Wa `alaykum as-salam.
Sister, I feel deeply for you and the situation you have described. It is, I have no doubt, an extremely painful situation for you and your whole family. Unfortunately, the little that you have told me about the family has rendered me somewhat incapable of helping you. When you discuss the problems with your sister, there are so many factors that need to be examined. Maybe you can start by examining some of them yourself.
It is often very tough for Muslims in the West to avoid the social ills that have overcome your sister. To combat these things, there are a number of important protective factors that can play a role in offsetting the threat of such ills. For example, the family is a central factor in how young people develop. For families in the West, it is extremely critical that the children have a very strong bond with the parents. Such a bond should begin at birth. Many studies have shown that children who have strong emotional attachments to religious parents will also be religious throughout their lives.
We also know this from Islam. If you read the stories about Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings be upon him) relationship with and kindness displayed to his wives and children (daughters), particularly Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her), you will see the perfect model of how to develop that strong emotional bond with one’s children. Such a bond does not arise from excessive lenience and giving children whatever they wish for—that is spoiling them. In fact, such behavior is seriously corrupting. Nor should we be too strict and overly authoritative with our children. We must find that balance. According to the advice of Sheikh Abdullah Adhami, we should focus on three simple things as Muslim parents:
1. Love your children to death—that is unconditionally.
2. Do not validate their transgressions; do not let your love for them corrupt how you raise them—teach them to honor Allah’s commands.
3. Teach them to love Allah, His Messenger, and the Qur’an.
This final step must be done through the example that we provide as parents. It must be seen by our children in everything we do and not just through our words. It cannot be through word alone, but we must live the teachings of Islam every moment of our lives. I hear many similar stories such as the one you have presented, of parents coming for help with their teenagers who are doing similar things as your sister. Unfortunately, many realize too late that their children’s behavior is nothing but a reflection (and the product of) their own neglect for Islam throughout the child’s upbringing. The child is doing nothing more than showing them the fruits of their labor, so to speak.
I don’t mean to digress from your question, but these are the things that I do not know about your family that are critical in order to begin to answer your question. It is important to look at your family and your parents’ relationship with you and your sister.
• What is their relationship like? How involved is the father in her life?
• What is the nature of their relationship?
• What is the relationship with your mother like?
• How involved is the mother in her life?
Your sister’s behavior did not just come from out of the blue. There are reasons for this that probably started a while back. In fact, they sound quite serious, so I am guessing that there are some problems with the family relationships. You must try to examine the causes and not focus only on the behaviors themselves; they are but symptoms of the underlying problem(s).
I wish there was more I could do for you. Please continue to pursue a solution to this problem in whatever way you think is best.
May Allah help and support you in your efforts.
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