This Fall Tap into Your Mental Well-Being with Sr.Hannah


Salamu alaykum dear brothers and sisters,

We would like to thank you for joining us in this live session.

We would like also to thank our counselor, sister Hannah Morris for answering the questions.

If you have any queries that you would like to send to our upcoming live session, feel free to send them to [email protected]


Q: Assalamalikum,

Since I was young I’ve mostly been surrounded by Western media and Arab media. I never really liked my culture and found it hard to feel Connected to it. I watch Disney and most of the stuff that western kids watch, so as I got older everything got more confusing. My country was colonized too so a lot of people have the colonial mentality and this internalized self-hatred. I was definitely having an identity crisis,if I’m not Arab or Western and dislike my own people then what am I? It wasn’t a good realization. 

Some Koreans are still ignorant about black people and Muslims and some of them are downright racist,that makes me feel guilty sometimes.I tell myself that it is pointless to learn it and I will lose motivation for a while. I wanted to learn some European languages too in the future but by the way islamophobia seems to be increasing in certain countries like France and Germany, it saddens me. I have thought about learning languages like Japanese and Chinese but then I remember the Muslims that are getting tortured in China and I will feel sort of ashamed. One of my wishes is to travel around the world. Now when I think of it, it sounds like a joke. I want to travel but to where? They won’t like me. Why do we care so much about Race? Why don’t we accept that things like that are what makes us different and being different is what makes us human?

I know this question might sound ridiculous and I’m sorry but I feel Racism and Islamophobia very deeply. I keep seeing news about hate crimes and slurs aimed at Muslims in general and some people even think we deserve it. And then I have to deal with news about terrorists and honor killing that almost everyone relates to Islam.

Then there are the stereotypes that are given to Muslim women in general, the oppressed and abused. I have been hearing it for so long that I’m afraid I’m starting to believe it. I sometimes feel like the whole world is bullying Muslims. It is really making me feel helpless and scared. Why is it happening? How can I deal with it without getting overwhelmed?Does being a black hijab wearing girl make me less likely to achieve my dreams?I feel so confused about my identity and sense of belonging.

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh sister, 

I’m so pleased to hear that you find our site so helpful. You are welcome to send it any questions anytime. Please don’t apologise for sending such long questions either. Often simply writing things down like this can be therapeutic in itself because it gives you the chance to get these concerns off your chest, especially when you feel uncomfortable to share it with those close to you. It’s almost like writing a journal entry, but knowing that someone is going to read it and respond. In sha Allah, anyone else who is also going through the same dilemma may also benefit too. 

This leads to the first point, having awkward feelings towards your own culture is not unusual. It can certainly be a positive thing to be proud of your nation because it helps to promote a sense of belonging and connectedness. However, most cultures also have some kind of dark history that once realised, can make people from the culture feel some element of shame towards their own culture. This often becomes most prominent when you get to a stage in life where you experience different cultures and perhaps even experience some kind of racism, whether towards yourself, or are a witness to it being directed towards someone else.

On top of this, you are at that crucial age where you are establishing your own individual identity. Until this time this was not amongst your priorities and you probably had little clue about racism or the history of your culture. As you mature, and become more independent you are now noticing these things. It becomes distressing because until this point you were naive to the realities that were always there and now you are suddenly faced with them. This is a shock enough, but combined with the process of now establishing your identity you are entering a feeling of crisis. This is something that most people your age goes through, especially those who are more exposed to different cultures either through face to face encounters, or even through the media. 

Unfortunately, stereotyping only makes situations like this worse. People tend to turn to stereotyping because it’s easy. If you fit someone, or a culture, race or religion into a stereotype then there becomes little need to get to know others because you’ve already decided that they must be the same as others from that group. Not only that, but to judge someone according to a negative stereotype can make you feel better about yourself. This certainly seems to make life easier in many ways for the one who chooses to stereotype, and unfortunately many people fall into this trap, sometimes unconsciously even.

But, just because its something that is commonly done, it does not make it ok. It’s a sign of closed mindedness and prevents people from mixing with others and truly learning about and appreciating cultural differences. This is unfortunate, because mixing with others like this can be an excellent way to promote peace and integration between cultures, moving away from a world full of such hatred towards others. 

I hope that understanding the background underlying why these terrible things even exist in the first place will help you think differently moving forward. I understand that based on the stereotypes that exist, as well as feelings of self-shame as a result of your cultural background are holding you back from doing the things that you really want to do. However, if you can see the situation with the above things in mind thsi might encourage you to not be one of them; to not be of those who behave according to stereotypes and instead make the effort to mix with others from other cultures, learn their culture and to learn your own too. 

Remember, their views are not your own and you are not personally responsible for them, in fact you could even be a source of contributing to change the stereotype by being the one who shows that black Muslim women are not all they are stereotyped to be. Let them see another side of things. Whilst you might be harrowed by the history of your culture, again, remember, you were not the one responsible for that, and neither do you endorse it either, but that also doesn’t mean that you need to hate your people because of things that happened many years ago, that they also had nothing to do with it either. 

With all these things in mind, don’t be afraid to learn about other cultures or even learn the languages especially since it seems this is something you excel at. This will help to not only break stereotypes of people like you, but also the stereotypes you might be holding also, even if you were/are not aware of then. This might help you to lose the sense of helplessness that you are experiencing because you would be proactively doing something about it. 

You should also always keep in mind that Allah will not judge anyone on their skin colour, or ethnic and cultural backgrounds, only on their level of faith. In fact, Allah made it clear that He made us different so that we could get to know each other. If only everyone followed this advice, the world would be a much more peaceful place. 

May Allah reward your efforts and help you find peace in yourself and with others. May He make your journey one of strength and enlightenment. 

***

Q: Assalamalikum,

My parents sometimes argue and I just hate the way my dad treats my mom. I don’t remember him apologizing to her even though sometimes it is obviously his fault that the argument started in the first place.I sometimes wonder whether my mom has depression too. My dad’s mood is horrible, he never physically does anything to anyone other than the complaining and nagging but the funny thing is that he is not like this with his friends! He turns into a pushover and a people pleaser when he is around his friends and makes sure everything looks perfect for them. 

My mom is just a housewife and she has never been to school that’s why everything is bad. She probably fears that he will get another educated wife.I never met my grandfather and sometimes I hate the fact that it is his fault that she never went to school. As he had this misogynistic philosophy that females don’t need to go to school and that’s why in my mom’s household only the men went to school.

 These days I seem to be living in some kind of denial. I think it has to do with the pandemic and the fact that I’m getting older, getting more reality checks. 

I’m suddenly afraid of death and aging. I am dealing with this fear of cockroaches. No one at home takes me seriously. I can’t use the bathroom when I see a roach. If I happen to be in the bathroom and already locked it the feeling gets worse. One time I got so scared in the bathroom and cried for a few seconds until it disappeared because I felt trapped. At night they keep crawling on me and I think that was when I really started to get scared. I feel paranoid most of the time and get startled when I feel like something is crawling on me even if it is nothing. I think my family thinks I have jinn issues and they keep telling me to do duas. Since the time I got diagnosed with depression they keep behaving as if I’m the one that brought it on myself. I think it is my fault, maybe I should do more duas. It makes me frustrated though ,one of my sisters looks at me as if I’m crazy and I feel angry that I can’t freely express my emotions at home.

I keep comparing myself to more successful people that are teenagers, I’m afraid to live my life with regrets in the future. I don’t want to disappoint my 20 year old self. I keep obsessing about getting successful before 20. My self-esteem is very low. I’m not confident in myself and my trust in God is not strong because I feel like a bad person. Why will God help me if I keep repeating the same sins? I don’t trust people anymore too, because I usually get bullied at school and people manipulate me to get what they want. I feel like people are trying to take credit for what I did, so I became independent in an unhealthy way. I tell myself I need no one. Even if people try to befriend me and seem to have good intentions,I make sure I do something that will make them go away.

 Making friends is such an ordeal. I fear I will look too desperate and clingy and when girls that are popular or really pretty like me, I feel suspicious and sometimes I just randomly lose interest in my friends. Maybe it is because I realized we have nothing in common or I feel like they think I’m too weird and hard to understand so these days I’m tired of trying. I keep everyone at arm’s length. I’m tired of people. I have made up a few imaginary friends ( I know they aren’t real), they are the kind of friends I wish I had.

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh sister, 

You have touched on quite a few different things here that are causing you distress so I will attempt to provide a response to each, in sha Allah. On the whole, most of the things you are reporting are quite typical to young men and women. They hit the stage transitioning from childhood to adulthood; a time when you are searching for and finding your own unique identity and where that fits in the grander scheme of things in the world. 

It must be very distressing to you to see your father be so mean to your mum. This is unacceptable behaviour for a husband towards his wife. Even though his behaviour is wrong, if we can understand the reasons for his behaviour then it can soften our hearts toward that person at least enough to try and guide them. Within the close family it can be easy to overlook the unconditional love that is always there but not always evident. However, it is usually this very reason why the closest members of the family have to endure any outbursts.

The person getting angry knows that close family members love them unconditionally and so if they lash out then they will probably forgive. As a result, they will continue to lash out in the knowledge that even if they shout and call names then they won’t be abandoned. With those outside the close family however, unconditional love is not usually present. In these cases, the person has to make sure to control their words and actions to ensure relationships are not disrupted. 

Your conclusion that you are/were living in some kind of denial and now you are having some kind of reality check, possibly as a result of the pandemic, or perhaps of your age is probably quite an accurate conclusion to make. You are at an age where your transition from a dependent child to an independent young lady often leads to this inner conflict due to the process of adjustment to a new role and way of life. As you edge towards independence its only natural that you pick up on so many things that as a child you overlooked, whether consciously or unconsciously. 

Regarding your fear of cockroaches, it sounds like you are very much experiencing a genuine phobia. Fear of insects such as cockroaches is probably amongst one of the more common phobias to have along with other small insects such as spiders. It is unfortunate that you do not have the support of your close family; the people who would be in the best position to give you the support you need in overcoming this. The fact that they are dismissing your experience as something trivial and less than it is only reinforcing your anxieties around the matter further and will provide some barriers to you recovering from this phobia. However, whilst this might make things difficult it doesn’t make it impossible and in sha Allah you can overcome it.

On top of this you are experiencing depression which could also be responsible for exacerbating your anxieties further. Your family is certainly right that making dua will help, because it will, but it is not correct to attribute what you are going through to this. What you seem to be experiencing is a clinical experience of depression and anxiety that needs other forms of outside intervention to support the duas being made.

Often people turn to conclusions such as those that they are making as they don’t fully understand the conditions that you are facing and can often be blinded by cultural views of mental health and attribute any psychological difficulties to lack of faith without looking beyond this. I believe it is words like this said by your closest family that are also leading you to believe that your faith in Allah is not strong and therefore that you are sinning and unworthy of Allah’s Mercy. These are people who are close to you and perhaps they are advising you with good intentions, but don’t realize the deep impact that they are having on your well being and faith. You must remember that Allah is the Most Merciful even if others may challenge that, even if they are those close to you. 

As a result, it is of little surprise that you report the last points relating to your relationships with your peers and difficulties maintaining friendships due to a lack of trust. These are skills that might typically be established at first within the home within the family home. When they haven’t been achieved in the home it can be difficult to learn how to trust others, after all, if you can’t trust those closest to you, how could you trust those outside such as your peers.

It also seems like your expectations of yourself and others are set to a level that causes an inner conflict between where you are and would like to be, yet your self-confidence interferes with feeling like you will ever achieve it, or even feeling like you don’t deserve it. Again, this could be a product of being made to feel less than worthy by your close family, as well as being a trait typical to the experience of depression. 

Having strong family support can make the process of overcoming the psychological difficulties that you are facing easier, but is not always necessary. If you don’t have this support, all is not lost, there are other ways you can get support as well as encouraging the growth of family ties in time, in sha Allah. Given that you mention you believe part of the reason you have a hard time connecting to your peers is because they are so different, you might begin by also looking at the things that you do share in common with them and connect with them based on this.

Furthermore, you might even consider linking with others that you know do share at least something in common by signing up to a club that practices a hobby that you have. This will encourage you to connect with like-minded people doing something you enjoy. It is also an opportunity to boost your self-esteem as you start to achieve more and more in the field and improve your skills.

In time, as your self-esteem grows you will be more confident in your existing friendships and will be better equipped to maintain relationships with them. Likewise, this may spill over into your relationships at home as you come across as a more confident young lady. As you show your confidence in yourself people will be less likely to take advantage of you and you will be able to develop healthy relationships with all as well as being better able to distinguish good friends from bad ones.

As well as taking these actions yourself and recognising the impact of outside influences on your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours, I’d also recommend that you seek outside counselling who will be able to provide you with ongoing support in overcoming depression and anxiety.

It is not easy to overcome these things all by yourself, especially when they have been having such a profound effect in many areas of your life for so long so you could really benefit from such support. In time, you might even invite your mother and/or sister so that they can be educated on the experience of depression for you and be better able to have a sense of empathy for what you are going through and be better able to support you. 

May Allah make things easier for you and support you through your struggles. May you find strength in His remembrance and may He reward you for all the difficulties you have endured. 

***

Q: Assalamalikum,

I don’t have any friends except my twin sister. I don’t talk to people because I don’t wanna be hurt by them. I only talk if it is absolutely necessary. I don’t know how to behave in front of others. I don’t trust anyone except my sister. I feel so ignorant of the outside world. And because of my ignorance I want nothing to do with the outside world. 

There are many people I know who don’t have any guarantee for their future and they just graduated from high school or not even finished primary school properly but they normally live. They are not paranoid as I am paranoid about the future. 

Why am I like this? I think it’s because of my parents. They even impose this way of looking at life -which I believe is HIGHLY HIGHLY destructive- to my 6-year-old brother; scaring him about his future and how he is gonna earn money. 

My brain, thoughts, inner talk, self image are all poisoned, destroyed, polluted with my parents’ AWFUL perspective of life. I cannot see my future as a BRIGHT one. All I see is a huge darkness in front of me that encompasses all areas of my life. And I am scared of my future and all of the possible bad things it might bring.

As for earning money, I know I have to tie my camel and trust in Allah. And according to my parents, tying my camel is becoming a doctor, so I MUST strive hard to become one. 

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh sister, 

It is very clear that your insecurities and fears about the outside world seem to stem from your parent’s attitudes. It must be very hard to even contemplate any other possibilities when your parents are forcing such views on you. Yes, it is true that we should listen to and respect our parents, but when they are encouraging and enforcing something against Islam then this rule can be overlooked as a means to prioritize you Deen. However, in this situation it is questionable as to whether it would fall into this category.

Training as a doctor is not haram, however, the reasons behind their desire for you to do it are less favorable. Of course, it is good to have that sense of security, but firstly, that doesn’t have to come from being a doctor. There are many other careers that would see you financially stable. Secondly, as you mentioned, women don’t have to work so if you chose to not study anything then Islamically this is not a problem too. Studying Islam as you desire is arguably even more beneficial.

Yes, you can’t earn a salary from it so Allah forbid, the worst should happen and everyone around you should die you wouldn’t have any financial means to your name, but what you would have is a strong knowledge of your Deen that might not equip you financially for such circumstances, but it would more than equip you with the knowledge to deal with such calamities effectively both spiritually and psychologically which is perhaps worth more than any money could ever buy as well as being beneficial to you in not only this life, but the next also; something that money cannot guarantee.

Furthermore, a path studying Islam may put you in contact with other like-minded sisters who will be able to advise or recommend any good brothers who are looking for a spouse. Seeking a spouse in an environment surrounded by people who fear Allah and prioritize their Deen is setting you up to find a spouse that will live a life according to what Allah has set forth and the guidelines in which we should live our lives. To marry a man with a high level of taqwa will set you up for a happier marriage when you can be confident that he will treat you well, according to the values of Islam. 

I understand that they want what’s best for you and want you to be successful and are trying to ensure that that happens, but their mind’s success can only come from being a doctor and earning lots of money. It is unfortunate that the way they are trying to convince you is by instilling a strong fear in you almost to the point of brainwashing since you now have scary thoughts around what could happen if you don’t listen to them and this is making life so difficult for you not just in relation to this, but generally as well as you feel like as much as this is not the route you want to take, you will be worthless without it, which is not true. 

You should not be forced into anything that you don’t want to do, and nor should you be made to feel bad if you choose a different path. It’s your choice. 

Ultimately, it’s your choice, but given your parents’ pressure to go into medicine it’s given you little chance to fully consider other options so I also wanted to lay these on the table for you also so to speak. The difficult part comes with trying to convince them against something that they are adamant that you must pursue. You have a few options to consider…

  • You could just do it to keep them quiet, but do so with an open mind that perhaps you will come to love it
  • You could negotiate a different career path and show them evidence that you could earn a decent salary in an alternative role that you feel you would enjoy. 
  • Agree to do medicine part time (if there’s an option), whilst also studying Islam part time. 
  • Do not study medicine and consider getting someone of knowledge to talk to your parents about the matter and educate them from an Islamic perspective. 

Consider these and any others you may think of. Think of the positives and negatives of each and the consequences of each. Also ask yourself what Allah would be most pleased with. Give yourself time to carefully consider these options and move forward with confidence. 

May Allah continue to bless you with a feeling of peace in His rememberance and may He never extinguish the flame that burns for Islam inside you. May He reward all your efforts for the sake of pleasing Him and may He guide you and your parents on the straight path. 

***

Q: Assalamalikum,

Lately, I have been struggling with the person that I am. I fear so much the future that even making up in the morning is difficult for me. The worst out there is that I’m finally studying the course I always dreamt of, and this year is the most important one. But not only I can’t bring myself to focus but even in class, when I go out it’s like I never went in. Every time I push myself to listen, read some Quran, and ask Allah for guidance and forgiveness, I’m being held by every sin I made and why I’m worth it.

I’m psychologically really weak and do need advice.

Thank you for your time and may Allah bless you.

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh and ameen to your dua, 

It very much reads like you are exhibiting some classic symptoms of depression so the first thing I would suggest is getting some medical advice regarding so would advise seeing your doctor so that they may do some testing to check for this and then refer you for further counselling to give you the ongoing support you will need in overcoming this. 

Alhamdulilah, you have done the right thing in reaching out for advice on the matter. This is a good sign that you will be successful in overcoming these difficulties because you are willing and able to open up and discuss how you’re feeling. Alhamdulilah also that even though you are feeling worthless, you are still turning to Allah. Again, this is another good sign that you will be a able to make a quick recovery from this difficulty. 

In the meantime, I would encourage you to try and pinpoint if something in particular has happened lately that might have triggered these feelings. Has there been some change in your relationships with others? Have your circumstances changed in any way? These are common reasons to feel the way you are. Alternatively, it could be a product of the current covid situation and not related to anything personal as such. Mental health difficulties have increased dramatically in these last months.

You may not have directly been impacted by the disease, but almost certainly you will have had to deal with changes in things such as family and peer contact, the way you engage with your course, down to the way you go outside and do the shopping. You may not feel like these factors have bothered you, but they are big changes, and changes tend to make many people anxious in some way, especially when the changes are a result of something so negative. That’s not to say that this is the cause of your current situation, but is a potential to consider among other things that might have changed for you recently. 

Alternatively, if you haven’t noticed any changes at all, it may simply be a product of your age and the psychological challenges faced by everyone to some extent at this age. You have recently transitioned into adulthood and suddenly have all these new responsibilities on your shoulders that you never had before as they were always taken care of by your parents. You are now starting a new phase in your life which can be very daunting. What do you do? Where do you go? Faced with so many choices that could have consequences for where your life will go from here on in. That’s enough to make anyone feel anxious.

This anxiety can easily lead to feelings that you can’t do it, or that you are not good enough and subsequent depression. It feels like these are the kind of thoughts and feelings you are having right now. As a result of such thoughts and feelings it’s common to behave in response to these by becoming lethargic and unmotivated and not engaging in the things you are involved in, like study. With this in mind, one way to increase your engagement with your study is to change the way you think about the situation.

Consider this, you must have reached a certain standard in your academic achievement to have  been awarded a place on this course which would indicate that actually you are more than capable of doing it and if you were not then you wouldn’t have been awarded the place. Keeping this in mind will help you to feel more positive about yourself and subsequently improve your motivation to get out of bed everyday and engage in your course.

Likewise, with your prayer, the fact that you are feeling like you are worthless and being held accountable for your sins is interfering with your connection to Islam somewhat. Instead, focus on the Mercy of Allah and how He does not view anyone as worthless and loves to forgive sins if only you will continue to reach out to Him and repent. This alone can release a huge weight off your shoulders. 

Additionally, getting social support in these matters can provide a big boost for motivation. Connect with your classmates and motivate each other in your work. Connect with other sisters and pray together, or study together and engage with one another for the sake of Allah. In both cases, others that are rising in the same boat as you can provide the extra motivation that we all need at times, whether by directly telling you to get on task, or indirectly by simply being there as a guide and for support. 

May Allah make things easy for you and see you out of these dark times successfully as an even stronger and more motivated person both spiritually and academically. 

***

Q: Assalamalikum,

At night I feel that my heart beats fast and I feel like I will die soon. I couldn’t sleep. I sweat so badly the next day I googled what happened to me and google replayed I will die and I saw a quote of imam ghazali that a person knows before 40 days that he is gonna die. Whenever I think about it my heart beats faster and I sweat so badly. I consulted a therapist and he said that it’s anxiety. In your age it happens. It’s all in your mind.

I know only Allah knows about the land and hour where a person dies. But these thoughts stuck in my head. I can’t sleep properly. I cannot participate in my daily work. I notice I’m changing in color and my eyes are becoming yellow but my family say it’s perfectly alright. I don’t know what’s happening to me.Whenever I pray, take shower and drink water I feel that it’s my last day and I cannot do it again. When my family does something I think that they are preparing because I am going to die. Please tell me what will happen to me? Am I really going to die? 

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh, 

As your therapist said, what you are experiencing is anxiety. Most people experience some level of anxiety at some point which can be healthy, but in your case it has reached a level where it is interfering with your daily life. If prolonged this can cause ongoing physical health problems as well as psychological ones.

The good news is, like your therapist said it is in your mind which means you can do something about it which you should before it is too late and affects you in a physical way that cannot be reversed. Alhamdulilah, the fact that you recognize that you are experiencing this thing and it is causing you bother enough to seek further support is a good sign that you will be able to get through this. 

Firstly, I would strongly suggest that you continue to see a therapist who will be able to provide you in the ongoing support that you will need to fully overcome your anxieties. But, in the meantime I can give you some advice that I hope should be able to start the process for you, in sha Allah. 

Since your anxieties are very specific on the topic of death this makes things a little simpler. From an Islamic perspective, we know that death is a reminder to us and we can use this to our advantage to ensure that we are prepared for it. The truth is, death is inevitable. It’s coming to all of us at some point. The frightening part is that we don’t know when, we don’t know how and we don’t know if we have done enough to be granted with the eternal goodness in the afterlife.

However, whilst we have little control over the when and how of our own death, we do have control over the latter in determining our journey in the Hereafter and whilst we are alive have been blessed with the opportunity to do all we can to make sure that the outcome will be a good one. If you know that you are doing your best then this can help to reduce the anxiety because fearing the worst, that is death, you can consider actually the good things that can come out of death and the bounties of the Hereafter for those who did good in this life.

Challenging your thoughts like this can help to change your behavior. Likewise, you can do this with your fear that you were going to die in 40 days and the fact that you are still here Reading this over 40 days later suggests that you should probably get some advice regarding the quote as to the authenticity of it, or whether it it was directed to a certain person at a certain time in specific circumstance. 

If you cannot stop thinking about death then try to turn the experience into something more positive by using this anxiety to fuel doing all the good things that we know Allah likes that weigh in your scale of good deeds. The key is to not get caught up in the negative thoughts that instead do the opposite and cause one to become lazy and not engage in good things. The other thing in this matter is that whilst we have little control over the end result, Allah does, so it’s important to always remember that Allah’s timing is best. It is already decreed and it has been decreed for that time and in that way for a reason only known to Allah. This is a sign of His Mercy on us all. 

Another thing that is important given that you are noticing the physical changes that are occurring in your body when you have these attacks of anxiety such as your heart beating, you can help yourself by doing things that counter this physiological reaction to your thoughts.

For example, when you notice your heart racing, sit or lie down and breath in a slow and controlled manner. Be in a peaceful environment to avoid overstimulation of the senses. Spend time in this condition for 5 to 10 minutes until you feel yourself more relaxed. There are many relaxation activities like this that you might find useful to help you through the moments where your anxiety becomes particularly disturbing. 

May Allah grant you peace and contentment in His remembrance and with His decree. May He make things easier for you and guide you successfully out of this difficulty.

***

Q: Assalamalikum,

I am surrounded by a toxic environment and want to move out of my house. The constant pressure and emotional torture just makes me question my existence and trigger my instinct to run away. Hence I want to know whether living away from family is permissible in Islam?

I am in my early 20s and have just completed my bachelors degree. I stayed away from home to study for 3 years. We have a family business but that’s also not running well and I personally am not really interested in it. I am the oldest child. The country I live in is a low economy country, and based on the existing trend there is no sign of improvement. Based on my qualifications, I really want to work elsewhere as I don’t want to waste my life in this slow lifestyle.

My parents want me to do something here in this same low economy country where new businesses open and close as they don’t run. I try to effectively communicate with them but instead they blame me for being influenced by someone and that I follow a western ideology, which is not the case. I am not speaking of abandonment, I just want to live independently but this my parents do not understand, they constantly abuse me mentally and psychologically, telling me I don’t have a choice and HAVE to do whatever they say.

They compare me to other members of society, whom I totally dislike and don’t like it when they compare. I agree my parents have sacrificed a lot for me and my life, but now I’m an adult and I want to live my own life. Whenever we have an argument they always bring up religion saying that kids can never leave their parents, which is not true. The thing they say is based on religion is actually based on society, which I totally want to break.

I have been enduring everything, keeping quiet and praying for the best. But every few days my parents come up with a topic or say something which makes me realize I have no choice and I have to live in this conservative society for the rest of my life. Sometimes I just get suicidal thoughts and just stay depressed, my nails are totally ruined to stress nail scratching and even so my parents think I am putting on a charade. I really want to escape from this toxic environment and live a peaceful life. Please suggest to me what to do and how I try to convince my parents to allow me to live independently.

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

It is understandable why now, at your age, after having completed your education, you are ready to leave some and establish your own independence. This is the way most people feel at this age to some extent or another. Under supportive parents that are not causing a toxic environment this would also be difficult, but in different ways. As an adult now you have every right to leave and live an independent life separate from your parents, but of course you still must do so respectfully in order to maintain their right also.

If you are to convince them of this move, since they seem to be quite committed to their Deen, even if it is somewhat guided by culture at times, you might start by providing evidence that you don’t have to remain with them at this stage in your life. If you feel that they won’t respond to this, or you feel you need the extra support, then present this information to them with a local person of knowledge who they might be more likely to listen to respond more positively. At least if you have this evidence then they cannot dispute your actions moving forward.

However, whilst it would seem that their rationales behind what they are saying is based entirely on cultural norms that may or may not be consistent with Islamic values you must move forward with a sensitivity to their thoughts and feelings too. You mention that that did support you through your studies and to that alone they deserve some credit. Beyond this however, as parents they are probably feeling anxious about you leaving again this is a difficult time for parents in letting go of their children as they grow and become independent adults for themselves.

It can make parents feel unneeded as they adjust. As a result, this could easily lead parents to taking any means to convince their child to remain at home, or at least in close proximity so the emotional (and sometimes physical) burden. Consider whether this is something that your parents may be going through and perhaps their intentions are not as bad as they might seem on the surface.

You might consider a path that could at least partially fulfil everyone’s needs, by getting a job locally as per your parents’ wishes, but make it a temporary thing whilst you are searching for something more suitable elsewhere. Perhaps you will come to like it and other opportunities open up locally for you, or otherwise you will not enjoy it and your parents will be able to see for themselves how unhappy it’s making you and perhaps be more supportive of your move away as a result. This way you will still be edging towards your preferred end goal, but in a way that satisfies what your parents want for you too. Perhaps you could even seek separate accommodation so that you don’t have to live in the toxic environment with your parents at the same time. 

If you do choose to leave right away, then try to involve them in the process as much as possible, even if it is just as minimally as keeping them updated with what’s happening. Let them see that over the course of time whilst you’re away that you haven’t been influenced by any ways of life that are inconsistent with Islam. Maintain regular contact and visit as often as you can. It may be difficult for them at first and maybe they won’t even be keen to speak to you, but be patient with it and in sha Allah they will adjust and accept and even be happy for you.

May Allah bring you ease in this testing situation. May He guide you to what is best for you in this life and the next and most pleasing to Him. May He grant you all the success in this life and the next.

Salam,

*****

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 | 08:00 - 09:00 GMT

Session is over.