The clock announced 5 o’clock. Huma, 28, looked at it with disbelief. The
week was passing so quickly. It was already Wednesday evening. Only two days were
left till her husband would come back from a nearby town where he had been living
for his work. Only two more days. She was shivering severely. The thoughts of him
being in the apartment were as scary as having him in the apartment.
Scared and alone Huma was caged in that apartment for a few weeks. Every weekend
her husband would come to torture her with new creative ways. He would abuse her
as much as he wanted and then would leave her alone for another week with a little
food and limited means of communications.
One would think that Huma would either die of hunger and fear or at the least would
become a mental patient. Neither is true. Hers is a story that belies the traditional
stereotypes of women in the Muslim community and speaks to the universal challenges
of domestic violence in all communities.
Huma came from an extended family with a network of strong women. Her mother had
more sisters than brothers. Unlike the stereotype of Muslim families preferring
sons over daughters, her grandparents celebrated each one of their daughters’
births back in 1930s and 40s. They nurtured their daughters into Islamic values
of liberty and equality for women. They sent all of them to college and made sure
that they become strong, educated mothers.
Just like their parents, these sisters also made certain that all of their daughters
went to college. Most of her sister-cousins now work as professionals, either full-time
or part-time, depending on their family situations. In her family, Huma has seen
women doing anything and everything, nothing is impossible there. Being submissive
to a violent and abusive husband is not an option in this family.
Back in the mid 90’s, Huma’s mother was visiting her sister in America
and Huma was on her mind. In her mid-twenties, she had just completed her masters
in science, and her mother was eager to find a good match for Huma. One of her aunt’s
very good friends referred a local Muslim man in the community to them, Sami.
Sami, 32, was divorced with one daughter with whom he had joint custody. From the
beginning, he was manipulative. He told her family that his ex-wife was an American
woman and that she was not raising his daughter right; thus, he said, he divorced
her. Her family later realized that they couldn’t believe much that he said.
Her uncle realizes now that he didn’t research his background enough. He says,
“He seemed like a very nice gentleman, and my friend gave us very positive
feedback about him. We did not think about anymore investigation.”
That year, Huma was wed in Pakistan to Sami. Most people were very impressed by
her charming groom. As soon as the couple came to America, the husband lost his
charm. She saw a different person behind the face of a nice gentleman. Bad language,
abusive behavior, greed and lust for money, fake identities, no connection with
Islam, and no respect for universal human values were just some of his permanent
He scrutinized her every move. He tried to control the way she walked, the way she
talked—everything. One day, she found the files on his first divorce and was
shocked by what she read. It had a detailed account of domestic violence and abuse.
She was scared, and she asked him about the charges. He said his first wife had
fabricated the allegations against him. But soon, he started abusing her in the
same ways that she read in the file.
Huma was terrified by the situation. She never heard such language and had not seen
such treatment of a wife, or of any woman, in her family before. In the beginning,
she cried behind closed doors in the hope of changing her husband with love and
submission. But it was getting worse by every passing day.
She had some hopes from his family, but she found them to be the worst people in
the world. They always supported and encouraged Sami’s abusive behavior. They
never tried to stop Sami’s violent actions even in their own presence. They
were as manipulative as he was. They told her several times that if she would leave
him, her father would die of heart failure and nobody would marry her sisters.
Confident about her family support, Huma decided not to keep it to herself for long.
Instead, she shared everything with her family. Her younger brother was studying
in another state. He was furious. He called Sami and told him, “If you raise
a hand at my sister, there will be serious consequences.” “Is it a threat?”
Sami asked. “Yes it is,” the brother replied.
The threat worked to some extent. Sami was a women abuser; he did not have courage
to fight even a boy who was way younger than him and was smaller in size. The physical
abuse went down, but nothing else changed. He decided to cage Huma with not enough
to eat, nothing to spend and no phone to communicate. He moved to another town and
would visit on weekends only. “It was like living in a hell that nobody can
imagine,” she says now.
Her aunt and uncle did not sit quietly either. Their good standing and involvement
in the local Islamic center became a serious problem for Sami. They talked and informed
community about his abusive behavior. It was a threat to his reputation. In rebuttal,
he slandered against Huma and cut her off completely from friends and family.
But he could not cut her off from God, the most merciful, the most beneficent. She
immersed herself in the prayers and the reading of the Holy Quran. “The more
I read it; the stronger I became,” she says, “Quran gave me clarity
about my rights and standing in the world.”
In the meantime, her family arranged marriage counseling. The counselor was the
same imam who counseled Sami’s first wife before. He played a remarkable role.
Unlike other imams, he did not take Sami’s side. He understood the situation.
Therefore, he sincerely advised Huma to get out of the marriage before having kids.
“We all preferred saving Huma rather than saving her marriage,” her
brother says. Her family agreed that divorce was the only option. As soon as Sami
found it out, he told her to leave. For him it was an ego issue. He made sure to
initiate that divorce and told everybody that he got rid of another bad woman. She
fought back and got divorce on her grounds establishing that he was abusive and
Although it was the first divorce in her family, they were all relieved. It was
a fresh start for Huma. She had left Sami behind, and world was wide open with so
much to offer her. Her brother moved in with her to support her. She took some bio-medical
equipment courses and worked as bio-med technician at a hospital for next five years.
“I liked being on my own and I was having good time,” she says. “My
brother was my main support; he assisted me in everything, everywhere.”
Besides her family, some community members too played a great role in her recovery.
They kept her in their social circle and kept her involve in the Islamic center.
They also acted as shields against the abusive remarks of Sami’s supporters
in the community.
After seven years of anxiety and fears of getting remarried, with her family’s
help, Huma was finally convinced by a business executive that she would be loved
“I liked him a lot. He is a simple soul, you don’t have to pretend in
front of him,” she says. “He is the complete opposite of Sami; he was
In 2003, once again, she started her married life. This time, it’s a real
peace of mind with a loving husband and a little daughter.
Her message to all of those in abusive relationships:
“Don’t, don’t, don’t waste your life. Get out of an abusive
relationship as soon as possible. Reach out and reach out quick. Once you decide
to live with dignity; God will not leave you alone. You will find help, but you
have to take the first step.”
Webmaster Note: This post is written by Zerqa
Abid and was originally published on her blog under the title
"all She wanted was a Life with Dignity... "