Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
My husband keeps forcing me to serve his mother. She doesn’t treat me nicely at all. She emotionally guilts me, gives me silent treatment, speaks about me badly in front of me to other women she knows and leaves all the rubbish for me to clean up after her and her family when no one is home.
When everyone is home, she does everything and then moans she’s not feeling well. When she does this, the family looks at me as if it is my fault for making her do some little chores.
What can I do?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
Dear sister, you sound deeply unhappy. I am sorry that your husband is insensitive to your needs. You are not being a bad daughter-in-law. You are doing the best you can, in a very difficult situation.
In reality, your mother-in-law is oppressing you, and your husband is allowing it to happen.
Your husband needs to realise that you actually have the rights to your own home. Please see: A Wife’s Right to Housing Separate From Her In-Laws.
Allah knows His creation. Especially when your mother-in-law is unkind to you, it is better for you, your marriage, and your mental health, for you to live in your own home.
Unfortunately, in certain communities, there is also a very strong culturally – not Islamic – expectation to live with one’s in-laws. Given this, then you will most likely remain in your in-law’s home for as long as you are married. Please do everything in your power to protect yourself.
Please consult a culturally-sensitive counsellor to help you work through your feelings of depression. It sounds like you and your husband would also benefit from some marriage counselling. Your husband needs to learn how to be sensitive to your needs too, because you are his wife.
Your feelings of depression probably stem from feeling powerless. Please know that although your situation is difficult, you still have the power to protect yourself.
I encourage you to peruse this wonderful resource, and draw strength from it: Contented In-Laws.
Do you have friends and family you can lean on? Please do not further isolate yourself in your unhealthy home environment. Stay at home as little as you can, if possible. Do what you need to do around the home, and get a routine going for yourself. Go out to the library, a cafe, go for walks, etc. You do not need to stay at home and be target practice for everyone else.
Is your husband good to you? Is he a kind man? What is your relationship like with him, outside of the stressor of his mother?
I encourage both of you to spend time connecting outside your home.
Sister Megan Wyatt of Wives of Jannah has wonderful resources which may help you.
With your therapist’s help, please practice setting healthier boundaries with your mother-in-law. You are not a sitting duck. You do not need to sit quietly at just accept abuse. You have the power to speak up for yourself, and protect your God-given dignity. You do not need to be rude, but you do need to set limits calmly and respectfully. Expect her to be unhappy about that. Do it anyway.
Pay attention to Rule #29: Don’t Put Up With Injustice. I have copied and pasted the excerpt here:
The most important thing to remember here is that you don’t have to put up with their unjust behaviour.
1. You have to stay away from them, even if you live in the same house.
2. Withdraw from their company. Say “Excuse me” and leave the room quietly.
3. Spend your time in your bedroom until the matter starts to get resolved.
4. Go and spend the day, and if possible, the night at a relative/friends house and inform your husband that you are not willing to put up with that sort of behaviour. You deserve to be treated with respect.
5. Whatever you do, don’t put on a smile and act as if everything is fine, and that you are okay with being mistreated. You are NOT.
Your mother-in-law is probably a depressed and deeply unhappy woman. This does not excuse her behaviour, but it may explain it. Do not expect her to change, and not expect the rest of your in-laws to change to care for your feelings, either. If she chooses to exhaust herself, then that is her choice. Don’t take responsibility for her choices. She is a grown woman, and so are you.
The brutal truth is that only you can change your situation. So take your power into your own hands, and do what needs to be done to guard yourself and your marriage.
It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that: the Messenger of Allah said (peace and blessings be upon him): “The most hated of permissible things to Allah is divorce. ” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
If everything you have tried continues to flounder, and your husband refuses to soften and see your point of view, then perhaps it is time to perform the Prayer of Guidance about leaving your marriage. This is a last resort – please do everything in your power to save your marriage first.
A positive sign to stay would be your husband being willing to help ease your difficulty. A sign for you to leave is your husband refusing to soften.
I encourage you to think of ways to make your current living situation healthier, so that if/when you fall pregnant, you have a home which is positive and conducive to your well-being and that of your unborn child.
Newborns and small children in general are a tremendous blessing, but they do bring about their own trials.
I pray this has been helpful.
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.