Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
I have a cousin who has always provoked negative feelings in me whenever I found myself around her. The breaking point for me was when she questioned me loudly and openly on a personal matter in a room full of people. My natural response is to cut off all ties with her. How much of a relationship must I maintain with her since she is my blood relative? I only want to do the minimum.
I pray this finds you well. I am very sorry to hear about the ill-treatment you have received over the years. What your cousin has and continues to do is unjust and un-Islamic. Cutting off ties with her, however, is not the way of our deen.
Maintaining Family Ties
‘A’isha reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: “The tie of kinship is suspended to the Throne and says: He who unites me Allah would unite him and he who severed me Allah would sever him.” [Bukhari]
No matter how bad your cousin makes you feel, she is still bound to you by blood. Your responsibility is to look after yourself, while maintaining the bare minimum of contact with her. I would suggest visiting during Ramadan and the two Eids, at the very least. Remember to behave cordially with her. You are responsible for your actions, not hers. Tie your compassion towards her with the highest intention of pleasing Allah, and inshaAllah this struggle will be means of elevating your rank in Jannah.
The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “A believer does not allow himself to be stung twice from one (and the same) hole.” [Bukhari]
Islam does not call you to be a doormat. Your dignity as a believer is sacred. Knowing your cousin’s attitude towards you, please practise assertiveness training so you will be better able to stand your ground with her, if/when the need arises. See a counsellor, life coach, or therapist for support. Practise role-playing scenarios with trusted family and friends, so that when the time comes, you will be able to politely and firmly draw boundaries. She will probably be very shocked when you do stand up for yourself for the first time, and the thought of doing so may make you feel nervous. However, the solution to this problem is not avoidance. The solution is upholding family ties, while calling her out on any bad behaviour. Do so with tact and wisdom, of course, such as through speaking to her in private and being frank and non-accusatory e.g. “When you said x, I felt x. I would appreciate it if you would stop. Thank you.“
Ustadh Usama Canon said, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Your cousin is most likely hurting in some way, and it is likely that she herself has been bullied. As hard as it might be right now, make dua for her well-being, and forgiveness, and ask Allah to remove the hatred and resentment from your heart. Polish your heart with the remembrance of Allah. Remove those negative traits, and ask Allah to transform your heart into fertile ground for goodness and compassion. Think of our Beloved Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace), who endured unimaginably unjust treatment – despite all of that, he remained compassionate.
I pray that Allah Most High softens her heart as well as yours, and heals your relationship with your cousin.
Please refer to the following links:
Can We Break Family Ties With Siblings Who Treat Us Badly?
Reader on maintaining family ties
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked and 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.