As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,
I am so sorry to hear about the situation you are in. It must be painful to live with such abuse as well as missing out the joys a harmonious family can bring. Sadly, even among Muslims, there are dysfunctional families.
I ask you to reflect and see if this abusive situation became worse after you married. For some reason, your mother has attached herself to your sister in an unhealthy way. Perhaps there is jealousy of you being married and they are not. While this is a difficult and hurtful situation, in sha’ Allah, there is hope. It may take time and lots of patience but with different approaches and making du’aa’ to Allah (swt), in sha’ Allah you may find that your family is healing and living more of an Islamic lifestyle than what is presently going on.
It is my feeling, however, that there is something wrong with your mother’s mental health which causes her to act this way although I cannot confirm this as you have not provided enough information. A lot of mothers who are abusive also have a mental illness such as clinical depression, PTSD or personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Dependent Personality Disorder. Global Post discusses some points of a Mother who is emotionally abusive to her child, stating “The mother may be verbally abusive and hurl insults, rude names, and put-downs. Her comments are degrading and she might demean her child publicly just to humiliate. If her child shows that he is upset, she invalidates his/her feelings, either acting like his emotions doesn’t matter or that it is his fault for being too sensitive.” While this is only one cluster of the signs of abuse, abusers tend to have been abused in the past; they tend to have mental health diagnoses or abuse substances or suffer from a significant traumatic event in their lives.
Sister, as you know, you cannot cut family ties. Even though your mother stated you are “dead” in her eyes, you must not be the one to give up and cut the ties. Your mother loves you very much. It is her who gave birth to you, feed you, raised you to be the wonderful adult you are now. In the Qur’an it states,
“And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (Quran, 17:23-24)
WhyIslam further expounds on family relationships by illustrating that “The family unit is an important component of Islam and all elements of a family are given due significance – from parents to children to spouses to kith and kin. “ This means that your parents have rights over you, and as children of your parents you have rights over them. While I am not an Islamic Scholar, I will do my best to explain these rights in basic terms.
According to WhyIslam, these rights are illustrated in the following: “Islam further advises parents to treat their children with mercy, love, and equality. In addition, parents must provide proper education to their children along with raising them to be morally upright and responsible individuals of society. Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said the best gift a father can give his child a is good education. The Prophet (saw) also laid great emphasis on proper treatment of daughters and promised the reward of Paradise for parents who raise their daughter(s) well. At the same time, God calls for moderation in the Quran:
“O you who believe! Let not your wealth, or your children, divert you from the remembrance of Allah; and whoever does that, these are the losers.” (63:9)
These are your rights as a child. While you are now grown, you are still her child, and the important part to focus on for your situation is that Islamically parents are “to treat their children with mercy, love, and equality” and “The Prophet (saw) also laid great emphasis on proper treatment of daughters and promised the reward of paradise for parents who raise their daughter(s) well.”
Key points to remember sister are “treat your daughters well” and “show mercy, love and equality”. Sadly, these points are missing from your family relations. Possibly your mother has suffered some abuse or maybe, as stated above, she has a mental illness, Allah (swt) knows best. However, you do not have to remain in an abusive situation sister.
Do not break ties, but do distance yourself for a while. I suggest that in sha’ Allah you make a list of the negative qualities in your family that have been bothering you. We all have them, no family is perfect. Then, in sha’ Allah, list the positive things about your family, events, fun times from childhood on up as well as any care and happiness you received from your mom when you were married and had children. Then write your mom a letter, a heartfelt letter, with no bitterness or anger (as that is haram and non-productive) but one which expresses your feelings about how you have been treated; what it makes you feel like when she takes your sister’s side as well as how you feel abused and give gentle examples. Include also the positive things you feel about her, the family and give examples of the good things she taught you. I would also suggest writing a similar letter to your sister.
A second option would be to seek support and collaboration from your brother as he too seems to be a target of abuse. Between the two of you, in sha’ Allah you can come up with well thought out letters, expressing your feelings, your love for them as well as Islamic references on how a family should treat each other. I would deliver the letter(s) to them. Be kind and don’t let any negative thing that may be said or felt steal your joy. Enter with a smile and leave with one. Make your visit short with the purpose to “check on your mom” and give her the letter (and your sister as well) and leave.
There are many blessings in continuing to show love and patience, even when we are being abused or “cut off”. This does not mean we have to continue letting them abuse us. There are ways to deal with this such as maintaining ties but from a distance, making phone calls to check up on them and see if they are okay, or stopping in occasionally to show your love and respect.
However, at this point, I would not leave your children with your sister as you stated she swears at them and pushes them. This is not acceptable. I suggest doing what you have been doing; only cut the time down that you spend with them. When an argument starts or mean things are said, walk away; say “I love you” and leave. Refuse to participate. If it happens during a phone conversation, just say “I’m sorry but I have to go. I love you, therefore, I cannot continue talking to you as we are beginning to argue and Allah (swt) does not like arguing between family members”, and hang up. Over time, utilizing these techniques will in sha’ Allah touch their hearts as well as be reminders of how Allah (swt) wants us to treat each other. It will take time as it has been a long-standing problem, but please be patient, sister. Your reactions and references to our Islamic way of life will stand as testimony to your family and Allah (swt), in sha’ Allah. Also sister, keep supporting your mother financially if you are able; it is our obligation in Islam to do so.
Sister, I ask you to make du’aa’ for your family and special du’aa’ for you mom and sister that Allah (swt) guides them, heals your family, and restores love and respect among you. I also suggest that you find comfort and solace in family times with your husband and children besides getting together with sisters at the masjid and doing enjoyable things with your Muslim sisters. Our sisters can provide us with strength, a shoulder to lean on as well as encourage us Islamically.
I also suggest you get counseling to help with the abuse you have gone through. Often, talking with a counselor on a regular basis provides further insight into our issues and helps us identity ways in which we can increase our coping skills.
Please let us know how you are doing sister; you and your family are in our prayers.
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