Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: My elderly mother lives alone at home. I am her youngest child, and I live with my wife and children in our own home. I would like to move back in with my mother but my wife is does not want to because of the neighbourhood and my brothers are often present at my mother’s house.
I feel if I say to my wife, “I want to move in and you have to come with me,” it will cause issues among us. What can I do?
Answer: Assalam alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for seeking out an answer to this dilemma.
This is a very challenging situation. On one hand, you want to keep your mother company in her old age, and bring happiness to her heart. On the other hand, your wife does not want to give up her right to private quarters.
I encourage you to perform the Prayer of Guidance up til 7 times about moving in with your mother. Watch how events unfold to help you ascertain the best way to move forward.
Asking your wife to move in with her elderly mother-in-law and disabled brother-in-law is asking her to go above and beyond the call of duty. Please acknowledge that and express that to your wife. Explain that you know that this situation is not ideal, but you’d like to figure out a compromise. Don’t make the mistake of demanding this from her. See her perspective, and do your best to win her over. Please perform the Prayer of Need every day, especially in the last third of the night, and beseech Allah for help.
It is common for marriages to fall apart because of the stress of living with in-laws. Please seek protection from that. On the other hand, living with your mother is an excellent way of being of service to her in her old age. insha Allah your wife will be able to be on board and secure her place in Jannah through her sacrifice.
The Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “Whoever persists in asking for forgiveness, Allah will grant him relief from every worry, and a way out from every hardship, and will grant him provision from (sources) he could never imagine.” [Ibn Majah]
Make constant istighfar every day and trust Allah will make a way out for you.
What are some alternatives you can both come up with? An option is for all of you to spend the weekends at your mother’s home, and weekdays in your own home. At least this way, she gets some company. Perhaps start with this first, and see how it goes.
Another option is for you to make the effort to spend more time with your mother during the week. Try to see if you can have dinner with her at least on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Based on your wife’s concerns, would your mother be willing to sell her home and move to a different neighborhood? I know that is probably unlikely. Most elderly people do not fare well with big life changes, so it would be more realistic for your wife to accept that nosy neighbors are part of life, and a means of refining her character.
If there is no other option other than moving in, then I encourage you to please refer to this website, Contented In-Laws, for some excellent tips. This rule is especially useful—Rule #8 Try to Buy a House with a Living Room and Bathroom for Each Party.
Even though your mother and your wife have a good relationship right now, it is extremely challenging for both of them to share the same living space, every single day. Allah knows this about His creation, hence the wisdom behind the ruling of a wife’s rights to her own separate quarters. However, for many families around the world, moving in is the only option. This is why having a separate kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom makes a world of a difference.
If you do move in with you mother, then ensure that you set firm boundaries with your brothers when they come to visit.
I cannot state this enough: please do your best to strike a healthy balance between your mother and your wife. You may be torn with feelings of guilt because you are not living with your mother, and you may also be feeling frustrated with your wife. Both of them have valid perspectives, and your role is to give both their due, to the best of your ability. You will juggle this role for as long as you, your mother, and your wife are alive. I pray that Allah grants you the wisdom and compassion to fulfill this role, and reward you immensely for your struggles.
When registration reopens, I strongly encourage you to do The Rights of Parents course and the Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life course. In the meantime, you can download the free lesson sets on Getting Married.
Please learn what the rights of your mother and your wife are, in order to help you fulfill them. Don’t rely on cultural norms or expectations—rely on what Allah demands of you.
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi‘i fiqh, Arabic, Sirah, Aqidah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajwid. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.