Abuse is a topic that many Muslims shy away from because it is uncomfortable to tackle an issue that is complex and appears unsolvable. Many times when I address the topic of marriage, I clarify that the strategies I suggest do not apply to abusive relationships. Yet, what I have learned is that people who are in abusive relationships don’t acknowledge the abuse and instead try to do everything to “fix” their marriage and resolve the unhappiness they feel. Abusive relationships have a completely different dynamic and “marriage advice” cannot solve the problem of abuse. Sadly people do not understand that an abusive relationship is a dysfunctional relationship, therefore the only way the relationship can change is if both husband and wife get professional counseling because without intervention the abuse will only get worse and the relationship will continue to deteriorate.
Despite acknowledgements in our community that abuse does exist in Muslim homes, most victims and perpetrators of abuse claim that abuse happens to “other people,” in homes where there is “no taqwa (God-consciousness)” or abusers are those who are “uneducated.” However, abuse exists across all socio-economic levels, cultures, levels of education, and religiosity. Abuse is a social problem that exists with young and old alike. Patterns of abuse can be seen in young couples even before marriage as well as long-married couples with children.
At the heart of an abusive relationship is the concept of maintaining power and control over another person. An abuser can be either a man or a woman, however statistically most abuse cases involve the male as the aggressor. According the Bureau of Justice Statistic Crime Data Brief on Intimate Partner Violence (2003), women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence and men for approximately 15%. In this article, I will address women who are abused and in a subsequent article, I will address the issue of men who are abused.
How does abuse manifest itself? Many people think of abuse as a man throwing a woman across a room, punching and slapping her, leaving her with bruises. This type of physical abuse is easy to recognize, yet there are several ways people are abused that are equally damaging and have negative consequences on the individual and the relationship. Abuse has many forms and that is why people may be reluctant or even unable to identify abuse.
Consider this example of one type of abuse before marriage. See if you can find the early warning signs in the narrative.
Asma met Ahmed in the youth group. He was a charismatic leader and she thought he was funny and smart. They liked each other and their parents knew that they might make a good match. Asma and Ahmed communicated often via text and phone calls and Ahmed expressed that he cared a lot about her. He was very chivalrous. Once when he saw another boy at school checking her out in the hallway, he told her that she had to protect herself and should dress more modestly so other guys wouldn’t check her out. Asma found his concern for her very sweet. He would text her several times a day and ask her what she was doing and where she was going. He told her he wanted to marry her after they finished school and that he didn’t want any other guy even looking at her. She really liked him and wanted to be his wife. He gave her advice to stay away from friends who were a bad influence on her and would lead her astray. Advice like this only reinforced her feelings that he cared a lot about her well-being and safety. One day after school, he offered to give her a ride home since it was raining. She was so thankful to get out of the rain, she jumped into the car and headed toward her home. As they drove and chatted about their day, he suddenly pulled the car over and leaned in and kissed her. She was taken aback that he was so bold to kiss her, but she also felt thrilled that he liked her so much. They didn’t say anything. Her stomach had butterflies because she knew that good Muslim girls don’t kiss boys in cars, but she also reminded herself they would get married soon and he just couldn’t wait to be with her. Over time, he stole more kisses and when she told him she didn’t want to do that anymore because she thought it was wrong, he would get upset and feared she would leave him. Out of fear he threatened that if she broke up with him, he would tell the whole world what she was doing with him and then she would never get married. She was confused and scared; what if her parents found out? What if the community knew what she was doing? She knew he loved her and cared about her so she succumbed to his demands. She pleaded with him to get married, so they could make everything right, but he dismissed her feelings and told her that he would decide when the right time was to get married. Asma loved Ahmed but she felt guilty about what their relationship had turned into, she just wanted to marry him and not sneak around to be with him. She couldn’t take it anymore, she told Ahmed they would have to stay away from each other until they were at least engaged. He was outraged because he thought she was teasing him on purpose so he threatened to rape her if she didn’t stay with him. He reminded her that no man would ever want to marry her if word of what she had done got out. She was his and he would never let her go. Asma felt scared and stuck; she didn’t know what to do.
Abuse is a violation of a person’s human and civil rights. It follows a pattern of behavior that is used to gain or maintain power and control over another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound another person. In Islam, abuse is not tolerated on any level, as the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) reminds us “He is the best amongst you who is the kindest towards his wives….”
Abuse can be economic, verbal, emotional, physical and sexual. According to mentalhelp.com the types of abuse are explained as follows:
Economic Abuse occurs when a person is prevented from getting or keeping a job, or the abuser takes the person’s income or money and does not let them know or have access to the family income. The abuser may also hide money from the family.
Verbal Abuse occurs when one person uses words and body language to inappropriately criticize another person. Verbal abuse often involves ‘putdowns’ and name-calling intended to make a person feel they are unworthy of love or respect, and that they do not have ability or talent. If a person speaks up against these statements, they are often told that the criticisms were “just a joke,” and that it is their own problem that they do not find the joke funny. Verbal abuse is dangerous because it is often not easily recognized as abuse, and therefore it can go on for extended periods, causing severe damage to a person’s self-worth and self-respect.
Emotional Abuse occurs when one person controls information available to another person so as to manipulate that person’s sense of reality; what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Emotional abuse often contains strong emotionally manipulative content (such as threats, coercion and intimidation) designed to force a person to comply with the abuser’s wishes and it is designed to cause emotional pain to a person in an attempt to gain their compliance and counter any resistance. Like verbal abuse, emotional abuse is often not recognized as abuse early on but can cause serious psychological effects.
Physical Abuse occurs when one person uses physical pain or threat of physical force to intimidate another person. Actual physical abuse may involve slaps, pushes, twisting arms, biting, punching, kicking, hair pulling, scratching and grabbing. Physical abuse is abusive whether bruises or physical damage occur or not. Physical abuse is also the mere threat of physical violence if the victim does not comply with the wishes of the abuser.
Sexual Abuse is usually connected to physical abuse or the threat of physical abuse and emotional abuse. Sexual abuse includes any sort of unwanted sexual contact perpetrated by an abuser. Sexual abuse is the forcing or manipulating of a person into having sex or performing sexual acts, holding a person down during sex, hurting a person physically in order to perform sex or hurting a person with weapons or objects during sex.
Consider this example of one type of abuse after marriage. See if you can find the early warning signs in the narrative.
Aisha met Abdullah through friends in college. He was a Law student and she was finishing up her undergraduate degree in political science. They enjoyed debating about politics and Islam and courted for three months. They got married soon after she graduated and not long after they married, she got pregnant and they had twins. Abdullah worked long hours at the firm and would arrive home late, exhausted, and stressed from his day. Aisha was staying home to care for the twins, Abdullah felt it was unnecessary for her to work and that she should be home to care for the children. Aisha challenged him, but he reminded her that in Islam, the woman should obey her husband. Aisha argued this point with him but eventually complied with his request to keep the peace and became a stay at home mom. She became exhausted from caring for the twins, but was especially careful to make sure the children were not fussing when Abdullah came home because he wanted to come to a quiet home after his long day at work. Aisha missed spending time with Abdullah since she had very few friends where they lived and he was her only support. She loved him very much and would do anything to make him happy. Abdullah was frustrated that he could never get a full night’s sleep because the twins woke up crying at night. One night when they woke up crying, Abdullah was extremely agitated with Aisha that she couldn’t get them back to sleep. He had just fallen asleep and would have to get up for work in 3 hours. He quickly walked into the twins’ room and roughly picked up one of the twins. Aisha went after him and reached to touch his shoulder to calm him down but he pushed her away and yelled at her for “getting involved” while he was trying to parent. She explained that she was trying her best and she was just as tired as he was. He slapped her for talking to him like that and told her to never insult him again. Aisha was shocked by his outburst and she tried to calm him down and encouraged him to go to bed while she cared for the twins. The next day, Aisha’s mother called from across the country to check in with her and see how she was doing. Aisha wanted to tell her mother what happened, but she didn’t want to worry her, so she said everything was fine. That evening, Abdullah came home with a bouquet of flowers and told Aisha he was taking her out to dinner. She was surprised and happy that they would get to spend some time together. She figured that is what they needed to make everything better. Over dinner he apologized for hitting her and reminded her that it was her fault that he lost his temper and that she would have to be a better mother if they were going to have a happy household. Aisha felt crushed that Abdullah wasn’t happy with her but didn’t want to leave because she desperately wanted her twins to be raised in a home with both parents. She wondered what she would have to do to make her marriage work.
Why do Women Stay?
This is the question that is difficult for many people to understand. It is important to realize that those who are abused hold onto the positive interactions they had with their spouse and convince themselves that their spouse is capable of kindness. The abused may still love their spouse and these feelings along with a longing for the past or a false belief that they can help the abuser be a better person are what keep them attached in spite of the abuse.
For many women, they may feel “stuck” in the marriage because they are financially dependent on their spouse, especially if they have limited or no work experience or education to be able to support themselves and their children. For other women who are isolated from friends and family, they may not have any support to turn to if they choose to leave. Some family members may know of the abuse, but may advise her to be patient with her husband and to uphold the family’s honor and stay in the marriage. Sadly some women may turn to their local imams and are actually blamed for the abuse and told to “be obedient to” or “be patient with” their husbands.
Finally, for some women the dream of preserving a two parent household for their children will make them endure abuse. Women may feel afraid of losing their children, by either their spouse abducting the children or him gaining full custody of children in court. Sadly, in many situations, women will finally leave only when they perceive imminent danger to their children or if Child Protective Services threatens to remove the children from the home unless the woman leaves her abuser.
Leaving an abusive relationship is a decision that a woman must make on her own. Women’s shelters, family and friends can be available for support, but only once a woman chooses to take control of her own life and wellbeing will she be able to leave. Statistically, an abused woman leaves and returns to her spouse ten times before permanently separating. Only by recognizing the dynamics of abuse and the fallacies of why she stays will an abused woman be able to seek support and get out of the abusive relationship. As Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “…Verily, God does not change [a person’s] condition unless they change their inner selves…” (13:11). The decision to leave an abuser and protect oneself physically and emotionally takes enormous courage and strength. The road out of an abusive relationship is not easy and it will require her to struggle emotionally as well as face economic hardship, but in that process she will regain her self-worth and will live a life of dignity.
For help and information contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org or 1.800.799.SAFE
“Advices” is not a word, the noun “advice” is uncountable.
fixed! jazakAllahu khayr
Wow, this article hit close to home. Definitely not a widely discussed topic in the Muslim community. Jazak’Allah for posting an article about this topic. May Allah give courage and strength to the weak. AMEEN
JazakAllhu Khairan for this wonderful article!
Great article! Mashallah! There is a new charity set up in the UK for those who need help in DV.
Nour DV – http://www.nour-dv.org.uk they’re on Facebook too http://facebook.com/NourDV
Salam. shukran for that great article. was good to read something like that as i was trying to help some abused women already… but they didnt even noticed that they are abused … i would like to read something also about abused children (in any age, even as adults), how to notice thats an abuse, how the child can react and whats from the islamical point of view the right thing a child can do in such situation… shukran again and salam
Stories like these disturb me the most because they represent an unfortunate reality. A one size approach does not fit everyone in terms of marriage.
In the second story where the woman has twins I have a few suggestions for preventing this
1) It would have been nice if this sister had spent more time on Halal Courtship instead of just three months. So many young muslim’s are in a rush to get married right after graduation and I have seen this in the community. Time spent courting as a couple in the school/dorm life is not the same as courting in real life with a 9-5 schedule. The sister in this story may have realized that her husband cracks under a lot of pressure if she had spent more with him either in chaperoned settings some other form of group work. Sometimes people like her husband will not reveal their abusive side in front of other people, but there are other ways of Halal courtship to find out a person’s boiling point. It’s easy to get swept away in a short time, especially for a lot of sisters.
2) People on this board are going to be angry with me for saying this but it needs to be said. She should have waited much longer to have children. And by that I mean she should have actively used some form of birth control to delay childbearing. Had she been smart about it and delayed having kids, she would have had time to realize that this man was abusive, and been able to get out without bringing innocent souls along to suffer. Now she has to choose between her kids having an essential father figure in their lives, or possible further abuse. Some people don’t believe in birth control and that’s fine, but there is some wisdom in this due to short engagements by many people.
I am curious if you have even been the vistim in an abusive relationship? You make it sound so simple.
Sister, I want to clarify on the language you used as advice. You said the sister was wrong in two ways,
1. That she should not have courted for so short a time
2. That she was not smart in getting pregnant
Do you see how in both cases you have placed blame on the victim? That is not to say that the victim was not in the wrong, however, a victim who read your post may be inclined to not seek help under the delusion that they are to blame for the abuse, or they deserve it due to their actions.
I speak with some intimate knowledge of an abusive relationship, although I am different to both scenario’s outlined.
My marriage was an Islamic one, even though I live in a western country. My Father first approached me about a young man who was religious and who he liked, and whose family had approached my Father with a marriage proposal. I had never before met the young man, although he told me after we were married that he had seen me twice before asking for me, both times in a public place.
We were Islamically married, and not long after we had a wedding ceremony and lived together. He was controlling from the start. I am not allowed to have social media, I am not allowed to go out without him, except with my father or mother or brother. Not even to the park beside my house. I had to change my entire wardrobe, which i believe now is a good thing. I am not allowed to drive.
There have been other ways he tried to control me, but when he pushes hard on those issues i stick to my decision. When i express this defiance as he views it by refusing his order/request, he becomes angry. He shouts, he insults, he tries shaming, he insults, he ignores. He has never laid a hand on me, but for the longest time i would feel hopeless. Alhamdulillah this week we have not fought.
He is not a bad guy, and we have great times together. I am not perfect, but I do not accept that he can insult me then call it a joke. I don’t speak to anyone about our troubles except for his sister or mother, and that is so that his character is not misunderstood or slandered, because he does not slander my shortcomings. I have to clarify this. May Allah keep my mind clear, ease my heart and guide my tongue that i may speak only truth.
My point in this post is this: the only way that a victim can be aided on a forum such as this is by education and making help available. Allah protect us all and guide us. Using blaming language or judgemental tone will only cause the victim to succumb to her aggressor, under the notion she deserves what she is getting. Alhamdulillah my husband does not silence me, and we can discuss and debate the issue, may Allah keep us peaceful in our communication. He has Alhamdulillah gotten better at controlling himself, and i know why he tries so hard to ‘control’ me, although we still disagree on the validity of his reasons. I do not see that i am harmed by listening to much of what he says, although i would love to have more freedom.
May Allah guide us to what is right and beneficial to us in these issues, both mentioned and silent, and make us grateful and happy with the outcome
Wonderful article but its a shame there are no Islamic organizations to specifically help Muslim women suffering from abuse
This is not true. I know of at least one– http://wafahouse.org/
It is something we need to invest in more heavily but there is some good work going on.
As salaamu alaykum,
There are actually places in the US that women can turn to insha’Allah.
ICNA has a shelter in NY, Chicago and Kansas City, MO.
Baabun Nasr, Inc. In Philly
Surayya Anne Foundation in Tulsa, OK
There is one close to DC although the name escapes me. There is one in Atlanta but again I forgot the name.
The Al Maun Fund helps needy families.
I hae been meaning to put this list together but you have re-inspired (is that a word LOL) me to publish it insha’Allah
Muslimah An-Nisaah in Baltimore, MD
Thank you for taking time to write this and put so much thought into it. I hope we can all benefit from it.
Salaam alaykum warahmatullah. I’m so touched with this article bcos somthing like this av been on my mind for a long time. What I discovered in my own area (Nigeria) that make women endure abusive marriages are: fate/future of their CHILDREN, hope of better condition in the future & stigmatization from d society that didn’t care about her feelings/ordeal. They would see her as sombody that lacks patience, respect & forbearance. Even religious leaders are not left out. They always hammer that women are to be submissive & obedient to their husbands no-matter-what. Anybody that talk about women having rights are seen as extremist that want to cause ‘havoc’. I av d intention of starting a kind of Foundation or Initiative to cater & help victims of such but apart from financial constraints, my Imam was the 1st to discourage me from “treading such a dangerous path” because such an attempt will not only make people hate me but it is anti-religious for it would be as if am inciting wives against their husband. My heart always cry out for people in such condition but there is little or nothing I could do. Abuse in marriages are now common that people have regarded it as normal. May Allah saves us. 1ce again, Jazaak Allah khair for d post.
I’m a stranger but, please chase your dream of opening a foundation or a support group for abused individuals. Insyallah, I will pray for your effort and your strive to help these individuals.
It’s sad to see such situations happening but, we too other than the abused individuals, have to step up and help them. I realized that the stigmatization and the idea of ‘not burdening anyone’ are what that demoralize abused individuals.
Also, it’s sad to hear of Imams speaking like that. However, we have the Al-Quran and that should and must be our sole guide to our life. Don’t worry about anyone alright?
Fantastic article, masha’allah.
Very relevant and a definite issue in our Muslim communities.
I’m very impressed by the consistently excellent and relevant topics you cover. Insha’allah, hope to see more!
JazakalLaah for this article; I am now very anxious for the other article about male victims of DV as this an area I am trying to help many families with in the UK. I would be most grateful for all and any advice you can offer on this subject also.
JazakalLaah again and wassalaamu ‘alaikum
from all at Hillingdon Assembly of Muslim Youth.
i think you meant to write abdullah at the end of the story but you switched his name to ahmad
fixed, jazakAllahu khayr!
this article highlights the abuse women suffer in abusive marriages but there isnt any solution for it unless the abuse becomes life threatening. what will a sister do after leaving the abusive spouse if she cant support herself and the kids financially. my situation is not very different and i am suffering humiliation for the sake of kids to have two parent household. i dont see any solution to it.
I know my advice doesn’t mean much but, I just want to tell you that my mum was in your situation. She doesn’t have any school qualification, work experiences and etc. To add on to that, her family relations weren’t that strong.
However, she was able to pull through. She made use of her skill to bring in money for the household. What my country is doing for divorced mothers is that they instill some form of entrepreneurial skills for these individuals so that they can have some form of income and time for their kids.
The humiliation that you might suffer will die down one day. The people who humiliated my mother are ashamed of their actions back then. They don’t even dare to talk about the past now. So yes, pray for strength.
I believe that Allah taala’s help comes in many ways when you’re at a tight spot. As long you believe in His power and strength, insyallah everything will be okay.
I pray for your safety.
I can only tell you what I did when I was in your situation. I went to the Imam of my mosque and he asked me, “Do you believe that Allah Tala is more powerful than anyone?” My answer was, “Yes” then he said, “If you believe that He is your Razzaq then try your best & you will see the Miracles.” I did try and got out of situation Alhamdolillah. My prayers are with you, please talk to someone. Keep your faith strong & you will feel Allah Tala’s presence in your heart.
Very nice. I’d like to add that in some cases men also use all kinds of religious “evidence” to support how they are treating their wives and making the woman feel bad, putting her down, etc. And women and others in a community will also support this (personal experience here). Like reminding women that a woman who divorces her husband without a good reason will not smell the scent of jannah. (And what is a “good enough reason”??) Or that if a man is angry with his wife, the angels will curse her all night long. Or that she must obey him no matter what. (And that the Prophet sallalhu ‘alayhi wassalam had said that if Allah had allowed anyone to make sujood for another person, He would have made a wife do so for her husband.) And on and on and on. So she feels like a bad Muslim (or that Allah will be angry with her) if she questions his actions or treatment of her or thinks about leaving (Allah hates divorce). Or does something against his wishes. And the other women (and even sometimes imams!) also keep “reminding” women of these things, so she has like zero support in the community. And if she does leave, she is encouraged to return to the husband even after she has explained that she has prayed istikhara and gotten *several clear signs* to leave – it’s like that doesn’t even count. And constantly being reminded of his “rights” over her, when there is no equal weight placed on his duties towards her or her rights over him – or even her rights to be her own individual person. (And since when is a marriage all about rights and duties, and not about mutual love and respect and making each other happy??)
Yes, this hits very close to home. Is there such a thing as religious abuse??
I think sister Callista raised a very impt. issue. It is not uncommon that many Muslim women are abused under the name of “Islam”.
SubhaanAllah Sister, I have heard all of these as well. I told my husband that I am tired of him using Islam to put me down. He kind of backed off but his abuse continues. I know I am abused. I know he is not acting Islamically. I have a bruise the size of a peach on my right leg to prove it. What I am worried about is the kids. He has threatened to take them away. He says that Islamically he has all right to them if we divorce as they “belong” to him. I am confused by the research that I have done regarding the rights of child custody after a divorce. It seems it really depends of what Madthab one adheres to as to the details of the arrangements.If anyone has a link to some good information that would be appreciated. There is no doubt that my husband abuses me. He also complains about me and how stupid and ugly I am to our soon to be 12 year old daughter. VERY innapropriate behavior. I was not always Muslim but it saddens me to think that kaffir men have treated me with FAR more respect than my Muslim husband. Islam is perfect. Muslims are not. I get that. But the refuge I am supposed to find in a marriage is the opposite. The world outside becomes my refuge from him. I have been married to this man for 15 years. Clearly he is not going to change. Bottom line of why I stay with him…I am afraid for the children and his vindictive nature. Still trying to figure out exactly what to do. It is VERY complicated. Allah help us.
Dear sister, i’m sorry to know that you are in an abusive relationship. I’m also no different.
Well, alhamdulillah, it’s good that you have recognised the situation that you are in. Have faith in Allah and be patient first. Let’s see how things change if you become a little tactful. Try to change your daughter’s mind too. Make her read the Qura’n and understand it. Reinforce the incidents of how the prophet (peace be upon him) would treat his wives, his daughters and women in general so that she gets to know the other side of the picture too.
Try reminding him of the prophet’s (peace be upon him) life. In my life, things changed by far when i told my husband that if i get killed by him, i make Allah a witness that i’ll never ever forgive him. Alhamdulillah, things did change. And, i’ve been married for 5 months only!
Make dua for your husband. And be patient. Connect to Allah more strongly. Save your marriage first by changing your strategy of dealing with him. This article refers to the verse of the Qura’n that says that Allah does not change the condition of those who don’t change it themselves. Try changing yourself first by having faith in Allah that you can change your life, your husband’s and that of your daughter. Remember, Allah is with those who are being patient. Just be in constant communion with Allah!
In case things don’t change, and as a last resort you have to opt out of the marriage, remember that in Islam the children stay with the mother as long as she doesn’t marry again. If and when she marries another man, she has to give up the custody of her child/ren. I’m not an authority on fiqh but this is what i read somewhere (in a tafseer of the Qura’n) where the writer had quoted an incident from the time of the prophet (peace be upon him). The lady was instructed that the child will stay with her until she gets married again.
May Allah help us all! ameen! May He protect us all! ameen! Remember, no matter what happens, He is there with us, loving us the most and being Kind to us most of all!
Brontophile and Callista,
I agree with both of your input here, everything you said was right. Brontophile, I hope you find the strength to leave this situation with your abusive husband. Smoking is haram, its abuse we are doing to ourselves, so what is it like when you are being physically abused? It’s sad to hear you find refuge outside, as sad as it is I know it is reality for many women.
I am going through a similar situation with my husband. I don’t think we can just rule out that just because they are ‘Muslims’ that they are righteous, humble, kind, generous, gentle and all of the above. Of course, no one is perfect but I have seen so many men who don’t even pray, non-Muslims who treat their wives with utmost respect and sweetness. I have come to the conclusion that after 5 years of being a practicing Muslim…being a Muslim doesn’t guarantee any particular moral behavior. It’s supposed to be the ideal but its not.
Every decant woman and man strives for a loving marriage based on kindness, respect and gentleness. I hoped that with my husband, we have only been a married just over a year but its quite an abusive atmosphere. He takes out a lot of his anger out on me, shouts at me, calls me names, puts me down, curses me, slams doors, punches holes in doors, kicks in doors…really inappropriate silly behavior because of silly things. I am extremely calm, I try to be but it does get me so upset. Why do I stay? Because I have a rough time at home sometimes, I feel I am not loved by my own family and I am ignored most of the time.
Me and my husband do have good times, when he is being nice it’s all nice, but when he gets moody and angry all hell breaks loose. I think it will only be a matter of time before I choose to leave him. The important thing I think about is failure, I think people will think I have failed my marriage or I haven’t tried hard enough. I doubt that Allah would want me to stay with a person who is abusing me, getting me upset.
I think I need to be stronger, have more self confidence and realize that I can do it alone, it may be hard but in the long run when I slowly build a life for myself I will feel happier. Of course, I know it is easier said than done but do you honestly want to live your life like this? You don’t need anyone, especially someone who is hurting you. All you need is Allah, and Allah is with you, you don’t have to feel lonely because he is always close to His servants and five times a day he calls upon His servants to meet them.
Not everything is written in the stone, some marriages don’t work, some things just don’t. You don’t have to blame yourselves. If you have tried everything, patience…kindness, everything in the book then it means that’s just the way that person is and sooner or later when you leave that person they will definitely regret it.
This article hits home very much for me. I’ve been in many of these situations & yes, I can attest that it’s true it will take AT LEAST 10 times of “leaving” before you’ve left for good.
My only hope is that insha’Allah this issue is addressed more openly throughout the Muslim communities around the globe.
Jazak’Allah khayr for writing a much needed article.
Thank you for this article. It would be really great to have an article on how to deal parental ‘religious abuse’- when parents use the religion and the injunctions to be good to parents to control the child and make him/her feel guilty if they follow their own path.
This is such an important topic. Mashallah, thank you.
There are no easy solutions. Some guys are a-holes; and leaving them will hurt as much as staying will them will do.
At least initially; as time goes by it may get better. It does at least in the West or if your parents are alive and support you.
My 3rd or 4th cousin went through some similar. Her husband beat her so she came home to the parents. Well the parents send her back and got him a job in the States with some contacts of theirs. So in the States; he can not physically abuse or else he’s looking at a prison term esp. as he has big beard and the judge will give him the max. So the physical abuse stopped but the emotional abuse continued for over ten years and then they sort of worked itself out.
She’s sort of happy now and the husband sort of learned to be halfway decent with several prodding from the inlaws and her inlaws too.
She’s one of the lucky ones. There’s no miracule cure for men/women being a-hole/bit*h. And society does not help; it spread rumors and usuallys hits the innocent one harder.
My personal belief is who get physically beaten or cheated on should kick the other one on the curb.
There is no excuse. Divorce is option to excerise if you feel like cheating or hitting your spouse.
Anything less than that; try to work it out. It may tough but what in life is easy… Sometimes its even hard to take a breath; yet we do.
I think this article shed alot of light on what is taking place in MANY muslim homes. When you hear things like this it really makes you wonder exactly what kind of ‘islam’ are we preaching? Since when does Islam give anyone the right to abuse another (spouse or otherwise) like this? Since when did Islam ever express that women are to be unemployed,isolated, stay-home moms (unvoluntarily that is) whose opinions are not even valued.
This is not islam. It is however the interpretation of some “men” who would rather have their wives at their every beck and call, than an equal partner making an equal contribution in the relationship. these men are those who are quick to conveniently “remind” women that they are to obey their husbands. Obediance and Submission is to Allah alone. Marriage is two-folded, both parties must work together to achieve success.
And Allah knows best.
I agree, Islam seems to endorse the currently situation of women being inferior beings with a “bent rib” whose first job is to be a mother to her man, the only difference in being the marital relationship.
My husband has some issues to work out, mine is an intercultural marriage, and his expectation from me is that I work two jobs to his one, at least right now. Then when I dare question this, ask why he can’t help me with the kids and house a little, its because, “I’M THE MAN!” which makes no sense to me. He isn’t speaking to me right now, and to know where his money goes is the biggest faux pas I could ask. This will probably go on for another two to three weeks, the not speaking to the wife bit. This is abuse I know, but what kind Im not sure. Any men out there from Syria have any advice? Do men not realize that prophet Mohammed pbuh didn’t turn his wife into his personal slave and servant but set a wonderful example of how to live in harmony with his wives? I feel like I have a roommate sometimes, not a marriage. But my roommate dropped off his two children to me and I can’t stand the thought of them going through more hardship because I can’t find a way to make this marriage work. My husband needs help and I don’t know how best to get it to him. There are no muslim counselors here and for him it’s a shameful to admit he has a problem.
They are a couple things to consider.
1. Is he hurting you? If so call the police and dump him.
2. If he’s not hurting you; just being emtionally abusive. Try his mom or sister or cousin he trusts who you get along with(very important or else it will backfire) and try get him to see reason.
3. Do you have relatively young imam or imam with progressive views in your community or the mosque he goes to? He can try to help and maybe find muslim counselors etc.
4. Was he always like this; even during the first time you met and started marriage? Is he reasonable at anytime? If so maybe talk to a shirnk or doc and get a mild sedative like valium 5mg or something and get him to open up.
From what you describing; its sounds like he hates you working but you guys need the money and he ends up taking out the anger on you. Life is more tough these days. Aspirations and Dreams are dashed daily if not hourly. If you can get him to open and admit life sucks and he has endure it and not take out on you.
5. Are these children not yours? if not then the best thing might be to leave. Unless he’s abusive to the children too. Then maybe you can get custody; show the judge he’s being abusive. Record him via you cell or a bear cam or something. There is so much anti-muslim bias you can probably get the kids.
6. None of these are perfect solutions. Its going hurt and a lot of it. Prayer and patience to stand the pain is required. Also
Islam merely said about the rib is that women require protection; its patriarchal societies that shift from prtotect and defend women to abuse in the name of protection. You don’t defend women by beating or by stopping her. If she wants to walk or go to work. You protect her by driving her there and picking her up and making sure she not discrimnated against. With helping of kids; its your kid too. I’m not going be hypocrite and say always do everything but help out. How hard is do laundry these days? Dump the clothes and dergent and then dump in dryer. Most of the clothes these days don’t even have to be ironed. Dishwasher – don’t rinse and use more powerful cascade or something.
One the most important things I learned: marriage is like a see-saw. To enjoy it both parties must sit down so the other can enjoy the height and sun. And its a real struggle at times. But it you both don’t work at it… Its useless.
Oh my goodness, I have heard the “I’m the man” speech way too many times. My ex actually thought he was pretty progressive compared to others in his family, for example his brother, and certainly his father. And I look at my friends and their marriages and I don’t see many positive examples. Honestly, the thought of marriage again does not even appeal to me because I now see it as giving up all my freedom and I’m not willing to do that again for anyone.
True that. It is sad to see that while we are experiencing the factors of modernization from our societies, there still a lack of growth in certain individuals’ moral and religious values.
I think that the chauvinistic values and the mis-use of Quranic verses go hand-in-hand to this issue; abuse.
This article hit very close to home. Thank you for sharing.
May Allah protect all victims who are dealing with abusive partners.
The problem with muslims from India and Pakistan is that people using indian culture and mixed it with Islam and they think thatthey are applying islamic culture.
I So agree with that.
Its not just India and Pakistan unfortunately. 🙁
Thank you Munira for shedding light on this issue. Another organization that is doing amazing work with domestic violence is Peaceful Families Project. They conduct educational workshops for Muslim communities, provide cultural sensitivity trainings to professionals working with Muslim clients, and they develop resources. Check out their website: http://www.peacefulfamilies.org/
There is also Muslimat Al-Nisaa- a shelter for Muslim survivors of domestic violence: http://www.mnisaa.org/ The sad reality is that many Muslim women have to deal with little support from their communities, as well as mainstream services not respecting their beliefs and values as Muslims. May Allah (swt) grant us all peaceful homes.
I appreciate the fact that the author also acknowledges that this problem also occurs to men. I just got out of a relationship in which my wife was the aggressor and have met a few other men who have encountered the same.
My wife would constantly verbally abuse me and at times it would get physical with shoving, spitting and various household items being thrown at me. She would blame me, telling me I was the reason that she acted like this. It got to the point that I would purposely stay later at work so I wouldn’t have to go home, as I couldn’t figure out what would cause her to act this way.
When I brought this issue up with her parents, they told me “I’m a man and should learn to deal with it”. Any time I confronted my wife with my feelings and that I couldn’t deal with her constant mood swings, my wife would tell me she would take my daughter away and not let me see her. She told me if I was lucky, I’d get to see my daughter every other weekend and she would make sure my daughter would grow up hating me.
I have now split apart from her. Funny thing is that she has decided to flip the entire script and is telling people that I was the one abusing her. Allah knows best.
I feel the stat that the sister uses from the Bureau of Justice Statistic Crime Data Brief on Intimate Partner Violence is somewhat skewed as men are looked at as the “stronger” gender so a lot of instances go unreported as men fear they would be looked down upon for reporting it. This problem is just not an isolated issue for women. I look forward to reading her subsequent article.
Hi sorry for your suffering.
It sounds alot like a mood disorder-mental health awareness is not high in our societies.
It’s common in many people.
I feel many women can especially be treated with counselling and meds but getting them to agree would be the main problem.
Assalamu alaikum, everyone.
SubhanAllah, nobody should have to live through this type of abuse; our community needs to stand up for those who are silent and be proactive on this matter. We really need to revive the Sunnah of how the Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam) treated others–especially his wives. He always advocated love and mercy, and was the best of mankind. Have we already forgotten the hadith that stated that those who possessed good character were the best to their wives (and that chief among them was Rasulallah, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam). Ignorance of the deen has corrupted it to the extent that anything can be justified through a misreading of the context of an ayat/hadith, IMO. Marriage is supposed to place barakah and tranquility between individuals–not pain. No man or woman should tolerate any type of abuse; everyone needs to know their Islamic rights. May Allah, subhana wa ta’ala, make it easy for those who are suffering, grant them istiqamah and sakina. May He raise their iman and grant them the highest rank in the hereafter. Ameen.
There’s a great place here in MD that helps abused women: Muslimat Al-Nisaa http://www.mnisaa.org/ If anyone is in the area, I would strongly encourage others to volunteer and support the shelter, and other shelters/orgs, also.
[…] This post on domestic abuse is a valuable […]
Muslim scholars on spousal abuse…..
I have been married for 11 years been abused in evry way,
voilent emotional, physicall, verbal after 10 years i decide to leave and now being separated for 9 months i have to a make a decision to go back to make my kids happy and to make my family happy. I have been crushed like a glass which cannot mend. Lost even the love,
how can i possibly go back.
I have two girls which was taken fom me a month ago, im not allowed to call cos the mother screams and shout.
Husband want me back, thought about everything that has happened and can only come to one answer which is “u can’t go back” not for second round.
I always believe an abused marriage wil get worse and not better.
Im i being selfish to think only about my happiness and wellbeing instead of my kids.
Some advise will help
this is where the trap is…i come from a broken family…if say someone asked me if i would have rather had my mom and dad together than happy…i would choose thm to be apart…not sure if i would think the same in the case of my children…i wouldnt want to be away frm them for anything…….its sooo tough, may Allah make u strong and give u guidance… and peace…ameen
at first i was hesitant to read this article, because alhamdulillah, i have perhaps never faced abuse…because it didnt happen to me, i was about to brush it off and scroll on to look what other topics there are ” more related to me”… pretty selfish! but then i read on…whether or not it is happening to us, or happened to us its so important that we are able to understand and recognize which is abuse…i got a more clear idea of abuse, and now, im so glad i read such a good article, its now sooo important to me that i teach my daughter about the emotional and verbal abuse that often is not recognized and its sooo easy for young emotional people to make huge mistakes in their lives for not recognizing abusive attitudes in people…either they themselves are abusive and dont realize it or some one is being abused without realizeing it………………….
Althought an insightful read..I would suggest using sources that are more recent. 2006 or earlier would’ve been better.
[…] to treat their wives honorably? (Check these 2 links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDEKJDgXO-U http://www.virtualmosque.com/relationships/marriage-family/spouse/hurting-homes/ ) I think it’s insulting for just not acknowledging the existence of marital rape. The ones who […]
I just wanted to add something that was mentioned in the article but I thinks needs more emphasis. There is a CYCLE OF ABUSE that people should be aware of. It is very helpful in recognizing abusive relationships.
There are various versions of the cycle but the main points are:
HONEYMOON PHASE- Abuser makes apologies, promises to change, and buys gifts. Victim- Forgives abuser and hopes things will be different.
TENSION BUILDING- Abuser becomes stressed and easily agitated, may make threats. Victim is “walking on egg shells,” tries to keep the abuser happy and calm.
EXPLOSION/ABUSE- This is the phase the actual abuse takes place. After this phase the cycle returns to the honeymoon stage and so on.
A good diagram of this can be found here:
Lovely article here, Can I share this on a blog?
of course, I will provide the link as “http://www.virtualmosque.com/relationships/marriage-family/spouse/hurting-homes/”
Let me know..
Amazing article…mashaAllah…spoke from my heart…
Jazak Allahu kheir for good article.
This issue is so widespread unfortunately among our community.
I had the same exPerience.
After 4 months of me becoming Muslim ( I am convert) I got married with my husband. I struggled to become good Muslim and my husband was my first teacher in Islam. As I see, Emotional and sometimes physical abuse started from almost day 1 of our marriage. But my husband would justify his actions by Islam and pointing out that I am new Muslim and have to change myself ( learn about religion, obidience to husband). Worse that I am myself from single parent family and has hardly seen my father. So I never had positive male model to compare with.
This resulted in 5 yrs of unhappy marriage where I was going through verbal and emotional abuse, and was brainwashed that husband islamically has right to act this way, and I need to try harder to please him.
Alhamdullillah after praying a lot to Allah about helping me to fix my marriage I was able finally to recognize the nature of our relationship. As soon as I understood that I asked for divorce. ( after praying istikhara 10 times, diss cussing marriage with husband in the new light)..
Alhamdullillah i am much better now. After experiencing all this turmoil I decided to become myself a counsellor, to help others in similar situation.
One thing puzzled me.
My ex husband is very religious, continually educating himself in Deen. He is very active in dawaa and working for community.
Nevertheless he was always thinking that he is a good husband who acts according Quran and Sunnah. He never admitted the fact of abuse. Almost no one beleived me. He thought the magic was put on me that I left.
How can these things coexist together? Someone be sincere Muslim and try to act according to Sunnah, and at the same time abuse his wife and don’t see/ admit that?
I’m extremely sorry for your experience.
Unfortunately the culture in many Muslim countries is very un-islamic and people from these regions follow their culture just as much, if not more than their religion. That explains how overtly religious people can have a hidden agenda.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
We are told to look for one thing in a spouse and that’s deen(religion), but I thing otherwise after reading this.
Outwardly religious men are no guarantee unfortunately, that their hearts have been touched by the light of Quran.
Even non religious, non Muslim, non believing men can be really good to their wives , And that’s one virtue every woman wants.
So how can any one possibly know before marriage.
How do you tell a ‘good soul’ from an ‘evil’ one?
I think I have AN answer, if not the answer to why men who seem religious and educated do not see the abuse in themselves.
A man who is religious and trying to better himself will still have indoctrinated in him actions. By educating himself, he knows that Islam does not forbid culture, but coexists with culture. He see’s his actions as cultural roles, and justifies them as not being haram. When told to look at the example of the prophet, who was the highest of character’s, he cites that the prophet is an aspiration, and he will try/cannot live up to the example set by the noble rasulallah.
Inshallah my answer clarifies, it is based on my experience.
Abusive people don’t usually realize that they are doing anything “wrong”. They might know they are hurting you, but they think they are justified in it, like a parent disciplining their child.
Also, abusive people were usually once abused themselves and see their behavior as completely normal.
I was abused in my marriage, but because my exhusband and I both grew up with this treatment, neither of us recognized it right away. I remained in misery until Allah showed me that it was not at all Islamic to tolerate abuse.
And yes, my exhusband couldn’t fathom that I would leave him. I hope that one day Allah guides him to never commit such an attrocity against any woman again, but in the meantime, I have my own life to live.
That makes lot of sense, jazak Allahu kheir sister for sharing your thoughts.
@Muslimah: we have apparently the same story
Unfortunately there are many convert sisters in the community who has similar to mine experience. I was shocked when realized that. The worse thing it’s something which happens behInd the closed doors. From outside it can be really trustworthy good person but will turn in abuser at home. Honestly it’s very scary to think about marry someone again. Only after reading Sunnah of our Prophet and life of his companions, I would remind myself that inshAllah not all the men are demanding and abusive. There must be kind, humble and religious somewhere..
Yes, scary, thats the right word for it. Actually I have to take care that I do not become filled with bitterness. By his way of using the religion for the emotional and mental abuse, he almost turned me away from my beloved religion.
reading the article and all the comments really touched my heart. I am a convert. I have a friend who is abused by her husband in every possible way, and the sad thing is that she is abandoned by everyone. Everyone, the muslim community, don’t lift a finger to help her because they consider it to be a family problem. i told my husband ii wanted to visit her and just be at her side, but he forbid me to even speak about my friend. I began to read about abuse in family, and then I realised one thing; that there are dysfunctional problems in my own marriage! My husband doesnt allow me to go outside by myself, I’m not allowed to keep in touch with my non-muslim brother, who my husband despises, our daughters are not allowed to go outside by themselves, they can not go on school trips, my husband controls everything we are doing and every step we take. It is not physical abuse, but when my husband gets angry he refuses to speak to me for two weeks or so, and belittles me in front of my children. Before he used to threaten me with divorce but i told him to stop that, told him how he could treat me like that when I have no job, no education and no family, if a divorce happens i have absolutely nowhere to go. I feel as if I am in prison and I am a servant to my husband. I don’t feel as a grown up or a person to be listened to. Every now and then he makes remarks to pinch my self esteem and confidence, remarks on mistakes I make and is always eager to put the blame on me when things goes wrong.
Alhamdullilla, i know that other sisters are in a much worse situation than I, but the problem with my friend opened my eyes for my own family issues that I didn’t realise. I pray to Allaah for guidance, may Allaah help all of us, and I pray that the muslim community will open the eyes and recognise the problems and deal with them, without blaming the victims.
What about children who are abused by their parent(s)? You cannot exactly leave your parents, even if you wanted to? What then, are we just supposed to deal with, be patient, and at the same time, somehow, magically, put aside our feelings, and be kind to them? My parent physically, verbally, and emotionally abused us every single day of our lives. And my younger brother died because of this. Now they are trying to get us married to abusive, oppressive men just like them. And when we say no, they will curse us out, verbally abuse us again, tell us we are wrong, too extreme in the deen, foolish for thinking their is a such thing as a kind man with a good character, and beat us. What do you suggest we do exactly? Not to mention, that there are no good king men with good characters out there anyway! And even if there are, they surely wouldn’t purpose to us, because of our retarded family!
i know this is late, but i am literally going through what you just described.
Its a disease that parents like this have. I had an argument with my parents and I have sort of figured out. Parents who abuse their kids and try to justify it as expression of love, discipline etc. just live in this delusional fantasy of life ‘back-home’ (if they are immigrants). Back when they were with their parents, who abused them and taught them it was okay to do so. They’ve never accepted the fact that life is different and they are NOT back home and that abuse is not okay like it was in their culture back home, that their kids may disagree with them and want to be respected and treated right and that parents actually DO have a responsibility to treat us right.
My parents clearly hate me because I am not what they wanted me to be. I am not the typical arab back-home girl who is meek, submissive, outspoken and overly-tolerant of any treatment I get. They HATE that I am outspoken – in their mind, no girl should ever question her treatment. Standards and self-respect are for their naive and good men don’t exist – “Get used to it, you naive child”.
They are deathly afraid of anyone rocking the boat because their entire culture and family structure is built upon it – never question your parents, even if they are abusing you and scarring you permanently.
They think I am uneducated and naive and stupid. Problem is they have never ever sat down with me, got to know me at my level, understood my fears and hopes and dreams, because their parents never did that. They are too insecure to put aside their pride and GET TO KNOW THEIR CHILD! They declare war on me for every little thing and treat me as if I am Al Capone.
If they ever got to know me, they would know that I am ambitious and kind and empathetic and I love doing good. I may not be the stereotypical giggly apron-wearing, quiet domestic, but I am smart, strong, hopeful in God despite EVERYTHING, etc.
They want me to be the girl of their back-home culture – cooking, cleaning, meek, submissive and quiet, no standards and requirements for who I keep in my life. They will break me and hurt me as much as possible to mold me into that. It’s been a lifetime of manipulation and vindictive behaviour, and I just want out.
I’m very sorry to hear this.
Your story sound similar to mine.
I am from Pakistan but I was raised in the US.
My parents were the same way over critical, over protective, not understanding at all.
When I was 13, they tricked me and my sister to move permanently back to Pakistan and live here.
I hated them for it for a long time. But now 14 years later, I realize they were just confused in America.
Once we shifted here, we eventually (took a few years) communicated better. I could talk to them in their language, they could understand me. I even argued and revolted in their language using local examples. I feel like they loosened their grip..they became less tense. In the US they thought I would become a typical American girl, move out, start dating etc. but here I was allowed to go out, sleep over at friends eventually.
It was USA that made them act the way they did. They wanted us to hold on to our cultural values which I didnt even know. I also didnt know the difference between culture and religion and that one I can choose to ignore (culture) but religion is the main guide.
I urge you to be patient and pray to ALLAH swt to have mercy on your parents and your family to help you understand and communicate with each other better.
Counselling is a great option too but if youre parents are like mine, they would get angry even at the idea of a counsellor. Maybe a local Arab Muslim imam from a local Masjid.
Also do look up emotional intelligence. It helps in all relationships as it helps you understand peoples points of view.
At the end I just want to say know this: deep down inside your parents love you to bits, if any thing were to happen to you they’d be truly crushed..they are acting this way since they are afraid of losing you-it may seem ridiculous to you but they are in a foreign land and see all sorts of things and they fear the worst.
Try to show them you know your roots and you always will even if you are American you can be a good Muslim too.
Best of luck 🙂
Subhan Allah, you really can’t realize and understand that you are or were abused until you learn about it. Growing up in an abusive home, abuse is the norm. Only by learning about it, and learning about what a healthy family should be like, do you begin to understand that that abuse is not the norm.
Salaam, good article, however it is very hard for women to leave an abusive husband. I know a sister who has kids and her husband is financially responsible for everything in their home, yet he abuses her emotionally, and when she complains he uses the fact that she has a roof over her head and financial stability etc. and then this sister feels like she has to be patient and therefore gives in, but each day part of her dies because of her husbands controlling and narcissistic abuse. It’s draining her but she chooses to stay for her kids and the fact that he has money, plus everyone keeps telling her to be patient and that she’s still better off than being divorced.
Do you think praying to Allah can change her circumstances? I know the verse says that Allah won’t change a persons circumstances unless they help themselves, but what if they can’t do anything but pray? What if the only way out was that the abuser gets his just desserts and stops being able to abuse? Is this sister allowed to pray for that?
Askm..you are right of course..but at this rate..especially in the muslim world…there will be very few intact relationships left..i myself have seen almost all or most of these kinds of abuses in or near our own family..n they say marriage is total submission of a girl…i wamted to know what is the reason???…how cam such a large number or i even daresay the majority of muslim men be like that??n what can any girl to fimd out if a can be abusive later on in life if she is due to be married??is there.any way at all??
This article describes my life I have been through all the abuse described and now my life is empty Men are so evil
its not the end of it..you can still regain everything ,,if truly u stand firm by Allah..be prayerful..
Jazak Allah. An excellent article about a topic not widely discussed or accepted.
I thanks all of you for showing us a problem and trying to solve it together . Alhamdulillaahi; I hope that all
family concerned problem will get a solution if we continue such helpful communication.
As I understand from the above conversation I realized that not all but most of the Muslim men are not applying what Allaah want from them with in their home ; O my Muslim brothers and fathers try to keep the rights of your wives and kids. May Allaah keep all of us with in strait path.