On Repentance, Riyaa' and Rebellion (Q&A)

Counseling Session
By Family Editorial Board

You ask, counselor Aliah Azmeh answers
Online Counseling Session

Thanks to all who joined OnIslam's Counseling Session with counselor Aliah Azmeh. We hope it was of much help.

  • You can read the complete questions and answers below.
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Question 1:

Assalamo Alaykom Sister Aliah,

With this Ramadan, I feel even more lost, please help.

I have known this man for a while and got into a haraam relationship. This man is also a Muslim. For two years and he has never once proposed. I got tired of these games he plays and his indecisiveness and broken up with him again and again. After I approached him (even many times before) with this question of whether we will ever get married he finally told me he was not ready. I realize that he was never going to marry me, yet I still had a fool's hope. So this time I prayed that it’s over and decided to break up (with Allah's SWT help, our last breakup).

This final breakup took place on the first week of Ramadan. ElhamdoALLAH I have realized my mistake and have begun repenting to ALLAH, however I have one concern. While I was in this relationship the guy touched my private part (with his hand and inserted a finger). I would like to know if I am still a virgin. I did not have sex with him but I am unsure. There was no blood that came out and I don't know if my hymen is still intact.

These sinful acts are affecting my Iman and Ramadan. I feel like Allah SWT may not accept my prayers, Ramadan and never forgive me for doing all these haram things with this man because part of me misses him and his sinful acts. I am weak and I don’t know how to be strong like I used to be before I met this man.

Also please give advice as to help me move on. Even after repenting and knowing that he is not a good person my heart still aches for him (a'3uodhubillah).

Jazaka Allah

Answer 1:

Salamu Alaikum Sister,

Thank you for sending us your question. I would first like to give you a ‘thumbs up’ that you finally ended your previous relationship with this man. I can tell from the way you write that you liked to be around him and that it was difficult for you to finally walk away. But you did, and you walked away for Allah's sake. Subhan Allah that is a blessing in of itself, that Allah allowed you to stand up for what you believe in despite your desires. May Allah continue to give you strength and motivation to do what is right.

Sister, it is natural to feel hopeless at times when you feel like you have committed a grave sin. However, we must remember that there is no sin in this world that Allah will not forgive, because to look at it from a bigger picture, Allah does not need our repentance - we do. We need his forgiveness and mercy, and Allah promises us those things if he asks for it.

Don't allow the shaytan and low self-esteem to get in your way and to affect your thoughts. These types of thoughts that Allah will not forgive me is an indicator that yes, you certainly still are weak and you need to regain your strength. The best way to regain strength is time and persistence. Don't look back. You made a decision to leave, so own it, protect that decision because the one whom you made the decision for (Allah) will definitely not forsake you.

Please, take time and repent, believe that Allah will forgive you (because He will in sha’ Allah), and continue to stay away from this man. It seems like this man was giving you some kind of meaning in life and your self-worth and self-esteem was connected to his pleasure and acceptance in your life. That is why you are so shattered.

Sister, now you need to put your trust, faith, self-worth in Allah and in yourself. This is a time to rebuild your relationship with Allah and to become the strong woman that you want to become. Don't look back!

May Allah give you the strength and courage to forgive yourself and to become a successful person.

Question 2:

Assalmu `alaikum sister,

Sister, I am a striving muslimah and also faced with my own low self-esteem issues. I easily get scared about difference of opinion when it occurs between me and my parents. Actually my parents are not so practicing and they have modernistic views of life, marriage etc. I had faced few issues regarding my weight, facial looks with my parents during search for my proposals, I expected them to say I looked beautiful and expected they would tell me to be confident in myself but they indirectly kept reminding me of my weakness and linked it to marriage to reduce weight. I usually find them negatively talking about my experiences and my future plans. They hardly agree to my point of view, the way I see marriage and the suitor. It’s kind of complicated to explain it here. Sister, please help me how to deal with such issues. It’s tearing me apart.

Jazk Allah khair

Answer 2:

Salamu Alaikum Sister,

Thank you for sending us your question. I am sorry to hear about your current family situation. I am sure that any practicing Muslimah in your position would desire support, encouragement, and love from her parents but that isn't always the care. You could consider your relationship with your parents your test at this point in your life. Allah wants to test your patience, perseverance, and determination.

Sister, the first thing you need to believe is that it is completely fine that you and your parents have different opinions and views on things. Of course things would be much easier if everyone agreed on everything, but it is fine to have various opinions and ideas. The prophet (sws) even said that the differences of my ummah is a mercy. Different opinions, ideas, and ways of life makes room for flexibility and accommodation. First, change your mindset about always having to have the same opinions with your parents or with people in general.

The second thing you should keep in mind is that you should be assertive to issues that pertain to your decision-making. For example, if you want to decide on something that has to do with you directly, listen to your parents' views and definitely voice your opinion respectfully and clearly. If you want to dress a certain way, work a certain job, etc, let your parents know your ideas and why you chose that route.

Expect that there will be different opinions going around, but just remember to keep your cool and not to take it personally. Just as Ustath Nourman Ali Khan says, "we need to have thicker skin." Or in other words, we shouldn't allow hurtful words from our friends/family to get to us and for us to take those negative words personally.

Don't let people's negative opinions put you down. You mentioned that your parents sometimes put you down in regard to your looks, dress, ideas, etc. Let them know that you feel offended and hurt, but remember to say it respectfully and assertively. 

Remind yourself of the good qualities that you have and keep company with positive people. May Allah grant to strength and motivation to stay positive.

Question 3:

Dear Scholar

As salaamo alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barkatuhu

I saw your session on onislam.net. So I thought of asking this question. 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 to you ya sheikh are these:

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

 Answer 3:

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.

Question 4:

How do you know if you are showing off, ar-riya?

Answer 4:

Salamu Alaikum,

You know that you are showing-off (or riya'a) by your intention. So whenever you do something, you need to first ask yourself why you are doing it and who you want to please. So for example in a religious gathering, if you pray an extra sunnah or read Quran and people are around you, you need to first ask yourself if you are praying and reading Quran to get noticed by those people and to have those people think highly of you or are you doing those things to get closer to Allah? Only you can answer that question and only you can change your intention to a more sincere one.

Thank you.

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.

Related Links:
Counseling Session with Counselor Aliah Azmeh
Ask Counselor Aliah Azmeh
On Sexual Harassment, Husband Abuse and Waswasa

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