Originally featured this piece on Project Sakinah’s Website: Click Here to See “Over” on their site.
Barely walking, she disliked the man in her home.
Just a toddler and she knew to lie down and pretend she was asleep in her crib when he came in.
Distrusting his mood she would avoid his lap even when he beckoned for her, refusing his embrace.
An innocent child, she tried to understand the pain that surrounded her.
Resilient, as most children are, she played and laughed, but cried herself to sleep.
From the age she started praying she kept a secret. One that only God knew about. During every prayer, in her quiet conversation with her Lord, she begged Him of a favor: To remove the man called her father from her life or to remove her from his.
So young, so wounded, she would never pray for him to change; only to be gone.
Only a child, she wouldn’t understand why the pain continued.
The years would inch by and she would soon be a teenager, never to utter ‘uffff’ or ‘why’ to the tormentor in her home.
Submissive and obedient, she would take his foul language and cruelty with eyes cast down but her mind ablaze with fury.
Her prayers would soon change.
Nearly a woman grown, she would stand before him, inches taller but her spirit mountains smaller; shattered and broken.
For the first and last time she would speak to him the truths that he’d done, the lives he’d ruined, the father he never was. She would make a promise to send him to a jail much like the one he’d kept them all in if he ever laid a hand on her mother or siblings again. Her hands shake to this day thinking of that moment.
A true coward in the end; afraid of the law but not of his Lord, he would never torment them with his fists. His angry venom would spew out at all hours of the day and night. He would inflict his creative anguish upon them for another ten years until it was over.
Her prayers were answered.
Soon a mother; a wife, her prayers changed. To my Most Merciful Lord, the Most Just, protect our children and prevent us from taking advantage of those who rely on us for love and happiness.
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is being oppressed.” It was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, we help the one being oppressed but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By seizing his hand.”
[Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim]
I first encountered this hadith when I was just a kid. It seemed so direct, so simple. But that was naivety of a child.
I later thought of this hadith in the years of my adolescence. I would often convince myself that maybe I was not oppressed and this was why our situation remained unchanged. I would always compare myself to worse scenarios; telling myself to be thankful for the troubles I had.
As an adult, I struggled with this hadith. Was I helping my oppressor by stopping him? Was I saving him from sin by preventing him from carrying out his ill intentions? Would he share paradise with my mother and I? If he would not suffer for what he did in this life my only consolation was the afterlife. Would the creator of my hell on earth obtain my forgiveness in the end? This terrified me.
Now, as a mother, a wife, and a member of my community I realize how this hadith is forgotten all too often.
It took me years to realize how hard it is to face awkward and uncomfortable situations head on. I do it because I know that it is what each and every abused man, woman, and child deserves. It is easy to tell a woman to leave her abuser or tell a child to be patient and forgiving. Those are simple words. Only with dedication and perseverance can you achieve the aspiration of freedom, of safety, of simple comfort.
We often don’t try to stop the oppressors. Instead, we make excuses for them; we blame the oppressed. We ask them to make excuses for their oppressors. We cite fatalistic ploys to comfort them in knowing it’ll all be over soon anyway. This needs to stop.
One in three women across the globe will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. We are often shocked that this number could be possible. It is more shocking that twice the amount of women will not be abused and may go their entire life and never encounter the former. Don’t look to your neighbor to bear the responsibility for they may be the one suffering silently.
[Photography courtesy of SAlborno Photography (c)]