Salma & Abubakar

Models Shaahn and Urie Williams Photograph by Maha Alkhateeb © Dar al Islam Abubakar and Salma were married for twelve years and had four children, Bilal, Jalal, Ayesha and Maria, who currently range in age from 2 to 10. During the years, it became increasingly clear that they were quite different people and that they shared but few interests. Having children did not help their situation. Rather, with the birth of each successive child, they grew further apart. Abubakar was almost never home but instead he worked and then went out with his friends. Salma stayed home and was almost totally occupied with taking care of their children. Both agree that for a few years, their interactions have been mostly businesslike, with a few bad arguments in between.

Two years ago, Salma started back to work part time. She loved it! She particularly liked having social contact and making friends; something that, with four small children at home, she hadn’t had for a while. It seemed to Salma that, just as she was starting to feel really happy with her life, Abubakar decided to make things impossible. First, he started to complain about her going out. He said that, since she was away working all day, she shouldn’t be able to go out for anything else. Then, Abubakar started to say that she shouldn’t be working at all. He started nitpicking about the cleanliness of the house and criticizing anything that Salma prepared for dinner. He also started to monitor her phone calls and interrogate her about her whereabouts. After a year of almost constant arguments between Abubakar and Salma, Salma decided to leave him. One day, while Abubakar was away at work, she packed up their things and moved herself and their four children into an apartment that she had rented nearby. When Abubakar got home and found that they had gone, he was very angry. He went to Salma’s new apartment to confront her. When Salma refused to return to the home, Abubakar physically assaulted her by repeatedly slapping her face, punching her in the stomach, and pushing her backwards against a table causing a large bruise.

The children heard the entire fight. Jalal had wanted to go into the room and tell his father to “stop being so mean to my mom”. Bilal had stopped him because he was worried about what would happen to Jalal. While Bilal and Jalal were quietly arguing about whether Jalal was going to intervene, Ayesha and Maria started crying. They said that they were scared and that they wanted their Mommy. Bilal said that he and Jalal then comforted the younger girls, putting their hands over their ears when the fighting got loud. When Bilal heard hitting he was surprised and scared. He realized that things were getting worse. The other children didn’t know what had happened and why it had gotten so quiet. They again wanted to go into the room. Bilal wouldn’t let them. He made everyone go to his bedroom and sit on the bed. He decided that if his mother didn’t come out of the room in two minutes, he would call 911. He was watching the clock when he heard the door slam and knew his father had left.

Since the night of the fight, Salma has been having some trouble with her children. Ayesha and Maria used to be pretty good at playing independently, but now they never want her to be out of their sight. Maria follows her around all day, and if she leaves for any reason, she cries as if it is the end of the world. Ayesha seems to be getting sick. She is complaining of a stomachache, is not eating well, and seems tired most of the time. The doctor says that nothing is wrong with her physically. Salma is also stressed out because Jalal’s teacher has called home to report that he has been fighting with other children in the playground. Only Bilal seems to have no problems. He has been a pillar of strength for Salma, often helping out with the younger children and making sure that things go well at home.

Many women think that Salma should have stayed with her husband for the sake of children, but Salma believes that staying away from Abubakar is healthier for her children. She thinks living without a father is better than living with an abusive father. No model is better than a bad model.

 

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