She waits for him. She knows he will come. She knows that he is simply caught up somewhere, distracted, and, eventually, he will come for her.
Maybe he is still at work, chatting with his colleagues. Perhaps he has gone to visit his mother, or taken his sister a gift. Probably he has stayed at the masjid to pray extra prayers. Wherever he is now, she knows that he will come for her.
Because she made him angry today.
She didn’t mean to. She was careless, of course, thoughtless. She should have known better. If she was more obedient, a better wife, a better Muslim, she would have known that he wanted his white shirt, not his black one.
He always tells her that it is her fault. If she was a better wife, a better Muslim, he would not have to tell her how fat she is, how she makes him sick.
If she was a better wife, a better Muslim, he would not have to slap her for talking to the postman, for asking a question, for answering the phone.
If she was a better wife, a better Muslim, she would know how to keep the children quiet, to iron his trousers properly, to make rice the way his mother does.
So she tries to be a better wife, a better Muslim. She reads the Qur’an, she fasts, she prays her sunnah salah. She gives herself to him, whenever he asks; she does everything he tells her to.
But the beatings don’t stop.
Sometimes, he is sorry. He cries afterwards, stroking her hair, bathing her wounds. Then he buys her flowers and tells her to stay home so that the neighbours won’t see her cuts and bruises. He tells her not to talk to the woman next door – she is nosey, and she hears too much through the thin walls that divide their houses.
He does not like any of her friends. They are a bad influence, he says, bad women. He wants her to concentrate on her duties to her family, not socialising with evil women who want to ruin her marriage. He does not want her to have an email address of her own, in case she communicates with other men. He checks her mobile phone for messages and numbers he doesn’t recognise. He accuses her of being unfaithful even though she doesn’t go out to work and never leaves the house without him.
Yet he can quote Qur’an and hadith, like a shaykh. He knows all the religious rulings, knows how to quote fatawa. It is this that makes her tremble inside – when he uses the deen to whip her into submission.
For when others see him at the ‘Isha salah at the masjid, they admire his strength, his piety, his righteous family. They do not know that he just left his wife at home ten minutes ago, crying silently, bleeding, because she forgot to iron his white shirt.
Na’ima B Robert is a Muslim revert of mixed South African descent. She is author of the popular revert memoir, ‘From my sisters’ lips’ as well as several books for children and young adults. She is also founder and Editor-in-Chief of SISTERS, the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. A prolific writer and commentator on issues affecting Muslim women, Na’ima has been published in The Observer, The Muslim Weekly, Stylist Magazine and The Times.