On the issue of “living with the in laws”

The Shariah has given certain rights to the husband, just as it has give rights to the wife. Many times, failure to give the spouses their rights results in conflict and eventually breakdown of Marriage.

These rights, at times, may not go down to well with certain people and cultures. However, it is necessary for us to educate those Muslims who have been affected by cultural customs and traditions, and inform them of the injunctions of Shariah.

The benefit of learning and educating the masses about the rules and injunctions of Shariah with regards to social affairs is that each party will appreciate what the other has to offer. Subsequently, this will lead to respect, love and harmony.

For example, it is not necessary upon the wife to cook for or serve her parents in-law. Now, many people believe that it is the duty of the wife to look after not only the household affairs but all the family members including the nephew, niece, etc… If she is negligent in any way, then she is rebuked.

However, if the in-laws did not regard this as an incumbent duty of the wife, and she on her own accord took care of the household work, then this work will surely be appreciated. She will also in turn do her best to give something back in return for this appreciation.

Therefore, it is our duty that we teach the masses and inform them of the injunctions of Shariah with regards to social affairs. This may be a Jihad, and one will no doubt face much opposition from culturally oriented individuals, but the rewards by Allah will be immense Insha Allah.

 Shaykh Muhammad  ibn Adam al-Kawthari

After hearing too many accounts of married sisters having problems with their in laws I wanted to write something that I hope would give these sisters some hope as well as make other people aware of why these issues are arising. My intention is not to make this post about “in law bashing”. No body is perfect and we are all struggling as individuals with some demon or another. There are also many sides to a story and ultimately Allah is Just, so in Allah we have trust.

I did, however, want to highlight a few points which Alhamdulillah have also been discussed by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari in what I would call an article to give air to a suffocated woman living with her in laws.

With every promotion comes a new understanding of a matter, diverse adventures, and a different group to converse with. No one takes the opportunity to be promoted from their previous state thinking that the future is grim. They always think it’s going to bring them hope and that they’ll do all that they can to do good and be good.

Why is it then that this hope fades away when a woman gets married (promoted) and gives up her right to her own living quarters (by instead sharing the house with her in laws)?

Some could argue she’s insane for doing so. Others could see it as courageous or “the right thing to do”. Ultimately it’s between the married sister and Allah as it’s her right to her own living quarters (living space, bedroom, kitchen and  bathroom with a lock on all) that she is wavering.

I know for sure that every woman gets married with good intentions of living peacefully with her husband, having a good respectful relationship with her in laws and continue on growing as a woman. So what’s the struggle really about?

A friend was discussing this issue with me and said marriage to any woman is her expression of womanhood – her revealing her vulnerability to her husband and being respected by him. When she’s living with her in laws the mother in law (MIL), naturally wanting to be the only woman in the house, makes the daughter in law (DIL) “a child” by telling her how to dress, what to eat, how to cook, how to walk, when to have babies, and what to do about her personal finances. The MIL keeps the DIL “a child” and this struggle inside the DIL who wants to express her womanhood (a sign of being an adult) continues.

Later when the DIL becomes a mother another level of hostility arrives whereby the MIL, not wanting another mother in the house, demands that the child be raised her way. Naturally every mother has their own instinct about their child… so when the MIL is wanting to raise her grandchild in a way that the DIL doesn’t another conflict arises. The solution: set boundaries which are respected by the in laws otherwise move out.

It’s amazing to see in the Indo-Pak communities so much nonsense… you know the information you hear and your whole being is screaming out “Where on earth did they get this theory from?!”

It’s either that you are allowed to uncover in front of your brother in laws, you can pray in another prayer time as currently there’s housework to do and that’s more important (!), your sister in laws already know how to look after the house (so they don’t need to do it any more) but you are not trained so need to do it forever, or you are not allowed to move out of the in laws but their daughter must have her own house when she is married. All this thinking is not from Islam and so are the words of either ignorant people, oppressors, or people refusing to implement the knowledge they’ve been given. I would usually say education helps remove ignorance but I also understand the role to educate the in laws isn’t for the DIL (it’s for her husband). I also strongly feel turning off the Asian Drama channels would help, as well as having a supportive husband who will allow his wife to practise her religion properly. After all, did you not marry her for her religious intellect?

If you’re a married man reading this and thinking “but I need someone to look after my parents” then realise that under the Hanafi school, your wife is not obliged to do that. In fact, it’s your responsibility to. You have two requirements – your requirement as a son; and your requirement as a husband. How you deal with those requirements is up to you but they are separate from one another. Don’t mingle them! You can read more about it in another article from Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari.

Allah has given women more rights than women actually know or take on board. I seriously believe that these rights/recommendations that have been given to us by our Creator is for our own betterment.

Our situations can either break us or make us. Allah has guided us to ways that will only make us. Even if we feel broken, abiding by His rules and recommendations will help us mend ourselves.

You are not your mother in laws property and so whatever she says doesn’t have to happen. Neither do you have to clean up after your father/brother/sister in laws. They should have been taught how to clean up after themselves and so let them use the knowledge their mother gave them. And neither should you be the subject of abuse from all of them just because you decide to take your right of privacy.

You deserve to be looked after, to be respected, to be enobled as a woman/mother. So take your space and don’t feel guilty about it. If others make you feel guilty for it then know you’re not responsible for their beliefs. As it’s difficult to educate them, without them taking it out on you, take a better route and make dua for them.

And Tawfiq is from Allah.

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4 Responses to On the issue of “living with the in laws”

  1. Sum says:

    So well written and very articulate. I too have been hearing many inlaw stories from people recently. I will be sure to pass this along. Well done!

  2. Roshni says:

    Mashallah an extremely good post sister! These subjects are invaluable to all women and need to be understood and talked about way more than they are! I totally agree with all you say; and I agree that the issues are primarily cultural ones! To me, the education needs to go back further; parents need to empower their daughters about their rights and those of others, so that women continue on the journey of life with standards both for themselves and others! Too many women fall in to marriages (arranged or other wise) and are somehow indoctrinated in to thinking that the in-laws have done them some sort of favour by taking them on, thus they don’t ever rock the boat; even if there might be a perfectly valid concern or abuse going on that needs some serious boat rocking! When I got married, I made it clear to my husband that, as an only child, I had duties to my parents as much as my in-laws, as there was no one else to take care of my parents. He accepted this and so we have a balance of duties that is unique to us. We always saw these things as shared duties which were core to our partnership; but I think the West makes us believe that family duties need to be compartmentalised along parental lines; I’m not quite sure why, however I do know that when I realised my mother-in-law truly saw me as a daughter, any preconceived animosity on my part vanished instantly; and though my mother and my mother-in-law are very different people with different needs, they occupy the same place and love in my heart. If more in-laws worked on creating that connection, our families would surely be stronger! Rant over for now! Once again great post sister; do keep it up; mashallah you always give me so much to think about!

  3. Maheen says:

    THANK YOU! Can you please rewrite this article in the following way:

    1. Put a well-known shaykh’s name as the author (most joint family men listen to only one woman: their mother. And for Islamic knowledge, they listen only to men, preferably older and of South Asian or Arab background – or any male older and who speaks Arabic).
    2. Title it: Is a Muslim Man Obligated to live with his Parents After Marriage?
    3. Offer the same points, but in bullet form.

    This will go a long way to making the article far more male-friendly. Men in joint family systems are usually:

    a. South Asian (and I say that as a South Asian)
    b. have no clue what their wives’ rights are when faced with their mothers’ demands (a.k.a.. Mama’s boys).
    c. the eldest or the only son, and parents expect them to live with them.
    d. haven’t the foggiest inkling that their dear, sweet mother is someone quite different when dealing with her daughter-in-law.

    • asmakarif says:

      I believe the references I have mentioned have been written for the men and as those references are by scholars who are clearly more knowledgeable than me I shall leave it to the masses to understand their words. Thank you for your advice nonetheless and I hope people can gain benefit/insight from your comment.

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