In this counseling answer:
•You should ask Allah to help your husband change his ways and view himself in an objective light.
•You need to educate yourself as to why your husband’s actions are potentially damaging to the children, himself, and the family as a whole.
• You may want to consider confronting him in a respectful and wise manner. Perhaps you can go through another family member or a friend of his—only you would know what route is the most likely to have an impact on him.
As-salamu `Alaikum Dear sister,
I am assuming that your husband’s manner in dealing with your kids is a result of how he himself was raised. If not, I would be rather surprised. From what you said, it sounds as if he goes to the extremes in disciplining your children. Corporal punishment can be used judiciously and tactfully in certain situations, and may even be necessary at times and with certain children.
However, beating a small child—such as what your husband did to your daughter to the point where she could not walk—is a heinous act and in no way does Islam justify such behavior. In disciplining children, we must often rely on our intellect to determine the best and most appropriate way to teach our kids what is right and how to set boundaries.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave us guidance as to how to interact with children. He advised Muslims to play their kids until the age of 7, discipline them to the age of 14, and thereafter befriend them or treat them like adults. Although this only offers a general guidance, it speaks volumes in terms of what is the best approach to working with children in regards to their level of development and spiritual maturity.
First, you should ask Allah to help your husband change his ways and view himself in an objective light. Always begin all matters with earnest prayer and du`aa’ by asking Allah to bring peace to your home and to help both you and your husband, and by asking Him to help you be better parents. All matters are in the power of Allah, and only He can bring about changes.
Second, as both a wife and mother, you need to educate yourself as to why your husband’s actions are potentially damaging to the children, himself, and the family as a whole. Then you may want to consider confronting him in a respectful and wise manner. Perhaps you can go through another family member or a friend of his—only you would know what route is the most likely to have an impact on him.
It is our duty as Muslims to uphold what is right and forbid what is wrong to the extent that we can. Forget the cultural line about being a “good wife” by keeping your mouth shut and letting your husband act inhumanely with your kids. You have a right as a Muslim to tell your husband—in the wisest way possible—that he is overdoing it with his physical discipline.
The father is supposed to provide security to the family. Children should feel secure and safe around their father—physically, psychologically, and emotionally—thus allowing the children to act as children and to grow up in safe and caring environment where nurturing, learning, and loving are present. However, if the father is doing the exact opposite of this by causing anxiety and fear in the children, your children could develop sociopsychological problems, as you have said, in addition to being turned off to Islam by associating it with an abusive father.
Teaching and modeling Islam in the manner of your husband could lead to pain, frustration, and rebellion later on in your children. Even worse, the children will learn to do things merely to please their father, and will never be comfortable engaging in that needed self-exploration and discovery required for healthy development. One cannot arrive to self- and God-realization at gunpoint. They require security as well as the freedom to make mistakes in a safe way—all of which begins in the home, which is every person’s first testing ground for life.
According to the father of sociology, Ibn Khaldun, this is the reason why individuals who live in lands ruled by tyrannical governments or leaders tend to develop many character flaws, because in order to live in such places, people often have to do or say whatever the leaders want to avoid persecution.
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In this way, they live solely to please their rulers—but only out of fear for their lives. But what almost always happens in these kinds of places? Eventually, there is almost always a rebellion of some kind as the self that has been bottled up and suppressed for so long eventually explodes in a fit of rage and frustration. The self will always express itself in one way or another.
When children learn that being a “good Muslim” only means doing what daddy wants, they will never learn to live for Allah, but rather they will live only to please their father. They will never know freedom from fear and persecution to explore themselves and life, and will always be fearful that they may be doing something that may anger their father. Excessive physical abuse will just reinforce and exacerbate this problem. In time, this will turn into frustration and resentment and God knows what else.
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