Zakia1 lives with her three children in Birmingham. When I first met her she was an extremely quiet and reticent woman. Although she was reserved she was keen to participate in my research because she felt it was important for her to take voice and tell her story. When I interviewed her I realised the reasons for what I perceived to be her shyness. She had just been through a long personal struggle: an abusive marriage, a difficult divorce and then a fight to secure custody of her children. Her interview was nevertheless inspirational because of her commitment to take voice, which she saw as a commitment not just to herself but to all Muslim women and indeed to all women. A year later, when I asked for volunteers to create stories, Zakia was again eager to tell hers. She told a story about her abusive marriage and the divorce she went through. Although she had the support of her family, the whole experience was bewildering and traumatic. Halfway through her story the tone changes – after her divorce she went back to university, found a job and rebuilt her life. This is her story:

Assalam alaikum (may peace be with you) I would like to keep myself anonymous but that shouldn’t matter because what’s in a name! I would like to take this opportunity to tell my story to all those women who are suffering in their lives, to tell them to have strong faith in God almighty and to believe in themselves. From childhood, values of Islam were instilled in me. I began my

journey of womanhood with those values. But to my surprise or rather shock, I found myself in a situation where these values were not appreciated. As usual like every other believing woman I kept quiet and prayed to God for things to change for the better. But as God Almighty says in the Holy Quran, guidance comes from him and for those whose hearts are blackened the light of his grace and mercy does not enter. Any way after nine years of long struggle and responsibilities of my

three children, who are also the greatest blessings of Allah upon me, I had to take the brave step. A step towards separating from a tyrant relationship, because when oppression goes beyond your capacity to take it, Islam gives you an option. In fact as I see it is as almost obligatory upon you to raise your head against injustice. Many Muslim men and women do injustices to people, physically and

mentally abuse others, and are still called Muslims (!) which is the most painful thing for people with true belief in Islam. I consider myself extremely lucky for having a very kind father and loving brothers who have been extremely supportive during this whole struggle. And also their wives who have also treated me as their own sister. The second part of my journey begins with a struggle. To get through

this struggle, the first thing I had to do was to continue with my education. Islam gives women the freedom to educate themselves and to work, but Muslims may not. Sometimes it is this authoritativeness of Muslims which give a wrong picture of Islam. But with a strong belief in Allah I embarked upon this new journey with the blessing of my parents and the love and strength of my children. Today when I reflect and look back on my life, it gives me great

satisfaction of taking the right decision and that is the message I would like to give my sisters: To have faith in God and believe in yourselves.