Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
I am 16 years old and have been obese since I was little and have constantly been shamed for it by my parents, especially my mother. She is relentless. She doesn’t let me see a therapist for my suicidal thoughts and tells me I am seeking attention. I want to get healthier, but her forced workouts have made me hate exercising over the years. She’s constantly watching me and never lets me out. I have to deal with her angry meltdowns. She’s threatening me with marriage. What am I to do?
Thank you for your question. I empathize with your pain and pray that your mother improves her behavior towards you.
Fat-shaming involves criticizing and harassing overweight people about their weight or eating habits to make them feel ashamed of themselves. The belief is that this may motivate people to eat less, exercise more, and lose weight, but this could not be further from the truth. Usually, it has the opposite effect by worsening the problem and causing psychological damage.
Journey to Accepting Yourself
Changing your mother is not going to be easy, but you need to do something else first. You have to strive for body positivity. Take the first step towards self-love and self-acceptance. It requires you to unlearn the idea of a “perfect body” and make peace with the body you have. Go easy on yourself. And most importantly, body positivity is all about being kind, compassionate, respectful, and accepting of everyone’s bodies, especially marginalized bodies, who don’t get mainstream representation. Remember that Allah does not judge your appearance, nor does He care about how you look. Instead, He cares about the state of your heart.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Allah does not look at your forms or your wealth, rather He looks at your deeds and your hearts.” [Ibn Maja]
Your Mental Health
Although your mother may not bend, you must still look out for your well-being and peace of mind. If she doesn’t let you see a therapist, try to find one online or speak to one on the phone. Ask at your school for resources, or your local mosque, or through friends. You have a right to treat yourself when you feel unwell, mentally or otherwise. If you are in the US, consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). It’s always open, and you can speak to a trained counselor.
Communicate to your mother and tell her that her negativity and pressure are affecting you. Talk to your father as well, and ask him to help defend you. Undergoing criticism by one’s mother is far too familiar in Eastern cultures, and it’s wrong. Islam does not condone this, and a woman’s worth does not lie on her body shape but instead on the soul that her body houses.
See these links to articles written by women with similar experiences, and recite the duas given in the link below for mental well-being:
Being body-shamed by my own mother
How My Mom (and Others) Unintentionally Body Shames Me
Prayer For Mental Well-Being
Turn to Allah
Turn to Allah with the sincere intention that all you do is for Him and place all your trust in Him. Know that you are never alone and that Allah is nearer to you than your jugular vein. Pray all your prayers on time, read some Qu’ran every day, and make dhikr during your free time. Learn as much as you can about our beautiful religion and try to apply it in your life. Make repentance daily and involve yourself in charity and helping others. Eating healthy and exercising are instrumental as part of your mental wellness. Make a daily routine for spiritual wellness and physical wellness and stick to it.
May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria, for two years, where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, Tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Master’s in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.