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What’s The Matter?|My Brother’s Wife and My Husband Exchange Friendly Glances

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Question:

I am happily married to my husband for 11 years. We have three children together. My siblings and I usually get together along with our spouses. We are a practicing family. My brother and his wife are less practicing. When we gather, we try as much as possible to sit separately. However, sometimes it happens where we are all sitting in the same room, either eating or in the living room. I try to prevent it as much as possible, but for some reason it happens beyond my control, especially if we are at my brother’s house. 
Not long ago, I had noticed that my brother’s wife would gaze at my husband’s direction. At that time, I noticed that my husband didn’t notice or was just ignoring it. I tried to talk to her and was unsuccessful about it.

Alhamdulilah, I was able to convince my sister to have that conversation with her. My sister told her in a very clear way that she needs to control her staring at people. She took it lightly and didn’t really respond. 
Anyway, as time went by, my brother’s family and my family started to see each other a lot. My brother is very attached to me. He would ask me when we will go on vacation if he can come with us. We did travel together, and we stayed in the same apartment for a day. We went out as a family. We rented the same car, ate at the same restaurant, etc.. At one point, during the hurricane last year, the electricity went off at his house, and my brother and his family stayed with us for a week. At those times she wasn’t doing (or I had not noticed) the stares. It was after we became closer as families, I had noticed her. 
Recently, I have seen my husband taking part of these glances. I saw him on occasion smiling towards her as they exchanged glances. At another instance as we were leaving to go home, they exchanged a glance with a smile then she looked at me as I looked at her, and I felt like her face was full of shame. When I first realized it, I doubted that it was even happening. I always told my self it was coincidental. I respect my husband and his level of deen very much. But then I was still monitoring the situation. 
Once I felt that my beliefs were confirmed. I became extremely angry.

The first thing I did was avoid getting together with my brother. I would feel guilty because he wouldn’t know why I was avoiding interaction with him. But as we are a close family, there were still opportunities to meet, either at one of my sisters’ houses or my father’s house. The glancing was still going on every time we met. I thought about confronting my husband. I spoke to him once about him giving her salams. I thought it was inappropriate for him to initiate the salams to her. I don’t personally give salams to any of my brother in laws. I usually give a general salam. He said that we have been family for so long it would be weird if he sees her and not give her salams. 
He is a very egoistic man. He gets offended very quickly. When he gets upset, the first thing he does is he gives me the silent treatment for weeks, on things that seem petty to me. I am driving myself crazy every time the family gets together. I feel like I am a detective, and I have to stay on top of being around my husband the entire time we are with the family.

Even if he gets up to get a cup of water, I am always on the look. But this is preventing me from enjoying my time with my family. I am getting a lot of bad dreams about my husband and I separating. Please advise me on how I can handle this situation without cutting my ties completely with my brother. Also, I don’t want to ignore the situation and it escalates into something beyond glances. Please let me know, if I am overreacting. Is this something that was bound to happen? Is this a form of insecurity on my part?

Jazzakum Allahu Khairun,

Insecure in Family Ties

Answer:

I truly understand how uncomfortable it can feel when you sense that someone is attracted to your husband.  It’s natural to feel protective of him and prevent any possible dangers in the future.  It becomes much more concerning when you see your husband being receptive to the attention and smiling back.  In your situation it is important to strike a balance between being careful to avoid the haram and being secure of yourself and your marriage.

Majority of men I have worked with admitted enjoying the attention of women.  They find it very flattering when someone other than their own spouse finds them attractive.  Even if they are not in any way attracted to the woman, they still enjoy the ego boost.  This can start very innocently, but it can escalate if the right (or should I say the wrong) opportunity presents itself.

There is definite hikma (wisdom) in not mixing.  I have had clients that get involved with their husband’s best friends because they become so comfortable with them that they put down all guards.  If there is mixing then a certain decorum needs to be upheld and boundaries need to be respected.

It’s critical to reflect on what is making you feel so insecure.  If you are insecure about the quality of your relationship and/or your love for each other, it’s important to focus on improving your quality time together to help increase the love.  It may be that your husband is craving more attention from you.  Make more effort in making him feel attractive by giving him sincere compliments in addition to flirting with him in a way that will satisfy his ego and bring playfulness back into your marriage.  If you are feeling insecure because you are not at your best, then I suggest setting attainable goals where you will be more happy and confident.  I know how challenging it is to get into shape after having 3 kids, because I had to go through it myself.  Our body image affects our confidence and sense of security.  If you feel that you have let yourself go, focus on getting back into shape so that you will feel your best.  As you increase your sense of security about yourself and your relationship, you will feel less threatened by others.

I would recommend getting together with your brother and his family since selatel rahem (bonds of kinship) is critical in Islam; however you can try to spend some one on one time with your sister-in-law without making it too obvious.  You need to be able to relax and enjoy your time with your family without feeling so frightened and suspicious the entire time.  In order to do that you need to really have trust in your husband.  If he has never done anything to make you doubt him, then I think you are overreacting a bit. It is essential to have trust for one another yet at the same time be watchful and aware of the circumstances.  Having said that – do not dismiss your concerns because I believe you should pay attention to your intuition.  Just be careful not to go overboard with your worries & concerns.

 

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Haleh Banani has a Master degree in Clinical Psychology with 20 years of experience working with couples and individuals. She was a featured expert on Al-Jazeera international, Huda TV, Islamic Open University, Mercy Mission and Bayinnah TV. Haleh is an instructor for Ilmflix and Qalam Institute. She is an international speaker and writer.

45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Diah

    April 17, 2014 at 7:55 PM

    Beautiful, practical and sincere answer. MashaAllah

    • Avatar

      LogicalLeopard

      April 22, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      I agree. Let me preface my statements by saying I am not Muslim, but I am a Christian, and can certainly understand maintaining good interaction with purity. However, to me, one problem that wasn’t highlighted is the manner in which the sister-in-law was addressed. The writer says that she tried to talk about it with the sister-in-law and was unsuccessful. Why? How did she address it? Then, the sister is recruited to talk to the sister in law, and she tells the sister in law that she needs to control her staring problem. Well, when you don’t speak to people in a respectful, problem solving way, people aren’t necessarily going to respond well. I would think it would be better to talk to the sister in law, say, “I know that our relationship may have gotten off on the wrong foot, but I really would like to talk to you about a concern of mine. And I would like to hear what your view on the subject is.” Starting off like that, and sincerely listening to the sister in law, instead of saying, “Fix your staring problem” is likely to get a better response. Who knows, maybe the sister in law DOES have a staring problem. Maybe she’s unaware of her behavior. Maybe the husband reminds her of someone, like her father. Who knows why she’s staring? But if the writer knew the answer, maybe she’d be more comfortable. I know I’ve been in situations (as a man) where I’ve looked at people and been embarrassed, because my stare was too long. Sometimes I was trying to figure out if I knew a person, or who that person looked like. Sometimes it’s because I’m thinking about something and staring off into space, only at the end of that “space” is an actual person! The worst was when I saw a woman crossing the street and she was wearing shorts, and I saw what looked like a bruise on her leg. I saw that it was a tattoo, but then when the woman spoke, I looked up and realized she was a neighbor. And that she may have thought I was just staring at her legs for more sordid reasons. I’m still horrified by that one, and it’s been a good ten years or so….

      • Hena Zuberi

        Hena Zuberi

        April 22, 2014 at 6:24 PM

        Thank you for visiting Muslimmatters and your insightful comment.

      • Avatar

        Haleh Banani

        April 22, 2014 at 11:56 PM

        It’s nice to get your feedback! You are absolutely right that assumptions need to be checked because they really clear the air. There may be nothing at all to worry about. The key is to communicate and get the reassurance needed. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences – we all fall into those embarrassing situations.

      • Avatar

        Yusuf

        April 23, 2014 at 4:09 AM

        I wish there are more people like you. May The Almighty guide you through straight path. :-)

      • Avatar

        YV

        June 26, 2015 at 7:27 PM

        Wow, that’s quite a bit of a good perspective!

    • Avatar

      K Singh

      December 7, 2015 at 2:06 AM

      I don’t agree with Diah and others, appreciating the answer as “Beautiful, practical and sincere answer”. I am a Hindu and always considered Islam as a tough religion, but with passage of time, I realized why Islam is so tough, particularly for male-female mixing. All religions have talked of complexity of this relation and advised for precautions, but it is only in Islam that strict measures are put into practice, like veil,not having even eye contact with Be-Haram persons etc . Thus, even after such strong measures, if the discussed relation is flourishing, the suffering lady should immediately rush to religious Ulamah . Otherwise, only pious advices to the suffering lady shows no difference between Islam and other religions.

  2. Avatar

    Abdelkareem

    April 17, 2014 at 8:15 PM

    Beautiful answer indeed.

  3. Avatar

    SarahJaved

    April 17, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    I believe this is very good advice, and I hope it helps this sister.

    • Avatar

      arif gulzar

      April 18, 2014 at 5:18 AM

      As your husband iz practicing muslim, the best option iz to have open conversation with him regarding the problem of starring and gazing, the apprehension u have
      It will not only make the air free, but also wll b caveat for your husband , not to fell prey , which he might be unaware off.
      u will b protecting hz deen as well as ur family, but try to discourse in conducive atmosphere, not in blame game..

  4. Avatar

    umabdullah

    April 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    I think a hallmark of a healthy relationship is open communication. I as a married woman of 10 years consider what you are going through to be concerning because it needs to be nipped in the bud now with wisdom and tact.
    I wonder whether your sister speaking to your brother might solve the issue-if they are close enough that such a convo could go down easily. Also you know your hub best so take or not take this advice accordingly. I would share my feelings using I statements n also give the example of smiling and glancing at brother in laws n how that may make him feel. Mixing definitely needs boundaries n I find that in these situations that even if one follows guidelines others dont always do. If you feel this convo with yur hub will backfire..(although I would argue that coming to common ground on how to handle this situation will simply cause the relationship to grow more.) a heart to heart with your bro might b in order. However having said all this don’t ignore your instincts. This is very much about putting eachother first. About care n consideration n about protective jealousy. What is happening is indeed inappropriate I myself went thru something somewhat similar n my husband realized he needed to give priority to my feelings while being polite to the female relative.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      April 23, 2014 at 12:10 AM

      Communication is the key! The best thing would be to address the husband if he was mature and approachable. The way the sister described her husband it sounded like he was not capable of hearing her out and being compassionate towards her feelings. Any good man would reassure his wife and make sure she feels comfortable. It’s hard to go through this especially when it’s a family member.
      .

  5. Avatar

    Umm ZAKAriyya

    April 19, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Beautiful advice! MashaAllah.
    I hope it benefits the sister .

    I would like to suggest something that I do .lol. – Find out ways to melt his (husband) heart . Try being cute and loving and shed tears to tell how much you love him and how jealous you feel when there are women around him. Be playful and express in ‘words’ how possessive you are of him! (This is a great ego boost to the husband.) But do not EVER make him feel that you don’t trust him .

    Look out for such women.Trust the husband but not the shayateen.

  6. Avatar

    umabdullah

    April 19, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    I have experience regarding ayn/sihr issues and this caught my eye. You said “I am getting a lot of bad dreams about my husband and I separating”. This is not your subconscious messing with you alone as will most likely be told. This is a classic symptom of ayn/hasad/sihr. Unfortunately it is not something that is common knowledge among our communities in the west especially. My advice to fight off this possible ayn is to recite surah baqarah every 3 days and stick to your morning and evening adhkar. And lotssss of istighfar and adhkar and salam on prophet. Inshallah this should take away the dreams and their possible cause. My wild guess is you may have other symptoms like fatigue or irritability or random dizziness and extra waswas or others in addition to the dreams if you are indeed suffering from ayn but that you may not connect them altogether. Seek the means to protect yourself and put your trust in Allah.

    P.s you can blow the surah baqarah/fatiha/ayatulkursi/falaw/naas on water/zamzam and everyone in your family can drink from it. Another form of protection inshallah.

    • Avatar

      Jennine Nicole

      April 22, 2014 at 8:52 PM

      I’m not understanding why this comment has more dislikes than likes. Sihr is real. That’s why certain surat are identified as protections.

  7. Avatar

    Nadia

    April 20, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Is it just me that thinks this is overreaction? Is it not normal to look at someone when you are talking to them? They aren’t alone together what’s the big deal?

    • Avatar

      Sherri

      April 22, 2014 at 8:34 AM

      I most definitely thought it was an over-reaction at first ..I even was beginning to wonder if the letter was made-up. Why would one woman spend so much energy and waste so much family time constantly looking another woman’s to make sure that that woman is not looking at her husband..Then I realized I was reading a Muslim advice column and I so respect every culture/religion sacred customs… It does sounds to me like the brother’s sister is insecure about herself..So whether it’s over-reaction to me, the advice MashaAllah is very good and beautiful indeed.

      • Avatar

        gunal

        April 22, 2014 at 8:58 AM

        Overreaction! Nevertheless, it is a reaction. Just like an allergic reaction an overreaction is uncontrollable. If one of your loved ones is suffering from an allergic reaction what will you do? Say; just get on with it and suffer silently? Would you not at least show some concern and ask if there is anything you could do to comfort them? This is what a responsible adult should do. This poor woman must already be beating herself up about her paronoa like thoughts and behaviour. She cannot control it. She cannot put those thoughts to rest by herself. People who contribute to her irrational behaviour are responsible for her wellbeing. Because they are the cause of her discomfort.

      • Avatar

        Haleh Banani

        April 22, 2014 at 11:33 PM

        As a therapist I have seen a large number of married couples experience infidelity. They tell me about how it starts quite innocently with a glance, a smile and a connection. This leads to a little flattering & flirting which makes all the feel good hormones gush like a waterfall. At this point it becomes harder and harder to decipher between what is and is not acceptable because it feels so good. When the person is not thinking clearly it becomes easier to break some rules and make exceptions. This pattern will very quickly turn into an affair which leads to either emotional or physical infidelity. I have had men in their 40s cry during the session saying that it’s an addiction and they simply can’t stop themselves. They wish that they had avoided this from the very beginning by simply lowering their gaze and not starting the relationship in the first place. In the 10 Rules for avoiding emotional infidelity by Gary Neuman he states how critical it is to avoid all those seemingly innocent acts in order to prevent any form of infidelity including: not talking about personal issues at work with the opposite sex and not sharing personal feelings to mention a few. The concern of this wife may seem trivial but keep in mind that most relationships start with a glance & a smile.

  8. Avatar

    aiyah

    April 20, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    i do not think this is overreaction. a woman knows when something isnt quite right. its like we have radar. it is easily distinguishable when you see an innocent glance between 2 people and it is also easily distinguishable when there is a lil more to it than just a salam. trust your gut sister. keep your eyes open but dont be a stalker….it is well know that when a man and woman are alone the third is shaytan. with that said be careful of suspicion. both men and women were ordered to lower their gaze, so to answer ur question nadia….yes initial eye contact at first but then both parties should lower their gaze. the writer is not concerned with just ur normal everyday interaction she is noticing something within the glances that are making her uneasy. the best advice i can give u sis…pray istakara….then decide if your sis will speak with ur hubby or if u will. if i need to talk to my hubby about something i feel might anger him…i ask him “do you mind if i talk freely (which i do anyway lol) without you getting upset”? this way he knows im not looking to quarrel and gives him time to brace himself lol. usually works. sis just be open, im sure he dont want to see u hurt or make you feel badly. if the glances continue and it seems as if ur bro wife is initiating this u might need to talk to ur bro. i usually dont advise this but to be honest if you notice so do others! may Allah ease your situation and gurard your marriage against the attacks of shaytan. May Allah grant you the ability to solve this manner in the least disruptive way. May Allah ease your worries and suspicion and grant you the best outcome in this situation. May your marriage and family be blessed and may you all be companions of jannah….ameen

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      April 23, 2014 at 12:20 AM

      Approaching the brother may create problems in his marriage – I don’t advise that. The best solution is to talk with her husband if he is receptive or the sister-in-law. This way the two people involved can have a chance to self-correct without making it bigger than it needs to be.

  9. Avatar

    aiyah

    April 20, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    **May Allah grant you the ability to solve this matter in the least disruptive way. May Allah ease your worries and suspicion and grant you the best outcome in this situation. May your marriage and family be blessed and may you all be companions of jannah….ameen

  10. Avatar

    Salman

    April 20, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    This is such an amazing response mA. Speaking as a man, it is extremely important to maintain that spark and keep things fun/interesting. This paragraph from the response sums it up beautifully as the “bottom line” so to speak for men.

    “It’s critical to reflect on what is making you feel so insecure. If you are insecure about the quality of your relationship and/or your love for each other, it’s important to focus on improving your quality time together to help increase the love. It may be that your husband is craving more attention from you. Make more effort in making him feel attractive by giving him sincere compliments in addition to flirting with him in a way that will satisfy his ego and bring playfulness back into your marriage. If you are feeling insecure because you are not at your best, then I suggest setting attainable goals where you will be more happy and confident. I know how challenging it is to get into shape after having 3 kids, because I had to go through it myself. Our body image affects our confidence and sense of security. If you feel that you have let yourself go, focus on getting back into shape so that you will feel your best. As you increase your sense of security about yourself and your relationship, you will feel less threatened by others.”

  11. Avatar

    Amira

    April 21, 2014 at 12:47 AM

    I agree with Ms. Banani’s comments about working her putting more effort into strengthening her relationship with her husband. But I also feel like the husband should put just as much effort into the relationship as well. The wife should not be doing all the work. He should not be making her feel like she cannot trust him. And why would he give her the silent treatment for weeks when all she is trying to do is be honest with him by communicating openly? That is one of the worst things to do in a marriage: completely close off from your spouse and make them feel like it is his/her fault.

    Also, another commenter mentioned her talking to her brother. But I’m not sure if she should do that because perhaps he may get angry with his wife. Talking about one’s relationship with a spouse is not a good idea, even if it is with a close family member.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      April 23, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      There is a mutual responsibility for husbands and wives to honor their relationship and remain loyal in their marriage. Many people get tested by being attracted to others while married and it is up to them to control their desires and do the right thing which is avoiding doubtful matters. Each person knows in his heart when he is flirting inappropriately and that’s when he has to put on the brakes and stop anything further from happening. I addressed the wife in this answer because she is the one who wrote in and she is the one motivated to change. If the husband was reading this answer I would tell him to be cautious and not to jeopardize his relationship with his wife and brother over something like this. I would also tell him to be more approachable so his wife can communicate her concerns.

      • Avatar

        gunal

        April 23, 2014 at 8:09 AM

        Yes Haleh, I agree with everything you said except that you said (I am sorry I may look like knit-picking but I feel this is important);

        “Each person knows in his heart when he is flirting inappropriately..”

        Not necessarily we all realise when we are flirting. Wouldn’t we stop if we did?
        From religious point of view, I think the ‘seed of our ego boost’ gets nourished as soon as when we are wooed in some ways. This could be by way of just a glance or even innocent kind words from others. In my opinion, we have to uproot that seed of ego boost within us. And I think this is a very difficult thing to do. Because we like being looked at personally selected from a crowd of others, being smiled to (again selected amongst others), chosen…this leads us having the sense of admiration of our good qualities, sense of pride!

        As I said it is difficult to uproot this seed. I have done some observations on this and realised that you can achieve uprooting the seed of ego by asserting professionalism -by treating every aspect of my life professionally. Even marriage. Create professional boundaries. As the head of my family I am responsible in helping others around me. Others look(ing)-up to me is natural because in my own world I am the boss. This may be a naive sister in law. She may want my attention. However, I will need to treat her as a learner with no professional boundaries of her own. Be subtle, don’t expect professionalism back. Just one person being professional and treating each situation with set boundaries is most of the time enough to gradually get everyone realising their own responsibilities, and notice the existing boundaries. Just like a great teacher I must know how to deal with an attention seeker; Help them establish or notice their goals so that they can focus on them.

        • Avatar

          Haleh Banani

          April 23, 2014 at 10:32 AM

          You have made some very good points. I understand that not everyone has the same level of self-awareness or self-control and it isn’t easy to avoid something as gratifying as getting the attention and admiration of others. I like what you said about being professional in all interactions. It is enough to have just one person establish very solid boundaries. Thank you for your feedback and it is refreshing to read about a person who has their priorities straight!

  12. Avatar

    gunal

    April 21, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    When there is a smoke there is a fire! If your husband is such a practicing man he should obey the rule that ‘he MUST lower his gaze’. On top of returning the gaze if he is smiling, this behaviour suggests that he is flirting back, he is enjoying that.. If he feels he is allowed to do that then, I feel he has already sold his soul to seytan. Sorry sister. I am not a believer in love. A man doesn’t cheat on his wife because he thinks the other woman is more attractive or he stops loving his wife. It is useless advice to say to you that you should attempt to make yourself more beautiful/appealing to your husband. Your husband is married to you. And therefore as a proper Muslim, he must be committed to you, respect how you feel, and never cheat on you. My advice to you is; stop worrying for your husband’s afterlife/his obligatory commitment to you. Only worry for your own deen and your afterlife. Always pray to Allah that no matter what challenges come to your way you successfully learn your lessons in order to prepare you for a rewarding afterlife. If somebody causes me upset or pain I would pray that I would never be the cause of such pain to anybody. This is how I would learn. Reading about the needs of lowering your gaze in Quran is obviously not so effective. But now you know first hand how it feels. And why it is needed. You should consider yourself lucky. Imagine if you were the one ‘innocently’ enjoy gazing to your brother in law.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      April 23, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      Dear sister I know that you mean well and it’s good to want to be cautious, but it’s really critical to have wisdom and use diplomacy when dealing with issues regarding your life partner. I agree that he should lower his gaze, but to jump the gun and advise the sister to get out of the marriage is foolish. Nothing has occurred and even if a man does make a mistake there needs to be room for reconciliation and forgiveness. If each time a person assumes there is something going on with their husband they ended the marriage there will be very few marriages left. The attitude of compassion, understanding and tolerance are critical to keep the marriage strong. Also, there needs to be solid facts before taking any action. There is no evidence that anything is going on.

      • Avatar

        K Singh

        December 8, 2015 at 1:30 AM

        But how do you know the facts. Has it been so easy to know the facts in the complexities of male-female relations, the great Islam had not put in practice so may strong practices. So, I would request the author not to dilute the strong instructions of Islam and use Utopian advises as given in other stale languishing religions.

  13. Avatar

    nick ick

    April 22, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    talk to him about it.. if it still has a problem .. initiate divorce… a trash is a trash.. remember you can;’t change a person.. it’s life long.. so you decide.. I seen it in my parents and to me it wasn’t worth it.. I rather have them go separate ways then live in sadness and lies..

  14. Avatar

    Zaid Shakil

    April 22, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    All praise is due to Allah

    I would like to add that its better if male and female sit in separation. As the brother’s wife is a non-mahram to this sister’s husband. Its natural that when all people sit together gaze can happen and it can lead to the ways of shaitan. Why not avoid this in the first place by sitting and talking in separation, the law that actually Islam imposes.

    Jazak’Allahu Khairan

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      April 23, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      It is easier to prevent it all together, but there are circumstances that cant’ be avoided and it’s important to have some guidelines to follow. Even if others don’t follow the same principles it’s critical to maintain boundaries.

  15. Avatar

    little ole me

    April 22, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    In marriage one has promised to forsake all others. Love is not just mere strong feelings of affection but the putting the needs of the other person before yourself. It seems to me that the blame is being shifted to the wife, for the way she looks or overreacting, yet I see nothing about the inappropriate way the husband is responding ,it is not just the wife who is responsible for keeping the marriage strong, that he responds in a favorable manner to these subtle advances shows that he has a lack of respect for his wife and himself a problem that HE has to fix. A married individual has no business flirting with anyone else. Marriage is not a game, it is a lifelong commitment of mutual love and respect a powerful emotional bond that breaks people when it is broken or damaged. The wife should first talk to her husband frankly about her concerns. Not accusing him, just revealing her fears and concerns) . He should then do everything in his power to correct the problem easing his wife’s concerns and preventing a possible negative scenario for himself. He should take action to limit his conversations with this woman and he should certainly not be anywhere alone with her, his actions and body language should show the other woman that he is not available and he is not an option because he is a married man. After all he willingly made the marriage vow and he must live up to it. In order to be trusted you must first be a trustworthy individual. Yet how can you be that if you are toying and rousing up the desires and feelings of someone other then your spouse (which is really what flirting is) You can’t toy with your spouse’s feelings by promoting jealousy and expect there to be trust? But if his own wife can’t even speak to him without him having a weeks long tantrum, how can anything be done? Unfortunately, no matter how much you may want to keep him, no matter even what you do to keep him ultimately if he doesn’t have enough love and respect for his wife and his marriage and there’s no way you can make him see that he is going down a wrong path then there is nothing one can do . Perhaps you would be better off without someone so selfish . Without commitment there is no marriage anyway.

    • Avatar

      Haleh Banani

      April 23, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      Your perspective about marriage is correct. The intention was not to blame the wife, but to help her to understand her insecurity about the marriage. As I mentioned earlier, it was the wife who wrote in not the husband so I addressed her needs. Obviously the man is responsible to honor his wife and keep his commitment in his marriage. remain calm, get all the facts, use logic & diplomacy before There is no excuse for flirting with others when you are married – it’s unacceptable. However, it’s critical to get all the facts before deciding to leave your spouse. People do get weak from time to time and we need to learn to work through the problems rather than just end the marriage.

  16. Avatar

    Sanah

    April 22, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    I think you should tell your brother to talk to his wife if the situation escalates too much. He should know.

    • Avatar

      umabdullah

      April 22, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      There is brother’s wife one day. Another day it could be the neighbor’s wife. Who will speak to the neighbor? This goes back to husband and wife relationship. This isn’t about her fixing herself up. That is a complete side issue. This isn’t about her feeling insecure. Even if a wife knows her husb loves her looks and a wife notices this type of behavior .. there is going to be hurt involved. A real marriage that is passionate is passionate due to openness and growth and love and connection.

  17. Avatar

    HALIMA

    April 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    This is a pretty difficult circumstance. Considering she must not cut ties with her brother. The wife has reason to worry, but she shouldn’t let it overwhelm her. She has to place some trust in her husband that he won’t let things escalate. He should practice lowering his gaze, and respect his wife and the other woman as well. That’s why we’re always advised to lower the gaze. It’s just a door that can lead to many other issues…

  18. Avatar

    K Mirkami

    April 22, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    It sounds as though this woman is severely deficient in self esteem. There is nothing more unattractive than a desperate, needy woman.

  19. Avatar

    Saria

    April 23, 2014 at 12:13 AM

    You say you are “happily married.” Are you, really? If so, don’t worry about the glancing/staring/flirting. She is your brother’s wife. You do not wish to ruin the relationships between other members of your family. If you truly are “happily married” then you should not need to worry. Doesn’t your husband leave you to go to work or visit others? There has to be a sense of trust. Trust that he is faithful even when he encounters attractive women where ever he meets them. I sense that you are not “happily married.” Seek help and advice to rekindle that love and devotion you had in the past.

    • Avatar

      Ruby

      October 29, 2016 at 7:43 AM

      Its disrespectful when its in your family a man should understand that…

  20. Avatar

    Ruby

    October 29, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    Best if she explains to her brother to keep an eye open nx time

  21. Avatar

    Richard Adam

    December 22, 2018 at 6:23 PM

    “When we gather, we try as much as possible to sit separately. However, sometimes it happens where we are all sitting in the same room, either eating or in the living room. I try to prevent it as much as possible, but for some reason it happens beyond my control, especially if we are at my brother’s house”. I have tried to maintain an open mind towards Islam and judge people by their individual actions. Rather than form opinions based upon generalizations of large groups. Though I must admit this seems extremely backwards and counterintuitive to women’s rights for equal treatment. Why would familiy try as much as possible to sit separately? Why would family not all sit in same room? The underlying premise of such arcane concepts suggests men are incompatible of behaving in an appropriate because of sexual lust.

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Our Struggles – Mental Health And Muslim Communities | The Family and Youth Institute

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By Elham Saif, Sarrah AbuLughod and Wahida Abaza

Fariha just started her freshman year at university. Overnight, she was separated from her support system of family and friends and thrust into a foreign environment. She was facing many new challenges, including a heavier workload, new friends, student clubs and organizational responsibilities. She was drowning in endless assignments, exams, and meetings.

Fariha never thought much about mental health issues beyond the few “mindfulness” posts that she’d scroll through on her Instagram feed, but recently she was starting to feel out of sorts. She started to feel anxious as a hijab-wearing woman on campus especially after hearing about anti-Muslim incidents on the news. All of the possibilities of what could go wrong played over and over again in her head–and kept her up at night. Everything was beginning to feel overwhelming. She started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning and was losing motivation to complete her assignments. She felt confused and at times, even afraid. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, close to 50 million Americans suffered from mental health issues in 2017. One in 5 adults in America is living with a mental health illness at this very moment. American Muslims are not an exception to these statistics. According to different studies, like Fariha, 15-25% of American Muslims report suffering from anxiety disorders and 9-30% report mood disorders. Many of these mental health issues in the Muslim population go unaddressed and unresolved because of lack of knowledge, stigma and shame experienced in many Muslim households and communities. 

When these issues go unaddressed, people report that the pain and suffering they experience rises and that overall their problems tend to get worse. Sadly, their struggles can snowball into additional illnesses that were not present before, such as self-harm or addiction. According to the research, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are sometimes not considered to be “real” illnesses. Community members often see mental illness as a sign of weakness, a mark of poor faith, or something that doesn’t affect Muslims. They may also see it either as a “test from God” or sometimes as possession by evil spirits. Even when there is an awareness, many of these illnesses and issues are culturally stigmatized as shameful and kept hidden within the person or family. People may be concerned about the reputation of their family or their marital prospects should a psychiatric diagnosis be disclosed. 

The irony is that Islam ought to be more of a protective factor given how intertwined Islamic history is with the fields of psychiatry and psychology. The contribution of Islamic scholarship to the field of psychology is documented in our history and legacy from health promotion in the Quran and Sunnah, to early scholarly diagnosis, treatment, and intervention. Alaa Mohammad, FYI researcher and co-author of the chapter “Mental Health in the Islamic Golden Era: The Historical Roots of Modern Psychiatry” in Islamophobia and Psychiatry points out that,

“there was a lot of focus on concepts like ‘sanity’ and the significance of mental capacity as well as the general mental/emotional state in many of the early Islamic texts especially in regards to Islamic rules and law.”

Early Islamic scholars described the “cognitive components of depression and sadness, anxiety and fear, obsessions, and anger in detail and suggested a variety of therapies and treatments.” Learning more about this rich history and pulling from these stories in the Prophet’s (SAW) seerah is a key step towards opening the way for people to get the help they need and learning how to support one another. 

Fariha knows that she needs help. She was considering seeing one of the mental health workers on campus, but she’s afraid of what her parents would say if they found out she shared so much with a stranger, especially one that is not a Muslim.

What can parents do?

Research has found that in the face of rising Islamophobia, supportive parenting serves as a protective factor and helps strengthen young Muslims’ sense of identity while unsupportive parents who don’t help their children navigate their experiences end up weakening their identity, which then increases their chances of participating in more risky behavior. 

When Fariha finally shared her fears and anxieties with her parents, she was surprised and relieved to hear that they took her seriously. They listened to her and she didn’t feel like they were ashamed of her, only concerned for her well being. They were eager to find her the help she needed to feel like herself again. 

As Muslims, we need to shift our mindset around mental illness and the effects of Islamophobia. Like Fariha’s parents, it is imperative that we listen carefully and look more deeply at the issues facing our youth. It is through this openness that we can reduce the stigma and encourage more people to seek help. 

The Family and Youth Institute recently released an infographic that talks about some of the struggles facing our American Muslim communities. They teamed up with Islamic Relief USA to get this infographic printed as a poster and will be sending them to over 500 masajid/community centers around the United States in the coming months. 

What can you do to help?

  • Reduce the stigma by sharing this article and infographic and starting a conversation with your friends and family members. The more we talk about it, the more we normalize and destigmatize mental illness and move towards mental health. 
  • Organize a community conversation around the issue of mental health. Invite a mental health specialist to come speak to your mosque youth group or parent group. 
  • Seek therapy when needed. Connect with SEEMA and the Institute of Muslim Mental Health for a list of Muslim therapists. If you are seeing a clinician who is not Muslim, share this book Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions with them to give them a better sense of the specific religious and cultural needs of their Muslim clients. 
  • Educate yourself – There is a plethora of information out there about mental wellness and wellbeing. For help navigating through it all, sign up for The FYI’s daily article share to receive vetted infographics, articles and videos on this topic. Mental health affects our whole life. Whether you are struggling with bullying, helping a loved one with depression, living with and caring for an elder or wanting to build the best environment for your new baby, we have a resource for you! 

These steps are just small ways we can begin to shift the conversation away from shame and stigma and towards help and healing. Mental illness and mental health issues can be scary, but they do not need to be faced alone and in isolation. As the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” Together, we can fight the existing stigma and misconceptions, provide support, educate the community and advocate for our brothers and sisters suffering with mental illness and their families. 

Sources:

Aftab A., & Khandai, C. (2018). Mental Health Facts for Muslim Americans. APA Division of Diversity and Health Equity, Washington, DC. 

Basit A, & Hamid M. (2006). Mental health issues of Muslim Americans. The Journal of Islamic Medical Association of North America, 42(3), 106-110.

Ciftci A., Jones N., & Corrigan, P.W. (2013) Mental health stigma in the Muslim community. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 7(1), 17-32.

Hodge, D.R., Zidan, T. & Husain, A. (2016). Depression among Muslims in the United States: Examining the role of discrimination and spirituality as risk and protective factors. Social Work, 61(1), 45-52.

Zong, X., Balkaya, M., Tahseen, M., & Cheah, C.S.L. (2018). Muslim-American Adolescents’ Identities Mediate the Association between Islamophobia and Adjustment: The Moderating Role of Religious Socialization. Poster session presented at the biennial meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, Queensland, Australia. 

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Raising a Child between Ages 7-12

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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From a cognitive-development standpoint, this is called a concrete operational period, according to Jean Piaget.

(N.B: Some adults never progress beyond this phase, while 15% of kids may reach the following formal-operational phase at age 9!)

The child now (7-12) may factor in two dimensions of an object simultaneously. So, the longer cup may have less water because it is thinner. However, this is still hard for him/her to perform in the abstract realm, so, they are still uni-dimensional in that respect. Concepts and behaviors are still black and white. It is also hard for the kids in this stage to imagine and solve the structure of a mathematical problem. They cannot think contrary to facts. In other words, you can’t get them to use as a basis for an argument a question like what if the sky rains sugar instead of water?

Socially, Erikson felt that in this period kids develop industry or inferiority. According to his theory, from age six to puberty, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. If encouraged, they feel industrious and confident in their ability to achieve goals.

Based on these observations, we may recommend:

1- Using a lot of hands-on teaching, since they still have limited ability with conceptualization and abstract reasoning.

2- Continue the focus on memorization. If you want them to finish the Quran in 1-2 years, 12 and/or 13 seem to be the prime years for that. This suits some children and some families, not all. If you like a more gradual approach, you should have them start serious memorization at 7, accelerate at 10, and finish by 15-17. Not all kids are meant to memorize the whole Quran though; they can still be educated and pious. Invest in their strengths, not your dreams.

3- Use concrete props and visual aids, especially when dealing with sophisticated material. Use story problems in mathematics.

4- Use open-ended questions that will stimulate thinking and help the child reach the following stage faster. Example: “What do you think about the relationship between the brain and the mind?”; “What do you think about the relationship between prayful-ness and piety?” Make sure you know the right answers!

5- More explanations will be needed, but keep them simple, and even though they should be more detailed than the last stage, they still need to be uni-dimensional. Examples: we obey God because he created us; if we disobey Him, we get punished, and if we obey Him, we get rewarded in this life and in the hereafter. Too early to teach him that “the brokenness of the disobedient is better than the haughtiness of the obedient.” Break it down. Humbleness and obedience are good, while haughtiness and disobedience are bad.

6- Encourage and praise their accomplishments, while making them aware that there is always room for improvement. Continue to encourage initiative-taking and leadership qualities, yet you may also set limits, and make them aware that they will have to always report to someone. Even if there are no people above them, Allah always is. They have to adapt to being leaders and followers at the same time, because that is the reality of all people.

7- This is still a stage of belonging and affiliation to the group, and the child will develop more or less attachment to Islam through his or her experience at the masjid and with the community.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

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Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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