Emotional Abuse of Women in Muslim Households

Emotional abuse does not occur in every Muslim household, but it does occur more often than we may think, and in most cases, the wife does not realize that she is being abused and or she does not think that what she is experiencing is abuse. And even if she does decide to talk about it, the extent of  her mental pain and abuse may not be taken seriously  because unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse does not leave any visible scars. There are no open cuts or bruises or black eyes that can be seen. This makes it hard to prove and the wife may feel that no one will believe her story if she does decide  to seek help.

Men are also victims of emotional abuse, but women still make up the majority of domestic violence and abuse victims. Any form of contact with friends and family may be reduced drastically or stopped completely; the husband may monitor her phone calls, emails, texts and letters. There may be verbal threats to divorce her and to take the children away and that she will never see them again if she does not do exactly as she is told. There may be intimidation and threats to harm her; private and public insults, name-calling (you’re fat, ugly, useless, incompetent, lazy, worthless). The husband  may insult her sexual performance in bed and criticise her ability to raise the children; false accusations are made against her and blaming her for everything that goes wrong in the marriage even if she does do something right; and he will even go as far as using hadith and Qur’an to justify his controlling and threatening behaviour. There is just no pleasing the husband no matter what the wife does.

The wife may have restricted access to transportation, health care, food, clothing and money; and the husband is likely to be very jealous and possessive and gets angry if he finds her talking to friends or other men.  And there housewives who depend on their husbands financially and for other necessities like food and clothing; and so, they  are more likely than not to remain in the abusive relationship. Children may also be a reason many tolerate the abuse.

An emotionally abused wife  may also suffer physical abuse at the hands of her husband.

Is Emotional Abuse Illegal in the UK?

No. But recent amendments to the legal definition of domestic violence could result in criminal charges brought against both men and women  for controlling behaviour and emotional abuse and such persons could face prosecution in a court of law.

The definition of domestic violence as been expanded. On Wednesday 19th September 2012, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced a new definition of Domestic violence. The  new definition will now include ‘controlling ‘ and ‘coercive control or threatening behaviour’ such as depriving a partner of money,taking control of their finances or isolating them from friends and family. It could also cover ‘economic  control’ and the manipulation of children. The expanded definition will also mean that under-18s could potentially be charged with domestic abuse.

The definition will also include so-called ‘honour’ attacks, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, and make it clear that victims are not confined to one gender. However, the new definition will not be written into law nor will it change the law, but Police and prosecutors would be required to use the new definition when identifying and monitoring cases involving men and women who abuse their partners in a ‘controlling’ manner. Hence, such persons could face criminal charges.

The 2004 definition “only refers to acts of physical violence” and defines domestic violence as “a single act or incident.” The new definition will be implemented in March 2013.

According to Women’s Aid, this new definition recognises that patterns of behaviour and separate instances of control can add up to abuse – including instances of intimidation, isolation, depriving victims of their financial independence or material possessions and regulating their everyday behaviour.

The new definition of domestic violence and abuse now states:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

The government defines ‘controlling behaviour’ as “a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.”

and ‘coercive behaviour’ as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.” 

What is the best way to gather evidence to support your claim of emotional abuse?

Here are a few things you may want to try as recommended by Women’s Aid :-

  • consider visiting your GP [or doctor]. Tell them your situation and they can make notes on your medical record which could then be used as evidence should you need it in the future.
  • If you want to end the relationship, you could think about taking out an injunction against him to make him leave the house and stay away from you.
  • You may want to call the National Domestic Violence Helpline and give them express permission to make a record of the call, containing any notes on how you’ve been affected by your partner’s behaviour, this may be called upon as evidence.
  • keep a record of the emotional abuse that you’re experiencing. Note down the time and date, what was said, threats made and if anyone else was present at the time. Keep any abusive text messages, emails or voice mail messages, as this information will really help when you come to discuss your situation with a solicitor.
  • If other people have witnessed any of the emotional abuse then their testimony could also be used.

The following is the story shared by a Muslimah from South Africa who recently contacted ILM. If you would like to give advice to this sister, please feel free to do so. If you know of any useful websites or organisations the sister can contact for help please state this in your comment. Shukran



I just wanna tell my story I never get to talk to anyone about it, so even though I’m saying it now, it helps to be able to say something.

I was a single woman moved away from my parents for work reasons, and I was doing it all alone, had my own place, my own things and a great job that I loved so much that I worked overtime for free. I know its a long story but please understand.

One day I went to the shop across my house, I live in South Africa, I went to buy bread, I always go to supermarkets, that day I just needed bread and there is a shop right across the street, I went in the shop thinking nothing, and the manager was friendly, greeted me and I greeted back, after that I left, with earphones in my ears I heard nothing, then I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder, it was the shop manager, he said, I just want to know where you live, I was shocked, and pointed around so that he couldn’t really see which house. I didn’t go back there for a few months.

My cousin came to visit me and went to the shop and asked if they know me, and I was the only indian looking girl in the area, they said yes, but they don’t know where I lived, she called me and I said I’ll come wait outside for you, she invited him over for coffee, and he came, and she started to interrogate him, why he knows me,and why he smile so much when he see me, he got uncomfortable and left, she also left, then he came again and I the fool said ok, come in have coffee and chat we just friends.

He came a few times, and we chatted allot, we fell in love, and he asked my mother to marry me, she agreed and then disagreed saying I can’t marry a foreigner, we got married anyway with another elders blessing, and my mother accepted after some talk, when we got married everything changed, he started hitting me, started picking fights just so that he could hit me, he had a problem with everything I did, even The way I cut onions, I couldn’t cook,then he takes over, I can’t clean then he says things, he called me stupid, ugly, fat, even said I am mentally ill, he beat me so many times, put oil on the stove to try and burn my face.

He left his job, I worked for him from there on, taking his abuse and all, I soon found out I was pregnant, then I told him, and he said I trapped him, and I made myself pregnant on purpose, he then forced me to have an abortion or he would kill me, with his own hands, he done it in front of my cousin, she then told her sister, who told my uncle, and then they came there, they didn’t tell him, my uncle took him out the house, then my aunt asked me why do I look so bad since I got married, why am I not the same, and why don’t I visit or talk to them anymore, I said its work stress, then my aunt said she knows what’s happening, she told me that when they come back, she will ask him why, they came she asked, then he told them I am sick and crazy, he doesn’t love me and only used me for his papers, he never knew his life would be such a hell, he thought I would be a better person but I am a no good, my family left there so angry, he told me to never contact them again, because my aunt wanted to hit him.

From there I lost my job, he then sent me away to my mother saying he doesn’t want me, also said he will marry again in his own country, I said ok, I know who you are now and I’m just glad Allah saved me, I left, I was not even at home one day then he called, and said how could I leave him what kind of a wife am I, he accused me of cheating, running away, and being a bad wife from hell, I couldn’t Take it anymore I went back, he didn’t want to live with me, told me I must stay with my aunt he will visit me when he has time, he came once a week, for 15mins, my family started asking me questions, about if I am his wife or did I say now I will help him with papers, he said no he loves me, then they said ok then you must live with your wife, I moved in with him again, he now had a job, and he didn’t give me anything, he forgot my birthday and even was mean to me on Eid day, he went with friends leaving me alone, I cried so much, but still stood by him, The sunday he hit me again and said I ruined his life, he can’t get a better wife anymore, now he is stuck with me, no one will give there daughter to him because he is married to me, he went to his cousin who is also in the country, and put me on the street, I was around at my family who was upset that I’m having problems again, when he called me, and swore me so bad that I cried for that whole day, my family said its over now, this man will kill me, and I must go back to my mother, who was now done with me, because I love him so much I can’t see he wants to kill me, anyway I went, thinking that he put me in the street, he doesn’t care where am I, then he called and said he heard I am at my mother, how could I leave and say nothing, I told him I want a divorce, he threatened to slaughter my throat, I was scared but said its my final decision, he now tells his people I ran away with another man, and is calling me everyday to swear and say how low I am, we are still married, but I can’t take it anymore, and I have epilepsy, and got many attacks because he hit me, he hanged me and told me to jump off, I was crying so much, is this going to go on forever I am confused, I am a new muslim and I had such a bitter experience with Islam, he even told me I’m not good enough to be muslim, so what can I do, I have said to myself that I won’t allow someone to tell me that I am not good enough because Allah wanted me to be muslim who is he, I am so confused because I love him but he is so clear that he only used me.

What can I do


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5 comments on “Emotional Abuse of Women in Muslim Households

  1. This is outrageous behavior by this man who claims he’s muslim. Emotional abuse is very common in some muslim households. I know of several sisters I have spoken to who have told me of this emotional abuse but they feel so trapped because of the children and being out of their country and nowhere to go. The main thing is the feeling of failure by their extended families and that weighs heavily on them.

    Thank you Zainab for writing this story. May Allah reward your efforts. If there is anything I can do to support this cause, let me know. I have a non-profit organization, whereby, we education on domestic violence awareness. Please visit my website: healthypositivechoices.vpweb.com. and you may also contact me on the site. Masaaam

    • Assalaamu Alaykum Latifah, we do try to take a stand against domestic violence here at ILM Online. Jazak Allahu Khair for your offer to support this cause with your non-profit organisation. We are very interested, because this has to stop NOW! Please send me an email to admin@ilmonlinemag.com so we can discuss how we will be going about this inshaAllah.
      Baraka Allahu Feeki and Pray Allah(Azza wa Jal) will help us give these sisters some kind of relief and strenght to take a stand.

  2. I know it scary and it hurts.. I am going through the same thing. Emotionally abused and physically abused at times. Very controlling.. I left but Im sleeping on someone sofa now me and my 11 year old son.. I want to go back to my home but I want him to leave he says he will not!

  3. Asalam.walikom.sister after reading ur story i had tear and my heart was bleeding.how come another musluim can harm is wife. Sister u done nothing wrong. ..ur husband doesnt deserve u. …Pray to ALLAH to guide him..

  4. […] Emotional Abuse of women in Muslim Households […]

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