When Abusers Die

When Abusers Die

“Take yourselves to account before you are taken to account, and weigh your actions before they are weighed for you.” – Umar Al-Khattab رضي الله عنه

Death Does Not Absolve Abuse

Throughout the Quran, Allah tells us that we will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment. Getting away with a crime in this world does not translate to getting away with it in the next world. Most oppressors will get away with their oppression in this life and only face its consequences in the hereafter. As the hadith mentions, “oppression is darkness on the Day of Judgment” (Bukhari).  Whether this oppression is cheating someone financially, assaulting them, insulting them, or backbiting them, those who were wronged in this life will have their claim on the Day of Judgment.

The Prophet ﷺ described the bankrupt person as one who has his good deeds taken by those he slandered, backbit, and harmed until he is left with no good deeds on the Day of Judgment, then goes to hell.

When a Muslim dies in debt, the creditor is given priority over inheritors. Death does not absolve debt, nor is it petty for the creditor to collect his debt.

Death is when accountability begins.

Helping the oppressor and the oppressed

When a Muslim who has oppressed others is dying, we should encourage that Muslim to ask for forgiveness, make amends, and take steps to right his wrongs. Death alone will not absolve his abuse; instead, he is entering an abode where accountability will begin, and it will soon be too late to ask for forgiveness. The Prophet ﷺ told us to not delay in the making up for wronging others and reminded us that we would be accountable in the hereafter, “Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, let him seek forgiveness today before there will be no money (as compensation). If he had good deeds, they will be taken from him in amounts commensurate to his oppression. And if he has no good deeds, the oppressed will have his sins removed in an amount commensurate to his oppression, and given to the oppressor” (Bukhari).

Reflecting on death should serve as a catalyst to right wrongs rather than trivialize wrongs as insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Crossing the Sirat (bridge) is one of the most serious moments we will ever endure. Falling entails going to hell, and after safely crossing it, believers will be in a place between heaven and hell in which they will take retribution upon one another for injustices in the world. They will be able to enter paradise once they have been purified from their oppression (Bukhari). Even with torment and salvation before our eyes, we will still want justice.

The Prophet ﷺ sent Mu’adh to non-Muslims in Yemen and said, “Fear the prayer of the oppressed as there is no barrier between his supplication and Allah” (Bukhari).

Betraying positions of trust and responsibility towards others is very serious. Leaders will be asked about how they led. Fornication and adultery are always heinous, but the Prophet  ﷺ  specifically mentioned the case of someone entrusted with looking after the wives of mujahids (soldiers) betraying his trust. The mujahid who is betrayed will be allowed by Allah to take all the good deeds he wants from the person he entrusted.  Note here that the wording of the hadith focuses on the betrayal of the one entrusted, not of the adulteress, nor of the illicit sexual action. This hadith on the betrayal of a position of trust and dishonoring someone in the path of Allah has a relevance to all religious leaders who try to engage in illicit or exploitative relationships with women through that position.

Forgiveness

One of the common issues when it comes to spiritual abuse is blaming victims for not forgiving their abusers.

“A spiritually abused survivor may persistently feel split into two conflicted emotional camps,” explains Sahar Abdulaziz, MS, author, and Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Advocate. “On the one hand, survivors are searching to replenish their stolen peace, spirituality, and security, while on the other, forced to face societies misplaced and often dangerous enthusiasm for protecting the abuser. However, what society repeatedly fails to comprehend are the ravages abusers leave behind, how victims become chronically impacted by the abuse they experienced, often with a dizzying concoction of emotional angst: anxiety, depression, guilt, fear, low self-esteem, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name but a few. For many survivors, and to different degrees, the crimes leveled against them become a life sentence. It is inherently unacceptable to place the responsibility for an abuser’s soul on the victim. To then be further coerced, manipulated, pressured, or guilted into forgiving or visiting their abuser by family, friends, or the community is unthinkable and cruel.”

Example: One woman had been the secret temporary wife of a respected religious figure, but when he was nearing death, the same people who wanted to help her seek justice and acknowledged the wrongs he had committed against her, then turned on her and retroactively made her seem petty for raising negative issues about a dying man. Once sympathies for him outweighed sympathies for her, she was vilified.

This response is unfortunately common in moments when abusers die or are near death, and everyone is reminded of their mortality. Instead of working towards restorative justice, victims are expected to be the ‘bigger person’ and if not––vilified.

Below is a passage from Khaleel Ibn Abdullah Al-Shaybani Al-Nahlawi’s  Al-Durar al Mubahat Fi Al-Hazr wa al-Ibaha on forgiveness and justice:

“A person may hate another person if it is due to oppression. And if he is unable to take his right, then he may defer taking his right until the Day of Judgment. He may also forgive, and that is better, as Allah says, ‘And that you forgive is closer to taqwa.’ Quran (2:237)

And if a person is able to take his right, then he may still forgive, and this is better than the first case of forgiving (where one is not able to take his right). He may also avenge himself, which would be his right without any excess, and that is good justice. Allah says ‘And for the one who avenges himself after injustice, there is no blame on them’ (Quran 42:41).

However, avenging oneself may be more virtuous than forgiving for secondary considerations such as one’s forgiveness leading to an increase in the oppressor’s oppression. In such a case, avenging oneself would be a means for lessening oppression.

But avenging oneself may be better in some cases than forgiveness, for other considerations, like your forgiveness being a means for an increase in his oppressing [so he is enabled to continue to oppress others, especially if it is a righteous person so the oppressor is strengthened by demeaning a righteous person], and your avenging yourself will be a means of lessening his oppression.”

How you can respond to the pressure to forgive

When an abuser dies, their former victim will have friends and family who know of their abuse contact them, demanding they forgive. They will disregard their feelings, their privacy, and not ask any questions to see how the hurt party processing the event is handling the stress. They often will take the position that a person needs to forgive because ‘life is short, and ultimately, what happened doesn’t matter.’ A victim’s entire experience and the wrongs that occurred will be trivialized in an emotional moment and will be made out as the bad person who cannot forgive someone who has just died.

Do not accept this. Realize that the person who has wronged you needs your forgiveness. You may wish to rush to make amends with your abuser––and if you should do that––do so with the understanding that you are not the one who is at fault. You are being generous.

You may also feel hurt, betrayed, and confused when a friend or family member you had confided in about your abuse story assumes enough time has elapsed for you to get past the event. They may become sentimental about death and don’t believe your experience compares to what your abuser is going through. In turn, they use their ill-placed sentimentality and inability to mind their own business to pressure you into forgiveness.

Remember: These people may not have been there for you, were not advocates for you, did not confront the abuser for his harm to you, and did not care to remind him it’s bad to harm other people. They will however, not miss a beat to vilify you for not forgiving. Don’t accept this characterization. Be firm in your belief that the victim is never to be blamed, and you are not the one who needs a pep-talk.

If your abuser had been well-known, there is a good chance he will be commemorated as a pious Muslim. This will be especially difficult to hear knowing the truth. “Surviving abuse can often prompt one to take stock of family and friends and their value in our lives. Sometimes learning to be compassionate with ourselves is a far more difficult assignment than caring for others. Psychological pain can sometimes force us to care for and about ourselves in new and profound ways,” says Sahar Abdulaziz, MS (But You LOOK Just Fine, 2013) “Learning to accept and care for our psyche as it is now, and not simply as we would like it to be, is perhaps the biggest challenge and greatest achievement we can face under duress. Learning to honor our limitations, physical, psychological, and spiritual is a massive accomplishment. However, the emotional baggage left behind from abuse cannot be fixed by sheer will power and determination alone. In fact, this mindset can do more harm than good, especially when placed upon the shoulders of a survivor trying to push themselves through an unreasonable situation made worse by people provoking them ‘to get past it.’”

Although we are taught not to mention the faults of one who has died, this does not mean you need to play along with the abuser’s false reputation. Prepare for the moment ahead of time the best you can. Shut off your social media, don’t read the text messages, or look at the pictures that remind you of your abuse. If someone tries to belittle or fault you for not forgiving, be blunt in responding that whether or not you forgive the person is between you and Allah and that forgiveness does not entail an open declaration or a celebration of the individual, nor is forgiveness itself something you are required to do.

 

To contact Danish Qasim directly, email him at Danish@inshaykhsclothing.com.

 

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