Islamic marriage advice and family advice

I need help with my mom

Worried young woman

How can I help my mother?

Salams and hello everyone, and thank you for your help. This question is being published on a few sites, one based in Middle Eastern culture but I'm muslim and so if you're curious, I am caucasian but will make references that you can only understand when knowing this, so you're not confused. As I'm writing this, I'm even now coming to realizations that I didn't know I had and I'm literally speaking from my heart about this issue, an event that is even now evolving inside of me.

A short background so that you may fully understand and help me if you can, and to save time and words I'll condense obviously multilayered and emotionally charged issues into more simple sentences. The words may not give the situation justice, but I could write a book of course and I'm attempting to avoid that though it's still going to be a bit of a read. I am muslim along with my sister however my mother always has been and continues to be Christian just as an FYI.

My upbringing was nothing short of a disaster. My mother, a daughter of an abusive father, turned out to be chronically attracted to abusive men. I'm currently in University and am only now fully being educated on this vicious cycle. For the longest time I had very deep seeded disrespect, even tried to have indifference to my mothers suffering as I thought it was by her own hand, and her hand spread the misery to us, her children. When my mother finally got the courage to divorce my father, they had ruined the first 14 years of my life. At the most tender and turbulent age a girl could be in, my mother reached a crossroads in her heart and grabbed us, products of a destitute family living in a middle class neighbourhood, and was forced to drag our horrible history and secrets of abuse and substance use to our closest friends in need of help, at our darkest hour. We ended up in several shelters, but finally found a "home" in a trailer park. Two years later, my mother married a man 25 years older than she was. We were shocked and dismayed, untrusting, still suffering from full-blown PTSD and unprepared to accept another father figure into our lives. The first 5 years were hard, but he earned our trust and eventually we became a family the likes of which I'd never known. For the first time there was no shortage of food or love in our house, and I was able to breathe. Still, even though my mother married this man, the bitterness (shaytan) inside of me never failed to whisper to me everyday that she simply was lucky. That it was fortune (or God/Allah swt) and not her own ingenuity, proactivity and level-headed approachability that found her a husband. This voice kept telling me, "of course if she were desirable, if she were sane, she would have found a man her own age. Someone more compatible with her would have shown interest." In this country women older, divorced, etc. don't have trouble finding spouses. It's only a matter of compatibility. So even with my new father providing for us, in my mind she had no credit to that. She was and always had been a victim, or fortunate benefactor of her circumstances. Never changing or initiating change or direction unless we were in the last seconds of viability for life. Her nature was to push us to the very edge before showing any control over her own fate as any other successful, proactive person would normally do at even the hint of coming danger. She was a victim of her circumstances, and we were a victim of her as a mother. This is what the voices told me, and it made sense. For years... decades, it made sense.

20 years after they married, my mothers husband (I'll call him "W"), a full generation older than she, died. Cancer took him and it was heart breaking. He was genuinely afraid of death, but on his last day alive, in the hospital his body wracked from the effects of Chemotherapy and old age, with the doctors and nurses assuring us all he had at least a full 6 months left to live, he went right down his phone list and called everyone he knew (including me) saying goodbye and mending old wounds. We all thought he was simply afraid of his coming fate though still months away, and tried to comfort him that day. With the phone hung up, and these ideas in our minds, my father closed his eyes that night and passed away in his sleep. Everyone was shocked. How can a medical professional... a scientist explain medicine saying one thing, and a man who simply "wants to die" say another and chose to leave this earth? Some of the doctors were obviously questioning their own power over the human condition after that day.

It turns out W left behind stacks of unclosed financial issues and unpaid taxes. In the end, much had to be liquidated and months of paperwork had to be sifted through. My mother thankfully was left with a condo she loves on the east coast, but currently can't afford to live in it until some of her credit cards are paid down/off. Now, my mother is floating. For the first time, my only other sibling and I are taking care of her and it's the strangest, and most humbling and most awakening experience I've ever had in my life. In fact raising my daughter or getting married even pales in comparison to the impact this is having on me... the ways my views are changing. I never, not once had "pity" for my mom. Please understand I'm not a bad person, but at first I was angry, and then I was bitter, and then I simply accepted my fate to have her as a mother, and then I suppose I just conditioned myself to feel this way. Now that I'm looking at her with new eyes, I can hardly justify feeling any bad feelings towards her. Let me tell you why I'm feeling this way...

My mom is 63 and now due to her past, she has HORRIBLE social anxiety. For those of you who understand it but don't know the definition of SA, it's a condition where you always and for no reason believe people are judging or watching you, or/and the fear of saying something socially inappropriate or humiliating in public. My mothers worst nightmare now is being embarrassed or being judged by others. This is what 14 years of being poor, asking for food, being beaten, being threatened, shelters and abuse have done to her. Her comfort zone is now with other people who are also in this situation, and "normal" healthy minded people intimate her like crazy. But now she's a widow. She's newly widowed and just now realizing how lonely she is, and how little money she has, and suddenly she's looking around her after 20 years of marriage and nearly a senior citizen, and she's finding herself back in the "dating" pool. Women here don't simply get put out to pasture with their children in their older years... they want to remarry. They get lonely. They want a personal companion... affection, love and to continue living. A travel partner, their book isn't done being written, they don't fade into black. It's completely acceptable and even expected for someone like my mom to consider another marriage, even at this age, even as a widow. I'm explaining this because some of you are reading this from the middle east and can hardly fathom the idea, but this is how it works here. Even if we WANTED to take care of her forever, she'd never have it. She wants to live, she wants to date... but she's so damaged, so much older and so worried about the kind of man that she'll attract. And so are we. Who approaches a wrinkled middle-class woman with low self-esteem and nothing but a condo and a huge diamond ring to her name? I'm afraid she'll be taken advantage of, or worse, abused. My mother is old school... she believes in gender roles, and respects a "mans word" in the house. God forbid someone more than happy to the the "man of the house" lays a hand on her... at this age, it would kill her! And she has no idea how to be a graceful 63 year old woman. She's stuck between being the widow of a man my grandfathers age, and the dating pool of vivacious classy ladies of a certain age that she never felt comfortable around.

We were all born in the US, but now my husband and I live in Canada. She lives with my sister in the states, but is visiting me in our tiny condo for the holidays. Longterm, I have no idea how to help her, what to do, what advice to give her... what do I say? How do I look out for her effectively while living where I live, where I can't leave due to University and my husbands work? Leaving isn't an option... I'm stuck where my husbands work is and I can't pack up my 4 year old and go anywhere to be with her for a myriad of reasons, though she is currently living with and being taken care of by my sister and her husband who are very well off financially Alhamdulillah. My question is, what do I do? I mean... how do I help guide her? My mom has changed identities so many times she doesn't really have one. She's lost, lonely, low on money and nervous about dating. She has low self esteem and her and I aren't close, but we're not enemies. We're... amicable. I really need some help here guys.

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4 Responses »

  1. Sister Mosse ,

    Sorry to hear all of your suffering .Please note that Dating is Haraam in Islam .A person can get married at any age but it has to happen through halal ways .Islam don't allow boyfriend/girlfriend or dating stuff .

    You and your mo first need to put effort to learn deen and appreciate its beauty .Life is going to end at some stage and life after death is infinite .You need to ask you and yourself "are we prepared for life after death " .

    Western concepts about enjoying life till last breath might sounds exciting but as a muslim we need to foccus towards building relationship towards Allah .

    I suggest you to enroll her to some Islamic classes and involve her in some religious groups .Insha allah she will get her confidence back and also that will put her in the right path . Life is a test .Whatever hardship she has experienced in this life she will be rewarded in Akhirat provided she has kept good relationship with Allah ..

    • Thanks for your reply but I think you missed the fact that my mother is Christian not Muslim. Although this doesn't change right from wrong and our minds the reality is that I am not holding my mother to an Islamic standard for relationships as that's not how the world operates for her. Ty

  2. Your mom is going through a lot.

    Just listen to her. Talk to her, and ask gear how her day went.

    Don't get too busy in trying to change her, guide her, and put your agenda on her, just listen to her.

    Being there for her is the most important thing.

  3. Assalam alaikum Sr. Moose,

    I think that I "get" your mother. I know some women like her and perhaps even though she has been through a lot, she isn't about to change because you want her too. She has to want to listen to you, so you will have to foster that kind of environment where you can give her suggestions during this time, without imposing your way of life on her.

    Allah swt says in the Quran [2:256]
    There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.

    Although your story isn't quite a match for the story found on http://islamqa.info/en/322, however some important points can be helpful:

    On the authority of Asmaa' Bint Abi Bakr she said "My mother came to visit me one day. At that time she was still a polytheist and there was a pledge between the Prophet , Peace and Blessings be Upon Him, and Quraish (one of the great tribes in Arabia that lived in Mecca in the pre Islamic Period of Ignorance who used to enjoy great spiritual and financial powers). I requested the Prophet's , Peace and Blessings be Upon Him, religious verdict and said: Oh Prophet of Allah, my mother came to visit me, seeking my help; should I keep a good relationship with her? Yes, keep a good relation with her said the Prophet , Peace and Blessings be Upon Him:. Reported by Bukhari and Muslim, and this narration is listed in Sahih Muslim under # 1003.

    I believe that at this point the best thing you can do is be the best person and best Muslim that you can be and guide your mother in the best way that you know. She has been through a lot--and is still going through a lot. Allah swt revealed the Quran to humankind over many years--we take this for granted because most of us have been influenced by it all right from the start of our lives. SubhanAllah--we forget that the Quran came at a time when the worst of things were being committed and when Allah swt wanted people to change their ways, He knew our weaknesses and accordingly revealed verses--so that we would not feel burdened and so that we could take time to digest and understand what it all meant.

    For example, in the Quran we read [4:43] "O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer], until you have washed [your whole body]. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving." First, the ones who believed had to themselves CHOOSE to leave any intoxicants in order to pray--it wasn't forced--it was an educated choice brought to them through Allah swt's Wisdom. Later, a clear-cut ruling when people were prepared and already exposed to some knowledge was revealed in [5:90 to 91]
    "O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah ], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.
    Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?"

    This happened over time--not at once.

    You should deal with your mother in kindness and love, as I am sure you are already aware of. Take time to listen to her and understand her struggles and guide her as per her ability to understand. Try to Skype with her if you can--even though you aren't close. When you get a chance, perhaps go and meet her to let her know that you are there. Reach out to her as much as you can as per your comfort and try to break that comfort zone once in a while with good intentions 🙂 . Finally, make du'a for her all of the time. The power of du'a is beyond our understanding--we do it, but often don't believe it--but no amount of proof can disprove it or prove it--it is faith that you have to have and inn shaa Allah, with hardship, comes ease.

    I pray that you and your mother grow closer and that your mother finds her way to the correct path on her journey in this life, Ameen. May Allah help you to help her, Ameen.

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