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Q/A Counseling Session on Family Issues, Attraction & Desire

Dear brothers and sisters,

Thank you for submittigng your questions to the Ask the Counselor section.

Please find here a selection of 4 questions to which the counselor has provided answers.

Question 1. Differences in attraction

For most of my life, I thought men and women feel attracted to each other the same way. But recently I learned about the profound differences that we have in this regards and it is kind of a bitter truth because in my head I tend to interpret it as “If they aren’t drawn towards us the same way then they don’t have any reciprocating desire” so it’s a bit depressing. it also feels a bit unfair because it’s easier for women to lower their gaze as they aren’t as affected by beauty compared to men. Another thing is, women have a more holistic approach to attraction while men tend to put an emphasis on beauty, and it’s wrong to question Allah but I can’t help but think that men tend to be a bit superficial and I don’t know why men and women aren’t the same in that regards. Women also tend to be more innocent in their attraction as they are not drawn to nude images the same way men are, and this makes men vulnerable to things like p*rn addiction and other visual sins – for men, visual stimulation alone is very rewarding and compelling – and although there is a wisdom behind these differences and they have their benefits, I can’t help but feel a bit jealous in the context of avoiding sin, and feel a bit upset that women don’t desire us the same way we desire them.

I feel pretty stuck and obsessed with this issue. Although I’ve received advice and insight from others, nobody has managed to change my mind or help me make peace with these facts. These differences not only exist in the context of sexual attraction but also in sexual desire, and they may affect behavior. This is quite depressing because it makes me wonder: where is the fun in being married if women don’t see us the same way we see them? It feels like a monkey living with a gorilla; the experiences are so different. I don’t know what will help me come to terms with this, but I look forward to hearing your advice.

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Assalamu alaikom, brother,

Thank you for sharing your ideas and doubts. 

Yes, actually, there are differences, and we are not the same. We are rather talking about complementarity, which means that women and men have traits, needs, and ways to express their desires that complement each other. It’s a beautiful thing and the wisdom of Allah, as in this way (being different), there is also room for growth by learning from each other.

You are saying that women are more holistic in their approach to attraction, while men tend to put an emphasis on beauty, which makes you think that men tend to be a bit superficial. You don’t understand why men and women are not the same in that regard.

You know, brother, that for women, generally speaking, physical appearance does not play as much of an important role in their desire as in the case of men. But men also have needs in terms of inner qualities and other dimensions that affect their desires. For example, feeling respected, valued, or capable are things that men tend to find very important when it comes to a romantic relationship.

But just because men have the challenge of being more vulnerable to visual stimulus, it does not mean that women do not have their own challenges in a relationship due to their nature or that they are not prone to falling into zina. So, I would definitely not think about this as a comparison or even as a competition between the two sexes.

Also, I would question your reasoning that says that because we are not the same, marriage won’t be fun, or if a woman doesn’t see us the same way, there is no point in marriage.

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them, and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed, in that are signs for people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)

This attraction draws us close to each other, and this is the ground for marriage, and it makes both of us grow in the mirror of each other.

The goal of complementarity extends to our differing roles in marriage and family life, so it serves to balance tasks, roles, and duties. A marriage is also about self-development, a process through which we grow spiritually and get closer to Allah. Having someone different close to us is a challenge but also a huge opportunity to learn about ourselves and learn to integrate other qualities during the years of living together. You will be somehow “destined” to consider other needs, other points of view, and other perspectives and ways of thinking.

Secondly, I want to emphasize that while these are general statements about men and women, about desires, attraction, and differences, there are also many individual differences. Women also experience strong sexual attraction; there are women who are also visually attracted, or they consider beauty, or they get attracted to external factors (you called them “superficial”), like material gains, possessions, money, etc.

Also, there are plenty of men who do not go for beauty or looks alone.

The interesting thing is your interpretation of these general differences, because this is a kind of subjective thing.

Why do these differences make you feel that there is no point, for example, in marriage? Why do the lack of total reciprocity and the lack of similarity in desires and attractiveness make you think that there is no point in marriage?

The way you interpret things is speaking about your beliefs, and it would be very interesting to analyze and explore why you arrived at the conclusion that the difference between the sexes regarding attraction and desires is not interesting.

And what makes you feel upset if women don’t desire you the same way you do? If it’s not the same, does that mean that it’s worse? Does this mean that you are worse or weaker?

Maybe you can list these ideas down and go through them by analyzing them. Are you sure that these differences really mean that men are more vulnerable and superficial? You find it unfair, for example, that women have less struggle with lowering their gaze than men, but what about the struggle of women that maybe is much easier to handle for men?

Kindly try to shift perspectives and see your ideas from a different point of view, focusing on the possible benefits. Also, try to find real-life examples of the opposite of your beliefs to challenge them. 

I hope this helps. Please find some more articles here:

 Boys Will Be Boys… Reflections on Gender Identity and Relations

Quranic Concepts on Gender Relations

Question 2. Emotionally unavailable dad

I don’t know if it’s right to msg here or not or if you’ll read this or not ,but here I go.
The issue is that I have a pretty dysfunctional family pretty much because of my father ,but the issue here is him being really harsh and emotionally unavailable to my eldest brother ,he has been a difficult child but he has also faced strictness from pretty much the entire family over things that if my cousins ( children of the same people) do now it’s not considered offensive ,they’re living their life peacefully ,today smth happened and my father didn’t take stand for him over smth he was right on ,but the uncle of mine kept defending his child although he was wrong ,he’s really heartbroken….I always try to counsel him that baba loves you he doesn’t show it but then he sees his own father being affectionate to our cousins to be specific,he feels heartbroken and it’s normal ,idk how to counsel him .my father is very affectionate with me and my younger brother ,but not to be elder brother . I feel like I am robbing the love he deserves.


Thank you for writing to us. I am really sorry to hear that you grew up in a dysfunctional family, especially because of your father, whom you perceive as really harsh and emotionally unavailable to your elder brother. Indeed, according to you, he has indeed been a difficult child, but he also faces strictness from pretty much the entire family.

This makes you feel that you are robbing him of the love that he deserves because your father is very affectionate with you and with your younger brother, but not with him or with your elder brother. You say that you think that even your father is more affectionate and loving with your cousins than with his own first son.

Brother, I understand the situation, and I would like to tell you that unfortunately, I have seen this as quite a common thing that sometimes firstborns receive extra responsibility and accountability. In many households, firstborns are treated differently, and this happens maybe even knowingly but sometimes unconsciously.

According to the researchers of this paper:

According to the authors’ theory, parents have an incentive to punish their first-born child if that child engages in risky behaviour in order to deter such behaviour by younger siblings.”

Sometimes it happens in many families that the second and third children are more excused and cuddled; the firstborn is the one who is given more responsibility. The one who has to know how to behave, who is held accountable and responsible for all the things other brothers messed up, So yeah, this is an actual phenomenon, sometimes affected by cultural norms too, and it can have both positive and negative effects on the first-born child.

From article:

Some firstborn children become successful because their parents were harder on them,” shares Dr. Walfish. “Many firstborn children, however, emerge into adulthood with more psychological issues and unfinished business with their parents. By this, I mean that many firstborn kids were lectured too much, disciplined too hard, overprotected and expected to be role models and responsible for their younger siblings. Many issues like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive traits and anger may linger into adulthood and remain until dealt with.”

What also happens is that the firstborn is the only child in the family, receiving all the attention and care. While the second and third siblings don’t ever experience the privilege of having their parents exclusive love and affection, right? And when a second sibling is born, it can be a very painful experience for the firstborn, even unconsciously. They lose this privilege, and they may start misbehaving to gain back the attention and love they used to have from their parents, who are now occupied with someone else.

And maybe in many families, this is the moment when the problem starts to arise, as instead of getting love, he starts getting more and more harsh and starts a vicious cycle, which is not good for anyone. Unfortunately, parents sometimes are not really aware of this fact or are not really going to understand the reason for the misbehavior of a child to find out that maybe he’s just seeking love and care and he’s getting punished instead of cuddled.

On the other hand, this, of course, does not mean that a father or a mother has the right to mistreat or abuse their children. This is, of course, not acceptable. Each one of you deserves kind, loving treatment as children, regardless of your ranking as siblings.

So, what can you do?

I understand how this makes you feel, and I’m really sorry for your brother. May Allah make it easy for him.

How can you counsel him?

You may reassure him about your support and love. Also, let him know that your father’s behavior is not his fault. Everyone is responsible for their own deeds and actions. If your father’s words are harsh, it’s about him; it’s not about your older brother.

Even in the case of a misbehaving son, a father has to learn to control his tongue and his actions and find the best possible way to deal with a child.

A child is not responsible for his father’s feelings and his father’s anger; it is the father who has to learn to deal with his emotions.

The second thing is to try to talk to your father and let him know how this makes you feel. That you perceive too harsh his treatment and you feel that is unjust. Instead of blaming your father, focus on how this situation makes you feel and tell him that you would like to see your other brother also appreciated, loved, cared for, praised, and excused when he deserves it.

If your father had siblings, ask him whether he experienced different treatment and how that made him feel.

Remind each other that we need to be merciful with our family members and practice kindness, mercy, and forgiveness among the family.

Look at the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his treatment of children and others, and discuss the love, affection, and mercy of Allah (SWT) and learn from these examples.

It is never too late to admit mistakes, repent, and change to become a better parent and a more loving one.

May Allah help you and your family and reward your efforts.

Question 3. Controlling desires

Assalamualaikum warahamtalluhi wabarakatu,

Whenever Im alone, Ill be trapped by shytaan , like I do Haram and after doing the next second, I feel so bad that I regret a lot and pray and ask for forgiveness and again I do the same mistake every time , in this Dulhijjah I fasted almost all day till now , still I can’t stop my desire when its evening after magrib , I really wanted to get out of this things ..

Assalamualaikum, brother,

Thank you for writing to us.

As far as I understand, you are 26 years old, and when you are alone, you feel “trapped by the shaytan,” and you cannot control your desires, which makes you feel guilty but unable to improve.

I’m sorry to hear that, brother. I would like to tell you that the feeling you desire as a 26-year-old man is quite normal and really healthy. There is nothing wrong with that. That is why, in our tradition, it is recommended that you get married as soon as you are capable of doing so because it is a good way to fulfill your natural desires.

So, my question is to you: What makes you avoid marriage? Either finances or other issues, you may need to rethink your possibilities and reconsider your willingness to get married, get a “halal” partner, and fulfill your desires while also fulfilling your responsibilities and duties as a husband.

Instead of trying to suppress your natural desires, it would be wiser to accept that it’s normal to have them because you are a young man, but you would need to find the ways and means to channel them to avoid feelings of shame and guilt.

The second thing I would like to tell you is that you are mentioning that you are “trapped by the Shaytan.” I would like you to think about this for a second, brother. Actually, you are responsible for your deeds, so I wonder whether blaming “Shaytan” would help you improve. It is you who make conscious decisions and have the free will to decide whether to engage in an act or not, right? So, it’s really about you and your willingness and willpower to take steps to change.

As I mentioned before, marriage would be a great opportunity that could help solve your problem in the first place.

As a second thing, I would look for any triggers that can come your way of getting arousal that you cannot fulfill, right? This can mean avoiding social media, avoiding lowering your gaze online, not only offline, and trying to get rid of any access to any inappropriate sites. If being alone is a risk, try to minimize the chances of being alone for too long. 

What else can be behind your urges? Are we talking about stress and using this habit as stress relief? In this case, you may need to think about what kind of other stress-relieving method you can build.

Also, is there any possibility of addiction? In this case, you may need to seek an addiction counselor to see how you can treat the underlying cause first behind your addiction and then make a conscious plan of habit change, holding yourself accountable for that.

I hope this helps. May Allah make it easy for you!

Question 4. Respecting a father

A daughter learns that her biological father sexually assaulted women before she was born. This means that the father is a criminal. The father never went to jail and does not seem to regret his actions, yet Muslim society says that she should respect him and recognize him as her father. This is a real situation that happens in Muslim society. In this instance, do you REALISTICALLY think that the daughter would Ever be able to trust this man, much less respect this man that the society is commanding her to accept as a fatherly figure? Please post your answer for all readers on About Islam as this situation corresponds to multiple cases in Muslim society. Thank you.

Salam alaikum, dear sister,

Thanks for sharing your struggle.

You are giving an example of a daughter who learns that her biological father sexually assaulted a woman before she was born. You continue saying that the father is a criminal, that he never went to jail, and that he does not seem to regret his actions, yet “Muslim society” says that she, the daughter, should respect him and recognize him as her father. Your question is whether it is realistic to think that the daughter would ever be able to trust and expect this man, as society wants her to do that.

Sister, I understand the confusion that stems from this contradiction. Let’s be clear about this: Of course, it’s not acceptable to sexually assault any woman at any point in a man’s life. It’s not acceptable; it’s illegal, and depending on the severity, it’s most likely a crime with legal consequences, both legally and Islamically.

So, with this being said, when you are talking about how Muslim society wants you to respect your father, do you think they want you to respect him because of what he did?

I would say that the respect of a “Muslim” father is based on his character, his deeds, and his adherence to the deen. He deserves respect when he fulfills his duties, treats well, and gives their rights to his family, his children, his wife, and so forth. Sister, a practicing Muslim with taqwa who is capable of distinguishing between right and wrong and following the Quran and the teachings of Islam, is not going to sexually assault any woman. These are two different, totally separate things, in my opinion.

Another thing is that people make mistakes and commit sins. Our level of iman is not the same throughout our life cycle, and yeah, there are many people who were engaged in illegal or criminal acts but had the capacity to learn from their mistakes, realize the wrong that they were doing, sincerely repent, and change for the better.

Sister, we all make mistakes, sometimes great ones, but think about how demotivating it would be if we did not have the opportunity to correct them. If we were judged for those mistakes forever without being able to repent and change ourselves, how would that make you feel if you were not given another opportunity?

We know that in our tradition, Allah is All-Forgiving, and one can trust in Allah’s promise and mercy if the repentance is sincere.

However, you say that if this father has not repented, it seems unrealistic to expect your respect for him.

My first question would be, without wanting to excuse him, are you sure that he has not repented, at least secretly in his heart, and did not take any steps to correct his mistakes?

Is there any possibility that this happened (even publicly) and you are not aware of that? For example, you may see that he has changed his behavior; he’s been more respectful since you were born, etc. Is there any possibility that you are not aware of any kind of repentance on his part?

Secondly, in the case of him willingly and openly being proud of his past sins and telling the community that he has no regrets about them, that would be a whole different issue and would make your doubts really understandable.

So, to conclude, I would say that, dear sister, think about this situation as a bit more multifaceted. There are some issues to consider. First, whether he has really repented or not, regardless of whether you are aware of his repentance or not, Has he changed for the better or not? Does he still commit similar sins or not? And finally, whether you are really expected to respect him for his sin or not,.

I hope this helps you to clear up misunderstandings, and may Allah make it easy for you.

Finally, I would like to add that there are some things in “Muslim societies” that are based on cultural or traditional values or customs and have little to do with the teachings of Islam. Learning about the correct understanding of the deen might help you understand these differences, in sha Allah.

May Allah make it easy for you and reward your efforts, ameen.

Friday, Jun. 21, 2024 | 09:00 - 10:00 GMT

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