UNDERSTANDING RESPECTFUL RELATIONSHIPS

NOTES ON THE LECTURE DELIVERED BY SISTER SOOFIA ABBAS.

Assalam alaykum! March’s edition of the ‘Boost your Eeman’ Series was delivered by Sister Soofia Abbas from IWAA.

Allahuma baarik, Sister Soofia has a wealth of experience working to assist families in conflict as well as women going through challenges in their relationships. I looked forward to having the opportunity to tap from her deep knowledge!

To begin, she asked us our understanding of ‘respect’. There was a general agreement that it means ‘treating others as we wish to be treated’ among other things.

While corroborating this, Sister Soofia further said respect is about trust and giving boundaries. She explored those factors that impact our relationships.

The first factor is Religion. She said that Islam gives a lot of respect and rights to women. It is natural to feel upset whenever we are disrespected. We however need to ask ourselves “Do we behave as we were taught by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?”

Second is Culture. Sometimes, it affects the way we practise our Deen and negatively impacts our relationships. Some of our cultural practices are frowned upon by the society we live in. We should be respectful of other cultures and be mindful of the way we behave in public.

New migrants face many challenges including language barriers (in some cases), difficulty in getting jobs, financial hardship, non-recognition of prior learning experience, culture shock and the need to be accepted. All these could put a strain on relationships.

As muslims, we should show good manners and display a level of patience and tolerance. Remember that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would not have been able to conquer Makkah and Madinah without good manners!

THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM.

YOU ARE THE DAUGHTER OF HAWAH!

As women in Islam, we are respected, protected and given a lot of rights. We should take lessons from the lives of the early women of Islam and the wives of the Prophet (PBUH). We are to be mates and partners to our spouses and be treated with love and respect.

Allah (SWT) revealed an entire Soorah of the Quran for women –Soorah An-Nisa (4). This stresses how much importance Islam places on the role of women; not just in the family but in the society at large.

Allah (SWT) also says:

“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”

-Soorah Ar-Rum (30):21

Sister Soofia also mentioned this beautiful quote:

“When a muslim girl is born:

She becomes a reason for her father to enter paradise.

When she grows up and marries a man:

She completes half of his religion.

When she becomes a mother:

Paradise will be under her feet.

This is the status of our woman in Islam.”

RESPECTFUL RELATIONSHIP- DEFINITIONS

  • People are able to make their own choices and form their own views consistent with their age and developmental level.
  • Feelings of self-worth are fostered.
  • People’s points of view and beliefs are valued.
  • A person should feel safe, valued and cared for.
  • People are accepted.
  • People can listen and be heard.
  • ‘No’ is an accepted answer.
  • People can make mistakes and still be accepted and respected.
  • It nurtures a culture of trust, honesty, companionship, security and happiness.
  • People are able to disagree at times and say what they think without being put down or hurt in any way.

Sister Soofia advised that in order to nurture a respectful relationship, we should avoid judging others; bearing in mind that Allah is the best of judges. We should also choose our battles carefully and not fight about everything. This is especially important in marriage.

POWER AND CONTROL

According to Sister Soofia, some of the that can be attributed to a controlling spouse include:

  • Using coercion and threats.
  • Intimidation.
  • Emotional abuse
  • Isolating the other party.
  • Minimizing, denying bad acts and blaming it on the other person.
  • Using the children as a weapon to make the other party guilty.
  • Using privilege to lord over the other person.
  • Economic abuse. For instance, preventing the woman from working despite her education.

Most controlling behavior by men are brought about by feeling insecure and wanting to make the woman subservient. Allah however commands that women should be treated with kindness.

Allah (SWT) says:

“O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.”

                        -Soorah An-Nisa (4):19

DOMESTIC / FAMILY VIOLENCE

While urging that women who face domestic violence should speak up, she admonished that we should fear Allah in our dealings and domestic relationships.

She said domestic violence could be physical, emotional/ psychological, economic, social or spiritual. It ranges from such acts as hitting, slapping, verbal abuse to withholding funds among others.

Domestic violence is a crime that is frowned upon by Islam. It is also not acceptable anywhere.

NSW LAWS ON FAMILY VIOLENCE

Domestic violence is addressed under the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW). When cases of abuse are reported, the courts and police can take necessary steps to protect the victims and apprehend the perpetrators. Such steps include the Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) issued by courts and police protection notices. A breach of either of them is an offence. All these can only be put in place if the victim speaks up and makes a formal complaint. She urged anyone going through domestic violence to seek help and not remain silent as keeping silent gives more power to the abuser.

We were shown an enlightening video clip on 10 red flags of abuse:

In Sister Soofia’s words,

“If anything makes you feel bad, sad or go into depression, then it is bad”

When things get to a stage where it affects you emotionally, then it is not right especially if it goes on for a long time.

There was a lot of interaction and contribution from the sisters present on various challenges faced by muslim women in terms of domestic violence and other related issues. Given her vast experience (Allahuma baarik) in such issues, Sister Soofia urged women in need of counselling and support in such issues to approach her. She assured them that In Shaa Allah, all effort would be made to ensure that they got succour.

The Prophet (PBUH) said:

The best among you is the best towards his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.”                                                 – (Ibn Majah)

ADDRESSING ISSUES

  • In spousal conflict, we should try to be calm when the other person is angry. Don’t fight with him when he is aggressive and wait for his most vulnerable moment when he is calm to let him know how he hurt you.
  • When going through financial hardship, remember that there are many muslim organisations like National Zakaat Foundation (NZF) and Muslim Aid (MAA) among others that are willing to assist. Seek them out.
  • Stop the blame game!
  • Never go to bed angry with each other
  • When you give respect, demand respect as well.
  • As much as you can reasonably endure, be patient.
  • Do not only dwell on the negative sides of your relationship. Always confirm and reaffirm the positives in the relationship.
  • Once in a while, take time apart to give each other space. However, take time to give him attention and listen to him. Revive the romance in the relationship. Rediscover those things you both love to do together and make room in your busy schedules for each other.

SEEKING HELP

Give room for issues to be resolved. If matters can be resolved, give it a try. Violence is however not acceptable at any level.

To speak out about anything that is troubling you, talk to any adult you can trust.

You can seek professional help through:

  • Relationship counselling
  • Family counselling
  • Anger counselling
  • Financial counselling

IWAA can also assist and can be reached on 1800 004 922.

CHILD PROTECTION

Child abuse is against the law. Abuse of any form is not acceptable in any relationship.

To wrap up the lecture, we watched another video clip on respectful relationships:

It was indeed an enlightening and interactive lecture and everyone picked lessons from the experiences shared and Sister Soofia’s words of advice. May Allah reward Sister Soofia for the wonderful lecture. May Allah bless MIA for bringing this and other programs to help us learn more about our Deen and address issues relating to society and family life. May Allah bless us all, strengthen our feet on HIS Path and grant us Jannatul- Firdaus, aameen!

Wa salaamu alaykum warahmatuLLahi wabarakatuh!