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Unspoken for: The Unheard Victims of Domestic Violence Part 2

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written by an Anonymous Guest

Seeing the Truth

Little by little, day by day, as she continued her irrational behavior, my mother’s abuse began to finally wear down on the affection, trust and admiration I had for her. One day we had an altercation in which she crossed the line, saying something I never thought I would hear my mother say about me. It pushed me to seek counseling and severely marred the love I had for my mother. Through counseling I was better able to handle the situation at home, but it was still very challenging. Then one day my mother crossed the line once again. After an internet search, I determined that she had a serious mental illness. Although I am not a psychiatrist and cannot officially diagnose her, a mental illness is the only way to make sense of my mother’s non-sensical behavior. Although I recently made this realization, I can see in hindsight that it was prevalent throughout my life.

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It was upon this realization that I picked up a book on child abuse titled, Toxic Parents by Susan Forward, PhD. Dr. Forward, who has written books on other forms of abuse, chose the word toxic purposely to make a point about the effects of abuse. In these pages, where she discussed her clients and their journey towards healing, I read my life. Here, in black and white, were accounts of other people who had similar experiences and feelings that I had. In this book was, almost word for word, things my parents had said to me, how my siblings and responded (differently) to the abuse and my own thoughts and behaviors. I was finally validated and I confirmed, for myself, that I was not crazy, that what my parents did was not only wrong but happened to many other children.

Unfortunately, this was a secular book. There are no books, websites, lecture series or even pamphlets about child abuse or mental illness in the Muslim world that I know of. Even if there are, they are not popular enough that I could find them easily. Forums discussing mental illness and child abuse are filled with, produced and moderated by non-Muslims and secular knowledge.

Another helpful book was regarding dealing with loved ones with mental illness. In the book and on their website, I found people’s account of their own loved ones behaviors that exactly matched my mother’s. It confirmed for me that my mother does not think or behave normally and is in fact mentally ill.

As for my father, since I always knew his behavior was abnormal and my mother had always tried to label him with a mental illness; I never made an attempt to understand him.  I now see that things were not always what they seemed between him and my mother. Even though he continued hitting me into my adulthood and still has something mean to say, he has simmered down significantly. I’ve begun to see what seem like hints of a guilty conscience in his face, as if he is finally realizing the consequences of his crimes. He now teeters between giving me the personal space that I ask for and demanding love and admiration I feel he never planted in me.  Although it can never excuse his behavior, (and though he still tries) it may be that his mind cannot truly fathom the hurt he inflicted upon me, why I feel the way that I do, or why I cannot love him the way he feels I should.

Suggestions for Solutions

Acceptance

Acceptance is the most painful but most important first step towards resolving the issues within oneself. Denial means believing that nothing is wrong and therefore that nothing must be done. In order to change the status quo, you must first believe there is something wrong with the status quo. We put our parents on such pedestals, expecting the best of them and believing they have our best interest at heart; so much so, that it is hard for us to admit our parents can be abusive. As bad as it feels for me to know that I have mentally ill and abusive parents, who I cannot trust or expect love and acceptance from, it is far worse to keep chasing the carrot on the stick in trying to please them and earn their love and acceptance. I still do my best to respect them and do some things I know will please them, but I don’t do it believing it will change their behavior towards me. I know they will never change until they get the help they need and they will never get the help they need until they admit there’s a problem.

I accept the qada’ and qadr of Allah; these are my parents and this is my life’s challenge. I accept it even though I do not like it (and Allah does not ask us to like our hardships). I accept that I do not enjoy my family’s company nor like my parents (and If you think it is bad for a person to say they do not like their parents, imagine how it is to say it and feel it). Now I must learn how to fully accept who I am and who my parents are and to deal with them as they are. As others who have been through this can attest, it is a grieving process. Having mentally ill parents is like losing a parent who is still alive; they are physically there but mentally they are not who you thought or hoped they were. My heart aches with a lingering grief that is fed by my parents’ continued hurtful behaviors.

Forgiving, but not Forgetting

Although this is probably one of the hardest things to do for someone who has been hurt as deeply as a child who was abused by their parents, forgiveness is essential for the relief of one’s soul. In Toxic Parents, Susan Forward says that one does not have to forgive one’s parents. I believe, as a Muslim, we should forgive those who have wronged us and that we should also know the limits of our relationship with them. We can forgive someone who robs us, for instance, but that does not mean we invite them into our house. Likewise, abused children should learn to forgive their aggressors, but know that their dealings with them cannot be like that of “normal” families. There must be boundaries, limits and some distance to protect oneself from harm and to prevent enabling of negative behavior.

I believe forgiveness is a journey, not a destination, that takes a lot of healing and personal work. I still bear some anger, resentment, and dislike for my parents and their actions, especially since they still continue their abuse, but it is significantly less than when I started my journey. Knowing that they were abused themselves and that they are suffering from mental illnesses (according to me) does not make it easier for me. In fact, I feel sadder because I know that they, too, are in pain and that if they were to seek professional help and work through the pain, they would begin to heal and get better themselves. I feel sad to think of them dying in such a state, never knowing or feeling connected with each other or their children. I feel sad to think that, if they die before me, that I will never know what it is like to truly love and be loved by a parent. This helps in my path towards forgiveness for me, but I cannot forget. They continue to be harsh and cruel and I have to place a barrier between us.

Recognition, Awareness, and Acknowledgment

Parents can and do abuse their power of authority and misuse/misinterpret verses of the Quran to take advantage of their children. When nothing is mentioned about child abuse, rights of children or obligations of parents, the problem continues. From childhood to adulthood, I believed there was nothing I could do to stop my parents’ behavior or to save myself from the attacks. I was told that parents can say or do anything they want and there’s nothing the child can do about it (because even saying “uff” was a sin). With my parents having such rights over me, I felt I had no one to talk to and that if I tried, I would be told to be patient, to not speak ill of my parents and to try harder to please my parents. Furthermore, since my parents were known as good people in the community, who would believe me? It would be my word against my parents and, for sure, my parents would call me a liar and say how I twist the truth to make myself look like the victim (exact words my mother has said).

Many people do not recognize their parents behavior as abusive and some parents, who may have been abused themselves, do not recognize their own behavior as abusive. I have heard other people tell me that their parents call them stupid, fat, lazy, ugly, worthless, good-for-nothing and I knew that there were other families like mine in our community.  I knew because my mother would tell me about them. In fact, she would compare their situation to ours and tell me “at least your father isn’t as bad as so-and-so”. Nothing was ever said or done because it was a cultural norm (although my mother did admit it was wrong of my father to hit us).

When abused children grow up and have children of their own, if they believed their parents had their best interest in mind and raised them up properly, they will repeat the same mistakes their parents did. One prime example of this is Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a memoir of her parenting techniques. She received lots of criticism when an excerpt of her book was published detailing how she pushed her children hard to be the best, accepting nothing less. Just as her parents had raised her, nothing less than an A was acceptable and she expected them to learn and master a musical instrument. In fact, she prevented her daughter from eating, drinking, sleeping or using the restroom until she perfected a musical piece. Chua called her daughter garbage, lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic. so that she would push herself harder and never give up. She felt she was exercising good parenting that would give her children the best chances of being successful. Even if they are “successful” (by her or societal standards), the psychological damage she did to her children will most likely create emotional and mental problems.

Like Chua, many Muslims, especially immigrants, believe they are doing what is best for their child, just as their parents did to them. Chua explained that her parents, like many immigrant parents, adapted this way of parenting from their countries of origin and that it was “western” styles of parenting that were creating unsuccessful, careless adults who failed to achieve their full potential. The behavior, however acceptable in other cultures, is nothing less than abuse.

Imams and Shuyukh need to speak about it and open their doors and hearts to those suffering in silence. We also need to have problem solving and life skill workshops for people, like me, in these situations to know how to deal with it. Telling someone to just be patient, to just forgive or to ignore it is very caustic. It is like leaving an open wound untreated and exposed to the germ-filled air – it will not heal and will only get worse. The abuse tears at a person’s self-esteem and self-worth, just as water dripping on a rock slowly erodes it. Child abuse is a legacy, usually passed down from generation to generation; those who abuse their children were more likely than not abused themselves as kids. If we do not resolve to cure this disease, we allow it to let it spread and infect the ummah, killing us from within.

Even if you cannot empathize what it feels like to have abusive parents or how someone cannot like their parents, acknowledge and validate that this is true for the person going experiencing it. Understand that not all parents are as loving and caring as they should be and that it is not possible for everyone to please their parents or avoid disobeying them. No one wants to or likes to displease their parents. We seek our parents’ approval in life; they are our mirrors. It is heart-wrenching to look into either parent’s eyes and see disappointment. But when there is dysfunction in the brain’s processes, when there is mental illness, is very challenging to please that person. They have a set standard that is difficult, if not impossible, to reach and will only lead to denial and sacrifice of one’s self to achieve.

Know that when so much emphasis is put on rights of the parents, treating them with respect and not disobeying them and none on the obligations of parents and right of their children, that it creates an advantage for abusive parents and a detriment to the abused child. Just as I did growing up, they may feel lower than dirt because their parents are displeased with them simply for being different and expressing their individuality . Although I know my parents’ labeling me a disobedient child is based on irrational and unattainable standards, I still feel guilt and fear when I hear that disobedience to parents is a major sin.

Counseling, Support Groups, and Books

I believe everyone can benefit from psychological counseling, regardless of whether they have been abused or live with mental illness (in one way or another). A Muslim counselor is ideal, but not always possible and, depending on the therapist, may not even be helpful. Some counselors have received sensitivity training to deal with first generation americans and/or Muslim clients.

Support groups in your area or online may also be helpful; it helped me feel less alone when I knew someone understood the pain of what I was going through. Some states have support groups for adult children of child abuse and other support groups offer help for loved ones of those suffering from mental illness.  Although it was formed for people with alcoholic family members, Al-Anon has been suggested for those dealing with abuse, dysfunctional families and/or someone with a mental illness

There are many self-help books that can help a person set healthy boundaries, deal with their emotions and heal the pain. There are none for or by Muslims that I know of and this is an area which we need to become active in.

Closing Remarks

Even though I received validation from books and my counselors, I still feel isolated and unsupported by the Muslim community. I still sense that my story will be seen as another child trying to complain about or blacken their parents who are only doing what’s best for their child(ren). I still believe that there are very few, if any, imams or scholars who will stand beside me and give me validation and guidance to do what is right and best for me and my health. It took us many years to finally acknowledge spousal abuse amidst our Ummah and yet we still struggle to support our sisters going through it. How long then will it take us to finally admit to the problem of child abuse in Muslim families? And while women’s shelters and domestic violence programs/workshops are being developed to help women abused by their husbands to escape, what can Muslim children who are abused by their parents do? While staying with abusive parents is detrimental to their health,  abused children cannot divorce their parents nor, if they are minors or financially dependent, can they leave their homes.

Alhamdulillah, I am one of the fortunate ones who has sought and found help through counseling. I recognize the problems within my family and myself and aspire to help others in similar situations to recognize that they are not at fault, that they can and should respect themselves by not subjecting themselves to the verbal and emotional abuse. We, as an ummah, need to begin discussing the effects of domestic violence on children; if a spouse is being abused, the children in the family may be abused as well. If the abused spouse refuses to seek help or admit that there is abuse, the children will continue to be in harm’s way.

MashaAllah, according to my counselor, I have made great shifts in my way of being within myself and with my family. My work with my counselor and with myself (through books and practices) are based on the goals of healing, forgiving and moving on, to undo damage that was (and is) caused by living in such a household. There is no way all the damage can be undone, but at least its impact can be lessened.  I have learned to set healthy boundaries, learned to respect myself, and learned to remove myself from a harmful situation. I now know that I can respect my parents and respect my own need for safety, that honoring my parents does not mean I have to listen to them berate me, and that walking away is not a sin when it is done respectfully.

I feel a sort of catharsis from releasing what I have hid from even my most trusted and closest friends and sense some healing from using my negative experience to invoke positive change. In telling my story, I hope to raise awareness, fuel discussion and inspire others to start talking about a topic that has deeply affected my livelihood and the lives of thousands of Muslims. Although I submit this anonymously, by finally speaking out and being heard, I choose to have a voice for myself and for those who feel they cannot speak. I choose to remain anonymous to protect myself from unwanted attention and unneeded pity or sympathy, and to protect the identities of my family members. Everything written here is true and this is only a glimpse of what I went and still go through. I pray it benefits the ummah to have this brought out into the open. May Allah protect us all from such hardships and help those of us who’ve lived through it to heal. Ameen.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Greg Abdul

    November 21, 2011 at 5:22 AM

    as salaam alaikum,

    Islam is not wrong for telling us to respect and love our parents. I don’t know if Anonymous has children, but for me, I know that growing up and even today, I clearly see and seethe at the treatment I received growing up. Parenting is hard. It is intense. No parent wants to abuse his or her child and scar them for life. No parent wants his or her kid to fail. The biggest problem I see – and I love my brothers at Muslim Matters for what they do on this – is that as Muslims, we fail to openly talk about these things. Too many of us are walking around pretending to be sheiks and we only want to teach other Muslims about Islamic minutia. We are fixated on the finer points of wudhuu instead of seriously and openly talking about terrorism or domestic violence or just talking about the difficulties in raising Muslim children in America. I think it’s cultural. I believe in my culture (I’m a convert) in our culture, we try to suppress because there is so much drama with the talking but it’s like a shaken soda bottle, sooner or later someone opens it and it rushes out. I am the only Muslim in my family and I have lots of horror stories. But I also have a bunch of kids in my care now and I know I have made tons of mistakes with them. Its hard. You want the best for them, but in the end, to not be an abuser you do have to create space between you and your children. Fifteen year olds can’t think like 50 year olds. So you have to let them go out and make their own mistakes. The only real question is how much you subsidize them (money) while they go out and act like nuts. But I have never seen a kid enter puberty who was not nuts. The chemical surge is a rough thing for every single one of us. One minute you are an innocent kid and the next, you get these feeling in your loins and more importantly in your head, telling your parents are totally stupid. I believe if parents are honest, very few can say we nave never done a single thing to hurt the child Allah entrusts to us. If you misspend a dime, you have cheated everyone in your family out of that dime. So you got a speeding ticket? You just lost money that was not just your money, but money that was supposed to put food in the fridge, food that was for your kids to eat. And doesn’t that puberty thing make them eat like oversized goats? I just bought a 12 pack of Zingers yesterday and today there were only two left. The point of my ramble is that we all have to lighten up and at the same time begin to discuss this in a clinical way. There is so much shame around how we react with our kids. Out of guilt, some of us let our kids run wild and use us. I am not one of them, so I end up being the one who hollers and is mean and demands my kids know that life is hard and they have to earn their way. The biggest problem is you don’t know how you did until it is way too late. I was pretty wild as a kid. Today, I want to believe my mom would be proud of me, but she died when I was 12 and I can only pray my right actions today give her some small comfort. Child rearing i so complex and constant and day to day. Teenagers are almost impossible. The chemical thing. I taught at public schools and the worst classes to teach are kids 11 to 15. High schoolers will at least at times pretend to be adults. I say to Anonymous, we have to talk with less accusatory tones. I am going through an unbelievable horror story right now with the people who raised me. They totally do not respect me because I am a Muslim and because I married a Muslim woman and this is after I have been Muslim for 14 years and married for almost ten! We have to hold on to the good that our parents have done us and to the good we do for our children, even as we begin to dialogue to expose the hurts and the failures. No parent is a saint. More importantly, even though some come close, no parent is the devil either and it is the duty if every child (and inner child) to overcome the mistakes of our parents.

    • mohammadi murtuza

      November 24, 2011 at 1:55 PM

      Very well said! I guess, people should know the difference between ‘discipline’ and ‘abuse’.

    • Umm Muslima

      November 26, 2011 at 11:20 PM

      MashaAllah, what a great post! I have to agree, especially with this:

      We have to hold on to the good that our parents have done us and to the good we do for our children, even as we begin to dialogue to expose the hurts and the failures. No parent is a saint. More importantly, even though some come close, no parent is the devil either and it is the duty if every child (and inner child) to overcome the mistakes of our parents.

      From hadith:

      Reported by Ibn Abbas RA: “For any Muslim who has two Muslim parents and who goes to them every morning obeying their requests, Allah opens two doors to heaven. If he has one parent Allah opens one door to heaven for him. If he displeases either of them, Allah will not be pleased with him until that parent of his is pleased with him. Someone asked: Even when they are unjust to him? He answered: Even if they are unjust.” (Related by Al-Baihaqi and Al-Bukhari in “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad”)

      Once you get to a “certain age” -especially if you have children- you realize that your parents are human beings as well. They make mistakes, bad choices, follow bad advice, and do things wrong like the rest of us. They aren’t infalliable and don’t have all the answers. They get tired, they lose patience, they repeat what they’ve heard from their parents.

      If you’re an adult now then there’s a good chance that YOUR parents didn’t have the counseling, talk shows, parenting books, and resources that tell them that there can be more successfull ways of parenting than yelling or beating. In the 50s or 60s there was advice given by a Pediatrician that babies should be left to cry themselves to sleep. A mother should completely ignore her own instincts of rushing to help her baby when they’re in distress. And many followed this advice because it was from a doctor. Millions of babies went neglected and I can only imagine the damage it did to the natural bonding that occurs between a mother and her child.

      I don’t believe that all parents who say things wrong to their children or hurt their children are mentally ill or evil. My parents did the best that they could and made mistakes like every human being makes mashaAllah. I pray for their forgiveness and try to do what I can for my mother(my father is deceased).

      From Quran:

      ‘My Lord! Bestow Thy mercy upon my parents, as they raised me up when I was little’ (al-Isra’ 17: 24)

      SubhanAllah! If we make it to adulthood then we have to learn to be grateful to Allah SWT for blessing us with gaining maturity and ability. We didn’t feed ourselves as babies. We didn’t change our own diapers and take care of ourselves in the middle of the night when we were sick. We didn’t buy the clothes we wore or pay for the school supplies we had. We also have to learn to be forgiving. There’s a good chance that we’ve made mistakes that hurt others. Brothers make mistakes and hurt their brother. Wives make mistakes and hurt their husbands. We should all say “Alhamdulillah” for all the good that our parents have done for us and ask for forgiveness for ourselves and our parents. We’re going to need the forgiveness of each other and Allah SWT on the Day of Judgement.

  2. Saeed

    November 21, 2011 at 6:44 AM

    Well said Greg Abdul. Children only understand what parenthood means when they become parents themselves. All said, what i personally found was when similar problems of the OP come to light, many parts of society claim “children should obey their parents unconditionally unless they are doing something against Islam”.
    So if you dont take the major area your parents want, or dont choose the spouse they want, you are effectively disobyeing them and incurring Allah’s wrath.

  3. Candice Elam

    November 21, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    I’m a convert like many of the other readers of MM. I think that one thing that distinguishes the upbringing of someone who wasn’t raised as a Muslim from someone who was, is that our society doesn’t not put the actions of the parents in a realm where they’re above being criticized. I can’t imagine being raised in such a way where my entire social environment my parents are right by default and I’m wrong/ungrateful/mistaken/naive/rebellious/disrespectful by default. Since becoming Muslim, I think I’m a better daughter to my parents. In my 20s, I learned how to stand my ground without doing injustice to those who are more senior than me. At the same time, I have been careful to sidestep the belief that elders can do no wrong. In Islam, we’re called upon to help the oppressed and the oppressor. It’s our obligation to correct our brothers and sisters when they’re oppressing someone. The culture of guilt and silence and the sacrosanctity of the parent doesn’t offer enough room for parents to be corrected when they’re hurting their children.
    I heard a story that took place during the rule of Umar when a father brought his son before Umar and charged him with disrespect or disobedience. Umar listened to the father’s testimony and then listened to the son’s side of the story. After having heard both sides of the story, Umar concluded that though the son wasn’t fulfilling his obligations to his father, the father was actually the source of the problem because he hadn’t been fulfilling his obligations to his son from day one. Aside from the obvious lessons about the responsibilities of parenthood that we can take from this story, we can benefit our kids the most by listening to them when they communicate a need. We do far too little listening and far too much judging when it comes to our youth.
    And for the record, I have two kids, so I know that being a parent isn’t easy. At the same time, my hang-ups, my upbringing, my baggage, my stress, my bills are not my kids’ problem. I’ve noticed that amongst the Muslims, we’ve made it safe to raise our kids with hypocrisy and double-standards, and we’ve made it taboo for the youth to have their legitimate grievances remedied. We see this attitude replicated in the masajid and Islamic schools as well. Being a the one with all the responsibilities is no excuse for being abusive, disrespectful, or denigrating to the ones in your care.

    • UmmSarah

      November 21, 2011 at 12:04 PM

      I whole heartedly agree!

    • Abu Hadith

      November 21, 2011 at 6:30 PM

      I heard a story that took place during the rule of Umar when a father brought his son before Umar and charged him with disrespect or disobedience….

      Just as a side note, this story is not authentic.

      • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        November 22, 2011 at 7:08 AM

        Dear Abu Hadith

        Please note that Abu Hadith is not a valid Kunyah (unless your first-born is name Hadith). Kindly use your name or real Kunyah.

        Jazak’Allah Khairin
        -Aly

        • Abu Hadith

          November 22, 2011 at 8:44 AM

          Please note that Abu Hadith is not a valid Kunyah

          My dear brother, using your first born’s name as part of your kunya is not a requirement for a kunya to be valid. Many companions had a kunya even without having any kids, such as Aisha, Suhaib, and the Prophet peace be upon him even gave a kunya to a little kid. So it is from the Sunnah to have a kunya even if you don’t have any kids, and it is not a requirement for you to use your first born’s name as part of your kunya. Abu Huraira, the companion, didn’t have a child named Huraira.

          • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

            November 23, 2011 at 1:57 AM

            Dear Abu Hadith

            Jazak’Allah Khairin for the reminder. We are reviewing our policy under the light of this, however, until then Abu Hadith is not an acceptable Kunyah for the MM Comments section.

            Jazak’Allah Khairin
            -Aly

        • Fezz

          November 22, 2011 at 4:11 PM

          Is it really necesary for MM to keep an archieved collection of comments tagged to both an email address and linked to the IP address? Would you like my date of birth also?

        • Hassan

          November 22, 2011 at 7:18 PM

          Kunyah does not have to be named after first born (or any born) child. Ali RA was called Abu Turab by Muhammad PBUH. In arab custom it is acceptable to have kunyah not related to born child, but rather than a distinct attribute.

  4. UmmBelal

    November 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    This is truly sad and I just want to validate the author’s feelings and say that what you had to deal with was dhulm and completely wrong. parents and kids every once in a while say or do things that hurt the other but in normal famlies, apologies are made and majority of the time there is peace in the home.

    Yes we do talk a lot about parents’ rights but dhulm is dhulm no matter who does it and in islam it is not justified ..in fact as Muslims we have a duty to help the person committing the injustice (by stopping him) and help those who are being oppressed such as the children in this matter.

    May Allah help us to solve these big problems of our ummah through what gives us dignity: Islam. May Allah (swt) make it easy for you to heal and live a life of comfort and joy and may you be amongst His most beloved slave.

    • BintMahmoud

      November 22, 2011 at 12:25 AM

      I think you made a very important point here. Every parent will make mistakes and may do or say something that hurts the child. But the difference is that in abusive situations (parental, spousal, etc) the person fails to take responsibility for their actions and excuses their behavior by putting all responsibility on the other person. “They wouldn’t listen” “They made me angry” “They saw how stressed out I was and they didn’t stop”.

      We often forget that we chose to have our children, that we made a conscious decision to be responsible for an entire human being. No one ever said it would be easy and children were not built with remote controls or microchips to obey our every command. If we remember that we teach our children how to behave through our own behavior and also tell our children how we feel about them through our treatment of them, maybe we would be more careful with what we say and do. Some of us treat our iPhones or cars better than our children…despite the fact that our mechanical devices frustrate us sometimes to the point of wanting to throw them, we don’t because of how fragile and expensive they are. How much more precious and fragile is a human being (with emotions and feelings) that Allah has placed under our care? They may seem like our property because we brought them into this world and they are ours to raise, but they are actually a gift that Allah has entrusted us with.

  5. Kashif Dilkusha

    November 22, 2011 at 4:52 AM

    Assalamoalaikum

    Really touchy article. I guess everyone has gone through these feeling some point of time in his or her life.

    I really feel that we muslims should have institutions where we can provide different trainings for parents and children.

  6. Apricot

    November 22, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    As-salamu Alaykum,
    I think a large part of what you are going through with your parents is a clash of cultures. You alluded to this a bit when you mentioned The Tiger Mother. I have been through similar feelings with my own mother and was convinced for many years that she was mentally ill…until I started interacting more with other people from her culture. And then I finally realized (at age 35) that she was just doing what came normally to her in her culture, which is very different than what is normal in American culture. If she is mentally ill, then so are 99.9% of the people with her cultural background, which I do not think is the case. You may not get this now, at this stage of your life, which is normal and understandable. But Greg Abdul is correct when he talks about how difficult it is to raise children. It is not that hard when they are little and think you are the greatest parent ever. But it does get hard when they enter the teenage years and become more independent. A parent may feel he or she is losing control at this point, and it is a very hard feeling to overcome. It is even harder I suppose when you are an immigrant and are faced with American born and raised children who are way more independent than they would ever be “back home.” This is not to excuse abuse, whether it is emotional or physical. Abuse is abuse and cannot be excused. I do believe, however, that many abusive parents do not intend to abuse their children or think of their behavior as abuse. They may believe they are steering you to the right path and saving you from making mistakes that you will regret later on. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to step aside as your child makes an obvious error while insisting that he is correct about what he is doing. I know my kids are not always happy with the decisions I make. I take comfort in the fact that someday they will have kids, too, and perhaps understand some of the decisions I made just as I have come to understand the decisions my parents made. A lot of healing takes place when you reach that point. It is all one big cycle. Thank you for writing your post, though, because I am sure it will help many parents, including myself, reevaluate how they deal with their children on a daily basis.

    • Abu Tauba

      November 23, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      So abuse that occurs because of good intentions is OK because it is done out of love?

  7. Ahmad

    November 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Is this article meant as advice for abusive parents and victims? It appeared to me more like the authors venting of his/her past.

    Personally, I do not like to take a single persons view point when there is a significant other in the case. Which is why I will not take at face value many things said above without having heard the mothers side of the story.

    Also, the way psychology/psychiatry is in North America, isn’t everyone is suffering from a mental disease/disorder/malfunction/syndrome?

    I pray that Allah guides me to never say anything to my parents especially publicly, even under the guise of anonymity.

    • Abu Tauba

      November 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM

      Maybe also make dua that you don’t get abused by anyone so you never have to experience what the author went through.

      • Bint Mouloud

        September 28, 2015 at 1:10 AM

        Thank you Abu Tauba. Some people shouldn’t comment when they cannot relate, or have not been in the other person’s shoes. Ahmad’s comment would have been more relevant if he mentioned that he had experienced trauma, abuse or maltreatment from relationships with his parent/s. Since that’s not the case, the comment is cold and arrogant.

  8. Umm Sulaim

    November 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    I agree with Candice, Umm Sara, Umm Belal, and Bint Mahmoud.

    At the age of 4, in response to ” Adults are always right”, I made a bold declaration,

    “Adults are not always right!”

    I am a fully grown mama and that declaration still stands. I do not buy into that “do whatever your parents say” ideology.

    Allah has greater rights over parents than they do over their children, yet we do not end up with psychosis worshipping Him.

    I do hope the author has moved on and away from that abusive home, or she will have a few more decades with the psychologist.

    Simply give them your phone number, without explicitly telling them where you are. Once they realise they can no longer hurt you, their heads will coooooooool. Believe me, I know.

    Umm Sulaim

    • Hind

      November 23, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      I did precisely that – moved away and have limited interaction with my parents.

      However, guilt eats away at me to this day – I politely requested permision to leave several times before I moved out, but I was denied each time. Then I left anyway after it became unbearable.

      I still disobeyed my parents though. Every day I argue with myself whether I should go back or not. Am I committing a crime against my parents for diobeying them or not? Every counselor I spoke to said no. Every Imam said yes.

      • Umm Sulaim

        November 23, 2011 at 3:58 PM

        Let me put it this way: When you are in deep distress, whom do you call on? Like me, I expect the answer is Allah. Here is one of my principles:

        Not to put myself in situations Allah Himself saved me from.

        Plain and simple. Guilty feelings are normal so long as one keeps it in check.

        Umm Sulaim

      • BintMahmoud

        November 23, 2011 at 4:27 PM

        Unfortunately, many imams still have not had training in domestic violence and may not fully understand the impact abuse has on individuals. There are still many imams, for instance, who will say that a woman must obey her husband, even if he abuses her, and that she should stay with him or just ask for a khula if she doesn’t want to stay with him. It is of course far more complicated in a parent-child relationship.

        Alhamdulillah, Imams being trained on domestic violence issues so that they can better counsel people going through it. Hopefully, child-abuse will begin to be talked about as well, inshaAllah.

  9. Umm Khadijah

    November 24, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    To the OP, may Allah continue to heal you and pray for your parents, too. We are supposed to love our parents and give them their rights, but Umm Salaim, Bint Mahmoud, Candice, Umm Belal and Abu Tauba are right about putting your own rights, in a respectful, Islamic manner first if you are being abused.

    Domestic abuse leads to so many difficult situations and has so many repercussions. Imams are not trained in how to deal with these situations and even still give uninformed advice to abused sisters (whether the abuse is physical, emotional, financial, etc.). So, if this is the case with adult women, then imams will be even more at a loss for appropriate responses when there are children being abused.

    MM readers can educate themselves about abuse, but most people will not do this since it is such a sensitive and also, a sad issue. As the OP said, most of the books, if not all of them, on this subject are by nonMuslims, but Muslims should be clear on what is actually occurring so that innocent victims are not erroneously judged and blamed. Most Muslim parents are not abusive, alhamdulillah, but let’s recognize that there are some who cross the line daily with their children. …and no, loving their children is not an excuse. They need to turn to Allah, ask for His forgiveness and seek help from Muslim counselors/psychologists, if they are available. Sometimes ruqya is the solution, Allahu alim, but let’s be honest with these parents–who are oppressing their children if they are abusing them–and give them the naseehah that they should seek help for themselves or see this ugly pattern repeated in their children and future generations of their offspring.

  10. L.U.M

    July 25, 2014 at 6:25 AM

    Aslam Alykum

    I thank you a lot for the time you have taken to put what you are going through in words. I, relate to your story 100% as I have lived and gone through similar pain and abuse.

    I must say at the beginning, abusive parents who have mental illness/ personality disorders are not angry parents nor are they strict parents. They are not parents who made mistakes when raising their children. They are dangerous, toxic and extremely harmful, they choose that way and usually stay doing what they do best (abusing their children) as long as they can and (as I have read tons and tons of related articles) they are people who lack a moral compass.

    First of all, I have been raised by an extremely toxic mother that I found out later to be a narcissistic psychopath. Reaching to such a conclusion was very hard, given as you have said, the scarce amount of information available for us as Muslims. Add to that the harsh social denial that you would be opposed by if you attempt to explain your situation (I live in an Arabic country – you are a criminal – socially- if you talk about your mother). In my country we have limited access to counselling – even if we are capable of getting some counselling you have a very small chance of getting a knowledgeable counsellor who can help! Furthermore, the disorder itself is very hard to spot given the amount of deception, manipulation and pathological lying practiced and mastered by the psychopath.

    To make a long story short, my mom presents all the traits of narcissistic psychopathy. I will just mention the main ones.
    1. A psychopath trains his victim gradually into a form of submission–or acceptance of his deviant behaviour–that annihilates everything that’s healthy about her personality and existence: This is the most apparent characteristic of my mother. She dominated the house, ruled us by hitting us with her hands, using knives, forks, slippers and any other thing you may think of and she always presented a reason that we had to believe. I recall once in my very early years, I was sitting in the kitchen on the floor opposite to my mother as she was peeling some potatoes on the floor, as I opened my legs she tried to stab me using the knife in my thighs as I pulled away running for my life – why? your sitting position is shameful! She used to hit our small heads with the shower handle repetitively and whip us in the bathroom naked – why? I want my children clean. She used to slap our faces once we are out of the washroom – why? I like my home clean and you make the washroom dirty. She used to pull us up from our ears and throw us down, bite us, pull us from the hair, break our backs with her repetitive punching and when I asked her why when I grew up? she said because you deserved it! why mom I said? You deserved it – you were a bunch of idiot, goofy and moron kids and I had to make it right! I said but mom, other parents have disabled and mentally retarded children and they still love and care about them – she said:” I consider you worst that disabled children”! This leads us to the second characteristic of psychopathic parents.

    2. Psychopathic narcissists invalidate you: She either denies that she has said or done something and claims you did it (” I didn’t call you, you did!” she said once after calling me and verbally abusing me on the phone ”You attacked”) or she may admit it happened but insist she was right doing the thing she did and you are wrong for getting her upset ”Yes I hit you, but I want you clean and tidy – Islam allows me to be a mother and discipline my children but doesn’t allow you to even say ”uff” to me – what an ungrateful child! Allah will burn you in hell”. She denies your feelings and experiences and I cannot over-stress the enormity of this. To deny someone from this is to deny their reality – deny what they saw, what they heard and what they felt! This was one of the most mind-wrecking and upsetting characteristics of my mother. As a child this is even more hurtful and mind-blowing.
    For example, I would say ”Mom it was very hurtful when you called me ”a b*****” for getting my period, I needed compassion, love and support – I am only 15 years old. This affects me a lot and is hurtful!!” she would say:” I don’t recall saying that! I don’t know from where you bring these things up. What lies are you accusing me of. You want me to be responsible of your emotional failures and pain. You have always had emotional issues and psychological problems. I think you are not thinking straight – you are sick.” You can see how she denies the truth, invalidates you and then uses your weakness to attack you questioning not only that what happened was true but even your sanity!!
    3. Related to the above point, narcissist psychopaths tend to practice gas-lighting. Gas-lighting a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. She practiced this form of abuse in the family for years – on me and on my other siblings-, my father (who unfortunately did not conclude that she was practicing such a mind-manipulating form of abuse) ended up with in the psychiatric ward for days for evaluation of schizophrenia and paranoia. She also used to control most of us doing the same and controls some of us until now using the same method.
    The list of abusive behaviour is quite long (you can do unlimited searches) about the subject. (search: psychopathic mothers/ narcissist mothers) Unfortunately, my mother has used religion to manipulate, deceive, lie, physically abuse and weaken us. She has succeeded in ripping us apart by triangulation (in psychology, playing two people against each other), which we later realized and came back together. She bad mouths, gas lights, and negatively impacts any relationship (she has destroyed our relationships with other family members) all using her toxic ways in the name of Islam and the privilege she is given as a mother.
    Now though, I realize that Allah orders us to respect our mothers, obey them and love them. I do also think that he (the most merciful, the most just) did not give the mother the privilege to practice all the abusive sins of lying, manipulating, deceiving, physically and emotionally abusing under the umbrella of Islam. The amount of respect given to the mother corresponds to her phenomenal duty in raising a child (an umma) under her hands. I feel that the respect and appreciation to mothers is because mothers naturally give everything to their children. They will sacrifice (happily and voluntarily) anything for their children –I know I am a mother myself.
    With my humble knowledge (I am not a sheikh or imam), but I always refer to masjid Zirar mentioned in Quraan . It is a house of Allah (mosque) – and although islam teaches us to value mosque as worshiping and sacred places – Allah has ordered its destruction. Ayat al Tawba 107 reads: ”And [there are] those [hypocrites] who took for themselves a mosque for causing harm and disbelief and division among the believers and as a station for whoever had warred against Allah and His Messenger before. And they will surely swear, “We intended only the best.” And Allah testifies that indeed they are liars.”
    He (the all mighty, the all knowing) did not allow the mosque because it was built for fasad (islamic corruption) and therefore, even if she is my mother, it is my duty to realize that her personality disorder has for years caused and still causes all kind of emotional, physical, social and spiritual corruption. I therefore, have reduced my contact with her to the minimum (of course visiting but in a minimal manner and in certain circumstances) to allow myself to heal, learn and become a strong and better muslim. I affirm every day, that I was born (given life) by him not for humiliation (like i was thought and fed my whole childhood) but for honour as mentioned in the Quran: ”And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” Al Israa 70.
    It is very sad not to speak about such situations in our Islamic cultures, pretending that toxic parents do not exist just validates the abuse that is occurring to children and spouses allowing social Islamic acceptance of such anti-islamic behaviours. Our religion is comprehensive and discusses all needs and allows no unjust doings (especially to children) and discussing toxic mothers (or parents) does not lessen the position of parents in Islam but reassures the roles and responsibilities of parents as well as of children.

    • Bint Mouloud

      September 28, 2015 at 1:27 AM

      Thank you for sharing your story and the insight about the mosque in the Quran which was the exception to the holiness of places of worship, because it was a vessel of hypocrisy – a symbol of how religion can be used by people who don’t practice Islam, or even hope to become better Muslims and try to work towards that. There are exceptions to many rules in the Quran, in dire circumstances, so why should the relationships that should be healthy be any exception. It really merits critical thinking and thinking in context rather than promoting blanket statements… Your post inspired me to think more on this profoundly important issue. It was one of the best insights on the subject that I’ve read in a long time, and I have read many.

  11. Pingback: Comment on Unspoken for: The Unheard Victims of Domestic Violence Part 2 by Bint Mouloud | Souqhub | Blog

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