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Published on January 12th, 2011 | by administrator

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Wife Responsibilities with In-Laws

Q What is a woman’s responsibility when it comes to her in-laws?

A by Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan: The relationship with in-laws is nothing new in Islam. It is perhaps as old as human beings themselves. At the same time the Quran and Sunnah have defined for us our boundaries on human relations; what our responsibilities and duties to each other are, starting with parents and moving on to kith and kin. It should be noted that responsibility is not a one way street. While a child has to fulfill his duties towards his parents, for example, the parents also in return have duties towards their children. Too often we tend to ignore that relationships are two-way and we demand our rights without thinking about our own responsibilities.

Another point to note is that we allow customs and culture to overtake what Islam requires of us. Many of these cultures have their root in other religions and beliefs. In some cultures the in-laws literally make the laws and the woman is often treated no more than a slave. In other or the same cultures the mother-in-law decides everything for her son and daughter-in-law to the point that permission must be sought even for breathing. There are numerous horror stories right here in the U.S. of the ill treatment by mothers-in-law of their daughters-in-law. At the same time, there are wonderful stories of the love and care between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law.

Let me begin by saying that it is not obligatory for a woman in Islam to obey any one of her in-laws, whether it is her mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law in anything, no matter how small or how big, except if it is a Shari’ah obligation that has to be carried out or a Shari’ah prohibition that should be stopped. As for her husband, obedience to him is necessary providing that his orders do not contain exploitation, injustice and deviation from the Shari’ah.

Allah SWT says, “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard.” (4:34)

It is also not permissible for any of the in-laws to enter the bedroom except by permission, and in case the in-law is a male the presence of a mahram is required so that there is no room for suspicion or fitnah. Rasulullah (S) said: “Beware of entering upon women.” A man from the Ansar said, “O Messenger of Allah! What about Al-Hamu, or the wife’s in-law (the brother of her husband or his nephew, etc.)?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, replied: “The in-law of the wife is death itself.” Commenting on this Hadith, Imam An-Nawawi, may Allah bless him, states:

“Al-Layth Ibn Sa`d holds that the ‘the in-law’ refers to a relative of the husband (other than his father and sons) such as his brother, nephew, and cousin, etc., with whom marriage would be permissible for her, if she were to be divorced or widowed.“ Those who are described of death are the husband’s brother, cousin, uncle, and all those who are not Mahram for the wife. Hijab therefore must be worn in front of male in-laws except for the husband’s father or grandfather or the husband’s son (from another marriage) or grandsons.

It is also not allowed for them (in-laws) to force the woman to cook for them or doing other house chores. It should be from her kindness that she does these things and not expectations and demands of the in-laws. Similarly in-laws should not interfere in husband and wife disputes. This is often is where things get a lot messier.

Similarly a woman does not have to take in-laws permission to visit her relatives; her husband’s permission is sufficient. It is also not their right to know the secrets of what goes on between the husband and the wife. It should be noted here that a man must be kind and obedient to his parents and it is expected that the wife helps him to fulfill his kindness towards them. The woman should be very respectful and kind towards her in-laws.

There is no harm to live with in-laws except that privacy for the wife is provided and again expectations are within the Shari’ah and not culture. If they live separately then visitations and kindness must be done accordingly.

Before I close I wish to say that when it comes to defining relationship let the Shari’ah prevail in our lives. If we allow culture and customs to take precedence over Shari’ah problems will arise from day one, and on the Day of Judgment the questions are severe. On the other hand the wife should exercise patience and kindness towards her husband and his relatives, as she would like the same from him towards her parents and relatives. At weddings I always try to advise that if your son is getting married then think that you are blessed by having a daughter added to your family and if your daughter is getting married think of it that you are blessed with a son added to your family.

May Allah SWT help us all in fulfilling our duties to one another.

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  • Anonymous

    This article is a bit out of touch with reality. The reality is that love and respect for the in-laws stems from love and respect for each other i.e. husband and wife. Husband and wife relationship is the first, the original relationship that Allah SWT created, not that of mother and father. Hence a husband needs to be true to his wife, emotionally and as a provider. The husband has to take the lead in this. This is the type of “charge” that Allah SWT is placing on the husband in the above quoted verse. In return the wife is obliged to follow suit if she wants the relationship to grow. Unless such a relationship is allowed to grow and then stabilize no other relationships should intervine. In fact, all other relationships are in abeyance, so to speak. This is where the role of the in-laws comes in. The in-laws need to acknowledge this original relationship in the Islamic context and allow for the husband and wife to grow closer together, other than physically! Each new member should be given her/his space, time and above all privacy without pre-conditions. This is the Islamic way.

  • Maheenzarar

    Really informative. Thanks to the message international amd the author.

  • Abi

    The Highlights of this Topic:

    Too often we tend to ignore that
    relationships are two-way and we demand our rights without thinking about our
    own responsibilities.

    There are numerous horror stories
    r of the ill treatment by mothers-in-law of their daughters-in-law. At the same
    time, there are wonderful stories of the love and care between mothers-in-law
    and daughters-in-law.

    it is not obligatory for a woman
    in Islam to obey any one of her in-laws, but As for her husband, obedience to
    him is necessary providing that his orders do not contain exploitation,
    injustice and deviation from the Shari’ah.

    Allah SWT says, “Men are in
    charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they
    spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly
    obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them
    guard.” (4:34)

    It is also not allowed for them
    (in-laws) to force the woman to cook for them or doing other house chores. It
    should be from her kindness that she does these things and not expectations and
    demands of the in-laws. Similarly in-laws (on both sides) should not interfere
    in husband and wife disputes. This is often where things get a lot messier.

    A man must be kind and obedient
    to his parents and it is expected that the wife helps him to fulfill his
    kindness towards them. The woman should be very respectful and kind towards HER
    IN-LAWS.

    There is no harm to live with
    in-laws except that privacy for the wife is provided and again expectations are
    within the Shari’ah and not culture. If they live separately then visitations
    and kindness must be done accordingly.

    when it comes to defining
    relationship let the Shari’ah prevail in our lives. If we allow culture and
    customs to take precedence over Shari’ah problems will arise from day one, and
    on the Day of Judgment the questions are severe. On the other hand the wife
    should exercise patience and kindness towards her husband and his relatives, as
    she would like the same from him towards her parents and relatives.

    May Allah SWT help us all in fulfilling our duties to one another.

  • Humraz

    Here’s a question.. Before my brother got married we used to be close. Now he hardly talks to us. Being apart for two years I came to my moms home. My brother a d his wife live like walking distance. My brother came to see me but my sister in law didn’t. Being the month of Ramadan the next day I went to her home and knocked on the door. She screamed at my kids telling them to go home. Once I spoke up, she yelled at me saying how dare I come there. Anyways my bro inside quiet like usual. My intention was to say Salaams. My brother called my dad and said in Islam his wife doesn’t have to obey us. I’m not asking her to kiss my feet! I’m not asking her to do anything. So what’s the ruling on this???

    • rani

      It’s hard for male or female. Some wives are not respectful and some husbands are not. In my case my husband listened to his sisters and brothers from day one we got married. When I joint my husband in his house ,my brother in law said you will have to do what ever we say. We need to follow our rules. I was very young I got scared and dient say anything. Cooked cleaned etc. My husband said nothing. When my same brother in law got married. He said I ll keep my wwife as I want. No one can tell me or tell her to do anything.
      I got frustrated and said to my husband why didn’t you say anything like this when it was my time. And why rules are different for them. As usual he said nothing.
      So answer for your question is. No one is perfect. I m still upset what my in laws did to me. And you will not forget whatever happened to u.

  • abcd

    How do I make my mother in law and sister in law realise the above article

  • abcd

    It’s soo difficult for me I m too young and I got married at a legal but early age I had different opinions about my mother in law but now there’s a continuous interference of hers between me and my husband I keep quiet because that’s what we are thought to I mean to respect them I m very emotional and I get hurt very soon they pass harsh comments and always interfere in my personal life I feel like killing my self

  • abcd

    But how do I make them understand this if I show them this article they’ll surely pounce on me the words my mother in law uses towards me are very harsh at times and my sister in law treats me like a dog whenever she makes a mistake she’s right but when I do or even if I don’t why do I have to hear it all the time if I tell.my husband he gets frustrated so I stopped telling him now I feel so lonely and I really don’t know where I m heading I m just trusting Allah each day that things will be better tomorrow but how much should I bear what should I do and how should I react to this at times I feel I should visit a counsellor for my depression

  • shabroimpex

    This article teach us humanity but not clear evidence from Qur’an and Hadith that what is duty of daughter in law towards her mother in law and father in law. Father in law and mother law understand their own daughter but because of lectures of some Islamic Scholars; daughter in law turned her face from her mother in law and father in law to give her duty. What is Islamic solution from Qur’an and Hadith that they turn and believe her father in law and mother in law as her father and mother and take care when require similar she take care her own father and mother. Though it is notable and undoubtedly that father in law and daughter in law both are not equal but father and daughter for each other because in Islam after marriage if daughter in law get divorce from her husband, she is not allow to marry with her ex-father in law till life. It means they both are father and daughter, not father in law and daughter in law

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