I took the next bus I could and travelled a whole day across the border to the neighbouring country to grant her a talaq. Her parents were there, along with other witnesses. Once again, I was too numb to care.
The slander continued for many months later. I had only a few supporters and no one else to turn to. I was so desperate I even called a woman’s abuse centre at one point to ask for help, but my gender restricted them from helping me. Despite this, I remember the lady across the line being sympathetic. She even ended up giving me some great advice. I remember she told me, “Record everything, because unlike a woman, you have to prove everything.” I thought it ironic at the time, because Islamophobes like to say that a woman’s testimony is only worth half a man’s in Islam, but the reality is that in these situations, a man’s testimony isn’t worth anything at all.
So I followed her advice and started to record and document every conversation from my past interactions with my ex. I documented every inconsistency, every lie, and every admission of abuse by her. I even collected counter evidences in the meantime as I waited for the court order.
Eventually the court order came. Then a mediation session. Then the pre-trial. During this time, my spouse had requested thousands of dollars for her “maintenance fees” and “compensation for abuse”. She had even hired a lawyer. As poor as I was I represented myself and taught myself Family Law. I looked up every case file and legal precedents I could get my hands on. I taught myself how to format and file legal documents and how to approach the courts and judges. I even watched YouTube videos on how to conduct a trial, cross examinations, and the etiquettes of court. For a year, I trained myself until the final court appearance. Along the way, my family, my remaining friends, and my new Qur’an teacher were there at my side supporting me along the way.
An hour before the trial, the judge called me and my spouse’s lawyer into his office. He said he had read over the affidavits and the evidences. He told us both he didn’t want the trial to go forward as he had already made his decision. He looked at me and asked, “Do you still want to keep this marriage?” I responded, “No, sir. I just want to be free from this.”
The judge then turned to her lawyer and said, “This ends today. I’ve reviewed the documents and I believe that the Defendant [me] is not obligated to pay her anything due to his experience. Furthermore, I’ve determined that the initial talaq is invalid because it was forced. Therefore, he must give the talaq again and she needs to accept it without compensation. If you fight this, I won’t be as gracious in the trial.”
I was too shocked to smile. Too shocked to cry. In a country that was not my own and in a society that saw men as the only ones capable of abuse, I was vindicated. I had won.
Her lawyer simply nodded, acting unsurprised. He didn’t even argue. He proceeded to walk outside to tell his client what had happened. All I heard was screaming from inside the room. She was clearly upset. I waited for an hour for the lawyer to return. The judge then inquired, “What took so long?” The lawyer responded, “It took some time for me to convince her.” He then turned to me and handed me his neatly organised files with all the depositions and exhibits attached, with a tired and sad look in his eyes, as if to say “You’ll need these in the future, in case she tries to hurt you again.”
Once again, shocked, I just looked at him. Even her own lawyer seemed to believe me, if for only a moment he appeared to feel everything I had experienced for the past 2 years. I left that day without a penny in compensation, but I left free, finally beyond her control.
For a year or so after, I recuperated. I remember for that entire time I was scared of everyone and everything, always unsure of myself and who I was. Even now I’m a wary to talk about it openly without revealing my identity, if only for the sake of my family. Some days I’m reminded of it, especially given that I’ve never fully recovered from my physical injury (I still feel pain almost daily). And the people who believed her and hurt me in the process? They never apologised to me either. I guess the shame of knowing you hurt someone for no reason holds them back from having any moral integrity.
Regardless, it all ended on a happy note. Not only am I free, but I’m vindicated. My pain and struggle led me to ultimately become a stronger person and love and appreciate my friends and family more. Even better, Allah rewarded my tests with the greatest thing of all: a full-time Qur’an teacher who loves and respects me dearly, who is now my wife and the mother of our future children.
If there is anything that I learned from it all, it would be this: It is better to live free than to die imprisoned. And it is not other people who ultimately control us, rather, it’s we who allow them to control us. I let my own insecurities and fear of the stigma towards men be the reason for allowing my ex-wife to abuse me. For others, it may be something different entirely. But in the end, the solution is always the same. You cannot escape the abuse until you decide to. No matter the consequences, never let yourself get to the place that I reached; without hope and without awareness of Allah. Had it not been for His Mercy and Graciousness, I would not be here today telling you this story.
Stop it before it goes too far. Seek help before it destroys you. And remember, there is only one prison you can be freed from: the one you construct for yourself. #ItsNotAlwaysVisible