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The Separate Worlds of Mum and Dad

05 October, 2023
Q As-salamu `alaykum, I live in Europe with both my parents and my 7 brothers and sisters. I go to college and want to study medicine. Although my parents live together, it is like they are separated. My mum stays upstairs and my dad stays downstairs.

They haven’t spoken for months and before this they spoke very little. They have been married for 30 years but I know that my mum has not been happy for even one of them. She agreed to get married to my father only to realize he was 'cold'.

The house is constantly divided and I feel I have to pick sides. My father at times has been very horrible to my mum, he has a temper and has called her names and made her cry. My father hardly ever talks to us and is out most of the day.

He doesn’t know who I am as a person and is only concerned about my grades, so that he can show off to his friends about them. He no longer gives her any money to support us and she pays for most of the shopping with her child benefit.

My dad gambles his money away but to everyone outside he is respected and everyone thinks that he is such a good Muslim and that I should be grateful that he is my father, when in fact he depresses me beyond comparison.

He has followed me outside and called me names, and often reduces me to tears. Even so, on a day to day basis, he acts as if nothing is wrong although he never smiles and never shows any emotion towards us apart from anger.

Sometimes he talks about when he was younger fondly, which only makes me feel that he thinks marrying my mother was a mistake, so takes it out on all of us.

It has been very difficult living in a broken family whose problems greatly affected me and my brothers and sisters. I wear hijab and I am a practicing Muslim but always felt very angry and hurt.

Occasionally, I cry as this house upsets me very much. Even though he does not fulfill his duties as a husband or a father he still feels we owe him something.

I'd much rather have my parents separated and my mother looked after us herself as my life would have been much more painless.

I am only 17 and feel I have so many issues that I am only now starting to resolve. Somebody is going to ask for my hand for marriage next month, a close friend of my brother. He is very kind, pious and because I am so close to him he knows about my life.

I know that he will not treat me with the anger and harshness my father treated my mum with but I am afraid that my father will say no because he is unpredictable and on occasions nationalistic.

Although my father has been less than any other father he still have to give permission. I would like to know where Islam stands on my father's behavior and whether I still have to treat him as if he has done good to me in my life?


 In this counseling answer:

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.

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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, particularly 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.

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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.