Dear Respected Imams; An Open Letter concerning Domestic Violence

Dear Respected Imams and Community Leaders,
I am a survivor of domestic violence. It took me years to finally speak up. Now that I have it is my intentions to assist in bringing about change in the way abuse in the home is addressed within the Muslim community. I have heard many times how well the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) treated his wives. I’ve heard it said many times during the Friday prayer that “the best of you is he who is best to his family”. Praise be to God, Muslims have the best example of how one should treat the spouse yet cases of domestic violence seem to be on the rise.

I am aware that some Imams are giving exceptional advice (Masha’Allah) when it comes to domestic violence. Just the other day I came across a video on YouTube by Sheikh Omar Suleiman addressing abuse. I found the advice very uplifting and encouraging but many sisters who have been abused are not getting the same advice when they seek help from an Imam. Some sisters are being told to “be patient”. It’s important to note that once a woman actually opens up about the abuse taking place in her home she has passed the phase of being patient. It’s not likely that she was hit once and decided to seek counsel. Many have gone through the cycle of abuse time after time and had to build up courage to ask for help. Telling her to be patient sounds like this: You’ve done something to deserve this so just be patient while he chokes you, stay quiet while he punches you, forget that he just dragged you to the ground and kicked you in the face. Be patient and in the meantime endure the physical trauma. Domestic violence can be emotional or physical, and frequently ends in death. It is possible that the advice to “be patient” is sending a victim of abuse to their grave.

I have a few suggestions that may assist in bringing about change:

1. Organize classes/workshops on domestic violence. Many times the advice given to victims of abuse reflect that there is no knowledge of what abuse is. Spreading this knowledge whether it be to Imams, teachers, or Shurah members will help in assisting the community and especially those going through abuse.
2. Document Cases of abuse. There are women in the Muslim community who are survivors of abuse but can not get assistance to obtain legal aid for a divorce because the abuse was not documented. What’s worse is that the abusers are given custody and unsupervised visitation rights when there are children involved. The children are not safe in a home with an abuser. Many times these women have gone to an Imam and complained about abuse in the home but there was no documentation.

3. Offer Unbiased Counseling. It’s a complaint amongst victims of domestic violence that some Imams give counsel in favor of the abuser. The victim is blamed for the abuse and told to behave differently in order for the abuse to stop. The community commonly adds to this type of counsel by making claims “to know” the abuser and “know they would never do something like that”. Just because one prays next to a person or sees them frequently at the Masjid does not mean it’s known how they treat their family. Victims of domestic violence should not be made to feel like they are liars and or to blame for the abuse they endure. Abusers are commonly charming individuals in the public eye and quite different in the home.

4. Encourage victims to dial 911. When in extreme danger and the victim fears for their life they should be encouraged to call the police. Muslim women are made to feel as though calling for help is frowned upon. Abusive spouses are threatening their lives and because there is this fear of shaming the community and their families they are suffering in silence. They should feel encouraged to get help if they feel their lives are in danger.

5. Encourage anonymous reporting. We must get away from the thinking of “it’s not my business” when we KNOW a person is being abused. Whether it’s an adult or child if we are aware of the abuse we should all feel compelled to get them the help they deserve. A victim of abuse lives in constant fear lacking courage to speak up and ask for help. It is necessary for the rest of us to be strong where they are weak. I also would like to add that in some states Clergy are mandated reporters in cases where children are exposed to domestic violence.

6. Provide and support shelter for victims. Since this is a problem that affects the Muslim community it is very necessary to have a safe haven for the victims of abuse. In the case that one must up and leave their abuser a shelter would help immensely. Alhamdulillah for the operational shelters but unfortunately more are needed.

I would like to point out that in no way am I accusing ALL imams of not taking a stance on domestic violence. As mentioned before, I have heard many reminders for spouses to be good to each other. Still, we have cases where family members, specifically wives, are being abused. The woman is the one who spends the majority of her time raising the children. We can not expect the Ummah to rise when the spirit of the woman is broken. May Allah reward you for all of your efforts,
Sincerely,

A Survivor

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6 Responses to “Dear Respected Imams; An Open Letter concerning Domestic Violence”

  1. Reblogged this on MUBK Sisters' Wing and commented:
    Muslim women should be able to rely on their community leaders to support them as they attempt to end the abuses they suffer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ummkittehs Says:

    A number of the major ‘ulema of KSA have spoken out AGAINST domestic violence, although they do not term it as such. They call it what it is: fisq, dhulm, wife beating, going contrary to the injunction to retain one’s wife in kindness or to let her go in kindness. Any imaam who is unaware that cruelty in words and/or actions to wife or children or parents is oppressing himself by not knowing what is required of him and bears the burden of helping in wrong-doing. Being fluent in Arabic isn’t enough. Having made hajj isn’t enough. The imaam is to lead, to give good news, to bear witness to the truth. Women are half of humanity and give birth to the other half of humanity. We need for a’immah who let go of their cultures and embrace Islaam fully, as is commanded:
    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا zoom
    Transliteration Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo koonoo qawwameena bialqisti shuhadaa lillahi walaw AAala anfusikum awi alwalidayni waal-aqrabeena in yakun ghaniyyan aw faqeeran faAllahu awla bihima fala tattabiAAoo alhawa an taAAdiloo wa-in talwoo aw tuAAridoo fa-inna Allaha kana bima taAAmaloona khabeeran zoom
    Literal
    (Word by Word) O you who believe[d]! Be custodians of justice (as) witnesses to Allah, even if (it is) against yourselves or the parents and the relatives. if he be rich or poor, for Allah (is) nearer to both of them. So (do) not follow the desire lest you deviate. And if you distort or refrain, then indeed, Allah is of what you do All-Aware.

    “I shall take revenge on the oppressor in this world and the next. I shall take revenge on someone who saw the person being oppressed and was able to help him but did not”–Hadith Qudsi.

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    • You are right and I do not deny the ulema around the world have spoken out against domestic violence. The problem is when a woman seeks help in her community the advice doesn’t always reflect what the religion teaches. I would never feel the need to write this post if it wasn’t for the many women this has happened to. I continue to receive more and more messages from women who have tried to get counsel about domestic violence and felt it was useless because the Imam or community leader was friends with the abuser. This is where the problem is. Abusers are charming and nice in the public eye but very different in the home. As Muslims we can not take someone’s side just because they are our friends. We must be just in the advice we give. Thank you for your comment.

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  3. Domestic violence is real no one deserves be abuse, the hardest part of all this situations is been alone. I remember the iman telling me that I was wrong for call the police and make me feel that all was my faul. After divorce the court basically grant the abuser unsupervised visitations. Who we should trust? Some imans make a big mistake giving the wrong advice to the victim and the court also fails giving rights to the abuser. The fear never ends. Unfortunately Years after my divorce I still live in fear, and this nightmare will hunt me till my child turns 18.

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    • I am sorry for what you had to go through. Unfortunately this seems to happen a lot. Abused women get bade advice from those they once trusted. Also the courts do not take it seriously when the abuse is undocumented. If the abuse is documented and the abuser is still granted visitation without supervision then it really makes one feel no one can be trusted. Inshallah things will change within the Muslim community.

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      • Cases was well documentated spend money in attorney and the court said that he may want to hurt me but he won’t hurt his child. abuser get his attorney ironically a female attorney who volunteers for a group that is against domestic violence. SubhannaAllah I keep praying that he don’t fulfill his visitation.

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