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How to Deal With Difficult Siblings?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

For a long time I have been having problems with my sister who lives with me. She has an incredibly abrupt character and always comes out with verbal abuse. I cannot stand to be in her presence. How can I deal with being around her?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Thank you for your question. May Allah grant you every ease.

Dynamics between sibling can be often be complex and challenging to deal with. The test then, is in how we work with the relationship that we have been given, and how well we can straddle the line between maintaining the ties of kinship while avoiding on-going harm to ourselves.

Maintaining the ties of kinship

The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the ties of kinship.’ [Bukhari].

Maintaining the ties of kinship means keeping the familial connection open and amiable, and not cutting off one’s relatives or refusing to talk to them. At its optimal, it means regularly visiting or keeping in touch, exchanging gifts, and helping one another. At its most simple, it means saying salams once in a while or returning salams.

Solution

Despite one’s best efforts it may be that relatives continue to be hostile. Unfortunately, there is very little one can do in this situation other than ensure that one is doing what is obligatory upon them. One does not need to accept any type of abuse from siblings.

It is not clear from your question whether it is your home, your sister’s home, or a shared household. Depending on who’s house it is, it maybe that the only solution is that one of you move out and lives elsewhere, if that is a viable option.

Further recommendations

Perhaps you could try the following to ease tensions in the meantime:

– Have a heart to heart with your sister and tell her how you feel. Alternatively, get someone who can mediate between you both and convey your feelings.

– If living separately is not an option, take note and make a list of times and situations that most problems occur. Try to avoid being in the same space during these moments.

– Don’t stay up late together, as this is a time when people are usually tired and unnecessary arguments can happen.

– Buy your sister gifts despite her behaviour towards you. Doing it for the sake of Allah will carry great rewards and over time soften her heart insha’Allah.

– When she puts you down calmly tell her that you don’t like it and ask her to stop. D

​o​ your best to stay calm, and let her see that you are not going to retaliate with the same behaviour.
– Whenever you feel stressed about the current situation, take some time out. If possible read the Qur’an and make dhikr, ‘for without doubt, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.’ [13:28]. Make du’a, for yourself and for her, and ask Allah to take away any ill feelings towards each other.

– Make plenty of this dhikr when you feel anxious or upset:

​حسبي اللهِ ونعم الوکيل
Allah is my sufficiency, and how perfect a benefactor. [Abu Dawud]

(This invocation is best repeated 3 times or more in odd counts)

You may also find the following answers helpful:
How to Maintain Ties of Kinship Despite Hateful Siblings?
How Do I Forgive a Sibling Who Hurts Me?

I pray that Allah grants an easy way out for you and resolves your situation swiftly.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Ties that Bind: (30 Days, 30 Deeds), by Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes

Ties that Bind: Reconnect with relatives who have become distant (30 Days, 30 Deeds), by Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes

30 Days, 30 Deeds
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How Do We Maintain Family Ties With Bloodthirsty Relatives?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I have an extremely difficult relationship with my sister. Not only has she argued with me via phone and social media,but she also flirted with my husband.

I stopped talking to her. After that, she went around telling everyone that I called her an indecent woman.

What should we do with bloodthirsty family members?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. Dear sister, may Allah heal your sister and improve your relationship with her. Truly, nothing is difficult for Allah.

Boundaries

‘Abdullah bin Amr narrated that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “Merely maintaining the ties of kinship is not adequate. But connecting the ties of kinship is when ties to the womb are severed, and he connects it.” [Tirmidhi]

Your sister sounds very unhappy and very unwell. With individuals like her, you must draw strong boundaries, but always with tact and balance. It is impermissible for you to completely cut ties with her, so you must maintain a minimum of contact e.g. send her emails, text messages and/or gifts, visit her for Eid. Do it for Allah’s sake. Expect nothing in return from her. Trust that Allah is All-Seeing and All-Hearing, and knows how painful this is for you. Think of this as expiation for your sins.

The talebearing that she has done about you is a major sin. Work on forgiving her, because a grudge in your heart only harms you. Please perform The Prayer of Need and ask Allah to grant you patience to bear with this trial until He lifts it from you.

Support

I strongly recommend that you see a culturally-sensitive counsellor who can help you cope with her emotionally abusive behaviour. Please describe your situation to your counsellor, and learn how to stand up for yourself in a respectful and confident way. Your priority is to protect your health and the harmony of your household.

Allah does not wish for you to be target practice. Passively taking your sister’s destructive behaviour is harmful to your spiritual, emotional and physical health. You are a Muslimah, and your dignity is sacred. Telling her to treat you with basic courtesy is an excellent start. Follow it up with minimal interaction. Hold up your end of the relationship, and Allah will take care of the rest.

Please refer to the following links:

What is the Minimum Amount of Relationship I Have to Keep with a Relative I Hate?
My Sisters-In-Law Belittle Us and Their Parents. Do I Need to Maintain Ties With Them?
A Reader on Family Ties
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Martin Cathrae

How Do I Mend Ties With My Estranged Brother and His Family?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I live abroad and I am unable to visit my parents regularly. I feel that they are being neglected by my other siblings who live in the same city. My sister-in-law has completely cut herself off from my parents. I have tried to speak to my brother about this, so she has cut me off as well. Am I under obligation to keep ties with her?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. Please forgive me for this delay. May Allah make a way out for you during this difficult time.

Dua

Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “There is not a man who calls upon Allah with a supplication, except that he is answered. Either it shall be granted to him in the world, or reserved for him in the Hereafter, or, his sins shall be expiated for it according to the extent that he supplicated – as long as he does not supplicate for some sin, or for the severing of the ties of kinship, and he does not become hasty.” They said: “O Messenger of Allah, and how would he be hasty?” He (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “He says: ‘I called upon my Lord, but He did not answer me.’” [Tirmidhi]

Please have hope in the power of dua. Although it looks like things are not changing, trust that Allah will answer your dua in the best way possible.

Siblings

It must be upsetting for you to see that your siblings live so close to your parents, yet do not visit as often as you would. Have you had an honest conversation with them? Share your concerns with them as calmly as you can.

Remember that you are unable to control their actions. All you can do is express your concerns, suggest solutions, and leave the outcome to Allah. They, like everyone else, will answer to Allah, and you are not held responsible for their actions. Please perform the Prayer of Need and beg Allah to set things right in your family.

Mending ties

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Merely maintaining the ties of kinship is not adequate. But connecting the ties of kinship is when his ties to the womb are severed and he connects it.” [Tirmidhi]

In normal circumstances, it is impermissible to sever family ties. This applies even to difficult family members. As hard as it must be for you right now, trust that Allah is the Turner of Hearts, and that nothing is impossible with His help. You do your part by reaching out to your sister-in-law in a way which you can handle. You do not need to sit down and chat with her. This may not happen for a while. But you can send gifts.

I pray that you see the fruits of your effort in this life. Rest assured that nothing is lost with Allah, and that inshaAllah, even if you don’t see a pleasing outcome in this life, you will in the next.

Give gifts

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Give gifts and you will love one another.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]

If you are afraid to call your sister-in-law, then post her gifts instead. Include a thoughtful note if you feel that will help. As you post her gifts, make your highest intention that of pleasing Allah. Ask Him to make this gift a means of mending ties with her.

Patience

“And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [Qur’an, 8:46]

Above all, have patience. Think of the trial of Nabi Yusuf (upon him be peace) and how he suffered at the hands of his own brothers. He remained patient, as did his father, Nabi Yaqub (upon him be peace), and Allah rewarded them for it. Read Surah Yusuf as a means of reminding yourself, and as a way to lift the sadness from your heart.

Trials with family are indeed difficult to bear. I pray that Allah eases your sorrow, and draws you closer to Him through your tribulation.

Please refer to the following links:

A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah
How Should I Uphold My Family Ties?

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

What is the Minimum Amount of Relationship I Have to Keep with a Relative I Hate?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: 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.
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
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 unislamic. 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.
Assertiveness
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.”
Perspective
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, forgiveness, and ask Allah to remove the hatred and resentment from your heart. Polish your heart with 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
Raidah Shah Idil
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Impermissibility of Marrying one's Sibling and Divine Forgiveness

Answered by Ustadh Torab Torabi
Question: “Peace, Mercy and Blessings of God be upon You” السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
1. If we are Adam and Eve kids then we are brothers and sisters, How can we marry each other?
2. Allah can forgive anyone He wills, If He forgives a murderer, is it justice to the victim and his family?
How does the justice system work?
Answer: Walaikum Asalaam Wa Rahmatullah Wa Barakatuh.
Bismillah.
Impermissibility of Marrying one’s Sibling
Allah says in the Qur’an: “Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts and brothers’ daughters and sisters’ daughters…” (Surah Nisa’, verse 23)
From this verse it is firmly established that it is impermissible for someone to marry his sibling. I believe that your confusion stems from your definition of “brothers and sisters.” The verse is referring to two people who share, one or both, parents. Adam and Eve (peace be upon them both) are not our direct parents, they are our ancestors, thus the ruling would not apply.
Divine Forgiveness
Imam al Nawawi mentions that there are four conditions for repentance from a sin in which a person transgresses against the rights of another person:
1. To desist in the sin itself
2. To feel deep contrition for the sin
3. To resolve to never return to the sin
4. To ask the wronged person for forgiveness
However, it is possible for Allah to forgive without any conditions, as He is the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth. Allah is the Most Powerful and the Most Wise and if He forgives a murderer, it does not mean that the murdered and his family will not be recompensed on the Day of Judgment. Rather, it is absolutely conceivable that Allah can both: A) Forgive the murderer for his action and B) Give full blessings and mercy to the wronged peoples.
Allah’s Forgiveness is not a sum-zero game. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar.
“Is Allah not the most just of judges?” (Sura Tin, verse 8)
And Allah knows best.
Torab Torabi
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Can We Break Family Ties With Siblings Who Treat Us Badly?

Answered by Ustadha Rukayat Yakub

Question: Asalaamu alaikum,

We come from a broken family that lacks agreement on anything.  Our brothers generally only notice the sisters when they want something from them.  But when the sisters need something – they make excuses to the sisters.  We try hard to be there in times of hardship and to defend their honor.  Yet, when we struggle they offer no compassion, don’t visit us, and don’t defend our honor.  When one of my sisters was divorced she and her ex-husband agreed she would get a financial settlement. He kept that agreement until he got his citizenship and got another spouse, then he discontinued the money he owed her.  Our brothers still treat him as a close friend, ignoring that this hurts our sister when they invite him and his wife to the house. Our brothers never check on us.  The only thing we can expect is a dinner invitation during Ramadan and Eid. I feel it is time to breakup these false ties of family that has no value or substance.  One of my brothers took an object and hurled it at my sister when in a fit of rage, to further explain my frustration and anger. What do you advise?

Answer: wa alaikum as salaam sister

I am sorry that you and your sisters are experiencing this, but my sincere advice is to not to break of family ties but to change the way you interact with your brothers.

It seems that you have been trying for many years to get your brothers to change and this has caused much resentment frustration and pain,  Cutting off ties will not heal this especially as in Islam the we are taught and encouraged to hold dear family ties.  Allah ta’ala is well aware of your situation and what you have done to make things work,  However you are responsible for your actions and the only person in this equation that you can change is yourself.

So if your brothers decide that they only want to get together at Eid, then visit them at this time.  Maintain good adab with them and interact with them solely for the pleasure of Allah ta’ala.   Do not expect them to reciprocate, they might, but having that expectation leads to disappointment and even more resentment when they do not.  If you are in their home and are being hurtful, let them know that you will not tolerate this behavior, but you are their sister and you love them and when they are willing to act in a way that isn’t physically or emotionally hurtful you will be more than happy to visit or have them visit you.  Then leave.  I am not advocating cutting off ties, but the deen came to protect life, and honor among other things, and your brothers have no right to physically hurt any of you.  And even if you have to leave abruptly due to bad behavior, you should still send cards, or call to keep the lines of communication open.

Also think of all the times our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace endured the hardship of others,  This doesn’t mean that you let them, or anyone walk all over you like a dormat, but it does mean that you interact with them in the best way that you can, and leave it at that.

Stop trying to make them ‘do you right thing’ they are adults  You can and should insist that they treat you properly, but the key is, you can’t make them do this.  And you aren’t responsible for the way they behave, they will have to account for this themselves,  You will however be asked about yourself and the responsibilities you have been entrusted with so focus on nurturing your mind, body, and soul, encourage your sisters to do the same, and make dua for your brothers.   Beyond that I would not worry about the injustices they have perpetuated against you, worry just makes things worse.  Allah ta’ala is Just.  So do not worry.  Focus on now.  Focus on your mission in life and working with people who want to work with you and having good manner with those who do not.

And Allah ta’ala knows best

May Allah ta’ala give you all healing and strength and rectify the behavior of your brothers and reconcile the hearts of all the members of your family.

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani