In this counseling answer:
•As for your responsibilities in regard to how you should treat your father, Islam always encourages children to treat their parents with the utmost kindness and respect. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we cannot admonish our parents when necessary, as long as it is done in a respectful manner and with the intention to help them and improve family relations.
•We must always strive to implement in our own lives and call others to truth, no matter who the object of that calling is.
Dear sister, family issues are some of the toughest that we must face in this life. Despite the gift of our families, they are also one of our greatest challenges. Allah confirms this in the Qur’an in numerous places when He mentions the inherent tests that lie within family life.
Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any simple answers or solutions to the situation with your father. From what you have said, he sounds like a man who himself may have never been shown love and warmth by his own parents, or perhaps he was raised under very trying circumstances that greatly hindered his family life as a young person.
This is often the cause of these negative characteristics found within people – usually you don’t have to look much farther than their own past. Most people are completely ignorant of the vital importance of our first 5 to 7 years of life, and how these early years shape us as we develop as human beings.
It is the earliest years, moreover, and the nature of the relationships we form in these years with parents, that in many ways impact our personalities and character for the rest of our lives.
It is important that you develop a strong understanding of your family situation and specifically of your father and seek to understand why he behaves the way he does. Through understanding the process of forgiveness can begin to enter one’s heart. It is only through surrender to God and His Divine wisdom, forgiveness and love that healing can take place between people, particular between our parents and us.
When we find ourselves struggling with frustration, anger and resentment, we must begin by understanding the situation through the eyes of the heart, rather than through that of the ego which has no doubt been bruised by years of the kind of treatment your father has given you as well as the rest of your family.
In terms of the explicit questions that you ask, no, it is not compulsory for your father to approve of your choice of spouse, albeit it is highly recommended according to the Shafi`i mazhab (school)of Islamic law.
I am not familiar with the other schools’ positions on this issue and at this point need to suggest that any and all Shari’ah-related issues be posted to Ask the Scholar – a qualified scholar that specializes in this area. I am only presenting you with the information and knowledge that I have on this topic as a counselor.
As for your responsibilities in regard to how you should treat your father, Islam always encourages children to treat their parents with the utmost kindness and respect. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we cannot admonish our parents when necessary, as long as it is done in a respectful manner and with the intention to help them and improve family relations. We must always strive to implement in our own lives and call others to truth, no matter who the object of that calling is.
When dealing with our parents we should be extra-sensitive to the manner in which we speak to them and how we address them, for they have rights over us in this regard. Ultimately, the only way to help our parents is to first help ourselves with knowledge of Allah, Islam and ourselves. We must first do everything we can do to arrive at a state of true peace and surrender to Allah’s will through obedience, remembrance and trust. It is only in this way – through our reliance and trust in Allah’s will for us – that we can hope to ever forgive our parents and move toward wanting to help them rather than resent them.
In closing, I just want to reiterate that nothing in the realm of family is ever easy. Family relationships are often the most trying of all relationships. The key in family life, as in all things, however, is first to know Allah, the Creator of everything, to know His deen, and to know ourselves.
When we commit and engage ourselves in this ongoing work, insha-Allah, He will provide us with insight, wisdom, knowledge, forgiveness and the peace of heart that will allow us to think and act clearly in a way that is best for all parties.
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However, if our hearts remain hardened by years of neglect, anger, resentment, confusion, misunderstanding and the like, our actions and responses to our loved ones and family members will be tainted by the desires and hidden motives of the lower self, i.e. the ego, which can only result in a continuation of what has existed up until this point. There can be no hidden agendas on the path of truth, for the agenda and goal is always the same – Allah’s pleasure/harmony and alignment with the Divine will and command.
Always remember that everything has a creator, even that which is considered or perceived as unpleasant and difficult. As such, the best and most direct way to bring light into lives of darkness is to surrender ourselves to Allah, not only with our outward actions but with a truly surrendered heart that is in constant remembrance of Allah and need of His help, strength, assistance and love.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.