As salamu alaikum dear sister,
Shokran for writing to our live session. As I can see by your question and concerns your mother is not happy about your reversion to Islam and she has boundary issues. You state that you’re happily married, reverted to Islam, and you have a daughter who is 1 and 1/2 years old.
Sister you seem to have a lot of insight into what is going on with your mom. You stated that she was always stressed out and that she went through a lot in her lifetime. You also realize that while she does have issues, it is also her responsibility to get professional help, which she refuses to do. Sadly, this has impacted your life in a negative way. Some of the examples that you gave was her making fun of you about your weight and then saying it was just a joke. She refuses to acknowledge that these things are hurtful. She’s also trying to get you to convert to Christianity as well as wanting to buy your child a Bible.
Family Opposition to Islam
Putting aside her mental health issues for a moment sister, I would like to point out that when one reverts to Islam who comes from a primarily Christian or other religious family, there is often opposition. It is usually a big shock for the parents. What you are going through with this is not uncommon. Family, particularly parents, often take a big objection. This is based on a lot of misinformation that is put out by the media and others concerning our religion. Is very sad that this is the way it is, but it is up to us to show our families what Islam truly is.
While your mom may not be open to learning about Islam at this point, the best thing you can do is illustrate Islam through your behavior. This would include not arguing with her, being kind, thoughtful, and patient. When parents see a positive change in their children after they have reverted to Islam, they may begin to reevaluate their belief system concerning Islam. Some parents may realize that positive change is due to Islam and they may become more open as to what our teachings are all about. By understanding and acknowledging this, we can understand their reactions a bit better. With this in mind, please do understand that it may take time for her to fully realize that Islam is not evil, that is a beautiful religion and that it has enabled you, her daughter to become a better person. Again, this may take time.
Tips for Parental Interference
Regarding your original question and issue about your mom interfering with your daughter concerning Islam vs Christianity. I will kindly suggest sister that you speak with your mother. Make up a list of points about Islam regarding respect for parents, treatment of children, kindness to others, and our deen in general. Make them basic but powerful. I would suggest you speak with your mother at a time when things are calm. Maybe take her out for lunch where things are quiet and the two of you can talk without interference.
Ask her if you could please just have 5 or 10 minutes to speak, after which you would like to hear her opinions. Outline your points on Islam and our way of life. Indicate that you have the utmost love and respect for her, however as a woman with a child of your own, you are grown and have a responsibility to your daughter.
Insha’Allah, explain to her that you want her to be a part of your child’s life however you cannot permit her to influence your child against Islam. Ask your mother to think back upon when you were a baby. Ask her if she would allow any of her family members or her mother to interfere in that way. Perhaps by invoking empathy she may reconsider.
Sister, if she does not respond to your kindness, patience, and respect in regard to your daughter and Islam, you may have to step back for a little bit. We are not to cut off our parents as you know, however for your own well-being as well as that of your daughter, it may be necessary to limit contact for a while. The relationship as it currently stands is toxic. A toxic relationship is a toxic relationship regardless of whether it is a colleague, a parent, or a friend. Sadly, when at one of our parents is toxic and they will not change despite our efforts to create harmony, we may have to minimize contact in order to preserve our mental health as well as our family.
During this period of spending less time with her, insha’Allah continue to ensure that your mom is taken care of, that she has the things she needs, and check up on her. Insha’Allah, just try not to engage in toxic conversations or interactions. If it becomes toxic, you can politely state that you love her, but you need to end the conversation. It may be that you need to take a firmer stand such as this to help your mother understand that her interference regarding Islam will not be accepted. While she is doing it out of love, concern and fear (of Islam), it still needs to be addressed in a loving way. This may even include your stepping back for a period of time.
Navigating Interfaith Families
Regarding her giving your daughter gifts for Christmas and birthdays, that is an individual choice. We obviously don’t celebrate Christmas that is not our holiday. Some Muslims with interfaith families will accept gifts to show respect, just as we would expect them to show respect for our holiday. For instance, my children have received Eid gifts from my non-Muslim family members and it was so nice. If you chose, you can view the gifts as an act of kindness, not an act of holiday worship.
Instilling Islamic beliefs and values in your child will give your daughter a solid foundation and identity. When your daughter gets older, you may wish to explain that not everyone has the same beliefs, and to look at the act of the kindness of the gift, rather than in the context of a holiday. This has kept peace and harmony is some interfaith families. However, this is a personal choice and decision that you must make. As far as your mother giving her a Bible, I will kindly suggest that you inform your mother that she is not Christian, and you will not permit her to give her a Bible. Giving someone a religious book is quite different than giving them a random gift. It does carry a heavy message. But again, that’s a personal choice you need to make.
Sister I understand you love your mom and you have a really big heart, and a lot of understanding of your mom’s situation and her mental health. It is no wonder that you are especially conflicted regarding her time with your daughter. Speak with your mom. Have a heart to heart talk. In a loving way, set your rules for their interactions. That is your right as a mother and as a Muslim. Insha’Allah, in time your mom will come to understand true Islam and her fears will be reduced.
Insha’Allah, this journey of boundary setting may inspire her to look at and address some of her hurtful feelings and behaviors. It may be difficult for a while sister, but mothers usually do come around.
We wish you the best, you are in our prayers.