Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: My sister recently got married, and found out that her husband is extremely controlling. He always checks her phone and doesn’t allow her to visit us or stay over.
He demands that our parents don’t interfere in their lives but his mother does. We’re very worried because he’s planning to move to another city which is 2-3 hours away. My parents are deeply saddened by this situation.
What should we do?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for having sincere concern for your sister.
I am very concerned for your sister’s safety. The stress that she is going through is harmful to her, as well as her unborn baby. The spirit behind a successful Islamic marriage is one of sincere concern. The abuse, control, and isolation that your sister is going through contradicts this basic tenet.
Family ties and spying
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “The word ‘Ar-Rahm (womb) derives its name from Ar-Rahman (The All-Merciful) and Allah said: ‘I will keep good relation with the one who will keep good relation with you, (womb i.e. Kith and Kin) and sever the relation with him who will sever the relation with you, (womb, i.e. Kith and Kin).” [Bukhari]
It is impermissible for your brother-in-law to cause your sister to break ties with her family.
Allah Most High says: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” [Qur’an, 49:12}
It is also impermissible for your brother-in-law to spy on her private conversations.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Bukhari]
Your sister and her husband need to see a counsellor. Their current marital dynamic sounds very oppressive, and it needs to stop.
Who does your brother-in-law listen to and respect? Encourage your sister to ask for mediation. She needs to communicate her concerns to her husband, and be backed up by a compassionate and knowledgeable mediator. A local scholar would be ideal.
If your brother-in-law resists any attempts at counselling or mediation, then please make dua for another opening. Don’t give up hope.
If your sister is too afraid to suggest any changes to her husband, then please reassure her that she is not alone, and that she has your support and your parents. Women who have been controlled and abused start to lose confidence in their own judgement.
I urge you and your family to perform The Prayer of Need in the last third of the night. Cry out to Allah and beg Him to lift this oppression from her life.
When registration reopens, I urge you, your sister, and your parents to complete this course Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life. This will empower each of you with sound, authentic knowledge about what your sister’s rights actually are. Ideally, your brother-in-law should do this course too.
The trajectory of your sister’s marriage is a predictable one, and is all too common. Pregnant women stay with their husbands thinking that it will get better. Unless Allah inspires change, it usually does not improve. The stress of a new baby can further stress a fractured marriage. Instead of just the wife receiving abuse, the innocent baby can become an easy target too.
Please ask your sister to perform the Prayer of Guidance up to seven times about what to do about her marriage. If Allah softens her husband’s heart and makes him willing to attend counselling, then that is a sign for her to stay and work on her marriage. If your brother-in-law remains determined to isolate and control your sister, then that is a clear sign for her to leave. Please encourage her to exhaust all options before considering divorce. Even if it is the most hated of permissible things, it can be a mercy. The alternative is being trapped in an abusive marriage for decades, raising children in a household of fear; children who may end up repeating the same cycle.
Undoubtedly, there is a stigma surrounding single mothers in the Muslim community. This is not the way of our Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace). His first and most beloved wife, our Lady Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) was twice widowed and had children from her previous marriages. I pray that more Muslim men emulate this sunnah of the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) by becoming compassionate stepfathers as well as loving husbands.
Before you get married, please do your due diligence when it comes to a prospective husband. Learn from your sister’s tribulation. Ask Allah to send you a husband of good character and religion. Approach marriage with a clear head, a tranquil heart, and the intention to please Allah. This is difficult to do when emotions cloud judgement, which is why keeping a dignified distance during marital discussion is so, so important.
Please keep in touch.
My Brother Is an Extremely Controlling Husband. How Can I Help His Wife?
My Husband is Abusive, Irresponsible, and Doesn’t Practice Islam
Staying Connected to Your Purpose Even When Your Marriage is Rocky
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani