Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalam alaykum
I have an uncle who is sexually attracted to my sister. He ignores his wife and kids who are suffering from this. My sister doesn’t mind the behavior of my uncle. I am very tense and frustrated because of this issue.
What should his wife do? Can we go out with him or talk with him?
Answer: Thank you for your question. I pray you are well.
Mahrams (non-marriageable kin)
Your uncle is your mahram and the general rule is you can talk to each other, go out together, be in seclusion, and see parts of the awra that is not ordinarily seen outside the house. Normal affectionate physical contact between an uncle and a niece is also permissible, such as affectionate hugging, kissing on the cheek and head etc. Any sexual contact or inclination, however, is strictly prohibited.
Good opinion and Confirming facts
The first thing to do is to confirm facts. Your uncle may be close to your sister, but what are the reasons you think he is sexually attracted to her? Before saying or doing anything about the situation, you must work out if it is true or not. Is it possible that he just feels very comfortable and close with her, as an uncle is permitted to be with a niece?
To find out what the relationship is based on, you may have to speak to one or both of them directly. Your sister has explained that she talks normally to her uncle, and she may not see the point you are making. It may well be that your uncle and his wife’s relationship suffers because of his closeness to your sister, and I’m sure if there is constant communication and affection directed at your niece then this may upset his wife and children, but at the end of the day, he/they may not be doing anything wrong in the specific way you have mentioned, even if they do talk all the time or hold hands. Your uncle’s marriage may have its own problems, and he may confide in your sister in a way he can not to his wife, children, or others.
Possibilities and Courses of action
If it is unclear if there is a sexual attraction between your uncle and your sister, or they deny it and there is nothing to suggest that it is more than a very close uncle-niece relationship, then you should accept that is what it is. However, because it is causing issues with his wife, and she understandably feels upset and even jealous about their close relationship, this needs to resolved, perhaps by trying to convince your uncle and sister to at least talk to and see less of each other than they are currently doing. If they won’t listen or talk to you, try to get a close friend or family member who may be able to mediate. Perhaps you could approach your uncle’s wife and have her suggest marriage counselling to your uncle or some other platform where she can express herself with a third party present. As mentioned, it may be that they have their own marital problems and by resolving these, your uncle may diminish the time he spends with your sister, or their spending time together may stop being an issue for his wife.
If, however it becomes certain that there is sexual chemistry in the relationship, then this is of course prohibited, and your sister specifically should distance herself from him immediately, and at least until things change, cut off communication. If she does not listen to you, then again, try to get a trustworthy third party involved. In such case, you can also distance yourself from your uncle in as much as you feel there is a genuine need to.
Turning to Allah Most High
Remember that Allah Most High is in control of everything that happens. When things get difficult for us or those we love, our first course of action should always be turn to Him for guidance, support and success. I suggest you pray the Prayer of Need (Haja) and ask Allah Most High to resolve the situation and any tension it is causing you and the family. You can find out how to pray it here.
I wish you and your family all the best and that Allah removes anything harmful from your lives and replaces it with goodness and peace.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.