Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Assalamu alaykum,

I am a Muslim female in my 20s. I live alone away from my mother.  I, for most of my life, have spoken to my mother everyday. As I have grown older, however, I have found it to be difficult to speak with my mother everyday, as I feel like she attempts to become overly involved in my life–in a way that makes me very anxious and makes me feel as if I am being watched.  Also, I still have issues with abuse from my father when growing up and my mother not giving me enough support.

After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety and taking medications, through the course of therapy I have come to realize that my mother is actually quite controlling and seems to not like it when I attempt to show independence.

My mother, despite knowing about my mental conditions and that they get worse when I come home, still insists that I come home to visit and talk every day. I decided to limit our contact and our phone calls for my emotional well being.  When I did this, I felt calmer and got more accomplished, but my relationship with my siblings worsened because my mother expressed how she was hurt that I didn’t contact her as much anymore.  I started to call again and she liked that, but my emotional well being worsened again.

I also realized that my mother seems to have been having an affair while I was growing up and maybe even now. I’ve seen my mother lie often, so she probably wouldn’t admit it if I asked her.

With regard to calling my mother, what would you recommend given that frequent calling seems to oppress me and less frequent calling upsets her? Also, with regard to visiting–especially given the situation that I am afraid of my father–what would you recommend?

I study human psychology and, examining my family dynamics, it appears that my family is enmeshed and dysfunctional. I have been taught that the way to help deal with such a situation is to establish clear boundaries, as enmeshed families like mine tend not to have them.  At the same time, I do not want to shrug off my religious obligations. Also I am concerned that if my mother is overly involved in my life, it may affect any future marriage that I may have and any possible future relationships with my children.

Answer: In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful

Dear Sister,

Wa alaikum as-salaam wa rahmatullah,

Thank you for your question.

We know from revelation that life is characterized by tribulation. For example, Allah Ta’ala says, “O you who have attained to faith! Behold, some of your spouses and your children are enemies unto you: so beware of them! But if you pardon [their faults] and forbear, and forgive-then, behold, God will be much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.Your worldly goods and your children are but a trial and a temptation, whereas with God there is a tremendous reward.” (Al-Qur’an, 64:14-15)

Although the outward purport of these verses is directed towards parents, children, from experience, sometimes know very well that the trial runs both ways. Those closest to us can pose the biggest challenge because they know us so well and, hence, can manipulate us to their advantage, causing us much hurt. However, as the Qu’ran counsels, we should take the higher path and choose forgiveness.

I’m glad you’re in therapy as the situation with your mother is a lot to handle. However, please make sure you’re doing things for your spiritual well-being. A regular morning and evening program of dhikr, supplication, and prayers upon the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, works wonders.

Please understand that our parents are human beings and are far from perfect. Sadly, there are Muslim parents who are dishonest, dysfunctional, and abusive. There are parents who will attempt to live vicariously through their children and try to have total control. However, as adults, we can do several things:

1. Mitigate the harm of family members by responding with kindness, refusing to argue, and establishing clear boundaries. I can’t tell you what boundaries you should establish in interacting with your mother. Only you know what works and what doesn’t. Do consider, however, the patience of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, in his dealings with his family members. And do try to recruit some supportive people in your life.

2. Learning how not to be as parents: Children can bring out the worst in some of us, sadly. While we would ideally like to be our best selves as parents, children, with their constant demands for our time and attention, not to mention their need for material resources, can push parents to the limit. That is why children, as Allah Ta’ala says above, can be the ultimate test. I know it’s difficult to understand but your mother might feel as frustrated with you as you are with her, but she has not found a healthy way to handle that. So learn from this situation how not to be as a parent.

3. Choosing peace and forgiveness.:Everyday, wake up and actively choose to forgive your family members and be at peace with their imperfections.

Finally, to address your suspicions of your mother’s infidelity, it is best to leave this alone. Even if you have proof, it would be difficult to confront your mother given your relationship. Pray for her and ask Allah to send her some spiritual support. And encourage your siblings to take her around good, religious people; let them know you care.

May Allah Ta’ala grant ease,

Zaynab Ansari

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)