Islamic marriage advice and family advice

Are my stepsister’s feelings and actions justified?

Family Wedding (brunei)



My biological father died when my sister and I were children. My mother was a single mother for a long time before my stepfather married her as his second wife. He married my mother to relieve his aunt (my grandmother) of additional responsibilities. My stepfather spent equal amounts of time with both of his families and divided his finances equally. We had a good life because we had both a mother and a father. My stepsister, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Her mother was a lovely woman; I recall her babysitting us on occasion and adoring her cooking.

However, after only a year of the arrangement, she filed for legal separation. It came as a shock for my stepfather and mother because they thought she had accepted the situation and she was also not working at that time. However, she never accepted the situation and once she became financially independant she left with my stepsister. My stepfather had my stepsister's custody every weekend but she preferred to live with her mother though she wasn't cold with us and enjoyed playing with us.

However, her mother unexpectedly passed away 5 years later, which had a serious negative impact on my stepsister's mental health. She became depressed and became hostile toward her father and my mother. She continued to reside with her grandparents rather than move in with her father. She even refused to let my stepfather foot the bill for her tuition or any other costs. It was paid for by her maternal grandfather. She still received the appropriate amount of money from my stepfather.

Now that her mother has been gone for ten years, she still hasn't rekindled her relationship with her father. She only comes over when her father is sick or there is a family event. Even then, she avoids staying for long periods of time, is cold to my sister and me, and avoids my mother like the plague. When my mother tried to talk to her, she quickly shut her down and sometimes insulted her, even calling her a "witch" once. She is rarely directly rude to my stepfather, but her tone lacks the warmth that a daughter has for her father, and she occasionally ends up passing mean taunts.

My stepfather knows very little about her life. Even when she married, her husband approached her father for her hand in marriage, but he first consulted her maternal grandfather. While my stepfather was pleased that she was marrying a good man, he was disappointed that he had not been consulted first because he was her father. My stepfather was deeply hurt by her taunts and behavior. And he misses her terribly; I've seen him look through her childhood photos at night. And, while he loves my sister and me, we will never be able to replace his own flesh and blood.

To her credit, she has increased her phone calls from once a month to almost daily over the years. But she only asks about his health and inquires as to whether he requires any financial assistance during their brief exchange. She covers all of his medical expenses and sends him a sizable monthly amount. And she did look after him while he was in the hospital.

My sister was still in college at the time, I had just given birth, and my mother was unable to care for him alone. My mother and I are both stay-at-home moms, and my sister recently received her degree from college, so we really can't afford to support him financially. My stepfather does not want us to work because he believes that women in entry-level jobs are not well treated in my home country. His daughter, on the other hand, lives and works in Europe, and her husband handles the majority of their bills and other needs.

My stepsister had flown back here for her cousin's wedding a couple of days ago, and during dinner, she was talking to her aunt about her marriage and about her father and how she should talk to him again. She was getting fed up and at one point ended up saying that she added a clause in her nikaahnama that prevents her husband from having a second wife because she doesn't want him to have the ridiculous idea that she would share her husband with a homewrecker.

That comment enraged me greatly and deeply hurt my mother. As a result of our argument, she confessed her hatred for my mother and her deep resentment of her father for having wronged her mother in such a way. She even said she hated seeing my sister and me in the house that belongs to her and that my stepfather had somehow ruined her life. She added that they shouldn't really expect her to do more because she is already taking care of duties towards her father.

At one point, my stepfather started crying and admitted that the moment his first wife passed away, he regretted his second marriage more than anything. My mother's heart was truly broken by that. My stepsister later apologized to my mother for calling her a "homewrecker," but she stood by all of her other comments.

Now I believe she ignored some important facts. I'm not trying to be ungrateful, because I know how much better my childhood could have been. But she unquestionably had a better childhood. My stepfather was not poor; in fact, he was fairly well-off, but his resources were divided among three children and two wives.

My stepsister's mother and grandparents, on the other hand, spent a lot of money on her. My sister and I attended good local colleges, while she attended a university in Europe, all paid for by her grandfather. And I understand her grief over losing her mother, especially at such a young age, but her mother's life was not ruined. My stepfather was always just. And, given the amount of inheritance my stepsister received, her mother did live a comfortable life.

And my stepfather did favor her, he spent much more on her reception than on my wedding or my sister's engagement (my stepsister wanted a simple Nikaah and did not want any engagement ceremony).

I'm sick and tired of how my mother has been treated. She has been struggling since the day my biological father died. We lived with her brother for a while but we were an inconvenience to them. Things improved after she married my stepfather, but she was also taunted about ruining another woman's home, and after my stepfather's first wife left, it only got worse, and it was probably the worst after his first wife died. She had to endure taunts her entire life, and when my stepfather said he regretted marrying her, it completely broke her.

My question now is whether my stepsister's feelings and reactions are justified. Is she carrying out her responsibilities as a daughter? Isn't it more important for her to be nice to her father than to give him money? And what is my stepfather supposed to do now?

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2 Responses »

  1. as-salaamu 'alaikum wa-rahmatullah dear sister,

    InshAllah I hope you're well.

    SubhanAllah, that story is fairly involved, and I'm not sure what sort of response you're expecting? To be honest, I'm not sure if anyone can offer much in terms of advice except talking to your stepsister with your feelings, and discussing through this entangled subject.

    With regards to the topic of a man taking a second wife, this is a loaded topic, especially in this day and age where most won't be able to do such a thing. And even fewer men who can truly be fair and just between their wives.

    Perhaps from your perspective your stepfather was equal and fair in terms of feelings, time, and financial responsibilities between his wives, however, what about from the perspective of his first wife, or his daughter (your stepsister), do they also see it as equal treatment? Moreover, was his first wife consulted before taking another wife, and/or agree to your stepfather having another wife?

    There can be different perspectives to every story depending on who is asked.

    Perhaps his first wife wasn't consulted, and she was a (mashAllah) loving and very loyal wife, who couldn't handle the idea of her husband taking another wife and dividing time? Perhaps she couldn't psychologically handle her husband being away from her even a day or few days, and thus was forced to a separation whereby she thought it would relieve her of this psychological torture? And perhaps after separation, her depression and loneliness increased, which made her fall ill and resulted in her death?

    If this is the case, then can one blame your stepsister in her hostilities towards your mother or even her father?

    I believe you're a woman, in which case, would you be able to handle your husband taking a second wife?

    As mentioned, this is a loaded topic, and one which I wasn't going to reply, but just wanted to offer my opinion on different perspectives and many questions which arise thereof.

    Take care, and may Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala, al-'aalim ul-hakim unite your family the families of all Muslims under an umbrella of love, mercy, and justice, ameen ya-rabb!

    was-salaamu 'alaikum wa-rahmatullah.

  2. Asalamualaykum Sister Minahil,

    I hope you are well. May Allah relieve you of your distress. I know it's probably not what you want to hear, but I have to agree with the above advisor IbnMuhammad on most of their points.

    I feel for you as you genuinely seem like the type of person who wants your whole family to just get along and be happy as one unit, but in longing for that ideal, you are failing to see things from anyone's perspective but your own.

    I know that your mother was wronged by having been labeled a "homewrecker," but your stepsister did apologize for that, and the fact alone that your stepsister actually talks to your father every day is huge. That's more than a lot of people can say in their families, and in yours it is even more commendable due to the circumstances.

    It actually sounds to me like your stepsister is going through a lot of turmoil, but is still making the best effort she can. She probably is wavering between intense angry feelings and feelings of forgiveness, and is trying her best to come out on the latter end but struggling to do so.

    I know so much has weighed on all of you, but I would give this situation more time and patience. It takes time to heal feelings of being wronged. You can't just snap a finger and make someone's anger dissipate, no matter how inappropriate you consider it. Rather, it takes that person gaining acknowledgement for their feelings, discussing their feelings in a safe environment such as therapy or with understanding family members, a lot of grieving over what they lost in the situation (i.e. attention, time, years of their life), and finally, forgiveness and efforts at reconnecting with those they have taken space from.

    I think your writing here is good first step, as you want, I'm assuming, objective opinions. In my opinion, considering what she's been through, her calling your stepfather on the phone daily, taking care of his ill health, and financially supporting him is doing a great deal. You are right in that it's more important that she "be nice," but I don't know where you are getting the notion that she's somehow "not nice?" Just because someone feels strongly about something important to them that has turned their life upside down, it doesn't make them "not nice." "Nice" is a very complicated and loaded word.

    Inshallah you can slowly start to have some conversation with your stepsister where you can acknowledge her side of things and her feelings as I've described...let her know that she's heard and that you are also there for her as her stepsister and family. That will go a long way in helping her to forgive.



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