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Patience vs. Oppression

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.

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This post was originally featured on Love, InshAllah: Fresh Prespectives on Love

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Mix it up…

Recently, I did a matrimonial singles mixer at ISNA’s (Islamic Society of North America) annual conference in Washington, DC. Besides it being a complete disaster (due to the consistent lack of diversity) I had fun for the most part bettering my interpersonal skills (notice a sista is being all positive and shit). I’ll be the first to admit they are awkward and nerve wracking. You’ll have that butterfly feeling in the pit of your stomach the entire time but believe me there are ways to combat this or at the very least conceal your nervousness. Here are my tips and pointers on how to handle yourself at these mixers:

1. Not alone. Remember everyone is there for the same exact reason you are. Everyone is on the quest for true love. You are not alone on this search. Don’t allow your ego to get the best of you. Some people think that attending these functions makes them appear “desperate” or as popular culture states “thirsty”. If wanting a husband labels me as thirsty then give me a tall glass of water because I am parched!

2. Keep it 100. Be real. Don’t play games and pretend you are something that you aren’t. Most people can sense a poser from a mile away. You want to attract the positivity in the place so be honest first with yourself then others. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward but no one likes a liar.

3. Casual Convos. Now, most of these events are meant to be easy-going. Pretend like you’re going to a business lunch. Hell, do whatever you need to do in order to edge off the nervousness. Most of the time “speed dating” will be incorporated into the event. This involves sitting with a potential suitor for 3 minutes and having a brief conversation. I beg, let me repeat beg, for you not to bring up certain topics within this short time frame. These topics include anything related to annual salary, perspectives on Islamic rulings, or clothing size. I know these sound pretty unrelated but I have heard of folks brining up these topics during speed dating sessions. Take it easy within the three minutes. Bring up some light conversation such as where you are from or even the weather. This will lead to other topics and maybe even a follow up date.

4. Dress Simple. This is mainly for my Sistaqueens up in the building. Don’t walk in the joint looking like a pancake face. Now, I’m not saying don’t wear make up but keep it simple and classy. A little eyeliner and some blush will go a long way. Typically when I go to these events I wear a simple dress or skirt. I refrain from heels because you want to keep an accurate height for the brothers checking you out. Now onto the brothers… For the love of Allah please iron your shirt. I suggest you be fancy and pop a crease into that sucker. Make yourself presentable. The sisters will be checking your clothes out so please be on point. Make sure you’re groomed as well (beards, clean nails, etc). We love beards but don’t be coming into the place with a jacked up beard. Smell nice, brush your teeth and smile often.

5. Rules. Lastly, follow the rules of the matrimonial event since each event has a different set up. Some of them allow you to exchange contact information on the spot while at others you have to go through the organizers. Don’t be whack and think you’re too cool to follow the law. Nothing is more embarrassing then being escorted out my security. Ya heard?

Singles Mixer Survival Package:

* Mints or chewing gum

* Perfume

* Tissues/lotion

* Pocket mirror

* Cards (in order to exchange information)

*  A good attitude!

Lastly, I recommend everyone to attend these events with no expectations. Just go and have fun!

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