>> Thursday, February 10, 2011
"As'salam alaikum,Horrible Sis
Sisters, I need your advice. I know that we are supposed to respect our parents, especially our mother. However, what I find it most difficult to do is to respect my mother. I can't help but really dislike how my mother speaks ill of others, curses and swears daily, and at times I would be badly scolded for things I never do just because of assumptions she makes. I can't talk to her rationally because to point out all these would mean I've just earned my place in the 'gallows'. When I was younger, I wanted to run away from home because of her. In our Asian culture, parents never 'talk things out' with their kids. We just have screaming matches with each other when situation gets worser.
To be honest, I don't have much respect left but I know that I HAVE to.Sometimes I have this urge to be very rude to her but most of the times I've stopped myself from doing so. I'm sorry if this question make it seem like I'm horrible daughter (maybe I am) but unfortunately not everyone is blessed with nice parents. I understand that my mother is not perfect and neither am I but I can't help feeling that way. Any advice for me? "
Dear “Horrible Sis”,
You're not a horrible sis. At least you recognize that you need to change! The truth is this is an issue that I struggle with, myself, daily- so I was happy to get your question because it was an opportunity for me to talk to myself, first. I wish I was being humble but I’m not- I am nowhere near where I should be with my parents. I only pray that Allah helps all of us struggling with this to change and to become the “apple” of our mama’s eyes, especially.
Before I write my advice, the first thing I want to make clear to you is that your Lord knows all that you do. Every act of obedience, every time that you refrain from saying something wrong, every time that your mother has unjustly accused you of something - Allah knows. And rest assured that He will never let any of your acts go unrewarded.
…and whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing. (2: 110)
In fact, the Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam said:
"I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right...
You see? Allah will never let your rights and due go. NEVER. Once you are able to fully appreciate that, you can truly move on and begin the process of a new YOU and a new relationship with your mother...
But of course, that's not all I have to say. To truly begin this new relationship with your mother:
1. You must begin by acknowledging what your mother has done for you.
Yes, your mother says hurtful comments and she makes very wrong assumptions against you and I know how much that can hurt. Yes, she put you down- maybe embarrassed you in front of your friends/ relatives…smacked you a couple of times….
But there are thousands of things that she did for you that you can’t remember…that you might not even know. Do you honestly know how many dreams your mom had to sacrifice when she had you? Do you know how many times she didn’t buy herself something because she wanted to buy you something? Do you know how many times she put you above herself? As much as we like to think that we are aware of our parents’ sacrifices, we can never really know. Only Allah Subhanoo Wa' Tala knows what your mother did for you- only He knows how much she gave up for you.
Even though we don’t know everything she did- let’s try to think about some of the things, together. What about pregnancy- yeah, I know- imams and moms throw that card out there a lot. But there’s a very good reason….I want you to read about pregnancy. Seriously- read about it. It’s not pretty, you know. Think about how you feel when you have a stomach ache- when you feel nauseous- when you can’t keep anything down. Think about how you feel when you can’t sleep and when your back aches…when your chest is sore...Now, think about it lasting not one or two days…not even a month…no, think about feeling yucky for 40 weeks. 280 DAYS! I know people talk about faces glowing and what not, but for many people pregnancy is an ordeal. A day in and day out ordeal that lasts for months….And if your mother was like mine, she didn’t even have a chance to take it easy because she still had lots of chores , other kids to look after, and things that needed to be done.
Now comes the next chapter in your moms’ life. Delivery. First of all, do you know how terrified your mother was of labor? That alone counts for something- how many hours did she spend scared of what was going to happen? Do you really know how many nights your mom couldn’t sleep because she was worried about what was to come? Now onto the actual day…Let’s be honest here- labor is a VERY painful process. Movies like to make it seem funny- a woman panting, a nurse frantically screaming “Push”, and a man totally confused with what to do. That’s not what labor is. Labor is labor- it’s hours and hours of pain- gripping pain. This year my older sis had her second beautiful daughter and I had the lucky chance to spend hours in the delivery room. Screams. That’s what I heard. Not little screams- blood curdling screams of “Help me. I can’t………I can’t….I can’t….” Every time a nurse shooed me out of there, I was relieved because what I saw horrified me. The Prophet (sallah Allahoo alayhee wa salaam) didn’t call a woman who dies from childbirth a martyr without good reason! And women weren’t promised all of their sins forgiven at the first “contraction” either without good reason. (Even if your mother had a C-section, any person who has done any operation can tell you that once they cut you up, you hurt. Big time.)
I mean a Yemeni man was once making tawaaf of the House carrying his mother on his back and he asked Ibn Umar if he thought he had repaid her. Do you know what he said? “No, not even for a single moan that escaped her during child birth.” I want you to think about that- carrying a grown woman in the desert while making tawaaf- 7 times around the Kaaba. That’s not easy. But to Ibn Umar that doesn’t even equal ONE moan a mother goes through during child birth.
Back to your mother’s life…As Nouman Khan points out in one of his lectures- after delivery, you came to this world and your mother barely had time to celebrate the fact labor was done, when nurses plopped you into her arms and told her to “feed” the baby. No vacation for her- no time to rest- she’d just finished more than 9 months of work and how many hours of labor, when suddenly she was given a new job. Once again, we all like to think of breastfeeding as a beautiful process and it is….but you know what? Sometimes it hurts! Gorged breasts- leaking…waking up in the middle of the night two/ three/ four times to feed the baby. Of course, your digestive system started working- and there was drool, baby spit up, and baby diapers to deal with as well.
All this while, your mom was still recovering from labor…. I mean, a paper cut hurts two or three days- so you can imagine how sore/ fatigued she was feeling while she still had all of this to do. Just think about it- how hard is it to get out of bed when you have a cold. Now, think about how hard it would be to get out of bed when you are still bleeding heavily (sorry- to be graphic, but I got to mention it), still sore, and you’re expected to take care of someone else besides yourself. Yeah, HARD! Very hard
Feeding you- washing you- burping you- washing you again- changing your diaper day after day- taking you to the doctor for your vaccinations- like me, you probably can’t remember those days. But you know what: your mom can. And if she thinks she deserves your respect because of that- can you blame her?
2. If your heart still feels a little cold, it’s time we bring out some videos
And of course, some concrete Islamic points… because the truth is, God gave your mom rights over you. And He made them very clear. Check out this link for ahadith and ayaat.
I’m going to mention some other points that aren’t mentioned in that links.
a. Let’s look at the scene where Ibrahim tells his son (alayhum as salaam), that he has to slaughter him in the Quran. I want you to really think about what was happening- his father was telling him he was going to kill him because he had a “dream”. Now, how did he react? With complete and utter obedience. Why do you think the Quran shows us that story? No doubt we’re supposed to learn the lesson of submission to God but we’re also supposed to learn from Ismail’s behavior.
What did he say?
And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, "O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think." He said, "O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast." (37: 102)
b. The Quran shows you two kinds of fathers- a good father (like Loqman) and a not so good father (Azar- Ibrahim’s father). But you know what? We don’t see how Loqman’s son treats him- but here’s the interesting thing. We do see how Ibrahim treats his dad. Let's take a look at the whole scenario:
19:42 [Mention] when he said to his father, "O my father, why do you worship that which does not hear and does not see and will not benefit you at all?....
O my father, indeed I fear that there will touch you a punishment from the Most Merciful so you would be to Satan a companion [in Hellfire]." (45) [His father] said, "Have you no desire for my gods, O Abraham? If you do not desist, I will surely stone you, so avoid me a prolonged time." (46)[Abraham] said, "Peace will be upon you. I will ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Indeed, He is ever gracious to me. (47)
First of all, the Arabic word that Prophet Ibrahim was “Ya Abati” which is the nicest form/most loving way to address your father.
Second, you see what Azar's response was? He was literally telling his son Ibrahim to abandon God and worship the ‘idols’ that he created. Heck, he was literally threatening to kill Prophet Ibrahim, and yet, Prophet Ibrahim still talked to him in a respectful manner. Your mom might be saying the most 'unislamic things', but she is probably nowhere near Azar who was telling Ibrahim to worship idols...and still, Prophet Ibrahim addressed him in the most gentle way. Why? Because as the Quran makes it clear, we don’t respect our parents because they respect us, but we respect them because of the rights given to them by Allah.
c. What else? Well, we’ve mentioned this before in the blog, but I think it’s a great reminder. Let’s look at the ayah where Allah tells Prophet Moses to talk to Pharoah.
Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed. (43) And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah]."(44) (Surat Taha)
Now, do you think Moses (alayhee as salaam) had any reason to respect Pharoah- the man who called himself God? No WAY. But you know what? Allah still commanded Prophet Moses to speak gently to him. Woah- I really doubt that your mother calls on people to worship her- yes, she might enforce her opinions on the family but does she ask you guys to literally worship her? So, do you honestly think she deserves worse treatment than Pharoah?
d. Remember that woman who used to fast and pray a lot? The one going to hell? Just in case you forgot, here’s the hadith…..
Abu Hurayra said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was asked, 'Messenger of Allah! A certain woman prays in the night, fasts in the day, acts and gives sadaqa, but injures her neighbours with her tongue.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'There is no good in her. She is one of the people of the Fire.' They said, 'Another woman prays the prescribed prayers and gives bits of curd as sadaqa and does not injure anyone.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'She is one of the people of the Garden.'"So how is this connected? Even though that woman prayed a lot, she was mean to her neighbors. To Allah, this made her prayers and fasts worthless. So here’s what I want you to think about….do you want to wake up one day and discover that you never prayed? Never fasted? Because if your mom isn’t happy with you-.well, let me give you (and myself) a hint:
2/2 From Abdullaah bin Umar who said, "The Lord is pleased when the parents are pleased, and is Angry when the parents are angry." Hasan as mawqoof, saheeh as marfoo' as-Saheehah 515
e. What about this ayah:
And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace, (25: 63)
We’re talking “jahiloon”- and what we’re supposed to say is just “peace”. How then should we address our parents who even if they don’t know how to show it, love us?
f. If you’re like me, you wouldn’t think about investing your money in a ribaa bank. Or you wouldn’t think about drinking? Or having a relationship out of marriage….Well, being rude to your parents is worse than all that. Just something to think about.
"The Messenger of Allaah (sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam) said, 'shall I not inform you of the greatest of the major sins?' [three times] They said, 'of course O Messenger of Allaah!' He said, 'Associating partners with Allaah, Disobedience to the parents - then he sat, reclining - and the false statement.'… Saheeh, Ghaayatul Maraam (277)
3. Okay, now, you’ve reminded yourself that your mom has rights over you….but, you still need practical steps on how to deal with her. Let’s take it one step at a time.
One of the most important things you need to do is to let go of what you expect. Let go of what you think you deserve. Let go of the kind of mom you wish you had. Allah chose your mother for you. There are literally billions of people in this world and He, the Most Wise, the Most Loving, the Most Merciful chose her for you. And you for her. And you know what that means? That means something. It means your mother has something to offer you- and you have something to offer her. I want you to try to look at your relationship with your mother in that light. Think to yourself: what is it that Allah wants me to learn from her? What is it that my mother can give me? It could even be a chance to earn a higher position in jannah as you bear things in patience. Or maybe your mother can even teach you “what not to do”. But, for sure, there’s something she can give.
Next, I want you to re-think the way you handle conversations with your mom. There’s a big chance that your mom is equally tired of the screaming matches. Did you ever think of the fact that maybe she feels like whenever she says something, you’re going to attack her/ belittle her thoughts….I know what you’re thinking- but you haven’t heard what she comes up with. Illogical- contradictory- unIslamic- racist- it doesn’t matter. What I want you to do is to sift through what she says and try to find the gold. Ignore the dirt- the sand- the rocks. Look for the gold. And when you finally find something you agree with her on, or you think she does have a point (if even partial), give her credit. Make her feel good about it. Because after a hundred screaming matches, your mom might think you’re just against her and not against X, Y, and Z ideas. That’s why you need to do two main things when you talk to her- really listen. Give her a chance to explain her ideas. Ask her to clarify without sounding accusing. Give her the attention she deserves no matter what she says and equally important, be as diplomatic as possible, when disagreeing.
I once went shopping and watched a woman and her mom. The woman picked up something and then, her mom came and showed her something else. Her mom was pretty insistent that what she found was better. Now, the young woman could have said, “I don’t think so” or “Definitely not my taste”. But that’s not what said. She said, “That’s really pretty mom, but I like this one more”. I was so impressed because each one of them went away feeling good- no feelings were hurt.
Related to this, is the idea that you need to accept the fact you are the one who is going to have to change. I don’t know about you, but our parents aren’t that young. They’ve lived with their own ideas for decades…and although, it is possible they may change- it is more realistic for us to change our attitude. So you know all those things that you fight about it? I’m talking about those same fights that you have- maybe it’s about what you eat, or that shirt your mom doesn’t like, or how much time you spend on the computer…..yeah, you’re going to keep having those fights until you decide to change. Just wolf down those vegetables- get rid of that shirt- and put a time limit for the computer…you’ll be surprised at how much energy you save- and how much better you feel.
By now, this one should be obvious but you need to let go of your ego. I know it can be very hard. But when it comes to your mother, I want you to forget it completely. When your mother insults you- forces her opinions on you- does anything that really hurts your feelings, etc, I want you to take a deep breath. And to let it out slowly. And while you do that, to ask Allah to give you strength not to say anything. At that moment, just turn to Allah and say “Oh, Allah- I could reply back. But I’m not going to because You told me to be respectful. Please help me”. If you know yourself and you know you’re really going to explode, try to find some excuse to walk away. Ask yourself: what do you care about more? Jannah or your ego? Do you really want to go to hell because your mom said some rude comment and you just had to let her “have it?”
Finally, remind yourself that this is jihad. Everyone has their own struggle- thank Allah that it isn’t something worse. Remember what Bilal (May Allah be pleased with him) had to go through? Remember Sumayah (May Allah be pleased with her)- the first martyr? Having to deal with a controlling mom is nothing compared to that. If we want to join those Companions, though, we have to exert some effort and patience.
May Allah help both me and you to become better daughters.
P.S. You know what you mentioned about your mother- cursing all day and thinking ill of others- could be a sign that your mother has been hurt a lot by people. She might also suffer from some sort of clinical depression. You might want to look into that- the types of food that can ‘better her mood’ and exercises…
P.S.S. A small point for my other sisters who have grown up in a different country from our parents and who find it hard to get along with them.
Here’s the thing. We often blame our parents when we get into arguments with them. "They don't understand me!" "They just don't care!" and we promise ourselves we will be better parents, we will understand our kids and etc...But did we ever think of it from their perspective?
Our parents really could be trying their best to understand us but there are some gaps- between the way we think and the way they think and the way they were brought up (generation gaps) and between your different expectations of each other. Think of it from their perspective- do you think they ever imagined having children who preferred French fries, brownies to ‘traditional foods’ and who spoke a different language from them? Who were completely different? Probably not! Most of us imagine our kids as being our buddies and being mini-us…right?
The next time you are in an argument with your parents, just think: “What if my kids weren’t like me?”
And do a ‘perspective’ exercise. Sit down and re-write a few different arguments you’ve had but this time from your parent’s perspective. Get into their ‘shoes’ and see if they can’t understand you, well, can’t you at least understand them? =)