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Why more Muslims seek domestic violence support in Ramadan

While more Muslims seek domestic violence support in Ramadan, many can't bear to act
8 min read
29 April, 2022
More Muslims are seeking domestic violence support during Ramadan. But why are many of those who turn to the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition for help unwilling to take action during the holy month?
Muslim men and women who have survived domestic violence often find healing in Islam [Jasmin Merdan/Getty-file photo]

"I remember saying to my friend, 'He's even like this in Ramadan,'" said Anna, a Muslim convert and a survivor of domestic violence. "And she was like, 'Well, that's [his] true character, isn't it? You see people's real, true essence in Ramadan.'"

Anna, whose name and certain other details have been changed, highlighted the Muslim belief that the Shaitan – devil who entices people into doing evil – is chained up during the holy month.

Anna isn't surprised that UK-based Islamic domestic violence charity Nour in 2021 said it receives more requests for support during Ramadan. "I think it's probably just the clarity that you get because it's a spiritual time," she said, explaining that people stop drinking caffeine and binge-watching TV shows, and start reading the Quran more.

"You take a step back and you start looking at your life," she added, saying that other people's abusive tendencies become very visible. Anna also said Muslims feel stronger in Ramadan given the extra physical resilience needed to cope with fasting from sunrise to sunset each day. She believes this may empower people experiencing abuse to seek help.

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Can't bear to act

But, as in all communities, those who look for support find obstacles in their path. The Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition (MMWC) in the US state of Wisconsin also receives increased requests for assistance during the holy month. However, Basema Yasin, who coordinates the group's Our Peaceful Home domestic violence services project, explained many of these victims are not yet ready to involve the authorities.

"They'll come to us in Ramadan," Basema told The New Arab. "But there's a strong desire, because it's a holy month, that they don't want to take any action against the abuser." She added that there's a stigma attached to calling the police at any time, but that this is magnified during this period. Many women also feel it would be wrong to cause what they see as trouble for their husbands during Ramadan.

They may feel this way even if the man shows little interest in the month. "Sometimes you have husbands that, not only are they not observing Ramadan or fasting, [but] the reason they're abusive is that they're alcoholics, and yet still the women are not willing" to take action, MMWC president Janan Najeeb explained. Instead, they want to unload their problems and discuss options and then wait until later down the line.

Janan added: "That really speaks to how special this month is in the hearts of Muslims, but we do want to educate people that God says that preservation of life and safety is really the first Shariah [Islamic] law that exists."

Household-related pressures

But women in abusive homes also face more household-related pressures in Ramadan, often centred on iftar – the evening meal with which Muslims break their fast – and suhoor, the one eaten before they start it for the day.

"They are expected to cook a big spread and to be up pre-dawn to prepare that morning meal and all of that," Janan said. "And so, there's that kind of expectation which is overwhelming for them."

Some women joke that this is the period when their husbands are at their worst given the burdens they place on their wives, Basema added. Ramadan is a time of frequent visits from extended family, she said, explaining that this means the MMWC sees a lot of problems with in-laws during the holy month.

Life is also made harder by men whose existing aggression is inflamed by the difficulties of fasting. Basema said: "There's no point [in] you fasting if you're going to become angrier, if you're going to lash out more quickly, if your temperament is just going to get even worse and where you have your family – your wife and children – scared and tiptoeing around the house, especially in Ramadan."

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She added: "Ramadan is not about making, you know, 12 different meals where you can have a whole table, or inviting all your family every single day. The first [people] you should have compassion for [are] your wife and your children."

Janan called on Muslim religious leaders, or imams, to use the month to address domestic violence while people are spending long periods in their mosques.

Though most who seek the MMWC's support are women, the organisation occasionally deals with men who have experienced domestic violence. "The message is that we also urge those men not to suffer in silence because there are services available," Janan stressed.

Women in abusive homes also face more household-related pressures in Ramadan, often centred on iftar [Getty]
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In line with Christmas

Heightened rates of domestic abuse are not unique to Ramadan. Basema noted that this is in line with other major holidays.

Sajan Devshi, who for nine years was a facilitator on UK national domestic violence programmes for perpetrators in Leicestershire and the East Midlands, found that incidents consistently increased at Christmas.

"It's any type of, I think, a holiday where there's a lot of pressure on people," said Sajan, who now teaches schoolchildren taking exams at

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He added that domestic violence cuts across communities and religions. "Domestic abuse doesn't have any boundaries," Sajan explained. "You can have any people from any background that will fall under that [category]."

'Go back to the real Islam'

In fact, Denise Berte, executive director of the Peaceful Families Project, a Muslim domestic violence education organisation in the US, sees Islam as the cure for abuse.

"A lot of our cultures come from colonised, traumatised systems that really spun around the message of Islam," she said, challenging the idea that domestic violence can be addressed by abandoning religion for progressivism.

"You're taught that your women shouldn't work because, for colonisers, it's always better to separate people out, right?" Denise added, saying that Muslim societies have also "glorified" their oppressors and so copied forms of abuse they practise.

"We say what you need is to go back to Islam, go back to the real Islam, because Islam was a liberating force for women and children and vulnerable peoples in all of those communities."

Many Muslims find that Islam helps them be free [Getty]

Denise noted differences between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, including the fact that Eve wasn't made from Adam's rib in the Quran. Some consider this belief in the other major Abrahamic faiths to suggest women are lesser than men.

"And I like to say, very quietly, Islam was the first feminist religion. It really was," she said. "Like, equality came from Islam. The idea of gender equality, the abolition of the [pre-Islamic] practice of burying young female children [alive] – all of those things come from Islam."

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'Wiping the slate clean'

The Islamic faith has given healing to Anna, who is currently experiencing her third Ramadan after her abusive relationship ended. "These past Ramadans have truly been a gift – like no other Ramadans," she said.

Anna has always considered the holy month a time for new beginnings but was unable to take advantage of the opportunity in the past. "Before, I was never that connected to it, really, because it was always about walking on eggshells," she explained. "Now I can start again. Now I can go back to zero again, and I can create what I want to create from this."

Anna knows some Muslims object to people being separated or divorced but refuses to submit to this. "I'm never going to accept any shame anyone tries to pull on me," she said.

She has also had to weed her husband's abusive practices out from the true religion of Islam, though her faith is far from weakened. She is praying more and spending time building Ramadan traditions with her son.

"My relationship with Islam is the clearest it's ever been," Anna said. "It's like, just wiping the slate clean."

Nick McAlpin is a staff journalist at The New Arab.

Follow him on Twitter: @NickGMcAlpin

If you are in the UK and wish to seek support for domestic violence, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Men can reach out to the Men's Advice Line on 0808 8010 327 and members of the LGBTQ+ community can call the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 999 5428.

Readers in the US can ring the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 800 799 7233.

If you wish to seek Muslim-specific support in the UK, you can contact domestic violence charity Nour by emailing or the Muslim Women's Network Helpline by phoning 0800 999 5786. If you are in the US or Canada, see the directory on the Peaceful Families Project's website for details of an organisation near you.