Home | *Marital Guidance | And His Cries Went Unheard: Husband Abuse Unveiled

And His Cries Went Unheard: Husband Abuse Unveiled

By Umm Zakiyyah | Saudi Life

“I DON’T care who’s listening,” the sister spoke angrily into her friend’s phone, prompting the other sisters in the room to look in her direction, concerned expressions on their faces as they halted their own chatter amongst themselves.

“I have somewhere to go, Abdullah. I’m tired of this—“

There was the muffled sound of a man’s voice coming through the receiver.

“No, no, I’m not going to be patient. You are so irresponsible. I can’t depend on you for anything. I swear!”

More muffled sounds.

“You are such a stup—“

The sister stopped mid-syllable as the phone line went dead. Her eyes grew wide in shock as she heard the clanking of the base of the phone as it fell off the table and onto the floor. She turned to find the hostess of the gathering standing feet from her, meeting her gaze unblinking.

“I’m sorry,” the hostess said, shaking her head in disapproval. The phone wire that she had pulled out the wall was still in her hand. “I can’t sit here and let you talk to your husband like that.”

“If he even thinks about taking another wife, I’ll kill him.”

I laughed at the ridiculousness of the statement, although my laughter was more of discomfort than amusement. “Yeah right. You wouldn’t do anything like that,” I told the woman. “You’d just get a divorce.”

The sister’s cold eyes rested on me, and I shuddered. There was not a hint of humor in her expression. “Why would I need a divorce if he’s dead?”

I started to respond but could find no words, my heart racing in the realization that she was not joking, at all.

Finally, I found my voice though I detected a slight quiver in my speech. “And you’re willing to spend the rest of your life in prison?”

One side of her upper lip lifted in a snare. “I wouldn’t be that stupid,” she said, a wicked smile forming on her face, making me weak as I listened. “I’ll just do sihr. And nobody would ever know.”

“I’m calling the Embassy,” the woman said angrily.

“For what?” her friend asked, her forehead creasing.

“I’m reporting him as an abuser and a terrorist.”

Her friend’s mouth fell open. “You can’t do that.”

The woman laughed. “Oh yes I can.”

“But that’s lying, ukhtee.”

“So what if it is?” She shrugged. “I’m taking the kids and leaving this country, and he’ll never see us again.”

“But what about your soul? And the kids? And even your husband.” her friend pleaded, frantic. “He doesn’t deserve that. Think about Allah.”

Her eyes became glassy, and rage was apparent there. “That’s what he should be thinking about.”

“Disgusting. Disgusting, he is.”

I flinched at the words, and instinctively, my eyes widened at the woman who had spoken. But the woman was contorting her face and looking toward the other sisters present in the woman’s prayer area.

My friend, who sat across from me on the other side of the woman, looked at me, a look of alarm in her eyes, as if begging me to stop this conversation. We had gathered for the night’s lecture, not for backbiting.

I didn’t know what to say. The woman went on mercilessly tearing into the flesh of a man who sat clueless in the men’s prayer area opposite the dividing curtain, likely smiling and laughing amongst friends as he waited for the speaker to begin…

I cringed.

All I could think was, How could she disrespect her husband so shamelessly, and in the musallaa?

My heart drummed nervously as I realized that this was one of the worst forms of flesh-eating that I had ever heard in my life—in or outside a masjid.

I decided to speak up…

I opened my e-mail and was about to click delete when I read the online newspaper’s headline that decried the “shameless lack of support” for a domestic abuse awareness weekend seminar held by a charitable Muslim organization…

The contributors to the article were appalled that no one showed up for the well-advertised program that was intended as a fundraiser for a local Muslim women’s shelter…

And the seminar was being hosted in a city that was home to one of the largest Muslim communities in America.

What’s really sad, one organizer said, is that when women seek help from imams and other Muslims, they’re often asked, “But what did you do?”

What broke my heart while reading this article was that among all the social workers, PhD-holders, and experienced domestic abuse counselors, not one entertained the possibility that the fault lay not in the Muslims who did not show up…

But in the organizers who did…

And proof for that could be found in the quote criticizing those who asked women, “But what did you do?”…

“He hit me,” she whimpered, tears filling her eyes as her shoulders shook from where she sat on the couch in her friend’s home, having arrived minutes before, not knowing where else to turn. Bruises were visible on her arms as the sleeves of her abaya gathered at her elbows as she lifted her hands to cover her face.

Next to her, Hakimah rubbed the woman’s back and spoke soft, reassuring words to soothe her best friend, Hakimah’s heart aching in utter helplessness.

Hakimah was at a loss for what to do. She’d known that her friend had had a tumultuous marriage, but Hakimah never imagined that the apparently calm, good-natured man who was friends with her own husband was capable of abuse, especially now. He and Hakimah had been divorced for nearly a month.

How could he do something like this—and to a woman who wasn’t even his wife anymore?

What should Hakimah do?

Her first thought was to call the American Embassy. Both Hakimah and her friend were thousands of miles from home, in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. They’d left America more than ten years ago to settle in the Kingdom and had since then called it home.

With her free hand, Hakimah fumbled for her purse, determined to get her friend to safety. This abuse had to stop. She found her mobile phone in a side pocket, withdrew it, and quickly scanned her contacts for the embassy’s number.

“As-salaamu’alaikum!” a cheerful voice called from the front room at the sound of a heavy door opening and closing.

It was Adil, Hakimah’s husband, arriving home from work.

Immediately, Hakimah slid her phone back into her purse and went to greet her husband. Noticing her distressed expression, Adil asked what was wrong.

She told him.

An hour later, upon Adil’s insistence, the woman’s ex-husband arrived at the front door. The first things Adil noticed when he opened the door were the brother’s black eye and long blood-stained scratches on his cheeks and neck.

Minutes later, Adil learned that this had occurred at the hands of the “abused” woman, who had, earlier that day, arrived at her ex-husband’s front door where he now lived with his new wife. The woman had been infuriated that he had married someone else and she came in punching, flailing, and screaming.

Her own bruises?

Well…the brother had been trying to restrain her from harming him—and his new wife.

Those familiar with the marital turmoil in so many homes today know that the fictionalized story of Hakimah’s friend is not a rare account. It’s quite common—in fact, arguably more common than incidents of real abuse.

The details differ, yes, but essentially the stories are all similar…

She claims “abuse” and cries her eyes out on the phone, on the couch, in the masjid, at the istiraaha….wherever—evoking sympathy from every well-meaning, good-hearted Muslim who hears her heartbreaking tale…

Days, weeks, or months later we learn that, no she wasn’t lying—he did hit her, he did yell at her, he did call her those horrible names…

But she had merely omitted some “minor” details in her version of events…

She’d thrown a frying pan at him.

She cursed him for the umpteenth time.

She yelled at him until the neighbors got concerned.

She called him horrible names—in front of others.

She hit him—as she did almost every day…

Allah says,

“And cover not truth with falsehood nor conceal the truth when you know what it is”

(Al-Baqarah, 2:42).

…For people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, going before Allah with such an enormity as slander or tainting the honor of an innocent Muslim is simply not a risk they’re willing to take…

Even for an apparently abused woman claiming something as egregious as suffering abuse from her husband…

For they have no idea if she is even speaking the truth…

…Yes, they could simply investigate the matter…

But…

Since Women’s Rights groups and “Abuse Awareness” seminars teach that it is a crime to even ask “the victim” what happened, most people opt to be safe and stay out of it…

At least as far as their own souls are concerned.

Yet, according to today’s experts on domestic violence, this is where the problem lies…

If everyone is going to “stay out of it” and worry about only their own lives, then where does an abused woman turn for help?

Maybe the husband isn’t innocent. Maybe he really is abusive…

Then again, maybe he’s not…

Therein lies the dilemma…

Allah says,

“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a faasiq* with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance, and become, over what you have done, regretful”

(Al-Hujuraat, 49:6).

Also, in the chapter of the Qu’ran entitled Saad, Allah relates to us the story of two men who come to the Prophet Dawud (David) seeking his judgment. One of the men claims that he was wronged by the other. He says that his brother, who has ninety-nine ewes while he has only one, is demanding that he hand over this one to him.

Prophet Dawud, upon hearing this great injustice, immediately says, “He has certainly wronged you in demanding your ewe [in addition] to his ewes. And indeed, many associates oppress one another, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds—and they are few.”

Shortly thereafter, the Prophet realizes his mistake: He did not listen to the other man’s version of events. He also realizes that this was a trial from Allah—and that he did not pass.

Allah says,

“And David became certain that We had tried him, and he asked forgiveness of his Lord and fell down bowing [in prostration] and turned in repentance [to Allah]”

(38:24).

…In some ways, many of the well-meaning, anti-domestic violence Muslims of the world are like Prophet Dawud, peace be upon him, when he was judging between the two men: They hear an enormity such as a man mercilessly abusing his wife, and it’s difficult to stay silent. So without hesitation or forethought, they say to the woman who comes to them crying and claiming abuse, “He has certainly wronged you in what he’s done! So many men oppress women, except those good men who really believe in Islam. And how few they are nowadays!”

Except, they are not like Prophet Dawud because…

They don’t realize their mistake.

They don’t even imagine they should hear the other side.

And it doesn’t even occur to them that they should ask Allah’s forgiveness…

Because they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong in the first place…

Let’s face it.

We live in a world that isn’t quite just or balanced—even when championing “women’s rights.”

The lens of those of the “modern world” define abuse as….

A parent raising their voice at a child (“verbal abuse”)…

A caretaker criticizing a sensitive teen (“psychological abuse”)…

A husband refusing to speak to his wife when he’s angry (“emotional abuse”)…

Anyone at all—a parent, caretaker, or husband—as much as laying a finger on a child, teen, or wife (“physical abuse”)…

Yet…

The modern world also says…

If that child yells at the parent, “Oh, she’s just acting out…”

If that teen criticizes the actions of the caretaker, “Oh, he just needs someone to talk to…”

If that wife refuses to speak to her husband (or even refuses intimacy with him), “Oh, she’s going through a lot right now…”

If that child, teen, or wife hits, punches, smacks, or throws something at their parent, caretaker, or husband, “Oh, be patient, they’re just really stressed…”

Those who grew up in the West know all too well the pillar of “proper” male conduct in dealing with women, which is also a product of “championing women’s rights”…

A woman can scream at, curse, hit, punch, smack, or even kick a man where it really hurts (or anything else she so chooses)… and he must do absolutely nothing, say absolutely nothing, be absolutely nothing, and just “take it like a man”…

Or else…

The stories I shared at the beginning of this blog are just a few of thousands that illustrate that the image of domestic violence, especially in the Westernized modern world, isn’t as “experts” and “domestic awareness seminars” would have us believe…

Yet, if there is going to be any real uprooting of domestic abuse, certain realities have to be openly discussed, and investigated—especially for those truly concerned for women’s and men’s well-being…

And for the safety of their own souls on the Day of Judgment.

Amongst these basic realities are…

The fundamental principle of justice, which includes hearing all sides of a story…

The fact that people can and will exaggerate, especially when they are emotionally hurt and seeking sympathy…

Or revenge.

And…

People suffer from selective memory.

Sometimes they outright lie.

And this is true for both men and women.

And…

Many husbands suffer abuse from their wives.

Yes… husband abuse does exist.

And, no, it is not rare.

In fact, it’s become quite “in style” for today’s women…

There are even books touting titles like How to Train Your Husband—with a cover depicting the image of a man on all fours wearing a dog collar as his wife stands towering over him tugging on a leash.

Needless to say, if such a cover depicted the man and woman with the roles (and book title) reversed—especially if printed in an Islamic country—there’d be an outcry…worldwide.

But these “chic,” modern women do exist…

And they find it quite humorous and perfectly acceptable to…

Scream at their husbands…

…Or

Hit, slap, or kick them…

Or…

In snide remarks and jokes amongst friends—on the phone or at favored (husband-funded) dinner parties as she lounges on the couch…

She may say, between snickers and sips of tea, amidst giggling friends and guests, “Oh how stupid he is… like all men…”

…Ha, ha, ha…

But…

If she discovers that he’s called her stupid…in front friends and guests, no doubt…the drums of Women’s rights in Islam! Fight oppression! and cries of abuse can be heard reverberating through phones halfway across the world…

Or…

What’s more—and those Western expats living abroad know this is true…

She’ll simply contact her embassy with claims against him that take advantage of the Islamophobia afflicting the world today…

Thousands of websites and organizations worldwide rally in efforts to assist female victims of domestic abuse, an effort that is absolutely necessary and even commendable—socially and Islamically.

…Especially given the fact that women who suffer from actual abuse often suffer in silence.

Thus, something must be done.

Yet, these well-meaning sites and groups are often confounded by what seems like an “utter lack of support” during fundraisers and events aimed at raising awareness, and by their constant fruitless efforts in getting people even talking about rooting out this horrible vice.

But, quite likely, the answer to this dilemma lies not in the droves of apparently silent witnesses to abuse who seem to sit idly by and allow it to happen…

But in the organizations and “awareness events” themselves—which, more often than not, focus solely on women’s suffering…

Most people with even a shred of conscience, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, feel uncomfortable supporting events and organizations that turn a blind eye to the fact that spousal abuse is not a “women’s issue”—

It is a humanity issue.

Yet, even if one believes that women are the primary sufferers of domestic violence and thus deserve the most support and attention, it is still necessary to openly acknowledge the existence of husband abusers and “fake victims”…

Because their existence likely presents the greatest obstacle to abusive men being justly admonished and punished.

As well-meaning people are simply paralyzed into inaction by the knowledge of this phenomenon alone…

Yes, due to men being the “stronger sex,” it is likely that women suffer most from physical abuse…

But it is debatable whether or not they suffer most from abuse itself…

Nearly all modern “experts” include in their definitions of abuse the subcategories of psychological and emotional abuse…

What’s more is that they also contend that the latter two categories are far more damaging long-term than physical abuse…

And, certainly, men are not necessarily the “stronger sex” psychologically and emotionally…

Abused men are utterly confounded because they often have absolutely no where to turn…

Especially if they live in the West…

Or as Western expats abroad…

…And his cries went unheard…

Certainly, it’s not the most socially acceptable thing for a man to come crying on his friend’s couch to say that his wife abuses him, while murmuring, “Can you help me, akhee?”

And, chances are, that “philanthropic” organization that champions rooting out abuse in the community isn’t planning a husband-abuse awareness seminar…

Or opening a men’s shelter…

In fact, it’s quite likely that, for them, “spousal abuse” doesn’t even include the possibility of a man suffering at all.

But what’s the solution? many may ask.

Well, that’s something we all have to put our heads together to figure out. I certainly don’t have the answer. But, as with all dilemmas, the first step is acknowledging the problem.

But I do have one suggestion:

Next time a charitable organization hosts a “spousal abuse” or “domestic violence” seminar in your area, make sure they have workshops and classes aimed at rooting out all abuse—regardless of the gender of the victim.

Because we simply cannot continue to wear our hearts on our sleeves, act on impulse and emotion, abandon all justice and good sense—and even the Qur’an and the Sunnah…

While asking the accuser no questions…

And assume…

Guilty as accused.

…Lest you harm a people out of ignorance, and become, over what you have done, regretful…

And no, this isn’t “blaming the victim”…

…Because the victim just may not be a she at all.

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels If I Should Speak, A Voice, Footsteps, and Realities of Submission.

Check Also

The Month of Rabi’ al-Awwal

http://muftitaqiusmani.com/ بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم The Month of Rabi’ al-Awwal & the Sunna of the …

Who are Qadiyanees? Part 1

Qadiyanees (Ahmadees/Lahorees) are Kafir (Non-Muslims) according to the unanimous opinion of all Muslims. Qadiyanees are a sect, separate …