Abdullah’s (name changed) Tale: Abused to the Point of Attempting Suicide, Allah Granted Him a Way Out
I wanted to make a video, but I couldn’t. Even now that it’s all over, the very thought that my ex might watch it fills me with fear; fear for not only myself but my family.
So, instead, I decided to write this anonymously. I hope that in some way it might help others understand and empower them to fight against domestic abuse in all its forms.
I met my ex-spouse at the international university where we both studied. Everyone on campus glowed with admiration for this person, constantly singing their praises as though there were not a single blemish to complain about. I, on the other hand, was constantly being slandered and backbitten by sisters and brothers alike; my Islam and ethics always questioned because I was a convert that hailed from a Western country. I was already having difficulty finding a spouse because I was far from my family, so this didn’t help at all. Thus, from the very beginning, the odds were somewhat stacked against me.
However, after a recommendation by a professor, I met with this person to discuss the possibility of marriage. The first thing I thought to myself was, “Me? Why me?” In my low self-esteem and desperation, I was shocked that anyone would even be interested in marrying me. But at the same time, I finally felt hopeful and happy.
Our first discussion went very well. We seemed to have a lot of chemistry despite my nervousness and lack of confidence. I was very open about my flaws and vice versa, so there seemed to be a lot of transparency and acceptance on both ends. What didn’t occur to me at the time, and what I would learn later, was that my future spouse was actually measuring me for vulnerabilities that they could exploit. Like a predator seeking out prey, their choice for marriage was more about who would be easier to control and manipulate; who could give them everything without it necessary to give anything in return. What this person wanted was not an equal, but a trophy and a servant. Unfortunately, given the negative perception of myself cultivated by years of degradation by my peers, I was the perfect candidate.
It didn’t take long for us to agree to marry. Things were settled almost immediately and my spouse’s parents offered to pay absolutely everything to help facilitate our marriage. They even offered to help us with the first months’ rent and expenditures, without either of us having to contribute at all. They said they wanted to do it for “the sake of Allah”. It was like everything was being handed to us on a silver platter. What I didn’t realize till later was that my spouse insisted on this sort of arrangement and that their parents had very little choice in the matter. If you ever want to know how your spouse will treat you, see whether or not they bully and control their family members. This is a sure sign that you won’t get the better end of it.
However, blinded by the seeming perfection of it all, I ignored the signs.
3 months later, we were married. 9 months later, we were separated. Eventually, we were divorced.
Despite the short period of time, what happened in between I can only describe as nothing less than emotional and mental torture. And while I am no perfect angel myself and committed my own transgressions, I cannot to this day understand why these things were done to me. I cannot understand why someone would want to do these things to me.
First, it was the incessant spying on my phone, computer, and social media accounts. Then it was classmates constantly spreading gossip to my spouse, which I would be reminded of; interrogations into my past became an almost daily occurrence where my answers were taken as lies and my tears are seen as another opportunity for chastisement. Then came the dreams. Oh, how I hated the dreams. I would dread waking up in the mornings because my spouse would claim to have a nightmare about me committing Zina. From that point forward, I would be questioned throughout the day, glared at with animosity; even told where to walk, where to look, and when to speak to the opposite sex. They would even go so far as to claim that the dreams were a “sign from Allah” that I was a horrible person that I needed to be controlled for my own good.
Never did I dare question the dreams, because everyone saw my spouse as the righteous one. I was the irredeemable one.
Then came the curfews. I remember coming home late one night to find my clothes thrown into the drainage ditch below our apartment as punishment for my transgression. I had to keep silent, knowing that the slightest protest from me would end up with my spouse calling their parents to “correct” my rebellious behavior. It was always my fault for the reactions I received. I should have known better.
This followed with greater restrictions of where I could go and when. My private conversations were always being monitored, and if nothing was found, my emails from several years prior would be analyzed to the finest detail, just so I could be questioned again and told that my past was never forgiven. This continued for months on end as I endured constant harassment and degradation. Sometimes it would be followed by an apology, but that was short lived.
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell anyone. No one would believe me. My spouse was perfect and I was fortunate to be married to them; to be married at all. Everyone was waiting for me to fail and my spouse knew this. They knew that no matter what happened, I would take the fall. So I endured because I felt that such an end would be worse than what I was going through now.
Finally, though, relief came from an unexpected source. Seeing as we were struggling students, I finally managed to get a full-time job as a teacher. Things were going well in the beginning, but then I ended up getting into a terrible work accident, which forced me to be hospitalized and needs surgery. It was at this point that I felt I would receive some mercy. And for the first 2 weeks, there was some mercy.
“Now, my wife will love me,” I thought.
But it only got worse. As I was lying in bed one night, reeling with pain and unable to move, she looked at me with animosity again. I stared back wondering what I had done this time, even in such an incapacitated state. She responded with a sigh, as though she were regretting now having ordered the low-fat latte as opposed to salted caramel: “I wonder if my life would just be easier if you were dead.”
This is the only time I remember having cried myself to sleep.
As the weeks went on, I went through physical therapy. I began to master walking on crutches and transitioned to a cane. But the degradation didn’t stop. Instead, it intensified. Eventually, I couldn’t handle it and started to visit my friends I hadn’t seen in months. Despite the severity of the pain, I pushed myself to visit them so that I could mend the emotional wounds I experienced throughout the days. My spouse noticed this and retaliated. She confided in her friends that I was being a “lazy bum”, unfit for the responsibilities of marriage. She then started to insist I go back to work early so as to fulfill her rights.
I obliged. With 2 months left of physical therapy to go, I stopped and went straight back to work, never to return. I managed a week at work till I became too ill to continue. This led my spouse to become more agitated with me to the point that one night she decided to perform yet another interrogation session. I did not wish to comply with her questioning, which eventually led her to contact her parents again. But this time, I couldn’t stand being reprimanded again. I quickly rose out of bed, slightly groggy due to the medications, and wobbled my way to where she was sitting. I grabbed the phone from her hand and a struggle ensued. Eventually, I was able to get it out of her hands and threw the phone to the floor, shattering it. I didn’t mean to break it. I didn’t want to break it. I just did. In my desperation to be relieved from another verbal punishment, I destroyed the phone.
It was a mistake that would literally cost me my sanity.
Prior to getting married, I had informed her that I suffered from depression as a teenager and that I was diagnosed with an emotional disorder, but for years did not experience anything. In other words, it was probably a wrong diagnosis. However, she used this knowledge to her advantage. Shortly after the phone incident, she began to communicate with my mother via email, informing her that I had been “abusing her” since day one and claiming it had something to do with my past diagnosis. My mother, concerned, one day called me and begged me to visit a psychiatrist. Conveniently, my spouse had already set up an appointment in advance. For the sake of my mother’s tears, I obliged without protest.
I told the psychiatrist everything my spouse wanted me to say. I was awarded a new diagnosis and a regiment of new pills to control my “spontaneous moods”. Now, along with the painkillers and lack of physical therapy, I was forced to conform to a schedule of mental and emotional reprogramming.
The drugs turned me into a zombie. My spouse was noticeably happier though. She would smile as she helped to walk me around in public, the students and other bystanders commending her for her “sacrifice” and devotedness to her husband. I was so emotionally and mentally paralyzed that I could barely speak, but the thought of suicide finally entered my mind. At this point, if I could have formulated complete thoughts or sentences, I would have asked someone to help me end my life.
Noticing the shell of a man I once was, I stopped taking the pills in secret, feigning swallowing so that she would think I was being observant of her requirements. I would actually dispense of the pills in the toilet or bottom of the dustbin when she wasn’t around to watch me. Sometimes I would simply forget to take the pills and she would promptly remind me that I was being “irresponsible”.
Then a day came where I finally decided to stand up and refuse this lifeless existence. I remember it vividly. It was like any other day. We were walking in a nearby mall as I was attempting to train my muscles back to strength given my lack of physical therapy. I remember being in a lot of pain that day. As we were walking down the hall, a group of women in front of us was walking too slowly for my spouse’s liking, especially since they were not dressed appropriately. I only recall this because she informed me, as at this point I was not allowed to lift my head from the floor for any reason while in public; at least not without her permission.
I attempted to maneuver around the group on my cane but was unable to. My spouse reacted in agitation by insisting we go to the other side of the hall where people were walking in the opposite direction. I tried but was still blocked. My spouse did not insist on telling the group of women to move, but instead chastised me for not being faster, accusing me of “wanting” to limp behind these women because of my “carnal desires”.
I stopped immediately after she said it and turned to her calmly with what little cogency I had left and said, “If this doesn’t stop, I want a divorce.”
She seemed stunned but didn’t respond. For over a week after this, I ignored her. I ignored her snide comments and even her apologies. I just didn’t care anymore. I was completely empty. I finally felt like nothing she said or did matter. I was too numb to care.
She retaliated. With only a week or so until Ramadan, she called her parents and told them I had physically and emotionally abused her since the beginning of the marriage. They came to her rescue without question and took her away. In the process of her abandonment, she managed to take the remaining of my work earnings which I had saved to pay the rent, leaving me with nothing to survive on. Later, she would tell me the money was “owed to her” for her “service to the marriage”. I was left than to take loans from my parents in order to pay for the apartment and basic necessities. Her accusations didn’t stop there though; she extended them to the other students and my friends as well. Most of them believed her without question. Not one approached me to inquire if it was true. No one saw fit to entertain an “abuser”. She had even spoken to my parents and convinced them of my “problems”. It took me hours to show them the evidence for them to believe I was the one who was wronged. This was perhaps the most embarrassing period of my life.
I’ve never felt more alone. Still in pain and misery, I went back to work before the Ramadan break started. I tried to compose myself but was unable. I found myself bursting into tears randomly as I sat alone in my office. The other teachers, especially the men, had little concern for me even after I told them what had happened. They were incredulous. They saw me as weak. At this point, I was contemplating suicide again. Only one of my colleagues cared enough to inquire; a teacher in my department. She was a divorcee and had gone through a terrible break up herself. She tried to talk to me, but I was unresponsive. Eventually, she convinced me to come out for iftar and she would try to uplift me by teaching me tajwid. She insisted it is in public, so I wasn’t so much bothered by the invitation. However, to be regrettably honest, non-mahram relations were the least of my concern by this time. I just wanted to stay alive.
I attended an iftar with the sister and we had our meal in the presence of other brothers and sisters breaking their fast. Shortly thereafter, she began to teach me tajwid. For the first time in a long time, my feelings of depression and suicide subsided. I felt some hope.
But that didn’t last long. Unknown to me, in the very same gathering, was a friend of my spouse who quickly reported what she saw. That night, I received threats to hand over the identity of my colleague, or she would call my workplace and inform them of some “terrible things” about me. I obliged.
My spouse immediately called up my colleague and harassed her for hours in voicemails and texts. Not because she was jealous, but because she couldn’t stand the fact that someone would dare help me; that someone would free me from her control. In that moment, a miracle happened. The sister in question didn’t believe anything my spouse was saying and defended me. It was then that I realized something. Although I had given up on myself, Allah had not given up on me.
My spouse was not content. She promptly called my workplace the next day to inform them that I was a “threat to children” and an “abuser”. The details she told them are too horrendous for me to write here, but it was sufficient to get me fired. Not only had I lost my physical health, my sanity, my wife, and most of my friends, but now I had lost my only means of financial survival. That night, suicide entered my mind again, stronger than ever.
I took all the pills I had left in the bottle, hoping that I could overdose fast enough to end the suffering.
But despite having given up on myself, Allah still didn’t give up on me. As soon as I felt the effects of the medicine, I somehow snapped out of it and began to frantically message everyone I could. I selected names at random on my phone until someone responded. I barely knew this person, but Allah sent them to me and I was rushed to the hospital. I was saved. But again, gossip never stops.
My spouse found out from a third party what had happened, despite me not advertising it. She told her friends to inform others that I had “faked” my suicide attempt for the sake of pity. Everyone believed her. But once again, I was too numb to care.
The next 2 weeks there was silence. The harassment had ended long enough for me to recover. A little while after I received a call from her and her parents ordering me to grant her a divorce on their terms. I refused. Then, I was responded to with threats of violence if I did not comply.
I took the next bus I could and traveled a whole day across the border to the neighboring 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 women’s abuse center 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-evidence 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 evidence. 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 organized 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 that entire time I was scared of everyone and everything, always unsure of myself and who I was. Even now I’m a way 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 apologized 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.