MANY OF US struggle with familial relationships. Sometimes, it can be overwhelmingly lonely. But even in the most difficult of family times, remember: even the Prophets had family issues. And despite their struggles, they continued in the path of God, knowing He was with them and that they were not alone—just as we must know through our own struggles.
You may be worried about your kids; their sibling rivalry sometimes scares you. Sometimes, their relationships may sadden you deeply and you wonder what you may be doing wrong as a parent.
But you aren’t alone. Imagine the pain of Adam and Eve (Ḥawwa’) when they found out that one of their sons had killed their other son!
And narrate you to them the true news of the two sons of Adam…He said, ‘I swear that I shall kill you.’ The other said, ‘Allah accepts only from the God fearing. Undoubtedly, if you shall stretch your hand against me to kill me, then I shall not stretch my hand against you to kill you, I fear Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds. I wish that my sin as well as your sin both should go to your side, so that you may be the man of Hell and this is the punishment of unjust.’ Then his soul induced him to kill his brother, so he killed him and remained of the losers. [Sûrat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:27-30]
How do you think our beloved first parents felt emotionally? What was their reaction—not as two people who had been in Paradise—but as parents of a son they lost because he was murdered by the other? You aren’t alone in your fear for your children or your grief over them.
And what about those of you whose children may have turned away from Islam? What about those of you who spend your nights weeping, begging God to guide them back to Him. How many times have you wondered what you’ve said wrong while they were growing up, where you went wrong while raising them? Were you too harsh? Too lenient? How many times have you wished you could have turned back time and tried again?
But think of Noah (Nûḥ). Nûḥ was amongst our greatest Prophets; he called to his people and his own family for longer than any of us can imagine living. And as a Prophet, he called out to his son:
…Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers. (His son) said, ‘Now I take refuge to any mountain; it will save me from the water. He (Nûḥ) said, ‘Today there is no protector from the torment of Allah but for him on whom He has mercy;’ and the wave came in between the two, so he was among the drowned. [Sûrat Hûd, 42-43]
When his son refused, claiming a mountain would save him from the water, imagine the pain wrenching the heart of Nûḥ. He calls out not only as a Prophet –a caller to God—but as the parent of a son who is about to drown, as a parent of a child who knows his message fully, who he would have hoped could accept his personal obligation, invitation and mission to call to God…and then he watches as a wave comes between them and his son drowns.
You aren’t alone in feeling like you’re seeing your children drown without the light of guidance. You aren’t alone in your fear for them, for your desire to see them come back to Him. Imagine Nûḥ and his pain. He was a Prophet of God, and yet even the best of the best have seen their children turn away.
And sometimes, you may have issues with your parents. If you’re a convert or if you’ve come back to God and your parents haven’t acknowledged Him, you may want to help them see the beauty of the Truth. You may be praying for them fervently in the night and trying to convince them of His existence and the need to follow His guidance in the day. You may find that instead of welcoming your message, they’re frustrated, agitated, annoyed at you. They may accuse you of being extreme or brainwashed or influenced by others, and you’re pained by their perception of you.
But imagine Abraham (Ibrâhîm).
He called to his father, ‘…O my father! Why do you worship that which hears not, sees not and cannot avail you in anything? O my father! Verily! There has come to me of knowledge that which came not unto you. So follow me. I will guide you to a straight path. O my father! Worship not Satan. Verily! Satan has been a rebel against the Most Beneficent. O my father! Verily! I fear lest a torment from the Most Beneficent overtakes you, so that you become a companion of Satan.’ He (the father) said, ‘Do you reject my gods, O Ibrahim? If you stop not (this), I will indeed stone you. So get away from me safely before I punish you.’ Ibrahim said, ‘Peace be on you! I will ask forgiveness of my Lord for you. Verily! He is unto me, Ever Most Gracious. And I shall turn away from you and from those whom you invoke besides God. And I shall call on my Lord; and I hope that I shall not be unanswered in my invocation to my Lord.’ [Sûrat Maryam, 19:41-48]
You may at times feel because of the difficulties in your relationship with your parents that you’re on fire. But Ibrahim was thrown into a literal fire! And because of his steadfast belief in God, God cooled it for him [Sûrat Al-Anbiyâ’, 21:66-70]. Similarly, Allah can cool the fires of your life.
Have you ever had issues with a sibling of yours? Think about the sons of Jacob (Yaʿqûb). Jacob’s siblings not only experienced sibling rivalry, they plotted physically against him!
Kill Yusuf or cast him out to some (other) land, so that the favor of your father may be given to you alone, and after that you will be righteous folk. One from among them said, ‘Kill not Yusuf, but if you must do something, throw him down to the bottom of a well, he will be picked up by some caravan of travelers.’ [Sûrat Yûsuf, 12, 9-10]
Joseph (Yûsuf) was thrown into a well by his brothers! And this was after they had decided not to just straight kill him! Eventually, they realized their mistake. But Joseph must have had to overcome not only the pain of being bullied by his own siblings, but being completely abandoned by them. Yaʿqûb held the pain of his loss in his heart for so many years, his tears eventually lead him to blindness [Sûrat Yûsuf, 12: 84]. The Prophets were the best of people, the closest to God, and yet they experienced the same pain we do when it comes to our loved ones.
When you struggle with being a single parent, consider Mary (Maryam). Imagine her giving birth, alone in a desert, frustrated, afraid, worried, in physical and emotional pain. But not only did God open the way for her, He honored her with a son as a Prophet [Sûrat Maryam, 19:16-34]. Her hardships undoubtedly must have been trying. But imagine the immense honor and the gifts that He blessed her with through him. You, too, as a single mom or dad, trying your best to raise your kids righteous and with a strong sense of morality and character, will inshâ’Allah, too, be honored and blessed through your children.
And what about those of you who are in a difficult marital relationship? How many times had you wished you could confide in your spouse, trust them, feel secure and loved with them? Imagine Lot. His wife not only didn’t believe in him, she betrayed him! Because of her actions she was left behind when Lot’s family was saved from destruction [Sûrat Hûd, 11:81].
And imagine Âsiyah. Her husband was the definition of a power-hungry domestic abuser. And yet she called out with certainty in God’s refuge,
My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Firʿaun (Pharaoh) and his work, and save me from the people who are oppressors. [Sûrat Al-Taḥrîm, 66:11]
There are so many more examples of incredible individuals who went through deep pain because of a loved one—just as you do. When you’re going through the pain caused by a relationship, don’t think you’re alone. Seek therapy and support. And realize that even the best of those who’ve come before us have experienced incredible pain in relationships that should have provided love and comfort.
At the end of the day, just as they sought refuge with the One Who will never disappoint, we must do so, too. For it is only in Him that we have the promise of an everlasting relationship with the One Who will never let us down. Sometimes, we may not understand the wisdom behind the tests in our lives or the pain we experience in relationships. But we must know that we are not alone. Just as He assured Mûsa and Hârûn, He assures us too:
Fear not, verily! I am with you both, hearing and seeing. (Sûrat Ṭâ Hâ, 20: 46)