As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum dear sister,
Thank you for your question. This is such an important and serious issue. You have to know that you are not alone in experiencing domestic violence and the significant and detrimental consequences that come from this largely patriarchal driven practice.
Your question is whether Islamic divorce is valid given your circumstances. Yes, Islamically, you are permitted to divorce him on the grounds that he is abusive, you fear for your and your children’s safety, and that he is not providing for you (since you mentioned that he has filed for bankruptcy many times) and your children.
I am not aware of any place in the Qur’an where a woman is mandated to stay with her husband given these circumstances. If anyone ever tells you differently, question his/her motivations.
Just think about it this way: Do you really think that a God who is Al-Wadud (the loving), Al-`Adl (the Just), Al-Ghaffar (ever forgiving), Al-Barr (the most kind and righteous), Al-Muqsit (the equitable), Al-Waliyy (the protector), Ar-Rahim (the most merciful), and Ar-Ra’oof (the compassionate) really wants you to suffer at the hands of your spouse?
The Prophet Muhammed (saw) never hurt, tortured, disrespected, or raised his voice to any of his wives. Given this fact, what makes ANY Muslim man think he can do otherwise? The answer is simple. It is his sense of (societally granted) privilege and entitlement based on one organ below his waist. Abusers (psychologically also) are insecure, have power and control issues, and need long term therapy.
Islamically, he is to treat you with respect, show you much love and kindness, and provide for you and your children. Even in the case of divorce, he is to leave you in peace and still provide for your young children (and you if he has the resources and you are in need).
It is never an easy decision to leave your partner, but sometimes absolutely necessary. For you, this appears to be one of those times.
By remaining in an abusive relationship, you are robbing yourself of valuable time and damaging your self-esteem. You are digging in deeper into a very unhealthy existence for yourself and your children.
- Did you know that children who are exposed to domestic violence in the home are more likely to fail at school, have low self-esteem, be at higher risk for interpersonal problems, suffer from health problems, including mental health?
- Do you know that girls reared in home environments where they witnessed domestic violence are more likely to accept abuse when they are in relationships? What would you feel if your daughter’s husband abused her? What would you tell her?
- Do you know that boys who witness domestic violence are more likely to become abusers? Would you want your son to abuse his wife or perhaps even you down the line?
Your independence will serve you and your children well. You can provide for yourself and them, and you can also model for your children that they should expect more than to settle for an abusive relationship.
I would highly recommend that you seek in-person counseling for the abuse you have been experiencing so that you can sort through the details of your experience.
As always, I also recommend that you sincerely pray and ask Allah (swt) for guidance. These are difficult situations, but Allah (swt) is also Al-`Aleem, the all knowing, and only Allah (swt) can know for sure what is best for you. Seek Allah (swt)’s help, for He (swt) tells us if you take the first step, He (swt) will help us take the next.
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