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How to Deal with My Abusive Brother

07 November, 2020
Q Assalmoalaikum,

I have an elder brother. He is Muslim, unemployed and divorced now. My problem is that he has been very abusive verbally with me and my mother for a very long time. At times in his rage he had tried to be physically abusive to my mother while I had tried to save my mother from him. He pushed me to the ground. He says my parents are responsible for his failed marriage.

He says he would have been happy with his kafir girlfriend. I don't know if it is some kind of psychological disease he has or Jinn or Black magic on him. He doesn't pray or read Quran. He doesn't even like listening to the Quran being read. He gets irritated. He's been unemployed for 8 years now and sits at home thinking of getting a job abroad.

He forces my parents to fund him. Besides this, it is his stubbornness that he doesn't want a job in his own hometown. Masha Allah he is well educated. But I guess not educated enough to behave well with my parents. My parents are old now and stay far from each other because of my father's work. I stay with my mother and him and can't stand watching all this.

I've prayed, I've begged Allah to make everything right because we cannot break the kin either. But I can't watch this happening. I can't stand his abusive language and his talk specially when it comes to my chastity when I don't listen to what he wants. In my rage I have even gone to the extent of saying that I wish he would die. I've unintentionally cursed him in my heart for hurting my parents.

My parents don't justify this and instead support him saying he has gone through a tragedy in life. One failure of marriage doesn't mean it is the end of life. I've spoken to my parents about this but they just don't pay heed and tolerate his behavior. My father doesn't trust him when it comes to money and saving.

I've been into depression because of this. Alhamdulillah I am fine now after being in a therapy, but at times he has made fun of my psychological state. He has a lot of pride. He says he's always right and if we don't listen to him we will be in loss. He even agrees saying that he has a lot of ego and he loves it.

He thinks about getting married but not about getting a righteous wife but a woman that he thinks is a reproducing machine. He keeps blaming my parents for his failures in life. I do not know what to do with him.


In this counseling answer: 

  • Your brother’s abusive behavior towards yourself and your parents is completely unacceptable. However, there are a few ways you could make your situation more manageable.
  • Firstly, understanding the situation from his perspective might help you to understand his behavior and find more effective ways to help him.
  • Furthermore, you might consider getting assistance from others that he may be more responsive to, as well as consulting your local imam in the case he may be suffering from the effects of possession or magic.
  • Another option, after careful consideration, is to put him in a situation where he is forced to find alternative ways to cope by either asking him to leave for a short time or taking your parents away and leaving him for a week or so to contemplate on his behavior.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up on your du’aa’s because Allah is listening.

Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam wa Rahmatulahi wa Barakatuh sister,

Enduring abusive behavior from others is extremely tiring and difficult, especially when it comes from loved ones that we care for so dearly, in your case, your brother. The difficulty here is that despite his behavior, you also desire to assist him and save your parents from his terrible behavior towards them. However, you are at a loss about how to manage this behavior anymore.

Understand things from his perspective

It sounds a lot like he is frustrated with his own situation and see his family as the easy people to take it out on. Regardless of his unacceptable behavior, as his family, you love him unconditionally. Therefore, you are less likely to abandon him than others outside of the family.

Unfortunately, he seems to be taking advantage of this. He needs to know that his behavior is not acceptable, but at the same time, you will always support him.

His behavior is not ok. However, try to understand why he behaves this way. He is unemployed and divorced. This alone will cause most people some kind of psychological distress. Everyone has different ways of dealing with such situations. It seems your brother’s current behavior could well be a result of this.

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It is very difficult to blame oneself for being in such situations. The easy way out is to blame others, and the easiest people to blame it on are those close to you. They are the ones who are more likely to say nothing back or abandon them which at least will provide him some form of support without actually having to ask for what he really needs. Unfortunately, it seems he does not see the extent to which this is affecting you and your parents.

As a man, the pressure is on him, if not openly, then silently to be working and providing and sustaining a wife and children which he doesn’t have at present. This is probably making him feel less than adequate. The easiest way for him to deal with this is to behave in a way that indicates that he doesn’t care. Realistically, deep down inside, he probably feels deeply disturbed by this, otherwise, he would not likely behave in such a way.

This does not excuse his behavior or make it acceptable. However, understanding the possible motives behind his behavior might help you to feel a bit better towards the situation and realize that it really isn’t your fault. It might also inspire you to think of new ways to approach the situation that might be more effective if you can understand his mindset more clearly.

Check out this counseling video:

Continue to pray for him

Don’t ever think your du’aa’s are in vain.

“The supplication of every one of you will be granted if he does not get impatient and say (for example): ‘I supplicated my Rubb but my prayer has not been granted’.” (Riyad as-Saliheen, book 17, Hadith 35)

Be confident that Allah is listening to your every word and will answer your prayers at the best time. He knows better than we do. There is some wisdom behind him delaying His answer that you do not yet know. Don’t ever give up your du’aa’s to Him and He will answer you.

You might make sure to make your du’aa’s especially during the times where we are told that Allah is closest, such as the last 3rd of the night, between adhaan and iqamah, when breaking a fast, or on a Friday in the hour before maghrib.

“The nearest a servant comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating himself, so make supplication (in this state).  (Sahih Muslim)

 “Our Lord descends every night to the nearest heaven, until the last third of the night remains, so He says: ‘Who is calling upon Me so that I may answer him? Who is asking from Me so that I may give him? And who is seeking forgiveness from Me, so that I may forgive him.’” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi)

Approach someone who he respects in the family

It seems that your own efforts to confront him about the situation have been fruitless so far. He is also resistant to seek help from a psychologist. Given that he seems to have strayed from the path of Islam at present, he will likely to be resistant to intervention from your local imam also.

However, the fact that he doesn’t even like listening to the Qur’an may indicate an issue with Jinn possession or black magic as you suggest. It might be worth further investigation by your local imam. If your brother is unwilling to talk to him directly about the issue, you might consider at least talking with him yourself as a family to see how you could approach this and uncover if it really is a case of Jinn possession. Talking with the imam will help you to know how you can seek to overcome this problem.

Perhaps if there is someone in the family or a family friend that you feel he does listen to, you might approach them to have a lighter-hearted conversation with him. In this way, he might not take it as nagging as it seems he takes it from you. He may be more responsive to such a person.

Be firm

Sometimes you need to be firm in such situations otherwise he will continue to take advantage of your unconditional love.

Tell him to leave. With space away, maybe he will have time to reflect in his situation, both with you as his family and his divorce and employment situation. This will give him the space to also think about how he treats you all and really appreciate what you all do for him. He will also have to find alternative ways to manage his frustrations that does not involve hurting his family.

This will obviously also come with risks which you need to consider carefully should you choose to take this option. It’s because whilst it will make your message to him firm and clear, it may also be that this sends him off the rails even more and get into trouble. Thus, this is an option that you should consider very carefully.

Alternatively, you could create a similar scenario in a way that might seem less harsh whilst giving him this same kind of space to reflect on the situation in the absence of you all as his family. You could take your parents away for a week or so, for a holiday. Your parents might also be more agreeable to this as it seems less harsh than asking him to leave the family home.

May Allah bring you and your family ease and patience during this difficult time. May He guide your brother on the straight path and find peace and motivation in Islam.



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. (