Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Four different women I met during Ramadan asked me to pray for them and to ask others as well. In these last hours of Ramadan, I would ask that you all join me and keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well.
The first woman came to see me the day after her husband had struck her in the face. She has a pleasant demeanor, is not so well-versed in her religion, but had a desire to learn. For the past few years her husband on and off has hit her. He then leaves without giving any indication of where he is going or what he is doing while he is gone. At times he is apologetic and promises that he will no longer be that way and that sometimes she just makes him angry. They have a young son who she is worried about. Her family is not supportive as they disagreed with her choice to marry because he came from a different cultural background and have since adopted a "we-told-you-so" attitude. She is now seeking counseling and support from different agencies to help her get through this confusing time. She asked me to keep her in my prayers and to ask others to as well.
A second woman came to see me whose husband was unfaithful to her multiple times in their marriage. Her in-laws have always mistreated her and she herself is at a crossroads with her own family as they are not Muslim but she is. She has assumed the financial responsibility of their home as he no longer works nor shares the savings that he has. The most recent revelation of infidelity caused no reaction in her as she said that she's become accustomed to it and is so numb that it doesn't even bother her anymore. She has a daughter that she worries will grow up devastated if her father is not present and for that reason she has put up with everything that she has going on, but in these nights of Ramadan realized that it didn't make sense. She asked me to keep her in my prayers and to ask others to as well.
A third woman came to see me, this one a little younger than the other. She hasn't even completed high school and finds herself in a place of confusion because of her home life. Her father is angry always and spends most of his time. "My dad, like most south Asian dads, has a temper issue" and that she was 9 years old when she first witnessed her dad beating her mother. Now in her teens, she recently witnessed the aftermath of more abuse. Her mother had come into her room. The young girl told me, "Her eyes were watery, she was holding her neck, and had said "He hit me on both sides." To my eyes, he looked like he strangled her. They were red hot and bloating. I stared in panic, I didn't know what to do." She asked me to keep her in my prayers and to ask others to as well.
A fourth woman came to see me who as a child had been sexually abused by an Imam who taught her qur'an. Years later, the experience still stays with her and has had a deep impact on her relationship with God and her faith. She has trouble praying and experiences flashbacks while trying to read the Qur'an. She asked if I had ever met anyone who went through something similar and I said that yes, unfortunately I had. The validation she receives from her family is limited, as her mother tells her that where they come from this is something that happens often. So that it's something that she shouldn't be bothered by so much. She asked me to keep her in my prayers and to ask others to as well.
Please do keep these women and all women who have had the misfortune of having men in their lives who have no idea what it means to be a man. If you have the conviction, resources, wealth, and know-how, please help to build organizations, institutions, and agencies that the Muslim community is sorely in need of. If we are not the ones helping our mothers, our sisters, our daughter, or any of our women, then who will?
Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, a female convert to Islam and author, writes about the case of Qaylah bint Makhramah and her daughters who were being mistreated during their time. She addresses their case as potential victims of a forced marriage during the time of the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, in her essay entitled "Forced Marriages Condemned":
"I will close by quoting the case of Qaylah, which is perfectly clear on the points I have raised. Qaylah bint Makhramah had several daughters. When her husband died, her husband's brother Athub b. Ashar seized them, intending to arrange their marriages to the persons of his choice. None of the girls wanted these particular marriages. Qaylah managed to rescue and hide one of the girls, Hudaybah, and set off with her to find the Prophet, peace be upon him. Hudaybah was rolled up in a woolen blanket. They got away, but were so terrified of Athub that when their camel suddenly refused to go on they supposed he was using sorcery against them. By the time they got moving again, they could actually see Athub in pursuit in the distance. However, they got to Madinah, where Qaylah had a sister residing, but Athub caught them before they could gain shelter in her house. A struggle ensued, in which this 'Muslim' man struck Qaylah with the flat of his sword and knocked her bleeding to the ground. Then he seized the terrified girl and carried her off over his shoulder. Qaylah managed to get to her sister's house, and in the morning was able to join the deputation of Bakr b. Wa'il of Banu Shayban that had come to see the Prophet. They arrived at the mosque at the time of fajr prayer (sunrise), and in the darkness Qaylah joined the rows of men until the man next to her realised she was a woman and directed her to the women's rows behind them. When the sun came up she got her interview with the Prophet, who passed judgment in her favor, and had his scribe write for her on a piece of red leather: 'Qaylah and the daughters of Qaylah should not be oppressed or forced to marry. Every faithful Muslim should offer them help. Muslims should do good deeds and not evil ones.'"
Remember these words: "Every faithful Muslim should offer them help. Muslims should do good deeds and not evil ones." A prayer alone should not be the least of what we do, it should be the first thing that we do and then we should continue to do more. It's our obligation to not respond with talks, sermons, and rhetoric only, but we should take action as we would against any injustice. In these last hours of Ramadan, remember all those who are suffering from any oppression and injustice, ask God to alleviate their suffering, and to make us amongst those who will do whatever we can to stop it from every standpoint possible.