Question: Recently, my brother-in-law brainwashed my sister to block me, cut all ties with me, and she says she no longer wants to speak to me. Recently when he argued with me, I lost my cool and answered back, which I regret now. Since then, my sister and I drifted apart, and now she is spreading false stories about me to relatives, who are demanding explanations. I don’t know how to deal with such situations. Is it okay to set strong boundaries with siblings?
Thank you for your question. I empathize with your frustration with your sister and brother-in-law and I pray that you can reconcile with them and have mutual respect. The very best advice that I can give you is mentioned in this link: https://seekersguidance.org/answers/general-counsel/how-to-deal-with-difficult-siblings/
It may be that your brother-in-law has started this problem between you and your sister, however, your sister is at fault, not him. She should know that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the ties of kinship” [Bukhari]. Because of this, you should keep calm with your brother-in-law and not lose your patience around him. There is no sense in arguing with someone that will not listen, but instead let him see the blessings in your life, and prove to him your point through action and example, not yelling. In sha Allah, when you do start to see them again, keep this in mind.
As for your sister, you cannot force her to see you, but you can apologize. Apologize, only once, for one does not apologize over and over, and let her know that you will not cut her off. If she has blocked you, mail her a handwritten letter so she knows where you stand. Employ a friend or relative to speak to her. Remind her that behaving in a backward cultural way will not solve anything. If she will not listen, ask her to at least stop complaining to relatives and honestly tell her that it hurts you. Send her a gift, this usually gives a clear message and she will be too embarrassed to continue cutting ties.
As for aunts and the like, don’t get sucked into their demands or let them make it a big problem. Tell them that you both have a little disagreement going on, but it is not serious and you have no intention of cutting her off. Perhaps they can even give the message to your sister that you are not upset and are willing to meet again.
Yes, it is a very good idea to set boundaries with siblings. Avoid any situations that stimulate an argument. Meet outside for coffee, don’t hang out late at night, don’t get into heated discussions, or meet with your sister without her husband. Meet her with friends, or just talk on the phone more often than meeting in person; there are many ways to keep things peaceful. Never allow anyone to abuse you, and you will find the best tips in the link above. Make it clear to her that you won’t accept her speaking to relatives about you.
Ask Allah to always keep you and your sister on the straight path and ask Him to join your hearts. Malice and bitterness have no place between siblings and I pray that your bond with her becomes stronger than ever before.
[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.