Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
I am a 33 year old unmarried woman who lives with my parents and siblings. My father has always been strict since we were children e.g. he would beat us over school work. My mother is afraid of my father divorcing her. That’s why she never defended any of us.
To make things worse, my brother-in-law sometimes tries to physically harm or grab my younger sisters. They do not complain because we do not have anyone to stand up for us us – all of our relatives fear my father. We have to look outside our family for help. Recently, I told my father about some of my problems, and he replied to me so rudely, stating that we all are dogs.
I am fed up with day to day abuse. How do I handle this? Will moving out from here be a sin on my part? I just want to shift and live in peace.
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I hope 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 that you are going through so much pain because of your father.
Your father sounds mentally unwell. No father in his right mind would call his wife and children such terrible names.
It also sounds like he has been doing this for decades, and nobody has told him that it is unacceptable. Long-term abuse can shred self-esteem and the ability to assert oneself. Please do not blame yourselves for his horrifying behaviour.
If your father continues to abuse you this way, then I strongly suggest that you move out of your family home. This may be culturally frowned upon, because you are unmarried, but please know that it is not sinful. If remaining in your home will continue to cause you emotional, spiritual and mental harm, then I would argue that it may be obligatory for you to move out.
Please remember to still keep ties with your family, even after you move out. Because interactions with your father sound extremely toxic, I encourage you to limit your contact with him. Perhaps you can limit it to emails, phone calls, and slowly build your way up to face-to-face contact. I do not recommend visiting him alone.
I am very concerned about your younger sisters’ safety. Your brother-in-law needs to be confronted. You do not need a man do this for you. Islam empowers you to protect your own dignity, and the dignity of those whom you love.
However, some misogynistic men do not take the word of a woman seriously. If that is the case, then it would be wise for you to approach someone who can advocate for you. You describe your relatives as being fearful of your father. Is there someone outside your family who can speak to your brother-in-law?
I strongly suggest that you and your sisters attend an assertiveness course together. You do not need to remain victims. Alternatively, is there a Muslimah coach you could speak to?
I strongly encourage you to seek out a culturally-sensitive counsellor. You have gone through tremendous pain and it’s important for you to learn how to heal. Please know that through this journey, you will grow and become the a better, kinder, stronger version of yourself. All of your your suffering is not in vain.
When you have a deeply traumatised and enmeshed family dynamic, you can feel responsible for fixing everything – this is especially the case for the eldest child. This is a very heavy burden to bear. Please know that only you can heal yourself, through Allah’s help. You need to fix your oxygen mask first, so to speak, before you can help anyone else.
Please keep in touch. I pray that Allah heals you, your family, and reunites you all in Jannah, where there is no more pain.
Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long
How Do We Deal With Parents Who Emotionally Abuse Their Children?
How Can I Help My Mother Despite My Abusive Father?
How Does a Child Deal With Parents Who Fight Each Other?
[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.