I’m a Divorcée Living with My Parents: How to Survive Christmas?

23 December, 2018
Q Salam Aleikom. I am a convert sister living in a Western society alone. I am a divorcee. We just came back as we were living in another country where Christmas is not celebrated. My family is not Muslim, and they celebrate Christmas obviously. They want to buy presents for my daughter, they want that we eat with them Christmas dinner and want to take her to the church with them as well.

They cannot understand why is it a problem. I do not want to do as I am alone I feel vulnerable, I have to live with them as I cannot afford to live in my own apartment, so they kind of feel like as they give us food and shelter they are entitled to tell us what to do. I don’t wanna be rude either. How shall I handle the situation?

Answer

In this counseling answer:

“Certainly in Islam eating together and giving gifts is not forbidden and is recommended. If it can be done in such a way that does not symbolize Christmas directly then you could satisfy their own desire to do such things as a family, but in a way that is more congruent with Islamic ways of doing so.”


Wa Alaikum salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh sister,

This does indeed sound like a tricky situation. As a divorced mother in a non-Muslim country, staying with non-Muslim relatives, you want to respect their own beliefs and desires, but at the same time, these beliefs are inconsistent with your own. Thus, you don’t want your daughter to be influenced by their beliefs that are inconsistent with Islam. Your situation means that you have little choice but to stay with your family right now so have little room for escape. At the same time, you are worried about the impact of this time upon your daughter as well as family relations.

We know that we are strongly encouraged to maintain ties of kinship so it would be unwise to cause difficulties with your family at this time. However, you also need to remain steadfast in your religion to please Allah and should not compromise your religion to please them. However, it is possible to make certain compromises that don’t affect your religion while equally satisfying your family’s desires to engage in certain activities during this time. For example, perhaps you could agree to have a family dinner together, but not on Christmas day and without the various things that symbolize Christmas such as crackers. Likewise, you can allow them to give your daughter gifts, but agree that they are not given on Christmas day or are wrapped in Christmas paper. Regarding taking your daughter to the church, this may be one area where there simply cannot be a compromise.

We should respect the ties of kinship and obey our parents, except in matters where they tell you to do something against Islam. Taking your daughter to church on Christmas day is perhaps taking things too far and there may be no easy way to compromise here except being firm with them that she is your daughter and you don’t want this for her, but that you are happy to make all the other compromises mentioned here.

If you feel like such a discussion might cause difficulties, then be sure that this conversation happens out of your daughter’s earshot. Exposing your daughter to difficulties that you might face in discussing compromises could have detrimental effects. But for her to see that you all as a family have been able to come together successfully can be very beneficial to her. Generally, make sure to have such discussions as gently and respectfully as possible so that they will feel more inclined to respect your own desires also.

Certainly in Islam eating together and giving gifts is not forbidden and is recommended. If it can be done in such a way that does not symbolize Christmas directly then you could satisfy their own desire to do such things as a family, but in a way that is more congruent with Islamic ways of doing so.

May Allah make it easy for you and bring peace to your family during a time that can be quite difficult in families that practice different faiths.

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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 Hannah Morris
Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)