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Daughter Feels Threatened & Wants to Leave Home

Question and answer details
L (United Kingdom)
Salamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa barakatu,Dear Sheikh/Respected Scholars, I am writing with a dilemma about my daughter who is currently threatening to leave home. She is nearly 20, and has been involved in haram activities, despite my concerted efforts to bring her back to Islam, and warnings and sanctions against her. She is determined to do whatever she wants. I recently remarried, and initially she was very happy for me to be with my husband, and all of us got on very well. However, she started to resent my husband, through jealousy and feeling threatened. She threatened to leave home, and we tried to persuade her to stay. She then declared her haram activities with a boy and also claimed that she was "proud" of it. She then became violent against me and my husband, and it became extremely ugly that night, that we had to call the police. We tried everything: taking her to the doctor, the mosque, do ruqya, get family support, but she insists on going, and will not accept any limitations put in her way, to stop her from her haram activities. I am stuck in the middle, with my husband saying that if she goes, he will not accept her back in the house, and my daughter on the other hand telling me that she wants to leave but come back whenever she wants, and wants us to accept her haram actions, whether we like it or not. I am really not sure what to do, and wish that there was a good way of resolving this. The only saving grace for me is that my daughter does not want to leave Islam altogether, but unfortunately she is very misguided in her beliefs, and thinks that it is ok to have extra-marital relations and marry a non-Muslim. I would be grateful for your suggestions and input; we have come to the end of our tether on this issue, and I fear that my family will be destroyed forever. Jazak Allahu khayrun.
Najma M. Adam, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.

Wa `alaikum as-salaam dear sister,

You have asked very important questions, and those related to it, that parents all over the world are probably struggling with. That is, do you allow your children, especially daughters, to live on campus? What do you do when your children have already engaged in haram activities? How do you deal with rebellious behavior and any violence, perceived or actual, in your children?

One of the limitations to this type of forum is that I do not have the opportunity to gather additional data that can be extremely critical in providing you with the support, guidance and direction you seek. Notwithstanding these limitations, I’ll ask you a few questions that I hope you’ll answer to yourself.

  • You have shared that your 20 year old daughter has engaged in haram activities, but you do not provide family background information that may have led her to these activities. What is her and your family history that has impacted her life?

  • When she demands that you accept her haram activities, what does she say exactly? It appears you do not trust your daughter because of, as you allege, her haram activities. Have you talked with her about how you feel and what changes you would like to see in her so that you can trust her again?
  • Have you allowed her to say what she wants openly without condemning her for her past actions? Do you talk with her or at her? Do you both yell and scream or do you have a respectful dialogue?
  • What is her father’s role in your and your daughter’s life? It is clear that she is angry and acting out in very aggressive ways, but the missing piece to this puzzle is why?
  • You say she wants to leave home, but where is she going? Is she planning to live alone or with someone? What is happening at home that she feels the need to leave? Do you think she feels unsafe at home so leaving is the only option?

Interestingly, it sounds like you are highly concerned about your daughter leaving Islam, but yet later in your question, you also say that you feel secure in knowing she will not leave Islam. I understand you feel responsible for her remaining a Muslim, but know that Allah guides whom he will. Consider the example of Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) uncles who never accepted Islam.

Your obligation is to teach your daughter about Islam, lead by example and continue showing her the righteous path, but understand that ultimately her iman is Allah’s to guide, not yours. Sometimes individuals live in a reckless way and if it be the Will of Allah, they will be guided back and if not, all we can do is pray for them.

Accept and love her anyway, she is your daughter. You cannot force your beliefs upon anyone, including your daughter. Besides, when people discover and own something for themselves, they are more likely to be committed to it. If you force them into it, you will most likely experience resistance, rejection and frustration.

Remember that even though many of us are caught up in whether someone is a Muslim or not, I believe it is much more important to consider the person’s actions, character and integrity. We have too many examples of Muslims, men and women, who pray regularly and provide much lip service to Islam. Yet, they possess little by way of character and virtue that embodies the essence of Islam.

As a human rights activist, educator and therapist, it is extremely important to me that we accept and unconditionally love all those – Muslim or not – for their righteous actions and character. I have been tired of seeing too many Muslims claim the Islamic label, and yet fail at some of the most basic and charitable acts of decency. Some among us have gained national and even international notoriety and yet we can’t extend a basic hand of compassion to those who most need it.

As for your daughter’s violence, it is absolutely unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Respect for one’s parents and elders is extremely important, and your daughter must understand this in no uncertain terms. She must accept this and you have to enforce this boundary with her.

Violence makes matters worse; it does little to resolve anything. Finding out what drives her anger is key. Why does she get angry to the point where she becomes violent? What has happened to her that she feels so threatened? I highly recommend you seek counseling for her, you and your husband. Family therapy can address and resolve these critical issues.

If she is leaving home to attend school, let her expand her wings. Haram activities can be executed while your child is in the home so if you think keeping her under your roof is preventing her from doing what she feels she must do, you are misleading yourself. The most important thing to do is to have an open, honest and frank discussion about your expectations, and her responsibilities.

Hear her out and address those things that she has grievances about as well. Then do what is best for both of you, which may mean that you meet each other half way in the resolution. It is better to meet her halfway, love her and be present for her than to risk losing her altogether.

With my recommended approach, you’re more likely to gain the things you want and she’ll love and respect you for it, in sha' Allah. But do not resort to threats, condemnation, violence, name calling, disowning or other such tactics. Such methods will only set you both up for a losing proposition, a tortuous and harmful relationship.

Take good care and please feel free to write again if I can be of further assistance.