Rebellion Within the Family

14 April, 2017
Q As salamu `alaykum. First I would like to thank you for your service. I really hope you can help me with my problem. We lived and was raised in America, my parents went there when we were little. Recently my dad decided to move back to his mother's country against our wishes. Even my mother did not want to return. It was not like we did anything bad in America. My sister and I went to Islamic school and my brother was sent to South Africa to become a scholar. We used to hang around with good Muslims, and we did not have non-Muslim friends. We lived according to the Islamic way. We were raised without TV because my dad thought it was bad for us. However after migrating, everything changed. My sister was always an honor student in America and had excellent behavior. After we arrived in our grandmother's country,she got expelled from school, though I would rather she stayed home because all the girls in school only think about boys and music. Now that she has been expelled, she stays online all the time chatting with boys and listening to music, does not pray and refuses to study. she does not respect anyone and is always hitting my little brother. she yells and talks back to our mother and absolutely refuses to listen to her. Whenever any male visitors come to our house and they are non-mahram, she always goes in front of them without her hijab. My father left us here and returned to America. I told him about my sister, but he does not do anything. My sister now does not want to wear the hijab anymore. one important detail is my family is the only family who truly practices Islam. My mother's side of the family, sure they pray and cover however when it's time to go parties they don't wear hijab and the niqab fearing it will mess up their hair and make-up. They do not pray because they will have to take the makeup off to make wudu’ (ablutions). Two of my maternal uncles live with us and whenever I don't let them listen to music, they bad mouth me and my sister who has taken up that habit and now bad mouths me too. I tried talking to her twice however she does not listen. She thinks if she does all bad things dad will take us back to America. It's ironic in a Muslim country we can't live the Islamic way because of the people and in a non-Muslim country we practiced Islam perfectly. if you were going to suggest that we go to an Islamic conference, my mom would refuse to go to one here because she is mad at dad for bringing us here. She thinks some people influenced my father to bring us here. I think it is true because my dad never listens to what my mom has to say or what we have to say. He always thinks his decision is correct and refuses to listen to ours. I finished high school and want to go to college, however, my dad wants me to get married first. I know I will not be able to study after I get married. It's not like I refused to get married. I want to get married one day, but first, I want to finish college, so please help me. What should I do for myself and my sister? I talked to my father about everything including going to college and my sister, but he does not do anything. I pray to Allah all the time to make it better. please help me and guide me.


As-salmu `Alaikum dear brother,

I am so sorry that you are disturbed by your family coming apart. In family
discord, there is often a person who takes the role of a witness, and that role is difficult that involves trying to reform and put the family together- often without success because the problem involves so many people and their behaviors.

In family discord, there is often witness (seeing yourself through the eyes of others), that role is a difficult one as you try to reform and put the family together without success.  Your returning to your home country and leaving America is the trigger, but not the main problem.

The main problem is the lack of good communication and connectedness amongst family members to the extent that your father would relocate your family without your mother’s consultation and that your mother would behave in such ways that would cause her very children to pay the price of a marital issue between her and your father.

Your sister who is on the Internet and was expelled from school is the family mascot in that she and her behaviors are a subconscious way to bring the family together, although in reality that is not the effect.  You see, your family is in trouble right now.  You are separated (isolated) and each of you is suffering as a result of your mother and father’s disconnection.

Each of you wants to help the situation but to each their own way of doing so.  Your sister, as naughty and inappropriate she may be is attempting to attract attention to the family problem.  If your father knew everything that she was doing there would be a greater chance that he would return.  Further, your sister is probably suffering greatly and is trying to numb her pain.  You watch it all and you try to bring it all together, but it remains broken despite your efforts.

I would encourage you to share with each of your family members how their behaviors impact you.  For example, when your sister yells at you, you could say something like “when you yell, I feel like I don’t know you anymore and that makes me sad” or “ sister, I really miss the way you used to [ state something she used to do with you]”.

I know that these sound like really warm and fuzzy statements and that a lot of people are not comfortable with them, but often this level of emotionality is necessary to release the emotions in another person.  If your sister could release some emotions she would likely not being acting out as she is.  It is normal that your sister would want to take the hijab off and doing all of these things which your father deemed wrong.  Firstly, she is probably upset that he left your family after bringing them home.  Secondly, she probably wants to get his attention so he can come home.

It sounds like you are trying really hard and doing well in speaking your truth and making your position known regarding what is going on and what is right and wrong.  It is very courageous to be able to do what you are doing.  It is also important to know when you have reached your limit.  Your father is responsible for the family and if you tell him what goes on and he pays no or little attention, remind him of his duty towards his family and ask him what he would like you to do. Talk with your mother and siblings, not only about leaving America but about the state of the family situation!

Consult with wise family members or friends so that they may give your mother some direction.  I pray that Allah guides you and your family.

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About Layla A. Asamarai
Layla A. Asamarai is an Iraqi American Muslim residing in the United States. She obtained her MA degree in clinical psychology and is currently perusing her PhD in clinical psychology. She is very interested in the psychological dilemmas that Muslim youth in America are faced with.