How Should I Deal with My Non-Muslim Mother’s Unsolicited Marital Advice?

04 March, 2020
Q Asalam Alaikum,I am a revert and looking for a qualified islamic answer to a question/issue I have.I want to know how to respond to non-Muslim family in things that they say that are sinful. To be more specific my mother often involves herself in my marital matters without any influence from me, this is her personality and the normal behavior of many British people here in the UK. Just the other day she mentioned my finances after trying to push me to start a type of job and me not giving any specific response. I had already told her not to involve in my marital affairs such as if I work or not and my money situation etc. But it seems she has fallen straight back to her old ways. On this occasion I remained silent and did not give a response, but days later I am now wondering if I should confront her about this once again to put out any future fires so to speak.Furthermore that day I met with my sister along with my mother and my sister made a comment about my past (not to be mean but she doesn’t realise our way of life as Muslims) and again I remained silent but perhaps my facial expression changed to one of dislike. Again days later I am wondering if I should have gently told her not to speak about my past and those things and if I should perhaps message her now days on asking her not to in the future as it is sinful and would also displease my husband.Please help as I am stuck in how to respond and treat my non Muslim family in such matters, I do not want to push them away but things they say are sinful and leave a bad feeling with me for many days and I feel I carry much anger with me after they have said such things.Awaiting for your qualified islamic response,Asalam Alaikum Sister Sara, UK

Answer

 Short Answer: Family is family, regardless of faith. And boundaries are boundaries, regardless of who you are drawing them with. It does not matter if it is a discussion with your mother, your sister, your in-laws, your husband – anyone! You are not required to remain silent in the face of a conversation you dislike.

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Salaam alaykum, sister

Thank you for your question.

How Should I Deal with my Non-Muslim Mother’s Unsolicited Marital Advice?

Family matters, whether our family is Muslim or non-Muslim, can be tricky and difficult to navigate. We want to walk the line of being polite and also standing up for ourselves. Fortunately, in the situation you described insha’Allah there are some clear answers.

Talking about your Past

This is the first thing I want to address because it stood out to me among the other things you mentioned.

Remember, sister, once you become Muslim your sins are wiped away. There is no such thing as your “sinful past,” as insha’Allah, Allah has forgiven you. There is no need to feel ashamed when talking about your life before Islam.

If your sister is mentioning it in just a passing way, I would let it go. If your husband has a problem with it – to be frank, sister – that’s his issue, not yours.

He should know that what you did before Islam has nothing to do with him and nothing to do with your life now. This is common knowledge for most Muslims, but maybe he does not realize?

Now, if your sister is mentioning these things in order to try to stir up trouble, that is a different matter. Again, this is not because your past is sinful. Rather, it is simply inappropriate to try and stir up trouble for anyone! This is just basic manners.

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I get the impression that you somehow think it is the correct thing Islamically to remain silent and not stand up for yourself. I am not sure how one might have given you this impression, but it is not true.

If your sister is saying something that you don’t like, how will she know to stop unless you ask her to? Insha’Allah she is open to listening to you, as that would be the respectful course of action.

If she is not, I would advise distancing yourself from her. I’m not saying to sever ties, of course, but there is nothing incorrect about taking some space from people who cause you harm.

What to do about Nosy Parents

Parents butting into our business can be frustrating. On the one hand, they usually mean well. Not always, but for the most part, our parents have what they believe to be our best interests at heart. I don’t know your mother, but if you believe this is true for her, I do advise trying to give her a little grace.

You regard what your family is saying as sinful, that confuses me. I did cover talking about a so-called “sinful” past above, but you seemed to mention it as a general statement.

How is your mother asking about you getting a job sinful? I am a little concerned that you may have been misguided in terms of what things are sinful or not, so I do suggest that you follow up with some more specifics in that regard.

As for the rest of it – again, my advice to you is to speak out when you are uncomfortable. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Mother, I asked you not to talk about this. Can we change the subject?”

Or if you feel that would offend her, then message her about it. You do have a right to boundaries!

Though I want to repeat my advice into looking into whether the topics discussed are actually “sinful,” what I say about boundaries stands, nonetheless!

Even if someone is talking to you about something perfectly and absolutely halal, if you are not comfortable, you are not obligated to engage in that discussion.

It does not matter if it is a discussion with your mother, your sister, your in-laws, your husband – anyone! You are not required to remain silent in the face of a conversation you dislike.

Family Background? Doesn’t Matter!

The final point I want to cover is that my advice does not change whether the family in question is Muslim or non-Muslim.

If your husband’s family is butting into your private affairs, them being Muslim does not give them this right.

I only want to address this because in your question you specifically mention dealing with your “non-Muslim” family.

Family is family, regardless of faith. And boundaries are boundaries, regardless of who you are drawing them with.

And Allah knows best.

Insha’Allah this helps, sister.

Please write again with any further questions.

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About Leah Mallery
Leah is a Muslim convert of almost a decade. She has two kids, an intercultural marriage, and half of a French degree in her back pocket, looking to switch gears to science and medicine. She has lived abroad for over a decade, having just recently become reacquainted with her roots in America. She currently lives in Michigan near her family and – masha’Allah – a sizeable Muslim community.