Posted by: thestruggle4akhirah | October 15, 2008

Why Men Abuse: Some Emotional Reasons Behind the Actions- Helping Our Muslim Brothers Get to the Root of the Issue & Make a Change

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:

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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.

2) Jealousy:

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.

4)

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*

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Responses

  1. JazakiAllahu Khair Coach Megan for addressing this topic.

    One thing that came to mind, was the hadeeth where the Prophet pbuh said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.’ A man asked: ‘O Messenger of Allaah! I (know how to) help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?’ He sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam said: ‘You can restrain him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him.” [Al-Bukhaari & Muslim]

    A lot of times we hear about the course of action women should take in an abusive relationship, but that’s just the half the problem, so what about the men? As they say, “it takes two to tango”

  2. Jazakallahu khair for bringing up this subject, one that is often ignored.

    How do you help a loved one to move on after she’s been thru something like this for months. She feels as though maybe she was wrong to end the abusive relationship, that maybe it could’ve gotten better if she was patient.

  3. Bismillah

    thanks for the comment Anon. That sister really needs to get edcuated about the realities of an abusive relationship, and this will help her remove the blame from her ownself.

    She can definately move on if she wants to. Feel free to email me if you have some further questions

  4. I think we have to remember that abuse is not something unique to men. It is a human condition rather than a male condition. Its just that physical abuse of a man against a woman gets the most attention because the hurt and pain is of the greatest apparent magnitude, it is the most obvious, visible, and dramatic, and because the odds are so highly imbalanced in favor of the man. At the opposite end of the spectrum, physical abuse of women against men gets the least attention because it has the least tangible harm and because the odds are so heavily against the woman even when she is the true aggressor…but the intention and the underlying causes are still there.

    If you look around you, everyone abuses someone whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. True, men abuse women, but women also abuse men. Men often abuse other men while women abuse other women. Parents abuse children and children abuse parents. The rich abuse the poor…it goes on and on.

    The danger in classifying abuse as an exclusively male phenomena lies in the likelihood that when abuse happens in any another context than a man hitting a woman, people will refuse to see it for what it is. In other words, they will become desensitized to the concept that abuse in other other context is just as significant, if they even choose to recognize it as abuse in the first place. After all, if October is domestic violence (against women) awareness month, why does there not exist a domestic mental distress (against men) month? Due to this social conditioning which necessarily paints the man as the master of his own destiny as well as of those who are beneath him including his wife, people forget that it takes two to tango. The effects of a woman’s abuse may not be outwardly apparent, but she leaves scars of a different kind.

    What’s the end result? The woman gets an entire month of recognition for suffering which is by no measure unique to her gender and gets the comfort of seeing that she is understood and legitimized while the pain of so many others, including husbands, children, the poor, etc., is brushed off as insignificant and unimportant.

    Worse still, when the suffering of such “illegitimate sufferers” is ignored, even they will not accept reality and will resort to blaming themselves for their own pain even when it is not their fault. When sufferers feel rejected and don’t see their suffering as legitimate, they won’t seek help. We must call a spade for what it is for the better of ALL mankind….

  5. You have made a nice point. Ands I agree. Thank you for reminding us all that there is more to the picture. What is great about this, is that your comment increases awareness on something few people think about.

  6. Soooo true! Cowards!!

  7. Asalamu Alaikum,

    I am a Muslim woman who has been going through this for 30 years in my marriage. I am just now learning about the different types of abuses and that they all have a name. Mine is emotional and verbal abuse.

    I have left my husband and am trying desperately to seek Khula however, our Imam here does not believe my story. My husband has always been on good standing with the community and is well respected by all the Imams due to his large amounts of Sadaqah. I am having a hard time and I don’t know how I can divorce him. He has shattered my self-esteem and eroded my integrity. He has made me feel powerless and ashamed.

    Abuse is a horrible thing and is not backed by Islam at any level. I don’t care what culture dictates, It is equal to oppression and it must be recognized and stopped! If we go on telling ourselves that Islam allows men to do this to their wives and that the wives must be fatalistically patient and obedient then there is a gross misinterpretation of the Quran and Sunnah. Truly man is at a loss if he disrespects and mistreats what Allah has given him trust over. May Allah guide us all.


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