Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim,
Love is a beautiful thing. In a Muslim’s life, it branches from the love of Allah Azza wa Jalla, and from that source comes the love in our relationships, with our parents, siblings, friends, relatives, and perhaps most importantly, with our spouses. In fact, Allah Azza wa Jalla has specifically said about the love between spouses that He is the One who placed it there.
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. [Quran, 30:21]
But the reality can sometimes be very different, and ugly. It is not very unusual to find a husband abusing his beloved wife– verbally, emotionally, and even physically.
It doesn’t really matter what culture or social status one belongs to, or to what level one practices religion. Perhaps that’s because often these problems arise from psychological disorders, such as severe depression, borderline, antisocial, narcissistic personality disorders. Sometimes it’s just a lack of anger and stress management skills. But instead of helping the husband with his problem, we often do the opposite.
We don’t really take mental disorders as seriously as physical disorders. Sometimes we don’t even consider pathological behavior as abnormal. It’s considered normal for a ‘masculine’ man to sometimes lose control of his anger and slap his wife. ‘He’s just a young headstrong man.’
This sort of attitude of his family and friends not just endorses but practically encourages such behavior. You’re not a ‘real man’ if you don’t keep your wife ‘under control.’
So it is not surprising that in many cases the wife who experiences abnormal behavior of her husband doesn’t actively react to it. She doesn’t speak about it to others, considering it her duty to protect her husband’s character.
In fact she’s often made to feel that it’s actually her fault. If only she behaved better then it wouldn’t happen. She accepts the abnormal behavior, thus opening the door to further abuse. Gradually the severity and frequency of the problem keeps increasing, until it reaches such a peak that often the police get involved.
Why does the woman allow herself to be abused? Often we think that she is just weak, or stupid. But before we start judging her, we need to realize that it’s impossible for anyone who hasn’t gone through this problem to understand how it feels.
There is a clash of different emotions, instincts, and reasoning. The instinct of self-preservation is triggered. She starts feeling a need to react. Then she starts feeling guilty for her reaction, for not ‘understanding’ her husband’s ‘problem’, and because she feels it’s all her fault.
The matter is complicated if the wife has a psychological problem or lack of self-esteem, which makes her feel that she deserves such humiliation. Some other issues that can indicate she is in a malfunctioning relationship are:
- The husband has almost total control of her life– the people she talks to, her personal money and assets, her taste in movies and books, how she should or should not behave in front of others, what responsibilities she has in the household, etc.
- She has an almost constant fear of doing something wrong and angering her husband.
- She doesn’t feel free to speak her mind most of the time.
- She feels responsible for her husband’s well-being, needs, feelings, problems, actions.
- She suffers from constant depression and tiredness, and she can date it since her marriage.
- She finds it difficult to be intimate with her husband.
What should one do if one is in such a relationship?
First of all, realize that by accepting the abnormality of the relationship, she is risking her self-confidence, honour, and often physical harm. Also, in accepting abuse, she is not protecting her husband. She is doing the opposite— she’s helping his mental deterioration and encouraging him to commit sins. The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said:
Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others. [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Secondly: Tell others. This is one of the cases when gheebah is not a problem, Allahu Alam. If she has doubts she should consult an imam. Then she should let her parents, and perhaps more importantly, his parents know. Often this is enough to stop further abuse.
It is also crucial to seek psychological help, for herself and her husband. It is very difficult to make an abusive husband admit that he has a problem. In that case she needs all the support she can get from her therapist. She can help her gain back the control of her life, and also to decide when the relationship is beyond repair and it’s time to leave.
Finally, become self-dependent. Always keep a door open, so that if it’s time to leave, there is no monetary consideration to hold her back.
Read the Quran from scratch at Understand Quran Academy.