Frankly, sister, I cannot help but focus on you rather than your sister. It sounds to me as if you are the one that needs self-understanding. I respect your love, dedication, and concern for your sister, but it sounds as if you insist simply that she be more like you! Your concern for her is evidently due to her not acting as you did at her age. However, she is not you! Let me give some examples. You said:
-“When I was her age I was a bit out going.”
-“She is the last born and everyone in my family agrees (older brothers and sisters) that she should try going out or even have a boyfriend.”
-“All her friends (3 girls) are outgoing and most of them are either married or in a relationship that would end up in marriage.”
-“I don’t believe in delaying marriage up until one is older. I got married when I was 21 and I am working, studying and have a child.”
-“I was thinking that my sister should try being open-minded but she won’t listen, all she says is give me a good reason for me to change.”
Compare, compare, compare. You are comparing her to you, your sisters, her friends, everyone! Why the need to compare? Do you not love her for who she is? Don’t base your love for your sister on the condition that she does things the way you did, or how you want her to do them. Let her be herself. Stop trying to force her to meet men and get married and do all the things that you did at your age.
The way of Islam is to recognize the unique gifts that each of us bring into this world and to nurture them, for each one of us is a unique manifestation and creation of Allah. Our need to force others to be like ourselves is due to our own insecurities. She is an individual human being, the highest creation of God. Let her be who she was created to be and encourage her to be herself.
Can you not see that you are scared for your sister because she is not like you? She is only 17 years old, why are you rushing her into being and doing things that she is not comfortable with? Just because you and maybe your sisters all got married young, it does not mean that your sister has to. That may be based on your culture, but culture is not Divine Law. It may be that your sister is simply not ready.
By you forcing your will on her you are obviously making her very uncomfortable, and sending her the message that there is something really wrong with her. To me, you need to be more open-minded, not her. You need to let her be herself. When she is ready for marriage, she’ll pursue it in a way that is comfortable for her. What is so wrong about that?
As she is only 17, for you to insist that she is doomed to being a spinster her whole life, is premature and a bit extreme. The fact that she prefers to be religiously cautious and scrupulous by not engaging in relations with men is nothing to be concerned about. It’s a sign of wara’ (leaving part of halal to avoid falling in haram)and God-fearing. Obviously, she’s just not ready for it. As you have described it, I don’t see it as a religious issue as much as it reflects her personal level of comfort and readiness to seek a husband.
There is nothing wrong with being shy. Haya` (shyness, modesty) in Islam is a noble value and character. This is confirmed by many hadith including:
“Iman (faith) has over seventy branches, and haya’ (self-respect, modesty, bashfulness, pious shyness),is a branch of iman.” (Al-Bukhari 1:8) and (Muslim 1, #0055).
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: The Prophet passed by a man who was admonishing his brother regarding Haya and was saying, “You are very shy, and I am afraid that might harm you.” On that, Allah’s Apostle said, “Leave him, for Haya is (a part) of Faith.” (Al-Bukhari 8: 73 #139 )
Narrated Abu As-Sawar Al-Adawi: ‘Imran bin Husain said, “The Prophet said, ‘Haya’ does not bring anything except good.” (Al-Bukhari 8 :73 # 138)
Thus, please don’t chastise or be ashamed of your sister for her haya` (shyness). As you can see, in the right context it is a beautiful, praiseworthy character. Only when it impedes one from doing what they are obligated to do does it become a negative quality. For example, if one’s shyness prevents them from fulfilling their obligations firstly to Allah and then to others. However, in the sense of one who does meet their obligations but is naturally modest and shy, such a person should not be looked down upon by any means whatsoever.
Modesty (haya`) and maintaining one’s honor are of primary importance in preserving the moral fiber of any society. This is why modesty has been called the ornament of a woman, which protects her from many sins and which prevents ill-intentioned men from daring to have bad thoughts about her. This haya has been made a part of her nature to safeguard her from being abused by immoral men (from: Zahra Abdul Haseeb).
In light of the above, my advice to you is simply to be patient with your sister and try to understand her. Let her pursue marriage at her own pace. There is no written law that says she has to be married by the time she is 18. There is no written law that says she has to do things the exact same way you did them. She is shy, fine. She is quiet, fine. She is not outgoing like you and your other sisters, fine. Appreciate her for whom and what she is, rather than constantly pressure her into being something that she is not.
It’s the pressure of having to conform to others’ expectations that is probably making her miserable. She is probably convinced that there is really something wrong with her because she doesn’t desire to do things the same way you and your sisters did. I would try to probe this issue with her and find out if it’s true. Use gentle persuasion and invite her to do things that you think would be good for her but if she turns you down accept it and don’t punish her for it.
Try listening to her and understanding her without prejudice and judgment. Try accepting her for who she is and recognizing her unique gifts, which may be different than yours. See how that works. My hunch is that when people start appreciating her for who she is, she will come around, albeit at her own pace.
Finally, it is imperative that you, as her older sister and guardian, really try to talk with her and understand where she is coming from. Lose the need to lecture and convince her to be something that she is not, and seek to understand her. What does she fear about socializing with others? Why does she not want to mix with others? What does she enjoy? What makes her happy? Does she hope to get married someday? etc. Understanding is the first step in healing, so please work toward understanding your sister without judging before trying to correct a problem that may not even exist.
And Allah knows best…
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides.