And (have We not created) you in pairs (Surah An-Naba 78:8)
This verse always reminds me of how Allah has a partner for everyone and He out of His infinite mercy has put love and care between spouses so they may live in peace and harmony. I’ve often wondered why domestic abuse exists in marriages when we vow, claim to love and protect one another till ‘Jannah reunites us again.’ When we declare undying love for each other, do we simply wake up one morning hating our spouses or is it some character flaw within us as people? Domestic abuse against women in marriages is steadily on the rise and it breaks my heart to learn that more often than not, Muslim women are clueless about the foundations created by Allah to protect them before and after they enter the lifelong commitment of marriage.
According to UN women, most violence against women is perpetrated by current or former husbands or intimate partners and more than 640 million women aged 15 and older have been subjected to intimate partner violence.
“I married my husband because I loved him and I believe he married me because he loved me too, but soon after the wedding, everything changed. There were days I got beaten up to the extent I’d leave the house because I feared for my life. There were times I considered suicide. I cried, I told my family but I always heard one thing over and over again, ‘have patience,’ ‘sabr’ ‘Allah sees and Allah knows’ and I’d be asked to go back home (for my children).”
“We’ve been married for fifteen years and we’re both older now. No longer the young adults we were when we got married. The love and care I once immensely had for him is no longer there. We’re just tolerating each other for the children.” says a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous.
Unfortunately, this heartbreaking story is just one among many within our community. Men and even sometimes fellow women abuse women which leads us to the most important question: Are Muslims unaware of the rights of women in Islam?
When asked, a close friend mentions the fact that she believes we as a society only think that women are to be tamed and should obey their husbands no matter what. There is a greater emphasis placed upon women performing their duties in Islam than on men performing theirs, which further leads to the imbalance in marriages. Some men believe that being a husband means being a dictator. They treat women poorly with the certainty that she will stay no matter what. The sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ where he ﷺ ensured the physical, emotional and mental well-being of his wives, has been conveniently forgotten as culture takes precedence.
When asked how she was able to navigate domestic abuse, my anonymous source had this to say, “I strongly relied on Allah and I still do. I was always reminded by my family and friends to have sabr. I realise now that it is possible to leave such a situation. You can always report to the authorities because there are so many organisations that are in existence to address such issues and help victims such as UNWomen. I never reported him though and sometimes I wonder why. He doesn’t beat me anymore but we still have issues.”
Domestic violence also threatens the life of a woman with the occurrence of death in some cases. Globally, 81,000 women and girls were killed. Around 47,000 of them – 58%, died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member. These are just a few statistics out of many.
With the above numbers in mind, it seems that a large percentage of women (and men!) are unaware of the rights Allah (SWT) has given to women. These rights are there to protect and empower us. With the blessing that is the religion of Islam, here are 9 verses from the Quran and Sunnah that protect Muslim women and their rights.
1. Husbands must spend and take care of their wives
“Men shall take full care of women with the bounties Allah has bestowed on them, and what they may spend out of their possession…” (Surah An-Nisa 4:34)
Islam has placed the responsibility of providing for his wife upon the husband. He is responsible to provide her food, clothing, shelter, medicine and all necessities to the best of his ability. This means providing for his wife with the same standard of living he expects for himself. This also applies to after a divorce, while she’s pregnant or has a child with him.
2. Women’s right to inherit
“Just as there is a share for men in what their parents and kinsfolk leave behind, so there is a share for women in what their parents and kinsfolk leave behind- be it little or much – a share ordained (by Allah)” (Surah An-Nisa 4:7)
In Islam, women have as much right as men in matters related to inheritance. Surah an- Nisa, which contains property rights, mentions the percentage that both men and women are to receive from inheritance in Islam. This proves that women are allowed to inherit property and wealth, keep it and do as they please with it without interference from anyone. A woman is also entitled to inheritance in different capacities as a mother, a wife, a sister and as a daughter.
3. Right to divorce and avoiding bitterness in divorce
“And when you divorce women and they have (nearly) fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress (against them) and whoever does that has certainly wronged himself.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:231)
Allah advises Muslims towards patience and to avoid divorce. He states that if the two spouses truly want to resolve their issues, Allah will reconcile the two of them together. If divorce does happen, Allah advises both spouses to do so in a manner that is righteous and honourable, void of hardship and conflict. The Quran also instructs men to treat women with kindness and respect even in times of dispute and divorce. Women are also able to initiate divorce through the Islamic court in the event she does not wish to be married to the man anymore.
4. Women are to be educated
“Acquisition of knowledge is binding on all Muslims (both men and women without any discrimination)” (Ibn Majah)
Women are allowed and permitted to educate others and be educated. Infact Islam has encouraged women to seek knowledge for if a woman is educated, then the education of a nation comes easily. During the time of the prophet, women would gather to ask questions pertaining to religion in order to seek knowledge. In one instance, the prophet set aside one day of the week to impart religious lessons to the women. Even the wife of the Prophet, Aisha was highly educated and served as a significant source of knowledge within the community.Her expertise in Hadith narration established her as a prominent leader in female scholarship.
5. Women can work and operate businesses
“My maternal aunt was divorced and she intended to pluck her dates (from palm trees). A person scolded her for having come out (during her waiting period to work), she came to the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and he told her ‘certainly you can pluck (dates) from your palm trees, for perhaps you may give out charity or do an act of kindness.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Women are entitled to earning a living just as men. There’s a popular misconception that women, especially married women are meant to stay at home, raise a family and do domestic work but this isn’t true as women can operate businesses and work in companies as well. As long as she has the approval of her husband and her religion then she may engage in any work she desires. The wife of the Prophet ﷺ, Khadija Bint Khuwaylid was a successful businesswoman during her time and she enjoyed the full support of our noble Prophet ﷺ.
6. Women have a full right to their own wealth
“A woman is the owner of her wealth.” (Sahih Bukhari)
A woman has a full right to her properties, wealth and earnings and she does with it as she pleases. A husband has no right to his wife’s wealth except with her permission because he has no claim over it.
7. Women are not owned, controlled or abused
“Indeed I order you to be good to women, for they are under oath in your marriages. You do not own them.” (Tirmidhi)
From the above hadith, it is apparent that women are to be treated with honour, respect and care. Women are not slaves, they are independent people and should and cannot be owned or used. Allah has ordered men to be good to women in every way and in all their affairs with them.
8. Women keep their last name after marriage
“Anyone who knowingly attributes themselves to someone other than their father is guilty of disbelief. Whoever claims to belong to a people who have nothing to do with them (in blood lineage), let them take their place in the fire.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Women have a right to keep their last name after marriage and it is not permitted for Muslim women to drop their father’s name and take the name of their husband. It is also not expected of any man to force his wife to take his last name as it is not done and permitted in Islam.
9. Women must be given their dowry upon marriage
“You shall give the women their due dowries, equitably. If they willingly forfeit anything, then you may accept it; it is rightfully yours.” (Surah An-Nisa 4:4)
Islam places a compulsory role on the man (husband) to pay his wife whatever sum of money she requests as her dowry. Not only is a man obliged by law to give his bride to be this dowry but the Quran also states that he must do so graciously without expressing any dissent.
Are we really following these laws of Allah? Is the violence in Muslim households caused by our deep rooted neglect of Quranic teachings and Sunnahs of marriages in Islam? Have we forgotten the Holy scripture, the word of Allah (SWT) and the sayings of our beloved Prophet ﷺ so much that we have diverted from the path of truth and knowledge?
Islam is a religion that educates us about all aspects of our lives and we have been commanded by Allah to seek knowledge but it is evident that we do not seek enough knowledge or we disregard and ignore the knowledge that we have for our own convenience.
May Allah (SWT) give us all hidayah and knowledge accompanied by correct actions. Ameen
My name is Hayaat Santuraki. I am a writer, an artist, an avid reader and a women’s rights activist. IG: @h.santuraki