In this counseling answer:
“You need healing, and this healing will take a long time. But it will only work effectively if your mind can become wholesome enough to repel negative thoughts instead of absorbing them. These thoughts include self-respect and self-esteem. ”
As-Salamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh my dear sister,
You have shared with us a very painful story that almost leaves one feeling equally helpless. In order to be of any use to you, one has to rise above the torment that you have recounted, just as you have to rise above what your husband has done, as hard as it may seem.
From what you have said, your husband married you with the aim to move away from his original environment. This is not unusual, but it is a difficult aim to fulfill if one does not consider oneself worthy enough. In doing so, you, by your presence, reminded him every day that he is not good enough no matter how much you honored him. In fact, the more you honored him, the more he resented it and felt driven to destroy that which reminded him of his perception of himself.
By not acknowledging the rights that Islam has given you, you throw away your respect. Loving for the sake of Allah (swt) means loving someone as they are, i.e. not using the good to blind you from their weaknesses or your strengths. There are some that may say otherwise, but in this way, you would have been in a better position to see what was going on and to help him to see that he is as good as you—not that he can become as good as you. This does not mean that you were and are better than him, but from his perception, and the perception of his family, you are. Even so, it was not in your hands.
“Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases, and He knows best the followers of the right way.” (28:56)
They defamed you, resulting in your isolation, and all that you had was yourself and your Creator to turn to. Isolation does not give fresh air to the light of day, so you became vulnerable to a negative self-image by reflecting the image of you that your husband wanted you to reflect. It is probably then that you became aware of the difference between you and him, and this, in turn, undoubtedly affected your behavior. You are the center of your world as a mother, a wife, and as a friend to your children.
You need healing, and this healing will take a long time. But it will only work effectively if your mind can become wholesome enough to repel negative thoughts instead of absorbing them. These thoughts include self-respect and self-esteem. Without these, there will always be someone who will try to make you weak whether that person is your husband, your son, or somebody else.
“He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the least of faith.” (Muslim)
The purpose of life is not just to go on living; it is to grow in awareness and understanding of what Allah (swt) has endowed us within our original souls. You stopped living and gave way to the narrow perception of your husband. By dishonoring yourself in this way, you lost him to his weaker nature.
“Janet was a wife who arrived at a point in her life whereby all seemed meaningless. She was asked to define love: “Of course, it’s a good feeling to give or receive love, but more than that, it brings out the best in a person!” Then, in that moment of realization, “There’s more to me than love—I’m smart, too!” Then later to her counselor, she pondered, “If there’s a God, then God wouldn’t just be love like some people say, but a knowing love, a love that was intelligent! It’s like, I want what’s best for my daughter, and just loving her is not enough. I have to really know her to love her as best I can. It’s the two that make the magic. By itself, love can just be a warm feeling, while knowing, by itself, can be critical like an eye staring at you and seeing you. What I’m talking about is like a heart and an eye combined, seeing into the heart, knowing. When I first came here, I knew myself in a critical way, and that just doesn’t work. It is intelligence and love combined that make life work.”
You, my sister, had the love, and your husband had the knowledge. Your husband became lost in what he thought he knew. He felt worthless with what he had, which was you, and in destroying you, he has felt his own ugliness. In that ugliness, he has turned your son against you because you gave your son no reason to resist. Where was his mother, the woman that he should respect and honor?
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hopes of the slave.
A different history, but the words of Maya Angelou still apply to you, for it’s time for you to rise. Not in anger or arrogance, but as advised:
“Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘Modesty brings forth nothing but goodness.’ Bushair ibn Ka’b said: ‘It is recorded in the books of wisdom that there lies sobriety in it and calmness of mind in it.’ Imran said: ‘I am narrating to you the tradition of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and you talk of your books.’ “ (Muslim)
This is your knowing and remembrance; that of what you were before, and what you can and will become as your life and the life of your children lie in front of you. Their well-being depends on your well-being, and your well-being depends on honoring and respecting what Allah (swt) gave you—your life.
Begin with little things that may seem mundane to you like taking care of your appearance and that of the children. It is amazing what effect this can have on one’s self-esteem. From there, start taking care of the shopping and what you buy so that it is nutritious food you put on the table which all you will sit at together and eat together in humor. What humor? Well, you can start by making fun of the experiences that you have had together. It may cause a sudden release of tears, but let those tears flow. Hug each other and discover the next situation that can be laughed at. If you do not pray together, start praying together and read passages from the Qur’an to one another and discuss it. This is between you and the girls.
Do not worry about your husband and your son for I’m sure that they are not there most of the time. If either your husband or your son should turn up, then be modest with them and do not expect anything from them. If either of them should become nasty in any way, do not respond unless you can say something positive that can make them think again at ease. Let your son know his place and the rights of a Muslim mother. If he is rude, then try to ignore it. Through manners, he can at least be taught his place. If he can understand this, then the rest will follow in time.
The same applies to your husband because he has given up his rights as guardian of your household, but it would bear no fruit if you were to let him know this. What is important here is that you and your daughters begin to recover and in that recovery not feel withdrawn or intimidated because this reaction holds an attraction for the aggressor to carry out any form of aggression. Try to remain calm in a manner that calms the aggressor. Keep your home tidy, not by seeing it as housework, but by seeing it as a cleansing of negative energies like ablutions. It can make a big difference to how one approaches housework, and how one feels afterward. It is just one of those duties that can slide when one is feeling depressed.
You use the Internet, so why not use it to find useful tips in terms of recipes and self-development? Encourage your daughters to use the Internet to help them share information and make their studies more interesting. Generally, try to create a calm atmosphere for all and keep your tears for Allah in du`aa’ (supplication) before you go to sleep. In this way, you make room in your heart and mind for any good and spare time for the pain that you must release through your tears.
When you feel stronger and your husband is more receptive, try to consider joining to the local mosque or joining a Muslim women’s circle. If possible, ask your husband to get you a part-time job. By asking him, although it might take some time, at least he will be less likely to oppose the idea. It is not about money, but about you are having some activity outside of the home now that the girls are older. Even though you are within your rights to divorce, I am assuming that it is difficult for you to do so. In sha’ Allah, when you do feel ready to take on more, then it will be the time to think about divorce if nothing has changed in the situation (but I pray that it does change). Between now and then, you must increase your psychological and emotional well-being.
Far from ending, my sister, your life is just beginning. All is not lost for you or your children unless you want it to be. If you have any further concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us even if it just to talk.
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