Question: My daughter is religious. She is God-fearing, dutiful towards her parents and committed to her salah and fasting. However, she gets real mad when someone in the family makes a mistake. Instead of fixing the problem calmly and diplomatically, she screams, utters insults and accuses us of hypocrisy and licentiousness.

If, for example, she sees one of her sisters turn on the TV, she switches it off violently while swearing. My daughter’s behavior has caused our family members to loath her and her version of religiosity. Any advice?

Answer:

Being religious does not mean dominating others, dictating their behavior or choices, or criticizing them with harshness or arrogance. Here are some Islamic guidelines, which, if your daughter genuinely wants to act according to Islam, she will take to heart and use to modify her behavior. In fact, if she honestly reflects upon the following, she will, inshâ’Allah, find some relief and comfort in realizing that the way she has been acting is not only repulsive and alienating to her family members, but also a drain on her own being.

  • The necessity of advising in private. According to Imam Shâfiʿi, if you advise a person in front of others, you shame him. So it must be done in private—or else remain silent.
  • If a Muslim advises another, he must do so in a kind, humble, and non-blaming way. Ali said about the Prophet,There are three things the Prophet stayed away from with regard to others: he did not find fault, lay blame, or seek to expose anyone’s weak points. (Shamâ’il Al-Tirmidhi)
  • The one who advises in a blunt, unkind, and bullying way is without virtue. The Prophet said,Whoever is deprived of rifq (kindness, gentleness, friendliness) is deprived of all virtues. (Muslim)
  • One must not be dogmatic and self-righteous about matters on which scholarly opinions have differed. With regard to issues about which there is differing scholarly opinion, such as the eating of meat of the People of the Book, no Muslim has the right to offend another Muslim who accepts a scholarly opinion different than that which he accepts. The most he or she can do is to gently and politely and humbly advise and try to persuade as to why they have chosen to follow the opinion that they do.
  • We are not meant to police one another, or bully one another, or try to control one another with religion. The Prophet ﷺ said,This religion is of an easy nature. Anyone who pulls hard against it shall be the loser. (Bukhâri)He also said,Make things easy, not difficult for others. (Bukhari and Muslim)ʿÂishah said,The Messenger of Allah ﷺ whenever he is given the opportunity to choose between two affairs, he always chooses the easiest and most convenient. But if he is certain that it is sinful, he would be as far as he could from it. (Bukhâri)
  • It is not the Islamic way to humiliate or belittle another person. There is a adîth in which ʿÂishah relates to the Prophet ﷺ about a woman (Umm Zarʿ) who praises her husband, saying, When I am with him, whatever I say I am not made to feel humiliated or embarrassed…. my faults are always covered by him… At the end of the narration the Prophet said to ʿÂishah, I am to you like Abu Zarʿwas to his wife Umm Zarʿ. (Muslim)The Prophet also said,The proud one is dissatisfied with the truth and belittles people. (Muslim)
  • Guarding one’s relationship with another Muslim is more important in degree than salah, fasting, and charity—therefore, to offend while advising –which damages the relationship– is a betrayal of the religion. The Prophet ﷺ said,Listen, may I tell you something more important in degree than salah, fasting, and charity? The people requested him to do so. He said, To keep the mutual relationship on the right footing, because defect in the relationship shaves a thing clean; and I do not mean that it shaves the hair, but it shaves the religion. (Tirmidhi)

We must, of course, understand that this adîth is not in any way lessening the degree of importance of salah, fasting, and charity. We know the imperative importance of these pillars of Islam. We are rather being advised of just how important it is to guard the relationships we have with others. Dysfunctional, miserable, and/or adversarial relationships can bring bitterness, mistrust, hostility, and hopelessness. All these are damaging to the core of one’s spiritual being.

It is very important that your daughter realize that harsh, disrespectful, judgmental behavior used as a means to force others to comply with her understanding of religion, is actually a means of alienating those very people from the religion she professes to love. Since her own behavior is categorically un-Islamic, she discredits herself and her religion in the eyes of those she wishes to guide to Islam. Her intention is most likely a good one, but her style and manner in trying to persuade others needs to be re-examined and modified to honor the principles of the religion and to more effectively bring about the result that she wants.

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Does Religiosity Mean Scruffiness?

Question: Does religiosity mean scruffiness? My wife does not take care of her appearance (shape, clothes, neatness) under the pretext that she is busy being religious. What is your advice to her and me?

Answer:

Being religious certainly does not mean ignoring one’s shape, clothing, and neatness. With regard to shape, that actually is relevant only as it relates to one’s overall health and fitness. The actual “shape” or physical form is God-given, based upon genetics, and it not a person’s choice. But how well a person –male or female– maintains that form is learned behavior. And ultimately it is a choice whether to strive for optimal well-being through good diet and exercise, or whether to ignore the lifestyle requirements necessary to be healthy.

Taking care of the appearance is an integral aspect of striving for excellence (isân), and it is naturally part and parcel of the overall aspiration of a true believer. Of course, the principle of the middle way, avoiding the extreme on either side, is the way of Islam.

So the idea of dressing in beautiful clothing that enhances the dignity and the honor of a human being is perfectly “religious.” The Prophet ﷺ said,

Indeed, Allah loves to see the effect of His bounties on His servant. (Tirmidhi)

Of course one has gone too far if the intention is to show off or to indulge one’s sense of vanity. The other extreme is to neglect one’s cleanliness, neatness, and appearance as if one “does not care what he or she looks like.” Further, it is integral to a healthy marriage relationship to care about one’s appearance in relation to one’s spouse. Ibn  ʿAbbâs said,

…Indeed, I adorn myself as I love my wife to adorn herself for me…. (Tafsîr Al-Qurubi)

In general, one should care about one’s cleanliness, neatness, and appearance insofar as these constitute the outer layer of the inner being. If I take satisfaction in my intellect being organized, my emotions being stable and secure, and my soul striving for purity and sincerity, would I not also take satisfaction in my appearance being neat and well groomed?

Islam guides us to integrate the various aspects of our lives, of our beings. Leading a disciplined life applies to body, mind, heart, and soul. Eating right, exercising, developing the intellect, practicing patience and perseverance, disciplining the inner dialogue, striving for taqwa, strengthening and deepening the bonds of friendship and kinship—all of these endeavors are interfacing parts of one’s life goals to worship Allah, to strive for taqwa, to purify the heart, and to aim for excellence in every action, activity, and aspiration.

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Editor’s Note: Readers are kindly requested to send their questions, if any, to the following email address: [email protected] and not to the authors.

Kamal Shaarawy and Leslie Schaffer

Kamal Shaarawy studied a dual major of Electrical Engineering and Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and went on to obtain a master’s degree in psychology in the U.S. He is currently working on his doctorate in clinical psychology. Kamal worked for five years for ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), in charge of their publishing division, American Trust Publications, and later on, their Islamic Book Service. He worked for six years for the public schools in eastern Pennsylvania as a Behavior Specialist Consultant and as a Mobile Therapist, providing counseling and behavior modification for children and their families. He is a certified instructor of the parenting approach “Parenting with Love and Logic” and a certified clinical hypnotherapist. Currently Kamal is the director of the “Family Enhancement Program” in Phoenix, Arizona. He has also provided private counseling for Muslim individuals, couples and families for the past twenty five years, and volunteered in correctional facilities to provide Islamic education and coaching for Muslim inmates. He has extensive experience working with individuals, couples, and families across a broad spectrum of faiths, cultures, and ethnicity. Kamal is the co-author of a book called Come To Success Through Living Eman, which emphasizes the transformational aspects of Islam in daily living. In addition, he has authored the newly published book Dwell In Tranquility: An Islamic Roadmap to the Vibrant Marriage which combines the sublime knowledge of Islamic teachings with scientific research, and insightful real life and counseling experiences.

19 Comments

  • Ryan Mahoney

    Ryan Mahoney

    August 25, 2016 - - 8:21 am

    excellent response!

  • Aamaal Y. Abdul-Malik

    Aamaal Y. Abdul-Malik

    August 25, 2016 - - 8:25 am

    I am surprised there was no advice concerning the possibility that the daughter and wife may have a personality or emotional disorder. Harshness, such as what the daughter is said to exhibit, may be a combination of religiosity and a disorder. And the same seems to be the case with the wife.

    Both cases seem to show possibilities of underlying mental or emotional issues being present. Advice from Qur’an and Sunnah is very beneficial. However, when we have mental or emotional issues, these hinder our ability to fully understand and incorporate beneficial advice in our lives in order to change our course.

  • SirSyed Hasan

    SirSyed Hasan

    August 25, 2016 - - 8:37 am

    This daughter is about to be grounded inshallah.

  • Iqra Maths Tutor

    Iqra Maths Tutor

    August 25, 2016 - - 8:50 am

    Ya Rashido, the holly name of Allah recite 514 times n at that time your problem remind in ur mind. That means u put ur problem inbox of Allah. Allah is one n only most powerful counselor guide u properly inshaallah.

  • Willow Ommaryam

    Willow Ommaryam

    August 25, 2016 - - 9:38 am

    If she’s shrieking and cursing, there might be a psychological issue at play…

  • Kaighla My-Iddah

    Kaighla My-Iddah

    August 25, 2016 - - 10:49 am

    If my daughter accused me of “licentiousness”, first I’d cry from happiness that she has such a broad vocabulary, then I’d probably send her to her room

    • Theresa Corbin

      Theresa Corbin

      August 25, 2016 - - 1:22 pm

      This girl needs to calm herself down. Who is she? Jibril? She prolly read all those big words in her selafi rage out manual.

  • Shahgul Wahid

    Shahgul Wahid

    August 25, 2016 - - 11:35 am

    I read the answer and it is apparent the ‘counselors’ absolutely failed to diagnose the real problem which seems to be behavioral rather than religious. Either the daughter has a conflict, mood disorder or personality disorder, or there are family dynamics the poster did not mention. The answer on how the dai should conduct themselves is superficial as it does not address the ‘real’ problem.

  • Siraaj Muhammad

    Siraaj Muhammad

    August 25, 2016 - - 11:47 am

    The author is working on a PhD in Clinical Psychology and already has a bachelor’s in psychology. Perhaps you could write it and ask why they didn’t come to this conclusion that you did

  • Siraaj Muhammad

    Siraaj Muhammad

    August 25, 2016 - - 11:47 am

    Sorry meant Masters in psychology

  • Ifrah Ibrahim

    Ifrah Ibrahim

    August 25, 2016 - - 11:52 am

    She doesn’t sound religious at all!

  • Kaighla My-Iddah

    Kaighla My-Iddah

    August 25, 2016 - - 11:56 am

    If my daughter accused my family of licentiousness, I’d first cry from happiness that she has such a broad vocabulary, then I’d challenge her to study the behaviour of Rasullah and his companions when they encountered other Muslims making bad choices, as well as the command to treat one’s mother with respect, and I’d explain that hating a sin does not justify treating the sinner with disrespect and the importance of making dawah to one another in kindness and mercy.

  • Siraaj Muhammad

    Siraaj Muhammad

    August 25, 2016 - - 1:16 pm

    Author is working towards a PhD in clinical psychology, might be a good idea to ask him why he didn’t go that route.

  • Janice Maria

    Janice Maria

    August 25, 2016 - - 1:57 pm

    I read the article and I’m surprised that none of these educated writers can see that this dear sister most likely have untreated mental illness including a possible intermittent explosive disorder. She needs intervention counseling and help immediately and I can’t believe no one thought of that as of yet except for me on this post but then again I am a retired Health mental health professional and a case manager as well as Early Childhood educator as well as an experienced mom and experienced old lady. SubhanAllah. May Almighty Allah Rectify this family situation and get the sister to help that she needs

  • Samana Siddiqui

    Samana Siddiqui

    August 25, 2016 - - 1:59 pm

    Sounds like a hard core Salafi/Sufi/Tableeghi who has been born again.

  • نوال طه

    نوال طه

    August 26, 2016 - - 2:30 am

    Urggg i was like that when i re entered Islam! I was so afraid of commiting a sin, i made the life of my family miserable! I thought Allah would punish me if i dont force my views on them or advice them! Alhamdullilah i’m sane now :) but this behaviour is serious stuff one could easily drive people away from Islam!

  • Malek Atiqah

    Malek Atiqah

    August 26, 2016 - - 3:57 am

    I do sometimes wonder why ppl are quick to judge and attack.

    what if this family are totally jahil and this sister is trying her best but thy are Soo engrossed in their activities they find her a hinderance.

    YES if she is swearing etc it was OBVIOUSLY because that’s the was she was brought up!

    NO ONE starts practicing and starts swearing HOWEVER if cursing and behaviour etc was a part of her lifestyle it’s not JUST going to drop!

    I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for her, may Allah make it easy for her to practice her deen aameen

    clearly the mother got the answer she was looking for, possibly to attack her daughter more and to use this against the deen, so they can continue to live in jahiliya and say they are not hypocrites!

    the reason for me to give this side of view is because of a few sisters stories I’ll share some…

    one sister started to wear hijab, her family n in laws were non praying, non practicing, music dancing concerts etc
    she was taunted for years until she broke and stopped wearing hijab.

    another sister converted and had a boyfriend from her days of being a non muslim, as soon as she embraced Islam she broke up with him HE was a muslim already !
    He was still more interests in haram than nikah!
    YOU just can’t cut your feelings off cos uv found Islam, her bf had no respect for her or the deen! they are finally married now Alhamdulillah.

    many ppl I come across say…

    I don’t wear hijab cos I saw a hijabi smoking…. at least I don’t smoke.

    I don’t pray salaah but I have a clean heart and good conduct…. unlike those who I know pray

    I don’t fast cos it’s hard… Allah will understand..

    etc

  • Bayan Ahmed

    Bayan Ahmed

    August 26, 2016 - - 5:05 am

    I think it is natural in early age to be like that , we all need to be educated how prophet Mohammad salla Allah alaihi wa Salam treated people believers and non believers , he never insulted , accuses any one. He was always polite, humble, and kind . We all need to learn his way.

  • Naveed Zafar Agha

    Naveed Zafar Agha

    August 26, 2016 - - 6:28 am

    I actually thought the authors comments were legit. Good advice for those that use religion to “get their way.” Sounds like a few people we know SirSyed.

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