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Who Said ‘Family Is Everything’?

21 May, 2022
Q I would appreciate your help in "family affairs" - I have heard this phrase countless of times, family is everything. Exactly, which part of the family were they talking about when they came up with that phrase? I come from a big family. What I know for sure is that my mother was never close to her siblings and her mother. Not because she was the rebel, on the contrary when she was born, she looked ill and her mother gave up on her. Her grand mother took care of her when she was a baby and even nursed her. My mother grew up believing that her real mother was her grandmother. When my mother grew up, she was taken to her real mother and since that day, it has never heaven for my mother. My mother then got married to my father. Anyway, to keep the story short, my mother and all her children have been treated like outsiders by my mother's family. Her sisters never liked us and her mother never liked us. They all favored our cousins and any child born to our mother was never welcomed. Of course, now that we are all adults, they will not show it to our face, the truth is that from time to time they have treated us very badly - nevertheless, we all persevered. Our mother never failed to remind us to be respectful and always told us to look at them and treat them with respect, as they are our elders. Our cousins were raised not to like us. I wish I could explain in depth what really goes on. What we have managed to do is stay away from them. However, from time to time we meet in gatherings. It is at those moments I wish I could say to hell with respect and actually do harm to any of them. I have asked my mother countless of times, why do they hate us? Is it because of our father? Did something happen in the past? There were countless of questions I asked, but all that my mum could say was that it might have been the fact that she was never raised among them. I say bull. That does not justify treating us like we were nothing. The only answer I came up with was it could be that they are jealous of my mother. That she is prettier, most kind and married a very good-looking husband. I still do not understand why they treat us the way they do. It hurts and I would appreciate any help from you guys. Tell me, how to treat these so-called "family members". I just came from one of those gatherings and I have never been mad like this. Actually, I always get mad in one of those gatherings. I wish I could escape them but I cannot. I was ganged up on by cousins, whose only intentions were to break me down. I wished one of my sisters was there to help in those verbal attacks. My question to you guys, is what would you have done? What is the right way to deal with such people when they are your family members? Finally, is there hope for us to be just one big loving family instead of us being the castaway?


As salamu ‘alaykum,

Dear sister, it is indeed a difficult situation that your family has had to deal with. Unfortunately, we live in a world where jealousy and cruelty know no bounds, even among our own family members. Of course, the family you are referring to that is showing you such disrespect and cruelty is not your immediate family, but rather your extended family.

In my opinion – masha ’Allah for you mother’s attitude, patience and good will! She is truly a special woman. I think you should honor her and her upstanding character by heeding her words and showing the same level of respect to your family members, regardless of how they treat you. This is what is known as the ‘high road’, and obviously it is the road most beloved by Allah who has encouraged us to maintain good relations with our families, regardless of how badly they act towards us.

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You may be absolutely right in saying that they are jealous of your mom – with her character who wouldn’t be! She sounds like an outstanding human being and it is quite understandable. That should make you feel an enormous amount of respect, love and appreciation to Allah for having such a wonderful mother.

Remember sister, you don’t have to like your family members or even spend a lot of time with them if in fact they are as bad as you say. What you are after is the pleasure and realization of Allah’s love – always keep this in mind! No matter how bad they are, you must focus on your goal. Take up your complaints and frustrations with the Lord of lords and ask Him for understanding and patience with your family members.

I have a good friend with a similar situation to your own. Her mother is one of 14 kids. However, her grandfather had two wives and so her mom is the only daughter from his second wife. As a result, the other siblings never treated her mom the same way. They looked down on her, thought she was inferior, etc.

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Subsequently, my friend and her siblings were never accepted as part of the larger family, and always felt like outcasts and rejects compared to their cousins. It is indeed very similar sounding to what you are going through.

As a result, however, my friend and her siblings responded by making sure that their own family stayed very close, and supported one another in all aspects.

Despite the ill treatment shown to them over the years by their cousins, they never said or did anything in retaliation. They merely kept to themselves and maintained their own close family relations. Now, of course, they are all very successful and are the pride of the family so to speak.

Over the years, their relations with their cousins have improved and there is much less ill-feeling among them as they have grown older. They have tried to forgive their cousins, aunties and uncles for their petty jealousy and the like and as such, the family overall has come together in ways that it never was able to in the past.

In this example, by maintaining their noble character and not allowing the actions of their family members to dictate how they would act, my friend’s family not only became closer but have begun the process of forgiving and healing. It is not easy and is not always guaranteed to result in positive outcomes, but to take the high road is always the better approach.

Do not let your extended family turn you and your siblings into something you’re not. If it gets really bad and seems unbearable to be around them then simply stay away from them, but do not resort to ill relations. Do not stoop to their level.

If they become jealous of you then that’s their problem not yours, and they will have to face Allah with what they do. Do not focus on them, focus on Allah and how you are supposed to be as Muslims. Prove them wrong and show them their own foolishness by setting an example for them.

Honor your mother’s wishes and noble character by living and acting for Allah’s pleasure rather than your own petty need for retaliation and the like. I think the Muslim world right now has enough of this going on, don’t you think? We need to start rising above our egoistic need for retaliation and revenge and start learning to forgive.

The way of our Messenger (SAW) is, remember, to not cut off relations with family but rather always try to reconcile with them. If that is not an option then at least limit the harm done between you by staying away from them and not resorting to negative behaviors. In sha ‘Allah over time your upstanding behavior will benefit everyone.

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 

(From Ask About Parenting archives)

About Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah
Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Study’s Community Education and Youth Studies Laboratory, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He received his B.A. from the University of Delaware (U.S.), his M.S. from Columbia University (U.S.) and his PhD from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies (PEKKA), Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 in the field of Youth Studies. Abd. Lateef is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 2001. He is married and has 2 children.