Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Marriage Bandits

Exposing the Marriage Bandits: Originally written for SISTERS Magazine, September 2012 

Zainab bint Younus exposes the hidden abuse of marriage fraud that occurs within the Muslim community and warns vulnerable sisters how to avoid it.

Muslim communities around the world face many challenges, from both within as well as outside sources. Certain issues, such as poverty and substance abuse, are widespread amongst all races and religions. The Muslim community, however, also has problems unique to itself.
One particular phenomenon has come to be known as that of “marriage fraud” – a problem found in both the West and the Muslim world, although its occurrence has been more widely documented in the West. Most cases of “marriage fraud” are recorded to take place in certain areas of America, Canada, and the UK, although there is evidence that it also occurs in other Western and Arab countries.

Shaykh Younus Kathrada, a South-African born Canadian imam has provided Islamic counseling and support services for over 20 years. He identifies the “marriage bandit” phenomenon as being when Muslim men and who claim to be knowledgeable and pious Muslims, prey on vulnerable women and convince them into marriages, only to use and abuse them, and leave them soon thereafter.  Some of these individuals have married and divorced women countless times, passing them around to their friends and treating the women like a disposable commodity. (Read more)

It is an evil practice which abuses and damages Muslim women; which destroys numerous homes, scars entire generations of children, and turns formerly earnest Muslims away from Islam completely.

The mentality that encourages this conduct has no religious backing or justification whatsoever, no matter what they claim or how they attempt to twist and use the Deen of Islam to excuse their exploitation of naïve and sincere women.
“Marriage fraud” is no small thing; it involves psychological, emotional, and physical abuse; manipulation; outright deceit and duplicity, and worst of all, lack of any sense of conscientiousness, responsibility, or taqwa. 

Targets and Tactics

In a time when marriage is a hot topic amongst every generation of Muslims, when young Muslim men and women find it extremely difficult to find suitable marriage partners, women inevitably remain the most vulnerable sector. Pressured by family or the community, or simply due to their great desire to fulfill the sunnah of marriage, many women fail to take the necessary precautions when choosing a spouse.

In his experience with “marriage bandits” and their victims, Shaykh Younus has noted that certain women are at particular risk for being targeted by predators: converts/ reverts and newly-practicing Muslim women, especially those with non-Muslim or non-practicing families. There are various factors which place them at risk of being lured into abusive relationships.

Some women have turned to Islam after many difficult experiences in their lives, including having had previous multiple relationships and children from those relationships. In an effort to support themselves and their children, and often with a naïve view of what Muslim marriages are like, they eagerly accept proposals of marriage without digging deeper into their suitors’ backgrounds. Some of these women may have other issues which they feel make them “less deserving” of being “choosy” when it comes to choosing a spouse, such as mental illnesses, financial instability, or even body image issues.

Unfortunately, the predators know exactly what to look for, what to say, and what to do to persuade these women into marriage. In some cases, they will find their victims through cyberspace: in the context of “Islamic” chatrooms and forums, these men will reach out to women seeking Islamic knowledge and build an emotional relationship with them based on the Deen. They place a strong emphasis on marriage and polygyny, and will remind these sisters that their “place” is in the home as a wife and mother. Sooner or later, the men – and sometimes even the women – will propose to the other party.

Other abusers have a tried-and-tested method within their own communities. They will have a friend’s wife look out for and befriend new sisters who join the community, building a relationship with them and slowly encouraging them to marry “a good brother my husband knows.”

One extremely common tactic used both by the cyber-predators as well as the local ones is religious and emotional manipulation: pressuring these women to marry quickly to “fulfill the sunnah” and “protect their desires.” For women seeking stability and a life partner, the combination of emotional blackmail (a woman who does not get married quickly is not a good Muslimah) and flattering attention (“You are such a pious, wonderful Muslimah and I must marry you in order to protect myself!”) can be very persuasive.

When approached by men who promise to give them a “happy Islamic household,” who tell them that their beauty lies in their practice of the Deen rather than their looks; and convince them that polygyny is a sunnah that they should practice, many Muslim women are convinced by the idea of a perfect Islamic marriage and agree to these proposals.

Warning Signs

Almost all “marriage bandit” abusers display characteristics which should act as red flags for any Muslimah about to get married.
To begin with, the woman is often told that her wali is either unsuitable (due to not being practicing enough, not approving of the suitor, or because he is “making marriage difficult for no reason”), or not valid (especially in the case of women with non-Muslim parents and family). The man will then convince the woman that they have a better person to act as the wali, usually a close friend of the man.

Many women are also told that to ask for a mahr of any financial value is wrong, or against the Sunnah. The hadeeth about the most blessed marriage being that with the easiest mahr  is trotted out and used to make the women feel guilty about making any kind of monetary request.

A woman’s right to a wali who has her best interests in mind, and to a suitable mahr, are an inviolable part of the Shari’ah. No woman should ever be made to forgo these rights which she has been given by Allah Himself!

The Deceit Continues

Unfortunately, the abuse only continues and exacerbates once the woman agrees to the marriage. In many cases, she will find out that she has been lied to all along – that she is neither a first wife, or the only wife, but that the man she has just married has one or more other wives already. In other cases, she will be told that as a second (or third, or fourth) wife, she must either support herself financially or live in the same household as the other wives, and “share” everything!

Other women will find themselves suddenly not only responsible for themselves and any children they may have, but for the man as well. Some predators will hide their criminal records or lack of any education until after the nikah has been done, and then informing their wives that they are unable to work and support their family. They may insist that because they are “seeking knowledge” (usually on Internet chatrooms), it is the wife’s duty to support them in every way, including financially. If the wife complains or challenges him, she is then accused of being a disobedient wife and causing problems. Their earlier recommendations of women remaining within the home are quickly forgotten.

Abuse Across the Board

Financial abuse is not the only type of abuse many women experience in these marriages. Mental abuse and emotional blackmail are rampant; physical and sexual abuse also take place. Victims are often unable to share their experiences or receive the necessary assistance to recover from these traumatizing incidents. Instead, due to the stigma and taboo of all these issues, women who leave these abusive marriages or speak out are more likely to be ostracized within their communities.

Many women have found themselves not only used and abused, but abandoned as well. In some cases, women are divorced for no reason at all other than that their abuser has become tired of them or interested in new prey. Others find themselves pregnant, and are left both divorced and without any child support or even acknowledgement from the child’s father.

Losing Faith

Obviously, every type of abuse takes its toll and has a deep effect on those involved – not only the women themselves, but their children as well. One of the most terrible effects on the victims is that having lived through this vicious cycle, not only once but in many cases several times, the woman or her children may associate Islam with the abuse that they experienced. As a result, they may lose interest in practicing Islam, or leave it completely with extremely negative thoughts and emotions regarding it.

Less drastically, but equally painfully, is that the women feel used and rejected; that their Islamic rights have been violated and that they have no recourse. Some become completely embittered with the idea of marriage and see all Muslim men as predators and abusers.

How to Avoid the Trap

•    A wali is a Muslim woman’s right – a guardian who keeps her best interests in mind. Make sure that your wali is someone who truly looks out for you and whom you trust.
•    Ask questions! Don’t jump into a marriage blindly. Be aware of the type of person you are considering. Investigate, have your wali investigate, and don’t trust anyone naively.
•    Don’t give up your mahr. Again, this is a Muslim woman’s right which no one can take away! Be reasonable, but don’t be pressured into a “symbolic” mahr either, unless you’re absolutely sure of it.
•    Patience does not equal suffering. Be aware of the difference between patience with hardship, and being oppressed by someone who is withholding your Islamic rights. If your spouse is abusing you, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically, do not tolerate it. Seek the help of a supportive Imam or sisters who will find the appropriate resources for you.

It is beyond time for the Muslim community to recognize the predators that exist in its midst, and to stand up for its Muslim sisters. The Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Help your brother whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed.” He further emphasized that the only way to help the oppressor is to stop his oppression from continuing. Any Muslim who perpetrates or allows such blatant evil to continue is transgressing the rights which their fellow Muslims have over them.
May Allah enable us to stand up for justice, and grant us the courage to fight evil wherever it may be.

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is an advocate for social justice, and is especially concerned with the many issues that trouble the Muslim Ummah world-wide. She prays that Allah gives her the ability to change things for the better, even if her only weapon is her pen (or keyboard).


Anonymous said...

Amazing article! May Allah reward you!

Pixie said...

The ironic thing is, these "guys" usually have a couple of good traits that make you wanna try to work it out.

And you don't listen to anyone's advice until you know you have to leave and then often, you are ashamed to ask for help.

I recommend reaching out to genuine Muslim sisters. They'llnever thin ur too dumb lol, or be mad at you for not listening to them before. They may be like, ugh, I told you so cuz I love you, but other than that, someone feeling sorry for you is the worst that will happen. But that's a short period, and you can always comfort yourself by knowing the kindess you can't pay them back, Allah will reward them for so don't worry.

Just don't let yourself stay cuz of shame or feeling the need to take care of someone who has never taken care of you.

Anonymous said...

Can I translate this and post it on my blog?

Anonymous said...

You didn't answer so I translated it. Definately struck a chord and got over 600 hits in three days. Here's the link: http://reflexionismo.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/los-bandidos-matrimoniales/

AnonyMouse said...

JazakAllahu khairan - sorry for the delay in response.
Feel free to translate anything you find from this blog (of course with original link credited).

BarakAllahu feek.

Anonymous said...

May Allah give you the ability to continue producing such important and relevant articles. I'll be translating some more in the future-but must be careful coz some people already assume I'm a sister coz I put up topics like that.

Salam Alaikum

Anonymous said...

As Salaam sister, such a wonderful article i have put your link on facebook to sisters (and brothers) to get the message out there.
May Allah help and protect sisters to find a good husband - they are out there - just a minefield to find them!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a history, it seems like mine in some issues but totally true in the red flags!!! Please, explain to me if I am being cheated...

Revert one year ago while traveling abroad, married three months ago to a muslim brother, met my partner online for the deen and had no option due to lack of muslims in my country then, reduce it to the ones who are religious and aren't from the majority in my country which are from different school of thought than mine (they are either shia or sufi) ...only Allah knows, but I know there are only few spread in the country which also seems iF a a<bZ8 b .w th abaya and hijab. Therefore, it's not easy to practice Islam in my country.

I knew I would be a second wife and that he had two long lasting marriages before with divorce but that was better than my situation, where my background of work experience or the possibilities for work are also haraam (mixed environment, hand- shaking, traveling, most of all related to banking and so) Therefore I had to get rid of that, knowing few weeks after the marriage from his actual wife that he also got married and divorced during her marriage and by mistake by him that he had another wife abroad, hence, I would be the third wife withouth knowing that!! The issues with the marriage were some how tha same with the wali and the mahr, the questions told me i would be a second wife, not third and he is having good manners but with some shortcomings on the way he talks to me if I don't understand or do something properly. And...he wantes to bring his wife from abroad to live in the same house I am living now. The wives, well, what to say the first wanted to prevent the marriage with no succes coz i saw her advice after getting married and the second remains married since nearly two years with yearly visits!!! Both know he got married to me but they ignore am living with him now while I have to listen to his talks with them, he said his relationships wasn't that good at all but I witnessed that is not true coz he is constantly in contact with both, Now I don't know if am being abused, if i should stay there or go back to my country and the situation to live, if I would be displeasing Allah for complaining of asking for divorce which he may give me or may not. If the sisters know am living with him now, he says it would cause problems,and he compares me with his religious wives while I am just learning. I could say he doesn't seem to be bad at all but...Only Allah knows. Should I stay? what to do? I think Allah may give me more barakah holding the situation that his wives who would disagree on me being here in a better environment, why to have a third wife if they are younger? Jazakallahu khair

NouraAlk said...

Anonymous poster-- GET OUT NOW. Too many of my revert friends have gotten into this situation, and lucky for them they were in their own country's with help on the way to escape it as well as a supportive community. You are being used, lied to, and cheated of a real Muslim man waiting for you out there. Don't ignore the signs-- get out while you still can.

Mahmood Mahmoodi said...

Just wanted to say there is nothing wrong with polygyny if it's done the way rasool Allah taught us but the problem is most men cant do it just causes more problems.

مهند العبيدي said...

I can not see how this is a problem unique to Muslims. Since time immemorial men have been lying to women and visa versa so what is new?

AnonyMouse said...

@Muhannad al'Ebeydi

Just because the sexual exploitation of women by men isn't something "new", it doesn't mean that it's not wrong and not downright HARAAM.

As Muslims, we are supposed to seek justice and eradicate oppression and abuse wherever we come across.

Anonymous said...

excellent article. In the UK this is actually becoming the norm, there are so many men having their nikah with 4 women to 'fulfil the sunnah' but then lying to the state by saying they are not married so they can claim state benefits. I have seen other revert sisters being 'passed around' by well known speakers and 'famous' daees as the article states. The sad thing is how do you stop it when its reputable speakers doing this? who hold them to account apart from Allah?

Anonymous said...


I've heard the stories of women that have fallen victim to these serial polygamists marriages. Sadly, some are even imams of our masjids, that parade around the community like they're pious men, but if you only knew how gross they really are the communities would ban and ostracize these loosers. sisters need to wake up and have their REAL Walis check these men, because a man knows how me are by nature. I was a victim of the a sham marriage, and i fell head over heals with this brother and our marriage lasted less than what it takes to process a passport. I was shattered, broken, I still curse the brother till this day. I came to hear that the brother almost died, he survived the horrible accident and still lives w/the memory of the event w/back problems. There is no justice in this life...

Murat said...

We at Zakat Foundation has to deal with many sisters who were victims of these bandits.

Therefore, I always recommend anyone to have official marriage from City Hall before having any nikah.

Get some kind of marriage class (contact ZF if you need help).

Search the person as much as you can

Anonymous said...

You know, every time I turn around there's some internet post about the 'evil wicked Muslim men' and the 'sweet little innocent women' they deceive prey upon and beat the hell out of. You all act as if this is the norm. Now maybe in particular regions but the overwhelming majority of Muslim men and women here in America are decent individuals. Why is it always the man the man the man! As if All women are perfect little angels because I have some horror stories from myself as well as from other brothers. Lets not be unilateral about this. You want to point out a wrong, cool, & I'm not saying your argument is not valid because it Is. This does happen to Muslimahs and something does need to be done about it but why keep exposing and exposing and exposing this stuff. It really makes me question the intention of the author.Peace and blessings Yasin

Zeretta Hyson said...

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rhamatullahi Wa Barakatu. Thank you so much for tackling this very important subject. As Muslims and as women, we have an obligation to be upright and truthful, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. In my 35+ years as a revert to Islam, I can truthfully say I have seen and experienced every crazy "marriage" scenario that can be imagined.

For the sake of brevity and because rehashing all of the fitnah serves no real purpose, the specifics will be withheld. So, on to the some of the solutions.

Protect yourselves. Muslim women must become proactive. We must be realists. We must be more than honest with ourselves and our sisters. We must uphold the Islamic ideals; truly wanting for our sisters and brothers what we want for ourselves.

Reverts to Islam are at a very critical and vulnerable period in their lives. They require a very special type of education, not only in the pillars of Islam, instruction in the Islamic way of life as well as instructions on how to spot the con artist who have infiltrated and prey on the vulnerable women and children of our community.

There are too many "brothers" sporting beards, wearing kufis and thoubs; who are reeking havoc among the Muslims and almost no one speaks out against them. This in itself is a crime and oppression of Allah's creatures.

One must know that the Imams our and their shura councils, no matter how well intentioned; have no authority, under the legal systems of our respective countries. Therefore, if you intend to get married, you will have to be married by the laws of your respective country if not you will not have any legal footing in case of deception or divorce, child support etc..

Dear sisters, it is up to us to make very wise and prudent decisions when contemplating marriage and the choice of a father for our respective children. I would advise any and all sisters to stay away from internet chat rooms and the like...Chatting online, texting, by phone, skype and the like tends to lower ones inhibitions and create emotional attachments and a false sense of reality.

The Prophet (saw) has warned us about so many scenarios by which the Shaytan enters the picture and employs deception. When a man and a woman are alone, the Shaytan makes up the third party...Not only alone in a room, but alone on the phone, computer etc., is as dangerous as being alone in a room.

The human voice is a portion of our aura. For the female, a man's voice has a seductive quality and the converse is true for women. Therefore, stay away from Shaytan's traps.

If you are in school, working or have children, do not make any rash decisions ie. quitting your job, leaving school or compromising your children's safety and welfare for a promise of love and devotion made by some man you have just met online etc.. Take your time. Don't rush into anything. Don't let people pressure you into anything. After all it is ultimately your life and no one will help you when problems arise in your marriage.

Continue with your eployment.Finish your education
raise your children, even if you have to do it alone. A single mother grounded in Deen is better than dragging yourself and your children from one failed marriage to another.

The toll on both your psyche and that of your children could destroy you and your Deen as well as that of your children.

Allah Supannah Wa T'ala ans his Prophet (saw) have given us all kinds of advice on every aspect of our lives, sadly, we do not take heed.

Get involved with learning your Deen...It is an ocean without a shore. Get to know the sisters in your community. Don't talk too much. don't expose your weaknesses, desire to get married right away. There will always be someone who knows a 'good brother." don't fall for it.

I could go on, but my best advice is to learn your Deen, don't get swept away on a tide of emotion. Stop by my fb page Zariyat Gould Hyson for a visit and advice from a Muslimah who has been there...done that.

Wa Salaam.

Anonymous said...

ma sha Allah! I like everything about your post - may Allah bless and aid you in your effort to fight this menace- except the subtle disapproval of polygyny but I forgive you because you are a woman :-)

My heart bleeds for this women and I ALWAYS wish there was a way we can show the ones pushed out of Islam or made to stop practicing that these men do not represent Islam.

Anonymous said...

Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

I read this post about a year ago and it matched up to my husband (soon to be ex-husband). I did quite extensive research on the 'group' of so called salafi. This is a Madkhalist group that actually does in fact reside in both Canada and UK... I don't know of the location in Canada however in London UK they reside in Brixton! So Beware of these men... I'm not going to generalize and say all these muslims of these locations are Madkhalist however the majority fit the description. Beware of Brixton Masjid (next to the police station) !!! They toss women around like toys and claim it's Islam!

May Allah protect the women and reverts from these types of people! Ameen.

Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaykum dear sister!
Can I translate this and post it on my blog too?

Anonymous said...

Asalam alykum, this happened to my blood. In most cases the sister conceri is so inlove and intrigued by the brother's character that she does not listen to any advice. The bastard (may Allah forgive me ) is walking free in America while my sister is undergoing emotional and psychological stress. Awa olori bururku.

Anonymous said...

Are you talking about spubs akhs those anonymous people

poetic muslim said...

In my search for remarriage, I've come across such men, they're vile and disgusting, alhamdullah Allah has blessed me with a sharp mind, I notice their lack of in authenticity pretty quickly, they usually propose to you quickly and if they suss you out as not being an easy target they stop talking to you and go find someone else and this happened to me, this guy who just suddenly stopped talking to me I found out later on he proposed to another sister who was a revert and wanted to marry her within a week as a second wife. Upon reflecting on my experiences of all the men I've come across it fills me with great sadness as to how such men even exist and how shameless they're. The worse ones are the ones who have children and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be able to handle another man doing that to their daughter. No matter how lonely it gets I prefer to be alone rather than experience another bad marriage the emotional scars is far too great then the pain of loneliness.