The Incidence of Intimate Partner Violence and Links to Religious
Marital violence is an important area for Muslim scholars to be aware of, research, understand and act to eliminate but it is a difficult subject to research objectively. There are several causes for the difficulties that all researchers encounter, as exhibited in the majority of works on this subject, and they are both methodological and attitudinal that must be addressed if it is truly desired to adopt policies and practices that are fair and beneficial to everyone affected by this serious problem.
The method of the majority of empirical researches is based on small sample communities and reported offences from which theoretical trends of behaviour are projected onto society as a whole. The inherent unreliability of small samples is exacerbated by the lack of control samples or models, deficiencies in the definition of violence and the lack of a standard statistical method by which the results of these small samples may be correlated.
The social conditioning, peer pressure and attitude of researchers affect how the data is collected, what is included or excluded, how it is collated and what is reported. The tendency to report what was expected and excuse the statistics will be demonstrated in the body of this work.
It was in fact at a seminar that my interest in this topic was raised when a very concerned European lady said, "We really must do something to help those poor Muslim women who suffer from so much violence in their homes." My problem with this statement, apart from the implicit and negative assumptions about Islām, was that having grown to maturity as a non-Muslim I had seen the indicators, signs and actualities of marital violence but less so in the Muslim communities with which I am actively involved.
Concern with what had been said at the meeting increased when one of the speakers described the research method for gathering the figures she had quoted as, "I asked some female students." Neither my experiences nor the apocrypha surrounding the question of the extent of domestic violence in Muslim households provided a basis for a realistic view of the situation. Such realism is essential to any discussion of what should be done for domestic violence is certainly a reality in all societies and for corrective measures to be effectively implemented the problem needs to be defined both quantitatively and aetiologically.
The objectives of this article were therefore twofold. Firstly to discuss with objective openness what Islāmic textual material says about women, marriage and marital violence and to contextualise this by comparisons with non-Muslim attitudes to women and marriage. In defining the Muslim stance on this topic the discussion is largely restricted to primary Islāmic texts because of the wide differences in the socially conditioned practices of Muslims.
The second objective was to find whether there was evidence to support the