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What’s The Matter? | Resentment against Female Child

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Question:

Dear MM,

I was the fourth child of my parents; two sisters, 1 brother then myself. My mother did not keep her resentment a secret for me for being a female child. My brother was only a year older than me. She preferred my brother over me in almost all matters from pillows and blankets to meals. She kept feeling insecure for having 3 daughters.

By each passing year, I became more conscious of the fact that I was unwanted. I cried through all my birthdays and kept asking Allah why I was born. My mother once said in front of the whole family how disappointed my parents were when I was born, as a boy should have been born instead of a girl. Even my soul was shattered. By the time I became 10, I was already contemplating suicide.

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We used to live on the 6th floor and my dream was to have the courage to push myself from the balcony after leaving a note for my mother. 
Whenever I read how the Arabs buried their daughters alive in jahiliyya times, I actually felt happy for those girls as they did not have to go thru humiliation that I had to go thru every single day.

I became rebellious and that made the matters worse. I found solace in the idea that once I get married, I will be peaceful. 
I married and stayed back while all my family was settled in US. I made all the sacrifices possible for my marriage. Initially everything was fine and we were happy despite the fact that he had sexual issues and was infertile. Whenever my parents came over, I would be nice to them and serve them but my childhood memories never went away.

After 7 years of my marriage, I started studying Islam at an institute. My love for Islam grew but then so did the trials. I started feeling sick and all of a sudden I could not relate to my husband anymore. This happened overnight and without any reason. That 1 year was very painful. Then I found out that it was black magic to separate husband and wife. When my husband would be away, I would think about him and adorn myself to welcome him with a smile. The moment he would come home, his face would be enough to put me off. He was also very withdrawn and uncaring. 
Eventually I found out that there was a girlfriend from before who was still following him. She herself was married and had 3 daughters but still wanted to marry my husband. My husband also started responding to her.

We adopted a baby but the relationship between me and my husband never recovered. I never realized until much later that my husband was into some discreet activities as well. He started bringing one of his girlfriends home. After that he deliberately left his iphone with me when he went overseas for work. When I went thru it, I was totally shocked. To make it short, he was into porn, intimate relationships and he was hitting on every girl no matter how young she was. 
I finally decided to leave him after istikhara and came to US to live with my family. I had no choice because I was penniless.

My sisters assured me of their unconditional support. Initially my mother was all happy that I came until she found out way I came. She kept telling me to go back to him even if he is abusive and brings women home. One time I overheard her on the phone telling someone that she doesn’t want me here and that I should go back.

During the last 10 years, I went thru so much and so many people stabbed me in the back but how can a mother do that. I feel as if someone has scratched my childhood wounds again and the blood is oozing out. 
Even now if you ask me who hurt me more, my abusive husband or my mother; I wouldn’t think twice before saying it was my mother. Now I cannot go away from her but I don’t want to talk to her, hear her or even look at her. But Allah will never forgive me for this. I want to know how to deal with her since my akhira is at stake. Allah has given me a lot of success in deen but this one aspect of my life is making me miserable.

Jazakallah Khairan,

The Hurt Daughter

[divider]

Answer:

Bismillah hir Rahman ir Raheem,

May Allah reward you for your patience, perseverance and continued taqwa and faith in Him. This horrible mentality of preferring sons over daughters and then torturing daughters physically and emotionally, leaves deep invisible scars affecting the rest of their lives. This is indeed worse than even the times of jahiliyya when daughters were buried at birth. I cannot even imagine the hurt you must have felt when your mother asked you to return to such a horrible and abusive relationship. Moreover, how difficult it must be to experience such feelings of abandonment from your own mother.

Asian and South Asian cultures tends to focus on the respect and needs of parents and many times we fail to discuss the needs of children and how parents are also expected by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to not only meet those needs, but to treat their children with kindness and justice. If we are expected to treat even plants and animals with gentleness, what right do parents have to treat their own daughters so poorly?

Allah does not expect any child, or adult for that matter, to continually engage in a toxic relationship that will hurt them. The only obligation you have is to figure out how to protect yourself from further emotional scars and at the same time interact with your mother in a way that is not disrespectful. What is important to consider, however, is that it will be difficult to learn to interact with her in this manner overnight.

It is natural and deeply ingrained in our human psyche to desire the love and affection of our parents. And to even look for it long after we have already realized that they are not capable of giving it. In phases of anger it is easy to think that you may not have any expectations from her, but these expectations especially of love, approval, acceptance, or even minimal respect are usually subconscious. Your feelings of anger and hurt will only intensify with every interaction until you let go of these expectations.

I highly recommend seeking therapy or counseling to process all the traumatic events in your life. It is only after working through your trauma and grief of never having a mother that is there for you in the way that you need her to be, that you will be able to connect and empathize with her. This will help make it easier to find enough peace in your heart to handle your mother in the manner that you feel is acceptable in the eyes of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Allah tests those He loves in order to make them closer to Him. The more you seek His love and be completely freed from your needs of anybody except for Allah, the easier it will be to accept her inability to treat you justly, and the easier it will be to treat her with respect for the sake of Allah.

Remember that nobody knows and understands your pain better than Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He); and above all, nobody is more forgiving and loving than Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Rather than expending emotional & physical energy on the guilt you feel, work towards strengthening your relationship with Allah and also asking Him to strengthen your heart, and to change the heart of your mother.

 

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Afshana Haque is currently the executive director of her private practice, Muslim Family Support and conducts face to face and online therapy from Houston, TX. She is also Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Afshana received her PhD from St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, TX . She has completed her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from University of Houston-Clear Lake and has previously worked in various hospitals and institutions including: DePelchin’s Children Center in Houston, TX, Methodist Hospital, and AIGB Diagnostics for a bariatric surgical group in San Anotonio, TX. She was also co-director of a non-profit organization, Hawa Center for Refugee Mental Health, now called the Center for Refugee Services. During her graduate career she had the privilege of being a part of the AAMFT Minority Fellowship Program and was granted over $50,000 in funding. This program provided her with rigorous training in therapy and research with minority families. Afshana has given platform and poster presentations at national and state conferences in her field. She has also presented at the Texas Dawah Convention, ISNA: Islam in America Conference, and was invited to give parenting workshops at ISGH NW Zone and Austin Peace Academy. Afshana’s research interests include exploring the challenges faced by Muslims in the American society, issues with acculturation and assimilation, raising children, incorporating the use of spirituality in family therapy, and most importantly formatting traditional therapy in ways that will be appealing to those who belong to collectivistic cultures in addition to those who view therapy as shameful. Her most recent research publications include: A Systematic Research Synthesis of Various Adaptive Strategies Utilized by Dual-Income Couples, and The Assessment of Marital Adjustment with Muslim Populations: A Reliability study of the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test when administered to the Muslim Population. She is also an apprentice editor of the Journal of Marital and Family therapy, the highest impact journal in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Ali

    May 29, 2014 at 2:02 AM

    There are a number of dysfunctional practices in South Asian families that lead, unsurprisingly, to dysfunctional lives that are displayed in our sister’s case.
    I will comment on the parents vs children issue first.
    The sad fact is that many Desi parents believe there is nothing wrong in humiliating a child, either because she is a girl, or because he is bad in studies or because he chose to study journalism instead of …..medicine.
    I argued over this point with some people, and the replies were more or less that there were no Quranic verses or ahadith telling parents not to humiliate their children, so in effect the right to insult or beat is given by Allah to parents.
    These same types would beat their 8 or 9 year old with a belt for not getting 80+ in an exam, and again in their world, Islam allows a parent to beat their children for whatever reason.

  2. Mohammed Khan

    May 29, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Poor comment. Islam does not allow a parent to beat their children for whatever reason. There are many traditions and hadith that underscores kindness to children. Moreover, it is not about dysnfunctional practices in South Asian families or Desi families. There is good and bad everywhere. Look around and see and you will find the worse and the best everywhere. It is a shame that we speak without wisdom.

    • Manna

      May 29, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      Assalamu’alaikum Mohammed,

      You misread/misunderstood his comment… he said, referring to the parents who have the wrong concept or delude themselves “in their world”. Not Ali’s.

      See comment below or read it above:
      “and again in their world, Islam allows a parent to beat their children for whatever reason.”

  3. Manna

    May 29, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    May Allah subhana wata’Ala grant this sister strength, peace, and that which is better in this world and the next.

  4. broAhmed

    May 30, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Two suggestions, both of which you should weigh carefully before before doing anything (as with any advice on the internet):

    1) I know that it was your lack of funds which led you to moving back in with your family. If you are capable of working and supporting yourself now, perhaps it would be best to find a job and move out. Sometimes a little distance is healthy, especially in toxic family relationships. It gives time for wounds to heal instead of having them scratched open repeatedly and rapidly day after day.

    2) Would your siblings and/or other family members take your side in this? If so, perhaps they and you could confront your mother (you seemed to have focused on your mother in the question, but you could also include the father if he is part of the problem as well). For some people, having such a confrontation winds up bringing some anger/retribution for a relatively short period of time but the person confronted (in this case, your mother) contemplates their actions, eventually realizes what they did was wrong, and then slowly starts to change.* Having your siblings and/or other family members on your side and shamelessly showing their support for you might also make day-to-day life easier, especially if suggestion number one is not an option.

    Again, you should weigh both suggestions heavily before taking action. Suggestion number two might only make life worse, but you’re in a better position to judge that than us. And since Allah obviously knows best, make istikhaarah.

    *Sometimes direct action works. A Desi friend of mine who was being forced to marry a cousin of his against his will went directly to his cousin’s family and politely explained that he didn’t want to get married. He was doing them and her a favor by explaining his feelings honestly, but he wound up being shunned by not only the cousin’s family but also his own mother for a time (gotta love southeast Asian family dynamics). Eventually his mother realized that she was in the wrong (becoming more religious helped) and now the the two are as close as can be.

    • broAhmed

      May 30, 2014 at 8:23 AM

      Clarification: when I say “confront” I mean have your supporting family members and yourself politely but firmly explain to your mother how her actions have made you feel all these years and that what she has done is wrong (*gasp*). I don’t mean get into a shouting match with her. Even if she gets angry, you try your best to remain calm. Sometimes the shock of being told be a large number of people that what you did was wrong can bring a person to their senses eventually even if at first they show anger.

    • MJ

      June 6, 2014 at 1:23 AM

      broAhmed’s first suggestion is excellent.

      Not so sure about suggestion no 2; it would probably not work. The very fact that this mum treated her daughter like this suggests that she’s a complete nut-case, and complete nut-cases don’t take criticism very well.

  5. Mohamnmed Khan

    May 31, 2014 at 5:11 AM

    WSalam RA Barakatahu:
    Thank you for pointing out. Indeed I misread the statement.
    I want to apologize to Aly. Please accept my apology and I was harsh on him. It is frustrating to know how Islam and Muslims are intertwined these days. Now, I also would like to say that people who committ enormities, as can be seen in the case of this sister who suffered, do not necessarily do what they do and justify that in their Islam. They do what they do and it has nothing to do with Islam just because they are Muslims. It is only prudent that we disassociate Islam and actions of Muslim brothers and sisters. We should avoid falling into the trap ourselves just as the media now regularly associates Muslims actions with Islam and coined words like Islamists, etc etc.
    I am sorry again for saying what I said in my previous comment.

  6. gunal

    June 2, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    I hope I will offer some consolation to The Hurt Daughter!

    Due to my own personal experiences I have come to realise that the parents’ attitudes must not be taken as personal attacks, however, it must be recognised to be damaging to a human being for life.

    When I was younger I always felt I was unloved, not just by mother but also everyone else around me. I had a brother a year older than me. My brother was such a beautiful, sweet, assertive child and I was completely the opposite. Not talkative, not sweet, not assertive…. definitely did not take after my mother’s beauty. As a young child I was made to bear the disappointment for not carrying out the ‘female beauty gene’ of my family. So, It wasn’t because I was not a boy…

    Later on in my adult age I questioned my mother what it was that she loved me less; she denied having treated me any differently even though a neighbour did confirm that is how it looked at the time. I genuinely believe my mother. She did not treat me differently intentionally. Later on when I had my own child and had to come into contact with some children, as an adult interacting with children, I found I was not the same between male children and female children. I can see myself not being able to relate to girls as well as I am able to relate to boys. Therefore I thank God that I have only one child and it is a boy. I would hate myself if ever I had inflicted such emotional pain that was inflicted upon me to another child.

    I really think this is a challenge. To make us stronger, which is a cliché, but ‘NOT’ to make us stronger in this life. Quite the opposite actually. To make us weaker in this life but stronger for the next life… Most probably those experiences are the very reasons pushed you closer to God. Which one would you prefer? If you had the power to change your past would you change your mother showering you with all the love you can have and protect you against a failed marriage and you live your life just happy and no need for God? Or letting your life progress the way it has done; to acknowledge the bad traits even a mother can have against her daughter (in my case to acknowledge even I myself am capable of mistreating my own flesh and blood), and seek guidance from one and only God to succeed in such life full of injustice and capacity to be inhumane. I definitely would not risk anything that might make me feel too comfortable that I do not surrender to my God. Only God can prepare us for heaven.

    I am sorry for not offering any solutions because in my opinion your problem is the solution to the life everyone should be desiring to have. Be thankful to your mother.

  7. nayeem1971

    June 3, 2014 at 6:28 AM

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    There are many dimensions to a single problem.

    What was discussed had really helped me manage my affairs with my kids and I have learned a lesson or two….

    We need to discuss such issues in the form of workshops and as well include kids… maybe child psychologists with an Islamic perspective…

    We need to have institutions imparting education for Muslims to pursue courses in Psychology (Islamic orientation) and careers in Psychology which would help those who are abused (there are n number of cases around).

    I pray for Sis. Afshana and all such sisters/daughters…

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