International Women’s Day: Confronting Sexual Abuse

Bismillahirrahmanirrahim.

Today is International Women’s Day. Honestly, I’ve been smiling to myself while reading wonderful posts on social media that are dedicated to inspiring women all around the world. We have so much to be proud of, Alhamdulillah!

However, I need to get something off my chest. You see, Islam honours us. It gives us dignity and respect and does not discriminate between males and females. This is evident from the very start. When Adam AS and Hawa ate from the forbidden tree, Allah forgave both of them. He gently placed them on earth to be His vicegerents, Subhanallah. By virtue of this honour, we have the right to be protected from anything that harms our dignity, intellect and life. As Muslims, we do not make excuses for people who oppress others. We are people who stand up for justice.

1 in 3  women worldwide has gone through physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Even more have been leered at or experienced inappropriate behaviour. Unfortunately, some of us believe that women are to be blamed. This is happening everywhere, regardless of race, socioeconomic status and religion. When a woman gets assaulted or ogled, we hear comments like “she deserved it for being out so late”, “she asked for it by dressing skimpily” and “she must have secretly wanted it”. These ideas perpetuate the culture of male entitlement. They normalize sexual violence. They allow women to be treated as objects that can be dominated, stared at and manipulated. They agree that rape and beatings should be used to teach a lesson. It means silencing, blaming and shaming victims and thus, enabling men with appalling, inexcusable behaviour.

Unfortunately, some Muslims subscribe to these ideas too. Instead of denouncing sexual assault and disrespect towards women, they immediately blame the victims. Instead of persuading men to lower their gaze, they use it as an excuse to police how women dress. “She wouldn’t have been raped if she was wearing the hijab,” they exclaim. They even justify the men’s revolting actions by saying, “He’s a guy. He can’t help it!”

I went to Makkah recently for Umrah and overall, it was a beautiful experience ma shaa Allah. I met the kindest people who touched my heart immensely. There was always someone giving out food. I remember waiting in the hot sun for Zuhr prayer to begin. The lady who was sitting beside me asked me if I could take care of her sejadah. A few minutes later, she returned with a cup of cold zam zam water for me! Even with a language barrier, I managed to interact with other women, and we would part with hugs and kisses.

However, there was one experience that made. me. sick. During tawaaf, I was shocked to feel someone grabbing my butt. Yes, it was crowded, but the squeeze was very deliberate. I turned around and saw a guy in ihraam smiling at me creepily as if he had done nothing wrong. Nauzubillah min zalik! Truth be told, I didn’t want to talk about it because I felt too disgusted by what happened to me. However, when I finally opened up to my friends, I found out that I’m not alone. For example, my friend was doing tawaaf when a guy placed his hand on her chest. She was so shocked that she couldn’t speak. She pushed his hand away, angrily. Do you know what he did? He put his hand back on her chest! He looked straight into her eyes, without any guilt. At this point, my friend was so enraged that she almost pounced on him. Only then did he back off.

These people had the audacity to abuse others right in front of the kaabah. Let us get this straight – Someone who cannot control his nafs will rape a woman, no matter what she is wearing and where she is. Sexual violence can happen to me. It can happen to you. It’s terrifying, but that’s the truth. Once we acknowledge that fact, it would be easier to stop criticizing the victims and start focusing on educating our sons. Yes, we can continue teaching our daughters to be God-conscious, to have the courage to choose modesty, to be observant of her surroundings and how to fend for herself. However, we also need to teach our sons to lower their gaze and to respect women. We need to educate them that it is NEVER okay to rape. We need to let them know that catcalls are not acceptable, and that leering is inappropriate. We need to develop values that will empower them to publicly condemn sexual crimes and disrespect towards women.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.”(Sahih At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Al-Jami Al-Saker) It’s time to stop bending over backwards to make excuses for violence. When your child comes to you complaining about inappropriate behavior, do not ignore him or her. Your first instinct should be to protect the child, not the perpetrator. Trust me, it takes great courage to speak up about such a horrendous incident. It doesn’t matter if the abuser is your friend or your family member. Please do not fail your children by not fighting for them.

Wallahu a’lam.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Eh & Zed says:

    Omg the audacity of the men to harrass women right smack in front of the kaabah! May He guide them to the right path in shaa Allah. I hope youre okay 😦

    1. Aamiin ya Rabb. I’m better now, thank you. Really appreciate you checking on me! 🙂

  2. ubah says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, your friend and all other women out there. I can’t comprehend how a person could do this in the holiest of places. Much love to you!

    1. Thank you so much for your compassion. That’s really sweet!! ❤ May Allah purify their hearts as He is the Turner of Hearts, Aamiin ya Rabb.

  3. Chelsea says:

    Very beautiful and much needed post. It’s disgusting and disturbing that anyone would ever blame a victim for being assaulted in any kind of way. Even if a woman isn’t dressed properly, a man, especially a Muslim man, knows to lower his gaze. Every woman should be respected regardless of what they wear or how they choose to live their life. There is never an excuse for violence.

    1. Salaam. 🙂 Alhamdulillah. I completely agree that there is never an excuse for violence. I really hope that we will stop victim blaming in the future.

  4. CT says:

    how dare he behaved so indecently in the holy land!? i really hope you’re not traumatised every time you think about it. it happened to me once when i was 15 or 16. no, he didnt touch me but he was showing off his manhood to me (mastubating to be exact) in the bus on the last seat. and i was in my school uniform. i was scared to approach anyone for help hence i just left the bus traumatised for a while. the case of outrage modesty happened to some girlfriends too so I really feel you on this Alia. may Allah protect every one of us ladies. Ameen.

    1. Salaam. Oh my, that’s awful! 😦 I’m so sorry you experienced that. May Allah keep us safe always, Amiin ya Rabb.

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