Question: Assalam aleykum,
I converted about a year ago at 15 and since then, I have been struggling with interaction with my family. Recently on a road trip I’ve been repeatedly slandered by my brother who is also a Muslim. He pays very little heed to the religion and engages in prohibited acts. I’ve been struggling to maintain myself being around my family because of the things they do when i’m with them. I hate the kinds of things they do that are prohibited, but I love them and politely ask them to stop or try to change the subject when something comes up.
My Muslim brother who knows these kinds of things are wrong does them the most. He pays no regard to prayer, scowls and belittles me when I ask for something like the car to be stopped so I can pray. I finally had enough, then I said and did something I regretted. I want to repent and make amends, but it is very hard to talk to my brother who won’t listen to a word I say. Even if I tried to apologize, he would probably insult me as usual. How do I deal with my family, especially my older brother, and please Allah with regards to my family and repentance?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘The believer should not be stung from the same hole twice.’” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
In addition to repenting privately to Allah, I suggest that you write a letter of apology to your brother, give it to him, and leave it at that. Please do not confront him directly if you believe that he will only insult you. It would be good for you to also give some charity in his name, with the intention of facilitating good for him, and completing your repentance.
Working with reality
Abu Sa’eed (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) say: ‘Whoever among you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart- and that is the weakest of faith.’” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]
It is natural to love your family, and want goodness for them. It sounds like you are deeply concerned for them. However, please remember that they are all adults, and have free will. Show them the beauty of Islam through your good character. Make dua for their guidance. Refer to this excellent resource: A Convert Dealing with Non-Muslim Parents.
It can feel very difficult to set boundaries around family members. I recommend that you read books such as Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day. It may be useful for you to attend courses on assertiveness and communication skills.
The more you set boundaries with your brother, then the it easier it will become. Boundary-setting is a muscle that becomes stronger with practice. He may not like it at first, so you must remain polite and firm.
It sounds like he is troubled, and is unfairly taking out his anger and frustration on you. His decision to neglect his prayers is up to him, but it is not acceptable for him to treat you poorly.
Draw strength from your spiritual foremothers, who were all incredibly strong in the face of oppression and hardship. This is your heritage, too.
May Allah make this easier for you. Please keep in touch.