“Asma, Please Help Me”

Published in The Islamic Monthly
September 6, 2015

“I am 27 years woman. I got married in 2004 with he. It is an arrange marriage. My husband stidied from US. He acts some times strange but I thought he gets tired from his work. I gave birth to my first daughter. She get sick instead of taking to the doctor he use to abuse me. My life was difficult during that time. My parents use to call him to make him calm down and relaxe and mom was concern the way he acted with me but she was quite. There be days he pick fight with any reason and beats me. The life became more difficult after giving birth to my second daughter. He touch my daughters wrong. I say no in that private. Please help me I have the two girls. I want to go save my kids future I am more concern about them as compared to anything else. I am all alone. So why I call for you.”

Asma Hanif receives emails, letters and calls like this every day, typically several a day, from Muslim women across the country and around the world, desperate to escape domestic violence or homelessness.

This woman was in India and said she needed airline tickets for herself and her daughters to get to Hanif’s shelter in Baltimore; she had a U.S. green card. Hanif shared her plight through a listserv for the Muslim community in the Washington, D.C. area, hoping someone’s heart would be touched enough to provide donations. Aisha (not her real name) now lives in the shelter with her daughters, along with two dozen other abused Muslim women and their children.

Hanif has been answering the call of people in need for almost 30 years, as a nurse, midwife, chaplain, teacher, advocate, community organizer and champion for the underprivileged.

Based in Baltimore, she cares for the city’s homeless and uninsured through a variety of community initiatives. When budget cuts forced the city to cancel nurses’ contracts in inner-city schools, she asked principals if she could volunteer to provide school and sports physicals so kids could stay in school, and off the streets. She also provides physicals for children with special needs so they can participate in the Special Olympics. Hanif founded “Healthy Solutions,” a neighborhood clinic that serves Baltimore’s needy of all faiths. As part of her “Love Thy Neighbor” initiative, she coordinates a back-to-school health fair, a local food pantry and “Chili Bowl Sunday,” a 20-year tradition where Hanif and her four children serve chili and distribute clothes to the homeless before kickoff. Last year, she was honored at a Baltimore Ravens football game with the “Community Quarterback Award” in recognition of her commitment to helping others.

During the recent riots in Baltimore, Hanif helped those who slipped through the headlines. A mother and her 7-year-old special needs son watched their house burn down when a neighboring business was torched. Hanif prepared care packages with food and store gift cards for this now homeless mother. “The most common inaccuracy regarding homelessness is that it will never happen to me.”

Hanif founded Muslimat Al-Nisaa in 1987, a nonprofit that provides health, education and social services to Muslim women and children. The idea originated when she studied nursing at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and saw that doctors were not always sensitive to the needs and modesty concerns of Muslim women, often unintentionally. It was through providing healthcare to Muslim women that Hanif learned of the problem of domestic violence. When a woman would come to her clinic, she would often be accompanied by her abuser, who would want to come into the examination room with her, she says. Hanif would insist that she needed to see her patient alone. “And then for the first time in her life, she would be alone with someone she could trust, who she knew wouldn’t share her business. It makes me so sad, you know, because the stories, they … Continue Reading


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