October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: This Post: Helping the Muslim Brothers who are caught in the cycle of Abuse
Ibn `Umar (May Allah bepleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. So he should not oppress him nor should he hand him over to (his satan or to his self which is inclined to evil). Whoever fulfills the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever removes the troubles of his brother, Allah will remove one of his troubles on the Day of Resurrection; and whoever covers up the fault of a Muslim, Allah will cover up his fault on the Day of Resurrection”.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
This post is for the men in our Ummah who have slipped from their positions of being the secure protectors of our Muslim sisters. As fathers, brothers, and husbands, and even sons. Actually, though, this article is for everyone, because the more educated we are about the reality on the ground, the greater our abilities to create change. The hopes are that by being able to get to the core of the issue, there is a greater opportunity for healing and change to take place.
This post explores some of the motives behind the actions of a person caught up in the cycle of abusing. Someone who abuses others is still a human being who at their core wants to be loved, yet the irony is that their behaviors and choices secure the exact opposite in their life. This irony is reflected upon in the “reality” comments below each description.
There is no justification for abuse. None. And it is Haram (forbidden) in Islam at all levels. Muslim men have abused words like the right for Gheerah (jealousy), to have the obedience of their wife, and physically “chastise” them, and taken their position as “man of the house” to levels never intended in the Shari’ah. And of course, in ways that our beloved Prophet never approved of or did himself with his wives.
What follows below is a brief insiders glimpse to some of the emotions that lead to the abuse. It is also important to note, that intervention can prevent abuse from getting worse. A brother who displays” early warning signs” is in much better shape than a person who has been abusing his partner for many years.
Some Emotional Reasons Men Abuse: Need for Security and Significance
Examples of ways these are displayed:
1) Giving emotionally with the expectation of reciprocation.
You aren’t secure enough to give unconditionally in your love, and only dole out as much as you get back. This is an early sign of a general unhealthy imbalance, because this creates a “tug of war” in regards to emotions. You don’t trust enough to open your heart, and really let her inside, and therefore, are always testing her commitment to you, before you give more. Once you realize you are cared for, you may open up on a deep level, but remain insecure in this place, perhaps because of past wounds that equate love and affection with pain. Instead of owning up to the fact that you are insecure, and can either get professional help to deal with the past, or to speak directly to your partner letting her know your needs, you will continue to play emotional power games in an attempt to “secure” her love for you. You create the mirage that you are on even turf in the early stages of a relationship, yet in reality you are not. You are very passionate and intense, and yet pull away strongly to make her “prove” her affection. Only when she does this, will you “give” again.
Reality: The very emotions you wanted to secure, love and affection are being jeopardized. The foundation for these to flourish is trust and commitment. As long as you participate in emotional power plays, you will never feel secure enough to open up and give, and therefore, will not experience true love with your partner.
The reason you are jealous is not because you do not trust your partner. It is because you are so insecure about your own self, and your worthiness to be loved, that you feel that any other man is better than you, and perhaps she might realize this, and leave you. So you control her. You put her down for the way she dresses, how she speaks, and whether or not she smiled too much to the man behind the checkout counter. Of course, if you are abusing your wife, in those moments of sincerity, you would know that she deserves better, but you don’t want to lose her. This isn’t just about insecurity, but selfishness. You are dependent on her in your life, and to let go would be too painful for you to imagine, so instead, you keep her in a state of fear that you might leave her, and force her to be in a state of stress and anxiety as she worries if she is going to displease you on a constant basis.
Reality: Your erratic jealousy is creating a more insecure environment. What you want is to know that your partner cares for you and you alone, but instead of deepening your relationship with each other on a basis of trust, you are actually forcing her to become like an actress who does things just to avoid your anger, thereby decreasing her love for you. The more you attempt to control her, the more reasons you give her to leave you.
3 ) Emotional Berating
You are in need of feeling truly significant in your life. Some of you are not as successful out on the world as you’d like to be, and therefore, your home is the place you have left to feel like a “man.” Or you actually run a pretty good show, being successful in school or your business, and have charmed everyone who meets you. The one area of your life where your need for significance hasn’t been met is love and connection. Perhaps from you past, a family member who wasn’t able to love you in a healthy way, and give you what you deserved as child and growing up. You are in desperate need to feel loved in a significant manner. Your method of protection from being emotionally hurt, despite your desire to be loved, is to be in a state of control of others emotions. You put down your partner, which gives you a feeling of both control and significance. This may start out as jokes and teasing, that eventually crosses the line to hurting your partner’s feelings. You will quickly tell them to brush this off, and to not be so sensitive. Slowly but surely, the comments will increase, as you discover that if she yields to your comments, she will then be in a position to attempt to make you happy with her, because she too wants your love and affection. You develop a destructive pattern of putting her down, feeling strong and in control, and either asking her to do something to win your approval, or you will apologize, and make up for your comments. Both meet your needs to be in control, which gives you a feeling of security and significance.
Reality: You are emotionally wearing down the person in front of you, who is now caught up in a cycle of trying to win your love as well as give love to you. It’s ugly, and destructive. You are destroying the beautiful nature of a person who Allah entrusted you with. Bit by bit, her self confidence is eroding, and with that, she will have much less to offer you. Her sincerity will change to deceit, and you will be controlling a hollow shell. You will not secure love for yourself; rather, you have destroyed it.
4) Physical Abuse
The moment where physical abuse takes place is dependent on a number of factors. Some of you would say that you get blinded by rage, and lose control, and at this moment your hands strike out at your partner. By being able to say you “just lose control, “you are not being a man. Your job is to protect, not harm. Sure, “something” overcomes you. What we need to answer here is what happens before that moment. It will still come back to either insecurity or need for significance. To feel in control, to command, to harm, to do as you please gives you the feeling of complete ownership in your home. You are for sure significant now. And you feel secure because if you say jump, your partner will jump, or you can make her. No doubt you go into “auto-pilot” mode. Yet just a moment before that, if you could focus on what need really needs to be met, you would understand why this happens, and with help support, and the will of Allah, stop yourself.
“I remember when we were out in a restaurant, and he said something that hurt my feelings. I tried to hold back my tears, but I couldn’t. He started to feel embarrassed, and wanted me to stop. He got frustrated when I wouldn’t, and in a harsh tone told me I better dry up my tears. This, of course, made me feel more sad, as I just wanted him to be happy. He reached under the table, and began to pinch my arm really hard, telling me to stop. He pinched harder and harder, telling me to stop. I wanted to get up and leave, but he felt that would make a scene, so he held my wrist very tight, and said to sit. I didn’t want a scene either. Looking back on that moment, I realize he did that because he couldn’t control my emotions, and at the core, felt really embarrassed of what people would think of us. He was incredibly insecure…”
Reality: When you have reached this level of abuse, you are caught in a pattern and cycle which cannot be stopped. You will harm, and apologize, perhaps even sincerely, lay low, and it will start all over again. Each day you are destroying your life in this world, and the next. You have secured nothing for yourself but your own cycle of insecurity and insignificance, because your partner cannot and will not be able to love you in the way you were seeking. You will neither fill the missing void from your youth, not create anything meaningful now. The loneliness and internal isolation is so great, that the only way to fill the void is through control. You have lost all that you have wanted.
Action Steps for a Brother who is caught in the cycle of Abusing:
1) Take a moment to reflect on your condition before Allah. Ask Allah to help you in a very sincere du’a. There are those of you out there who do want to change, and as we know, we need the help of Allah.
2) In that moment of inspiration, reach out to someone you trust for help. This is challenging, because it cuts into personal pride to let others know what is going on. Just remember that a man who is most respected is one who faces his weaknesses, and turns them into real strengths. This person you turn to should not be your partner, although you should include her in the process. Speak to an Imam you trust, contact a counselor, or call a national hotline and ask for local referrals.
3) This is going to be a process over time. A sudden rush to change, not backed with a consistent plan will not lead to progress. You need patience and commitment. With this, you will learn how to meet needs like significance and security in healthy ways, and develop stronger habits to learn how to regulate your emotional state.
Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed”. A man enquired: “O Messenger of Allah! I help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?” He (PBUH) said, “You can keep him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him”.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: This Hadith contains a very comprehensive injunction to eliminate disturbance and tyranny in the Muslim society. It not only ordains helping the oppressed but also encourages people endowed with moral courage to stop the oppressor’s oppression. Doing so requires great courage and boldness, but Muslims would be able to do full justice to their duty of wishing well to their fellow Muslims when they develop the moral courage to stop the oppressor from tyranny, or at least protest against it verbally.
*disclaimer* This post is not intended to replace the advice and counsel of a trained professional in the area of abuse. The intent is to bring about awareness. The reasons for abuse vary. Please contact a local health professional for specific details and information*