The other day I was at an event and got to talking about Nisa Homes with a couple of people. Soon enough, I got asked a very common question: "Doesn't the Quran say we should try and reconcile between a couple if a problem occurs and not just help the woman leave?"
They were referring to the following verse from the Quran, Surat Al-Nisa:
"And if you fear a split between them, send one arbitrator from his people and one from her people. If they desire to set things right, Allah shall bring about harmony between them. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." [4:35]
So, yes, that is our goal; happy, healthy, and safe families. But often when people reach out to us we are not able to automatically jump into reconciliation and intervention because we don't know the story and there is often a concern of safety. Our goal is not to break up families, our goal is to ensure women, children, and even men, are safe. This can take the form of them coming to Nisa Homes, going to another shelter or transitional home, or even staying at home.
Everyone is entitled to their autonomy, to make the decision they think is best. Our job is simply to support and assist, not to make decisions for them. There are too many factors at play in making a decision, from age to residency status, born and raised in Canada or an immigrant, is there a support system, beliefs, how long the problems have been happening or if it happened once, is it physical, emotional, financial? Are there children involved, do you have money or savings, do you work, do you have work experience or an education, have you been to counselling, for yourself or as a couple... and the list goes on, but you get the point; too many factors for someone from the outside to understand in a short period of time and without understanding it could be disastrous to make a decision and enforce it onto others. Even in our own lives, can we really make a decision and be 100% positive of the outcome we want? No. So how can we take that risk with someone else's life?
When a woman approaches us at Nisa Homes they've more often than not already made the decision to leave. We provide them with a safe place, resources as well as spiritual and emotional guidance. We explore different options including couples counselling with both mainstream and religious counsellors, if they are open to it. There are times when this path is possible, and even results in a reconciliation, but other times, such as when the abuse is physical, life threatening or threatening the life of a child, that this path is not an option. Our religion does not tell us to put ourselves and/or our children in harm’s way just so we don't end a marriage.
Just because someone takes the decision to leave does not mean the relationship is over. We've seen it happen where women come to Nisa Homes to escape an emotionally and psychologically abusive husband. During their stay they access religious guidance and counselling for themselves and their husband and end up moving back home to a much healthier, happier, and safe marriage.
Other times, women have called us explaining that they wish to stay but they want to access couples therapy or religious counselling. We assist them in reaching out to a local Imam, for example. Most Imams will get in touch with each spouse separately to get their side of the story before having a joint session. Sadly, sometimes, the husband refuses to participate, respond, or take any of the available options.
Other women approach us needing guidance and support on making the decision to stay or leave. We tell them their options, what they need to do if they were to stay versus to leave and how we can support them either way. Sometimes they choose to leave, other times they choose to stay. At the end of the day it is their choice to make, we cannot impose our values, theories and expectations on anyone. And we most certainly cannot judge them for what we do not know.
Making statements like the one above are often what put the most pressure on women in abusive relationships. Before we jump to quote our favourite hadith or ayah, let's stop to consider how and why we are quoting it and whether or not we are giving a naseeha or passing a judgment. Ultimately, we really don't know what goes on behind closed doors.