[Note: I wrote most of this on some beautiful morning in September, but didn’t finish it. So today I’m posting it. I also did not disclose all of my siblings’ names for privacy reasons.]
Right now, I was supposed to be catching up on my sleep, because I’m sleep-deprived and I found out that my college campus is closed today due to water damage, so Allah further made it easy for me to relax and get some rest. But right now, I’m far from resting. It’s early in the morning and the sun is shining bright and I just felt like putting my thoughts on paper; well not on paper exactly, more like the computer screen. Actually, the idea of writing came right now, because my mind was finally able to put into words something that I didn’t necessarily believe.
I love my brother.
My half-brother, that is, if you want to be technical about it.
Why does this come as a big shock for me? Why am I, at the age of nineteen,
realizing admitting that I love my brother? Why is it so big of an issue in my life that I am blogging about it? Shouldn’t we all love our siblings? Isn’t it a natural part of the human condition? It should be, but not when relationship affiliations are distorted in our minds from the time when we were supposed to be understanding them in light of the Deen and strengthening them, early on in our life. Adults are meant to behave maturely, and parents in particular, have a huge responsibility towards making sure their children grow up with good Islamic thoughts, morals and behavior. They are responsible for providing a solid foundation for the child to grow upon, so they can stand firm anywhere in life. They are supposed to be the living interpretations of loving relationships based on love, rather than blood, so that a child can learn the value of relationships without first taking into account the ‘biological status’ of everyone around them. Treating others as one’s own or as strangers based on cultural definitions is a disease that has plagued almost every nation in the world on a general level, but some families are the victims of this heinous classification to such an extent that it ruins their homes and their relationships. Parents are whom the children look to for guidance, understanding, and approval. They expect them to teach them good, and when a parent is wrong, a child can sense it. Even if they do not understand the mistake of the parent, they still understand confusion, and the results of the very conclusions that they make in that age may determine the image that they will have of their parents for the rest of their life. Let’s go to specifics. What happens when a child is given false interpretations of what it means to be a daughter, or a sister, or a half-sister?
I’ll answer the questions above using my own story below. I don’t usually write about this topic, nor do I discuss it with friends, and it’s not because I’m overly sensitive about it; it’s just because it’s over. Khallas, it was the Will of Allah, and I can actually see all the positive things that came out of it for me and for my family(ies). Anyhow, in this post, I’ll try my best not to digress from the main point.
When I was six years old, my parents got divorced. Long story short, I lived with my dad and his parents/siblings, and my little brother, Abdullah (my real brother in the context of this post) went to live with my mom at her parent’s house, mainly because he was a baby and needed her. I grew up believing that my mom loved Abdullah more because I thought that she “abandoned” me and left me with my dad. As a child, I was always a daddy’s girl, but I couldn’t live without my mom. I used to hang on to her dupatta (scarf) and I wouldn’t eat anyone else’s cooking in my house. But I guess it was also the natural sibling jealously that exists in the heart of *every* young child who has a baby sibling, so that issue passed. A few years later, the court passed an order that Abdullah and I would both visit both parents every weekend, so Fri-Sat, we went to our mom’s house and Sat-Sun, we spent at our dad’s house. The schedule was splendid, because as Abdullah and I would both later realize, the three days that we spent together out of the whole week was real quality time, Alhamdulillah, that allowed us to create great memories despite the fact that we lived in different homes for about seven years. When Abdullah was seven years old, my dad decided that he should live with us, because it was better for his education and Tarbiyah in general. My mom wasn’t too happy about that lol, but she dealt with it.
She never failed to express to me how much she was depending on me to take care of him in her absence. In other words, the only reassurance she gave herself was that her elder daughter was taking good care of her young son. I felt responsible for Abdullah because of her constant reminders every time she talked to me. The sudden turn of events no doubt, brought Abdullah and I closer as siblings. At the same time, because of reasons irrelevant to this post, I drew farther away from my half-siblings. I felt like my half-brother and half-sister were not my real siblings. I was afraid of getting too close to them. It is a fact well-known that if a person feels emotionally and socially close to someone, he or she feels comfortable exercising some sort of authority over him or her, given the respective relationships. For example, a person may hesitate to rebuke a random, misbehaving child in the masjid, but they won’t hesitate for a single second if it were their own child. Very similarly, I also played with my half-siblings often, but was very hesitant to feed them, stop them from something, etc. In short, I was afraid of exercising any sort of authority over them, lest I be hurt with words that remind me of the base of our relationship.
As time went on, I subconsciously created a barrier between Abdullah and my other siblings that allowed me to connect with, reprimand, correct and discipline the former and not the latter. I had a desire to also treat them like my siblings, but something was different; something was missing. I felt that being from a different parent undermined my relationship with and authority over my half-siblings. This wasn’t due as much to my familial insecurities as it was to the attitude of the adults around me. I felt heartless for not treating them all equally, but I would justify this to myself by reminding myself of how someone else had negatively treated me. Awkward meetings with friends and strangers alike would pierce me in my heart when I would say “This is my brother Abdullah and this is my half-brother…” I felt cruel for letting such words exit from my mouth, but I felt like I had no right to say that my half-siblings were really related to me. I would let the stranger know how things really were, because I felt that by not doing so, I was violating my new family’s rights of being slightly disconnected from me.
It continued like this for a long time. Then, I came to 10th grade. Tenth grade was, and always will be a very important part of my life because it was when I started my journey of rediscovering Islam by the Guidance of Allah and with the help of my dear Islamic Studies teacher. The next three years of high school were spent contemplating on the best ways to make myself come closer to Allah, trying out techniques of self-improvement, passing and failing in them, crying, rebelling, apologizing and…making lots of du’a. I learned during this time the importance of upholding family ties, being good to to your parents before anyone else, and being a good role model. I had always thought of being a good role model for my future student and even future children, but I never really thought about my younger siblings. Even then, it escaped my mind most of the time. If the thought of building a stable, loving relationship ever came to my mind, I would brush it away with the fear that my efforts may be criticized in my own family and with the excuse that it will take too long to accomplish.
Later on, however, I don’t know how and when Allah changed my heart, but I found myself actually talking to my half-siblings more. I started taking interest in their hobbies, favorite foods, and concerns. I felt like I had some say in their life. I wasn’t getting negative comments from anyone. My siblings started asking me questions and coming to me for homework help. They now come in to my room to borrow my color pencils and to ask me if I’ll make ramen noodles for them . I still consider it distant interaction, though. We are still very civil with each other, in the sense that they are somewhat afraid to come to my room and I am somewhat reluctant to tell them to clean up the mess they make in the living room. But I feel so much better now. Looking back to about seven years ago, I feel so grateful to Allah for all the positive changes in my family.Things are not exactly how I want them to be, but Alhamdulillah, I’ve gotten somewhere.
So what now? Actually, there is a game plan. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I plan to be the change I want to see in my house, inshaAllah. I have already broken all the barriers that all the well-meaning-but-sometimes-overcome-by-emotions-confused-and-highly-filled-with-tension adults tried to create in my mind. It wasn’t easy. No, it’s never easy to start liking someone you were taught to hate, or to forgive someone who accused you of the heinous crime that you struggled to safe yourself from your entire life. But that’s what life is. It’s a big, big test. And I think this was my test (during my entire childhood/teen life at least). Alhamdulillah, I thank Allah for teaching me from experience what I never could have understood otherwise. I thank Allah that He gave me the Tawfiq to see the truth as truth and to accept it and to see the falsehood as falsehood and reject it. Now I ask Allah to also give me the ‘Amal, so I can truly benefit from these experiences and change things around my house for the better. As mentioned earlier, I am actively taking steps to come closer to my siblings and I think they’re working 🙂 I discovered that they actually remember and value the advice that I give them. This is like a big project that is in its premature stages. Insha’Allah, by the time it’s done, I hope to have a lot of funny and heartwarming experiences to share.
Now I reluctantly interrupt the pleasant flow of this story of mine by taking us back to the main point. I believe that the primary reason for such a negative and unfulfilling relationship between my siblings and I was the lack of maturity, understanding, and support on the adults’ part. I am not blaming my parents, step parents, or any other adults in my house exclusively, but it proves the fact that if people put culture, personal desires, or suspicions to be their guiding and decisive factors in life, then they will not make the right decisions for themselves or their families, and will be victims of Shaitan and his plots for the rest of their lives. It also proves that the valuable Islamic education that you give your child is never wasted. It will perhaps save them from falling into the same errors that those before them fell into, and it will also help them fix their own problems independently and effectively, so that they can be successful people and work toward building successful relationships.
To be continued in Part 2, (which is not the next post, btw. It will be written in a couple of months, inshaAllah).
So long! Happy living 🙂