I am heartbroken as I write this and I feel that the situation is becoming clear to me that I cannot live like this anymore. I read your posts and cry so much as they resonate with me. Below is my story please could you share it on your page. I feel I don’t have a voice anymore I just want to be heard. It all started off well or so I thought. Two young ambitious twenty somethings with our lives ahead of us. Only that is where the dream ended and my nightmare began which I have endured for half my life. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it comes too late. I should have sensed what he was about when we met. Even though I was part way through my degree and only just met him Imran rushed me into getting married, even though I asked him to wait until I’d graduated. He convinced me with his Islamic arguments that it was the right thing to do.
I soon realised that everything about Imran was about him and his job and what he needed to do to get the next best stint. All my years of hard work, working towards getting into one of the best universities in the land and coming out with a first paled into insignificance. It soon became clear who had the upper hand and who the important person was in this relationship. Looking back at our ‘relationship’ I ask myself who applies for a job half way across the world and tells his wife he got the job afterwards? I had to pack in my job to follow his dreams and ambitions. I wouldn’t have minded that much but I was always an afterthought. What would I do out there. As a Muslim woman it wouldn’t be easy to find a job in a foreign land in my field of knowledge. A move abroad was not something we had spoken about seriously and I was told to up-sticks and move with him leaving behind family and friends. When we did move I was stuck in doors whilst Imran was at work and then he would come home have his dinner and go to bed. I was a prisoner and got no support from Imran and was left to get on with things. Needless to say I became very homesick and with little resistance from Imran came back to the UK. Imran very quickly realised that it wasn’t his dream job after all and came back to the UK. Not a great start to our married life!
As our family grew I became more and more isolated. Firstly through Imran making sure that I severed ties with my friends and then by trying to sow dissent between my family and I. My friends he said were crazy, they were a bad influence and he quoted a few Hadith about respecting your husband, not keeping bad company etc…and I was convinced. Yet these were friends that I had known for years and who had helped me in difficult situations and been my source of support when I decided to wear the hijab and start practising my faith (both Muslim and non-Muslim). Due to his line of work he would spend increasing amounts of time away from home and would find any excuse to work on the weekends.This meant that for the whole of the week I was effectively a single mother but the children suffered as a result as they hardly saw their father.
Over the years I noticed things about Imran that seemed different, he would barely talk to me about his day, would go straight to bed most nights and intimacy at any level soon disappeared. It wasn’t enough that he was doing this to me but any attempts by me to address this would be met with insults and threats of divorce. “I was nagging him” “I was stressing him out” “I needed to behave myself otherwise he would call my parents and tell them he wanted to divorce me.” The last threat usually worked as my parents are elderly and have had a lot to deal with in their lives. This would kill them. So the parent threat ended up as his trump card. In the meantime I was left a single parent to look after our young children by myself while he did what he wanted, when he wanted.
Some days I wouldn’t eat till the evening or shower for days due to the demands of looking after our children under school age. When he would come home Imran would constantly make digs about the way I looked. “You’re putting on weight” “Well done you managed to shower”. I was absolutely shattered I would have no energy to say anything. Not only did I keep our home immaculate, have home cooked food ready for the family, make sure the kids were washed, clothed and fed, tending to their social emotional needs and health needs and then all the school stuff when they started school I was expected to look like a supermodel and not fall sick, not grumble basically put up and shut up! I love my children to bits but it was hard to look after my emotional well-being as well as theirs without any support. I ended up neglecting my needs for the sake of my children.
Despite having a ‘partner’ I was living the life of a single mother. There was no one I could speak to about this suffocation I was facing. Any requests for help from Imran resulted in retorts like “it’s your job, what you complaining about”, “you expect me to work all day and then have energy for you and the kids”. No doubt this isolation and cruelty from Imran led to my own health both physical and mental to suffer. I couldn’t work as I wasn’t prepared to hand the nurturing of me children over to strangers and Imran refused to be flexible with his work. Imran would be asked to attend community events and some would be attended by mutual friends who would ask about my whereabouts.Just to keep up appearances he would occasionally take me with him but not before telling me I looked ridiculous when we walked out the front door after I’d made an effort to dress up. When we would turn up I would usually sit there in silence, the humiliation still burning inside of me. Imran would try to show me up in front of his friends by talking about current affairs and then try to gauge my opinion on the matter and watch me slip up and have a laugh at my expense. I didn’t have time to scratch my own head let alone keep up with current affairs. You would never have thought that I was a highly qualified intelligent person far more than my husband if you met me at these gatherings. And if Imran said I was thick and looked ridiculous well then I probably did.
Imran had dented my confidence to such an extent that I started believing everything he said about me. I had no interaction with any adults as I was the primary carer of my children and it wasn’t easy to meet up with friends who were working during the day and so slowly my ability to communicate with adults was eroding as well as my confidence. I became the butt of jokes at family events and no one saw the insidious nature of the comments made against me by Imran. Because I would cover up for him I had everyone fooled. Imran started becoming more cloak and dagger, everything was put down to work, if he was on the phone it was work, if he was away it was work. Whereas Imran would leave his phone lying around he now had a pin code added and the phone was glued to him like a baby’s soother. Imran started gaining a little more prominence in the Muslim community and his line of work. This made him unbearable to live with. His behaviour was that of a sociopath, even now if I named him there would be gasps as no one would ever think he would be capable of such behaviour.
One day when Imran had been unusually off guard and left his phone plugged in the charger with his home screen on display that I found the courage to find out about the man that I had married. What I found pierced my heart like a dagger. There were messages to multiple women, some intimate and some using charm that I thought he was not capable of. He had only spoken to me like that at the start of our relationship.There were very intimate conversations with one woman that stood out and this shook me to the core. How long had Imran been behaving like this? Why did he marry someone’s daughter only to treat her like something on the back of his shoe? I was the mother of his children and he did not respect this status. My head was spinning. I couldn’t contain my hurt anger and pain and confronted him. This ensued into an argument where he not for the first time got physical with me. He was more incensed that I looked at his phone than his own unIslamic behaviour whilst acting as the saviour and voice of the Muslim masses. Life was unbearable and still is.
I finally got the courage to tell my parents and said I wanted a divorce. They are from a generation where the D word is like death. After some cajoling from my family and for the sake of family honour I stayed. I was asked to ask for Imran’s forgiveness and take responsibility for the whole phone-gate episode. I received no support from Imran’s family as Imran had done a brilliant job as portraying himself as a victim and so I was blamed for his behaviour. I just was not strong enough to tell them of the daily abuse and felt ashamed that it was happening to me. The handful of friends that I had left knew nothing and still no nothing such is the shame I feel at being a victim. I’m still living a life of a person who is dead inside. The only people that keep me going are my children.
I feel that a great injustice has been done against me and people see a person who champions the voice of oppressed Muslims and social injustice. I’m not allowed to speak to anyone about my problems because despite being largely absent during crucial milestones in our children’s life Imran has threatened me with divorce and gaining custody of the kids. He said that if I ever said anything about him he would tell everyone that I’m crazy and that no one would believe me. So when I read about Henda Ayari and Tariq Ramadan I fully understood her sentiments. When someone gains respectability amongst the Muslim community it is hard for people to accept that their ‘hero’ could do anything wrong. If I went public with the man that I am talking about I could lose my home, my kids and everything in between. I see the praise that people lavish on my husband on social media and when they meet him. I have had people say to me at Muslim events what a wonderful job he does and I have had to against every grain in my body smile through gritted teeth. They don’t see the abuse, the put downs, the coldness, the emotional and mental stress that I live as my reality.
Being treated as a non-entity not as the respected mother of his children or even just another human being. What hurts is that he just doesn’t care, not only for me but also for his children. This man has gone through our married life doing whatever he wants whenever he wants with impunity. I believe in the justice of Allah. This is only part of my story. To even write it has been difficult as I now face for the first time in black and white the catalogue of abuse I have suffered some that will make it in this journal and some when I have the strength to bring it out in the open. People in the public domain should act with integrity and I believe Imran is deceiving a lot of people. I feel my head is jumbled with covering up for this man that I have lost a sense of my own self.
I am now starting my journey in trying to find my voice. I hope you will share this as I’m not the only woman who will be going through something like this and I definitely won’t be the last. Domestic abuse is happening in the Muslim community but it’s not sexy to talk about it or have it covered by our Muslim media. Attitudes really need to change around divorce. I don’t believe I would still be ‘with’ this man if it wasn’t for the stigma around divorced women. As Imran keeps reminding me “it’s different for men I can have anyone I want but who’s going to take you on with your baggage.” Yes I do have baggage and it says “fragile” and “handle with care” but I am certain that it won’t be Imran that will be doing that.
(THE NAME OF THE PERSON HAS BEEN CHANGED TO IMRAN FOR MY SAFETY)