes. If he is open to advice, locate resources for him, e.g., marriage counseling, mediation, etc. You mentioned that the wife is abusive. While the majority of abuse cases tend to involve male perpetrators, it is important to note that women can be abusers too. Convey to him the importance of having a healthy, loving household for his children and, as I said, offer good and sincere counsel.

If you know his wife and have an idea of who she would listen to, it might be worthwhile to find someone to approach her, but clear that with her husband first.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari

Related Answer:

My Husband Mistreats Me and He Doesn’t Pray

My Husband Mistreats Me and He Doesn’t Pray

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question:I’m having some issues with my husband.  He leaves me alone at night with our infant child while he spends time with his friends.  Often he sleeps on the couch instead of in the bed with me.  I told him this hurts me but he doesn’t care.  I feel unwanted.

Also, he swears and calls me names when I try to talk to him to solve our problems.  He breaks many promises and I don’t trust him anymore.  Also, he doesn’t make his prayers. Should I remind him or not be intimate with him if he doesn’t pray?

My husband and I love each other, but I need advice about how to deal with these problems because I don’t want to get a divorce.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Dear Sister,

Thank you for your question. I pray this message finds you well.

A man asked one of the pious predecessors for advice on choosing a husband for his daughter. The response was to find someone who fears God because if he loves his wife, he will honor her, and if he doesn’t love her, he will not abuse her.

Your situation is of concern because your husband does not appear to fit the above description. He is not carrying out his basic religious obligations and he abuses you. A God-fearing husband does not hang out with his friends all night, sleep on the sofa, and threaten to hit his wife.

These are all behaviors intended to diminish you. They are not the actions of someone who values his marriage. Furthermore, I suspect your husband is engaging in these behaviors because he does not want to deal with whatever is really bothering him, possibly the way his life has been turned upside down by a new baby. Having a baby causes a certain amount of stress for new parents and there are healthy ways to cope. He is not coping well.

I also suspect he may be depressed. However, his abandonment of prayer and avoiding being at home with you are not going to help.

My suggestion is that he needs to talk to a religious leader immediately and seek marriage counseling.

However, please understand that you’ve come to accept a situation that, on many levels, is not pleasing to Allah and is not healthy for you. Divorce, particularly when it means you are free of someone who abuses you and doesn’t obey Allah, can be a release, not a punishment.

May Allah Ta’ala make things easy for you,

Zaynab Ansari

Related Answers:

How Do I Deal With a Controlling Husband Who Seldom Lets Me Leave the House?

How Do I Support My Husband’s Plans When He is Having Problems Finding Work?

When Love is Not Enough: Reassessing Marriage in the Muslim Community

How Does a Child Deal With Parents Who Fight Each Other?

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: My question relates to a common practice in my country.  If your parents are fighting amongst each other, and your father is hitting your mother and in response your mother is hitting your father, and both abusing each other and not stopping, and the child can’t just stand there and watch them continue fighting as it is completely morally wrong…

What is the stance that their child (20 yrs old) witnessing all this is suppose to take ?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

As salamu alaikum, my dear brother in Islam,

Thank you for reaching out to us.  May Allah the Most Loving make this easy for you and create love in your family.

The upshot is that you should call the police when your parents hit each other.  If that is not possible, you should call some trusted figure to intervene.  Confide in an upright person on each side of your family to mediate.  Emphasize to them how this hurts you, and that it must stop or threaten to take this to an authority.

Domestic Violence is Sinful and Unlawful

Domestic violence is wrong and unlawful in Islam, no matter how common it is in your culture.  It can never be an acceptable mode of disagreement between spouses.   Resolve that you will never allow this to occur in your future marriage, inshaAllah.  It is reported that, “The Messenger of Allah [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] never hit a servant or woman [ie. in his life].” [Abu Dawud]

It Is An Obligation to Stop Abuse in All its Forms

Your culture may demand secrecy about these things, but silence is no longer an option.  There is no shame in seeking help, rather it is obligatory to do so here.  It is your choice if you want to firmly restrain the parent who is initiating the aggression until they calm down, or then shield the parent who is taking the abuse, to show them both that this is not tolerable.  Never raise your own hand against either side, as you mentioned you considered doing.  It never solves anything, and you will sin as well.

If the violence escalates, do not hesitate to call any third party, even a neighbor.  Stay respectful through it all, do not join in the yelling, and speak with reason to each of them.  Use love to reach their hearts.  If things don’t change, encourage them to part ways in divorce, for their own sake, if they cannot stop and obey the limits that Allah Most High has set.

Turn to Allah

Realize that Allah the Merciful is sending you through this so you flee to Him in neediness and love.  Turn to Him with patience and prayer, and ask Him to solve this problem.  Your parents still individually love you, but always remember that Allah loves you most of all, and He will never wrong you.


Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Muslim Scholars On Spousal Abuse: “In Islamic law it is absolutely unlawful to abuse a wife, injure her, or insult her dignity.” – Allahcentric

Muslim Scholars On Spousal Abuse

Courtesy of Sidi Khuram’s exhaustive research at Allahcentric

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.”

(CNN: Court in UAE says beating wife, child OK if no marks are left)

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.”

Related Reading:

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:

Additional Resources