As salamu `alaykum,
Dear brother, I feel for you and the situation of your family tremendously. It must be very difficult marrying into a family where this is the situation. I have no doubt that you are making a sincere and dedicated effort to help your wife and children in the way that you think is best. May Allah reward you for it.
The situation you have described sounds to me as one that requires much tact and consideration. This is the family you have married into, one where Islam, from what you say, has not been a central part of the family’s daily life. What you have mentioned in your question as to your frustrations with the lack of response from your daughters is the product of trying to “Islamize” kids when they’re young adults – it’s a difficult take, to say the least.
Raising young people according to the teachings and spirit of Islam must begin before birth, not when they are adults. From your question, it is clear to me that you are reacting the only way that you see fit, which is essential, to “lay down the law” for your girls and tell them “how it has to be”. I will try to explain, however, why this approach may not be the most promising for you.
1) These girls are your stepchildren and perhaps the situation calls for a different approach. Thus, you may want to try more relationship building with them. As you did not raise them, you may need to make more of an effort to reach them on a personal level and discuss matters with them as adults, rather than simply lecturing them like they’re kids. As they probably have never really learned Islam in any substantive way, the only way they will probably learn anything at this point is through a real father-daughter relationship with you.
Threatening them with the ‘laws of Islam’ means nothing to them if they don’t know Islam to begin with. Do they even believe in God? These are the kinds of basic questions you must know the answers to first and the only way you will know is by discussing them in an environment that is free of blame and fear. If the girls are afraid that you will judge their opinions and beliefs they will probably not be truthful or honest with you, and you will get nowhere with them. To me, it sounds like you need to invite them to Islam by inviting them into your life.
Then, maybe Islam and its prohibitions will have some meaning to them. Otherwise, it probably won’t. It’s not their fault that they never learned anything about Islam and do not understand why they need to follow it, thus you cannot force them to change. All you can do is try to open their hearts and be there for them when and if they do. Also, as adults try to appeal to their reason and logic as opposed to ‘fire and brimstone’ speeches, which for young people who are ‘in love’ will usually just go in one ear and out the other.
For example, you say, “Considering the talk I gave to my daughters above where I outlined our expectations and their blatant rejection of that advice…” On the one hand, you say you gave your daughters a talk, then, on the other hand, you call it advice. Again, brother, these are adults, not kids. You can’t talk TO them, you must learn to talk with them and treat them as adults. Did you ask them what they thought of your ‘talk’ and ‘advice’? Did you ask for feedback or reactions? What did they think about it? I know they’re your children but they are also adults. The Prophet SAW is known to have said (to the effect of) “play with children up to the age of 7, discipline them up to the age of 14, and befriend that after that…”
2) You and your wife must try to come to an agreement and be on the same page about what to do about the situation. You must act as a team and not as separate individuals. If you are divided, you will most likely not have much chance of helping your kids, and they might even succeed in hurting your marriage. A husband and wife are a team and must act like it, particularly in matters of the heart and home. You should understand also that your wife may harbor some feelings of guilt for what is happening with your girls, and as such, may be in denial about the situation or even come out in support of them.
Understand her position and what is happening with her. You have to be strong but be considerate, caring and gentle – focus on helping your wife to understand the situation and why you need to come to some agreement about it. Maybe your wife shares the same beliefs as the girls, I don’t know, that is why you must have a heart-to-heart talk about what each of you believes. It is a shame that she has gone against your wishes in meeting with the boyfriend’s family, though, unless she intends to go to the meeting with the boy’s parents encouraging and intending to convince everyone why the couple needs to be married. This is the problem when husbands and wives don’t act as a team and why Islam encourages them to do so. Peace and unity are always the goal in Islam.
3) As the girls are adults, you and your wife have the right to set rules for your household. If your daughters refuse to follow the rules, then as adults they should be invited to live elsewhere if you and your wife can bring yourselves to enforce such measures. Everyone has a right to have rules for their household, and as Muslims, you also have rules that are according to the teachings of Islam. If people do not agree with the rules, then they should be invited to live elsewhere. I would urge you, however, to not make any decision in regard to this without the support of your wife, although as the head of the household it is not required.
Unity by parents is of the utmost importance. You may choose not to kick the girls out of the house and let them stay there. Since you cannot control their lives, you may simply want to continue to try to reach them and teach them as to why what they are doing is wrong and self-destructive in the hope that eventually they will come to understand and change. Allah knows what’s in your heart, and knows that you do not approve of what they do. The question, then, is how to proceed in the way that is wisest and has the best chance of success, i.e. getting your girls to understand why they need to change their ways. By you allowing them to live there it does not mean you approve of what they are doing per se, but you should choose the course that you feel is best.
If nothing else, brother, know that the situation that you find yourself in is one you inherited and as such, strong-arm tactics at this point will most likely not change anything. The best thing you can do, in my humble opinion, is to teach and educate your family about Islam in the way that is wise and effective, remembering that they are adults who have lived without it for most of their own lives.
You cannot control everything and everyone and must realize that no matter how ‘screwed up’ things may seem, Allah is always in full and complete control of His creation, and nothing occurs except by His will, so don’t ever lose hope. Allah is infinitely patient, so you must try to be patient with your family, and don’t expect them to change overnight. Teach them, don’t talk TO them or lecture them, and try to become an important person in their lives – a real father who they can trust and confide in. The only way they will change is if they understand why they need to, and only you can provide that understanding. You can’t force it on them, they must embrace it on their own.
With that, I wish you the best and pray that Allah make your tasks easy.
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