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Abusive, Toxic, and Mentally Ill Mother

 

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am a Muslim woman in her early twenties, living with my parents and I have always had trouble in my household. I have grown up in a toxic and violently abusive environment with consistent emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, and at many times physical abuse. I am an only child, and my mother is extremely mentally unwell. My parents have been fighting for as long as I can remember.

My mother needs to admitted to a psych ward because her mental illness has gotten so bad. We can hospitalize her, but no one, even family members seem to understand the extent of it so they’ve advised that we do not. I want to, but will I be punished for forcefully admitting her into the psych ward because her condition has gotten so bad? How will I live in her house peacefully, while my mother is in the hospital?

The constant torment, physical abuse and the walking on eggshells around her not knowing if today will be a bad day or a horrible day. I don’t think I can remember the last time I was burden-free. It has come to the point that my own mental health is so greatly affected that I cannot tolerate anything anymore, the slightest thing will trigger me and I become so enraged I cannot control it. I am starting to have similar episodes like her because apart from genetically being predisposed to her mental health issues, being raised in such a toxic environment has solidified the manifestation of those illnesses within me, guaranteeing that I may be like this with my family in the future.

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.

Obligation towards parents

Dear sister, please know that I am so, so sorry to hear about the huge burden you are carrying. I wish I could be next to you, hold your hand and tell you, in person, how brave you are. You have endured such terrible pain.

Please know that you are not alone. You have never been alone. Allah is always with you. I am so grateful that Allah moved your heart to contact us. I pray that my advice will soothe your troubled heart.

Hospitalization

Please perform the Prayer of Guidance about whether or not to hospitalize your mother. I would suggest that as an absolute last resort, but a necessity if she continues to harm herself and those around her.

Modern psychiatric medicine is strong and does have side-effects, but there is a place for it, in extreme cases. When your mother stabilizes, then she will be more open to holistic remedies.

Spiritual and Emotional Abuse

Narrated Anas, may Allah be pleased with him: Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Bukhari)

Even though your mother is unwell, she is still hurting you deeply. You must protect yourself. That is obligatory upon you. You must take care of your own sanity and your own soul. Please do not let your mother break you, because you matter to Allah.

Please plan to move out of your family home. Ready your financial situation and search for trustworthy roommates. You cannot change your parents or their deeply troubled dynamic. But you can change your living situation, and focus on healing.

By leaving your home, you are actually doing your mother a favor. In her moments of lucidity, she will no longer be accountable to Allah for hurting her own daughter so terribly.

Your parents will be deeply unhappy with your decision. Expect it and prepare for it. You must still be respectful to them, and take the time to contact them and visit them as often as you can handle. When the abuse begins, then politely take your leave.

Over time, and with healing, they will not change, but your response to them will. It will get easier and easier to be around them, insha Allah, as impossible as it might feel right now. Give yourself time. It is impermissible to cut ties with them, but in your case, it is perhaps even obligatory for you to build some distance between yourself and your parents.

Gift of Pain

Dear sister, you may not believe me right now, but because of your years of suffering, when you heal, you will be a tremendous source of comfort for those around you. You will have empathy for other survivors of childhood abuse. Children with non-abusive parents cannot imagine what you and I have gone through. Your priority is to heal yourself, first, before you can help anyone else.

I speak from experience. My own family dynamic carries many wounds. Alhamdulillah, Allah sent me the help I needed, and I had to also make many hard decisions as a young woman. None of it was easy, but it helped me become who I am today.

Spiritual Medicine

Please soothe your heart with regular and protective Qur’anic recitation, and duas such as these: Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long.

Please perform the Prayer of Need as often as you need to, especially in the blessed time before the entry of Fajr.

I encourage you to read Al-Shifa and the Shama’il, as a means of healing through the barakah of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.

Emotional Medicine

I strongly encourage you to seek out a culturally-sensitive therapist to help support your healing. Your rage is merely the top part of the Anger Iceberg. A kind therapist can help you empty out your full emotional backpack.

I pray this is useful in the meantime: Emotional First Aid. I encourage you to also look up Hakim Archuletta and Hafsa Hasan.

Marriage as Medicine

Insha Allah, when you are more healed, and when the time is right, I pray that Allah will send you a loving and righteous husband – one who will value you for your strength and love you because of your scars. Please do not hide what you have gone through from your prospective husband. The right man will see your strength, and celebrate it. A safe and loving marriage is also a powerful medicine for you.

However – and I cannot state this enough – you need to heal sufficiently for you to recognize a good man when you meet one. Often, unresolved childhood trauma can cause women and men to select unsuitable romantic partners – neglectful and abusive ones – because it is a familiar pattern.

Motherhood as Medicine

When you become a mother some day, because of your own trauma, please know that your own child is likely to trigger you. When your child behaves likes a child – cries, shouts, tantrums – it is likely to cause you to overreact, because your mother overreacted to you. You are likely to be overwhelmed by rage and lash out at your child, but know that you can heal, and get better at staying calm.

Your own mother’s neglect and abuse of you has left you with deep pain, and our own children have a way of triggering these sore points. You can use this as growth point, and choose to respond from a place of calm, instead of lashing out the way your mother does. It will take practice, but you will get better at it, insha Allah.

Please know that you are not doomed to hurt your family the way your mother has. You have insight, and motivation to change. I pray that with dua, hard work, and self-compassion, you will make an incredible mother.

Inherited Pain and Resilience

It is possible that your mother is so traumatized because of her own childhood. Perhaps she is repeating the cycle of abuse that she endured. And perhaps your late grandparents carried their own trauma.

You have the choice to break this pattern, and to gift your children with a mother who loves, protects and guides them – the way you deserve. It will be hard at first, but as you choose love and calm, your brain will rewire, and it will become easier and easier.

Rights of Parents

When you are ready, please aim to complete Excellence With Parents: Muhammad Mawlud’s Birr al-Walidayn Explained: Your Parents’ Rights and How to Fulfill Them.

Shaykh Rami’s course has been transformative for me, and for other children who have had childhood trauma. My biggest takeaway from this course is this – even abusive parents must be treated with respect and kindness. The key is knowing how to keep yourself safe and grounded when you do so.

I pray this has been helpful. Please write back if you would like further clarification. I pray that Allah eases your suffering, and transforms your outward state while you transform your inward state. You are beloved to Allah, and I know that there are wonderful things ahead of you. Have faith in His Mercy, and the transformative power of his Love for you.

Please see: Reader on Abusive Parents.

Raidah

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

 


 

Concepts of Health and Disease within an Islamic Framework, by Shaykh Jamir Meah

In Shaykh Jamir Meah’s first article in this series, he discussed the importance of holistic healing for believers in the treatment of chronic disease. In this article, he specifically looks at the concept of health and disease, and how this understanding relates to our own religious states and practice.

 

The Concepts of Oneness, Duality, and Plurality

One of the first thing that attracted me to homeopathy was that every single homeopath that I had ever read about, or met, believes in a Creator. The reason for this is that homeopathy demands the practitioner to observe not only the world around one, but also the inner world within one. The only conclusion any sincere seeker can come to, is that the universe, with its intricate order and balance, can only exist through a single Creator.

God created man, and from him, He created his pair, and from this pair, multiples were created. Allah tell us that, ‘All things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect,’ and the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.’ [al Bukhari]. Disease and cure are a pair, and it is the task of medicine to search the vast creation of Allah to look for the remedy to each disease in each person.

Traditional therapies hold that there is only ever one disease in the body at one given time. It is not possible to have two diseases in one body. Despite plurality of symptoms manifesting in the one body, whether on the psychological or physical level, these are merely manifestations of the one root disease, or central disturbance.

 

The Concept of Health

Ask a physician to explain the concept of health, and you’ll probably get an answer like, ‘feeling well in both mind and body’, or ‘being free from illness or injury,’ etc. which are all fine and true. However, it falls short of the concept of real health.

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, gave a magnificent description of health, when he wrote, ‘In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force, the dynamis that animates the material body, rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation … so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence.’ [Aphorism 9, The Organon].

This vital force that Hahnemann speaks of, the dynamis that animates the material body, is another name for the Qi, the energy force in Chinese Medicine. They are one and the same thing.

Another equally sound explanation of health is given by professor G. Vithoulkas, when he says, ‘Health is freedom from pain in the physical body, having attained a state of well-being; freedom from passion on the emotional level, having as a result a dynamic state of serenity and calm; and freedom from selfishness in the mental sphere, having as a result total unification with Truth‘. [The Science of Homeopathy]

We can see then that the two (homeopathic) definitions of health, though differing in words, carry the same meaning. The body is an instrument to help one fulfil their ‘higher purpose’ in life, which is of course explained by Allah Most High in his words, ‘I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.’ [51:56].

Before we move onto the concept of disease, it would be useful to briefly understand something about the Universal Law of Frequency and Vibration.

 

The Universal Law of Frequency and Vibration

Science, through the field of Quantum Physics, is showing us that everything in our universe is energy.

Everything has its own vibrational frequency, whether animate or inanimate, governed by The Law of Vibration. A chair may look solid and still, but in reality, there are millions of subatomic particles in motion, all moving with energy. Everything that appears solid is the frequency of the vibration of the energy that makes it up.

Everything, even our thoughts, feelings, and sounds have their own vibrational frequency. These vibrations set up resonance with whatever possesses identical frequency. This gives the phrases such as ‘good vibes’ or ‘negative vibes’ some basis. In other words, your thoughts are inseparably connected to the rest of the universe.

The Mantra preceding meditation for Hindus and many Buddhists is the word, ‘Om’. This word is believed by these religions to be representative of the ‘universal sound’, referring to an ultimate reality, or truth.

For Muslims, we have a much clearer, unambiguous and direct understanding of the focus of our thoughts and meditations, which is only Allah, Exalted is He. Allah tells us, ‘The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet ye understand not how they declare His glory!’ [17:44].

Everything in the universe is in remembrance and glorification of the Creator, whether it be from the kingdoms of plant, animal, or mineral, or the naturals elements of water, air, earth and fire. Everything praises Him, and it is only men who do not perceive this, and who chooses to praise Allah or be heedless of Him.

This praise of everything in the Universe for the Creator can be viewed in the context of the Law of Vibration. Given the above verse, it would not be far-fetched to say the universal ‘sound’ or ‘vibration’ of the created universe is one of remembrance of Allah.

In many chronic cases of disease (though obviously not all cases, especially when there is a clear reason for emotional or physical pathology), there is an inner turmoil within the human heart and psyche, which is usually a precursor to emotional and physical sickness, as we discussed in our first article.

From whence does this inner turmoil begin? Quite often, it occurs when the will of a person is not fully aligned to the Divine Will. For many people, inner conflict occurs because their desires, hopes, and thoughts are in contrast to the Divine Commandment and Decree, either desiring that which is not permitted, neglecting that which is commanded, or being discontent with Allah’s Decree.

In this conflicted state, there is usually inner restlessness and agitation in the heart, for it looks for inner peace and repose in that which Allah has not placed peace and repose in, namely created things. Two inconsistent attitudes cannot exist in one person without conflict, because ‘God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast’ [33:4]

Looked at in another way, man is a part of creation, not separate to it (were we not created from earth?). If man’s will is ill-directed will and he is in state of heedlessness (ghafla), then man’s frequency of vibration is out of sync with the natural vibration of the universe, which as we mentioned is in constant praise of Allah. When this occurs, man is in a state of agitation.

When a person aligns his will to the Will of God, and relinquishes the desires and opinions of his ego, fulfilling His commands, and keeping away from His prohibitions, and remembering and thanking Him, the inner turmoil disappears and one finds contentment and peace, even if the world around them is in turmoil. ‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.’ [13:28].

The goal then, is to return to a pure state, the fitrah, where the heart is attached and submits to, and is in praise of Allah Most High. This gives real meaning to the idea of ‘being as one with the universe’. In this pure state, man can truly take his place as God’s khalifah (viceroy) on earth.

This is one of the reasons why spiritual training is so important and why it works. In the course of training, the true spiritual guide is redirecting the disciple’s will to the Will of the Divine.

If inner conflict and restlessness is neglected for a long period of time and left unresolved, like a toxin, it spreads in the heart, the mind and the body, and disease occurs.

 

The Concept of Disease

Once we have understood the concept of true health, it’s easy to understand disease. In contrast to health, we may define disease as simply ‘bondage.’ Physical pain creates the bondage of the body, lower desires and passions leads to the bondage of the emotions, and the selfishness of the ego creates the bondage of the spirit. All of which prevents one from moving forward and fulfilling the ‘higher purpose’ of one’s existence.

In disease, one’s vibration is out of sync with the pure or natural order, as we have mentioned. This internal discord could have occurred during the person’s own life, or passed down through generations.

When inner disorder persists, it manifests in outward disorder. Inner chaos can lead to outward chaos. This can affect individuals, or whole societies. In a compensated state, inner chaos can make a person fastidious and leads to OCD and waswasa, as they try to control their outward environment in order to allay the inner disorder, which they are unable to control. Clinical experience shows that behind all of these states, there is almost always some underlying fear buried deep down, whether connected to worldly matters or religious matters, and these need to surface and be resolved.

Like a guitar that needs to be finely tuned, a person’s vibration, and in turn, their will, needs to be tweaked, altered and re-aligned. This is the job of two disciplines: 1) that of certain natural medicines, which align the individual’s vibration to the harmonious vibration of the natural universe, and 2) spiritual training at the hands of a genuine spiritual guide, which guides and enhances the individual’s will to submit to the Will of God.

For lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual health through the various stages of man’s life, to combine both natural therapy and spiritual guidance is ideal.

So far, we have been discussing the theoretical relationship between natural medicine and Islam. In our next, and final article, we will be looking at how the principles of natural medicine can be of practical benefit to people, as well as discussing the Law of Cure.

 

Seeking Out A Culturally-Sensitive Counsellor, by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Working for the SeekersHub Question and Answer service constantly reminds Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil about the importance of looking after our emotional and mental health.

So many Muslims around the world are struggling with different forms of psychological imbalance. To name a few: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and so on. These inward fractures mirror the outward fractures we see in our troubled world today.
We live in stressful times, and many of our trials begin in our family homes. Many families lack the knowledge and training necessary to deal with these issues, hence, difficulties often escalate.
I feel like in almost every question I respond to, I encourage the distressed questioner and his/her loved ones to see a culturally-sensitive counsellor.
What does that actually look like? Does he/she have to be Muslim? Not necessarily. That would be ideal, but it’s not always possible.
Some aspects of a culturally-sensitive counsellor are:

Understanding

A counsellor who understands Muslims and what is important to us would be much more in tune with your needs. It’s exhausting to need to justify and explain your stance to an ignorant counsellor. Most people who are at counselling are already tired and stretched thin.

Open-minded

An open-minded counsellor is able to support you even if his/her values are different to yours. This applies to both Muslim and non-Muslim counsellors.

Empowering

Many people enter therapy believing that his/her counsellor will magically solve their problems. This does not solve the long-term issue of whatever caused the issue to begin with e.g. victim mentality, difficulty handling strong emotions etc.
The best kind of counsellor doesn’t tell you what to do. Rather, he/she will help you tap into your own values, and help you come to your own decision.

Good rapport

Trust your gut. If speaking to your counsellor makes you feel worse, then reflect on that. Is it because he/she is encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone? Or is it because she is being condescending? Not liking what a counsellor has to say can be a signal for growth, or it could be a sign of a mismatch. Be honest with yourself.

Empathy

The right counsellor feels for your pain, but does not do so from a place of sympathy and condescension. The right counsellor helps to hold you accountable for what you do, and believes in your ability to overcome hardship.

Finding the right counsellor

So now that we’ve covered some important qualities in a culturally-sensitive counsellor, how do we go about finding one? I wish I had an easy answer for that. The reality is that it’s a hit and miss process. Some counsellors will click with you, and others will not. Some people are able to find the right counsellor straight away, while others need to look for months, or even longer.
As with anything, start with asking Allah. Perform the Prayer of Need. When you do come across a potential counsellor, then perform the Prayer of Guidance. InshaAllah, Allah will make it clear to you.
To help you find the right counsellor for you, speak to Muslims who are working or volunteering in the mental health field. Ask your doctor. Do your research. Above all, place your trust in Allah, and in His promise that after every hardship, comes ease.
[cwa id=’cta’]

Resources for seekers

Discussing Intimate Details in Therapy Sessions

Answered by Sidi Wasim Shiliwala

Question: As a psychologist I am privy to a lot of personal and private information in sessions with clients, this occasionally places me in situations where people (i.e. who are not my clients but know my profession) open up to me and seek advice.

1) Is it permissible for me to find out about my client’s private/intimate life if it will assist in the therapy?

2) If someone who is not my client has called for general advice on a situation which involves sharing private information about a specific person/place, is this classified as a form of backbiting?

Answer: Walaikum As-salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

May Allah reward you for your service in counseling others!

Discussing Private Matters for the Sake of Therapy

1. Is it permissible for me to find out about my client’s private/intimate life if it will assist in the therapy?

Although it is usually discouraged to discuss the details of one’s personal life, this discouragement is lifted when such discussion has a clear benefit. This falls under the general rules of speaking outlined by the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak [that which is] good or be silent” [Sahih Bukhari].

Since disclosing intimate details is an important part of therapy, then the benefit from such disclosure makes it permissible and in fact encouraged if it can improve the patient’s health. Of course, this permissibility is limited to that which is beneficial: you should only pry into your patient’s private life to the extent needed for the therapy.

Is Disclosing Private Information About Others a Form of Backbiting?

2) If someone who is not my client has called for general advice on a situation which involves sharing private information about a specific person/place, is this classified as a form of backbiting?

Backbiting, as defined by the Prophet (peace be upon him), is to “say something about your brother [or sister] that he [or she] would dislike” [Sahih Muslim]. Muslim scholars ruled backbiting to be haraam except when there is a clear benefit sanctioned by the shari`ah, such as when one is demanding their rights in court, consulting others about a potential spouse or business partner, and similar situations [Nahlawi, Durar al-Mubaha].

Therefore, the sharing of private information depends on this rule of necessity and benefit. You must ask yourself: Is there a clear and beneficial purpose in disclosing this information? Is there any benefit in speaking about this specific person and what he/she did, or can I keep the person anonymous and speak in generalities?

Use your own professional judgment in deciding what is necessary and what is not, keeping in mind that the health of your patients is of utmost importance.

The Need to Speak About Personal Issues

As a closing remark, I want to emphasize the need for Muslims to have an outlet to discuss their personal issues. Mental and emotional health are often neglected in our communities, thereby causing great harm to many individuals and their families.

Alarmingly, many Muslims think that Islam sanctions such neglect. Rather, what Islam teaches us is that all problems, even those of an intimate and personal nature, can and should be discussed, but in an appropriate setting. The Prophet (peace be upon him) famously praised the women of the Ansar for asking him detailed personal questions and not letting shyness prevent them from learning the details of their religion [Sahih Bukhari].

It is therefore important for professionals like yourself to offer your invaluable services to your local Muslim community. Speaking about private matters might not be appropriate in a public setting, but it is absolutely necessary when counsel is sought. May Allah reward you for your efforts!

Jazakum Allahu Khairan,
-Wasim

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

Should I Tell My Spouse About My Relationships Before I Got Married?

Are There Valid Reasons to Reveal Sins?