Friday 22 August 2008

Stories from the Front Line

I was asked to translate for one of the Councillors over the phone this morning when a lady called up in deep distress. I usually put my name forward for Urdu, Hindi or Punjabi speaking constituents because I think of people like my mum and gran who had the same language barriers when they first came to this country.

I spent a harrowing hour listening to this women’s account of marriage at 13, coming to the UK as a teenager, two physically and mentally abusive marriages, losing custody of five children to her first husband because she could not defend herself against (she claims) her husbands untruthful allegations of child abuse and now threatened with the loss of her two children from her second marriage.

She cried and ranted and whimpered through her tears about the suffering of her older children at her first husbands hands – the daughter married to an abusive husband and threatened with the loss of her children herself, the sons dealing in drugs, one son in prison. She spoke about her younger children being bullied in school and teachers not taking her seriously and viewing her as ignorant, the infidelity of her second husband, the allegations of sexual abuse against her children flung around by both parties (in more detail than I asked for or wanted to know).

It took my breath away when she spoke about going to school one day and being told by teachers that she couldn’t take her child home as Social Services would be taking them. I think I would die…I think I would have screamed the place down anyway. This lady says she just collapsed. Ya Rabb, to put your body and your soul through the trauma and bliss of pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing again and again and to have it all snatched in one go.

It was unnerving to hear her pepper her conversation with the most horrendous Punjabi swear words (if you really need to swear – do it in Punjabi, it's enough to make you blush to your ankles). It was also unnerving that she did something one of my aunt’s lovely neighbours often does (a trait I have seen in other Pakistani women too): cry, talk some, cry some more, suddenly stop and comment on the noise of the traffic, start telling her story again, cry some more, suddenly stop and launch into a volley of insults at her husband and then plead and cry again.

That was one side of the story, I have no idea what the other side looks like. It makes me think though. This is Britain, yet the events described by her reminded me of the suffering of women in Afghanistan (post below) and this is not the only call I have had like this (though it was the worst).

I was supposed to remain neutral, but felt like I had to console her. I spoke with her about Allah (SWT)’s promise that after difficulty comes ease and that Allah (SWT) never burdens a person with more than they can bear. I didn’t feel like my words could help much though. May Allah (SWT) have mercy on that women and her children insh’Allah.


  1. Oh Allah wa Akbar, these kinds of stories really effect me to the point that I react to my emotions and put my legal cap on unnecessarily I have to admit. May Allah give her sabr and way out from her misery. It's hard to understand how one can cope with all this and I try to remember that there is always someone worse off than myself!

  2. As salam alaykum!This is so sad! I understand that listening to another's burden can be draining!The tormented generally lose sight of appropriateness when in pain, and let all hang loose when they get a ear that will listen! I know from experience! Well,I pray that all those in pain will place their faith in the Almighty and he gives the needed calm and strength to face such situations and overcome them victoriously! Ameen!

  3. Sadly its a very common issue world over , sadly what has happend to this lady Allah Al must'aan.

    I can just imagne the Punjabi f---ing and blinding, very harsh i am sure astufillah