If you can imagine singing it to the tune of Whitney Houston’s “Where do broken hearts go?”
On a serious note, I’m sitting here watching “Secret Millionaire” on Fox. If you’re not familiar with the show, I’m giving you some homework. You can do a search to find out what it’s about. Anyhow, I’m watching a group of inner city Black women attend a grief counseling session at a church. They’re all struggling to cope with the loss of their relatives- sons, husbands, children etc. I started asking myself, where do Muslims go when we’re suffering? Have I ever attended a masjid that had a support group for me; as a convert (being the only Muslim in my family), as someone who has experienced divorce, the murder of my older brother, financial loss and so much more? I know sisters who have been homeless, on drugs, near prostitution, suffering from tremendous grief as a result of divorce or the death of a spouse or family member. I also know sisters who are single parents. They’re struggling to make ends meet, raising kids by themselves as the righteous brother moves on to his next victim wife. But I digress…
Where do we go? I’m sure there must be some masajid in the United States that have programs to assist people with the aforementioned. However, my experience has not been such. What I have seen is the following:
1) People seek assistance outside of the Muslim community. Sometimes this is done because of problems referenced below and other times done it’s out of embarrassment. The person doesn’t want to be fodder for gossip in the community so they go outside of it for help. Sometimes during the process of seeking assistance from non-Muslim sources the person becomes estranged from the Muslim community. At that point they may leave Islam, find another masjid/community or decide to live as a Muslim on their own with very little interaction with the community and other Muslims outside of their family members. Sometimes they experience discrimination and revictimization at the hands of non-Muslims who are convinced that Islam is the root cause of the trauma the person is experiencing. As a response the person might leave a program that is helping them, actually believe the non-Muslim care provider (blaming Islam) or stay and take the abuse.
2) People suffer in silence. Perhaps they ask Allah for assistance, perhaps they find personal ways to cope with their pain, maybe they try to ignore it and will one day suffer a nervous break down. Really, I don’t know because it’s being done behind close doors.
3) Engage in self-destructive, wreckless behavior in order to cope with their pain. This includes taking drugs, drinking alcohol, food addictions, promiscuity, and/or a complete abandonment of Islamic values. The person may become abusive towards others as well. I have seen it happen to people in the Muslim community. The sad part is that we are so quick to judge. We have no idea what the person is going through or sometimes we do but don’t care. We’re not trying to help them. We just know they’re not following the deen to the letter and that’s all that matters to us. I find this to be especially true when a sister- after experiencing a crisis- decides to take off her hijab.
4) People may seek assistance from unqualified and untrained Imams or members of the Muslim community. They are given bad advice. For instance, a woman who is the victim of domestic violence is told to go back to her husband. She might be told that Allah hates divorce, it shakes his throne, so she must try to make her marriage work. On the other hand, a person may not be given enough advice. They might simply be told to make du’a and trust in Allah. (Which is true but sometimes you want to hear more than that, you know?) As a result the person may eventually opt for #1, #2 or #3 on this list.
As I said, there are probably masajid out there that have programs for a person to attend. I’m also sure there are positive ways people choose to cope with pain, grief and loss. However, many of us are slipping through the cracks. So often the Muslim communities lack the kind of support systems that would be beneficial to its members. Even worse, I’ve seen MALE perpetrators of crimes (legal, Islamic and moral) continue to work in the Muslim community, sometimes occupying prestigious positions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like, “It’s not my business”, or “He’s a good brother he just has some personal problems” or “No one else is willing to do what he does for the masjid.” Too often nothing is said AT ALL. People just pretend everything’s fine. Unfortunately, by choosing not to address perpetrators of crimes (again, legal, moral and Islamic) we’re sending a message to the victim(s) that their behavior is acceptable.
So, where do grieving Muslims go? I’m not really sure…