In today’s society, particularly Muslims from the Indian subcontinent, there is an important need to educate those who have been affected by cultural traditions and to inform & remind them of the prohibitions of Islam.
One such common cultural problem is the often toxic relationship between the mother-in-law & daughter in law which can lead to marital problems, physical abuse, verbal abuse, Isolation and many more.
To understand the correct actions a son/husband should undertake when dealing with such situations we need to first understand the rights of the Mother and the wife.
Rights of the Mother
It is important to first understand that the Mother has many major rights over their child. Some important examples are described below:
- Love and respect – as much as possible, because she is the most deserving of people of her son’s good companionship.
- Taking care of her and looking after her affairs if she needs that; this is a debt that rests on the child’s shoulders.
- Not offending them or saying or doing anything that they dislike.
- Spending on her if she is in need. Spending on one’s mother and feeding her is more precious than feeding their own children.
- Obeying her when she tells you to do something good that does not involve disobedience to the Creator.
- After one’s mother dies, it is Sunnah to fulfil any vows that she had made and to give charity and perform Hajj and ‘Umrah on her behalf.
- After she dies, it is also Sunnah to honour her by maintaining ties with those whom she used to keep in touch with, such as her relatives and friends.
Rights of the Wife
The rights of the wife over the husband which are hers alone:
- The Mahr (dowry) – This is the money to which the wife is entitled from her husband when the marriage contract is completed or when the marriage is consummated. It is a right which the man is obliged to pay to the woman.
- Spending – The scholars of Islam are agreed that it is obligatory for husbands to spend on their wives, on the condition that the wife respects and responds to her husband. If she refuses him or rebels, then she is not entitled to that spending.
- Accommodation – This is also one of the wife’s rights, which means that her husband should prepare for her accommodation according to his means and ability.
- Kind treatment – The husband must have a good attitude towards his wife and be kind to her and offer her everything that may soften her heart towards him
- Not harming one’s wife – This is one of the basic principles of Islam. Because harming others is haram whether it’s physically or emotionally.
The in-law relationship is a topic generally many Muslims have misconceptions regarding.
When spouses get married they are married to one another and not their families. It is the norm these days to have the wife serve her in-laws, and some men have high expectations of their wives to do so. It is not the obligation of the daughter-in-law to take care of them financially or their physical needs. But on the other hand, if the daughter in- law serve their parents-in-law out of love and respect, then it is their own free will which the parents-in-law should be grateful for. As for the daughter in law, they will be rewarded by Allah (SWT) for their kindness, respect and for treating their parents-in-law as their own parents.
A daughter-in-law should understand that no right is greater than the right of a mother.
Abu Hurayrah (RA) said: “A man came to the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is most deserving of my good companionship?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ The man asked, ‘Then who?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ He asked, then who?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ He asked, ‘Then who?’ He said, ‘Your father.’”
In reality, these rights, at times, may not go down too well with certain people and cultures. For example, the expectations from the husband’s parents might be that the daughter-in-law will take over the running of the house such as cleaning, cooking, washing, etc. This expectation is usually as result of their own experiences which their generation faced and has now become the cultural norm. Many daughter-in-laws will even accept this as part of life.
Another example would be that spouses want to live their own life. They would move out to live on their own leaving the husbands ageing parents to fend for themselves. This is also contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Role of the Son/Husband
The Son/Husband has to keep his emotions in control, even though he will be “stuck in the middle”, and display wisdom by ensuring he understands the rights of the mother and wife. This will enable him to be impartial and not breach any of their rights.
Men have to bear the responsibility that Islam has enjoined on him. He has to honour his family and remind them if they do something that is contrary to Islam. Differences in opinions are human nature and human beings are not all the same in terms of attitude, religious commitment, reasoning and behaviour. The benefit of learning and educating about the rules and prohibitions is that each family member will appreciate what the other has to offer, and subsequently, this will lead to respect, love and harmony.
The hadeeth ‘The story of Alqamah’ explains what can happen if the rights of other people are not clearly understood no matter how pious you are.
“Alqamah (RA) was a very pious person. He spent his time in prayer and fasting. At the approach of death, he was unable to proclaim the Kalima Shahada, in spite of repeated instruction by those present. Alqamah’s wife sent a messenger to Rasul Allah (SAW) to inform him of Alqamah’s grave condition.
Rasul Allah (SAW) enquired whether the parents of Alqamah were alive. He was informed that Alqamah’s mother was alive. Rasul Allah (SAW) asked the aged mother about Alqamah. She replied: ‘Alqamah is a very pious person. He passes his time in Salat and Saum. He performs Tahajjud, but he always disobeys me for the sake of his wife. I am, therefore, displeased with him.’
Rasul Allah (SAW) said: ‘It will be best for him if you forgive him.’ However, she refused. Rasul Allah (SAW) ordered Bilal (RA) to gather firewood. On hearing this order, Alqamah’s mother asked in consternation: ‘Will my child be burnt in the fire?’
Rasul Allah (SAW) said: ‘Yes! Compared to the punishment of Allah, our punishment is light. I take an oath by Allah that as long as you remain displeased with him, neither his Salat nor his Sadaqah is accepted.’
The old lady said: ‘I make you and all people present to witness that I have forgiven Alqamah.’ Rasul Allah (SAW) addressing the gathering, said: ‘Go and see if the Kalima is on the tongue of Alqamah or not.’
After returning from Alqamah the people informed him that he was reciting the Kalima. Thus, he left this world with the Kalima on his lips. After burying Alqamah, Rasul Allah (SAW) said: ‘The curse of Allah is on the one who causes difficulty to his mother. The curse of the angels and the curse of mankind be on him. Allah Ta’ala neither accepts his Fardh nor his Nafl Ibadat as long as he does not repent and obey his mother. He has to gain her pleasure as best as he can. Allah’s Pleasure depends on the mother’s pleasure and His Wrath is concealed in her wrath.’” [Bayhaqi]
This hadith is a sombre reminder for us to be respectful and obedient to our parents and try to keep them happy with us. It is not a small matter to upset them for the sake of our friends or others who we value more. The only time that we are allowed to give preference to others is in the matter of others’ Allah-given rights since no obedience can supercede obedience to Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW).
Therefore, it is important to find out what the rights of our children, spouses, relatives, friends, and other Muslims are, so we know what Allah (SWT) wants us to do in case there is a clash between what different people want from us. This is the only proper way to balance relationships as it seeks Allah’s pleasure.