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Counseling Q/A Session on Mental & Emotional Health

Dear brothers and sisters,

Please find the 4 questions to which our counselor provided answers. If you do not find yours here, check out our upcoming session or submit it there again.

Question 1. Molested

What can I do if I have molested by my own father. He shows everyone that he is so Islamic and he is very nice but he is not I know that…I don’t even want to tell my mother about this…what if she didn’t believe me or she gets upset I love my mother and don’t want to give her stress…is it okay to tolerate with these types of problems when I don’t have another option?

Salam alaikom wa rahmatullah, sister

Thank you for turning to us and sharing your struggle.

I am really sorry to hear what is going on in your family home. And you did the right thing by seeking support and help; I am sure it was not an easy step to take.

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I am not sure from your letter that he still molests you or that what you are relating is a past event. But surely and clearly, sexual abuse is wrong, unacceptable, sinful, and illegal, and there are no excuses for what he did or is doing.

I understand that this must be very confusing for you, as he is your own father. This means that you may have a fatherly love and respect for him; “he is nice and Islamic” outwardly, and you have hard times putting this together with totally unacceptable behavior and all those feelings this causes you.

But you have to be very determined about this and clearly understand that he has absolutely no right to molest you. He has absolutely no right to touch you, and you have the FULL right, as a daughter and as a young woman, to say no to him and try any means to avoid further harm.

So, whatever he says when he approaches you, know that you can and have to reject him by asking or warning him to leave you, by locking your room, or by trying other means to stay safe, like not staying alone with him and trying to seek help.

I understand, sister, that you do not want to cause stress to your mother, but if you are still a victim of his abuse, you must care for your own safety and well-being. And your mother, as a caregiver, has the duty to help you when you are unsafe, even if it is from your own family member. Even if this scares her and she fears the possible consequences for the family, this should not be an excuse for not stopping him.

And what is happening is neither your fault nor hers. It is your father who is responsible for his own actions and will be accountable for them, whatever you are made to believe. So, instead of jumping to conclusions that your mother would not believe you, would stress, etc., I advise you to take action and seek what you can do to stop what is happening.

If, for any reason, out of fear or inability to act, she would not be able to find the means to protect you, you need to seek protection somewhere else.

I also understand that you may fear that no one will believe you if your father has a good reputation. But you have to know that in many cases exactly this is what happens, that the abuser does “not look like” as such, plus he may attempt to discredit your words. However, if you are a minor, authorities have to take your words as valid ones and investigate your case. Rest assured that those who specialize in these cases know how to deal with such reports.

So, what else can you do?

Click here for a list of helplines that you can reach to get support. And you can also go to the police station or call the authorities on CHILDLINE at 1098. The authorities will know how to handle your situation and can offer you adequate support and protection at the same time. Find more info here. Know also that there is a law called ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences”.This law is aimed at protecting children under 18 years, and keeping them safe.

So, again, sister, know that nothing justifies this molest by your father, and whatever he says, that is illegal and sinful. Not only legally, but Islamically speaking too. And it is most probably considered a crime with legal consequences. You do not have to endure being abused; this is not what Islam requires from you. It is neither your fault nor anything to be ashamed of, and you need to be strong enough to seek support and protection.

Try to involve your mother or someone you trust who can help you. Try to ask her to support you and seek help together. Know that whatever they say, you have the right to feel safe and protected in your family and not be a victim of future harm.

Once you are in a safe place and this abuse ends, I kindly ask you to seek counseling and therapy to deal with this and to heal from this traumatic experience. May Allah make it easy for you. May Allah guide you towards the best support and protect you from any harm, ameen.

Question 2. Childhood sin

Assalamu ailaikoum. I have a childhood trauma. When I was about 9 or 10, I didn’t get my period yet before puberty, my sibling who was 11 years old at that time one day woke me up and started asking me to do some sexual things. As a child I didn’t know between right and wrong so I was just listening to him and he was a child and was exploring things around him. Now that I am 20 I feel disgusted and don’t wanna get married and my brother became a better person and he forgot about that, but I can’t forget it, it haunts me and I’m going through depression. Also, before my period I was 8-9 I requested my cousin to kiss me because I was ignorant and wanted to explore. Today these things are not letting me move on with my life, even though I don’t wanna open this topic and cause chaos in my family. Please help me! I wanna move on.

Salam alaikom wa rahamtullah, dear sister,

Thank you for contacting us. I am really sorry that you are struggling due to the memory of these past deeds from your childhood.

I really understand that now, as you have reached maturity and sound judgment, those actions and the facts that you chose to participate in them are unacceptable for you. Now, you would not be able to engage in these activities, as now you have become aware of what is right and wrong, alhamdulillah.

But what about the little girl you were back then? You said that all this happened before your puberty started, at the age of 8-9-10. It is clearly an age prior to accountability, not only psychologically and legally, but Islamically speaking too. And exactly, we are not mature enough to judge the weight of our decisions and their consequences. We are not fully aware of what sin is, what sexuality is about, what behavior is considered sexual, intimate, haram-halal, what is the natural way of exploring, what is not, etc.

So, first of all, please rest assured that you are not accountable for those things you made at that age. There is no sin upon you for them. And the same goes for your sibling, who was also too young to have total clarity about the rightfulness of his actions. I am not sure what about him right now—whether he remembers this or not. Maybe he forgot it; maybe he also feels guilty and ashamed; I am not sure. Kindly read more about accountability and maturity here.

So, what can you do to move on?

With this being said, it may help if you embrace the fact that we all commit mistakes, and as children, many sins too, out of ignorance. And some of these sins are related to sexuality, to desires, to the growing interest in exploring pleasures, etc. All these things are normal at a young age; they happen to many children, as when we are young, they may not feel inappropriate. Only with time and education will we realize what is beyond acceptable and what is not.

So, I kindly ask you to imagine yourself at that age. Imagine a girl between 8 and 9, and imagine that she relates these things to you. What would you tell her? What would you advise, and how? How would you support her in this situation?

You can actually do some form of imaginary roleplay; that helps. Or you can write a “letter” to your young self, expressing your thoughts and feelings. Would you be able to forgive her for what she has done out of ignorance?

I kindly ask you to spend some time with your “child self” and try to forgive yourself by separating your past and present selves. It is the present, adult self who feels the guilt as she can decide between right and wrong. But it was your “child self” who committed those actions, not you now.

Try to accept that it happened, like other childhood mistakes, and they are not worse than other errors we make. Try not to think about it too much, the same way you do not think about other things you committed, and now you know that it was wrong. Try not to think about the details of this memory, and just let your thoughts move away from them.

After this, try to forgive to your sibling too, and to your cousin for their ignorance and mistake. Please find here a definition of child sexual abuse from this site: “Child sexual abuse is defined as sexual activity with a child by an adult, adolescent or older child. If any adult engages in sexual activity with a child, that is sexual abuse. If another child or adolescent engages in sexual activity with a child, a grey area enters where some sexual behavior is innocent exploration rather than abuse.”

If you would not define what happened as sexual abuse but rather a childhood mistake out of exploration and ignorance, you may just try to forgive them and make dua for them to purify your thoughts around this situation. Allah is great and just, and He covers our sins and mistakes with mercy and justice. So just trust in Him and know that everything will be okay.

On the other hand, if you think that what happened would be rather considered sexual abuse and your experience as a traumatic one, we kindly ask you to seek a counselor to talk about these experiences more in depth.

If the tips I mentioned above bring no relief, time passes, and you still can’t move on, please find a professional who can help you further. In this case, it would be important to prevent the prolonged negative impact of these events on your mental health and future marriage.

Trust in Allah and in His perfect qadr and plan. Make dua and try to focus on your present and on your future. Try to get involved with activities that result in positive experiences, goos deeds, and contentment. Know that you are building your future on this present good deeds and actions and you are going to be rewarded for them in this life and in the next.

I hope this helps, dear sister. May Allah help you with that.

Question 3. Patience test

I was married to a man for 8 years, he never wanted to be intimate, this mentally destroyed me, we never had to kids. I finally left him and now I’m struggling to find someone else. Part of me knows that he prefers men and I told my parents but they never let me leave, because of family respect. I am in my late 30s and lost out on 10 years of my life with a man who was good to me but now wants to take my finances and also, I have no kids. I wasted my life. His family blamed me they said he was so good so what if he doesn’t want to be intimate. My family blamed me and now they released his true colors, I can’t come to terms with this, its mentally destroyed me, I stayed with a man because he made me feel sorry for him and because he was so good to me and my family and I was good to him, everyone says I will never find anyone like him, my heads literally wants to scream, my anxiety is so bad, I have not slept, I’m praying astagfirulla and rabbi inni lima anzalta, every day, I cry and have done so since the start of my marriage, should I have been more patient with him? I’m scared and hate being by myself.

Salam alaikom wa rahmatullah, dear sister,

I am really sorry for what you have been going through in your marital life. What you are referring to is indeed very complicated, and it must be hard to deal with it.

You were married to a man for 8 years, and he never wanted to be intimate with you during this time. As a result, you haven’t been able to conceive and have kids. At the same time, he was “a good man,” he treated you well, and your family did not let you leave him and blamed you for wanting to do that.

You say that you stayed with him because he was so good and made you feel sorry for him, and, on top of that, everyone said, and you keep saying that you won’t be able to find anyone like him. This makes you anxious, scared, and hate being yourself, and you are doubting whether you have been patient enough.

Dear sister, I understand your feelings. May Allah ease your distress and bring you peace with yourself.

What I would like to point out in the first place is that a marriage in Islam is about well-defined duties and rights, alhamdulillah. You (both of you, actually) have the right to have children and have the right to have an intimate life with your spouse. This is a God-given right for husband and wife. Among others, one of the goals of marriage is to enjoy each other’s company in a halal way, to be able to fulfill your desires, to be able to experience love and romance on the one hand, and to have children, become parents, and grow in your roles as mothers and fathers and have family life on the other hand. Generally speaking, partners enter into the marriage with these expectations, and these expectations are valid ones, Islamically speaking. Even though divorce is “disliked,” issues with these rights are and were grounds for divorce or a second marriage, according to scholars. Please read more here.

So, with this being said, there is nothing wrong or “special” with having these needs or wanting to experience them; there is no need to “give excuses” or explanations to your family or husband why they are important for you. So, what I would like you to know is that, in this sense, it doesn’t matter whether the other person is good or not. It is not about being a good person; it is not about the good intentions of your husband, his good treatment, his personal struggle, or what the family says. It is about the fact that in this marriage, according to your letter, some basic Islamic rights of yours haven’t been and cannot be fulfilled. And you are entitled to refuse to stay in this marriage and seek another. If you want to know more about this from a scholarly perspective, please write to our fatwa live session.

If family members are supportive of your struggle, that is a huge blessing. If not, and they are advising you to stay, despite the consequences of not being able to be a mother, to have intimacy, etc., I believe you do not need to take on their words.

It is possible that someone prefers giving up her rights of being a parent or having intimacy for having a “good husband,” but you have the right to have other preferences, and this should be okay. Especially that your needs are sound, Islamically speaking.

So, what can you do?

I think it would help if you would reframe the narrative of the situation. Yes, he is surely a wonderful and good man, BUT he is not able to give you your God-given rights to have kids and an intimate life. It is okay to feel sorry for his struggle and wish him the best to find his way out, MEANWHILE you are choosing to find a marriage where the things that matter do not have to be compromised.

Regarding your family, you can also explain to them that WHILE you understand that they would prefer a “good man” in this situation, you have other preferences, and that should be alright. We may differ in needs, and until they are in line with the teachings of Islam, we are not to be judged for them. You can also tell them that it would make you feel good if they would get their support according to your needs and not theirs or your husbands.

If you think that some counseling sessions would help you to talk out your feelings and be fully confident in your needs, do not hesitate to find a Muslim counselor locally or online.

I am not sure what “taking your finances” means in your letter, so I am not commenting on this. What you can do, in general, is have a fair dealing with your husband, knowing that there is really nothing you need to feel ashamed of for making this decision.

Finally, I am sure, sister, that there are men there who would be great husbands, and you will be able to have a fulfilling marriage according to what you need and want. Take it as a test—you said a “patience test,” but try to see—what else can you learn from this? Maybe you have gained clarity about what really matters to you. Maybe you will be more expressive about your own needs when it is necessary.

So, trust in Allah and in His perfect plan, and do not give up. If you do not find emotional support during these hard times among your family members, try to turn to friends, other sisters, or a community around you. Try to spend time with emotionally and spiritually uplifting things—praying, going to gatherings, masjids, nature, doing some arts and crafts, cooking, etc.—whatever makes you feel good about yourself. You are worthy of love and deserve a family, so keep making dua to Allah and put your trust in Him.

I hope this helps.

May Allah bless you, ameen

Question 4. How to untangle mentally from emotional damage caused by my mother?

My question might seem disrespectful because the subject of motherhood is always wrapped in veils of sacredness, almost untouchable. But the truth is that many Muslim mothers can be narcissist, and their narcissism is fed by the cultural beliefs that their children have no personality and free will of their own and they must obey them. This is what I’m struggling with. I feel like I’m shackled with my mother. We don’t have a man in the family. My father passed away. My mother has some health issues which cause her to not have very good mobility. I have no objection in taking care of her. But she is very rigid about her demands and her desires don’t align with my needs as a young person who also wants to grow in life and think about her own future old age. I cannot marry because she’ll still be living with me and my husband and men in my culture are not open to this idea. I want to move abroad and work on my career, because this will also eventually help us both. But she throws tantrums when I talk about it. My brain is frozen because of the long-term narcissistic abuse she’s put me through. She always wants things to be her way. She’d rather I have no life at all. She wants me to stay in the house all the time. If I get married, I don’t think my relationship with my husband will be able to grow because she’s very interferring. I present this solution that we hire a carer for her, we could afford that somehow. So, I can at least start working on my career without having to sit by her side all the time. She’s not very sick. Her issue is mobility. But her temperament and stubbornness are ruining my mental health and my life. I’m already 34 and I don’t know where to go from here in life. My mental health has been ruined. I become anxious while taking simple everyday decisions because she always makes me second guess myself. I know she’s my mother but it’s a face that she’s ruined my mental health. My ability to take decisions has been completely destroyed because I fear her tantrums every time, I have to make a simple decision that think she won’t agree with. I don’t know how to think of my own needs, and what I want, because I have to think about her reaction first. Her siblings are just like her. I’m ready to support her my whole life but I also need some space and some freedom of my own. She should see herself as a grown up who’s also responsible for herself. I can try to provide her with full time care, but she dismisses every such idea that can help me breathe a little. I don’t know why she does that. She has no social life. She hates people and is bitter when others are enjoying life. I don’t know how to release my mind from this torture and slavery. I want to be able to take my decisions. Am I just a slave and nothing more?

Salam alaikom wa rahmatullah, dear sister,

Thank you for turning to us and sharing your struggle. Unfortunately, what you have experienced with your mother is not a unique case. As you said, distorted cultural beliefs and personal mental health issues can cause many struggles within families.

I also understand that, as Muslims, we, on top of that, have the image of the highly respected and elevated status of mothers, with all the honor and respect they deserve. And this can be very confusing for those who are growing up with mothers who do not exactly behave in this well-respected and honored way and cause mental, emotional, or physical harm to their child.

It is very important to understand, sister, that Islam speaks about an ideal situation here: how Muslim children should treat their Muslim parents in a setting where everyone acts according to the laws of Allah. Parents who are obedient to Allah and give their kids all the rights Allah trusted them with, fulfilling all the duties Allah prescribed for them as parents, deserve the utmost kindness, good treatment, and respect from their kids.

But what if it is not the case?

Sister, if your mother oppresses your rights, knowingly or out of “ignorance,” the situation is not the same as the ideal one, right? If she suffered from mental health issues—as narcissistic behavior is some form of mental health problem—she is probably lacking the adaptive and adequate skills to respond to your needs adequately. She knowingly or unknowingly causes further harm to you because of her own fears caused by her own mental health issues. 

Unfortunately, the behavior you describe is a very difficult one to deal with, and it has the capacity to undermine your own mental health with time.

Sister, masallah, despite your desperation, I sense from your letter a good amount of awareness of your problem, of its possible causes, and of the possible solutions. Masallah, you seem very strong and brave, and you know—even if you write that you don’t—what your needs are and what you want. And in this case, knowing and standing up for your needs is one of the most challenging things.

You say:

she is very rigid about her demands and her desires don’t align with my needs as a young person who also wants to grow in life and think about her own future old age.”

I also need some space and some freedom of my own. She should see herself as a grown up who’s also responsible for herself.”

These are your valid needs and should be taken into consideration. If she struggles with taking it into consideration, you need to work on being able to convey these needs without fear or discouragement due to her possible rejection.

It is interesting that you have used the word „tantrum” to describe her reaction when you want something that does not align with her will. Usually, toddlers have „tantrums,” those infants that are emotionally immature to deal properly with disagreement and opposing views. Tantrum is a way of expressing fears or frustration that we won’t get what we want or how we want it. But with time, we learn to tolerate the fact that things may happen in other ways, and in relationships, we always have to adjust our needs and make compromises.

So, with this being said, sister, know that it is not your fault if someone has difficulties understanding others needs, making compromises, and tolerating frustration. What you have to make sure of is having clear communication about what you want and how you want to do that.

In these cases, one of the main tasks is setting up clear boundaries and learning to express our needs assertively.

Clear boundaries mean being able to recognize the limits of her will and also start practicing yours without feeling guilty for having your own needs, ideas, and plans. Needless to say, the ideal would be if she would also learn about your rights, your duties, and their limits, as well as about these boundaries.

In a relationship where this improvement is on one side, if you gain strength by learning about these personal and emotional boundaries while she is not, you will navigate her through these changes. In sha Allah, with time, the more adaptive and assertive your communication will be, the better she will also realize her limits, and your relationship may improve as a result.

So what does this mean in practice?

The very first step is knowing your rights and duties. It is your right to have your life, freetime, etc, despite if you are the primare caretaker of your mother. You have the right to ask for support if you are alone it this task. Yes, we have to take care of our parents, but there are alternative ways to do that, always keeping in mind our own needs also.

This may start with learning to say no. When you are in a situation that is beyond your abilities, you have the right to say no. And know that you can say No without any excuses or justification. It can be “No, I can’t.” Or, „No, I am sorry, I won’t be able to do that on this day.

Keep your focus on what you say, not what her reaction is. Keep it brief and repeat the same if she does not accept this. Or you can try offering alternatives. For example, “I cannot stay this afternoon, but I will come tomorrow morning.

Or, “I cannot stay, but I called an assistant to be here with you.” And following a disagreement: “I understand that this makes you feel uncomfortable as this is a new situation for you, but I am sure you will get used to it with time. I will keep staying with you, but I need some free time to deal with my own things.

You can also express your plans for your future while addressing her possible fears if you start living your own life. It surely does not mean that you will abandon her; it won’t mean that she will be left alone, etc. You can articulate her fears, but she struggles with expressing them. “Are you afraid of being left alone if I start working or marrying,” for example?

Please find some more articles about assertive communication and boundaries:  How to Practice Non-Violent Communication in RajabProphet Muhammad’s Unique Communication SkillsEffective Communication: Fighting Fair

I know that this change won’t come overnight, and you will need practice and time until your boundaries get stronger and you are able to identify cognitive distortions or gaslighting behind her speech. But keep learning about these methods and try to put them into practice. You may find some free courses online or on YT.

Kindly, try some sessions of individual counseling where you get more in-depth tips with exercises, and where you also address your depression.

I am sure, sister, that with time and effort, in sha Allah, you will succeed and be able to express your needs without guilt or resentment. Know that you deserve to live your own life as well, and Allah will help you find the means to do that.

May Allah guide you and help you, ameen!

Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 | 09:00 - 10:00 GMT

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