No history of abuse by the men around her. No record of divorce in her family. She and her sisters were always encouraged to be independent and educated women. And with over more than a decade worth of publishing experience, she spoke out for those who were abused and worked closely to non-governmental organizations associated with women issues.
Therefore, she never thought she would be where she is at today – asking the Shari’ah courts for a divorce and wrangling custody of her children from her foreign husband, despite the medical reports of abuse that landed her there in the first place and despite her being the main breadwinner of the family over the course of ten years.
“I come from a strict Muslim family,” Neesha Hamid* (not her real name) says.
|“Abusers will never change - if they do, it is a bottled up anger and you will never know when they will explode. Do not wait - we can never change the abusers but we can change our lives,” Nessha says.|
“My two elder sisters had arranged marriages but the solemnizations only happened with their consents.” So, when it came to her choice of marriage, it so happened that she met her husband when she was overseas, where her career had taken her to.
“There was never the concept of mixing freely with the opposite genders,” she describes her upbringing, “except for study and work purposes and socializing was always very much in a family-knit community.”
So, with her two sisters happily married with children, she consulted her parents who were back in Malaysia about her prospective husband, whom she got to know well enough through mutual friends. They had said he was “a fine guy, prayed five times a day and felt strongly about religious issues.” And apparently, he was very modern looking.
When Things Don’t Appear As They Seem...
With the green light from her parents, Neesha and her husband solemnized their nikah and returned to Malaysia for a feast. That is when things took a turn for the worse. The immediate fall out happened between Neesha’s new husband and her siblings over some nasheeds that were sung with the duff – one of the few forms of music that are is accepted as permissible during weddings.
Domestic abuse then followed. “Mental abuse started from day one where he stated that I should not wear any more pants or colors, except for jalabiya and long black hijabs. There must not be any decorations as they were associated with zina,” she describes, despite her modest dress code that already included the hijab.
Read more true stories:
The stress of their marriage became even more apparent, that while he wished to stay in Malaysia, Neesha’s husband was unable to secure a proper job. After a while, Neesha decided to return to the work force, due to their financial constraints. The whole disruption of the family structure caused her husband to become even more controlling. “It was all about me going to work and mixing with men. He kept a check on me and I had to rush back during lunch hour to prepare lunch for him.”
“For the first few months he would drive me to work and fetch me, saying that driving was haram,” Neesha said, who had already been driving herself around for 12 years, and with her husband not even having a license of his own. Soon, her husband ran himself into the pits, tiring himself out with the long drives. He chose instead to interrogate her every day of her whereabouts and her social endeavors with her male colleagues or men who she would meet on the way, like those who worked at the tollgate on the highways.
Of course, when she argued back, he would hit her and this became a trend throughout the years of their union, even throughout her multiple pregnancies.
“I assumed he was like that because he was without a proper job and his ego was suffering as I was earning more than he was.” In addition, living in a foreign country could have compounded the stress, she thought.
There were phases where she contemplated walking away, and for many periods, she would return to her family’s house, only to feel that her children were missing a father figure. Even after a period of nearly a year away from him, she packed her bags and moved back into her abusive home, against her family’s wishes.
“My parents told me to leave, but I thought things would change.” As with nearly all victims of domestic abuse, she thought he would. She hoped he would.
When Things Really Did Change...
The abuse began to irk Neesha when her husband began to lose his temper with their children. They were growing up; they were learning to question him: something that he obviously did not like. “He blamed me for not raising them properly.”
At this point Neesha had decided that they returned to his homeland in hopes that their marriage takes a different direction. But even in front of his family, the verbal and mental abuse would continue. Neesha also made a new discovery, “I was told that his father had repented but had the same problem when he was young, and so did his grandfather.”
It was during their stay at his family’s home that he hit her on her head and she tripped over a wire. A swelling the size of an egg surfaced on her forehead and she went into post-trauma stress.
“He threatened to take the children away and he degraded me in front of his family,” but despite her being in a foreign land and the foreigner this time around, her in-laws advised her to leave her husband.
“I then started planning an [exit plan from the marriage] because I did not want my son to be like him and my daughters to think this was the way of how marriage should be.”
Struggling With the Courts...
She returned home, filed a medical report and then later a police report. “It has been months in and out of courts just filing and filing documentation, and I have gained custody but he is claiming for the children. Mediation has not worked as he insisted on verbally abusing me. I have cut off all contacts with him,” she says after her husband lied about her disallowing him visit to the children, when she arranged meetings for them twice.
“I would never go back,” she says, when asked if she could go back and do it all over again. But she admits that there are blessings in disguise.
“With the full support and love from my family and friends, my children are coping very well - they do well in school and they are happier for their mother who is not crying and tired all the time.”
“They do ask for their father but they do not lose any love over his loss. And as I have always been the one caring for them fully, in every way, I don't think they will miss much, maybe the games and talks he used to have with them.”
Raising Her Children on Her Own...
“For now, his riddance is the best for them to grow up and be stable Muslim men and women. I am sure they will go look for him when they are adults, but that is up to them. I will give them everything I can and I will not instill hatred for their father. For now, the best thing is for them to just grow as good Muslims and enjoy life without all of the tears over the abuse.”
Being independent has also come back in cadence. Neesha is thankful for her own job, her beautiful children and her supportive family and friends. When dealing with court proceedings, she sees victims of abuse who have no income of their own, begging for financial help; have no support from family – or a lawyer, nor means to hire one. Over all, many are ignorant of their rights as women.
Now that she has nearly survived the ordeal, she has found her voice again. “Walk out after the first time - never wait for the second,” she advises. “Abusive husbands transcend all colors, races, religions and nations.”
“Abusers will never change - if they do, it is a bottled up anger and you will never know when they will explode. Do not wait - we can never change the abusers but we can change our lives,” she says.
“We were born with all the dignity; never let an abusive man take that away.”
Related Links:Abusing a Wife and Refusing to Divorce Her
Islam & Wife Beating
Husband Abuse Fact or Fiction?
Abuse of Women's Rights