Can Daughter Cut Ties with Atheist Father?

29 May, 2020
Q My child was born from my first husband, an atheist man that has put his hands on me in the past and is dangerous when off of his meds (bipolar).

He has been admitted to psychiatric hospitals against his will when he was in a psychotic state and said he was going to kill me.

For most of her beginning youth, she witnessed him screaming and treating me as a slave, as much as I tried to protect her she knew.

After I divorced him I always maintained visitations between him and her until recently when my daughter (11-years-old) told me she does not want to interact with him anymore.

She feels unsafe and neglected with him, she also feels uncomfortable praying in his home although she can't explain why.

She made the decision after her last visitation when he picked her up at 9 am on her birthday then went to sleep and left her to sit alone in the home for hours without food or anything to do besides youtube.

she eventually text me on the phone hours later, a phone I got her specifically for if he had an episode. I rushed over to pick her up, she was in tears and wanted to leave, It was her final straw and she was done.

She told me the only reason she kept seeing him was that she thought he needed her to take care of him. They never connected, he has never been a fatherly figure to her.

She remembers the past, she remembers some of the things he did to me and she remembers how he used to scream at her.

He never put his hands on her (I suspected one time but I could be wrong and she was too young to be able to understand) he screamed at her a lot in the past and she told Grandma when she was young that he was like a scary panther when he got mad.



He used to be so terrifying I would lock her door and hold her in the corner whispering to her we had to be silent or he would come in because I knew he would start screaming again. I am not talking about raising voices, he screamed at us.

He abandoned us one time with $20, a train ticket to my Mothers and he took off on a plane to our home which was in another country at the time (federal gov job).

She has memories of his abuse and abandonment, often she was too young to fully understand or remember all of the details Alhamdulillah, but ultimately she knows a lot.

Is it sinful and wrong for her to cut ties with him? I know that we are not supposed to cut ties but in this situation, he has the potential for danger and she wants nothing to do with him.

I have offered supervised visitation and she said no. I will add she does not have PTSD or any concerns like this.

She is emotionally stable, happy, doing great in school, helpful to others, respectful, affectionate with family and an overall great kid. We don't need counseling, we moved on with our lives and left him and the negativity behind us. Alhamdulillah.

Notes : For full information, my daughter and I are reverts. The X is an atheist, he drinks alcohol, always had a pornography addiction, is unclean and unpredictable.

He is docile as long as he stays on meds, if he stops taking them we have a major issue. I am remarried now to a good Muslim man and he loves her as his own and has shown her true fatherly warmth and guidance.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

•Regarding your daughter cutting off visitation with her father, I will kindly suggest that you speak with a lawyer concerning this for legal reasons as well as your imam at your Masjid for spiritual guidance.

•When your daughter gets older, if she chooses she can have a relationship with her father.  Perhaps he will be more stable in his later years.

•As a psychologist, I can only recommend that you keep her safe in all regards-emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.


As salamu alaykum,

Shokran for writing to our live session, I’m sorry to hear about all the abuse that you and your daughter have gone through. It sounds like a very abusive marriage and alhumdulilah you left the marriage safely.

It took much courage on your part to leave and seek a divorce which given the abusive circumstances but you had all rights to do so.  I can imagine it was hard as a single mom, however, you did what was best as abuse should never be tolerated. It is deplorable.

You stated that your ex-husband is bipolar, dangerous, has threatened to kill you, has been admitted to psychiatric hospitals when he psychotic, and used to scream at you and your daughter uncontrollably. This certainly was not a conducive environment for your child nor you. Alhumdulilah you are remarried to somebody who treats you and your daughter with kindness, love and respect, and one who is stable.

Islamic & Legal Issues: Visitation

Regarding your daughter cutting off visitation with her father, I will kindly suggest that you speak with a lawyer concerning this for legal reasons as well as your imam at your Masjid for spiritual guidance. 

An imam or Islamic scholar can provide more help regarding the Islamic rulings on such an action given her age.  As she should not be subjected to an abusive household via visitation, it is a serious issue to be examined.

While we do not know if your x-husband is on his medication, if he has been stable, etc., if visitation with her father is harmful to her, it must be cut off.  The only way to determine this would be through mediation or court proceeding wherein he gets to discuss the situation as well as provide proof that he is stable.  You would bring your own proofs as well.

Can Daughter Cut Ties with Atheist Father? - About Islam

If visitation is cut off,  that is not saying that she is cutting off her father, she is just cutting off visitation until she feels safe, if she ever does. When your daughter gets older, if she chooses she can have a relationship with her father.  Perhaps he will be more stable in his later years.

In Islam, as you know, it is Haram to cut off relationships with parents. This does not mean however that a child is to be in the presence of abusive parents. Children also have rights in Islam. 

What it does mean is that when she gets older she should seek to help him if he needs it, whether it’s financial,  taking him to the doctors, ensuring he has food and being kind to him. One can distance oneself from an abusive and dangerous parent yet still be there to ensure they are taken care of.

Insha’Allah,  talk with your daughter. Explain to her that he has a mental illness (at an age-appropriate level) and encourage her to have good thoughts of her father by remembering any good deeds he did do as well as any fun memories.  Talk to her about the attributes of kindness and mercy which are critical elements of being Muslim.


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Protection of Daughter

While she does not feel safe now, insha’Allah she should not be forced to go to her father’s as it may do detrimental damage to her emotional well-being.  However, if visitation is stopped she should be taught that as he is her father, she should be kind to him when she ever she does see him and when she gets older she should look out for him.

Again please consult with your lawyer in regards to the legalities of the situation so you may modify the court orders if any exist.

Please do insha’Allah consult with your imam at your Masjid or write to our section “Ask the Scholars” for a more Islamically precise answer regarding the cessation of visitation.  As children are to be protected and kept safe from abusive situations, it stands to reason that she should not have to visit him.

However, as I do not know all of the details, it would be best discussed with an Islamic scholar. As a psychologist, I can only recommend that you keep her safe in all regards-emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. She shouldn’t have to worry about and dead going to see her father out of fear. That is not a life for a child to be forced to deal with.

Seeking Resolution

I would kindly suggest dear sister that insha’Allah you speak to your lawyer, as well as with your imam.  As your x-husband is her father, he would also have an opportunity for his input on the situation so that both sides are heard.

It may be that he is stable and your daughter is re-living the trauma she went through (understandably so) or he is still abusive and dangerous and not engaged in psychiatric treatment.

I would kindly suggest that you and your x-husband sit with a mediation specialist to determine what is the situation exactly.  He should be required by the courts or mediator to bring proofs as to his stability.

While you stated that you and your daughter do not need counseling, that you both have “moved on” with your lives, that may be true.  It may also be that you both are still suffering from the trauma and are not aware of it (hence her fear of him).

As she is only 11 years old, she is probably carrying much of that trauma with her still unless it has already been addressed.  Insha’Allah sister, while I respect your position on counseling, I do have to suggest based on what you wrote that you do consider counseling for both you and your daughter due to her continued fears as well as your intense recounting of the abuse.

Even if visitation stops, your daughter is not likely to “just forget” all she has witnessed in her 11 short years.  She is still a child and it may still be affecting her in ways that are unknown.

We wish you the best, you are in our prayers.

Salam,

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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 Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.