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How to Deal with Toxic Family Members from Islamic and Counseling Sources [Part I]

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“…Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…”(Al- Baqarah, 2:185)

Many comments under my first IOU Blog article, Tips to Deal with Toxic People from Islamic and Counseling Sources, asked for more information about toxic family members. This is a challenging topic since family ties are extremely important in Islam.

Our Prophet SAWS said, “The ties of blood are suspended from the Throne (of God), and say, ‘Whoso doth regard us, him will God regard, and whoso doth cut us apart, him will God cut apart.’” 1

He SAWS also said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship.” 2

But, what if family relationships cause us severe mental, emotional, and spiritual harm? Should we continue to suffer? In my humble opinion, Islamic teachings are not meant to cause us suffering.

Consider these two ahadith:

“Verily, this (your) religion is easy, and none shall be severe in religion but it will overcome him: he shall turn it into a stone and make it a tomb.” 3

“God did not send me to be harsh, or cause harm, but He sent me to teach and make things easy.” 4

If toxic family members are harming your mental, emotional and spiritual health, you need to protect yourself from harm–especially if your relationship with Allah SWT is being affected:

Our Prophet SAWS said, “A believer is not stung from the same hole twice.” 5

This article has three parts:

1) Islamic teachings about family relationships

2) Characteristics of toxic family members

3) Ideas to cope with toxic family members.

Part 1: Islamic Teachings about Family Relationships

One of the main reasons that the Prophet Muhammad SAWS was sent is to uphold family ties.

Before ‘Umar ibn ‘Absah became Muslim,  he asked the Prophet SAWS: “With what were you sent?” He SAWS said: “He has sent me to uphold the ties of kinship, to break the idols and to proclaim the Oneness of Allah, not associating anything with Him.” 6

In the story of Abu Sufyaan and Herculius, Herculius asked Abu Sufyan, “What does he – [meaning the Prophet SAWS] – enjoin upon you?” Abu Sufyan said, “He enjoins us to pray, give charity, be chaste and uphold family ties.” 7

  1. Your parents must be treated with the utmost respect and kindness always.

“And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years. Give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination. But if they strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do.” (Luqman, 31: 14-15)

You shall be kind to your parents. If one or both of them live to their old age in your lifetime, you shall not say to them any word of contempt nor repel them, and you shall address them in kind words. You shall lower to them the wing of humility and pray: “O Lord! Bestow on them Your blessings just as they cherished me when I was a little child.” (Al-Isra, 17:23-24)

kinship blogA man came to the Prophet SAWS and said: O Messenger of Allah! Who from amongst mankind warrants the best companionship from me? He replied: “Your mother.” The man asked: Then who? So he replied: “Your mother.” The man then asked: Then who? So the Prophet replied again: “Your mother.” The man then asked: Then who? So he replied: “Then your father.” 8

Our ProphetSAWS also said:

“May he be disgraced! May he be disgraced! May he be disgraced, whose parents, one or both, attain old age during his lifetime, and he does not enter Paradise (by being dutiful to them).” 9

“He who wishes to enter paradise at the best gate must please his father and mother.” 10

  1. Islam teaches us to treat our children with mercy and fairness.

Allah’s Messenger SAWSkissed his grandson Hasan when a man named Al-Aqra was sitting with him. Al-Aqra said, “I have ten children and have never kissed one of them.” The Prophet SAWS looked at him and said, “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” 11

The Messenger of Allah SAWS said: “Treat your children fairly, treat your children fairly.” 12

  1. The marriage relationship should be characterized by love, compassion, comfort and protection.

“And among Allah’s signs is this: that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, so that you might find rest in them, and He has set between you love and compassion. Truly there are signs in this for people who reflect.”(Ar-Rum, 30:21)

  1. Showing kindness to your wife and family is highly rewarded.

“The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character, and the best of you are those who are the kindest to their wives and families.” 13

Sa’d bin Abu-Waqqas RAu reports, “I fell ill at the Farewell Pilgrimage, and the Prophet came to visit me. I said, ‘O Prophet of God! I am suffering severely from the effects of illness, as you see, and I have wealth which I have none to inherit except my only daughter. Should I give two-thirds of my wealth for charity?’ The Prophet said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Then one-half (for charity)?’ The Prophet said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Then one-third (for charity)?’ The Prophet said, ‘Yes, one-third, and one-third is (also) much: verily it is better that you leave your heirs rich than that you leave them needy to beg from men. And you shall not spend anything seeking the pleasure of God except that you will (also) be rewarded for it, even for what you put into the mouth of your wife.’ 14

  1. A wife is required in Islam to treat her husband with respect and dutifulness.

I asked the ProphetSAWS: “Who has the greatest right over a woman?” He SAWS said: “Her husband.” I said: “And who has the greatest right over a man?” HeSAWS said: “His mother.” 15

“When any woman prays her five, fasts her month, guards her body and obeys her husband it is said to her: “Enter paradise from whichever of its doors you wish.” 16

  1. Kindness to relatives is an Islamic duty.

…Show kindness to parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, the neighboring kinsman and the neighbor who is not of your kind, the companion, the traveler in need, and to the slaves you own…(An-Nisa’, 4:36)

  1. Reconciliation and forgiveness are ideals that we should strive for.

Whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God. (Ash-Shuraa, 42:40)

A companion said, “I never heard him (i.e. The Prophet Muhammad) giving people permission to tell a lie in anything except in (three) matters: concerning war, making peace between people, and in the conversation of a man with his wife or the conversation of a woman with her husband, for the benefit and protection of their marriage” 17

The Prophet MuhammadSAWS said: “Shall I not inform you of something more excellent than fasting, prayer and charity?…It is putting things right between people” 18

Almost every family relationship will experience broken trust at some point. It is normal for trust levels to rise and fall over the course of a relationship. Some toxic family relationships can be repaired in the long run, but both people must be willing to work at self-growth. In the next part, we will learn about characteristics of toxic family members and ideas to cope with this kind of toxicity.

Please share your views about this article in the comments section below. We love to hear what you to say. :)

Read part 2 here

  1.   Bukhari, Muslim
  2.   Bukhari
  3.   Bukhari
  4.   Sahih Muslim
  5.   Bukhari, Muslim
  6.   Sahih Muslim
  7.   Bukhari and Muslim
  8.   Bukhari and Muslim
  9.   Muslim and Tirmidthi
  10.   Bukhari & Muslim
  11.   Al-Bukhari
  12.   Nasai
  13.   At-Tirmidthi
  14.   Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidthi
  15.   Al-Hakim – taken from Fiqh As-Sunnah
  16.   Ibn Hibban, Sahih per Al-Albani
  17.   Recorded in Muslim
  18.   Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 2310
You may also like
Domestic Abuse: The Silent Violence in the Muslim Community [Part II]
Domestic Abuse: The Silent Violence in the Muslim Community [Part I]
How to Deal with Toxic Family Members from Islamic and Counseling Sources [Part II]
Tips to Deal with Toxic People from Islamic and Counseling Sources
If you liked the article, do leave a comment down below

88 Responses

  1. Pingback : How to Deal with Toxic Family Members from Islamic and Counseling Sources [Part II] - IOU Blog

  2. 1newleaf1@gmail.com'

    Assalam alikum. Its a very informative article. I would also like to know apart from parents kids and spouses who come under category of relation (till where does silay rahme extend).I look forward to read next part of the article

    1. Wa alaikum as salam Haya, Thank you for your comment and you ask a good question. I am not sure of the answer, but of course general relatives are important in Islam as well, however I don’t think that they are at the same level of importance (duty) as parents, spouses and children. Allah (swt) knows best.

  3. ipapi69@hotmail.com'
    imraan turpin

    Shukran for sharing this important message as this affect a lot of us and is not easy especially for reverts.May Allah make it easy for us all to be stead fast and practice the teachings and live the way Allah intends for us to

  4. Heatherwashere@yahoo.com'

    Suban’Allah…Allahu Akbar!

    This post came exactly when I needed it as I’m dealing with this right now within my family.
    Al hamdu lillah I’m so glad to see that I am doing right!

    Shukran for this post!

    May Allah bestow his blessings to you and your family! Ameen

  5. sheerin.habeeb@gmail.com'
    Sheerin Hasina

    As salaamu alaikum
    Thank u so much for sharing the Islamic ways to cope up with toxic people. Many people whom I know accept the behavior or decisions just because the other person must be his/her parents or an elderly person even they are wrong. But such acceptance affects other people bcoz these toxic people feel that whatever they do is right as no one questions them and take everyone for granted. In the long run they become worst people
    Before setting boundaries it is best to confront them question them and open up the feelings which is inside us.
    Even after that if they don’t have any regrets or change in the behavior then we can set boundaries and limit interactions with them
    Jazakallah khairan

  6. munir1874@hotmail.com'
    Brotherin islam

    First I really want to thank u jazak allah khair. I try my best to maintain balance between my parents and spouse , But unfortunately my wife directly or indirectly torture me on that. She doesn’t want me to have good relation with my siblings , and she doesn’t like me taking care of my father.She is good with my kids and does take care of me.Now pls advice do I still have to maintain relation with her or can we part .. I have two children.

    1. Wa iyaakum Brotherin islam. I understand that your wife does not want you to have good relations with your siblings and does not like that you take care of your father. You have two children, and your wife does take care of you and your children. This is a difficult situation. Before thinking of divorce, I advise you to work at finding a “3rd Alternative.” This means that we work at finding a solution outside of divorce or reducing contact with your family. We need to talk to your wife and understand what is going on with her. Do you have anyone who can mediate between you and your wife about this issue?

  7. Hawwamaaisha@gmail.com'
    Maaisha

    A well needed and well written article. We need to address these issues inorder to overcome these problems that our ummah is facing. This was very helpful

  8. haleemaabdullahi@yahoo.com'
    haleema

    Ti was in need of this piece. Jazakumullah khayr to the writer. I must also say that toxic people are best avoided as they can try your patience until you loose your grounds.

  9. almusin@yahoo.com'
    ali musine

    jazakallah, I live for years with toxic siblings, my only strength is the knowledge that Allah is aware of my patience and good intention towards them. it use to hurt me, but over the years I have developed strength and focus on positive things of my life and work. I brought those who truly love me closer to myself. And moved on.

  10. manjukabir38@gmail.com'
    Kabiru Manju

    Truly, family is the most important entity in human social setting. But where I am from I see a lot of families going through crisis for too long and have no intention of mending such tragedy. The reason, I guess, is that they are mostly ignorant of how vital family is to man. So I ‘ll like to thank you @Bilal Philips for your effort to enlighten Muslims on such a crucial subject. May Allah bless you and us the more. Ameen

  11. imraank@worldonline.co.za'
    Emraan

    beautiful and inspirational
    i wish it were that easy….. not being negative
    my parents brought me up without love but thought me mainly how to do business
    my marriage of 15 years and 3 kids is on the rocks or maybe already over due to my poor upbringing….. i don’t blame them, but myself, as i got caught up in business and never realized the importance of TRUE relationship with my wife and kids. For me, i thought spending on them was enough, but only to realize now, when it’s probably too late, that in life, A BALANCE is important. Circumstances led me to believe that i had no option but to work work & work so that my family can enjoy and my kids could have a stable future. Today, what is it all worth, when i have so much yet nothing!
    Also, what was i supposed to do when i didn’t know any better? when the ulema in my vicinity never addressed matters of such importance with regards to a man’s wife and his parents. I was always torn between the 2 and if you only know what that feels like, trust me, it’s the most difficult spot! which leads you to brush it off just for peace instead of dealing with the problem.
    Life does come with a manual, the quran and sunnah, little did i know! When you encounter these problems, your insecurities become so overwhelming, that even to comprehend quran and hadith becomes difficult.
    Our upbringing plays such an important role in our lives. Cultural garbage has been the most unfortunate play in our lives!
    Brothers and sisters, whatever your problems are between spouse,in laws, etc, please, don’t brush it off under the carpet and wait for the storm, for when the storm comes, trust me, it may just be unbearable!!
    I pray that Allah grants us understanding and wisdom with sincerity and taqwa – aameen

    1. Thank you for your comment and great question, Fatima. As you can see in the hadith about this, telling a lie is allowed in instances where a small lie can keep peace. Peace is such an important value in Islam. Allah knows best.

  12. blackstreaks@gmail.com'
    Shumaila

    Assalaamu Alykum wr wb

    JazakAllahu Khairan. It was very informative. I would love to know how to treat siblings if they become toxic not only for you but for our parents. They cause distress to parents and other siblings. How does one deal with such people who refuse to change their paths even after you give them 3 chances to redeem themselves?

    1. Wa alaikum as salam wr wb Shumaila. Thank you for your comment. You are asking about siblings who are toxic to others in the family. As you know, every situation is different. I suggest that you read part 2 of this article. It gives some ideas.

  13. 1993asta@gmail.com'
    Silvia

    I love this article,but I would like to ask how to deal with toxic husband behaviour? With respect and kindness? How to be respectful to a person who’s trying to hurt you intentionally for years now? His family is on his side,everybody stays quiet. What to do for the revert person like me who don’t have any family around? I’m sorry I just don’t know where to ask for help. 😔

    1. Thank you for your comment and question, Sylvia. You are asking how to deal with a husband who intentionally hurts you. Well, if your husband is intentionally hurting you, I don’t think that you should accept his behavior. Intentionally harming others is totally against the teachings of Islam. Is there someone you can talk to, such as a trusted Imam or person whose judgement you trust? This is a serious situation and some action should be taken to improve your situation. May Allah bless you dear sister.

  14. asiyah345@gmail.com'
    Amuslimah

    Feeling so emotional right now. My deen is suffering. I can’t help blame my mum who I believe has narcissistic personality disorder. She seriously fits perfectly into the description of narcissistic mum.

    It hurts to know that you will always feel guilty for not being a good daughter no matter what you do. It hurts to know that sometimes you stop trying and are exhausted and hurt so their abusive comments eventually come true.

    There is little or no support offered. Just judgement. After all how can you say that your caring loving mum does not know how to be a mum, never showed love and affection, just abused teased you and used your weaknesses against you. Humiliated you in public and wants you to sit there as she abuses, teases you and looks for the spot that will emotionally hurt the most.

    She know how much Allah and the deen means to you and yet she wants to make sure that she hangs the keys over your head. They are with her and you have to be constantly reminded that you are so close to be doomed for life if not already.

    Such oppression that eventually wears you down until you nearly become a raging lunatic and every teasing hurtful comment she makes forces you to react. Because she won’t let you be until you do and then she has the joy of knowing you are the one in the wrong.

    Constant Games, lies, deceit, arguments..and they know when you intend to set some boundaries ..they can emotionally sense you detaching. So they come after you with a campaign defaming you with innocent visitors and neighbors who have no clue of the reality.

    Ya rabb forgive those amongst us that are wronged and react by falling into wrongdoing ourselves.

    May Allah reward you and the team for such an article that shed light on these issues that are to hard for most to deal with.

    Best thing I learned is trying to please an extreme toxic person is overburdening yourself which will eventually lead you to running yourself down.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Amuslimah. I am sorry to hear of your struggles with your mother. May Allah bless you and help you. I totally agree that with toxic people we need to protect ourselves from overburdening ourselves.

  15. Lemontiramisu@gmail.com'
    Minaz

    Asalam U Alaikum I’d like to know if the same applies to other members of the family such as uncles or aunts who can weaken your imaan?

  16. aderiikeolatoke@gmail.com.com'
    ABDUL-LATEEF Mutiat

    Asalam aleakum,in fact, this Is an important topic that need special attention. May Allah reward u abundantly. I need more explanation on how to Deal with Toxic family.

  17. Pingback : How to Deal with Toxic Family Members from Islamic and Counseling Sources [Part I] – IOU Blog | kokicat222

  18. nspoly@gmail.com'
    Nahid Sultana

    Assalamu Alaikum Dear sister Sheima, this is the best suggestions I have ever got from someone since myself and my husband have been struggling with our closest relatives’ emotion and also struggling with our love, afraid & belief on Allah. I was battling in many ways but after reading this, I found peace and inspiration and which made my strong believe for depending on Allah SWT for everything, which became more stronger than ever. I feel so much closer connection to my almighty, I do zikr and read ALLAH SWT’s beautiful 99 names which is also strong dua and I found very effective for finding peace & prosperity. Allah you know everything every single thing which even I do not know, please help us all of us who struggling and seeking your help. ameen

  19. talk2jaj@gmail.com'
    jibril abdussalam

    assalamu alaikum w .r b.t I am really the most happiest person among the people that read this informative write up . may allahu subhanahu wataala bless you voluminously.

  20. kishor.pasha@mail.com'
    Aakil Ahmed

    Alhamdulillah..i feel very lucky to read this post that i needed..Allah thus guide us on right path..now i know what & how should have to do things in toxic family..may allah bless you.

  21. Saraelyazghi@gmail.com'
    Sara

    I’m just coming out of a divorce with a person who was having a lot of emotional issues and god knows how difficult it was to deal with him. The problems were kind of spread in his family members and I knew he had a very difficult childhood. During 2 years of marriage, I had to deal with extreme injustice and bad treatment from all of them.
    Sometimes we just have no idea of the personal struggles some people can have.. I loved the article as It seems coming from someone who exactly understands the dynamic.. These are the best advices to take in such a situation and god knows that these are the only things that kept me from loosing my mind or getting into extreme sadness.. Al hamdu lillah.. Islam is the perfect way of life .. We muslims have everything.. Thank you .. It was a great reading ♡
    و قل لعبادي يقولوا التي هي احسن ان الشيطان ينزغ بينهم ان الشيطان كان للانسان عدوا مبينا

    1. imraank@worldonline.co.za'
      Emraan

      i can relate to your situation, reminds me of ME. If there was only some way i could understand it, or could take a step back and see it differently rather than reacting with harsh words or anger, things would have been different…..
      Insecurity for both man and woman is one of the worst feelings, we all need to learn how to handle it properly.
      We must seek help from the professionals before it gets too late. Unfortunately, seeking therapy feels like a shame for some, but it is not! Again, i learned that too late. With a mans ego and pride, we think we know everything!
      I wish that islamic institutions throughout the world can establish per-marital courses or newly weds courses so that it helps couples cope through life.
      Men generally sweep things under carpet and women generally endure it until it blows up beyond control. Neither are to be blamed, because neither knew how to handle it.

      Allah be with you – aameen

  22. tasneemshahana01@gmail.com'
    Shahana

    Assalaamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barkatu hu

    It’s a very informative article but I just hope it’s easy as that. I have been married for 4 years from now and recently my husband decided to move out because he cannot bear what was happening to me in that house. the abuses the blames all fell on my part and now my husband’s parents are all against me and they are spreading rumours about me to my relatives . This is so unbearable being far away from my parents I was not permitted to even speak to them on regular basis and even they did not like me visiting my parents too. And now they blame my parents that they are responsible for the separation. This is injustice to me and my parents my husband have clearly explained that it was his decision but still they are not ready to accept this! !! The blame game is still continues . Please advise me what to do and I want to know if my husband is correct! I do have sabr I have left evrythng to Allah swt .

    1. Wa alaikum as salam warahmatullah wabarakatu Shahana, I’m really sorry to hear of your struggles. Patience and prayer are truly the best prescriptions for all hardships. I advise you to keep praying as you are doing and try to take care of yourself in this difficult time.

  23. rahmatsurakat@gmail.com'
    Rahma

    What if you have family members who are not grateful…they only care about themselves and always find ways and means to destroy you…can’t I just cut them off…Afterall I don’t think Allah wants us to remain in situations that renders us unhappy all the time. I also believe family is people who actually love and support you honestly… Not necessarily blood relations….because in The long run Allah created all humans on this earth right?

    1. You make some very good points, Rahma. I agree that Allah (swt) does not want us to be unhappy. In Islam, blood ties are still important and our duty to family does come before our duty to others. The ideal way is to find a way to still respect family ties while not becoming overwhelmed by the hardships that some family ties bring. We must find a balance between taking care of our mental health and honoring family ties.

  24. arien007s@hotmail.com'
    Shahida

    Assalamu alaikum. This is always what i read but need sincere advice on my email add. arien007s@hotmail.com.a few months after i was born my father remarried n has never looked after me. He has always mistreated us his 5 kids. However much i bow down to his wishes it always comes that if i attend a wedding he wont. As its one family i dont understand n at times its if i see him i shouldnt go n greet him. I really dont understand what to do. If i dont greet him will i get jannah? Dont understand what to do because due to his behaviour i have already got a heart attack n usually i get sick always wondering what wrong i did?

  25. Mibtisamkhan@gmail.com'
    Ibtisam

    A very informative article but as someone said earlier things are not that straight. What if one’s own mother keeps playing her kids aginst each other and keeps making problems for one child. I understand what Islam says but then being a human, a time comes when one runs out of patience.

    1. I agree, Ibtisam. These matters are usually complicated, which is why I tried to give a variety of ideas in part 2 of this article. Yes, we need to take care of our mental health before we run out of patience. Please read part 2 of this article for more ideas in shaa Allah.

  26. noraisaabdulatip@yahoo.com.ph'
    Tomoshi

    I was just worried about obeying the husband, what if you didnt obey your husband because you dont want his forbidden business that is why you didnt go with him in the place where he is doing that business. You are just securig your self and children but then you are also benefiting from the money he get because he is giving you are you part of his sins if he sinned? do you sin because you didn’t obey him and you choose to work because you didn’t want his source of income?

    1. Dear Sis. Tomoshi, thank you for your comment and question. To my knowledge, obedience is only in halal matters and is not for haraam matters. Therefore, there is no blame on you if you do not obey your husband in a haraam matter. Our obedience to Allah is what matters most.

  27. seemamehboob@aol.com'
    seema

    sometimes we have family members who have serious problems like drinking or eating haram so in that case can we stop meeting them as we dont want our children to think that these things are ok or get affected by them, also our close family members have functions such as marriages which are mixed and have music bands coming to sing in them and if we say we cannot come they get offended and dont want to talk to us and believe me not a single argument can satisfy them and the daleels they have are such that we dont even want to answer them. what to do in this case

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