To What Extent of a Boundary Can I Have with Dysfunctional Parents?
Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
My parents have abused me for the span of my lifetime – physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and mentally manipulated/abused me. I now go and will continue to go therapy to help me cope with the internal destruction and damage inflicted upon me by these two toxic parents of mine.
I know I have to serve my parents, but to what extent? I feel bad but it’s almost really easy to say that I don’t love them – however, I do submit to Allah and Allah says serve your parents, but to what extent can I without coming up short? Am I obligated to love them?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us. Please forgive me for the delay.
Dear sister, I am so sorry for the all the abuse you endured at the hands of your parents. Please know that even though they failed to parent you, you are still worthy of love and acceptance.
Dr Umar Faruq Abdullah once said that those who have been through great trauma can be the means for great healing. I pray that this comes to fruition for you. For now, take it one step at a time. Remember to breathe. Know that pain is always temporary.
Even in the case of abusive parents, you are obligated to treat them with respect. It is not obligatory for you to love them.
If you are unsure about how much contact you wish to maintain with them, I encourage you to start with your own suggestion of calling them once a month, or once every two months. If that proves too challenging, then perhaps you can start with monthly emails, or handwritten letters. Send them gifts.
Perhaps you can also do monthly text messages and emails, and limit in-person visits to special occasions only. If it feels unbearable to witness their replies, you may temporarily block their responses for a time, and unblock them when you feel ready.
Trust in the healing power of time, coupled with dua and your own healing journey.
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that a person said: Allah’s Messenger, who amongst the people is most deserving of my good treatment? He said: Your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives according to the order (of nearness). [Sahih Muslim]
If your sister is participating in abusing you, then you need to protect yourself too. Keep the minimum amount of contact. You may apply the same suggestions I listed above, with your parents.
I encourage you to read the book Why Can’t We Get Along? Healing Adult Siblling Relationships.
The next time your parents start abusing on the phone, please know that especially because they are damaging your psyche, it is obligatory for you to politely end the call and hang up. You were placed on this earth to worship and know Allah, and it may be difficult to do that with a shattered psyche.
Please perform the Prayer of Need as much as you need to, in the last third of the night. Beg Allah for whatever you wish. Healing, forgiveness, a better relationship with your family – nothing is difficult for Allah.
I encourage you to contact holistic healers such as Hafsa Hasan, from Elements of Healing. Talk therapy can sometimes make things worse by causing you to relive past trauma. There are kinder and more effective ways to release pain.
Abu Sa’id and Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience.” [Bukhari and Muslim].
Dear sister, please know that even under the best of circumstances, parenting small children is not easy. Parenting after complex trauma will be deeply challenging – but I pray that the results will stay with you well into the afterlife. I pray that you will be gifted with children who love you, find comfort in you, make dua for you long after you pass away, and who long to be with you in this world as well as the next. Because this gift is so tremendous, please know that attaining it will not be easy.
I pray that when it is your turn to become a parent, the greatest gift of your trauma will be your own patience and compassion with your children.
When your parents become grandparents, I pray that it softens them. This may be hard to believe, but abusive parents are often capable of being much kinder grandparents.
It is impermissible for you to sever ties between your future children and your parents. I do not recommend that you leave them alone together, but I do encourage you to plan regular visits. Your future children need to know their roots. As your parents age and come to realise their own mortality, they will need you and your children far more than you need them. This will be a test of your capacity to forgive, let go of the past, and be compassionate. I pray that when that day comes, your character will be Prophetic enough to do that.
I pray this is useful for you. Please keep in touch.
Abusive Parents Archive
Love, Marriage and Relationships in Islam: All Your Questions Answered
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.