By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Violence is real and impacts millions in every religious and ethnic community. It’s a broad term that includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, cultural, verbal, financial, and violence through neglect.
The statistics are mind-blowing. But stories behind these staggering statistics are unimaginable. Behind every data, there are real people, real families, and tangible experiences. People like us live them daily and die, hoping that no one goes through their experiences ever.
They prove the inadequacy of religious, secular, or legal ethics in men and women’s relationships.
40% of women worldwide have experienced physical and sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Almost one third (30%) of all women in a relationship have experienced it. In some regions, 38% of women have experienced intimate partner violence;
Globally, intimate partners commit as many as 38% of all murders of women;
Globally, 7% of women suffered sexual assault by someone other than a partner.
How many of these victims of violence are Muslims? We should not divide sufferings based on religious tags we put, but it deserves our attention even if there is one.
Here is the story of a real Muslim woman with a name, identity, and character. She is not alone. Why her story. Because she was married to one who she regarded as a pillar of Islam.
I was married to someone high up in (Name of the national organization withheld). He was also a khateeb and a “pillar in the Islamic community.” Very active with the youth. At home- he was mentally, verbally, sexually, and financially abusive. I had a horrific marriage. I even attempted suicide. He spread throughout the Muslim community that I was “a bad, disrespectful wife.” I had all sorts of women come to “advise me” on being a “good Muslim wife.”
I covered all of his sins that were occurring in our home. We have been divorced now for x number of years. I have still never revealed his sins. He was one of the most horrible people I have ever met.
I reverted to Islam in (year not mentioned to maintain her privacy). I married this “brother” seven years after reverting to Islam. He came very highly recommended. He had a good job and was so very well respected in the Muslim community.
I thought I was so very blessed to have found such a “good match.” I was so excited to learn much more about my Islam from him. It turned out to be so much the opposite. He showed me everything that Islam should not be. By the blessing and grace of Allah SWT, I had such a strong belief in Islam that this marriage disaster did not push me away from Islam in any way.
However, my teenage son that I brought into the marriage (I had him for before my conversion to Islam) witnessed so much of what went on in our home that it pushed him so far away from Islam that he is now an adult and has nothing good to say about Islam. May Allah SWT soften his heart and guide him to the perfect Islam. Ameen.
Here are examples of each of my experiences:
Financial: He had to move to another state for work, and I stayed behind to let my son finish his last year of high school. The plan was for me to join him after my son’s graduation. This “brother” earned almost $300,000 a year, mashallah. While I stayed behind, he gave me $1000 a month- that was for everything-rent, food, utilities, personal care, etc. I would need to get a job to make money to support my son and me. But, this “brother” forbid me from working. He told me to obey him. I had to beg for money from other people to live, while he bought a brand new Mercedes at the same time.
Emotional & Verbal: He would regularly tell me that I was “lucky” that he even married me because I was uneducated (I had no degree at that time. I have gone on to earn a BA and a MA). I didn’t “deserve” a well-stationed man like himself, so I should be “thankful.” That I was “going to Jahannam” (hellfire) because my husband went to bed angry at me (after he had been abusive all day long). He always told me that I could never be a good Muslim because I was an American convert. He always told me I was fat and undesirable (I was 5’7 and 160 pounds). So on, so forth.
Sexual: He demanded sex at least three times a day, every day. He was very abusive sexually. I am traumatized to this day. He would hurt me, and I would tell him he was hurting me, and he didn’t care. He told me it was my responsibility as his wife to fulfill every one of his needs and desires. So, I did.”
No Muslim married woman would come out to describe her ordeal. She suffers silently at home with no one to share her agony. How long will we continue to live this silent agony, and how long our religious leaders traumatize our community to suffer? How long would we allow violence against women in our homes and community?
We do not want to address the issue. We do not want to name the perpetrators who hide behind God and his messenger. The hypocrisy must come to an end. How? We know how to eliminate it but too timid to say it loudly. Do something, whatever you can to fight this menace in your community.