Who speaks for abusive Muslim men?

My great grandmother used to mix uncooked rice and pulses together and give it to her children to separate as a form of activity for long and humid summer afternoons.  I see that many young Muslims in the 21st Century have set themselves a similar task – separating local culture from religion.

I try not to express my opinion on this blog because it is not a blog about me, but about what I observe and note; and one thing I have noticed is that while Muslim men are always speaking for Muslim women, no one speaks for the men. Muslim women talk about their men but it’s an altogether different matter.

I was introduced to blogging in early 2006 by a convert to Islam (a Salafi and niqabi) who was sent from her country to live in her Arab husband’s country to raise her four children. Behind her back her husband married – twice – while she was changing nappies and dealing with nosy in-laws. For two years after she found out what her husband was up to, her life’s drama unfolded in front of the eyes of her supporters and readers. She was very religious, intelligent, determined and hardworking. All she wanted was her Islamic right to be treated fairly. To receive that right she tried whatever she could in between providing her husband his rights, bringing him clean towels and giving him another child. She often wrote how she wept on her prayer mat at Fajr begging Allah to have mercy on her. The husband returned to her country to his other wife to whom he was married only religiously and not legally.

Most convert women to Islam that I know are extremely strong women – they go against their families to convert, sometimes hiding that they have become Muslim and sometimes rebelling against them completely. There is a young woman I read who hasn’t told her parents she has become Muslim so they would keep supporting her education. Another woman has bluntly told her non-Muslim mother that she can’t even kiss her baby’s feet with her non-Muslim mouth. There are all sorts of stories. But they have a common thread – a woman’s determination.

Why do Muslim men forget that if a woman is so determined to convert to Islam that she won’t use the same strength and determination to get out of an abusive situation – and perhaps even the fold of Islam? The woman I wrote about above eventually went back to her country with the help of her friends and readers taking all her children with her. She is living a hard life but it is a life that she has chosen, not a life that was thrown at her. She is no longer the Muslim her readers knew in 2006. I know at least five more women like her – one in a worse situation where her husband sexually abused his own children. One young woman’s Muslim fiancé was sleeping with another woman behind her back. A reader of this blog, a born Muslim woman, left Islam after her husband remarried and began “slapping her around.” Another young woman was emotionally forced to wear hijab by her fiancé but he eventually married a woman who doesn’t cover. There are numerous more cases. Eventually most abused women come to the conclusion that if no one is listening to their prayers, then perhaps there is no one there.

Who is speaking for the Muslim men these women were married/engaged to who ruined their lives and religious beliefs?  In none of the cases I know has the man been punished for neglecting his Islamic duties. I was raised by a very strict father, but he was religious and God-fearing and more than that he was God-loving and it was his love for Allah that made him a sincere husband and a responsible father.

Instead of only praying for these abused women that they be guided back to Islam, I think we should raise our voices to oppose men who don’t fulfill their duties thereby pushing these women away from Islam. I have often been told that “Islam gives women all the rights; they don’t need Islamic Feminism.” Sorry sirs, but they do need Islamic Feminism because they have been denied their rights by their patriarchal cultures and selfish men again and again!

For born Muslims, Islam is a mix of culture, traditions, ahadith, sunnah, seera and Quran. Many won’t even be able to differentiate between Muslim tradition and hadith, for instance. Thus, I think to separate Arabic culture from Islam is like trying to separate apple juice from water. Islam grew out of the Arabic culture and so certain aspects may seem shocking to us but they are very much part of the Islamic religion. My only concern is that in our bid to explain away those aspects of religion (which is a very tedious process) we are left with little time and stamina to stand up against the real problems. Women banned from driving or being forced to wear hijab or the French ban on niqaab or Aisha’s age at marriage are important issues but they are not more important than discussing and solving the problems caused by men not taking responsibility for their actions (Quran 4:34).

You can’t discipline your wife if you have failed as a maintainer and protector (Quran 4:34). Period! You can’t abuse your wives and call them khanzeera (female pig) even if you dislike them (Quran 4:19). How can a man take his children away from the mother and teach them to hate her when the Prophet is believed to have taught that a mother was more important than a father? I can’t understand how men lie and cheat leaving their wives hanging in the air (Quran 4:129).  Aren’t men also responsible for love and mercy between a couple (Quran, 30:21)?

Men have been given more opportunities to keep multiple partners through marriage or concubinage, which helps in keeping them mindful of their chastity (Quran, 24:30), but on the other hand keeping multiple partners also leads to dissatisfaction amongst the women. Who takes responsibility for the results of that dissatisfaction? What system is in place in Islamic jurisprudence when that happens apart from khul?

Some may argue that I have offered isolated examples. They are not isolated cases and even if there was only one such case I would argue that when we use a single example as a benchmark (Quran 33:21) then even if one Muslim man doesn’t follow that “beautiful pattern of conduct” he should be brought to task. My heart bleeds for these brave but bone-tired women. I know that men from any religion or culture can be and are abusive. But Muslims have little excuse – we believe that we have been guided (Quran 3:3) and that we were given a perfect example to follow (Quran 33:21) while others have not been so lucky. Thus every time any Muslim, man or woman, errs it becomes every other Muslim’s duty to raise their voice against such people (Quran 3:110). Such errant Muslims do not err because they are Muslim, but err despite being Muslim – despite knowing right from wrong. They are mindful of their rights but not duties. It thus becomes a religious duty to point out their mistakes and bring them to task (Quran 9:71).

Why should we bury our head in the sand for the fear that it will make Muslim men look bad when the Quran itself instructs us to enjoin good and forbid evil?!

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22 thoughts on “Who speaks for abusive Muslim men?

  1. kaybee29 says:

    What a well written article. Today I was actually considering writing a blog post around a similar issue. Well more around how important muslim feminism is and I would love to link your blog post.

    I feel that while we have God given rights these rights are too often distorted. The patriarchy uses their power to change where we are and we need muslim feminism to fight for ourselves- collectively as women.

    Love your blog.

    • Metis says:

      Kaybee29, Thanks so much for your comment and trackback. I agree with you that Islamic Feminism is much needed. Thanks so much for your words of support 🙂

  2. […] Our social institutions are non-existent because women play no visible role in our clergy. That is what I am saying. I am saying that chauvinist men, weak “Muslims” are using Islam- are using their unilateral “right” to divorce their wives to hold them ransom, are using ayats like this one and this one, which have been misinterpreted for their ends by MEN are being used as their “justification” to DISOBEY God’s word. I am saying that every time a man stands up at the mimbar it has ingrained a system of male superiority in the minds of our communities. I am saying that we can no longer trust a system that CLEARLY does not work. […]

  3. wafagal says:

    All interpretations of the Quran point towards men being superior to women. So explain to me how I as a woman would do in a situation like that?. I know that Islam might not be part of the problem but it’s always the problem in our eyes, because “our prayers weren’t answered”, because “in countries where Sharia law is considered the law, no one stops with us, no one gives us our rights” . The topic of violent men are so personal to me, have gone through it all and sadly everyone still thinks “it’s our faults” !!! . I don’t know what to say, but I will link you to a video where a sheikh explains “how Islam is honoring women by allowing them to be beaten” , watch and weep 😦

    • Metis says:

      Wafa, you said “All interpretations of the Quran point towards men being superior to women.” I’ll tell you what, I have always believed that men are given a degree above women in the Quran and through Sharia as well. I know that many MFs disagree with this and hence offer new interpretations and translations. As an Arab, a Saudi Arab who speaks Arabic and knows the language of the Quran, what do you think – are all these interpretations that “point towards men being superior to women” right or wrong?

      • wafagal says:

        Honestly, yes and no.
        No, because the language itself sounded like it’s for the men alone, and since i do believe that those who interpreted tends to be influenced by their backgrounds and since this area of the world was/is all about men, then people tend to show that this verse is about the superiority of men and that how men are better than men !! but then come these low voices that said when the Arabic language says this it isn’t about superiority or being better, it’s actually about something else. So huge confusion here but worth getting more into it.
        Yes, because if you believe that the sunnah is an important part of Islam and necessary to understand the Quran, then it’s mostly about how men are more important than women. It’s seems like we are mostly have been to fulfill their needs, all of them.
        You know what, sometimes it feels like we are the extras in this film, it’s all about men and then we will be given a shot or two to show people that they care about the extra. I don’t think we are ever equal. And it scares the hell out of me and make me believe that it’s a lost battle already !!!

        • Lat says:

          That’s a good article,Metis.What I see is that society is still not ready to admonish men who stray, strongly enough because of the centuries old cultural conditioning that males are better than women.Even if the male is not so honorable!

          I once watched a tamil movie about a ruling king who appoints his daughter to his throne because of a lack of a male heir.what interested me,was when the villain in the story comes up near them,the pedestral and swings his sword to remove the princess shawl/dupatta around her body and claims that if she can’t even protect her honor,how can she protect the country’s honor? Someone brave and courageous is needed to protect the people,and men fit that eminent role,for the family,tribe and the country.In those days,countries are always at war, and so justified this themselves with this reasoning.Nowadays that’s not the case.With ‘peacful conditions’ appearing in some places,tables are changing whereas for others,they can use all age old justifications,of protection and honor, so that they could remain on top.The OWC’s spokesman,did say that sharia when it comes to marriage,is the husband’s law!Thanks for this thought provoking article.

          Wafa,
          Interesting and who are ‘these low voices’? Men of inferior class or women or both? If they are saying so,assuming it,does that mean they want to make the Quran relevant to them,knowing that it inclines more towards men alone? And I agree with you about women being extras,not just in your culture but mine too.In fact,there’s not much different when it comes to women doing work of a backup generator taking over the responsibility of the male,and not getting the recognition for it.

          • wafagal says:

            Lat, they are mostly “fewer people” and “people who aren’t knowledgeable in the rest’s eyes” fi you know what I mean. And ironically they are mostly men and religious scholars.. no body cares what women say here about religion when the “right men” are out there spreading their hate. I don’t think for that or maybe but what i have read is that they are more into sitting things straight and when this verse says so, it doesn’t mean it is for the best of men but it actually a misunderstanding of the verses by the majority.
            You know the funny thing is..just before coming to the site, I read something a woman wrote proudly and it says” If you want to know how much Allah honor woman, then look how He made her a “horiya” in heaven as a reward for men ” ..we are honored by being rewards!!! how ironically true.

            • Lat says:

              So the aim for the woman,the example above,is for her to become a ‘huriya’? Well I guess if women are taught to be an agent for the men and not to be for themselves,then it’s expected esp so,if they believed that the Quran doesn’t speak to women but thru’ the reward system,being the reward themselves.

  4. Coolred38 says:

    I believe the most disheartening moment in my muslim life was not when I discovered what my husband had been doing to my children (bad enough of course) but when I realized all the people that had known me for years, had known my children since the womb, were going to now look me in the eye (so to speak) and give my husband excuses for his behavior and drag my children further in the mud. These were “good” people, friends, family (some of them) and of whom I thought I could depend on to support my children and I in our very dire time of need…instead we go a collective cold shoulder that absolutely shocked me and opened my eyes to the real muslim brotherhood/sisterhood. It seems muslims are more likely to support each other in sin then in adversity.

    I had already been on my journey away from Islam at this point in time…but it had been step by careful step as I examined my beliefs, researched more and more, and questioned everything…but I must say…rather than draw me back in with a hand held out in friendship, concern, support so that I might stick around longer and find a reason to stay…nearly every muslim I knew then (and that is not an exaggeration) seemed hell bent on showing me the very worst that muslims had to offer each other in regards to sympathy and desire for justice and the denouncement of such a huge breach of trust between a father and his children. At the end of the day, he came out the victim in their eyes…and my children and I were shown the door.

    And the process of removing myself from Islam was made complete.

    • Coolred38 says:

      I might add that your question “who speaks for abusive muslim men” immediately made me think…well everyone does. From making excuses for their heinous behavior to fingerpointing at their victims etc…a collective voice can be heard from the gallery as muslims fall over themselves giving muslim men the benefit of the doubt…while reluctant to give their victims that same consideration. (personal opinion here based on my very long life among muslims and watching reactions to stories similar to mine). Not only do muslim men enjoy that support…they expect it no matter what they do.

      • Coolred38 says:

        Sorry…one more comment…that video is disgusting and how those two men can sit there calmly and proudly exhorting that beating women is a blessing from god has got to be the epitome of ego and hypocrisy. If a nonmuslim woman was even considering converting to islam..videos like this one should ensure she runs the other way.

        • Metis says:

          Coolred, I have to no words to explain how I feel about you and your children. You are an inspiration – I respect you very much and if I knew you when you were going through hell with that devil, I swear I would have been the first to raise my voice against him.

          “I might add that your question “who speaks for abusive muslim men” immediately made me think…well everyone does. ”

          Yes! That’s what I meant – everyone supports them and no one tells them how to behave, what to do, what not to do, why not to do it.

          That video is disgraceful!

  5. anonymous says:

    “it takes bad people to do bad things , but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion”
    i don’t know how true that is, but I was ‘scolded’ by my husband for sharing that as my status update on fb, when actually he never prays or fasts or does anything religious. I don’t mind since he is very good to me,And he is an awesome son to his parents.
    This post reminds me of my mother and all the ladies of my family , who blindly follow religion (which is more of our misogynist culture), even when some things do not sit well with them they dare not question it.
    Lately I too feel drifting away from islam or any other religion. Feels like hypocrisy praying when I cannot whole heartedly accept and follow the book. My friends say that you’d have been very happy if our religion granted you many favours over men, that’s selfish. ‘Of course’ I said.
    But I do hope It’s nothing more than shortlived anger.

    • Metis says:

      I don’t want to be better than men. I don’t want to be their maintainer or superior or supporter. I don’t want to be stronger than men. I don’t want to rule over them or discipline them. I don’t want to be their teacher or imam. I just want to be as human as men. That isn’t a lot to ask. I believe that is what you want too.

    • anonymous says:

      Exactly 🙂

  6. susanne430 says:

    Wow, what a great post!

  7. Coolred38 says:

    “Yes, because if you believe that the sunnah is an important part of Islam and necessary to understand the Quran, then it’s mostly about how men are more important than women. It’s seems like we are mostly have been to fulfill their needs, all of them.
    You know what, sometimes it feels like we are the extras in this film, it’s all about men and then we will be given a shot or two to show people that they care about the extra. I don’t think we are ever equal. And it scares the hell out of me and make me believe that it’s a lost battle already !!!”

    It is for this reason that I eventually concluded that Islam could not be devine. A god that is described with 99 names that include Most Just, would not subject women to mere “extras” to the main actor, men. Only men would relegate women to that ignomous position and not think twice about it. I sincerely believe that you cannot believe in a fair and just god…and also believe men are superior to women in any shape or form…cause god said so.

    If ever there was an oxymoron…

  8. M says:

    oh wow. as a non arab i feel a bit disturbed and depressed….

  9. M says:

    ok, let’s say a person attempts to separate the apple juice from the water. what do you think one would be left with?

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