Osma Irshad – A Domestic Violence Survivor

Osma Irshad – A Domestic Violence Survivor

I woke up one morning and started to adorn the hijab. I came from a background that wasn’t practising Islam much but was cultural.  I myself was 19 and at college and never had an interest in Islam.  To this day I look back at what made me adorn the hijab and then go out in search for peace in Islam.   I did have people questioning my intentions of wearing a hijab, as back in the 90’s it was a trend for a girl to wear a hijab and then run away from home to marry her boyfriend or tell her parents about wanting to marry someone she knew, and if it was a no then running away.

My immediate family were supportive with my new change.  I would now and then get remarks such as “every time there’s work to be done you go in to sajda and keep away from the chores” such remarks would make me want to get married and live my life according to Islam with no distraction.

I couldn’t wait to get married to a man that had the fear of Allah in him.  From a young age it was agreed I would marry my cousin but this had gone out the window for me.  My family were not of the typical Pakistani mentality so I was allowed my own choice.

I was told about a brother who was looking for marriage.  A meeting was arranged for us both to meet at a friend’s house.  This lasted for an hour in the presence of my friend and her husband.   Upon laying my eyes on him for the first time I thought Sunnah.  He had a long beard, wearing a white thobe and imaama, from his speech all I could think of was Islam.  Everything he said had a reference to the Qur’an and Sunnah.  I knew he was the one for me, as a man with so much knowledge and fear would surely be the perfect husband, wouldn’t he?

The next meeting was between families.  My family were not happy about the marriage but respected my wish as I was being very stubborn.  I wanted to marry a man of deen, I did not go for wealth, looks or status, only faith.

On my wedding night I waited for my husband, I had a typical scenario all girls from the Asian subcontinent have, of this romantic wedding night.  He came upstairs after spending four hours with his friends.  I had fallen asleep.  After waking me up he said “I didn’t want to give you this ring but I was forced to by my mum, this isn’t part of Islam”.

Three days later it was my 21st birthday, my sisters and friends came to see me with gifts.  My husband opened the door, took the gifts off them, and closed the door without inviting them in.  He then went off to the masjid.  I came down, put the flowers in a vase and moved a sofa that wasn’t in the right place, it was placed in the middle of the room.  He came back and entered the living room and went crazy, he grabbed me and started shouting in rage, his face an inch away from mine “you can’t touch, move or breathe without my ijazat”. I was in shock and in tears.  Little did I know that this was just the start of the physical and verbal abuse I was going to face for the next year six and a half years.

I was forced to wear a nikaab before I was ready to wear it. I wasn’t allowed out much but I found it weird how he would make me do the shopping, while he slept all day.  There was an occasion when a brother saw me struggling with an overloaded shopping trolley, a 1-year-old and 8 months pregnant, he helped me take the trolley to my car.  When I got home and unloaded the car he saw all the groceries and said “wow how did you manage all that” to which I replied “a brother helped me”. I thought me telling him that would make him feel ashamed and realise what his duties are but I was wrong.  Instead he punched my head, slapped my face and threw me on the other side of the kitchen, telling me how disgraceful it is of me to accept help from a man.  He would use my hair to drag me off the bed, kicking and punching me, telling me how it’s not affecting the baby I was carrying.  He had our house bugged and used other means to spy on me.  Telling me he had dreams, telling me word for word of conversations he had in his dreams.

I felt I couldn’t tell anyone as it was my fault for marrying him even though my family didn’t agree.  He had also put so much fear in me that I was too scared to utter a word.

I had two boys whilst with him.  When I was in labour with my second child, all I remember is him questioning me, and me telling him how I hated him, now I know why they call gas and air the ‘truth gas’!  I would never dream of saying such words to his face due to the fear of being beaten.  He was disgusted with what I had said and told me as soon as I am out of hospital and the baby is settled that he will be taking both my children away from me.  The most joyous occasion of my life had turned into a nightmare.   Looking back now I was suffering from post-natal depression.  God knows  how I am still alive.

Being abused was affecting my boys too, as I wouldn’t be myself with them.  To this day it kills me knowing I wasn’t able to give them the love and care they should have got.  I faced different trials throughout my marriage.  I stayed in the marriage making sure I did everything possible so I could stand in front of my Lord and say that I had tried everything to keep it together.  I was staying in an abusive marriage for the sake of my children as I didn’t want them to come from a broken family and wanted them to have a good life.  But little did I know it was harming my boys and their future.  On one occasion my eldest son who was 3 at the time was not happy with me as I wouldn’t give him a toy, to my amazement he said ‘go in the kitchen I will sort you out” he said exactly what my husband would say to me when he wanted to beat me up away from the boys.

In 2006 he was coming home at around 5am in the morning, by now he had no friends so I wasn’t sure where he was and I couldn’t question him.  I would make sure I was awake to greet him when he came.  I asked him to tell me when he would be late as I need to sleep on time to be up for the boys’ nursery.  He wasn’t happy with me saying that so for a week he threw away anything I cooked for him but I carried on my duties.

He came down one day at 4pm and went in the kitchen, he found no food and asked me where it was to which I replied “I haven’t made anything, you’ve been throwing away anything I have cooked for a week, all because I asked why you come home so late”. He went off into a fit of rage screaming and shouting, calling me dumb because I wouldn’t argue back. I said “what’s the point of arguing as I will be wrong and get a beating so I’d rather stay quite”.  Due to this he kept me awake all night throwing water on me every time I closed my eyes.  I was told I was not allowed to move an inch and every time I did, he would just stare at me with this angry face shouting “why the f*** are you moving”.

He would stay up all night either out or watching “all sorts” so being awake at that time was nothing for him.  At 8am he said I can sleep for a bit, I had to take the boys to school for 8.45, so no sleep it was.  Before my husband left the house that day, he said he wanted answers from me and if he didn’t get them, he would keep me up all night again.  After he walked out the house, I broke down and thought what on earth am I doing, why am I not only ruining my life but also my children’s?   This was him being nice to me as he was talking about getting a second wife. That’s the day I walked away and never looked back.  I was scared of going as during my marriage my husband belittled me to break my confidence, I wasn’t allowed to have contact with many in the outside world, and he would also go on about how my family didn’t care about me.

I was so scared to go back to my own house to collect some belongings that I had to call the police to escort me.  When I went in to my house with the police my husband looked at me and that look killed me; that’s how scared I had become of him.  Lucky for me the police were supportive and made sure he kept out of my way.

After about a week or so I went back to my house so we could talk and I pick up some of my boys clothes.   Talk had started and it all erupted. His aunt who ironically works for women rights began asking “what’s wrong with him treating her like that, that’s what men do”. They were telling me to get out the house so he could stay there.  My mum grabbed me and said we will go.  This is when my elder sister intervened.  She sat me back down and grabbed my husband and threw him out, she said “why should the boys and my sister be the ones who should uproot and leave causing more instability to the children?”  I can’t thank her enough for doing this for me.

There were a lot of ups and downs after this but Alhamdulillah life was so much better than being with an abuser.  I started doing voluntary work in order to keep me sane and to show my children that you have to go out to work to put a roof over your heads and not be like their father; awake all night and sleeping all day and the only income being JSA.

I started doing different courses that were provided by the government so I was qualified in different areas.  I finally landed a job within the civil service which I love and I am a qualified makeup artist too.

I talk openly about my abuse on social media.  I get asked as to why I do that when it’s a hard subject to talk about.  I do it because I know sisters benefit from it.  I get many sisters that contact me for advice and find it easy to talk to me.  In the last few years I have had sisters that thought the only way out was to commit suicide but after a chat with me they realised they are worth more than that.

My story above is not in depth and there is a lot more to it.  I will be creating a blog very soon where I will cover details in depth in order to help others realise what they are going through is not normal and help needs to be seeked.

We only live once and do not deserve to be sad, when in such a relationship you think there’s no way out, you feel alone and scared.  These are just feelings and the reality is only you can free yourself.

Osma Irshad

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