Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Asaalam alaykum
My father is being unjust towards my mother and directing his anger at me. He calls her names and tries to control what she does and where she goes. My dad threatened to never want to see me again if I defend her. It pains me to see how he treats her.
What should I do?
Answer: In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate
Dear brother, thank you for sending in your question. May Allah grant you ease and guide you to what is pleasing to Him.
Your situation is a challenging one, being stuck in the middle of your parents fighting. There is no quick solution to such problems, but insha Allah I hope we can provide some understanding and advice.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A HUSBAND AND WIFE
When two people marry, they each have certain rights over one other. They do not “own” each other, but rather, are living with each other for one another’s mutual benefit. These rights should be fulfilled with kindness and gentleness towards one another, and not begrudgingly or with resentment. Similarly, marriage is a means to bringing emotional and financial comfort and security to one’s life, good companionship, raising righteous children, and to help each other strive in the religion. This is only possible when there is mutual respect and harmony, and working towards it requires patience and compromise from both husband and wife.
At the same time however, it is normal for couples to temporarily disagree, quarrel and argue at times. There is no sin in this as long as the boundaries of the law are not transgressed.
Problems occur when these quarrels become constant and escalate, until the house is miserable, everyone’s lives are effected, and people transgress the lawful boundaries. When such frequent conflicts occur in marriage, the first step is to try and resolve the issues between the spouses. When this stops becoming possible, advice and council should be sought from upright and able family, friends, or community/religious figures, who may provide a positive influence on the spouses, and provide solutions and support. If all this fails, then separation, temporary or permanent, may be the only option, and this again should ideally be done with the support and advice of a reliable third party.
AL NUSHUZ (rebelliousness)
You said that your father has justified his behavior towards your mother due to her falling under the category of a “rebellious wife” (naashizah) and that the Qur’an justifies his actions. The Qu’ran never permits or condones abuse of any kind.
The legal definition of “rebelliousness” in classical books of law is: The disobedience of a wife through denying the husband his rights over her, which include obedience to him [in all things permissible], living with him in a way that is well known as the norm and custom, making herself available to him [physically], and remaining at home [unless allowed or with excuse].” [Tuhfa al Muhtaj]. The books go on to discuss details, giving the examples of turning away, scowling, and general unreceptive behavior when previously the wife was kind and amiable. However, if this is her normal character traits, then it is not considered “rebellious”, unless she increases in them. Nor is insulting or cursing considered “rebellious”, though she is sinful for doing so and should be reproached for it.
The steps for dealing with a “rebellious” wife include warning her that her actions are sinful and displeasing to God, withdrawing her rights as a wife, and leaving her bed for a period of time. As for the “hitting” mentioned in the Qur’an and books of law, this is on the condition that it be light and not harmful, and only if one thinks the wife will return to right conduct, otherwise it is impermissible. Ibn Abbas, the great Companion and Quranic commentator, when asked what is meant by “hitting which is not harmful”, explained, “[With] the siwak or the like].” [Tafsir al Tabari]. The siwak is an extremely small and light stick or twig used for brushing one’s teeth. Most scholars, including my own teachers, warn husbands against even using this.
Whether your mother falls under the ruling of naashizah is unclear from your question, and is certainly not the most important issue here. However, even if she was legally considered a naashizah, the law does not allow any form of abuse, constant antagonizing, oppression, or unreasonable demands and control.
Your father should first ensure that he has a right to consider her a “rebellious” wife or not by speaking to a qualified scholar. Whatever the ruling, he must remain within the limits permitted to him for dealing with such matters. A husband’s transgression of the law towards his wife, even if she is rebellious, is just as sinful as the transgression of a rebellious wife.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A CHILD AND PARENT
Allah Most High commands children to be kind and respectful to their parents. He tells us, “Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” [17:23]
A child does not, however, have to put up with abuse, whether verbal and physical, or passively standby and watch parents abuse one another. There is absolutely nothing in the Shariah that permits abuse of any other person, whether it be one’s spouse, child, or any other person. Even a family pet has its right and is not permitted to be abused. How so then, for a fellow human being?!
In such cases, the child is permitted to seek support or help the victimized party against abuse. However, this firmness in correcting a parent’s behavior must be delicately balanced with respect and good manners. Given the nature of domestic conflict, this can be a difficult balance to maintain, but maintained it must.
As for your father’s threatening to never see you again, as long as you are not the one cutting off ties, and remaining respectful to both parents throughout, then there is not much else you can do. You must ensure you keep the ties of family, even if they are wrong. How they deal with that is up to them.
WHAT TO DO NEXT?
Try speaking to your father when he is not angry with you or your mother. Avoid speaking to him during or after a quarrel. Explain to him with gentleness that the family cannot continue like this. Ask him what it is that is annoying him. Perhaps there is some stress there, or something you are not aware of. Tell him you are willing to help both of them if they want to make things better. If you find there are certain issues that always cause the same problems, try to find a solution or a way of avoiding the problems or certain times when they erupt. Tell them about what you have come up with. Let your father and mother know how much it is affecting you.
If you feel you cannot talk to your father, consider writing down your thoughts and feelings in a letter. Be sure to remain respectful when writing without descending into attack.
Sometimes, when life and stress overtake us, we forget the important aspects of our life and the religion. Indeed, we may forget ourselves and who we really are. Only when we hear words of wisdom again are we remind of the simplicity of life and our own nature. In your writing or discussion, remind your father of certain words of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), which may strike a chord with him. Be sure not to come across as condescending or as if you are teaching your father something new, as no one likes to be talked down to, especially by one’s own children. Rather, say, “As you already know …” etc. Insha’Allah, hearing such words will soften his heart.
Such hadiths include, “Woman was created from a rib, and if you try to straighten a rib you will break it, so deal with her gently.” [Musnad Ahmad], “No believing man should hate a believing woman: if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will like another.” [Muslim], and most importantly, “The best of you are those who are the best to their wives, and I am the best of you to my wives.” [al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah]. Likewise, Allah tells us, “And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good” [4:19].
If your father is unwilling to talk to you, then try to find a family member, friend, or someone else that your father respects and may listen to. Do this with tact and wisdom, as your father may get angry if he finds out that you told someone else about your home affairs. Also, if you think it’s possible, ask your parents if they are willing to see a marriage councillor.
Often, negative behavior stems from ignorance, and the only remedy for changing this is through gaining knowledge. Knowing each other’s rights with clarity, the boundaries of human behavior and relationships, and the purpose of marriage and child rearing can all help change one’s behavior, and in turn relationship with everyone else. If both your parents are willing, try to get them to do an Islamic marriage course. For example, consider SeekersHub’s course, Marriage in Islam: Practical Guidance for Successful Marriages, which is free.
If physical abuse takes place, then get yourself and your mother out of the house. Go to somewhere safe and get other people involved.
I pray that Allah finds a way out of this situation for you and your parents, and brings you all happiness and harmony.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007 I travelled to Tarim, Yemen, where I spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with my main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, I moved to Amman, Jordan, where I continue advanced study in a range of sciences, as well as teaching. Away from the Islamic sciences, I am a qualified Homeopath, and run a private clinic in Amman.