In Islam, it is a parent’s duty to protect their child. “It was narrated from `Abdullah:
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges. The ruler who has authority over people, is a guardian and is responsible for them, a man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for them; a woman is a guardian of her husband’s house and children and is responsible for them; a slave (‘Abu) is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it; so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” Narrated by al-Bukhari 2554.
That the abuse has occurred does not necessarily constitute a failure on the parents’ part. As stated earlier, most perpetrators are someone the parents trust. Parents and other immediate family members themselves become secondary victims of the crime, “family members, partners, friends and children of victim/survivors are affected by a sexual assault and its aftermath,” (Morrison, Quadara , & Boyd 2007). A parents’ or trusted person that the victim confides in or who discovers the abuse by some other means has an Islamic duty to support and ultimately protect the victim from further abuse. Some may find this difficult due to their own feelings of helplessness, disbelief and shock, however, it is imperative that positive action be taken and the disclosure or discovery not be ignored. Islam teaches us duas to help us through difficult times. “Al-Khaṭṭābi explains excellently the functions of du‘ā’: “The meaning of du‘ā’ is the servant’s asking his Lord for His help, and asking His continuous support. Its essence is that a person shows his reliance and need to Allāh, and frees himself from any power or ability to change (any matter by himself). This characteristic is the mark of servitude, and in it is the human submissiveness,” (Qadhi 2001 22). In addition, we have the benefit of Salat-al-Istikhara. Whilst the discovery of the sexual abuse may be difficult to handle, with the help of Allah you can ensure that the actions you take fulfill your duty to protect the victim.
Victims of child sexual abuse face many emotional, as well as, psychological issues, and some of the long term effects may be depression, low self esteem, social isolation, difficulty trusting others, and feeling like damaged goods. No one who has been the victim of child sexual abuse is damaged goods. It is important to understand that the victim has been victimized, and should be supported and understood, and needs a safe environment in which to heal. Their loved ones will also need to heal as they too are victims, albeit secondary victims. This healing does not happen over night and may require years. As Muslims we are aware of the term sabr which is often translated as patience. Victims of child sexual abuse, and their family members, as well as, loved ones may find it difficult to think about sabr. Some people may even feel that Allah has abandoned them. These feelings are real and should be taken seriously. But for those who may feel forsaken by their Rabb be reassured that He has not abandoned you. It was narrated from Mus’ab bin Sa’d that his father, Sa’d bin Abu Waqqas, said: “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?’ He said: ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.’ Sunan Ibn Majah 4023
It is through sabr, which means far more than patience, and includes, perseverance, endurance and persistence, exactly the characteristics that are needed during this time of trial, that you will gain the strength you need to survive and to draw closer to Allah, in Shaa Allah. It should be noted that having sabr does not that the abuse should be allowed to continue. Islam is clear when it comes to justice and standing up for the oppressed. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others,” Sahih al-Bukhari 2444.
The path to healing will not be an easy one. Disclosing the abuse, and stopping it may bring with it more trials. Yet it is imperative that sexual abuse and other forms of abuse should be stopped. This is the first step to healing. Silence is also a failure of trust in Allah. Allah is the Greatest. Put your full trust in Him. And that dos not mean remaining silent. Allah tells us in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
“O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice as witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. Follow not your desires, lest you not be just. If you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then Allah is aware of what you do.” (Surah An-Nisa 4:135)
Victims need the help and protection of their family, and sometimes that may mean protecting them from other family members. Victims’ rights and the justice they deserve should not be denied.
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Verily, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and He forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” (Surah An-Nahl 16:90)
Remember the victim has not committed any immorality, they have been coerced. Instead it is the perpetrator who is solely to blame. And victims deserve justice. As young girls begin to mature sexually and they find themselves the victims of unwanted sexual behaviour from a family member, there are measures they can take as discussed at length in the following article.
It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As that: The Prophet [SAW] said: “Those who are just and fair will be with Allah, Most High, on thrones of light, at the right hand of the Most Merciful, those who are just in their rulings and in their dealings with their families and those of whom they are in charge.” Muhammad (one of the narrators) said in his Hadith: “And both of His hands are right hands.” Sunan an-Nasa’i 5379 Grade: Sahih.
If you are a victim or the relative or loved one of a victim you may feel hopeless and helpless. But even in the darkest moment Allah is there. Call on Him as the prophets before you have done in times of need. The Prophet Ayoub (peace and blessings be upon him) called out to Allah:
“Verily, adversity has afflicted me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who are merciful.” (Sūrat’l-Anbiyā’: 83).
Ultimately we all need the mercy of Allah. And May you through His mercy find the strength and courage you need to overcome this hardship.
For those who are victims or secondary victims you may find the need to have assistance in your region. As this is a blog with an international readership it is difficult to include organizations covering all of the world. If you require help please seek out an organization specialized in guiding and supporting victims of sexual abuse in your region. You can use a web search to find an organization or contact your local authorities such as police and/or hospitals or doctor.
Nour M. Fox