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Feeling Imprisoned by My Parents

11 May, 2023
Q My parents are the root of my depression. They tell me that everything is haram. I'm aware of Islam teachings, but my dad reads too much into it. He claims that as long as I'm under his roof, he has complete responsibility for me including my sins. For that purpose, I'm not allowed to be out late, spend the night at my Muslim friends' house, or study abroad (which is something I've always wanted to do). He says that he will be judged for it. I am such a devoted Muslim. I don't understand why my parents don't trust me. I cannot do anything that displeases God. I'm over 18 now, and I am able to do what I want under the law, but I don't want to disobey them. I just want them to let me be happy. I feel caged and smothered by them. HELP!


In this counseling answer:

“How can we bridge the gap that exists between you and your parents in this regard? The answer is: with patience.

Patience does not mean just waiting for what you want to happen.

It means paying attention to other things, allowing the opportunity to present itself, and trusting in Allah in the meantime.”

As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh sister,

We pray that you will be able to see a resolution to your problem.

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We first must appreciate that we are all at different levels of understanding in Islam.

We can read a verse one day and then at a later date when we read the same verse again we realize that we have another but not entirely different meaning born out of the experience and lesson that life has given to us.

For your parents, they have an understanding which differs from yours.

It seems that their experience of life has led them to live in seclusion which adds to that understanding.

You are young and the young are in need of the lessons of life but with the guidance of their parents.

This is how you achieve your independence and sense of responsibility.

However, out of fear for the children, sometimes as parents, we can be a bit too over-protective.

It is not a case that the parents do not trust you, but a case that they fear of the outside world and of your ability to not be influenced by it.

As parents, we sometimes forget that our children came to us but they are not of us.

This can be better explained by ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, when he said:

“Do not force your children to behave like you, for surely they have been created for a time which is different to your time.”

At the same time, we want them to better than us and fear anything that might lead them in the wrong direction. It is a fine balance.

If we allow them too much freedom, then they might come into contact with friends who might lead them astray. This does happen if you just take a look around you.

I would like you to look at your friends and think about each one; their characters, their home lives, and their interests.

Which one has a lot of freedom and why? How does that freedom benefit them? Do they ever seek guidance from their parents?

How would they behave towards your parents? As you consider these questions, have in mind something else. ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib said:

“Whoever becomes involved in matters without considering their outcome is certainly exposed to dire misfortunes.” 

To guide us further the Qur’an says:

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor.”( Quran, 17: 23)

They fed and clothed you, cleaned up after you, witnessed you through your different periods of life and were tolerant when you became a handful. Whenever you have a problem with your parents remember this.

So, the question remains: how can we bridge the gap that exists between you and your parents in this regard? The answer is: with patience.

Patience does not mean just waiting for what you want to happen. It means paying attention to other things, allowing the opportunity to present itself, and trusting in Allah in the meantime.

There is another saying that some children are born for themselves, and others are born for their parents.

It means that those who are born for their parents have a lesson for their parents.

Maybe, you are to teach them how not to be so afraid, and the best lessons are those that are learned naturally.

With patience and love, you must be aware that your parents fear aspects of the outside world.

Therefore, for you to spend a reasonable time with your friends, you must help your parents understand that you have needs that if suppressed can also be misdirected.

Develop your relationship with them so that you can invite a suitable friend home to study together, for example. It is in your interest to let your parents get to know your friends.

Also, make sure that the parents of your invited friends have your address and telephone number.

This is in the interest of your friend. This way, who knows, maybe a relationship can develop between the parents of your friends and your parents.

This gives your parents peace of mind and provides a safety net for you… just in case! It is not unusual for something to happen on the way to a friend by the way so these are additional considerations.

As for staying out late at night and overnight at friends; if the latter is to happen, don’t force the issue.

Let it happen naturally for your parents must have complete faith in the friend you choose to stay with.

Staying out late at night from where you stand might seem exciting, but after a while, it can get a bit boring.

And even before that, it can be quite dangerous depending on where you live.

The other aspect is that there tend to be more males out at night than during the daytime, so you will have a pretty difficult task to convince your parents that it is okay.

This could probably be best reserved for special occasions like birthday or wedding parties and get your father to arrange to bring you home or to have you brought home if he is that worried.

What is important here is to be able to establish a reasonable social life.

If done with your parents in mind, you might not only find the balance that you seek, but you might be able to instigate your parents’ social life which is important in Islam.

We visit each other not only in times of need but also to enrich our social existence as Islam recognizes that we are social beings.

Encourage your parents to go out for picnics and events at the local Islamic center, for example. Just remember:

“Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Auliya (supporters, helpers, etc.) instead of the believers, and whoever does that will never be helped by Allah in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger from them.”(3: 28)

In other words, avoid spending time with those who indulge in the idle or bad talk ( e.g. gossip) and bad behavior for it only reflects their weaknesses which can become yours out of a need to belong or a need not to feel like a stranger.

Treasure your practicing Muslim friends over your non-practicing Muslim and non-Muslim friends for then you are assured of not being misled.

With patience and love, you can achieve much just take one step at a time. 


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.

About Hwaa Irfan
Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.