Disclaimer: This article is the first of a three part series looking at the wide array of relationships that younger siblings have and from different perspectives. The next article will focus on what younger siblings should know about their older siblings.
“‘Joseph and his brother are more beloved to our father than we, while we are a clan. Indeed, our father is in clear error.'”
It’s always interesting to hear older siblings complain about their younger brothers and/or sisters. From the formers’ words, you would think that the latter were a race of incompetent, homer-esque individuals, whose talents include the ability to get under your skin and the complete inability to follow simple instructions or even pay attention to anything for more than a few seconds. In fact, if they were reading this article, the poor souls wouldn’t even have made it this far. And the reason for their appalling and atrociously substandard behavior: “Because that’s just the way they are,” the older siblings reply. But is that who they are? Do they know any more about their younger siblings than the brothers of Yusuf `alayhi as-salaam (may peace be upon him) knew about him (as)? (Apart from the fact that Yusuf and his younger brother were clearly troublemakers!). Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, which is why I’d like to take the opportunity to provide just a few insights into the mind of our younger brothers and sisters. Enjoy.
1. They Hero-Worship
This is their default status. As an older sibling, you are their example. They will copy everything you do, even on a subconscious level. From the way they speak, to the books they read, to even the way they write the letter “t” – all can be traced back to you. This is very important as it means that, for better or for worse, you have and will continue to have a tremendous impact on them. The only exception to this rule is if you do anything to lose your “hero status” in their eyes. Whether it’s misbehaving with your parents, or being narrow minded in your outlook, if you give them any reason to doubt you as a hero, they’ll react very negatively – whether it’s talking back to you, not listening to what you say or much, much worse.
So if your younger siblings are misbehaving with you at the moment – ask yourself, have you or are you doing anything that may be damaging your credibility as a role model in their eyes? And if you want them to adopt a good habit, start by adopting it yourself.
2. They Are Watching Your Every Move
By definition, if they are always looking up to you, they’re always looking at you. By looking at you constantly, they learn almost everything about you – from what kind of friends you have, to the music that’s hidden away on your laptop and even the hair products that you use! The bottom line is, if you think they don’t know what you’re up to, trust me – they know. They aren’t spying. They just want to learn more about you. You shouldn’t suddenly start looking over your shoulder every two minutes for your younger sibling to make an omen like appearance – you should be inspired to create a synergy between your public and private actions, if there isn’t already one, and if anything, to practice what you preach, if you don’t do so already masha’Allah (Allah has willed it).
3. They Are Very Obedient
“No they aren’t! My younger brother never listens to me!” But at one point they did. In fact, I believe that initially, younger siblings are very obedient, and this partly ties into their “hero-worship” mentality. They are willing to follow their older sibling off a cliff – until they lose respect for them. Then things tend to go a bit askew (and by a bit, I of course mean VERY askew). Unfortunately, the flip side of their “mega obedience” is that when they lose respect for their older siblings, they become “mega disrespectful”. It’s almost like they’re lashing out at their elders for not being the example that they wanted them to be. That initial disappointment turns into an almost vitriolic anger, which if untamed, can lead to disastrous results not only for the two individuals concerned, but for the discipline of the entire family.
4. They Are Your Friend
At least they expect friendship from you. Younger siblings are very lonely creatures. In a society where good friends are as rare as a legally parked car at Jumu’ah (Friday congregational prayer), it’s a shame then that relationships between older and younger siblings in the Muslim community are formal at best. It’s understandable that you want to hang around with your friends, but take your younger sister out now and then. Show her that you value her just as much as your friends, even though in your heart, we know you love her more. Buy gifts for your younger sibling(s) when you go shopping just to let them know that you were thinking of them. Be their friend, because if you aren’t their friend, someone else will be and there are no shortage of bad friends out there who will make short work of them. And by the way, if your younger sibling pretends like they don’t want to hang out with you, because they’re “so cool” – it’s an act. Just persist with them and you’ll see their tough guy/”whatever” attitude melt away like the ice cream you just bought for them.
5. They Have Huge Expectations From You
They can’t help it. Younger brothers/sisters expect to be taught, trained and tamed by their older siblings. They would love nothing more than the older sibling to sit them down and teach them everything from Arabic to the footballing awesomeness of Zinedine Zidane. They want to be taught how to dress, how to make friends, how to survive at University (especially if you did the same course as them), how to manage your time effectively and much, much more! And if you as an older sibling don’t know how to do any of that, then learn together with them! If you aren’t prepared to do that, then at least point them to someone who can teach them those things; the worst thing in the world is to do absolutely nothing for them. To just sit back and let them jump the same hurdles as you did breeds irresponsibility and resentment within them. If you have no idea what expectations they have of you, follow the Prophet’s ﷺ (peace be upon him) advice: “None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Sahih Muslim). Whatever needs you had at that age, they too are likely to have. Or you could just tweet them a question like: “yo, bro, what are thy expectations of me? #helpme”. Whatever works.
6. They Need to be Shown That You Love Them
I bet if you asked every older sibling out there whether they love their younger sibling, most would reply, after listing all their negative qualities, “But yeah, I do love them, they’re my brother/sister at the end of the day.” But younger siblings aren’t mind readers. They don’t just magically know that you love them, especially after you’ve just shouted at them for being a total failure in life. You need to show them. Whether it’s through gifts, taking them out for dinner, buying clothes for them, taking time out to teach them Biology or reflect on a verse from the Qur’an, waking them up for Fajr, giving them advice or just saying that you love them. If you don’t show them or at least tell them, they’ll look for love elsewhere—usually in the arms of another boy/girl.
7. They Are Natural Comedians
There’s something about being the youngest that brings out the Dave Chappelle in them. They utilize almost every opportunity to make a joke or do something funny. Whatever it is, don’t get offended by it—especially if they try making fun of you. Realize that they’re just trying to be funny. To them, it’s a performance – a trait they’ve picked up while struggling to stay in the spotlight in a family of twelve. Their main objective is to get you to laugh (which incidentally lights up their day), not to hurt you. What would be ideal is to guide their humor and make sure it doesn’t stray into shady territory—which is everything from lying, being crude or just plain ol’ insulting. Remind them of the advice of Imam Ali (as), who said, “Make humor in your talks, like salt on food.”
There is much, much more that can be said (if you have any tips—feel free to comment below and share them with us!) and I’m sure more qualified advice could be given, but I feel that while there’s at least a discussion about parenting that’s beginning to take place within the Muslim community, there’s next to nothing available on how to deal with siblings. If this article at least starts such a discussion, insha’Allah (God willing), then that would be an excellent start.
This essay was beautifully written; I have one younger brother whom I love very much. I recommend every older brother to learn and apply as much as they can from the above excellent lessons.
Without a doubt being a friend to our younger brothers is probably the most golden advice.
Thank you wa jazaka Allahu khairan and please continue to write great essays like these.
This is a beautiful piece and beautiful narration.My younger sibbling is just the same she religiously apes me for everything i do…be it taking up sum new hobby or learning some new skill’s or studying n wat not…..one gud thing is shez very caring also and takes care of me in her own ways which is a gesture of thanks giving that i hv silently learned many things frm u and im glad i have such a sweet elder sibbling.And yeah i luv my younger one too.
JazakAllah for the article.
JazakAllah Khair for this article. I only wish that I had read this article much earlier in life.
To quote Justin Bieber (something which I thought I’d never do sA lol), “never say never”!
If there are relationships between siblings that anyone of us feel are broken and cannot be repaired because too much damage has been done over too long a period of time, I would urge them to turn towards God, the One in whose hands our hearts lie, and ask Him to strengthen the bonds between our siblings and make love, mercy, forgiveness and support permanent between them.
I would also ask them to read Surah Yusuf. If there was any “sibling relationship” that couldn’t be salvaged – it was that of Yusuf (as) and his brothers (I’m sure none of your siblings have physically thrown us into a well and left us for dead!). And yet, with time (and persistence/forgiveness/God consciousness on the part of Yusuf), God rectified their relationship too, reuniting a broken family, physically and emotionally, and creating a happy ending for all.
For those of us who aren’t getting along with their siblings, let them never lose hope. God willing, they too will be reunited. And when it does happen, they’ll be eternally grateful. There’s no substitute no for a loving/supportive older/younger sibling sA.
MashAllah how beautifully u have written this & explained with the reference of Surah Yousaf.
I love this article =) full of practical points we can start doing straightaway for our siblings iA, JzkA khair!
JazakAllah khair for this great article.
It would have been good if you addressed how older siblings use derogatory terms to insult and belittle younger siblings, for the sake of doing so and how this is unacceptable- maybe looking at Prophetic examples.
Just an idea.
Beautiful article. I have two younger siblings whom I love very much, I hope Inshallah I can be the hero they need me to be.
Article was excellent Masha’Allah.
I have three younger sisters all of whom I love very much (although I’ll faint before I am able to confess this in front of them lol). Unfortunately my academics took a horrible turn and I don’t think I can really be much of a role model for them anymore.
“Unfortunately my academics took a horrible turn and I don’t think I can really be much of a role model for them anymore.”
I can definitely appreciate where you’re coming from here and I pray that Allaah (swt) gets your academics back on track/enables you to realise your intrinsic talents and skills and utilise them for His sake.
I would slightly disagree with you however when you say you can’t be a role model for your younger sisters. I can think of nothing more inspiring for a younger brother/sister then to see their older sibling “slip up” – only to pick themselves up again and continue their temporal struggle against their inner doubts and base desires and realising and utilising their God-given talents and skills for His sake.
Even if the “slip” was a mile deep, to see an older sibling persistently attempt to return to their lofty goals and ambitions produces an unimaginable amount of respect within the younger brother/sister.
Younger siblings know that they will/have experience “slip ups” in their life too. What better gift then that when that happens, as an older sibling, you provide them with a tangible example of patience, persistence and unwavering determination to aspire towards. If you feel that this isn’t the example you’ve been providing thus far, then start now. It is never too late to turn things around.
May Allaah (swt) assist you with your efforts and strengthen the bonds between you and your sisters! 🙂
This article made me feel all fuzzy inside!
I have many older siblings and I can testify to all of the above points.
Even the one about “watching your every move”: when I was 13 I realised I didn’t like my walk, it was fast-paced, but my feet left the ground too quickly like I was running which made me look insecure (which I clearly wasn’t :b)So I observed my older sister’s secure, confident walk and decided I should copy her. 🙂
I didn’t realise there was any psychology behind me cracking jokes every other minute.:)
I think one thing that really strengthened me and my sister’s relationship was that we never argued or taunted each other in public (public includes my friends, her friends, the post man etc…)it was an unspoken rule.
We could have been cat-fighting in the morning about a hair clip but the moment we left the house it was all smiles and marshmallows and sit next to me on the bus. She let me follow her around every where, talk to her friends, and I never felt belittled or humiliated, even though I was annoying, cheeky, you name it…
Alhamdillah I can say my older siblings collectively, have taught me more life lessons than any seminar, workshop or book could have, I can also say they are all close friends of mine. This fact as you alluded to, has been a great protection to many of the sly, malicious ‘bad friends out there’ Alhamdillah.
I’ll admit, I haven’t been the best older sister (which is really bad considering all of the above) but this was a great reminder. Thank You.
Lol, this is such a beautiful article that explains so much. Jzk.
Looking forward to your next article. The only thing I have a question about is how do we as the older brother deal with how our younger siblings function. They look at us as heroes but the reality is we are all flawed. How do we explain them that? The next article may answer my question so please hurry with it!
Assalammualaikum, brother Abid
Truly, it’s really a masterstroke piece since most of us neglected the communication and interpersonal skills between the grown-ups and younger siblings. I’d better say no more than congratz to you. Thumbs-up.
But there’s something keep spinning in my mind regarding the address following Imam Ali. Is it ‘as’ as in Imam Ali (as)? Because normally i used to stumble across this usage of (as) following the Angels as in Jibrail (as) or Prophets as in Yusuf (as). And usually the call following the scholars is (ra)-radhiallahu anhu, as in Abu Hurairah or Anas ibn Malik (ra).
Please dont get me wrong here of I’m assuming you’re overlooking it. I meant no harm:) It’s just I’d be pleased for you to do me a favour of confirming it 🙂 or if it’s my comment that false in the first place, please let me know. Thank you for your attention and I’m very deeply sorry if there’s any slip of tongue or crude says. Wasalam.
Wa ‘alaykum assalaam wr wb Nurul,
Ja zaa kii Allaahu khayr for your kind words!
May Allaah (swt) reward you for asking a question with such humility and etiquette! Make du’a that I am able to do likewise when querying matters with others 🙂
Re: saying Imam Ali (as) – there is some difference of opinion on this issue. Some scholars take issue with singling out Ali (ra). At the same time, many scholars (including my teachers) say (as) after members of the family of the Prophet (saw) – and that includes Ali (ra) and Fatimah (ra). It is not an uncommon practice and evidences for its permissibility include the taahiyaat you say in prayer, the salaawat we give on the Prophet (saw), the fact that Imam Bukhari (rah) and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rah) have used “(as)” after Imam Ali’s (ra) name etc.
I am not a scholar however so if you want an academic presentation of the issue I would ask your local Imam or if a student of knowledge/scholar on this site is willing to answer it – by all means go ahead in sha Allaah! 🙂
Hope that answers your question!
Beautifull Article Ma sha Allah
MasyaAllah, this article moved me to tears.
I’ve been too busy with my work, friends and my outdoor activities that I sometime neglected my younger sister at home.
InsyaAllah am going to change that.
May Allah bless you for writing this beneficial article.
I don’t think this article is entirely true. You can’t just generalize every younger sibling into hero-worshipping their siblings – just because most do that doesn’t mean all do.
But overall a good article, I have to say
This is the best thing on the internet… I never understood why my brother never listened to me.. This is so true thanks for sharing
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