She sat across from me crying into her hands.
I rubbed her back trying to console her. The more I rubbed the longer her sobs became.
“I juu-usst need to be patient.” Her eyeliner was starting to smear.
She needed support. She needed a friend, not someone to scold her and ask why she stuck around so long with a man who was abusive, even while they were courting.
She ignored the signs. Her silence gave him the idea that she accepted the way he was treating her.
But now, she’d had enough and was prepared to leave, infant in hand. She said her perspective changed once she had a daughter. But he refused to let her divorce him. To make matters worse, his Imam encouraged her to stay even though she was being both physically and verbally abused.
She found herself in a situation many women from all walks of life have found themselves.
Young, scared and alone.
She was told to be “patient,” that Allah loves those of us who persevere when put in trials and tribulations, that she would surely have a special place in heaven for being such an obedient wife.
I shook my head in disapproval every time she repeated those words. I thought she said them just to make herself believe that there was some truth to it. Many women who have never been abused automatically believe that they would confront an abusive husband, never allow him to get away with it. I remind myself and others to steer away from such harsh judgment of our abused sisters. There is a physiological component of abuse that must be catered to very gently.
At first she listened to her husband. Tried her best to please him and not make him upset.
It worked for a little while but then the vicious cycle of name calling and hitting would start all over. She would then pay a visit to their Imam and he would send her back home to him. Again.
Then one day it dawned on me. As Muslims, specifically women, we have the tendency to confuse patience with oppression. There is a very fine line. Having your Islamic rights denied or looked over is never acceptable. You are not being patient. If you silently stick around you are quietly approving of such behavior. You deserve to be treated with love and kindness.
Many Muslim men are very adamant about ensuring that their rights are upheld within a relationship (including sexual rights and the right to practice polygyny). As Muslim women, it’s crucial that we understand our rights as mandated in Islam. This serves as a protection – Allah knows us better than we know ourselves. As Maya Angelou says, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” For examples, if a brother is trying to persuade you to omit your mahr (a vital component in Islamic marriages) take caution. If he loves Allah he will ensure that your rights are upheld.
Many Muslims pretend as though issues of abuse don’t exist. Even the vague mention of it will send people into a frenzy because it puts Muslims in a “bad light”. As a result of this “bad light” we ignore serious issues within our community. As long as abusive men are not held accountable for their behavior, and misguided Imams refuse to properly address it, we will continue to have the cycle of abuse. Far too many of these abusive men jump from marriage to marriage only to leave a dark path of destruction.
Abuse is never acceptable in any way or form, be it physical or verbal. If you are a woman who is victim of abuse, I encourage you to seek help. And if you are the friend of a sister being abused don’t scold or judge her. She needs you. You might be her only, or even last, means of support.
This post was originally featured on Love, InshAllah: Fresh Prespectives on Love