Many people in faith communities across the global want to believe that abuse isn’t happening in their communities. That its something that only happens to other people, other families, other men, other women and children. The fact is its real and its happening.
As I worked at the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland, I can tell you abuse is something that needs to be stopped. Teaching about preventing pregnancy in our schools, homes and communities isn’t enough. We need to be teaching about what a healthy relationship looks like and model this for everyone – although children and youth are the most important because they are the future.
The irony about this – is that in the Ummah – to talk openly about what abuse is is taboo and the majority are in denial. Some people will probably say I am airing the “dirty laundry” of the Ummah – this isn’t dirty laundry – this is men , women and children who are being hurt mentally, physically and emotionally within their own homes usually and most often by someone they trust or love. Our duty is to talk about it so we can educate, prevent and provide services to those who need them. Not stick our heads in the ground and pretend it isn’t happening.
What abuse looks like in a religious community is different than abuse outside of religiously based context. Outside of the religious context in the most basic terms – Abuse is the systematic use of tactics and behaviors to control another person. When I taught this to my youth 6th – 12th grade – I would always say – its like a puppet with a puppet master – the abuser is the one pulling the strings and the victim is the one being moved around like a puppet.
Many people can engage in abusive behaviors without ever knowing they are abusive simply because they A. were never educated on healthy relationships and B. healthy relationships were never modeled for them.
So what does abuse look like in the Ummah? For some examples – here is the Power and Control Wheel in the Islamic Context:
These are just some of the ways that Muslim men,women and children can and are abused.
Abdul Latif -the Imam of the Lighthouse Masjid – which I attend did an entire Khutbah on the subject on abuse in the Muslim Community. He said many men love to quote the Qur’an specifically the verse , (4:34) (Asad)” MEN SHALL take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, // <![CDATA[//  and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guarded. // <![CDATA[//  And as for those women whose ill-will // <![CDATA[//  you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; // <![CDATA[//  and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!.”
They quote this as a justification for the abuse. I don’t understand how many Imam’s and Islamic Scholars will say such things as I have heard such, “its ok – just as long as you don’t leave a bruise,” or ” leave the face alone.” I find it hard to understand how any Muslim can justify the fact they harmed another of Allah’s creations. Especially if they have such fear of Allah and are truly following the Sunnah of Muhammad (pbuh) as he never abused in any manner any of his wives or children. The Prophet (pbuh) said “Abusing a Muslim is a sin and killing him is disbelief.” ~Muslim & Bukhari
So when it comes down to it for me at least – quote the Qur’an all you want but if your not following the example of Nabi (pbuh) and you are seeking a justification to harm or abuse someone – this is red flag and this person needs help. There is never any justification for abuse and no one ever earns or deserves to be abused.
If you are in need of resources – please check out the links on the side bar of my blog. There is never shame in seeking help to get out of an abusive situation.