Dealing with parents in Islam

Her abusive parents make her feel depressed

Assalamu aleikum, for several years i have been feeling like a burden and a problem to my parents. they never support or show love and admiration for anything me or my sisters do, they’re always scared that we’re going to ruin their reputations and have absolutely zero respect for us, the degrading things they’ve told us would take hours to count. lately this has been weighing on me and my mental health is at my lowest, i have dark suicidal thoughts but i know i’d never have the courage to-

-take my own life. i want to get professional help but feel like they would humiliate me for that too. do you have an advice for me? maybe i should pray more or something. i’m sorry if this is too dark but I've been feeling helpless for a long time

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Sorry to read about your difficult situation. It is natural for such difficult situations to make us wish that we did not exist. Unfortunately there may be no solution except to be patient. Maybe getting professional help will help even if your parents dislike it. When some people make our lives miserable other people can help us feel consoled.

In general we have two options when faced with such situations; either to give in to them and let them defeat us, or we can do our best to keep close to God and to think the best of Him despite feeling lonely, abandoned and unspiritual. This is how we can prove we are extraordinary; to keep our souls above our suffering, not letting it crush us and patiently waiting for God to ease our situation and replace it with something better.

The best people you meet in your life are those who suffered like you do, but who were able to defeat the suffering by keeping close to God and thinking the best of Him. And the some of the worst people you meet are those who suffered and who let their suffering make them dislike God so that they now hold a grudge against Him and reject Him and blame Him for having meaningless and empty lives.

Please check out my three essays below where I discuss how to find meaning in suffering and how to overcome it:

Islam and Depression: A Survival Guide

God has not abandoned you: Regaining your sense of purpose when life feels spiritually empty, lonely and meaningless

The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems

Best wishes.

Father wants to prevent them from going back to school

assalamu aleikum, my situation is a little difficult, i dropped out of school a few years back because of my immaturity and ignorance and now finally after a difficult year i have a chance to go back but my father seems reluctant, he always dismisses me when i mention it and i fear that he will try to stop me. there is no point trying to discuss with him, he’s stubborn and always thinks his way is the right way (like a lot of controlling fathers) i am trying hard not lose hope but im going down-

-the vicious spiral of sadness and despair i went through last year because of it, i don’t know what to do because i’m supposed to go back soon and he is unpredictable. do you have an advice for me? thank you

Sorry to read about your difficult situation. I cannot think of any easy solution for it. You just have to be patient. Maybe find out if your relatives (such as your mother, aunts and uncles) can help in persuading him to let you go back to school. And if you are not able to attend school this season because of his refusal, things may change in a few months and you may be able to attend next season, or next year. Try to make the best use of your time regardless of whether you end up going to school or not, such as by reading a lot of books. If you have a desired field you want to get a university degree in, you can start studying for it now. Some universities allow people to get a master’s degree without having a bachelor’s degree if they can show that they are extremely well-read in their field. You can start studying as if you are studying for a master’s degree, collect books in your field, and read studies in open-access academic journals.

Best wishes.

Dealing with a mother who likes horoscopes

Assalamualaikum, my mother really likes horoscopes. It's actually a cultural thing from her home country. When she was young she and other Muslims she knew would read and talk about it. Now that I know its wrong to believe in that stuff I don't know what to do. She really likes palm reading etc too. I think I've brought it up before but usually im wary of bringing it up bc I can anticipate her distaste and discomfort in my telling her. What do I do?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Parents do not usually take religious advice from their children, since they think they themselves know better. Since it has little benefit to tell her not to do those things, the best way is probably to tolerate it (to not tell her directly that she should stop), while making your own dislike clear (refusing to talk to her about such things, if she brings it up, then you can mention your dislike). Instead of making it a matter of you trying to change her, by expressing your own dislike she may be motivated to avoid it out of consideration for you. One thing that will greatly help with this is if you study Islam a lot so that your family begins to respect your knowledge and piety. That will make them take you more seriously.

If there is going to be any change, it can take time (maybe years), therefore do not be in a hurry on this issue.

Is it sinful in Islam to not love your parent?

Assalamu Aleikum, i have a question on which i always get mixed answers, is it haram for a person not to have love towards a parent as long as we dont disrespect them? I don’t have a relationship with my father at all and although it used to make me sad it doesn’t anymore because i’ve grown and accepted it. I’m mature enough to ignore his hateful behavior and ideas, he’s a difficult man for many reasons, is it bad that I don’t want him involed in my life without completely cutting him off?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The reason you get different answers is that people have different underlying assumptions. Those who have had great fathers find it unimaginable that one should not love their father, so they think of it as a character flaw.

At any rate, your father’s rights upon you are all material, not emotional. You have no duty to love him, but you have a duty to be charitable toward him, to care about his welfare, to treat him with respect and to not treat him like a stranger. These are all material duties and can be carried out whether you feel love toward him or not. It is actually a greater act of virtue to carry out your duties toward a parent when their personality makes it difficult to love them. It means these acts are done purely out of a sense of moral duty. When you have to force yourself to be kind and generous toward someone that requires a greater effort and sacrifice and therefore comes with an equally great reward.

Bad parents are a test like everything else in life and they are an opportunity for you to prove your virtue to God by doing what is good and right and kind regardless of how you feel and regardless of whether they deserve it.

If you can avoid them without making them feel bad or making them feel excluded (perhaps they do not care anyway), then that is fine. But if excluding them from something is likely to make them feel bad (such as not inviting them to a party), then it is better to invite them and suffer their presence.

As a human you have as much dignity as your parents and you are not required to sacrifice yourself for them. But by sacrificing some of your comfort and happiness for their sake every now and then you will prove your virtue and gain God’s rewards. A person who sacrifices their comfort to care for a sick parent even though they dislike it will invariably have other parts of their lives made easy and blessed for them: God may make their business prosper so that they have all the money they need while they care for the parent.

As a rule, whenever you make part of your life difficult for God’s sake, God will make other parts of your life easy for you.

On not inviting abusive parents to one’s nikah

My dad has abused me and my mum for years. Is it wrong if I don’t invite him to my nikah

In conflicts with your parents, it is always to try to be the “bigger person”, even if they do not deserve something or are acting unreasonable, it is best to treat them as if they are admirable people. However, it can be permissible to not invite a parent to your wedding if they have done something to deserve this, but this is something that only someone very familiar with your situation can decide.

For more articles on similar topics, please see the page dealing with parents in Islam on my site.

Her parents fight constantly and stress her out

Assalamualaikum, I live in a family that is not harmonious and makes me stressful, I have been tried to be patient but I think to get married so that I can get far away from my parent. Is it a good idea ? Please advise me.

My parents are constantly fighting. If they’re not done fighting at home, they fight in public and often they drag me and my brother into it as well. What’s worse is we’re expected to start smiling and acting normal as soon as the scene is over. We’re expected to have no feelings at all. I’m sick of all this embarrassment it has left me scarred. I’m tired of praying because nothing ever changes! I’m so sick of life. The only reason I’m alive is because I cant commit suicide.

Despite of all these problems, I have made it into med school but now I just cant do it anymore. I am so depressed and hurt I just cant study anymore. I cant focus on anything. I have stopped enjoying every hobby that I had. My life sucks and I just want to get it over with.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I am sorry to read about your situation and I hope things get better for you. Please see the articles on this page on my site where I deal with the various aspects of parent-child relations.

For general guidance on dealing with difficult and impossible situations, please also see my essays God has not abandoned you and The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems.

Best wishes inshaAllah.

On dealing with anti-Muslim parents and siblings as a convert

I’m a convert and my relationship with my Mother and her husband has been horrible lately. When we meet they only talk about how Islam is evil and I’m in the wrong path. They openly look for anything bad to say, especially about my husband. Recently my younger sister even went through my phone when I was using the restroom. They do not want any good for us and say bad things that happen are God’s punishment in us. It’s very stressful. Is it ok to cut off contact at this point? It’s been years.

Regarding parents that try to turn us away from Islam, the Quran says:

But if they strive to have you associate with Me something of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. But keep them company in this life, in kindness, and follow the path of him who turns to Me. Then to Me is your return; and I will inform you of what you used to do. (Verse 31:15)

Our default attitude toward our parents and relatives should be one of kindness and forgiveness. However, this does not mean that we should put up with their behavior regardless of how it is. The Quran says in another place:

O you who believe! Do not ally yourselves in close friendship with your parents and your siblings if they prefer disbelief to belief. Whoever of you allies himself with them—these are the wrongdoers. (Verse 9:23)

What I recommend is try to keep up polite relations with them, and if one of them is in need or is sick you should try to be there for them. But you can also tell them that they are not allowed to talk about religion or your husband to you and that if they do that you will cut contact with them until they change their behavior. If they agree to be civilized, then you can continue keeping up with them. And if they break the rule and, for example, email you an article by an Islamophobe, try to forgive and ignore it. But if they break the rule in a major way, inviting you to a dinner with the intent of lecturing you about Islam, you can respond to it as you would respond to any other insult, for example leaving the scene immediately, telling them they should apologize, and avoiding them unless they promise to be well-behaved next time.

But if you avoid them for their misbehavior, you should be willing to make an exception if one of them is in need or ill, if they genuinely need you then it is best to be there for them to the best of your ability.

Best wishes.

Fixing mother’s relationship with her sister

Two years ago, I got badly hurt and I didn't get the support from my family which I needed that time and it made be rebellious. So that time knowingly but not intentionally, I created fight between my mother and her sister. I feel so bad about it now. I tried my best to solve the issue after that but nothing helped. I feel so bad and can't forgive myself for that act. But that all happened because I was hurt and it was for the first time ever, I was experiencing depression.

I am sorry to read that. Maybe confessing to them what you did would help things. If you do not think that would help, then what you could do is try to make them both feel more appreciated (by buying them gifts and being extra kind and considerate toward them). If they both start to like you more, that could give you many opportunities for improving things between them.

What you should also do is constantly ask for God’s support and guidance in fixing this problem (and every other problem). You can start praying tahajjud (see here for more information), which would make it more likely for your prayers to be answered inshaAllah.

Parents will not let him marry his chosen

Please can you advice me. There is a guy who wants to wants to marry me and my parents are OK with it but his parents are forcing him to marry his cousin instead. He already tried to talk to his parents many times, to convince to at least meet my family (his parents don’t know me), but they won’t listen to him. We both don’t know what to do, we don’t want to marry without his parents blessing.

The best thing to do might be to just wait patiently. Eventually his parents might become convinced that he is not going to marry the cousin, and may make it more likely for them to consider the possibility of his marrying you. In the meantime the cousin could get other suitors and may get engaged to one of them. It could take the parents many months or a year or more to come around, and I know it is difficult to wait when you are eager to marry, but sometimes there is no way to speed things along.

In the mean time, the best thing you can do is to do extra worship. By seeking to be close to God, God will make things easier for us and guide us to what is best for us. Please check out this new essay on the type of worship I recommend: Mysticism without Sufism: A Guide to Tahajjud, Islam’s Meditation Practice

Best wishes.

A father who refuses to approve his daughter’s marriage with a person from a different culture

Can you please give me advice? My sister wants to marry a (Muslim) man that belongs to a different culture. Our mother has accepted the idea but my father is still angry about it- he says he's always had trouble with members of this culture in the past, and he will not give his daughter to a man that is not of the same culture as us. My father is a religious man & I feel his reaction isn't Islamic. In this situation, what should my sister do? Isn't my father in the wrong here?

That is a difficult situation. The best solution is probably to be patient. Wait and perhaps with time his heart will soften. If he is a pious man, then it is going to be very difficult for him to harden his heart permanently against the marriage. I know that waiting is extremely difficult for young people eager to marry, but it might be the best course, because efforts to force a change in your father’s opinion may only antagonize him further.

I do not know your exact situation but your father’s concerns about his daughter marrying into a different culture are not necessarily baseless even if they are not fully justified. You can ask people who have married people from different cultures and while you will find many who are happy and fulfilled, there are also many who admit the difficulties, misunderstandings and hardships involved with trying to unite two families of different cultures. Culture is a human creation built over centuries, designed to facilitate communication and interaction between the people that belong to it. When marrying someone from a different culture, the benefits of culture disappear and a lot of extra work is needed to build some basis for understanding between the two cultures. It can be done and some people are willing to do this extra work, while others want to continue enjoying the comfort of uniting with a family that shares the same cultural background.

Personally I am all for intermarriage between different Muslim races and cultures and I find it very inspiring when I hear about successful marriages between different races and cultures, but I respect the right of people not to engage in it if they do not want to.

For more on dealing with parents in Islam, please see the answers on this page: Dealing with parents in Islam

 

Dealing with cruelty from one’s own family

I was born Muslim into a non practising family. When I came back to the deen Alhamdulillah, my family suddenly turned on me. Suddenly everything I do is wrong, they gossip, my siblings have been jabbing me about not doing enough for my parents. I try what I can, I make doa for them but I can’t help being angry inside and it’s killing me. I know it’s my family, but despite me being their source of income, they just put me down. I feel like a convert. How do I be filial to an unkind family?

You just have to be as kind and patient as you can be. Islam does not ask you to have superhuman kindness and patience toward others. You are asked to be the best you can be with the abilities you have. It is natural to feel resentment toward such treatment, and there is probably no quick solution for it.

The clan of Prophet Muhammad instead of supporting him were among his harshest critics. They would mock him and make up lies about him. God asked him to be patient and lenient, and asked him to pray and recite the Quran as much as he could (sura 73). Eventually most of them came to respect him.

Another thing to keep in mind is that being too outwardly religious can be disconcerting for those who are not. It is similar to being a vegan. Some people think that being a vegan makes them a superior type of human who have the right to judge everyone else; they become a nuisance by constantly talking about their veganism and criticizing others for eating meat. As a Muslim, try not to be like that. Do not talk about religion with them and do not do obviously religious things in front of them (reading Quran, etc.). Keep Islam to yourself. If you can build a good relationship with them without reference to Islam, then they will be more likely to accept your religiosity. But if they feel that your religiosity makes you judge them as inferior, then they will be likely to feel threatened and to criticized you in order to make themselves feel better about not being religious like you.

Ask yourself what you would be doing toward your family if you were still irreligious. Do not let your religiosity separate you from them. If they have certain hobbies or things they do that they enjoy, be with them. If you have a sibling who is interested in something (say football), buy them a high-quality football as a gift. If you have sisters, a good gift would be a gift card to a clothing store. Do everything you can to assure them you are still with them and that you honor them and consider them proper humans, and avoid everything that may make them feel you consider yourself different or superior for being religious. Reassure them that you still love them, and the best way to do this is to continue treating them as if nothing has changed since you became religious.

Daughter wants to distance herself from her abusive parents

What has made my emaan weaker is that I became traumatisied from a bad childhood. My parents played part in this. Sometimes they used islam against me to manipullate me. Also I wasn't allowed to get help, and my mom labelled my depression as kufr, which made me feel bad and try to suppress the despair . All scholars and everything I've read is about parental rights, and that it is a huge sin (akbar kabair) to cut family ties. I am not an adult and much better but I still want distance from them

Do not let other people’s mistakes affect your relationship with God. Read the Quran as if it was sent down to you personally, and follow its teachings and philosophy wherever you can in your life. If people misuse Islam to attack you, ignore it, knowing that God is better than them.

Regarding cutting family ties, that refers to treating family members as strangers, i.e. permanent estrangement where a child treats their disliked parent as if there is no relationship between them.

If your parents mistreat you, you have the right to keep your distance. What you do not have the right to do is cut off your relationship with them completely. Remain in their lives, help them where necessary, and be dutiful as much as you can, Islam doesn’t ask you to do more than this, it does not ask you to subject yourself to them if they constantly mistreat and humiliate you. Both you and your parents have your human rights, and if they neglect your human rights, they have sinned.

Salam . I'm the one who wrote that I'm traumatized and that I need to distance myself from my parents. I made a typo last time, its supposed to be I am now* an adult. You said that I will still have to stay with them. But I told you I am traumatised and I'm not allowed to get any help. Having PTSD has been beyond hell, and I don't understand why Allah wants me to stay in touch with them. Its easier said than done that my relationship with God shouldn't be affected. Even Quran is triggering

Even when I pray Its a struggle, because It feels like I am giving up to something evil. Being abused through religion is not easy. I won’t cut ties with them permanently, maybe few years until I recover fully and can find myself again. Every sensible person has told me to do it. I don’t understand the reason for keeping in touch with them, I feel as if death is much easier than keeping conntact with people who ruined me

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

At its root, this is a matter of conscience between you and God. Can you in good conscience cut off ties with them for this bad things they have done? Isn’t it a higher ideal, more admirable, more honorable, to be kind and forgiving toward them?

Islam does not ask you to do more than you can bear. If today the pain of contact with them is unbearable, and you decide to avoid contact, then that’s forgivable. But what about tomorrow, or next year? What matters above all is to not harden your heart against people. If you maintain a soft heart, if you are aware of the Quran’s teachings, and you reexamine your decision to avoid contact ever day, and you keep reaching the same conclusion that avoiding contact is best, then perhaps you are right. But there is always also the great danger of being harder on people and less kind than we can be. So you would be walking a fine line.

The reason why God wants us to not cut ties with our relatives is the same reason why God prohibits us from lying. Maintaining relations and telling the truth ensure that society functions well. Cutting ties and lying causes breakdown. In exceptional circumstances one can justify lying, for example to save their lives or the life of someone they love. And in exceptional circumstances, one can justify cutting ties.

So it is part of your social responsibility to tell the truth and to maintain ties. Doing the opposite requires great justification, and it is for this reason that scholars speak strongly against cutting ties. You would be doing something that goes against your social responsibility. Is it justifiable? No one can answer this question except yourself. It is something between you and God. And if it is justifiable today, it may not be next week or next year.

In the West people will simplify your decision for you by saying that you can do whatever you want, since it is how you feel that matters. Social responsibility is something that very few people worry about. So I understand that people will be telling you to do it, to cut ties, since you need it and your parents deserve it. Islam doesn’t say this is necessarily wrong. It however says to take your social responsibility seriously.

Reply from a reader:

I thought you were more rational but when you told that anon to accept to stay with her parents although she clarified that she's traumatisized you're not so far from the salaf you condemn. How far do we have to go with social responsibility? Isn't emotional trauma enough? Or sexual trauma? What about a woman who's abused by her husband? Does she have to have a social responsibility to stay? How do we make sure that children can grow up functioning with the idea of social responsibility?

If you read the answer again you will see that I did not tell her to stay with her parents, but to make up her own mind. You have your own human rights, and you have social responsibility. The two concerns must be balanced. You shouldn’t let people abuse you, but you shouldn’t neglect your responsibilities toward them either.

People, using their intellect and conscience, and guided by the Quran’s moral philosophy, can decide what is the best course of action in each situation.

The idea of social responsibility simply means that one shouldn’t selfishly focus on their own rights to the exclusion of other people’s rights. “Don’t be selfish” is something that all good parents teach their children. But they should also teach them to resist abuse and injustice.

Dealing with abusive parents in Islam

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What has made my emaan weaker is that I became traumatisied from a bad childhood. My parents played part in this. Sometimes they used islam against me to manipullate me. Also I wasn't allowed to get help, and my mom labelled my depression as kufr, which made me feel bad and try to suppress the despair . All scholars and everything I've read is about parental rights, and that it is a huge sin (akbar kabair) to cut family ties. I am not an adult and much better but I still want distance from them

Do not let other people’s mistakes affect your relationship with God. Read the Quran as if it was sent down to you personally, and follow its teachings and philosophy wherever you can in your life. If people misuse Islam to attack you, ignore it, knowing that God is better than them.

Regarding cutting family ties, that refers to treating family members as strangers, i.e. permanent estrangement where a child treats their disliked parent as if there is no relationship between them.

If your parents mistreat you, you have the right to keep your distance. What you do not have the right to do is cut off your relationship with them completely. Remain in their lives, help them where necessary, and be dutiful as much as you can, Islam doesn’t ask you to do more than this, it does not ask you to subject yourself to them if they constantly mistreat and humiliate you. Both you and your parents have your human rights, and if they neglect your human rights, they have sinned.

Dealing with parents who disrespect and fight each other

I would like to ask about my family problem. My parents have been fighting for years. My father no longer talks to my mother although he tried to make amends once. My mother constantly talk bad about my father to me and my siblings. She is always full of hatred and anger towards my father. I'm afraid with time I'll begin to hate my father as well. What is the view in Islam about parents talking bad about their partner to their kids? Where should I stand in this? Thank you.

What your parents are doing is against Islamic teachings. What you should do is stay neutral and respectful toward both of them. If one parent does something unjust toward the other parent or toward one of the children, if you can help prevent it without causing greater harm, then you should try, without belittling or offending either parent.

In your situation, one thing you can do is encourage your siblings to think the best of your father so that they are not unjustly biased against him by your mother’s words. Since your father is not speaking to her and allowing the situation to continue as it is, it appears that both parents are responsible for the bad situation, therefore it is best to not take sides but try to be fair toward both.

If there was anything you could to improve their relationship, then that would be a good thing to do, although it is unlikely. Anything you try could do greater harm than good, since they are older than you and know much more about each other than you do.

Please also see my answer On Islamic Manners Toward Parents.

On Islamic Manners Toward Parents

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What if there is something your parents want you to do and it doesn’t please you despite of dropping clear signs they refuse and claim that they know what’s best for you. Are you supposed to take a stand or leave it on Allah?

As Muslims, our default mode of interaction with our parents should be as verse 17:24 commands:

And lower to them the wing of humility, out of mercy, and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, as they raised me when I was a child.”

Every truly admirable people I have met have had such an attitude toward their parents. They “humor” their parents, treating them as if they are intelligent, admirable, likable and worthy regardless of how they really feel about them. This is a return of the favor that our parents bestowed upon us when we grew up (whatever their faults) in their treating us as if we were worthy and smart even when we were being foolish and immature. A child might draw a really ugly drawing but the parent celebrates it as if it is beautiful, in this way making the child feel appreciated. Islam tells us to treat our parents the way good parents treat their children, never insulting them and trying to make them feel appreciated and wanted. Even if the parents were abusive, this does not mean that we have to continue the same cycle of abuse toward them, we can be “the bigger person” and treat them like they good parents they never were. This is where true virtue shines. There is nothing admirable about a son who is abusive toward his mother because she was abusive toward him in his childhood. What is admirable and moves our hearts is when a son or daughter is kind, loving and dutiful toward parents who were not this way toward them.

If you love a child, even if the child asks for something somewhat ridiculous, you may still do it for them out of love. The Quran is asking the child to return this favor to their parents. Even if the parents say something or demand something that is somewhat unreasonable, you should do your best to respond positively, instead of belittling them and telling them they are unwise and foolish.

This does not mean that one should act like a slave to them. You can discuss things with them and debate with them if there is something to be gained by this. But wherever possible, you should let them have the last word, lowering to them the wing of humility, as the Quran says, out of love and mercy toward them.

I always do my best to avoid debates with my father, even if we are talking about something that I know far more about than he does and he says something wrong. If he tells me to do something and I have good reasons for not doing it, I will still try my best to do it and to agree with his and my mother’s other demands unless I really cannot do it.

So if your intelligence tells you that they are being unwise and even foolish about something, your love and mercy should take precedence, you should treat them as respected and honored parents at all times. If they burden you with something, never forget that you too were a burden on them for years and made many unreasonable demands of them.

When dealing with your parents, love and mercy must always take priority over logic, unless it is something extremely serious.