Blowing a gasket, beating your wife

Published: November 25, 2010
It’s not just alcoholics and jobless men who abuse. Educated and ambitious 
spouses can be violent too

It’s not just alcoholics and jobless men who abuse. Educated and ambitious spouses can be violent too

ISLAMABAD: “I once threw a log on my wife’s head,” says Hameed casually. “I was standing on the rooftop and just dropped it on her as she stood below; her head burst open and she bled, but I did it because I was really angry.” Hameed hastens to explain, however, that he only rarely used to beat Sakina when they lived in the village. All that has changed since they moved to Karachi, because he “knows better now”.

Hameed does not fit the profile of the stereotypical unemployed, alcoholic wife-beater. He works as a painter and provides for Sakina and their five children whom he claims to love very much. Sakina works as a maid at the same household as Hameed, and confirms that there is “pyaar mohabbat” (love and affection) in their relationship, saying that the violence is rare. She describes the log-throwing incident as an “accident”, explaining that Hameed did not “intend” to hit her.

Their employer Dr Talat reveals a different story, however. “Sakina has confessed that Hameed has beaten her at times when she has refused to be intimate with him,” she says, adding that although he was not a habitual wife-beater, she had discovered Sakina with too many black eyes or head injuries to say it was “rare”. Despite the violent episodes, Dr Talat still feels that Hameed loves his wife, as his abuse stems from her refusal to be intimate with him, and not out of hatred for her.

According to Dr Murad M Khan, consultant psychiatrist and chair at the department of Psychiatry at Aga Khan University Hospital, while ignorance and alcoholism may be important factors behind domestic violence, it is sometimes necessary to look beyond them.

“While education can dilute the problem to a certain degree, ultimately what shapes a man’s personality has a lot to do with the exposure he received in his early formative years,” he says.

He explains that violence against women stems from an urge to control a woman and that the underlying cause is how a man sees himself. “If he is emotionally insecure, he may hit his wife to assert authority,” says Dr Khan, adding that perpetrators may justify their violent acts by citing cultural sanctions such as “disciplinary violence.”

The notion that a man cares about his wife even after being violent is incongruent, and can be dismissed as lip-service.

The numbers are staggering. Eighty per cent of Pakistani women are victims of domestic violence, according to the country director of the White Ribbon Campaign Pakistan, Omer Aftab. While the figure is astonishing, AKU’s Dr Khan says his years of clinical practice verify this startling statistic, as most of his female patients who seek consultation for depression eventually reveal that they have been physically abused by their husband at some point in their marriage.

A college degree doesn’t mean violence is “beneath” him

While illiteracy is often singled out as a major reason for domestic violence, Raheela Ghani’s one-year relationship with a graduate from a well-reputed British university contradicts this argument. “He slapped me just once – but that was probably because I said horrible things to him during that fight,” Raheela recalls, adding that he had never hit her again, but that he did throw objects within his reach during heated arguments. On this, Dr Khan says a genuine apology after a one-time incident of violence may be acceptable, but that this is rare as the apology following abuse can develop into a cycle which can be habitual.

Start with your son

“Can we eliminate violence? The answer has to be yes – it is difficult but not impossible,” says Dr Khan, adding that a mother’s role in inculcating a sense of respect and tolerance in her son is pivotal, as she can raise him to be “a sensitive being who does not think that he is God’s gift to women – that his decisions can be challenged”.

Dr Khan believes that a family history of violence can often explain why a man has a violent streak. He explains how a mother, who is in an unhappy marriage, can become emotionally attached to her son to an extent where her behaviour is irrational. She starts treating her son like a “surrogate husband” at an emotional level. In that situation, a daughter-in-law will be looked upon as an intruder, and the friction between the three will most likely be a cause of emotional and sometimes even physical abuse.

Dr Khan says mothers should end the preferential treatment of their sons that is pervasive in Pakistani society, and teach them that violence is never an option. He advises girls to take their prospective husband’s family history into consideration when getting to know him, and discuss any possible fears with a professional if she is unsure about his behaviour. Delaying marriage, completing her education and knowing that domestic violence is never acceptable may help a girl better prepare herself to make important life decisions.

“A man should not raise his hand on a woman – not even if she has hit him first. It is not justifiable,” says Dr Khan, adding that neither partner should engage in violence and that a man can defend himself without resorting to violence.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Ijaz Khan
    Nov 25, 2010 - 9:47AM

    Its sad how the tribune ignores the concept of “marital rape”, how can they simple describe the beatings as a result of not “being intimate with him”?

    Violence in Pakistani households will not be reduced until we give more rights to women in all respects. The divorce laws need to be reformed, marital rape needs to be made a crime, and domestic violence needs to be criminalized. Otherwise violence will continue unabated and status quo will be retained. Recommend

  • mahmood azam
    Nov 25, 2010 - 12:22PM

    our women like the 1 described in this piece make apologies for their abusers,indulge in fooling themselves & don’t leave wife beaters which encourages the abusive men to continue.
    if she doesn’t want to be intimate,it’s her right,why doesn’t the term “marital rape” included in the muslim vocabulary??Recommend

  • nasir chachar
    Nov 25, 2010 - 12:48PM

    if women don’t speak out publicly about their brothers,husbands,fathers who indulge in wife beating our society will continue to be in the sorry state it is in presently.But i don’t think it can happen here as our girls since their tweens think of marriage as their ultimate destination & don’t try to pursue higher education & then a regular job & career.

    if they don’t have a job & financial independence they’ll never stand up against their abusive “majazi khudas” because he by reason of his job provides them food & shelter,so as long as the proportion of our working women doesn’t increase we’ll have women who endure beatings & marital rape.Recommend

  • Nighat Khan
    Nov 25, 2010 - 1:13PM

    Violence does not mean physical beating. It can be verbal psychological and financial. I would add up to Dr Khan’s hypothesis, every Pakistani wife is a potential victim until proven otherwise.Recommend

  • Fouzia Naqvi
    Nov 25, 2010 - 1:14PM

    My hasband “JI” is very riot specially after he n me be intmait, he say I not happy him much. Love becum very violent. i want cry very a lot. Recommend

  • arif khan
    Nov 25, 2010 - 1:18PM

    @fauzia stop crying,leave him & learn to stand on ur own feet with selfrespect & dignity instead of desiring of being totally dependent on a man for ur survival.Recommend

  • saad bin umair
    Nov 25, 2010 - 1:39PM

    there are numerous videos on youtube,containing sermons from ulema & maulvis describing the ways in which muslim men can beat their wives in accordance with the tenets of our religion.
    when men are provided religous legitimacy for torturing & abusing another human being & that too the gentler sex,then such cases will continue as our men firmly believe that islam gives them permission to abuse their wives.Recommend

  • Khan
    Nov 25, 2010 - 4:15PM

    The point is that Quran (Sura 4-34) grants permission to beat ones wife. As long as we have these kind of grants you will see wives getting beaten by husbands.Recommend

  • Masroor
    Nov 25, 2010 - 5:46PM

    @khan be cautious while saying anything against quran this is not writen by any man this is sent by our creator who knows better what is good for us.

    I dont understand why all the negative things are linked with islam, islam is the religion who dignified the women, read the history.

    The Holy prophet peace be upon him set an example how to leave with spouse

    I would recommend read tafaseer, ahadith and then form any opinion

    it is the west who misuse women, what is the need of a woman in cigarette ad etc Recommend

  • Anon.
    Nov 25, 2010 - 5:47PM

    @Khan: lol, way to kill the conversation. Even the liberals will be outraged. Of course, you are absolutely correct but that’s hardly point now is it ;)Recommend

  • Masroor
    Nov 25, 2010 - 5:53PM

    Quran dont say to beat your wife, there is only one condition where quran allowed it to stop woman doing bad things, while quran & ahadith teaches at thousand places to be nice with your wife.

    i am shocked that muslims start think like that islam is the root of negativity

    this is all due to the fact that we have stopped reading our holy books, listening to religious scholars, I admit that islam has been hijacked by some stupid molvis but this doesnt mean that islam is wrong, there are people who are portraying true picture of islam, we have to find them.

    “Dars e Quran ger hum ne na bhulaya hota
    yeh zamana na zamane ne dikhaya hota”Recommend

  • Peace
    Nov 25, 2010 - 5:56PM

    With so much domestic violence, this topic needs to be discussed. Thank you for broaching the subject in such clear, disturbing, helpful words. And Arif Khan, if only Fouzia’s solution were so easy as to leave her abuser! That may be one of several possible outcomes, but how to effect them? Recommend

  • Nadeem Zafar
    Nov 25, 2010 - 7:10PM

    “A woman, a dog, a walnut tree. More you beat them, better they will be.” ShakespeareRecommend

  • shazia
    Nov 25, 2010 - 7:58PM

    It’s strange how our brains shut down whenever anything in the Quran is questioned. @Khan, I completely agree with you. @ Mansoor, in the west there are LAWS against beating your wife and against marital rape. Women were undoubtedly given numerous rights by Islam in its early days, rights that most western women didn’t have until recently. However, the short-sighted bigots in our religion didn’t allow Islam to evolve so Muslim women’s rights have stayed where they were 1400 years ago while western societies have made great strides in this respect.Recommend

  • Masroor
    Nov 26, 2010 - 10:34AM

    its not strange, we cant question anyhitng in quran. the difference between Islamic laws and other laws is islamic laws are made by our creator who knows better than any body. When u accept islam you surrender infront of Allah by all means. A muslim cant question anything in quran.Recommend

  • karanvir singh
    Nov 26, 2010 - 1:55PM

    It is a very nice article .It truly expresses the pathetic conditions of women prevailing in both sides of the border.I would like to emphasize the fact that education has in no way any relation to violence.It is basically a bent of mind in which men want to justify their authority over women.

    Karanvir Singh
    India Recommend

  • shazia
    Nov 26, 2010 - 3:07PM

    @Mansoor: And that’s why the Muslims’ mindset (generally) is still stuck where it was 1400 years ago. And btw, what does one do if one hasn’t chosen Islam per se, but was born into it? If I convert to another religion, then I’ll be killed for apostasy, right (at least in our oh-so-tolerant Pakistan? So in your book, I guess there’s no choice for me but to shut down my brain when it comes to controversial passages in the Holy Quran.Recommend

  • Arshad
    Nov 27, 2010 - 9:32AM


    I can understand your mindset for using the word CONTROVERSIAL regarding The Holy Quran. Whenever someone tries to justify the beating of wife’s in the light of Islam, it is natural for any women to look at it strangely.


    Please read the explanation or consult a scholar for its interpretation.

    In my point of view, women are the precious and beautiful creature of Allah. The most affectionate creature for men and vice versa (for women). Moreover a natural desire to get hold of a women is in every man (Again from Allah), and this is the test that who can guard his / her modesty against the compelling affection/temptation.

    As far as I know, the only point in physical beating your wife is

    Whenever she tries to do anything related to adultery , fahashi, against the modesty
    Disobedience to this husband that may bring bad name or things like that

    Again what is that BAD THING is the sole interpretation of the Husband.
    So if the husband is ruthless he will pay the price here in this life or hereafter.

    To make matters more clear, I can give reference of a Hadith (Words to that affect)

    “Rasool-ullah (S.A.W) said that the best men among you is the one who is best with his family.” (or to his wife to be more precisely..)

    Another Argument….

    Shaitan is most delighted whenever there is a quarrel / fight among a couple..

    Summing it Up
    1. Please dont point your fingers on Islam or Quran rather try to understand Islamic teaching through Ahadith, Tafaseer, Life of Rasool-ullah (S.A.W), sahae-e-karam (R.A.Z.) and Aoolea-e-karam (R.H.T)
    2. Have absolute Trust on ALLAH’s Justice system. Every perpetrator will face the true Justice in this World of Hereafter.Recommend

  • Sikandar
    Nov 27, 2010 - 11:41AM

    saad bin umair, Khan, shazia, as long as sane people are there like you I am sure there is light on the other side of the tunnel.

    Believe me I am follower but what is obsolete is obsolete just do not follow anything blindly or try and understand what is written in what context which no one does.

    I pity and also have you all heard the news.—According to the UN, around 34,000 women paramedical workers have gone missing from the flood affected districts of Pakistan, a media report said Saturday.— what to say of domestic violence.

    It seems Mr. Masroor has seen who has written what and etc.Recommend

  • Sadia
    Nov 27, 2010 - 2:51PM

    i wonder how a human mind can be so ignorant of the facts n figures even around him.
    Quran being the last revelation is there as a source of information n guidance till the last day. what we dun want to understand here is the reality deep inside. very much influenced by the west, have we ever tried to notice the exact value of women there? how they are being looked at like and how they are being used as a source of pleasure. i dun say these things are absent in our society, they are absolutely there n that too just because of the ignorance from the religion. islam never allows any kind of brutality. n before talking about anything, we must have enough knowledge about that thing. That’s the right way to look at anything. bring yourself to the level of discussion first. the one who creates something knows best about its creation, then be it 1400yrs ago or only a day ago. it was a different topic which has now become a quarrel for religion. islam is never responsible for anything bad on earth. it’s always we, humans. try to figure it out yourself rather relying on unauthentic sources. Islam gives the maximum rights to a woman, which not only makes her secure but also brings her mental tranquillity which many women in west long for.Recommend

  • sajidamajeed
    Dec 16, 2010 - 3:29PM

    I am sajida majeed. I am 35 years old. I am married at the age of 13. Before my marriage my parents advice me to obey my husband, To respect his parents and not arguing against him.They also tell me that your husband may beat you ,But i must consider it as a part of life. Till date I am beaten and slapped by my husband twice or thrice a week. Since my parents is like that i am taking it as a part of life. He even slaps me infront of public for not covering my face. For the same reason i have given 50 lashes.Recommend

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