Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
Am I wrong to not want to speak with my parents?
Over the years I have found myself increasingly becoming emotionally distant from my parents. The reason this is, is partly because of the way things have occurred in my life growing up and the response/behaviour of my parents has made me feel stressed, guilty, inconfident and at times, unloved.
As I have grown older, I see the shortcomings of my parents in retrospect to the way that they raised myself and my siblings and this makes me question why they behaved in certain ways. I especially recall them being extremely over-protective and over-powering to the point that was unhealthy and could be seen as confidence depleting.
I even question my parents love for each other as I remember growing up as the older sibling, I had to listen to or break up my parents constant arguments, or hearing one parent talk bad about the other to me as a way for them to vent(making me feel very confused as to which parent was good/bad). I know I should love my parents by default, but I think I loved them more as a young child, being naive and not understanding things. I can’t communicate with them properly anymore and our conversations are always short and awkward. I still try to respect them and smile and behave in a good manner as much as I am able to, but the love isn’t free-flowing and doesn’t feel natural.
I am now married and have moved homes but whenever my parents try to call me over the phone I feel extremely anxious about having to talk to them. The conversation feels forced and I anticipate it ending as soon as possible. I prefer to text them instead of having to speak as even the slightest change in my tone makes them question me.
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam, thank you for writing in.
A person cannot always help the way they feel about people or situations, but they must always do their best to behave and react appropriately.
Parents in particular have a special station and rights over their children, and God commands children to treat parents with forbearance, forgiveness, respect and kindness. ‘For your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And honour your parents. If one or both of them reach old age in your care, never say to them [even] ‘ugh,’ nor yell at them. Rather, address them respectfully’. [17:23]
Although your parents may have been over-protective and over-powering in your upbringing, and as difficult as it may be, try to identify where that is coming from. Perhaps it is from love, from fear, perhaps from wanting only the best for you. Emotions are very deep things and can manifest themselves in strange ways!
You mention that they tell you they love you now, in private and public, which shows they are trying in some way to connect with you and make things better. Try to remember that our parents are still individual people, with their own flaws, insecurities, and their own history, some of which we may not know. They were also children of parents and it’s important to know about their relationships with their parents. It may not help the way you feel right now, but identifying these things may help understand your parent’s motives and act as a place to start and move on from.
Having said that, when the relationship is strained, over-whelming, oppressive, or there are other deep rooted issues that cause you anxiety and stress, the obligation upon you is to ensure you do not intentionally cut ties with them and that you do not cause them hurt. Rather, you should greet them whenever you speak and enquire how they are every now and then, and if they genuinely need things then do your best to fulfill their needs or assist them.
Unless your parents are very old or in financial need, you are not obligated to serve them, see, or speak to them all the time. It is an incorrect assumption that ‘parents can say whatever they like to their children, who must ‘take it’. You are entitled to protect yourself and your family from any genuine stress or harm from anyone, including parents, while at the same time upholding respect and kindness.
Perhaps try the following:
Avoid speaking about any contentious issues or anything you feel that will cause you anxiety. Keep conversations neutral. Making small talk can be hard and bland, but it’s a small price to pray for avoiding issues while fulfilling your obligation.
Have set times you call them and prepare for those conversations beforehand to avoid stress. If you really feel anxious, then write down a list of topics you feel comfortable talking about or asking, and go through them when you speak to them.
If your parents make you feel uncomfortable, whether on the phone, in private, or in front of others, remain silent and make dhikr in your head, or smile graciously and remind yourself that you’re doing this for the sake of Allah.
Lastly, do make abundant supplication for your parents. If they have wronged you, then you would want Allah to forgive them. Allah can change the state of hearts of whoever he wants and whenever He wants.
I wish you all the best and that you and your parents build a peaceful and loving relationship.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.