Salamu alikum Brother/Sister
I know that being respectful and obedient to parents is highly emphasized in the Qur’an and in all Islamic Literature. But simply, according to my own opinion of the matter, there needs to be mutual love and tenderness. How would be the case if I am myself deprived of that love and warm feelings- I’m not saying they beat me up whenever we face some disagreement, but what I’m complaining about is lack of understanding and absence of love- I simply hate my home!
And this just burdens me and makes me treat others badly, for deep inside I’m convinced that it’d be sheer hypocrisy to treat others nicely while upsetting your own family. But at the same time I’m unable to have or develop a healthy relationship with my parents.
I hope you can help me.
Answer offered by Yaseen Rocca
I am being very sincere when I can relate to your feelings, and understand where you are coming from. I know how it sometimes feels very challenging to keep being obedient and unconditionally respectful to one’s parents. In an attempt to inspire you with some helpful thoughts, I will start with a semi-standard message that you might have heard before, but perhaps I can say it in a slightly different way: think about the matter from the perspective that life is a big test, with an almost endless supply of questions to answer, so you can pass the test; some of them are trick questions, and will not be easy. Life can be seen like a series of tests within a huge test. Every question that you answer correctly, or ever-small test that when you pass makes you stronger, wiser, and allows you to grow nearer to God, and strengthen your bond with Him. Some people get their tests in their job; they have to endure a lot of hardship at work. Someone else like you might be destined to pass the test of a difficult challenge with parents. Look at it as a challenge, Usama, and as a test. An opportunity to grow, to become a wiser man, with a stronger character, more patient, able to control himself. Think about it as “training” even! One day, you may find yourself in a strong need of being in control, so you do not snap at someone and say something that you may regret for a long time to come. So being patient, calm, and wise with your parents may be just what you need in order to grow into this patient and strong man. Why is it a possibility even? Why would you specifically need that? Because God knows us more than we even know ourselves, and at the same time, He loves us more than our own mothers love us; put these two facts in mind and then ask yourself, Wouldn’t this mean that God surely does the best for us? Even if it does not “seem” like it at the time we get difficulties or tests?
You can sometimes think in terms of God raising us, teaching us, inspiring us, even coaching us to become better, wiser, stronger human beings. And because He knows us very well and loves us, He only gives us exactly what we need to become the people that we are destined to be, to become the best that we can be.
My second advice to you revolves around honesty, but in a specific context. Be honest with your parents, Usama, but in a context of utmost respect, calmness, and gentleness. One tip I often share, again and again, with others is to realize that our emotions do not define us, our feelings do not make us who we are; it is our spoken words and actions, especially if regular, which define us as individuals, and make us who we are as personalities. So, for example, feeling angry, frustrated, upset, fed up, etc, does not make you a bad person or a disobedient son, not at all; it is what you choose to say or do, which may or may not make you a good son, or generally a good man even. So feel what you may, Usama; we cannot always control our emotions. In fact, if we try to submerge our emotions or bury them, this can be detrimental to our overall wellbeing and health. According to all this, if you find yourself in a situation with your parents when you feel a negative emotion, like frustration or anger, then acknowledge the feeling, admit to yourself silently that this is how you feel, and allow yourself to just feel it without guilt, but still silently and calmly, then see if, according to the time and circumstances, you can sit down with your parent, and with the utmost respect, calmness, rationality, and sincerity, have an honest conversation with them. For example, you can say something like, “Father, I want to share something with you, but I worry that you would get angry at me.” Give your father moments to respond; usually the other person will encourage you to share, even if just out of curiosity. So you can proceed, “I do not mean this as a complaint, but as sharing feelings with you. I just want to say, very politely and calmly, that when you (say / do so-and-so) to me, it makes me feel (upset / frusrated / very sad) inside.”
You parent’s reaction to such an approach may not necessarily be very calm, but I assure you that the approach has a very high chance of inspiring a calm attitude in your parent, and that moment can be the spark of a conversation that you would not have imagined possible. And even if your parent responds with an angry tone or so, it is very possible that the anger in their tone is not because of what you said at all, but because of issues in the past. For example, if the parent says something like, “Well, I do so-and-so because you…”, and they said it with an upset tone, then the tone is related to the past, not your approach. Just be patient then, and give your parent room to let off some steam about the past. Allow them to finish their complaints or points. Then, assure them that you understand what they mean, and that you just want to let them know how you feel when they do or say that. Assure them that you are not complaining or blaming them, but just telling them that that’s how it feels or that’s how you feel.
Keep using a polite, calm, objective tone. Keep yourself strong, patient, for the sake of passing the test, and becoming the better man that God wants you to be. And if things do not work out right away, never ever despair; keep at it, keep trying, because that is what separates achievers, winners, and heroes from everyone else, not just in family problems, but in everything in life.
I look forwards to hearing good news from you in the future.
Posted on June 1, 2011