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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence; the Muslim Context

Domestic violence has no place in a community that outwardly professes an attachment to the Prophetic behavioural code of relations. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give peace lived almost 1500 years ago in an age engulfed by systematic violence against ordinary people, women, children, foreigners, slaves or otherwise. Even a cursory glance at the histories of structural gender imbalances against women in both ancient and medieval societies will reveal that there was no moral censure against the maltreatment of women much less the provision of criminal sanction whether dispensed by local tribes or through the punitive redresses of feudal polities. It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that where one to look at the life of the Prophet 'dispassionately' and 'objectively' within the context of the age and society in which he lived, his personal relations towards his womenfolk accorded fully with the precepts of his teachings and is absolutely beyond scrutiny if not revolutionary in nature. In one prophetic utterance, it is reported that the Prophet stated, “Perfection of faith in believers lies in the perfection of their character and the best of you are those who are the best to their womenfolk.” Later legal accretions that sought to expand legal thought to cover both real and hypothetical scenarios concerning the treatment of women could be seen in a retrograde light influenced by the underlying assumptions of jurists influenced by the spirit of their times and ironically contrary to the spirit of the prophetic message. In this respect and on the basis of textual material available to Muslims, it is an accepted fact of the Prophetic Sunnah that the Prophet did not speak harshly to his wives and neither was he mentally, verbally or physically abusive to them, a reality that stands in stark contrast to the gender dynamics that pervade Muslim communities around the world today. Aberrations from this position where hadith are cited to prove the maltreatment of women or their subservient status to men as normative practises are essentially interpretations that imbricate upon the actual purport of one or another prophetic utterance. Samar Ali discusses the issues perceptively. We have also included a series of articles and papers discussing the peculiarities of domestic violence in South Asian communities given the norms and mores that affect Mirpur communities in the UK. 

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