As we enter Ramadan, a billion Muslims across the world are starting their 30 days of fasting. More than the fast, for Muslims worldwide, Ramadan is a time when we focus on ourselves and our own relationships with God. A key element of fasting is the test of “sabr” as referred to in the Quran, often translated into English as “patience”. Practising Sabr means nurturing our own thought process and faith so that we can go about our lives in a positive manner, accepting that things happen in life that will test us and persevering in the face of hardship. Ramadan is a particular test of sabr as we need to function positively in our day to day lives despite hunger, thirst and fatigue. Ramadan is also a time to refresh our Islamic understanding and knowledge. We are taught that all this should not be just for one month in isolation from the rest of the year. Rather we should treat Ramadan as an annual reinforcement to remind us how we should behave within ourselves and in relation to others and to God for the rest of the year.
So, Ramadan teaches me to be mentally strong. But what do we mean by strong? As Muslims, we believe that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was the best example of a human being to have lived, so we seek to emulate him. We refrain from ascribing divinity to him and we recognise him with his many roles and identities in life: as a man, as a father and as a husband writing for UK SAYS NO MORE today whilst several days into Ramadan, I find myself drawn to The Prophet’s description of what makes a “strong man”:
“The strong man is not one who is good at wrestling, but the strong man is one who controls himself in a fit of rage.”
The Prophet was never abusive as a husband and always showed respect. For me, this month helps me to understand that being a “man” and being “strong” mean being calm, respectful and loving.
Sadly we know about the scourge of domestic abuse across the UK and indeed the world – where anger and desire for power and control are used as an excuse for abuse. There are a small number of Muslims even who try to justify domestic violence from our religious scripture yet as British imam Abdullah Hasan, founder of Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA), puts very clearly, this is the misuse of religion for personal power:
“When a Husband insults and raises his hand against his wife and those he should protect, it is like him raising his hand and insulting God and His Messenger (peace be upon him).
There is no place for domestic abuse in Islam. Let’s eradicate domestic abuse from the world together… These men are not men, they are cowards”
Too often, I have known of women who were encouraged to live with domestic abuse, to “just put up with it”, to have “sabr” as if that means to be a passive victim. But as Ustadha [Islamic theologian] Yasmin Mogahed points out, “sabr” has a number of translations including “to persevere” and to ‘stand firm’. As a mother experiencing domestic abuse, to show ‘sabr’ means to stand firm against it, to ensure you and any children are safe. No one should tell you that to show “sabr” means you have to stay in an abusive relationship.
So what can I do personally, as a Muslim, to say NO MORE to domestic abuse?
1. I will reinforce my knowledge to why domestic abuse is wrong in my religion. I need to listen to Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed, Imam Ajmal Masroor and Imam Abdullah Hasan to name just three Muslims speaking out against domestic abuse as they explain why domestic abuse is unacceptable in Islam. I will learn about the different interpretations of verse 34 of chapter 4 of the Quran, used by some to excuse domestic abuse.
2. Wherever I hear anyone try to justify abuse based on our religion, I will have the courage and information to explain why our religion says abuse is wrong.
3. I will act as a champion against domestic abuse in my day to day life. This means speaking up against inappropriate ‘jokes’, standing firm against false justifications of abuse and prevent victim blaming.
4. I will not advise victims to put up with abuse. I will advise people to be safe and to refer them to seek support amongst domestic abuse services and the Bright Sky app.
In short, I need to follow the words of imam Ajmal Masroor when he said,
“All types of abuse are unacceptable in Islam. We must have zero tolerance of domestic abuse. If someone needs help we send them for professional help. We don’t brush it under the carpet.
We don’t tell the sister who is suffering abuse to “have patience, your husband has beaten you up, you’ll be OK on the day of judgement”…we don’t do that.
We don’t say that to our sisters when they come for help. We [must] become the standard bearers of “a community of people that have created a tranquil home” [translated from the original Arabic], an example to the rest of society.”
So if Ramadan can teach me to increase my own sabr, to learn about my religion and to speak up for what is right then I will have fulfilled my duty to God and to my fellow man and woman during this blessed month. I will have become a stronger man, God willing.
Only when people of all faiths (and no faith) come together can we finally say No More to Domestic Abuse.
Head of Giving at Hestia. Former Director of the Islamic Society of Britain
Get Involved in UK SAYS NO MORE Week 2018!
UK SAYS NO MORE Week runs from 21-27 May. It’s a time for everyone – individuals, non-profit and corporate organisations, communities and groups across the UK – to unite and keep the conversation going around domestic abuse and sexual violence.This year, we must all consider how we can be part of a united effort, thinking about #WhatICanDo.