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Follow-Up: A Family Without Foundations

Questioner

S

Reply Date

May 26, 2016

Question

As-salamu `alaykum Thank you very much for your reply to my original message posted here on your website. I apologize because there were discrepancies in my original message and I realized that I wasn't making myself clear enough when explaining my situation. The situation is, is that I re-married again this year and I am due to give birth to a baby boy early next month. Yes, I knew that my husband was illegally living in my country of birth and we also knew that this would be an obstacle, but we loved each other and we were determined to sort this problem out by going through the proper legal channels in order to change his status. He is currently in his country of origin applying for a spouse visa. I informed the embassy that it would take three months to process. You mentioned civil marriage/registered marriage – my husband and I were not allowed to have a civil marriage in my country of birth because of his immigration status, so we had a religious ceremony instead. After the marriage, much to our dismay, we were told by solicitors that the nikah (Islamic marriage) was not recognized here as a marriage and that for the sake of a spouse visa we would have to go to his country of origin and repeat the nikah there. The marriage papers would be written in English and translated into Urdu and our marriage would have to be registered in his country. At present, we are awaiting a decision from the embassy having submitted all our documents earlier this month. You mentioned employment – I am in a full-time job right now and I am currently living with my mother and father north of the country for during my six months maternity leave. I will have my baby here and my mother and my mother will be present at birth supporting me as my partner is not in the country right now. After the six months are up, my intention is to return south to live with my sister-in-law who is a Muslim living with her two teenaged children. The trouble I am having, and this is where I need your help and advice, is that I don't know if I should continue to live with my non-Muslim family and get the support from them in raising my child, or should I stay with my original plan and move back south and live with my sister-in-law. I am faced with a dilemma because if I live with my parents or rent a house/flat nearby, I know that they will affect my Islam and make negative comments about Muslims in front of my son. I don't want my son to hear bad comments coming from his grandparents. At the moment, they know that my child will be brought up a Muslim and they hate the idea of having a Muslim grandchild. Nevertheless, they are doing all they can to support me right now and having my mother by my side has meant a lot to me. She is my strength right now and she is even buying everything for the baby! I just don't know if staying near my parents is a wise thing to do. I understand about the mosque, but it is miles from where we live and my town is full of prejudiced people. There is no mosque in my town and you very rarely see a Muslim person walking down the street. The other option would be to stay with my sister-in-law, but she has a mental health problem and she often needs help to raise her two children. I have helped in the past when I could, but what I really need right now is support in raising my own child and I don't feel she is able to do this. I really want to be with my family and get their support, but what if I make the wrong decision? My son would have to go to a non-Muslim school when he is older and he would be faced with prejudice remarks. I am not saying that every non-Muslim person in my town hates Muslims, but unfortunately, many do and I know for a fact he would be bullied. The only other choice is to live in another area which is approximately 30 minutes drive from my town, but my family would be offended if I chose to stay, but elsewhere. If I was to stay in my town, my parents would be embarrassed and angry by me wearing hijab. I too would feel uncomfortable as I would be the only person wearing hijab. I just don't know what to do. I pray every day that my husband comes back so that we could build a life together. I have a good job and earn a good income, Yes, we would struggle for a while on one income, but I am sure he would gain employment eventually. I have realized now how much I have missed my parents. How can I make this situation better for me and the baby? If I chose not to wear hijab would I be punished for this? Equally, will I be punished by Allah for choosing to bring up my child in a non-Muslim environment? What if my son follows the other non-Muslims by drinking, smoking etc., despite my efforts to guide him in Islam? Will I be personally responsible to Allah because I could have returned south to a Muslim society and I could have brought up my child there? Please help. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Counselor

Answer


Family

As-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatulallahi wa barakatuh my sister.

 

You are obviously in an emotional turmoil, caught between your needs and the needs of your unborn child. Essentially, you are in need of emotional support, and my guess is, is that you are not very good at living and managing on your own, and why should you, we are social beings after all. For whatever reasons you left your parents and set out on your own by moving to the south, let us step outside of your emotions for a while and look at the choices you have:

 

1) Your Northern Town

You can stay where you are, but note that any emotional and parenting support that you get will be compromised by looking and being a Muslim. At the same time, there is nothing to say that your parents as they are will remain the same and might change if not with the birth of your son, maybe as he grows on them. Your Islam might be compromised in terms of physical appearances, but there is nothing to say that your Islam in practice will be compromised unless you allow it to. However, this is a strong possibility, because you seem subject to the feelings of your parents and would likely succumb.

If your husband should be granted a visa, where would he stay and do you think that the towns environment and your parents attitude would aid your marriage or undermine your marriage? If you decide to return south if he is able to return, would it not be better to consider that now so at least you will be settled in some way?

Your son would be less likely to know his religion because you would be compromised, and there would be no other means of spiritual support. Why stay in a locality that is full of prejudice? The problem is not just your parents, but the whole environment that the child will grow up in. Your son would not be free to play outdoors as he grows older He would be subject to teasing and bullying which without anything else in his environment to counter the effect, your son might grow up impaired in some way, which will not be helped by the kind of school he might attend.

In terms of abuse and hatred, the climate in the country in which you live is one whereby prejudice has reared it’s ugly head again from the politicians to the people, so therefore, there is now way that you can prevent your son from being exposed, the difference is, is that from his grandparents it might hurt more, but that depends on your ability to help him to understand them and to have pride and faith in being a Muslim.

2) In the Vicinity of Your Northern Town

Your job is in the south, so would you be able to get employment easily where you are now?  You would have to be able to sustain rented accommodation for you and your child. There are Muslim communities whereby you would have the additional support unless there are other reasons as to why you do not want to live in those areas. Also, if your husband is able to join you, he would feel more accepted.

Have the courage to tell your parent of your choice (if indeed this is your choice) for, at the end of the day, they cannot live your life for you. Let them know that you want to be near them, but you do not want to upset them  because Islam is what brings you closer to Allah (SWT). You want to be able to spend time with them and them with you.

Your son would be in a healthier environment whereby he would be more accepted and any conflict between raising him as a Muslim and the environment would be reduced.

If you have a choice, your sisters, nearer the mosque or your parents. If you can consider living nearby your parents, why not nearer the mosque.

3) Sister-in-Law

Your job is in the south where your sister-in-law lives. I assume from what you have not said she is struggling to raise her two teenagers by herself. She is in need of help and support just as you are, and from this, regardless of her mental health, it would help you to increase your patience by being there for her. It is not impossible, and I am sure your husband would be appreciative. On the other hand, if you really feel that you cannot cope with living under the same roof as her, then renting a flat/apartment nearby would allow you both privacy and availability.

 

Your son would grow up having family around him, which takes less pressure off of you, because living in an area where there are Muslims, you would have support in terms of his Islamic upbringing, better resources and an aunt her could turn to occasionally. If the illness is not serious, being altogether would help her to recover and having a young child around can sometimes work wonders

You did not mention in what way your sister-in-law is mentally ill, so I am unaware of what possible impact there could be on your son, but you did mention that she finds it difficult to raise her teenaged children, so their behavior and lifestyles might have a negative impact on your growing son.

Just as you thought of renting a flat near your parents, is not possible for you to rent a flat near your sister-in-law? I am aware that the price of property is more expensive in the south than it is in the north, but if you could, in this way you would be near your sister-in-law, in a Muslim community and a place for your family (including your husband if he is able to return).

What if you should make a wrong decision? Well, as long as you are working, you have the means to live in the south or the north. The only question is who is the priority, you or your son and where does your husband fit into the picture?

Your relationship between you and Allah is between you and Allah (SWT), he is all merciful and more understanding than us humans, but try to put your emotions aside and look at what is best, because Islam is a way of life. This story (during Prophet Muhammad’s time) of Rumaysa bint Milhan/Umm Sulayma might guide you as it was a time when many difficulties and challenges:

 

Umm Sulaym was first married to Malik ibn an-Nadr with whom she had a son who was to become the famous Anas ibn Malik, one of the great companions of the Prophet. Umm Sulaym’s decision to accept Islam was made without the knowledge or consent of her husband, Malik ibn an-Nadr. He was absent from Yathrib at the time and when he returned he felt some change had come over his household and asked his wife: “Have you been rejuvenated?” “No,” she said, “but I (now) believe in this man (meaning the Prophet Muhammad).”
Malik was not pleased especially when his wife went on to announce her acceptance of Islam in public and instruct her son Anas in the teachings and practice of the new faith. She taught him to say la ilaha ilia Allah and Ash hadu anna Muhammada-r Rasulullah. The young Anas repeated this simple but profound declaration of faith clearly and emphatically. Umm Sulaym’s husband was now furious. He shouted at her: “Don’t corrupt my son.” “I am not corrupting him ,” she replied firmly.
Her husband then left the house and was killed. The news shocked but apparently did not upset Umm Sulaym greatly. She remained devoted to her son Anas and was concerned about his. proper upbringing. She is even reported to have said that she would not marry again unless Anas approved.
When it was known that Umm Sulaym had become a widow, one man, Zayd ibn Sahl, known as Abu Talhah, resolved to become engaged to her before anyone else did. Abu Talhah proceeded to Umm Sulaym’s house. On the way he recalled that she had been influenced by the preaching of Musab ibn Umayr and had become a Muslim.
“So what?” he said to himself. “Was not her husband who died a firm adherent of the old religion and was he not opposed to Muhammad and his mission?”
Abu Talhah reached Umm Sulaym’s house. He asked and was given permission to enter. Her son Anas was present. Abu Talhah explained why he had come and asked for her hand in marriage. “A man like you, Abu Talhah ,” she said, “is not (easily) turned away. But I shall never marry you while you are a kafir, an unbeliever.””What is it that really prevents you from accepting me, Umm Sulaym? Is it the yellow and the white metals (gold and silver)?” “Gold and silver?” she asked somewhat taken aback and in a slightly censuring tone. “Yes,” he said. “I swear to you, Abu Talhah, and I swear to God and His Messenger that if you accept Islam, I shall be pleased to accept you as a husband, without any gold or silver. I shall consider your acceptance of Islam as my mahr (dower).”
Abu Talhah understood well the implications of her words. His mind turned to the idol he had made from wood and on which he lavished great attention in the same way that important men of his tribe venerated and cared for their personal idols.
The opportunity was right for Umm Sulaym to stress the futility of such idol worship and she went on: “Don’t you know Abu Talhah, that the god you worship besides Allah grew from the earth?” “That’s true,” he said. “Don’t you feel stupid while worshipping part of a tree while you use the rest of it for fuel to bake bread or warm yourself? (If you should give up these foolish beliefs and practices) and become a Muslim, Abu Talhah, I shall be pleased to accept you as a husband and I would not want from you any sadaqah apart from your acceptance of Islam.”

“Who shall instruct me in Islam?” asked Abu Talhah. “I shall,” Umm Sulaym replied. “How?” “Utter the declaration of truth and testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Then go to your house, destroy your idol and throw it away.”
Abu Talhah left and reflected deeply on what Umm Sulaym had said. He came back to her beaming with happiness. “I have taken your advice to heart. I declare that there is no god but Allah and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
Umm Sulaym and Abu Talhah were married. Anas, her son, was pleased and the Muslims would say: “We have never yet heard of a mahr that was more valuable and precious than that of Umm Sulaym for she made Islam her mahr.”
Abu Talhah and Umm Sulaym had an exemplary Muslim family life, devoted to the Prophet and the service of Muslims and Islam. The Prophet used to visit their home.

Umm Sulaym was a model Muslim, a model wife and mother. Her belief in God was strong and uncompromising. She was not prepared to endanger her faith and the upbringing of her children for wealth and luxury, however abundant and tempting.

She was devoted to the Prophet and dedicated her son Anas to his service. She took the responsibility of educating her children and she played an active part in public life, sharing with the other Muslims the hardships and the joys of building a community and living for the pleasure of God.




About Hwaa Irfan

Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.

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