Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
My wife, children and I live with my elderly parents and brother. My wife is unhappy because she needs to wear hijab everywhere in our home except for our bedroom and bathroom. She has no privacy elsewhere in our home. My elderly parents say that she has enough privacy. What do I do?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us. Please forgive me for the delay.
Dear questioner, you are in a difficult and delicate situation. I pray that Allah grants you a way out. Throughout this process, please perform the Prayer of Need and ask for ease. Read and reflect on the story of Surah Yusuf.
1) Speak to your brother and let him know that it would be easier for your wife and for yourself if he were to move out. It is likely that his wife would appreciate her own privacy. Would this be feasible, and financially possible for him?
2) Speak to your entire family and suggest moving to a home where your wife gets more privacy. I strongly encourage that you provide your wife with her own kitchen, living space, bedroom and bathroom. Please refer to this: Rule #8 Try to Buy a House with a Living Room and Bathroom for Each Party.
3) If your parents do not want to offer more privacy for your wife, then as an absolute last resort, I suggest that you move out and let her rest in the privacy of her own home.
Please read this excellent answer – A Wife’s Right to Housing Seperate From Her In-Laws. I strongly encourage you to read it, reflect on it, and share it with the rest of your family. Your wife’s concerns are valid, and it’s extremely important that you consider them.
Imam al-Haskafi states in Durr al-Mukhtar:
“It is necessary for the husband to provide the wife with a shelter (home) that is free from his and her family members…. taking into consideration both their economic standings. A separate quarter within the house that has a lock, separate bathroom and kitchen will be (minimally) sufficient.”
If a wife wishes to do so, then she will be rewarded for giving up her rights. However, if she does so unwillingly, then she risks becoming resentful.
What your wife is asking for is perfectly reasonable and well within her rights, even if your parents do not think so. You must advocate for your wife in this situation. Use wisdom, politeness and tact, but you must do everything in your power to let her wishes be heard.
Shaytan lies ever in wait to harm your marriage, so I suggest that you find a feasible, long-term solution which will keep your marriage intact.
It can be very stressful and stifling for a wife to not have her own kitchen. A wife who is unhappy will transmit that spiritual state into her cooking, which then impacts on those who eat her food. Reflect on this, and please do everything in your power to facilitate her own privacy.
It sounds like your parents struggle to see your wife’s point of view. Patiently, and with good adab, gently speak to them. Advocate calmly and firmly for your wife, even if they may not like what you have to say. It is common for the elderly
The best case scenario is for them to understand your wife’s point of view, and facilitate matters so that it is easier for her to live with them. This could be through your brother moving out, or through all of you moving to a more suitable home.
Unfortunately, if they do not understand, then you need to protect your wife and the sanctity of your marriage. Your elderly parents still have each other, and your brother and his wife to keep them company. Even though moving out is a last resort and is likely to upset your parents, consider the alternative – allowing your wife to continue to live unhappily while forgoing her rights. Being a mother to young children is challenging enough. Please support her in restoring her rights, and easing her unhappiness.
Living in an extended family household harmoniously takes a lot of wisdom, tact, assertiveness, and boundary-setting. I pray that Allah make this all easier for you.
[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.