Patience vs. Oppression

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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.

Ihssan Tahir is a twenty something self-proclaimed “SistaQueen” living in Chicago. She is a registered nurse and specializes in emergency and trauma medicine. In her spare time she enjoys writing and practicing the violin. You can follow her candid blog about her husband hunting endeavors and relationship tidbits at http://muslimnlove.com/.


11 Comments on “Patience vs. Oppression”

  1. Abuse is never to be taken lightly. Anyone raising a hand against another is wrong. Whether it’s a man to a woman. A woman to a man. Or if they were the same sex. To show dominance and power over the other is wrong. If equality is what we fight for, then abuse should never be tolerated. I was a victim once. But it wasn’t dominance that my boyfriend showed, simply anger that he couldn’t control. I left him. A week I think. After trying to make him stop for six or seven months. I knew eventually I would have left if it didn’t stop. The key is to know that it is wrong. To know that no matter what your relationship is like, without respect and trust and without feeling safe in it, you cannot call it a relationship.

  2. Jilan says:

    Went through this with my first marriage. My family and friends either pretended it wasn’t happening or acted like I must not be a good wife. I finally left when my son was 3. I didn’t want him to turn into an abuser himself. Best thing I ever did and became a better woman for it.

  3. Mira Khattab says:

    JAH SISTER IHSSAN for this amazing reminder most of us are uncomfortable talking about.
    There is a big difference btw. Patience and abuse.We all need to educate ourselfs re. Domestic
    Abuse esp. Imams and community leaders dealing with counselling.
    There is a dedicated group of sisters in Islam called MADA- Muslims Against Domestic Abuse working in Halton ( near Toronto)that assist families ,sisters and children in abuse situations.
    There is many other such groups,so inquire in your area.

  4. basheera says:

    angry just reading this. the imam and abuser should be outed. in fact, we should have both a local and national database for abusers the way there is a database for sex offenders. and if these offenders go through counseling it should also be noted. and yes, this is islam. to protect the interest of the entire community. even the prophet (saw) did background checks on abusive men and warned women against marriage to those men. its documented! Allah will change no condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.

    i cant with the slow and ignorant among us.

    power to the muslim social workers and counselors of america! lawd have mercy!

  5. msbmack says:

    if you or someone you know is being abused and need assistance please visit http://www.baitulsalaam.org/aboutus.html for help! also, for those looking to donate, please give any charitable amount to Baitul Salaam in donations. they have helped so many muslim women and children escape abuse and re-claim their lives, since 1999.

    may Allah make it easy for us to help oursevles and each other!

  6. Tahsin says:

    I’m a man, raised as a Muslim, in the United States who identifies himself as a feminist and an enthusiast of social deconstructions.
    I just had to make that clear before writing, so you get the idea of where I come from (or check out my blog, you’ll get the drift)
    So what we’re commonly taught is more women will go to hell than men because 1) women seduce men (victim blaming for rape potentially?) and 2) women will disobey and underappreciate their husbands.
    So off the bat, learning this growing up we as in both men and women internalize that women are inherently weaker.
    BUt let’s get back to the under-appreciation part. Learning that women will be in bad trouble for not appreciating their husbands enforces internalization of a woman abuse victim in a Muslim marriage that she should appreciate her husband more and that all this is simply a test of patience.
    I can go more deeply. But you get the drift. This goes DEEP and is a truly internalized concept.
    Sad.

    Thanks for this post.

  7. Tahsin says:

    Reblogged this on Tahsin Thoughts and commented:
    An article about the discourse of domestic abuse in Muslim marriages! Must read!

  8. LilBabyTiger says:

    I don’t understand how the Imam can ask this poor woman to stay with her husband. I can’t even pretend to understand that perspective. I’m happy that this woman has you as a friend, as someone to support her through what she is going through. I’m happy that she has someone who will at least not judge her, and will be there for her. There are far too many women in this situation, and the silence about domestic abuse in the Muslim community is simply deafening.

  9. Niah says:

    Great reminder Ihssan, unfortuately there are several women in this situation.
    There is a huge difference between wanting a wife and wanting a marriage. Unfortunately, there are several muslim men out there who don’t know the difference, so when they get a wife they don’t know what to do with her. That’s why it’s important for women to know their self worth before entering into a relationship.

  10. hqas says:

    Some would argue very strongly that Islam for women is all about suppression, oppression and submitting to the whims of all the amazing Muslim men, Muslim women encounter in their lives.
    But the kind of abuses in Non-Muslim women related to spousal violence are equally shocking too.