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Domestic Violence: Why Women Endure?

Domestic Violence: Why Women Endure?

“I wish my husband dies,” a Caucasian sister quietly expresses her deep desire, which she thinks will end her miserable marital situation. She is married to a Moroccan man and has been abused throughout her married life.

Her abusive relationship has brought her to the point of wishing for her husband's death, but she is unwilling to get out of the marriage for only one reason: financial instability. Her husband is the breadwinner and she left her studies to convert and marry him. If she leaves the marriage, she will not have anyone to support her or her children.

Another sister is in a worse situation; her husband not only verbally abuses her, but also suffers a sexual addiction. She also remains in her marriage because she is unable to financially support herself and her children. She says if anyone from her family could buy her an accommodation she would leave her husband the same day.

When it comes to domestic violence or abusive relationships, the issues of shame and dishonor have often been addressed. However, there are other reasons why women endure:

Financial Support

Many Muslim women endure domestic violence because they do not have the financial means to support themselves or their children. In most cases, husbands are the sole breadwinner and the wife becomes highly dependent on him for financial support. She would rather take the abuse than try to become financially independent.

Lack of Academic Education

Even in current times, many parents continue to put more emphasis on their sons' education and undermine that of their daughters. As soon as a good suitor approaches, parents marry their daughters off without taking any future commitments to the completion of her education.

Complications in Remarrying

It is a well-known fact that divorced Muslim women have a hard time remarrying, especially if they have children. The fear of living a life without a husband seems more difficult than having one who is abusive.

Self-Image

Sometimes women with education and financial stability tolerate domestic violence just to maintain the image of being in a stable relationship. In their minds, an unsuccessful marriage is conceived as a failure on their part. Their ego stops them from being known as the “victims” of domestic violence.

For the Children's Sake

At other times women drag along their relationship just so that their children don't have to grow up in broken homes. They believe a family with a mother and father is better than one with a single parent.

Should Women Endure?

No matter what the reason may be, there is no excuse for enduring injustice. Unfortunately, in many cultures, there is so much negativity associated with seeking help through a third party and/or pursuing a divorce, that many women willingly endure domestic violence rather than protect their rights.

1.    Seek Help

First, let us realize that not every case of domestic violence has to end in divorce. True, there are cases that definitely require a divorce, but there are other cases that can be sorted out without one. One may never know until they seek professional help.

2.    Your Marriage is not SOLELY your Responsibility

Do not be deceived into thinking that you are the one responsible for disclosing the “secrets” of your marriage by seeking help. You need help, your spouse needs help and your marriage needs help. If your spouse was sick, would you not go to the doctor to help explain his/her situation? Only selective people need to know what is happening in your marriage. Seek help though a professional and through close family members and friends whom you can trust.

3.    Evil Effects on Children

You will not be putting your children though any “embarrassing” situation should you seek help though a third party. They will, in fact, appreciate any help you can get to resolve the issue, rather than growing up watching their mother being abused by their father.

In case the solution is a divorce, again it is better for the children to grow up in an outwardly broken home rather than growing up, emotionally traumatized, in an internally broken home, trying to keep it a secret.

Complications of Remarriage, Financial Instability, and the Muslim Community:

In cases where the solution is divorce from an abusive relationship, the quandaries of remarriage and financial support need answers. We are not living in the time of the aābah, where divorced/widowed women had no difficulty in remarrying. It is not practical for women to live a single life. Even when offering polygamy as a solution, hardly any brothers are willing to marry a divorcee with children.

Neither are we living in 'Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)'s time, who had set up an excellent support system for single women with no male family member to support them. Many sisters in the US do not work, and solely rely upon the husband for financial support.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that due to these challenges a destructive marriage needs to drag, rather I am encouraging the Muslim communities to think of solutions for these issues.

“He [Allāh] will make for him of his matter ease.”

While we find the practical solutions, let me remind my sisters and brothers who want to leave an abusive marriage to put their trust in Allāh as He instructed us.

And whoever fears Allāh – He will make for him a way out And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allāh – then He is sufficient for him.” (Al-Ṭalāq: 2-3)

It is interesting that Sūrat'l-alāq (divorce) is full of verses reminding us about putting tawakkul in Allāh and solely relying on Him for support. There are several reminders in this surah that Allāh will bring ease and Allāh will not overburden a soul, subhanAllāh.

Tie your Camel

When a family member was getting married, her husband-to-be, who is a very practicing brother māshā'Allāh, did not deem it necessary for his wife to complete her education. Though her parents wanted her to, they didn't want to miss the good proposal either. The suitor promised that he will provide his best for her as long as he lives, and in case anything was to happen to him, then his wife should put tawakkul in Allāh and make the best of her situation.

Alhamdullilah the need never arose and the parents didn't have to regret their decision. But, there are other cases where the husband turns out to be a very different person than what he had appeared initially. Daughters have to make the “best of their situation”.

I believe the necessity of educating our daughters (not to mention the importance of education itself) is vital, especially in our times. I am a proponent of early marriages, but I also believe that a higher education for our daughters is “tying your camel's rope”. Allāh knows best.

Parents will have to come up with ways to support both early marriage and education without one becoming a hindrance to the other.

May Allāhsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) protect Muslim families, bless their marriages with love and harmony, and protect our children and bless them with salih spouses, āmīn ya rabb.

 

allah amin mashaallah

About Umm Reem

Umm Reem has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

34 comments

  1. Strong content & very well written MashAllah!

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  2. Really good that Muslim Matters has highlighted this but we need to see a much more vocal and unequivocal condemnation of domestic violence from our Friday Khutbas. We all know that this problem has exitsted in many muslim communities but in the 15 years that I have been Muslim, never has this isseu been addressed seriosuly or publically in a mosque..  

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  3. Jazaki Allahu khairan for this timely article. It is important to underline that the very fact that the practical support and solutions you outline so well (remarriage, extended family and community support systems) do not exist, conspires to allow abuse to continue. Many abusers know this very well, and sadistically throw this in the face of their victims. 

    As long as the practical solutions you outlined are not available, and community members through apathy or whatever reasons, choose not to make them available, then victims of abuse will definitely continue to rely on Allah swt Alone — many of them devoted in the last hours of the night fervently making du’a to make their husbands suffer what they suffer, and even for the deaths of their husbands as in the beginning of this article. These husbands are like those, according to the hadith, who, when they die, will leave behind people who feel great relief after their deaths.

    The prophet (saws) compared marriage to a prison for women, and urged the believers to treat their wives well. Many women are living in their own versions of Abu Ghuraib. The men should ask themselves what kind of prison would they be willing to live in? And what kind of prison guard have they become?

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  4. Thanks for writing this up – we need more awareness of taboo issues such as DV. The least we can do is to help the victims of DV be heard.

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  5. I have learnt from bitter experience not to go to the aid of a woman in an abusive marriage.

    A woman we knew came to us that her husband was beating her and the kids.  We told her to leave her marriage or call the police, but she wouldn’t. After 2 or 3 more times, she couldn’t take it any more and called the police. The police came, arrested the husband, and took him to jail. Children’s Aid became involved as there were 3 kids. There was a court case against the husband and he had to live away from his family. The husband then charged that other people were turning his wife against him, his wife then suddenly refused to give witness against him and in 6 months, all charges were dropped and they were back together again, with the wife ranting against everyone who had helped her, causing trouble for them and so on.

    So next time a woman comes running for help, I will tell her to call 911 and leave me alone.

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    • Excellent point. Unfortunately, in the Muslim community, many who attempt to help a victim of DV will end up being painted as “the bad guy” instead.
      This is simply all the more reason we need to have organizations of PROFESSIONAL Muslim therapists, counselors, activists, etc. who can cover their backs in the event that someone in a DV situation wants to back-track and deny their issues.

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    • Mezba, I totally disagree with your sentiment. You learn not help a victim of DV because she decided not to testify against her husband and because her abuser decided to be manipulative and say that other people were turning his wife against him? This is exactly why we need to learn more about DV. What the wife and the husband did are not unusual for people in these situations. 

      It can take a woman multiple times of leaving her abuser and returning before she decides to leave him for good. In fact, this is the case of the majority of DV victims.

      Domestic violence, Information about Domestic violence

      Additionally, there are still risks when a woman leaves her abuser as well. I’m not saying that women should stay in abusive relationships. They shouldn’t. However, we need to be aware of the reasons why women stay and be more empathetic.What the husband did is also typical of an abuser. Abusers rarely take responsibility for their abuse. It is always someone else who is causing the abuse, causing problems in the relationship, etc.If your friend comes to you needing help again, I would advise you to give it to her. Victims are often isolated from friends and they need all the help they can get. It may be frustrating to see her go back to her abuser (if she does). However, your help may also help her to leave for good and get back on her feet.

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  6. So what ways would you say help one marry early and complete their education? Also, telling your daughter that you need to finish your education in case your marriage doesn’t work out seems to give her a mindset that if any problem arises in her marriage, she can just get a divorce and move on instead of trying to solve the problem.

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    • Just to clarify I’m not advocating staying in domestic abuse marriages but what I’m saying is that when disagreements, arguments, and other marital problems come up, one’s daughter would just look to her education as a gateway out if she doesn’t want to deal with it. Maybe a different mindset such as telling her the virtues of gaining knowledge and not as a mindset that if her marriage doesn’t work out she can support herself? Otherwise I fear she may go into the marriage with the expectation of divorce.

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    • I never said to tell your daughters that they need to finish their education in case their marriage doesn’t work out!

      She needs to be inspired to finish her education because education is important. At the same time she must receive a proper Islamic tarbiyyah including the virtues of patience, forgiveness, endurance, and especially the rights of husband. Not only she needs to be taught these virtues, she needs to see them being implemented in her the very house she is growing up!!

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    • You CAN”T FIX  ABUSERS!!! There’s no point in staying in such a marriage because of this fact.

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  7. JazakAllah for bringing attention to this subject. It is so true that women stay in an unhealthy mariages because of fear of financial stability and fear of their image in community. We forget that Allah provide rizq not husbands.
     
    I was faced with this difficult sutuation 10 years ago, I was not in an abusive marriage but due to my husband’s mental health I was forced to move out of the house with four children, no money and no education to rely upon. I turned to Allah swt and asked HIM to help me and that I rely only upon you my RABB and YOU are the most mercyfull. SubhanAllah, HE opened doors for me and  with HIS mercy I have fulfilled my resposibilities toward my children and earning  halal rizq. I don’t have any savings but Alhamdulillah my bills are paid and I have food on the table only because of Allah’s mercy.
     

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  8. Jazakallah khair for addressing this very important issue!

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  9. A very well written piece.

    Awareness of any form of domestic violence is extremely crucial whether it’s physical, sexual, or psychological.

    Then comes the part of seeking help. At times when even the family members we trust are involved, things can get more complicated because of the personal bias. And more then that some of the members are more interested in listening to the problems as if they are getting a new story rather than actually feeling the problem.

    In my opinion seeking professinal help is the best solution to find out the factors that have led to the situation, and to ultimately fix the problem in the best possible way depending upon the circumstances.

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  10. I would also mention that it is SO IMPORTANT to know that leaving an abusive husband is NOT equivalent to angering Allah and guaranteeing yourself a place in Hell, as so many people would have victims and survivors of DV believe.
    Many women are emotionally blackmailed – by their husband, family, even friends and imams – into believing that by speaking out about their abuse, by taking steps to minimize it or stop it, THEY are at fault for “not being patient enough” or “disobeying” their husbands.

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  11. Very good points. One thing I would add that prevents some women from leaving an abusive (whether physical or emotional) situation is knowing that they can’t marry again without losing custody of their children.

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    • Who said that?

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      • As far as I know, that’s standard in all the Sunni schools of jurisprudence (and Shia as well) – someone correct me if I’m wrong. When the mother remarries, she gives up her right to custody. If the father doesn’t object, then there’s no problem, but if he does, she actually has no right to keep the children. In a Muslim society, custody will then go to other family members – her mother, for example, before it would go to the father, but realistically, for many Muslim women - especially converts living in a foreign country, that’s not going to happen.

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        • The hadith that these opinions come from essentially states she no longer has more right to custody if she remarries. Many of the fathers that the child would be left with if they go into his custody – we are talking about abuse cases especially here – are abusive people. Many of them are non-practicing muslims, some of them are actually drinking and have girlfriends and/or active addictions to porn.  If we had a functioning, equitable system of jurisprudence with professional, qualified qadis here, then the qadi would be able to ascertain who custody should go to. In the states, I wonder what the moral imperative is for a woman who is able to remarry and provide stability to herself and her husband in the recommended shariah way, what is her moral obligation – to put her kids with a man she knows and experiences as abusive?  I wonder. Are we saying that Islamic jurisprudence uniformly has only one answer in all cultures and conditions —  either the kids go to him or she can never remarry???

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          • emphasizing the hadith says she no longer has MORE right (it has been interpreted also as saying the right becomes equalized in the case she remarries)

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  12. Although it’s true in some times, places, communities, cultures and so on that divorce carries a heavy stigma and keeps women trapped in abusive relationships, in other situations divorced women with children and single mothers are often vulnerable to opportunists who prey on them, knowing (with religious mandated support) that the step-father is not financially responsible for her children. So, a single-mother is a nice meal ticket. She HAS to work or by some other means provide for her kids and the new husband benefits from this. If this doesn’t support a cycle of abuse, it sometimes is where the cycle begins. And of course many communities SUPPORT this abuse by pushing her into ANY marriage because she is some kind of fitna or blight or whatever their reasoning of the day is, but ultimately whoever (read: The men) is conducting these marriages with men who are obviously not able or willing to support a FAMILY, I hope they too are ultimately held accountable.

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  13. “First, let us realize that not every case of domestic violence has to end in divorce. True, there are cases that definitely require a divorce, but there are other cases that can be sorted out without one. One may never know until they seek professional help.”

    Umm Reem, may Allah bless you for bringing attention to this issue. I think most of your piece is good advice. However, I have to take issue with the quote above. Abuse victims really should not stay in their relationships. Abusers are highly manipulative and usually have little to no incentive to change their behaviors. The abuse they inflict on their victims allows them to main the control and authority they so desperately seek. It is much easier for them to continue abusing than to do the hard emotional, spiritual and emotional work to change themselves. Even if an abuser is dedicated to changing and seeks help voluntarily (this is rare btw), it usually takes years of therapy before changes become permanent. 

    Meanwhile, victims need to put themselves in a safer situation and think of themselves (and their children if they have any) first. 

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    • also one has to realize that after years of abuse, even if the husband recieves help, the wife may not love him in the way a wife should, making it difficult for the marriage to recover.  I found this the case with me.  My husband was abusive, never promised to change or recognize the problem until I left.  After I left, he promised to change, etc.  However I found that while I can forgive him, my feelings for him have changed after enduring so much for so many years. 

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  14. I tried to re-read article and all the comments, so sorry if this is a repeat…

    but I wished to add that often the reason “why” women stay is because they desperately want to believe that the abuser has changed.

    As “faith” has been saying, abusive men are highly manipulative. What is weird is that they know exactly what to say and what to do to get the person back into the cycle. It is weird, because it is proof that the abuser knows what “normal” is — what a normal relationship should be, and he promises that. He knows that his behavior is “abnormal” and so promises to change.

    And yet – for whatever reasons — he doesn’t change. And when the wife goes back, it is such a relief for a while but then it just becomes worse than ever. 

    A wife wants her marriage to work. She wants her husband to get better. She wants to help, serve, and love her husband. She wants her kids to have a happy, stable, normal life with two loving parents. 

    He preys upon all these good intentions as if they were weaknesses, just as a wolf would prey on a sheep. She desperately wants to believe her husband’s promises that he will change. It is a wonderful honeymoon as he acts as the most loving husband and father. An excellent actor, he lulls her into thinking that it can be a decent marriage again. 

    Then suddenly the switch in his brain changes, and he becomes the monster again. And the horror begins.  

    This cycle can repeat many times. When a wife tries to leave for good, she may encounter his abuse at whole new levels for her as he punishes her on every level, through every means, in the most devious ways — this new level might be more than she can handle at that time. She might become even more severely frightened, or depressed, or simply exhausted. 

    She might believe yet another round of promises. She might believe other people who assure her that he has “got a shock this time” and he has changed. She might see the extremes he has gone to keep her trapped and isolated, or how he is now threatening the kids, and she might calculate that it is safer to stay. She might just be too shell-shocked to keep going.

    Remember, he has isolated her, trained her to be paralyzed by fear, and brought her self-esteem down to such a low point that she can barely trust herself in how to do the simplest tasks. 

    These are among the reasons why women stay, and why they go back.

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  15. The reason women endure these atrocities is the fear of either being labelled a divorcee in desi culture or her kids,as needs have become necessities,our Muslim men struggle to provide for one home,lest be it polygamy.the entire system has to change and it will begin from tarbiyah,bringing Quran and way of sahabah into our lives.

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  16. MashaAllah, Great, there is a requirement for such wonderful articles on something which many females face but not issued…

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  17. mashaAllaah happy to see these issues are not taboo to discuss in here, but sister why was it so important to mention that the sister was Caucasianand her Morrocan husband?

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  18. JazakAllahu khair for sharing! One thing that is also critical in DV prevention is educating young men on what being a man really is and teaching young men and women what healthy relationships look like.

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  19. What about women who work and CAN support themselves and their children, but the husband threatens to hurt her and/or them and take them away from her if she tries to leave him?

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  20. Ameen, Ammeen, Ameen!

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  21. I’ve suffered through 22 years of marriage with a husband who do not provide nor support financially besides being abusive physically, verbal and mentally. I’m always the sole breadwinner and the worst, when he always ask money to drink and galavant with his friends. If I do not give-in I will beaten. I was silence for 18 years and have 2 beautiful daughters. I tried escaping after 18 years with my 2 daughters after he kept us locked in over one weekend. We escape during the normal routine of me going to office and dropping my daughters to school, instead we went to seek help at our local DV non-govt. organisation. They were very kind and took me to file police report and we were interrogated by police officers before sending me to hospital. After thorough check-up and x-ray’s I was informed that I had a damaged ear drum, that was the reason why I was driving my car with my head in my hand! The whole investigation took place we went to stay with my eldest sister. After two days, my husband with two of his siblings who are lawyers came to persuade us home. I got no choice but to return home to avoid worst case from happening, his abuse and hostility and he will definitely disturb or take them away from school when I’m at work.
    However, my brother gave him an ultimatum, if ever he lays hand again on me, Allah is my witness, talaq will fall and our marriage will be void. Ever since that, since 2008 until now, he abused us verbally and psychologically and always put us down. This effect my two daughters self-esteemed and demoralize them even though my daughters got straight A’s in their exams. He’s very manupulative and smart, he will shout, instigate and harrassed me, drive me up the wall (figuratively) without touching me literally to avoid talaq. I always prayed to Allah that tomorrow will be a better day for me and my daughters. They’ve traumatized all their lives, because I got no guts to leave. I prayed every chance that I have that Allah will provide them a better life than mine. InsyaAllah and Allahukbar.

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  22. So whats the point to stay with a partner and live in a fear. The more a man allows the more aggressive he gets. I think its really dangerous. Read my post on this topic at http://writing-help.com/blog/sample-essay-domestic-relationships/

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