Maliha was born and raised in Pakistan. She moved to US in 2006 after marrying an American Muslim.
Soon after marriage she developed an illness. Her in-laws showered abuse on her and treated her like a domestic maid. Her husband believed she would never get cured and sent her back to Pakistan and finally divorced her in 2012.
Maliha never gave up. She underwent treatment and got cured of her illness. The societal norms in South-Asia are very different from the West. A single woman divorcee is looked down upon with sympathy and doubt of character, thus making it difficult to continue a normal life. The pressures are double in the Islamic society.
In spite of suffering immense hardship, the gutsy Maliha decided to return to America to find a new life and identity.
There are many women like Maliha who are married to faraway lands in the hope of a better life. Many endure domestic abuse and suffer in silence. But there some like Maliha, who stand up for their rights and identity.
My knowledge about Islam was hazy before I met Maliha. Islamic rules for women have always intrigued me. Their dress code, the hijab, and the right to women’s education and work has often been misunderstood and misrepresented in our society. I was under the impression that Islam supresses women. According to the Quran, men and women have the same spirit, there is no superiority in the spiritual sense between them [Noble Quran 4:1, 7:189, 42:11].
My friendship with Maliha was bleak at the beginning but it grew stronger as we began to share our similar thoughts and feelings. Visiting mosques with her, interacting with women there and learning about Islamic schools have opened my eyes towards Muslim society.
Through Maliha, her beliefs and associations, I have discovered the life of a strong and independent but traditional American Muslim woman. A Muslim woman's life does not end after divorce and Mahiha is a true example of that. Like her, there are many women who go off to far away land to make a new nest, a new home with full of dreams. These dreams are shattered when they ill-treated and abused and treated like domestic maids. Many Muslim women are often caught in such situation balancing their "so-called marriage" and the restrictions they face from religious pressure and society.
My story is not just about domestic violence, marital abuse and the restrictions of the Islamic society. It is about fearlessness and courage of a woman facing social stigma and abuse and rising above it.
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