How to Deal with a Rebellious Family Member?

Question and answer details
Z (50_male_India)
As salaamo alaikum, we have a unique problem in our family. We have younger brother who has increasingly become abusive towards our mother doesn’t obey her. He is abusive towards her brothers and sisters as well. He uses insults and abuse, lousy language with his elder brothers and sisters whenever he talks. The people who have scarified their time and energy and resources to raise and educate him are somehow evil and wicked in his eye. Not only that, he even uses abusive language for our deceased father and grandfather. When our father passed away, he left behind our youngest brother who was about age of 10. We brothers cared for him, raised him, preferred his needs over our own, paid for his education in our own country and in a foreign country and arranged for his marriage and paid for the expenses. So while he depended upon us for material needs, he was somewhat well behaved and respected his family members and obeyed his mother to an extent. While we elder brothers are humans and may have shortcoming in our dealings with this brother, it is a torture for us the way he treats us now and it is a torture for our mom the way he treats her and others in the family. We tried to give him naseeha (advice) and gave him words of Allah and His prophet and how severe the punishment are for people who are abusive to one’s mother and the one who breaks relationship of kinship by being abusive to them. But instead of being of help to him on his behavior, this naseeha has made him even more rebellious. He says he is a God fearing man, but he refuses to take words of Quran and Hadeeth in the correct manner. Not only that he distorts words of Quran and Sunnah to justify his behavior. We even offered to sit down with him with any worthy scholar and take his counsel. If the scholar says we brothers and the rest of the family are wrong we will modify ourselves but if he says that he (the younger brother) is wrong, then he will need to modify his behavior. He has refused this proposal as well.But his behavior has only gone from bad to worse. Recently he played a major role in breaking up a marriage arrangement of a family member, simply because this was setup among cousins. According to him marriage among relatives (cousins) is a tribal practice and must be discarded. And because of this breakup, lots of heart break and misunderstanding has happened in the family which he seems to relish. His rebellion has been going on for many many years. We have tried everything in our capacity, like being forgiving for his mistakes, generous when he needed any help, giving him naseeha etc. But nothing seems to have worked. At this stage we have lost any hope of any khair from him. So my questions are:How to deal with him? How much longer can we tolerate him?Is it permissible for us to cut off relationship with him? After all keeping any kind of relationship with him means that he will continue to harm us. While I am aware that kinship is very much valued in shariah, are we obligated to keep this relationship and continue to suffer harm at his hands? We don’t know of any method to keep his harm away from the family other than breaking all communication with him?Can we tell him that we will not maintain relationship with him unless he stops distorting Quran and Sunnah, obeys his mother, respects his elder brothers and sisters and stops causing harm to the family (he thinks the harm is he is causing, like breaking up of the marriage arrangement, is actually a favor?)Should our mom also cut him off by telling him that he is not welcome until he changes his behavior? This is very painful for her but what other options does she have?The entire extended family is in turmoil because of the evil and wickedness of this brother of ours. Everyone in the family feels oppressed by this brother, but we don’t know how to deal with him. If we breakup relationship with him then we fear we may be guilty of breaking relationship of kinship. However if we allow our extended family to remain in touch with him, we fear he will continue to harm us the way he has harmed us so far. Where do we draw the line? Jazakumullah Khair
Aliah Azmeh, MSW

As-Salamu `Alaikum Brother,

Thank you for sending us your question. I am sorry that your family is going through this difficulty with your youngest brother. I ask Allah to ease the suffering and to instill peace and order.

Firstly brother, I am not an Islamic scholar so your Islamic legal question on whether or not it is halaal to cut ties with your brother cannot be answered by myself. I kindly refer you to our website's fatwa section Ask the Scholar. I will be answering your question as a Muslim mental health professional.

Brother, it seems like your brother's unjustifiable anger is coming from somewhere. It is very evident that he needs individual counseling and family counseling to better understand why he is acting the way he is and why he feels that his family members are out to get him. There seems to be something deeper than what is shown to you all. It could have been something from his childhood, it could be an inability to cope with stress, it could be an anger issue, and it certainly could be mental illness - we don't know and the best way to know is to find out.

However, that might not be easy since he refused your offer to sit with an imam to try to reconcile between him and your family.Your brother seems like he has low self-esteem because he is not willing to allow himself to apologize or acknowledge that he has done something wrong.

He also seems to have anger issues, has narcissistic qualities, and that all could be a cover up for some kind of suffering that he is facing inside. Only he knows that and only he can help himself over that. It is obvious that he needs mental health treatment along with family counseling.

The only thing you can do is to sit with him in a non-threatening manner, calmly, and carefully talk about how you feel when he starts to act the way he does and try to facilitate some kind of a two-way conversation. Of course, this might not work, but at the end of the day if he does not want to change his ways then you cannot change him.
If he doesn't want to sit with you and speak with you as a mature adult, or go to a counselor to help with his anger, or to meet with an imam to reconcile with the rest of the family, then that is his own making. I would advise that you move on in your life and to stop putting false hope in your brother that somehow he will change.

It seems like you and your family's expectations have been broken by your brother's behavior, but all of you still want to believe that he will change one day. If he refuses help then stay away, ask Allah to guide him, greet him when you see him, and limit your interaction with him as much as you can. He does not have to be at every family gathering and every outing, but it doesn't mean that you have cut ties with him. You are just trying to survive in peace.

You also mentioned that he had broken off a cousin's engagement. I am not aware of your culture's customs when it comes to marriage and engagement, but there should be no reason why he should know that a cousin is in the process of getting engaged. Even the prophet (sws) said to go about our affairs in secrecy. The prophet (sws) also said to keep the engagement secret and to publicize the marriage.

The above two hadeeths allow a family to make their own decisions about an issue without people getting involved and ruining things for them. This could be fulfilled if interaction was limited with your brother.

He must know that the reason why he is being limited is because he is hurting other people's feelings and that his family would love to have him around if he wasn't so angry. I would focus on feelings rather than actions when talking with him because it is less threatening.

May Allah choose the best for your brother and your family and restore order and peace.

For further guidance, please try the following links:

Mom Gets Hysterical If I Don't Agree With Her!
Mom Gets Hysterical If We Don't Agree With Her (2)

About the Counselor:

Aliah F. Azmeh is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Detroit, Michigan. Aliah graduated with a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2007 and has experience working in the United States and overseas. Aliah currently works as a clinical social worker and provides individual, family, and marital counseling at Muslim Family Services in Detroit, MI.

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. If you feel you are going to harm yourself, or harm someone else, please seek immediate help by calling your country’s international hotline! In no event shall Onislam, it's volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides.