Do I Have To Live With My Widowed Mother-in-Law if My Husband Can’t Afford Otherwise?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad

Question

I am a revert and not very knowledgeable about this topic. My father-in-law passed away, leaving behind my mother-in-law and 17-year-old brother-in-law. My husband moved them into his house to care for them; I currently live with my parents. His older brother also lives there but is expected to move out soon. My husband wants me to move back in once his brother leaves. I refuse to live with his family because I want the freedom and independence of my own home. I say that I have the Islamic right to my own home, and he says I don’t have that right if he can’t afford it.

Which is true? What are my rights? What are his?

Answer

Thank you for your question. You do have a right to your own space, but it seems to me that this can be worked out if you discuss it with him.

Living Separately

You have the right to have separate quarters from your in-laws, but not necessarily your own house. “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.” [Taken from: A Wife’s Right to Housing Separate From Her In-Laws]

Wisdom

I find it very considerate that your husband is at least asking you to come back after his older brother leaves. I can see that he is trying to compromise. Next, you should discuss with him if it is possible for him to partner with his siblings to pay for a separate home for their mother. Then he could provide a separate place for you and him. This might require that he find a smaller place for you, or in a more affordable area since his finances would be stretched. Be ready to make the sacrifice in order to have your independence and freedom.

Please see these links as well for more tips:
Is It Permissible to Live Separately From In-Laws?
Is It Obligatory for a Woman to Look After Her In-Laws?
I Am Stuck Between My Mother and My Wife. What Does Islam Say?
My Wife Struggles to Have Privacy in Our Family Home. What Do We Do?

Something Better

Finally, keep this prophetic hadith in mind. Sometimes, there are more blessings in being charitable and in helping an elderly person who needs it. It will certainly be better for your marriage. Hopefully, in turn, Allah will send you someone in your time of need. But this is your decision and you should pray istikhara, and be considerate of his feelings and efforts. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), has told us, “Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah, the Almighty, but that Allah will replace it with something better.” [Ahmad]

May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.