By Fazila Patel

Human Rights Foundation

The Human Rights Foundation is deeply concerned about the overwhelming increase in violence against women. Dr Siddique Tayob, secretary of the Human Rights Foundation and chairperson, Amnesty International SA, says that, quote "Violence against women and children is a crime against humanity and deserves the focus and application of adequate resources to effectively address this extremely serious and often neglected crime" unquote.

There is a great misconception within Muslim communities as to what the rights of women are or should be. Men are often misinformed about their rights over women or the duties of women towards their husbands. Some leaders in our communities are creating incorrect perceptions regarding the rights of women in Islam, thus further perpetuating myths and creating an environment for perpetrators to act with impunity.

Allah says in the Holy Quraan in chapter 30 verse 21 that "And among His signs is this, that he created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy." It is unfortunate that instead of showing affection and mercy to women, many men are abusing their wives. Violence against women is becoming more widespread.

Women are subjected to physical abuse, which is regarded as the most serious form of abuse due to the fact that the visible bruises and scars bear testimony to the abuse, which was inflicted upon them. What about the " silent killers" which in my opinion are "verbal abuse" and "emotional abuse"? Verbal and emotional abuse do not leave apparent scars which are visible from the outside but women who suffer verbal and emotional abuse have deep scars which are etched within their hearts and minds and which, unlike the physical scars, cannot be erased. Most women live with the brutal effects of these abuses for life. No amount of counseling or therapy can make them overcome their years of pain and sorrow.

Verbal and emotional abuse is taken lightly but the harm, which it causes, is phenomenal. Women are very often treated as sub-humans. They are demeaned, insulted and demoralized to such an extent that they soon become emotionally dead and they are left with no choice other than to accept the abuse as being part of their lives. Many women are led to believe that they deserve such treatment and pretty soon it becomes something ' normal'.

My message to the many abused women is that they realize that no form of abuse is acceptable and abuse in any form is far from normal! It is a serious crime against humanity and it goes against the commands of Allah and the teachings of our beloved Prophet, Muhammad Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam. Allah says in the Holy Quraan in Chapter 4: Verse 19 that " ...and (O Believers!) Live with them (i.e., the wives) on a footing of kindness and equity..."

Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said that " the Believers who show the most perfect Faith are those who have the best behavior, and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives." [At- Tirmidhi]. Narrated by Abu Hurairah

Men who ill-treat their wives are incurring the wrath of The Almighty.

Many men manipulate our beautiful deen as a means of justifying their violent behavior towards their wives. Some ignorant men believe that Islam allows a man to beat his wife. Such men are not only transgressing the laws of our Creator but they are spreading lies about our perfect religion and with the result allowing the disbeliever's to make a mockery of Islam. Allah says in the Holy Quraan in Chapter 4: Verse 34 that " ...Ye are permitted to beat them (with a tooth-brush or something like it, in order to awaken in them the sentiment of self-respect and the consciousness of the seriousness of their guilt in itself and in respect of it`s consequences for the family life, and in a manner which causes no injury or pain to them )...."

Many men beat their wives if the food is not cooked to their satisfaction or if the wife refuses to obey their every command and demand no matter how ridiculous it might be. Men who beat their wives are unstable, they lack confidence, they have low self esteem, they suffer from an inferiority complex and only by showing their strength and power over a helpless, weak and fragile woman do they feel as if they are in control, but in reality they are mentally ill and they seriously need help. These men should fear Allah and mend their ways before it is too late.

Many men believe that they have a right to treat their wives as they please because of the fact that they are the breadwinners. They believe that they are in control of the wife and children due to the fact that they are providing the family with all their material needs. This is not a favor but according to the commands of The Almighty a man is obligated to provide for and maintain his wife and children to the best of his ability. Husbands should strive to maintain their wives with dignity and honor and strive to give them a pleasant life in this world within the limits of Shariah. Allah the Exalted says in the holy Quraan that " The father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother's food and clothing on a reasonable basis." (2:233)

"Let the rich man spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him." (65: 7)

Our beloved Prophet, Muhammad Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam said that " Of the dinar you spend in Allah`s way, or to set free a slave, or as a charity you give to a needy person, or to support your family, the one yielding the greatest reward is that which you spend on your family." [Muslim] Narrated by Abu Hurairah

Some men believe that by giving their wives money to run the household and to take care of her material needs as well as the material needs of the children, they are exempt from carrying out any other duties towards their wives and children. Money cannot compensate for love, attention and quality time, which is spent together.

Many men engage in extra marital affairs and with the result they deprive their wives of basic necessities whilst spending huge amounts in impressing their mistresses. This is very prevalent in our societies and many women are left struggling to fend for themselves. Most of the men who are straying are men who have been married for many years and they have children and grandchildren. Most of the women who find themselves in this situation are women who have sacrificed their lives in making and maintaining a home for the husband and children. These women did not have the time or the opportunity to empower themselves in any way. They now face a situation where they are in need but powerless to fend for themselves. With the result they accept the situation, which they are in and despite the neglect and emotional torture, they remain in the marriage for convenience sake. These tormented women become emotional wrecks but they have no choice.

Men who subject their wives to this kind of treatment are insensitive and selfish. They are no better than animals. Do these men have such short memories that they forget how they pursued an innocent, beautiful, young woman and made endless promises to this woman, filling her heart with hopes, dreams and great expectations. Can these men remember how they wooed innocent young maidens into leaving their loved ones, leaving the comfort of their homes and familiar surroundings where they were treasured and revered, only to enter a world of the unknown? Based on trust they take this giant leap only to have their hopes dashed, their dreams turned into nightmares and their great expectations shattered! Suddenly they find that a bully, an oppressor, a tyrant, a cheater, a blackmailer and simply a disaster causing great pain and suffering to their delicate and tender beings face them. Soon they find that they sacrificed their youth only to be abused and discarded by the men whom they once virtually bowed down to!

What kind of men can so easily forget the pain and agony that this woman endured in giving birth to his children? What kind of men can so easily forget the numerous sacrifices which this once young and beautiful woman made for the children by staying up all night long to nurture and nurse his children? Today when she is no longer as youthful or glamorous as before, these cold-hearted men discard them like used property. Allah says in the Holy Quraan, Chapter xvii: Verse 32, " Nor come nigh to adultery: For it is a shameful (deed) And an evil, opening the road (to other evils). The words of The Almighty are indeed full of wisdom and truth. Once a man commits adultery he would be inclined towards other evils such as drugs, alcohol and gambling .

The use of drugs and alcohol has also led to many women being verbally, physically and emotionally abused. When a man comes home drunk, he beats the wife and many a times uses force to satisfy his desires. When a wife says "no" and her wishes are not respected, this constitutes rape. Many husbands do not realize the seriousness of this situation especially if the husband comes home drunk or ' high' having taken drugs. Women should seek legal assistance in order to prevent themselves from the same situation time and time again. Drugs and alcohol have been prohibited by The Almighty. Allah says in the Holy Quraan in Chapter 5: Verses 93 -94 " Oh you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, and (erecting) stone (pillars for worship), and (taking decisions by) arrows (or using them in games of chance) are an abomination, of Satan`s handiwork. Eschew such (abomination) that you may prosper."Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer. Will you not, then, abstain?"

Gambling has also become very common amongst Muslims. Men who gamble spend most of their money in gambling whilst depriving their wives and children of their basic needs. This leads to much tension in the homes and with the result the wife is once again subjected to all kinds of abuses. The children also suffer great psychological stress and this could lead to many children turning to drugs and alcohol as an escape from the gloomy situation in their homes.

It is sad but true that Muslim men are frequenting escort agencies and paying for services rendered to them by prostitutes whilst Allah Ta`ala has given them wives who are lawful to them. This could cause great harm to the innocent wives who are at a risk of contracting all kinds of STD`S (sexually transmitted diseases) and even worse AIDS. When husbands are confronted, all hell breaks loose and the innocent wives are once again abused. There are numerous authentically documented cases, which testifies that numerous women had contracted aids due to their husbands' promiscuity and unlawful sexual activities. This is a serious issue because firstly it goes directly against the commands of Allah Ta`ala and secondly it causes a great deal of pain and suffering to entire families including innocent children. Men who indulge in these kinds of haraam activities will never be successful both in this world as well as in the hereafter unless and until they turn to The Almighty in sincere repentance and abstain from such evil vices for always.

Many men treat their wives as if they are some kind of material possessions. They regard their wives as being "their property"! Husbands who are overprotective and jealous keep their wives within their homes like prisoners. If the wives make and attempt to socialize or call their friend over to their homes for a get together, the husbands accuse them of immorality etc. This is a grave sin. Allah says in the Holy Quraan that " and those who accuse clean women (of unchastity) and then produce not four (eye) witnesses, scourge them with eighty stripes and accept not their testimony forever. And these! They are the transgressors." (XXIV: 4). Very often women are abused due to suspicion and false accusations, which are leveled against them.

Women are made to slog for their husbands against their wishes. Men are more interested in upholding their status in society at the expense of their wives rather than keeping their marriages intact. Very often women are forced to entice men in order to secure business deals for their husbands. They are blackmailed into submission with all kind of threats leveled against them. This sounds like something from a movie but it is happening in our societies and women need to speak out so that these issues can be addressed by our religious leaders and not simply "swept under the carpet".

Men make unrealistic demands upon their wives and when these expectations are not met to their satisfaction they resort to abusing their wives, physically, verbally or emotionally. Wives are expected to cook and feed work colleagues, friends and family without being consulted. They are expected to be the perfect hosts so that their husbands can impress their guests but at the end of the day, instead of receiving a word of appreciation and thanks, the wife is insulted and ridiculed to such an extent that she begins to accept that she is " useless". Many women have had nervous breakdowns due to the enormous emotional strain, which they are subjected to.

One of the most disturbing occurrence which is common today is the fact that many men are using our beautiful deen as a smokescreen for their underhanded activities. Men are leaving their homes and wives under the pretext that they are going out in the path of Allah whereas they are deceiving their wives. I know of many women whose husbands led them to believe that they were going out in the path of Allah to do the noble work of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam, when in-fact these men were having unlawful and secretive relationships with other women. Women will seldom question their husbands if they say that they are going out in the path of Allah. This is a grave mistake and it should not be taken for granted any longer. The sad thing is that the men who resort to these low levels of human behavior abuse women and most women prefer to or are actually forced to remain silent for fear of reprisal from their husbands.

Finally, I sincerely appeal to all those Muslims who are caught up in these vices to sincerely turn to The Almighty and repent for the evil actions which they have unfortunately been caught up in. This is the work of Shaitaan and as Muslims we are put on this earth to live by the commands of Allah Ta`ala and also to live by the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam. This is our only defense against Shaitaan, the accursed! By adhering to the laws of the Quraan and following the Sunnah way of life will we find peace of mind and success in this world as well as in the hereafter.

In conclusion, We appeal to all individuals as well as all religious leaders and all religious organizations to address these issues. Women are human beings who have feelings. They are being exploited because they are the weaker sex. Let us all join hands in fighting this scourge. Let us help our women. Let us make the lives of thousands of women better. There is a saying, which reads ' MEN MAY BE THE HEARTS BUT WOMEN ARE THE HEARTBEATS'. Hearts are useless without the heartbeats.

I would like to share some wonderful advises about how a Muslim husband should conduct himself.

         portrays politeness and noble character towards strangers and is even more courteous and kind towards his own household. Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam says: " And the best among you are the best towards their women (wives)." [tirmidhi] Anas radiallahu ahnu says: " I have never seen anyone more merciful towards his household than Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam .

         Serves his household and lends a hand in household chores. Don't always be on the receiving end. Aishah radiallahu anha says:"Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam used to be in the service of his family [at home],then as soon as he heard the azan,he would leave" [Bukhari]

         It is not beyond him to serve himself and fulfill his personal needs. Aishah Radiallahu anha says: "Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam would personally mend his shoes, stitch his clothing and execute household chores like anyone of you does." [Mishkat]

         Supports his family and spends generously on them as sha'ri responsibility and not as a favour.Furthermore he does not force his womenfolk to work and slog to earn a living, simply to make his task easier or to maintain his high standard of living. Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam said; "Feed them from that which you eat and clothe them just as you clothe yourself." [Abu dawud] Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam has also said; "the best dinar (gold coin) a man spends is one spent on his family." [Sahih Muslim]

         Inculcates deen in his family and strives to save them from Jahannum.

         Allah Subhanahu-ta'ala says; "O people of Iman! Save yourself And your families from the fire." [Surah Tahrim]

         Remains loyal to his spouse.

         Never finds fault in the food or in its preparation.Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam never ever pointed out a fault or deficiency in food. If he desired, he ate it otherwise he left it. [Tirmidhi]

         Never demands back the gifts given to his spouse even if [Allah forbid] the marriage breaks. It is completely [haram] forbidden to demand those gifts back that were given at the time of marriage or at a later stage. Allah Subhanahu- Ta'ala says; "And if you had given any of your wives a heap of gold, then [upon separation] do not take back anything thereof." [Surah Nisa]

         Does not abuse his authority of issuing talaq [divorce]. The word 'TALAQ' should not be used in jest, neither should it be a blackmailing tool nor a threatening device. Talaq has been accommodated for and should be used responsibly at the time of extreme necessity. Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam warns us: "The most detestable of all permissible to Allah is talaq." [Abu Dawud]

         The good qualities found in one's spouse should motivate the husband to overlook her shortcomings. After all, we all have shortcomings. This teaching of Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam would prove extremely beneficial to all couples. Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam says: "A mu'min (believing male) should not harbor hatred towards the mu'minah [wife]. If he dislikes some particular trait in her, then he will surely be pleased with her other traits." [Sahih Muslim]

         Does not sever relations and does not stop speaking to his wife. Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam said: "It is not permissible for a Muslim to sever relations with his brother for over three days. He who does so and dies, goes to the fire." [Abu Dawud]

         Indulges in permissible leisure with his wife and children within the limits of Shariah. Aisha radiallahu anhu says: "Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam raced with me and I beat him." [Ibn Majah]

         Be tolerant and avoid any sort of oppression. Allah says: " And live with them [your wives] amicably." [i.e. with courtesy and fairness]. [Surah Baqarah] Rasulullah Sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam warned: "beware of the dua of the oppressed, for verily there is no barrier between them and Allah.'

         Under no circumstances should he compel his spouse to obey him in such an act which contravenes the commands of Allah Subhanahu Ta`ala. Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam says: "When a Muslim is commanded to carry out a sin then he should not listen nor obey." [Bukhari]

         Finally, O husband! Do fulfil all those requisites which you have bound yourself by, through nikah! Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam says: "The most binding of conditions to be fulfilled are those by [acceptance of] which you made your wives halal (permissible) for you."[Bukhari]

Alhamdulillah, if one were to heed these advises and act accordingly, solely for the pleasure of Allah Subhanahu Ta`ala then one is guaranteed a blissful marriage and a life which is filled with mutual love and contentment.

Fazila Patel
Media spokesperson
Human Rights Foundation