Can I Maintain Distance from My Non-practicing Sister-in-Law?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

My sister-in-law is not a good role model for my children. She has led a life of alcohol and many sexual partners. She shared this information with me as we grew up together in the same Muslim community. Currently, her husband is a convert. My father-in-law is an imam who performed the Nikah. He is unaware of her “behavior” as she has a secret double life. She pretends to be religious in front of her parents yet is on social media with alcohol and very little clothing. In addition, although her husband converted, he continued to drink and not go to the mosque.

My husband and I have very “formal” ties with her. She wants “more than that” and to be “very involved” with my children. She complains to her parents about our lack of a relationship.

I do not want this person in my children’s lives as I do not feel she is a good role model. In addition, she knows that we are not happy with her current marriage (although we attended the wedding for the sake of my in-laws). My in-laws are angry with us for not embracing her more. They do not know the whole story.

How do I handle this? I do not want to tell my in-laws about her double life, yet I also do not want more than a formal relationship to protect my children. Sometimes, I think entirely cutting ties would be easier as she would “get off our backs.”

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

May Allah ease your difficulty in this trying situation.

Understandably, you wish to protect your children from exposure to such a lifestyle. This is indeed a very delicate situation.

In such difficulties, we must train ourselves to first turn to Allah Most High, seeking His help. Make dua for your sister-in-law and for your circumstances to improve and perform the Prayer of Need often. See below for the attached link.

Your duty as a parent is to protect your children from toxic environments and bad influences. Allah Most High says: “O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are appointed guarding angels, stern and severe, who disobey not from executing the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” [Quran, 66:6]

However, your duty to your Father-In-Law is only to treat him with respect and kindness, as doing otherwise will be sinful and could be detrimental to your relationship with your spouse. Try your best to keep good ties with him and to avoid anything that would upset him within your abilities. If he brings up the topic of your sister-in-law, try to avoid any argumentation.

Now regarding your sister-in-law, you must keep a good opinion of her. We are supposed to dislike the sin without looking down on the sinner. However, at the same time, we must be cautious of any possible harm. In a wise and tactful manner, you should try to advise her and explain why you are reluctant to allow her to have greater involvement with your children. This may be more effective if coming from your husband.

At the same time, you should continue to conceal her faults. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), “No slave conceals another slave in the world, except that Allah conceals them on the Day of Rising.” [Muslim]

We pray that Allah eases your difficulty and guides your Sister-in-Law to turn back to Him in repentance.

How to perform the Prayer of Need (salat al-haja):
How Does One Perform The Prayer Of Need (salat al-haja)?

Hope this helps
Allah A’lam

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.