Attitude Gratitude

How can we make our soul smile? Gratitude! In this show Karim shares insights from the Quran and Sunnah and a few tips to help you grow your capacity for gratitude.

Suggested exercise in this show- Life Timeline templates at coffeewithkarim.com/resources

Domestic Abuse

By Monique Hassan

In honor of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, we as an ummah must acknowledge that this type of trauma is occurring within our community just as it is occurring in every other race and religion. Domestic abuse goes against Islamic character and divides families.


“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” Quran 30:21

We are supposed to be servants of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and devoutly obedient to his message, this includes the rightful treatment of our spouses and family members.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), approximately 20 people are abused by their partner every minute in America. This is on or about 10 million people a year. Almost half of all female rape victims in America were forced by an intimate partner. 72% of murder-suicides are involving couples and it is typically the woman which is the victim of this homicide. Sadly, 20% of American children are a witness to domestic abuse.

 

What is Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is essentially a pattern of violence and negativity which is designed to control and breakdown the other person. Although some cases of abuse may occur due to a one-time outburst of anger, it is typically an ongoing and escalating behavior with the goal of keeping the abuser in power. A man or a woman can be the abuser and they may not see themselves as an abusive spouse just as the victim may not see themselves as being abused. Violence within the home can range in severity such as grabbing someone by the arm and throwing them to the ground to more horrific behavior such as beating someone with a closed fist until they are in the fetal position.
Abuse is not limited to physical violence. Verbal and emotional abuse is another tool used to oppress and degrade their spouse. As an example, if a husband comes home to find that dinner is not ready and he decides to begin screaming things such as “you are a terrible wife, I am embarrassed to be your husband” and then proceeds to slam doors and ignore the children, this man is harming his wife and his children. Spousal communication that seeks to blame and degrade can chip away at someone’s self- esteem and cause them to internalize the blame.
Sexual abuse is another aspect of the control paradigm. Although spouses should seek to satisfy the sexual desires of their mate, if a wife refuses intercourse it is not justifiable for the man to violently force himself upon her and then claim it is his right. Such acts cause the victim to associate sexuality with pain, which only serves to further sexual dissatisfaction within the marriage.
Forced isolation is another component seen in these relationships. The abuser begins to restrict their partner’s access to family, friends and the outside word. This may be done covertly by instigating arguments every time the spouse wants to visit family so that eventually the spouse stops attempting to leave to minimize arguments. Social media accounts and cell phones might be closely monitored or the abuser may completely forbid the use of these. The goal is to ensure the spouse is not hearing other voices which may go against the abuser and begin to strengthen the victim.

Why does Domestic Abuse Happen
Abusers may have tempers that are very difficult for them to control so they lash out angrily whenever they are triggered. Domestic Abuse is usually a means of control and dominance. The abuser wants to keep their partner submissive and in their metaphorical cage. They fail to realize that fear is not the same thing as respect.


“The strong man is not the one who wrestles others; rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself at times of anger.” Sahih Muslim 2609

Contrary to their external behaviors, abusers are typically weak internally. These are people that commonly lack trust in others and they are insecure. Therefor they project that insecurity onto their spouse and believe they need to enforce dominance to keep them at their side. Considering that 20% of children are witness to domestic abuse, those children may grow up and continue that cycle. The once abused and neglected child becomes the abuser or they marry an abusive spouse because this is the example their parents provided. They were raised to believe that marriage should be authoritarian.


Effects of Domestic Abuse
Victims of domestic abuse will feel the effect of this violence in physical and mental damage. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center reports that approximately one-third of domestic abuse victims have suicidal thoughts or have made attempts. Additionally, the spouses as well as the children in these abusive situations are at a higher risk for violence towards others as well as self-harm.
Victims often develop low self-esteem, they begin to blame themselves for their abuse and they become depressed. Children that witness these events carry lasting emotional scars which can impact their emotional development as well as their future choices in marriage.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another common effect of an abusive household. This can entail insomnia and when they can sleep they experience nightmares. Increasing feelings of guilt, isolation, anxiety and mistrust in others are common. The victim may also become increasingly hostile towards others as they don’t have a positive means of venting and they lack coping skills.
Dependent on the severity of the abuse, some victims may endure lasting physical effects. Physical scars as well as improperly healed injuries serve to constantly remind the victim of their trauma while also causing them physical pain or difficulty. Women may lose their pregnancies which only adds to their suffering.
Survivors that do leave the marriage often find it difficult to trust others and this can hinder future marriage prospects. Some brothers have a negative disposition towards divorcees and they look only for virgins which makes this process even more difficult. If they do remarry and the new spouse is not aware of their painful past, this will create a difficult situation as the victim will have some emotional scars to work through.

Why do the Victims Stay
From the outside looking in, it is easy to say the victim just needs to leave. This is often very difficult for multiple reasons. The moment when they do decide to leave, this is the most dangerous time for them according to the NCADV. Many men who have killed their wife reportedly did this when they tried to leave. An abuser is intent on controlling the other person, once that control is lost the abuser becomes unpredictable and may escalate to levels of violence that they never demonstrated previously. The mindset of “if I can’t have you, no one will” becomes a potential threat. Due to the isolation that is pushed on some victims, they may not have any friends to go to anymore and they hesitate to contact family that they previously distanced themselves from. In some situations, family members look down upon divorce so heavily that they might encourage the victim to stay and have patience as if they are responsible for the abuse.
Domestic abuse victims do not always consider themselves to be victims, instead they blame themselves and feel that they deserved the discipline. The abuser further perpetuates this guilt and makes statements like “if you didn’t do that, I would not get so upset with you”. The victim begins to believe that they are responsible for the violence in the home because they are a bad spouse. They may even seek out forgiveness from their abusive partner after a beating.
Finances are another concern for victims of domestic abuse. Abusers often control finances to ensure their partner does not have enough money to support themselves. Shelters for abused women do exist, but many people would be afraid to live in a homeless shelter. If children are involved then custody is a huge concern of the victim. Certainly, they cannot leave the child in that dangerous household, but they don’t have guarantees that they will get custody. Even if the victim is awarded custody of the child, they may have to visit their abuser on a regular basis due to visitation rights. Some victims may fear that their spouse will harm their child if they attempt to leave so they see enduring the marriage as a means of protection for the children.

Seeking Help
Despite the difficulties and varying challenges of domestic abuse, victims can seek out help and they can overcome their situation. Many organizations exist that aim to help survivors of domestic abuse. If you are a victim of abuse or you know someone who might be, please utilize the following tips.
 

  • Make sincere duaa and fall upon your faith for strength
  •  Contact organizations specializing in these situations.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800- 799-7233
  • Contact family or friends you can trust and let them know you need help
  • Contact your local police department for protection orders, arrests and have them escort you while gathering all your belongings
  • Secure a lawyer if custody is a concern, non-profit lawyers are available for those that need financial help
  • Reach out to religious leaders that you trust
  • Find a therapeutic program to help you work through the emotional scars of your trauma

Take it one day at a time.

"No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn." Sahih al-Bukhari  5640

As someone who has personal insight with domestic abuse, I can tell you that help does exist and you are stronger than you think you are. It is not your fault and you do not deserve it. If you are a victim or know someone that is a victim, it is time to make a change for the positive. Have faith in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) to guide you through this storm and know that you will come out of it renewed. That which does not kill you only makes you stronger. Alhamdulillah for everything.

Monique Hassan, 

Behavioral/Mental Health Writer

References
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. https://ncadv.org/
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. http://www.sprc.org/news/working-together- prevent-suicide- and-intimate-partner- violence

The Two Fornicators

Karim begins by sharing a true story about fornication and reflects on the proper balance between quantity and quality of religious deeds and how acceptance of human imperfection leads to a type of spiritual liberation.

Coping Skills: Know Them, Use Them, Enjoy Them.

By Monique Hassan

What do drugs, exercise, deep breathing, overeating, journaling and chocolate cake all have in common?

These are all examples of coping skills, albeit they are not all healthy coping skills (I do not condone some of those), but none the less they are all utilized by people as coping skills. What are coping skills you may be thinking, I am glad you asked!

A coworker at a behavioral health hospital once told me the difference between us (the staff) and the patients was one critical element, our coping skills.

 

A coping skill is essentially a method an individual employs to affectively minimize, control and handle stressful situations (or triggers, see more information on those here). You utilize coping skills without even realizing it, but to truly hone in on our coping skills enables us to have strategies to control our behavioral and psychological reactions to events. As my Mother likes to say, “it is not what happens to you that matters, it is how you react to it”.

 

We have all seen the clique movie scene where the heartbroken person listens to sad, depressing music and eats a pint of ice cream. This my friends is not a healthy coping skill, however, there are much worse that people utilize. Many drug addicts began abusing drugs to numb their pain instead of handling it. A young girl cuts herself in an effort to try and make her chaotic emotions manifest physically and signal to the world “I need help”. A man becomes aggressive at the stranger who accidentally bumped into him and wants to fight him, all because he had a bad day at work. A woman drinks herself into a drunken stupor to cope with the fight she just had with her husband. These are all examples of people using very negative and destructive coping strategies.

Maladaptive coping skills are not only dangerous to the individual, they can be dangerous to those around them, add stress to relationships, deepen emotional pain alongside guilt and create worse situations which lead to more negative coping skills.

An affective coping skill for me may not be as beneficial for you. We must identify our unique coping skills that suit our needs. During a stressful situation or trigger, the first step is to recognize and validate your emotions. It is okay to feel sad or angry, what is not okay is to lash out at others or yourself. Remove yourself from the situation if possible, take deep breaths and feel your emotions instead of running from them.

Look at what is upsetting you and try to see the bigger picture. Sure, it is upsetting for your car to be totaled in a car accident, but if you are alive then you have something to be thankful for. It is difficult to deal with a divorce, but this may open the door to a better marriage in the future and saved you from more heartbreak. If an exam comes back with a bad grade, look at the weakest subject areas and determine a better studying plan for next time.

Do you see the pattern here, look for the positives and focus on optimistic thinking. Become a master of positive self-talk and combat those irrational, negative thoughts with positive self-affirmations (hitting on cognitive behavioral therapy here).

 

After the immediate need to stabilize emotions and essentially self soothe, a variety of coping skills can come into play. This is a list of many positive coping skills, try to find a few in this list that can be beneficial for you or come up with 2 more of your own.

  • Painting
  • Read a book
  • Walking in a park
  • Exercise
  • Journaling/poetry
  • Listening to Quranic Recitation or Biblical quotes
  • Working with one’s hands on a DIY project
  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing and/or meditation
  • Prayer
  • Looking at pictures of favorite memories
  • Drawing flowers
  • Go for a drive somewhere scenic
  • Hug a friend
  • Aromatherapy
  • Perform a random act of kindness for someone else

Let me know in the comments below what coping skills work best for you.

Psychological Triggers

By Monique Hassan

Social media comments and memes criticize and ridicule others by saying “triggered” and laugh it off as emotional weakness. This word has become a meme in itself and is often said with a tone of sarcasm. Yet, the concept of psychological triggers is not only very real; it is an integral part of treatment plans and recovery. As a patient, one is often asked to identify their triggers and their coping skills. As a provider, one can better assess why a patient reacts the way they do by isolating their triggers.

What is a psychological trigger

A trigger is a stimulus that acts as an alarm system, causing the person to recall an experience or a specific memory. They are transported back to this moment of trauma and it can be debilitating. The trigger itself may not be traumatic, but it can stimulate a previously traumatic event.

Types of triggers

The scent of apple pie may cause a smile at the thought of one’s Mother baking homemade pie or one may instantly recall the intruder that attacked their family while a pie was in the oven.

Highways may trigger a panic attack in Jane as she experiences flashbacks of the horrifying car accident that put her in the hospital for months.

A rape victim may not be able to handle the touch of man who has tattoos since her trauma memory keeps replaying his tattoo-covered arms restraining her.

Loud arguments cause John to hide in his room because his parents always fought loudly before they abused him.

Time for an exercise. Identifying your own triggers.

  • Write down 3 triggers that are personal for you
  • Write down why these triggers impact you
  • Write down how these triggers make you feel. angry? sad? anxious?

Being able to identify your own psychological triggers and understand them helps you recognize where they stem from and how you can begin to control them.