Well, nobody forced you to join that group/mosque/community (or to marry that person). You chose to join it (or, to get married).
In other words: What happened is at least partly caused by you. So, stop blaming the group/mosque/community/your abusive spouse, and focus on what you did wrong.
But the thing is, sometimes religious authority is misused. And sometimes adults do get drawn into things against their better judgment. Female converts in particular have often been pressured by people who supposedly had “Islamic knowledge” into getting involved in controlling or cultish communities—“satan attacks the one who is alone,” and all that—and even into marriage with people that they hardly knew.
Saying this sort of thing handily shifts accountability for whatever happened away from the shaykh/mosque leadership/community leaders or husband—meaning, away from those who had more knowledge and power, and who the convert was led to believe that she had to listen to “Islamically”—and onto the convert herself. And what it sounds like to the survivor is something like this: No matter how badly you may have been treated, your life just don’t count nearly as much in the greater scheme of things as the reputation of that group/mosque/community/man does.
Sure, converts need to look before they leap. As does anyone making a life-changing or potentially costly decision. It’s only common sense. But groups/mosques/communities/husbands sometimes want to have it both ways—BOTH undermining people’s common sense by encouraging blind “trust in God” and magical thinking (while discouraging second thoughts, getting second opinions, or reading/listening to unapproved sources) AND also refusing to accept any responsibility when things go awry. This should be called what it is: wrong and abusive.
Anyone who is in a position in which they are giving religious guidance or advice needs to be prepared to be held accountable for the teachings that they provide and the results that these has on people’s lives. Period.
No group, organization, mosque or shaykh is perfect. You should have taken what was beneficial, and just left the rest.
Meaning: the problem is not with the group/org/mosque/shaykh, it’s with… you. Because you are trying to hold the group/org/mosque/shaykh up to an impossible standard. Human beings just aren’t perfect, and expecting them to be is setting yourself up for disappointment. And who are you to pass judgment on them, anyway? You aren’t anywhere close to being perfect yourself….
Sigh. Yes, of course no human being is perfect. Far from it. Which ought to mean that groups/orgs/mosques/shaykhs should try to be extra careful to avoid falling into unhealthy or abusive patterns of behavior. Because it’s all too easy to do, especially when there’s little to no accountability.
What this sounds like to the survivor: I’m just gonna keep on covering for the group/org/mosque/shaykh. Because it’s them that matters, not you.
Everyone knows that a tariqa/a community like that one demands a lot of commitment, time and effort. People who weren’t ready to make the sacrifices necessary shouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place.
Meaning: the problem is not with the tariqa/community, it is with you. To be exact, with your lack of commitment, and also with your presumption that you even belonged in such elevated company. But you clearly didn’t belong, or you wouldn’t have left/been pushed out.
What this sounds like to the survivor: Whatever the tariqa/community did or does is right. I’ve made my mind up about that, and nothing you say will make any difference.
But that group/mosque/community/tariqa has done a lot of good.
Meaning: Most of what that group/mosque/community/tariqa does is good, or so everyone says, so your bad experience (if it even really happened) is just some kind of freakish accident that doesn’t really mean anything.
What this sounds like to the survivor: Since there are so many good things happening, whatever might or might not have happened to you doesn’t matter. And, you should feel ashamed to even suggest that there are problems with a group/mosque/community/tariqa that is doing so much good.
Those things you are talking about are all in the past now. You need to move on.
Meaning: You’re wallowing in self-pity. Cut it out.
What it sounds like to the survivor: Since it’s all in the past, there is no reason why it should be hurting or harming you any more. If you haven’t been able to get over it by now, then there’s something wrong with you. And since it’s in the past, there is no reason why we should dredge it up now by calling leaders or organizations to account for their misdeeds or anything like that.
Oh, but how can you say such things about Shaykh X? Thousands of people come to Y conference every year just to hear him speak! Or alternatively: Remember the hadith qudsi in which God says, “I am at war with the one who is at war with My friends…”
Meaning: Shaykh X is not bound by the standards of behavior that everyone else is, because he’s a rock star.
What it sounds like to the survivor: Shaykh X puts bums in seats/brings in the $$/gives prestige to the organization, so nobody is going to listen to you or care about your story. You might as well shut up.
But we followed Shaykh X’s teachings/got involved in Masjid Z/joined Y group and we benefited so much, maa sh’Allah!
Meaning: The problem is with you. You must have been doing it wrong, because it worked out just fine for everyone else.
What it sounds like to the survivor: It worked out well for everyone else—at least, for everyone who matters.
* * * * * *
What all these unhelpful comments have in common is that basically, they are selfish. They are all about “me,” what worked out for “me,” what mosques/orgs/tariqas/shaykhs/other leaders seem credible or trustworthy to “me.” The focus is on “me” to such a degree that the commenter can’t hear—refuses to hear—anything that could possibly call it into question. Because how could it be that you didn’t experience that leader/group/community like “me”?? The very idea is too personally threatening to be accepted.
These unhelpful comments also use the same manipulative tactics that abusive leaders/groups/mosques/communities do. They tell the survivor that they are nothing, their lives don’t matter, and that in any case, they can’t even trust their own perceptions of what happened. So, comments like this only add to the problems that the survivor is having. It is not surprising if a survivor responds to such comments by running as far away as possible from anyone giving such “advice.”
What approaches might be helpful?
Listening, without judging the survivor.
One way that people “move on” from past experiences is to talk about them. One way to help someone move on can be to listen to them, instead of shutting them down and telling them what they “should” be thinking or doing. And also, encouraging them to seek professional help if they are having trouble getting past the fall-out from their negative experiences.
Being supportive and accepting.
Understanding that sometimes, people need a break from the things that are associated with abuse that they went through, or that were used to hurt or control them. So, giving them space and letting them decide what religious choices they want to make (if any) without preaching to them or trying to pressure them to attend community events or listen to such-and-such an inspirational whatever-it-is is best. It takes time to recover from abuse.
And depending on what has taken place, the survivor may never completely recover—whether physically, psychologically, socially or financially.