How Can I Guide My Sister Who Is Living a Sinful Lifestyle?

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad

Question

My younger sister is deviating from the path. She is really bad at taking advice and we have gotten into several arguments because I give unsolicited advice. She thinks I see myself as high and mighty because I am into religion more than her. She is partying, lying, and in a relationship. I just found out and I don’t know what to do. She is extremely volatile and just came out of a depressive episode. I want to keep peace in the home but her behavior is out of my control. I know I am supposed to advise her, but it’ll turn into a fight. I don’t know what to do and I am stressed. I know her very well, but she really is like a tyrant in our home, sometimes, even to my parents. What is obliged of me?

Answer

Thank you for your question. I am sorry that you are dealing with her tyranny and unIslamic lifestyle, but if you want to see change, you will have to completely change your methods.

Boundaries and Burdens

I noticed in your question that you mention her behavior is out of your control. Her behavior is not supposed to be in your control. No one can be forced into the obedience of Allah. She may be acting out of anger or neglect or something else, but everyone is ultimately responsible for their own actions. Understand your boundaries and try to help her within your boundaries. For example, your unsolicited advice might just be making matter worse.

Allah Most High has told us in the Quran, “No soul burdened with sin will bear the burden of another. And if a sin-burdened soul cries for help with its burden, none of it will be carried—even by a close relative. You ˹O Prophet˺ can only warn those who stand in awe of their Lord without seeing Him and establish prayer. Whoever purifies themselves, they only do so for their own good. And to Allah is the final return.” [Quran, 35:18]

Advice

You also mention in your question that you know that you are supposed to advise her.  If you have already told her once, you don’t need to tell her again. I daresay she knows what is right and wrong, and she has chosen this path for some reason that only she knows. Remember that commanding the good and forbidding the wrong is only done with conditions, and you are not responsible for anything beyond that.

Please see them here:
What Are the Criteria for Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil?

Steps

My advice to you is to try these steps

  • Bond with your sister and don’t talk about her disobedience at all
  • Go out with her, talk about her feelings, her past, her own view
  • Don’t ask her to pray with you if she refuses, but let her see you praying
  • Take up a hobby with her, exercise with her, go out with her for coffee
  • Bring fun religious positive people around the house who won’t judge her
  • After you have become close sisters again, wait for her to ask you for advice because she will eventually tire of this lifestyle
  • Make dua for her constantly, especially before dawn, between the adhan and iqama and the last hour of Friday before Maghrib.
  • Stop attacking her altogether, it’s not working, just build trust, this will take years
  • Last but not least, remain grateful that you are not in the position that she is in, and ask Allah to increase you in obedience.

Obligation

As an elder sister, there is not very much obliged on you toward her. You must advise her as a Muslim sister if the conditions are fulfilled (see link above), and protect your parents from her if you fear she will harm them. Other than this, it is recommended for you to love her, support her, pray for her, be charitable toward her, and treat her as you would like your sister to treat you.

Have faith that Allah will answer your dua, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us,  “The supplication of every one of you is granted if he does not grow impatient and say: ‘I supplicated but it was not granted.’” [Muslim]

Please see these tips as well:
The Role of The Elder Sister
Siblings and Verbal Abuse
How Can I Advise My Non-Practicing Sibling?
Younger Sister Woes: Dealing With Wisdom & Leading By Example
Guiding One’s Family Towards the Good: Advice & Tips

May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani 

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.