Coming to Terms with Familial Issues

And Allah has made for you in your homes an abode (An-Nahl 16:80).

Are we playing our part in making our home a peaceful, serene abode? Is our sense of responsibility towards other family members still substantial enough to make our family an institution within itself?

We’re living in times when shamelessness, rebellion, corruption and self-obsession are at their peak. A righteous, practicing Muslim has to be all ears of the social dilemmas that surround him/her. In this day and age, one of the biggest shields that can protect us from falling trap in the social issues is being united with our family and home.

Most of us quickly jump to expectations first. We tend forget the transient nature of this Dunya and the perpetual, yet to come Akhirah. The temporariness of this world implies that nothing here would be perfect or ideal, because perfection is the attribute of Jannah. Nouman Ali Khan in his talk highlighted that an ideal Muslim does not exist rather there are ‘ideal ways’ to deal with one’s family.

One of the biggest realities of life is that we have to deal with that tough member(s) of our family, who we get hurt by occasionally. Family issues, within the home have become really common and we all need a way out of them. However, like all other problems, there are no shortcuts to this. After having considered the basics of parental psychology and relationship psychology, I have realized that we have to encounter the tough relative to our best capabilities rather than wanting them to change.

I observed around, within my family, friends and my work place, I looked for the common error that most of the families were making. That sibling who comes home late, that parent who argues with you on wearing Hijab or not, that uncle who calls you a Mawlana, or the in laws who are always sarcastic about you, all have to be faced at some point in life. The indifference, the carelessness or rudeness within a family can rust the ties until one of us realizes that improvement can be made. Instead of hopelessly closing the file and locking that cabinet, we need to reconsider that relationship in a number of ways. The best of people in Islam have had the toughest of family members, even sometimes non-Muslims. Aasia had Islam’s enemy as her husband and she prayed for a house in Jannah; Yaqoob (as) had disobedient sons except Yusuf (as) despite of his hard work into parenting. We can take numerous examples by reviewing the Ahadeeth and boost our morales.

We need to reconsider this reality; no matter how hard we try, we can’t change the person if he or she is not willing to change. We can only work on ourselves as the biggest room is the room for self-improvement. Nuh (as) did not change his wife neither did Ibrahim (as) change his father. They kept their duty to Allah (swt) and are the blessed legends of Islam today.

In dealing with an apathetic family member, we often make the mistake of repeatedly quoting Ahadith and Ayats, in the hope that they will realize. This can work at times but not always, because we are not working on the root cause; each family member has a need to be heard, to be understood and respected. We need to first identify what they are responsive to and then give our sound advice.

Yusuf Estes, in his talk Family Development, highly discourages the blame games we play at home with our family or even our relatives. After a particular situation, we start talking in ‘if’ terms. ‘If you had listened to me, you could’ve . . .’. Such statements only ruin the Islamic atmosphere of the home. Today’s parents and even youth have developed the habit of cursing each other. If a 13 year old doesn’t listen to the mother, the mother yells ‘Allah will deal with you.’ If the brother doesn’t switch off the music while the sister is praying, she yells right after finishing her Salah, ‘Allah will ask you’. We should really stop and ponder over our choice of words and the temperaments at our homes today. Is the love for our family so less that we can think of Allah (swt) questioning them on the Day of Judgement?

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah (rta) that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The strong man is not the one who wrestles others; rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself at times of anger. (Muslim)

A strange heated friction exists between siblings, parents and even grandparents. We have become so aggressive verbally and non-verbally that it ruins the very roots of our relationships. This friction prevents the youth from coming home early or the parents to get up and have discussions with their kids. The interpersonal relationships are deeply affected shaking the grounds of trust, sincerity and love. We need to choose our battles wisely, we need to prioritize the unwelcomed advices we give. Before taunting a young boy to keep a beard to become a true Muslim, we need to find Khushoo in our own Salah and ensure its regularity.

Unfortunately, what has become of us? The intrinsic values that the Sunnah of our Prophet (sa) imbibed in us are gradually sinking somewhere. A significant issue that exists between families and within a family is the different opinions they have about Islamic aspects; the elder brother follows the Hanafi school of Fiqh while the younger sister follows the Sha’afi school of Fiqh. Moreover, there are other minute differences such as the sister ridiculing the younger brother for listening to the lectures of Shaykh or an Ustadh regularly instead of respecting her. One method of dealing with such a scenario when one faces opposition through opinion is to motivate the relative or the family member to seek further knowledge and also humbly accept the imperfection that one’s knowledge might possess. Over and above, the Sahabah (ra) and the Salaf (ra) spent their entire lives as students of the Deen and never complained. Similarly, the Shaykhs we tend to criticize harshly have spent much of their life studying Deen and serving people. How can we question the sanctity of their knowledge in a second?

I genuinely feel for the current familial crisis that we are in. I see in my home and other families that we have reduced the home to a place of eating, sleeping and resting or worse, using it as a place of entertainment. We should strive forth and amend our modes, tone and even our non-verbal gestures. Each act of kindness and piety should begin from within the home.

When making changes to our behaviour towards our family, we should keep in mind that each step that we take for improvement is for Allah’s (swt) pleasure. Ibn-e-Taimiyyah rahimullah has magnificently summed up an advice regarding relationships:

“Anyone whose heart is attached to the creation, hoping for someone from the creation to help him or provide for him or guide him, then his heart submits to them and to the degree that his heart submits to them, he becomes their slave. This holds true, even if he is outwardly a ruler or a guardian over those whom he treats as masters. The wise one looks at realities and not appearances. So if a man’s heart is attached to his wife, even though it is permissible, his heart remains a prisoner to her, and she may rule over him as she pleases-though outwardly he is her master and her husband. In reality, he is her prisoner and her slave, who cannot escape or go free. Indeed for the heart to be taken as prisoner is a much greater matter than for the body to be taken as a slave or prisoner. Even a body that is slave can have in it a serene heart, peaceful and happy heart. As for the heart, that is a slave to other than Allah (swt), then that is true humiliation, imprisonment and slavery.”

Originally published by Hiba Magazine.
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Because Reality will intervene eventually. . .

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Hira Ahmed, another psychology fellow and one of the bravest persons I have ever met in life, shares her speech on “Narcissism”. She is not promoting pessimism at all; lets go down our memory lanes and figure out the times in our life, we were hoping for miracles without putting in efforts. Also, lets look into ourselves, for signs of self-love (ujub) and arrogance. Let’s also empower ourselves by embracing reality, In sha Allah!

Narcissism- in easy words self-love- and blind optimism which has become a major problem in today’s world! Wherever you look you can find people who are self-obsessed, one way or the other. I heard a famous song the other day which says something like “I want the world to revolve around me” with no apparent sarcasm.

People have forgotten that there is a line between healthy self-esteem and narcissism. So much so that usually the first reaction to the word narcissism is “what’s so wrong with loving yourself?” And the once very obvious stance that narcissism is a bad thing is now debated for hours and hours.

So let me first briefly tell you what’s wrong with narcissism then I’ll move on to the purpose of my debate which is how we are unintentionally encouraging our children to be narcissists and naïve.

Narcissism makes a person selfish! It makes a person inconsiderate to others feelings. It makes you arrogant and naive. It makes you think that the world revolves around you and the problem with that is (for those of who, who still haven’t figure out) it’s a lie!! The world does not revolve around you and it doesn’t owe you anything. Narcissism makes you expect too much from others and it makes you upset when others are not able to fulfill your expectations!

Now coming to the purpose of the speech, when we tell our kids that they are special and when we give them trophies for loosing with the intention of encouraging them to try harder, we are missing a point that although a few kids are getting encouraged to try hard, others are getting the idea that it’s okay to lose because they are special and they will get a trophy anyway. It teaches them that they don’t have to work for they want to achieve, they will achieve it anyway. This makes them naive. Because once done with student life things are not going to be the same, they are going to have to work for what they want in life. Nobody is going to give them anything because they think they are special.

Social media also plays an important role in this new found love for ourselves. You upload a picture and minutes later you are receiving compliments and you think that having a pretty face is all you need in life. And mostly the compliments aren’t even honest. People just give compliments so when they upload a picture they can get the favor back. I read this news a few days back that a boy actually tried to kill himself because he was not satisfied with the quality of his selfies. So now pictures of a person decide their worth. Insanity. Total insanity. What happened to having a personality and a character and morals? Where did all of that go? All they want is a pretty face.

Now I want to talk about this trend of motivational messages which make people naïve. “You can be anything you want to be”, “Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything” really? I wanted to be boy. So you’re saying if I just keep telling myself that I am a boy I will become one? Thousands of waiters in L.A wanted to be actors. And they still want that but the problem is that there are too many of them. If everybody could get what they want of they believed in themselves, I don’t think we’d have servants because I’m pretty sure that it’s not what they dreamed of. It just doesn’t make any sense.

All sarcasm aside I’m sure that some people benefit and gain hope from such advice but I worry about many others who grow up without an armor to protect them when things aren’t so sugarcoated. Because reality will intervene eventually. It always does. And believing in yourself doesn’t help much when your mother is addicted to crack and you are afraid to go home from school.

There is an old proverb that “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” but we have so conveniently got rid of the second part and just blindly hope for the best without preparing for the worst.

Many people her would misunderstand what I’m trying to say and think that I’m promoting pessimism but I am not. I’m just asking you to be careful and watch out for the fine line between s high self-esteem and narcissism, and a line between optimism and being naive.

 

After reading this, I have been pondering over the following words:

  • The heart can also be naked like the body and can lose its dress and decoration, which is piety, and it can feel hunger and thirst like the body does, and its nourishment is knowledge, love, trust, and offering service to Allah. Imam Ibn-al-Qayyim (rahimullah)
  • “The ibtilaa’ (testing) of the believer is like medicine for him. It cures him from illness. Had the illness remained it would destroy him or diminish his reward and level (in the hereafter). The tests and the trials extract these illnesses from him and prepare him for the perfect reward and the highest of degrees (in the life to come). Ibn-al- Qayyim 

Allah (SWT) says in Surah Al-e-Imran, Ayah 29- 30

Whether you hide what is in your breasts or reveal it, Allah knows it, and He knows what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. And Allah is Able to do all things.On the Day when every person will be confronted with all the good he has done, and all the evil he has done, he will wish that there were a great distance between him and his evil. And Allah warns you against Himself (His Punishment) and Allah is full of Kindness to the (His) slaves.

Let’s beautify our insides for Allah’s pleasure. Let us put down those myths of pretty faces and impressing people around us or even expecting from them. Time to consider the reality which actually empowers you in the long-run!

Jazakumallah khair!