I don’t understand how some people could live a double life. I mean, I am referring to my father, a local imam in a mosque. Everyone looks up to him. He would preach in the neighbourhood mosque, lead prayers and sought after by the makciks (aunties) and pakciks (uncles) to give religious advice. Hah, what a hypocrite! I know because I’m his own son. And I had never felt so much anger in me until I see what a tyrant he was at home.
From young, I was raised to be religious. Like many Asian fathers, my father was a distant figure who never talked much to his children. But when we misbehaved, he would make sure we learnt our lesson. He would whip out the rotan and gave us a good beating. It was perhaps normal at that time because my mother would not raise an objection. In fact, she would reinforce the message by telling me and my siblings: “Lain kali, dengar cakap Ayah. (Next time, listen to your father.)”
I hated early mornings the most in my growing up years. Father would splash water on me to make sure I get up for my Subuh (pre-dawn) prayers. What did I make out of it? To my father, he was probably thinking that he was building character in me and instilling discipline. But to me, it was torture! But that is what life was like in my growing up years. My father was a strict disciplinarian. I prefer to call him a tyrant. I had never felt much love in the family.
That is why I could not stand the lavish praises that others have for my father. They would say that he is a man of wisdom, an ustaz (religious teacher) who can bring people to heaven. But at home, he is not the persona he portrayed in public. And his worst sin? Beating up my mother, his own devoted wife of thirty years!
I don’t understand how mother could tolerate father’s constant insults and physical beatings. Whenever my mother fought back, he would threaten divorce, or taking on a second wife. That would be enough to weaken mother’s will and make her docile. A wife will not smell the fragrance of heaven if her husband is displeased with her, father would often say. And if mother were to argue with him, he would slap her several times. He said that a wife who raise her voice against her husband would have committed the sin of nushuz (act of rebellion). You see, my father is never a religious person. He is using religion to impose his whims in the household!
If you were in my position, what would you do? What would you say when a random person come up to you and say, “Oh lucky you to be the son of an ustaz!” I kept quiet most of the time, not knowing how to react. Or offer a forced smile. I mean, how could I talk bad about my own father? How could I embarrass him by revealing his true character at home and airing dirty laundry in public? So, I chose to be quiet. I refused to follow him to his classes that conducted in the mosque. He would get upset but eventually accepted the fact that I am “beyond redemption”. I did not tell him that it was his behaviour at home that turned me off. In fact, for a brief moment in my life, I had lost hope in religion. I was undergoing religious trauma that pushed me away from religion. What an irony, being raised in a supposedly religious household!
When I was old enough to take care of myself, I left home. I stayed with my girlfriend, who belonged to a different faith. Of course, my father found out soon enough. He disowned me, calling me a sinner for living together as an unmarried couple. I don’t care, really. As for my two younger brothers, they turned out to be just like what my father wanted. One chose to pursue his studies in Yemen, while the other – the youngest – was dotted upon by father and would accompany him to the mosque every day.
Occasionally, I would call my mother. I missed her. But I was told not to return home. Father would make sure mother would not let me step back into the house. I would ask her if father is still hitting her. Mother would not say. “Alah, kau taulah Ayah kau… (Ah, that’s how your father is…)” Mother had resigned to her fate. And I did not feel I could do anything to convince her to leave my father. So, I choose to leave instead. Even though it was painful for me to be away from mother. Me, the sinner. Or am I?