There are a multitude of women who are not celebrated or honoured. They are the silent ones who carry on with their lives under challenging circumstances and are never noticed or mentioned, writes JASMINE KHAN.
IT is August, when we celebrate Women’s Day. In fact, with media hype, the entire month is supposedly dedicated to women. This is when businesses and organisations go to great trouble to ‘honour’ women for their achievements in various fields. However, there are a multitude of women who are not celebrated or honoured. They are the silent ones who carry on with their lives under challenging circumstances and are never noticed or mentioned.
Among these thousands of unsung heroines, there are many who suffer from emotional abuse – a term that many dismiss very lightly as of no consequence in the midst of the high incidence of physical abuse, which often end in rape or murder. Emotional abuse in a marriage is characterised by an imbalance of power; when one party has control issues and constantly say things that are demeaning to the other party. This can take the form of unfounded accusations, unreasonable demands, inappropriate criticisms, silent treatment and even total neglect. It is in direct opposition to the Islamic command to live together in love and harmony.
Both the Quran and the Sunnah condemn emotional abuse. Let us re-visit the Quran and find how Allah honours women, not just on Women’s Day but every day. During the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW), a man, Aus ibn As-Samit, during an argument, said to his wife, Khawlah bint Tha’laba, ‘You are like my mother’s back.’ By doing so, he committed az-zihar, which in old pagan tradition implied a divorce or meant ‘I have no interest in you anymore’.
After having said this, he left. Khawlah was hurt and seriously traumatised because this is the worst insult that a man can throw at his wife. When he tried to have relations with her hours later, she fought him off and went to see the Prophet (SAW) to complain. She was advised to forgive her husband and as she was leaving, she appealed to Allah for help.
The Prophet (SAW) called her back to tell her that Allah had revealed a surah in answer to her plea. Surah Mujadilah, the 58th surah of the Holy Quran, literally translates as ‘the woman who complained to Allah’. The surah commences by stating that Allah has heard this woman’s plea: ‘Indeed, Allah has heard the argument of the woman who pleaded with you [O Prophet] concerning her husband, and appealed to Allah. Allah has heard your exchange. Surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.
‘Those of you who [sinfully] divorce their wives by comparing them to their mothers [should know that] their wives are in no way their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave birth to them. What they say is certainly detestable and false. Yet Allah is truly Ever-Pardoning, All-Forgiving.’ (Quran 58:1-2)
The revelation of this surah makes it very clear that not only are women highly regarded by Allah but also the penalty for abusing them is very severe. ‘And those who pronounce zihaar (divorce) from their wives and then wish to go back on what they said then [there must be] the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. That is what you are admonished thereby; and Allah is aware of what you do.
‘But if the husband cannot afford this, let him then fast two consecutive months before the couple touch each other. But if he is unable [to fast] then let him feed sixty poor people. This is to re-affirm your faith in Allah and His Messenger. These are the limits set by Allah. And the disbelievers will suffer a painful punishment.
‘Indeed, those who defy Allah and His Messenger will be debased, just like those before them. We have certainly sent down clear revelations. And the disbelievers will suffer a humiliating punishment.’ (Quran 58:3-5)
It is possible that some who read this will say that it does not apply today; that no man will use similar words to his wife or that his words could be construed as divorcing her. Also, the signs and symptoms of emotional abuse are often dismissed as someone being too sensitive or they are not equipped to handle ‘normal’ challenges. There is, however, a difference between slight disagreements and handling of problems and the constant uttering of careless words that can strip someone’s self-worth and cause them to doubt their own identity.
Words, once uttered, cannot be retracted, and has a lasting effect on the very soul of the person. The Quran gives us guidance: ‘O you have attained to faith! Remain conscious of Allah, and always speak with a will to only bring out what is just and true.’ (Quran 33:70)
The revelation of a complete surah in response to a woman’s pain is significant, and should be brought to the attention of every male and female the moment they attain puberty.
- Jasmine Khan, Muslim Views columnist, “From Consciousness to Contentment”.