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You are here: Home > Myths & Misconceptions > Women in Islam > Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence and Sexual Misconduct: A Quranic Perspective

domestic violence


Muslims are aware that God addresses sexual misconduct and domestic violence in the Quran.  It is clear to all that in the Quran, God discourages the different forms of deviant sexual misconduct such as adultery, homosexuality, and rape.  However, some will ignorantly claim that God allows for some forms of domestic violence; specifically wife beating, since God specifically mentions it in the Quran.  We will see, however, that this is a misuse of God’s clear and straightforward commands, and those who truly follow the Scriptural verses will see that God discourages domestic violence; especially wife beating.

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Statistics for Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse

Violence against women and girls is a global epidemic that affects the mental and physical health and economic stability of the individuals, their families, and communities.  This is demonstrated in the follow statistics compiled from different studies:
Ten to sixty-nine percent of women worldwide reported being physically assaulted by their intimate male partner at some point in their life.  Intimate partners commit forty to seventy percent of homicides of women worldwide. From the World Report on Violence and Health, by the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, January 2004.

Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. From Heise, et.al., Ending Violence Against Women. Population Reports, December 1999.

Nearly twenty-five percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000.
Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate. From Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey, August 1995.

On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner.  From Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.

Nearly one-fifth of women (18 percent) reported experiencing a completed or attempted rape at some time in their lives; one in 33 men (three percent) reported experiencing a completed or attempted rape at some time in their lives.  From National Institute of Justice, Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, November 1998.

In the United States, the health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages.  From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, April 2003.
Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate.  From Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey, August 1995.

In a national survey of more than 6,000 American families, 50 percent of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children.  From Strauss, et. al.,  Physical Violence in American Families; Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families, 1990.

Cause of Domestic Violence and Sexual Misconduct

The statistics demonstrate that domestic violence and sexual misconduct against women, including spousal abuse and rape, are widely distributed across all cultures, economic, and social populations.  It is not, then, a crime that is driven by one particular set of religious beliefs or cultural influences.  It also can not be a ramification of economic burdens.  It is a malignancy of mankind.  Men in all societies do not abuse their wives because of scriptural teachings, but because of a natural instinct of domination and aggression. 

Clear Prohibitions for Deviant Sexual Misconduct

The potential violent disposition within mankind is addressed through the Quran with verses that directly prohibit different forms of deviant sexual misconduct. 

[24:33]  …You shall not force your girls to commit prostitution, seeking the materials of this world, if they wish to be chaste. If anyone forces them, then GOD, seeing that they are forced, is Forgiver, Merciful.

[5:5]  Today, all good food is made lawful for you. The food of the people of the scripture is lawful for you. Also, you may marry the chaste women among the believers, as well as the chaste women among the followers of previous scripture, provided you pay them their due dowries. You shall maintain chastity, not committing adultery, nor taking secret lovers. Anyone who rejects faith, all his work will be in vain, and in the Hereafter he will be with the losers.

[7:80]  Lot said to his people, "You commit such an abomination; no one in the world has done it before!
[7:81]  "You practice sex with the men, instead of the women. Indeed, you are a transgressing people."
[7:83]  Consequently, we saved him and his family, but not his wife; she was with the doomed.
[7:84]  We showered them with a certain shower; note the consequences for the guilty.


Rape is a distinct form of deviant misconduct which combines several kinds of crimes layered under one criminal act. As we all know, rape is different than adultery or fornication where there is a consensual agreement on having sex. It is also different than prostitution between consenting adults where sex out of marriage is paid for. Rape consists of unlawful sexual intrusion which involves non-consensual sexual penetration and the factor of oppression through a forcible act. God in the Quran condemns all the elements that constitute the crime of rape; sex outside of marriage, imposed violence, and oppression.
God strongly condemns any kind of sexual relationships out side of marriage in verses 5:5, 24:30, and 24:31.  Also, He teaches us that the believers maintain their chastity in verses 23:5 and 70:29. In addition to condemnation of the sexual component inflicted by the perpetrator, God in the Quran also used strong words in condemning non-consensual prostitution (which would place it in the category of rape) in verse 24:33. Also, God strongly condemns the oppression imposed on the victim. God, in the Quran, describes oppression as "worse than murder." This puts rape among the worst crimes committed by a human being in the sight of God.
[2:191, and 2:217] …….. OPPRESSION is worse than murder.

From the above Quranic position we see that Rape is one of the most condemned crimes in the sight of God. Out of God’s Mercy, the punishment for such crime however was not assigned one specific punishment in order to allow every case to be judged individually and according to the different community standard.

In some communities, there has been confusion regarding rape and its relation to another sexual crime, adultery.  The confusion connecting rape and adultery should not exist as both are two different crimes. They are not looked at the same nor given an equal treatment in Submission (Islam). The need for four witnesses in cases of adultery when no other evidence exists (see verse 4:15) does not apply in cases of rape.   Modern science allows the use of advanced techniques to identify the rapist with the highest accuracy. The victims of rape, if  they notify the authority immediately, will have enough proof to convict the accused rapists, as the physical facts including semen, saliva, blood, hair, fibers, skin scraps, bite marks,.....etc. are easy to identify to convict the rapist. There is no truth to the claim that the rape victim has to present four witnesses to prove the rape when there are so many other physical proofs. This requirement is needed only if a person who has no other proof accuses a person of such a crime. The Islamic way is just, for both the victim and the accused. This way, God sees to it that the four witnesses (who do not have to be men), will be a better guarantee against a possible plot to scheme against an innocent person. Also important, is that a victim of rape cannot be blamed for the crime that happened to her. There is nowhere in the Quran that indicates blame of the victim instead of blaming the rapist. When and if this happens, it does not represent Islam but represents man made statements, not God's commands in the Quran.

We must also address that the captives of wars are not permitted as “sex slaves” in Islam, nor does the Quran permit the rapes of these women.  This can only be found in Hadith and Sunna which were written about 200 years after the death of the prophet Muhammad. These books do not represent Islam or the Islamic law, but rather represent man made laws written against the commands of God in the Quran.

In Conclusion:  Rape is a form of oppression and God condemns oppression of any kind. God commands sexual intercourse only with one's spouse. We are commanded to maintain moral behavior. God forbids adultery and He forbids prostitution (while forgiving the girls forced into committing prostitution). And all bad behavior is condemned. Those who commit rape are violating God's laws and will therefore face the consequences.

Domestic Violence Discouraged by God

The statistics on domestic violence reflect the failure of modern societies in addressing the potential violent disposition in men. God, knowing this, had therefore decreed a perfect law to help men control their temper and to solve any domestic problems before resorting to physical aggression.

A solution has been presented to the world in the Quran, the Final Testament, more than 1400 years ago, in verse 4:34. Sura 4, where we find verse 4:34 is titled "The Women," and is one of the longest chapters in the Quran. It deals with the rights and responsibilities of women. The theme of this Sura is to defend women's rights while opposing injustice and oppression of women. Thus, any interpretation of the verses in Sura 4 must be in favor of the woman’s inherent rights and dignity, not the other way around.

[4:34] The men are made responsible for the women, and GOD has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is GOD's commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then (you may use negative incentives like) deserting them in bed, then you may (as a last alternative) beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. GOD is Most High, Supreme.

At first glance this verse may appear to promote physical abuse of women, and in actuality, some Muslim scholars do use this verse to excuse wife beating. But when reading 4:34 carefully one realizes that it truly prohibits abuse and beating of women by using the best psychological approach.

The advice to first talk and then avoid sexual contact, provides the necessary time and space for both parties to cool off, resort to reason, examine the problem and reach a favorable agreement for both of them. Keep in mind that God requires that beating is to be a very LAST resort; this would mean that, for the man to raise a hand against his spouse, he would have to exhaust all other possible avenues.  The abuse of the wife will NOT happen if the man follows the clear commandments of God in this verse and in the order decreed. Abuse will only happen when a man does NOT follow these commandments, and thus fails to cool off and reason with himself or with his wife. Also, the right given to the man in verse 4:34 can only be approachable when it is a situation with a righteous man dealing with a wife who repeatedly commits "Neshooz".  This Arabic word “Neshooz” implies really bad behavior, thus it is continual and repeated unrighteous rebellion on the part of the wife. An attempt by some men to apply this verse to regular daily marital disagreements is not warranted due to the strong and selective wording used in the verse. In reality, a believing husband would most probably NEVER come to the stage where he would actually lay a hand on his wife. God clearly says in the Quran that He has decreed for the men and the women rights and obligations equitably in verse 2:228, and thus the believing husband would examine his own motives first, as a responsibility and an obligation, before proceeding through all the steps and exercising this right. As we see in the verse immediately following 4:34, when the marriage reaches this stage it's on it's way to end, as the very next words in the Quran reads; "If a couple fears separation…"

Most women in the world today do not enjoy the protection that verse 4:34 grants. Instead they are abused, verbally and physically in unrighteous ways. According to verse 4:34 even if the husband has a good reason, he is not allowed to lay a hand on his wife until he has passed all the previous steps. The woman's responsibility in a marriage starts the day she chooses a husband. If she wants to enjoy her God given rights, she must obey her God given commands, and choose a believing husband. Thus, she can expect to be treated in accordance with God's decree, and not in transgressing and unrighteous manners. We also learn that one of the traits of the righteous in verse 3:134 is that they suppress anger, so the wife can expect from a believing husband that he will heed any reminder she gives him, if he forgets. And if she chooses to disregard God's commands, she has to know that there will be consequences. These consequences are however well controlled to protect the women from outrage of the angry husband when he heeds God’s laws in the Quran.

When facing difficult times, even if the man dislikes his wife, God has decreed:
[4:19] O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit what the women leave behind, against their will. You shall not force them to give up anything you had given them, unless they commit a proven adultery. You shall treat them nicely. If you dislike them, you may dislike something wherein GOD has placed a lot of good.

And when divorce happens, the full respect to the wife is urged:
[2:229] Divorce may be retracted twice. The divorced woman shall be allowed to live in the same home amicably, or leave it amicably. It is not lawful for the husband to take back anything he had given her. However, the couple may fear that they may transgress GOD's law. If there is fear that they may transgress GOD's law, they commit no error if the wife willingly gives back whatever she chooses. These are GOD's laws; do not transgress them. Those who transgress GOD's laws are the unjust.
In conclusion: the wife is to be treated in the most respectful and amicable manner throughout the marriage at all times, including when a couple divorces.  A believing couple will NEVER get to the point where beating of the wife enters the picture. The couple will consult one another and agree on the best way to solve their differences as recommended through verse 4:34.

Further Help for Victims

In the United States:
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
To find the domestic violence program nearest you, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (799-7233), or TTY for the Hearing Impaired: (800)-787-3224
To get help and information about sexual assault call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE or visit www.rainn.org.
More information can be obtained at www.endabuse.org/resources/gethelp/ , and www.endabuse.org/links/ , and www.womenslaw.org/  

For International Help:
Domestic Violence Programs in your area can be found at www.hotpeachpages.net/ , and more information can be obtained at www.endabuse.org/links/?CategoryID=18

Help for the abuser to stop:

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help: 1-800-799-7233.

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