Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: My sister often says spiteful things to me. She never apologizes, yet I tell myself to forgive her. But I begin to wonder if my forgiveness will count because, despite not acting on my anger, I long for revenge to show her how much she has caused me to suffer.

Must forgiveness be both internal and external to be valid islamically?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for seeking out clarity. Please forgive me for the delay.

Sibling abuse

Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Bukhari]

Being bullied by a sibling is a common problem in many families. However, please do not be target practice for your sister’s anger. She is oppressing you, and you are allowing her to.

You need to protect yourself by learning how to be assertive. Reflect on this hadith – Abu Hurairah said that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “The believer should not be stung from the same hole twice.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

Support

Please talk to your parents. You are both their daughters, and any parent would be alarmed by this. Speak honestly about what she has been saying and doing to you, with the intention of seeking help. This is is permissible, and not considered backbiting.

I encourage all of you to attend family counselling, with the intention of healing your fractured relationship. A counsellor is a trained, objective professional who can help bring awareness and change to your family, inshaAllah.

If they are not willing to, then I encourage you to see a counsellor. Please learn how to assert yourself. Do not simply stand there and take it when your sister lashes out at you. You are a Muslimah, and your dignity and well-being matters to Allah. When you consign yourself to the role of victim, then you are likely to be bullied by people outside your home. This puts you in a vulnerable position. Please, for your sake, change this dynamic. Please consider this Assertiveness Training hypnosis track to get you started on the path towards a more healthy life.

Forgiveness

‘Abdullah ibn al-‘As reported that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “Show mercy and you will be shown mercy. Forgive and Allah will forgive you. Woe to the vessels that catch words (i.e. the ears). Woe to those who persist and consciously continue in what they are doing.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]

Forgiving your sister is from the sunnah. At the same time, you must stop her from oppressing you like this. The key is striking a balance between the two. I pray that as you begin to assert yourself, it will be easier for you to forgive her.

Please refer to the following link:

Is it Obligatory to Forgive Others? How to Deal with Abusive Family Members?
How Can I Be More Forgiving?

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)