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Five Tips to Navigate Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships

by in Relationships on 9th May, 2023

When I wrote my original piece which was published by Amaliah on the 28th August 2020, I had no idea what a huge Pandora’s box I would be opening. 

To this day, I still get people contacting me from around the globe via my Instagram DM saying they had read my article and it resonated with them. And the common theme was – thank you.

 “I thought I was the only one and was full of shame.”

“My mother is so toxic and humiliates me.”

“My mother is abusive to me and my husband.”

“Does Allah SWT still love me while I have these thoughts?” 

The list of questions is endless, the stories heartbreaking and soul destroying. The most recent message I received about this was two days ago, nearly three years after the first article Subhan Allah. This showed me that the issues the article discusses – verbal abuse, sibling favoritism and gaslighting – are still prominent, yet the taboo around speaking up has left individuals feeling very lost and broken. And the impact can be long lasting. I’m still tending to the ‘cracks’ due to the effects of my experience. 

The relationship you have with your mother is like no other. It forms the basis of who you become. It moulds and defines your physical, emotional and spiritual self. Now add in Islam, a religion which upholds mothers to the highest of standards. When you google “Islam and Mothers” this is the top of the list:

“A mother’s role in Islam is monumental. A bond between a mother and a child is no doubt the most cherished and forms the basis of all life.” – Muslim Hands Canada 

So if this relationship is strained or broken, it will shake the foundations of our very being and have lasting effects on our lives. Our faith teaches us the importance of mothers and it is drummed into us continually. Like I mentioned in my first article, this expectation is correct if there IS a relationship. It needs to be two way-street, not one sided, and it should be based on the rights, actions and voices of both individuals, not just the mother’s.

We must as Muslims strive for this and speak up calmly regarding any injustice towards us. Although difficult, it is important to remember that Islam considers justice to be a supreme virtue. 

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both.” (Qur’an 4:135)

Another common theme in the messages I received was people sharing that they’d tried speaking up repeatedly but it fell on deaf ears, forgotten promises to change, half-hearted apologies, worsening behaviour, or no change at all. 

With this, I would like share some tips on what I did to help me move on:

  1. Keep the dialogue open

Often the toxic behaviours from mothers can stem from past experiences they faced and haven’t moved on from or their lack of knowledge on how their behaviour is impacting you. So, the first step is usually to try speaking to her. Ask why she is so unhappy or why she has chosen to behave towards you as she does. If that doesn’t work, you can seek the help of a mediator, who can be other family elders/members or your local imam. If you’ve tried everything to no avail, then keep the relationship polite with limited contact, not to please your mother but for the sake of Allah SWT. 

While Islam promotes and upholds protecting the ties of kinship, and warns us against severing ties with blood relations, this applies within reason. If the relationship is abusive, your safety is the number one priority and you should get help immediately. Islam does not condone abuse. 

  1. Heal yourself 

Depending on the impact it has had on you, it is essential to speak to a doctor as some people have suffered depression, PTSD or anxiety as a result of their toxic relationship with their mother. Your doctor may refer you for counselling, and there currently exists several counselling options including Islamic counselling services. Counselling is key to healing as it allows you to work through traumas you may not realise you have. You can also support your healing with apps such as Headspace and Calm.

  1. Look after yourself 

Take care of your health and focus on diet and exercise. Speak to a close friend, keep a diary or journal and engage in acts of self-care, as these are all important outlets and help de-stress and re-focus.

  1. Read and Listen 

Reading and therapy were game changing for me. Reading helped me understand why and allowed me to heal myself. Some of the books I recommend are: 

I have seen a small glimmer of light over the last couple of years as well – with more mainstream Islamic scholars advocating for rights of the child and better Islamic parenting skills. You can listen to scholars such as Omar Suleiman, Mufti Menk, Haifaa Younis and Tamara Gray, as they have beneficial conversations around issues such as abuse and trauma. 

  1. Hold onto your faith

“And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Qur’an 50:16)

This ayah is so healing. No matter what you have been told e.g. you are evil, sinful or going to hellfire, look at yourself and have a pure heart knowing that you tried. Allah knows and that is ALL that matters. We are accountable to Allah alone, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden or sin of another.

I know how lonely you feel, but this ayah teaches us that He is so near to us, and we are in fact never alone. My Deen has been my healer and constant support. I turn to Him constantly. When my head is in Sujood, I pour my heart out; in the darkness of the night or the stillness of pre-dawn I talk to Him with tears in my eyes. Then I take a deep breath and start my day. 

You can heal from this and you are never alone.

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” (Qur’an 2:286)

Remember this always. Heal your pain and move on the best you can. Insha Allah.

Andleeb Ahmed

Andleeb Ahmed

I have been a NHS medic for 30 years and am a GP. My specialist interests are mental health and elderly care. I am a champion for taboo subjects, in particular where we need more engagement and understanding in brown communities e.g. breast screening, testicular and bowel cancer, depression and anxiety, autism and healthy sex etc I am a member of British Islamic Muslim Association and Muslim Doctor Association. I am also a chair of governors of a new free school in London which I have overseen from blueprint to a full school in its 7th year. I am a mother to three boys Allhumdulillah 22, 20 and 17 so have a bit of experience - from terrible twos to teenage angst to Islamic education to university life. My life journey has included dealing with the loss of my parents, being plus size, the taboo of my mixed heritage marriage, postnatal depression, living with inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, my religious "rehabilitation" and journey. And finally- Sisterhood has been central to me finding my voice. IG: @mumamdmedic