Unlocking Horns – Conflict Resolution

conflict

Are you a member of the younger or middle generation, struggling to handle family and/or marriage-related problems resulting from familial ‘interference’ in your life?

The first thing to remember is that no matter what your elderly parents do, you have to honour them as much as possible and be patient with them. Never rebuke or snap at them. It is equally important to remember that, as Muslims, pointing out and stopping their injustices is also an obligation. Here are some tips to help you towards effective conflict resolution:

(1) If your parents or other family elders do something that causes chronic anger, hurt feelings or discord between you and your spouse, follow the method of arbitration, as outlined by the Quran (4:35), and request a trustworthy, Allah-fearing and sincere mutual relative to intercede on your behalf and convey to them your points of concern and complain. The most common issues, based on my limited experience, because of which the need for such arbitration might arise are: elderly parents giving blatant preference to daughters over daughters-in-law in terms of love, attention and treatment meted out to grandchildren; interference, manipulation and control that exceeds the boundaries of privacy and independence, especially in how and where the sons’ money is spent; coercing one married son to live with them in their house, but allowing the other sons to live as nuclear families; dictating the Tarbiyah of grandchildren, and so on.

(2) Contact a religious scholar and ask them to advise your elders. This might backfire, as your parents or parents-in-law might feel insulted or humiliated before a religious authority. As an alternative, write a letter to your elders, and/or print out relevant Fatawa by scholars to let them know how their actions are wrong in the eyes of Allah (swt). This method should be used especially for those elders, who unapologetically commit actions that are Haram (such as lying, Gheebah (backbiting) and slander), and who become very defensive in person, continuing to argue and answer back, until their adult child is silenced into grudging submission.

(3) If arbitration and writing doesn’t work, and your parents or parents-in-law continue injustice or any other action that is a sin in Islam, use the rights, freedoms and independence that Allah (swt) has afforded you through His Deen to incorporate a temporary distancing from them or a moderation of visits or interaction that will prevent further discord. Please note: this solution should be employed only in cases of necessity, when the level of marital discord between a husband and wife due to family interference has reached a ‘red-flag’ level (i.e., divorce or separation is imminent), or when a person starts to suffer extreme mental distress or depression because of the actions of their parents or parents-in-law.

(4) If nothing else seems to work, pray to Allah (swt) for guidance and relief. Acknowledge that this is a test from Allah (swt) and be patient. For the men, who find themselves sandwiched between their parents and wives/children – take this as your training to ‘become a man’ and learn to juggle/balance both sides of your family with tact and diplomacy.

Often bring to mind the tremendous debt you owe your parents for raising you. Never forget the Ihsan they have done towards you, which you will never be able to repay.

Recalling the way they tolerated your mischief throughout your childhood will soften your heart towards them and help you overlook their injustice, Insha’Allah!

The Women in Your Life

Women in Your Life

  1. Centre of gravity

As a man, you must understand that every woman in your life wants herself to be the focal point of your life. This includes your caring mother, your loving wife and your affectionate sister. Give them all their share of attention and love and maintain a balance in it. It might sometimes feel like walking on a tight rope, but you will be able to nip many evils in the bud, if you can master this art of attention-giving. Chat with them, compliment them and make them feel cherished. Find out what they want to hear from you. Be expressive and warm.

  1. A bankrupt account

Too often, we are tight-lipped about matters that bother us. Learn to communicate this to your loved ones. Let the women in your life know what heightens your misery. It may include seeing discord at home, picking fights over trivial matters or expressing unnecessary criticism. Inform them that it breaks your heart when they behave in a certain manner. So the next time any one of them slips, she would know why you are upset and would not build tolerance for anti-family behaviour. When the Prophet’s (sa) wives requested him for a raise in their monthly stipend, he left them for approximately a month, as a clear indication that worldly affairs were not his priority.

  1. A place for all

As a married man, you will have to decide each and every person’s place and rights in your life. You will respect and care for your mother. You will seek her guidance, as she knows you well and is experienced about matters of life. Getting married doesn’t mean that you will not spend time with her anymore. Similarly, your wife is your trusted companion; she is the closest to you. You will shower her with love and provide for her needs. She will offer you support in ways that others can’t. In response, you will support her, especially in matters related to your own family and your kids’ upbringing. Your sisters will look up to you, if younger, or treat you like a boy, if older. You will have to love them back and be there for them, when needed. Communicate this to all the women in your life, so that none of them would try to twist your arm for dominating you.

  1. Old versus new

This is a challenge in which most men fail. At the expense of new relations, they sometimes abandon their old ones. A mother will always be a mother; no one has contributed or sacrificed what she has in raising you. As per the Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth, she does have the greatest right over you, while you have the greatest right over your wife. As you enter into the delicate marital relationship, you will have to get to know her better and not take your marriage for granted. Above all, communicate to all parties the importance of both old and new relationships. No one will be forsaken for the other one.

  1. Apples and oranges

The last thing you want to do is draw comparisons between the women in your life. If Aisha (rtaf), the fourth highest narrator of Ahadeeth, could not bear to hear our beloved Prophet’s (sa) praise for his beloved wife Khadijah (rtaf), after the latter’s death, can our women fare any better than that? Women are insanely jealous. If you ever try to compare your mom’s recipes with your wife’s recipes (even if you are right) or vice versa, you may end up in deep trouble.