Siblings and Verbal Abuse

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil is asked if an older sibling has the right to abuse younger siblings verbally.

Is it permissible for an older sibling to verbally abuse a younger sibling during a conversation on the basis that the abuser is older and therefore has the right?

Does Islam allow someone who has been harmed with verbal abuse from an older sibling to return the equivalent in verbal abuse?

Jazak Allah khayr.

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.

Verbal Abuse

Narrated Abdullah: Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Abusing a Muslim is Fusuq (i.e., an evil-doing), and killing him is Kufr (disbelief).” (Sahih Muslim)

In Islam, it is not permissible to verbally abuse anyone.

Solutions

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As, may Allah be pleased with him: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Those who do not show mercy to our young ones and do not realize the right of our elders are not from us.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)

I am sorry to hear about the abuse you have been enduring from your older sibling. He or she does not have the right to abuse you. If anything, he or she has the responsibility to treat you with love and compassion because you are younger.

Anger Iceberg

Anger is at the very top of the anger iceberg. Beneath it are often feelings like helplessness, grief, shame, and so on.

What is driving your older sibling’s anger? Older siblings who are abusive often have at least one parent who is also abusing them. Whatever it is that’s causing your older sibling’s pain, he or she is discharging their negative feelings on you, which is unacceptable.

Your sibling needs to take responsibility for their hurt, seek out help, and ask you for forgiveness.

Boundaries

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! 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)

The solution is not to verbally abuse your older sibling in return. Rather, you need to set boundaries. Calmly explain that you will not tolerate the abuse. Walk away if you need to. Do not cut ties, but remain civil.

This is understandably very difficult to do at first. I recommend that you seek out the support of a culturally-sensitive counselor or therapist.

Healing

I encourage you to practice self-compassion. Please do not blame yourself. You are worthy of love and belonging. So is your older sibling. I pray that over time, you will find your way back to each other, after finding your way back to yourselves.

Please see How Do I Forgive a Sibling Who Hurts Me? and Can We Break Family Ties With Siblings Who Treat Us Badly?

Checked and 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)