Psychological and emotional abuse towards children
- Publish date:15/02/2017
How is psychological and emotional abuse defined in Islam? What constitutes these emotional scars that cannot be seen on the skin? Emotional abuse is similar to verbal abuse but sometimes it can be a little more twisted and suddenly alarming. It reaches into each fiber of the self esteem, leaving the victim in deep emotional pain about his or herself regarding the world around him/her. Usually these children who have been so severely abused either grow up to be unable to set normal functioning boundaries or become an emotionally abusive themselves.
All thanks and gratitude are due to Allah, Who has set standards that guide us in how to behave with one another. And yes that also includes our children.
Everything boils down the heart. It is the most important part of our body.
The Prophet Muhammad said: "Indeed there is a piece of flesh in your body which, if it be sound, then the whole body will be sound and if it be corrupt then the whole body will be corrupt. Indeed it is the heart." [Al-Bukhari]
All of our actions stem from this part. If we have been raised in a negative emotionally abusive home, we may be carrying this excessive baggage into our hearts and homes without even knowing it. But first we must know what emotional/psychotically abuse means in order to look, not only, into the past but how it is affecting us now.
Allah looks into the heart of the each one of us, not at our outward appearance. Therefore when we viciously attack our children emotionally by demeaning them, calling them names, telling them they are ugly, a failure, letting them feel worthless we have started an arsenal attack on the heart. We have made them feel as though they are worthless and rejected. We are going deep into an area that we have no right to tread. Since Allah "scans" our hearts what are we doing to our children's? The Prophet said: "Allah does not look at your bodies or your faces but He looks at your hearts and actions." [Muslim]
The tongue is a great indicator of what is in the heart. When a parent's heart is good you can see it in their wording. Yes we all get upset with our children, but the parents who have a good heart will be careful and Allah-fearing. Since we know that if the tongue is used correctly it will be blessed, so what about people not using their tongue correctly? Or, if the tongue is a hypocrite, speaking nicely only to the people outside the home but abusing their children inside the home.
For some reason many parents believe they can say whatever they would like to their children, without ever thinking of the consequences. These consequences can be even more far-reaching than just the child because the parent himself will be accountable to Allah for emotional/psychological abuse. Allah Says (what means): "Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their prayers with all solemnity and full submissiveness. And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehood, and all that Allah has forbidden.)" [Quran; 23:1-2]
Each and every act that we communicate, be it verbally or non-verbally, will be recorded. Just because we are in the confines of our four walls does not mean that we are "truly alone". Not only does Allah see and hear everything, Allah has also sent angels to record everything we say and do. So even if we do not use foul destructive language to our children, if we withhold love and care, favoring one child over the others, etc. or doing anything that goes outside of the boundaries of Islam, it is all being recorded. Allah Says (what means): "Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it)" [Quran; 50:18]
Allah will call us to account with His Almighty Justice not with oppression. Yet what are we doing to our children inside the home. Like the perished nations before us justified not believing in Allah Alone because their parents worshiped others than Allah. Is it right to abuse and ignore the emotional needs of our children because our mothers and father's raised us that way? Are we so unattached to our feelings that we forgot how bad it felt when our feelings were discounted and we were emotionally scared on a daily bases? The Prophet said: "Whoever believes in Allah and the last day should speak good or keep silent." [Al-Bukhari]
Or do we only reserve this narration to those we want to "show" that we are good Muslims? Where on the outside we pretending to "look" like our hearts are clean but on the inside we are abusing our children on a daily basis. If our behavior with those outside is good, warm and loving but in our homes it is full of "emotional and verbal" filth, we have to look deep inside our hearts. If this is the case, not only are we harming our children but are teaching them to be two-faced or hypocritical with their heart and tongue.
Imam Ash-Shafi'i said: "If you wish to speak then it is your responsibility to think before you speak. If you think there is good in it then you should speak and if not then do not speak. "
This saying is from someone who is searching for salvation. Obviously we need to discipline our children and reprehend them when they do something wrong, but how we do it, what is our real intention behind it. Are we doing it as sincere advice because we love them for the sake of Allah or are we doing it for other intentions like; to humiliate them, to let off steam, to feel more powerful and to feel in control? For Allah's sake we must look into our intention for each and every move we make. Do we really believe that all these rules about manners and speech are only for those outside our homes? Do we really deep down inside live in a fantasy world that we are "kings and queens" of our home and we can do as we like?
We should ask ourselves before we speak:
- What is our intention?
- Will this saying of mine please Allah?
- Will this saying of mine bring me closer to Allah?
- Does this saying earn with it obedience to Allah?
- If so, then speak, otherwise one should keep quiet.
Our children are Muslims and the following saying of the Prophet applies to them: "A Muslim is one who does not harm the Muslims with his tongue or hands." [Al-Bukhari]
We know from the section on physical abuse that we are not allowed to harm our children with our hands. Now we know that we are not allowed to oppress ourselves and our children with our tongue. This abuse of the tongue can actually harden the heart. This is obviously a very serious matter. May Allah protect us from this!
The Prophet said: "Whoever guarantees me what is between his jaws and what is between his legs will enter paradise." [Ahmad and At-Tirmithi]
If we don't take the time to reflect and think about how we are acting towards our children, we could be piling up sins and not even know it. It is not enough just to put a roof over our children's head and feed them. We are raising the future Islamic nation, and they need to be functional active members. If we repress them emotionally and psychologically, what kind of nation will they be? Do we really think that we can follow our own desires within the home and get away with it from The One Who Knows and Sees everything? One day those children may be changing our "dippers" and feeding us by hand. How would we like to be treated? Do we really believe we can abuse and expect them to care for us with deep love and devotion? Do we want them to only fear us or respect and love us? Do we believe it is enough to force them to parrot the Prophetic narration regarding obeying their parents.
If we find all of this hard to do, we need to soften our hearts and ask Allah to forgive us.