Resource Guide Offers Support to Muslim Americans

Photograph of women wearing head scarves and looking at a laptop computer.In collaboration with FYSB grantees the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence and the Battered Women’s Justice Project, the Peaceful Families Project has created a new guide for the Muslim American community. Islamic Marriage Contracts: A Resource Guide for Legal Professionals, Advocates, Imams & Communities sheds light on the intersection between gender equality, marriage and divorce within Islam, promoting the best practices that safeguard women's wellbeing and nurture families. With its practical format, the guide not only highlights the legal nuances of Islamic marriage contracts and traditions that may come into conflict with American law, but also shares resources that are available to American Muslim women and their families.

According to a 2011 study by the Peaceful Families Project, more than half of American Muslims surveyed (53%) reported having experienced family abuse at some point in their lives. Given the need for improved community responses to this abuse, the Peaceful Families Project wrote Islamic Marriage Contracts to help American Muslims navigate the US legal system, as well as to assist advocates, legal professionals, and individuals in understanding their Muslim neighbors. Inspired by encounters with survivors of abuse grappling with issues related to their Islamic marriage contracts, the writers intend for the manual to be both informative and empowering.  For legal professionals and advocates with limited knowledge of Islam and Muslim culture, the manual provides useful explanations of traditional Islamic family law, common cultural practices, trends in abuse, and potential sources of conflict when seeking to enforce Islamic marriage contracts.  For Muslim American women and their partners, the guide has a helpful Resources section with 100 recommended questions for couples to discuss when considering marriage.

The authors reexamine several important themes about the role of women and men in Islam, such as the definition of marriage and the resolution of conflict between wives and husbands. The guide states, “Marriage is defined in the Qur’an as an equitable, compassionate, and peaceful relationship that is grounded in love,” and teaches, “In the event that conflict occurs within marriage, the Qur’an requires it be resolved through mutual consultation and open discussion.”  It emphasizes the egalitarian message present in the Qur’an that some cultural interpretations of Islam suppress. Another important topic the guide explores is revictimization: when immigrant survivors of domestic violence experience abuse from their community as fallout from seeking outside support. In an effort to prevent this harm, the guide aims to enhance practitioners’ cultural sensitivity, explaining how to navigate potential responses from the Muslim community towards victims reporting abuse. 

To access the publication, visit the Peaceful Families Project website.

To learn more about how the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSP) supports projects like this through its national resource centers and culturally specific institutes, visit the FVPSP webpage.