How Does One Maintain the Balance with In-Laws in the Light of Islamic Ethics?

Question

I hope you are in the best of health and Iman. I have a pressing issue that has been weighing heavily on my mind. I have lived with my mother-in-law for 31 years. It hasn’t been in the least bit easy but I compromised because my husband is the only son. At the beginning of this year, I suffered from heart problems and had to undergo three complicated heart procedures which really took their toll on me. My husband has six sisters and he asked them if they could have their mother stay with them until I recovered. Thereafter a lot of drama ensued. They were all offended and went around to all our family and community members slandering us saying that we didn’t want their mother to live with us. They were very verbally abusive and are now sending my husband messages about a mother’s status in Islam.

My husband still provides for his mother, she is merely not living in our home anymore. Is Allah displeased with us? I faced many years of emotional manipulation and abuse from them and with my health issues, all I needed was some peace to recover. Are we at fault? We are facing taunts and threats and we are fearful of being wrong in Allah’s eyes. Please advise. I will be so grateful for your nasiha.

Answer

May Allah help you in this difficult situation and grant you a speedy recovery and well-being (`afiyah). Three heart surgeries are no easy matter and you must take care of yourself first.

Are You Sinful?

No, you are absolutely not sinful for asking to move his mother to another home. Taking care of elderly people is a full-time job and whole systems exist to facilitate it: nursing homes, in-home nursing care, home improvement for seniors programs, old age funds, pensions, etc…..the list goes on. You and your husband have provided all of these systems to her on your own.

Obligation

The obligation of taking care of your mother falls on her children. Your husband is not sinful either, because he has done his best for her for over 30 years and is still financially providing for her. Asking her to move so that you can recover from an illness is giving you your basic right. It is shameful of your sisters-in-law for insulting you both and not realizing that they should do more. Taking care of her for over 30 years is a tremendous charity on your behalf and I pray that you will be well-rewarded for it.

You and Self Care

In the meantime, you are in tremendous need of self-care. Don’t miss your prayers, read some Qur`an every day. Thank Allah for your successful surgeries. Give a little to charity regularly.  Don’t attack your relatives verbally or in any other way. Negativity can breed negativity, and will only make you more sick. Ignore them and focus on yourself and your family.

Please follow the doctor’s orders. Nurse yourself back to good health. Get enough exercise, fresh air, healthy food, and take supplements. De-stress regularly.

You can have your mother-in-law come back to your home after you have completely recovered. Be kind to her, tell her that you missed her, and are happy to have her back. Her prayers for you will go a long way. If not, then at least your husband’s pleasure with you with earn you Paradise. It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “It was said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what type of wife is best?‘ He said: “The one who makes her husband happy when he looks at her, and she obeys him if he instructs her to do something, and she does not do anything with regard to herself or his wealth in a manner of which he does not approve.” [Ahmad]

But do try to get more help around the house. Perhaps you can hire a cleaning lady once in a while. Get the children to help. Declutter the home so that there is less to dust and clean. After all these surgeries, you certainly won’t be able to work yourself like a horse cleaning and cooking fancy meals.

Please read the following excellent article by Shaykh Jamir for complete information on the rights of parents and how to balance them with one’s needs:
Should I Abandon the Life I Have Built Abroad to Take Care of My Parents?

May Allah give you tawfiq and thawab (reward) for all you have done for your family.

[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.