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How to Deal with In-Laws Who Don’t Respect You

Questioner

K

Reply Date

Apr 30, 2017

Question

Assalam u alykum. I am a 30 years old Muslimah living in the Middle-east within a joint family system. I got married in an arrange marriage setup. I married 2 years ago. I came from a financially strong family ALHUMDULILLAH, but trust me I've never showed off. My in-laws house was small but I didn't complain and they have a manual washing machine and no vacuum cleaner. I requested my husband to buy me these things because I have to do the laundry and cleaning basically all the house chores by myself. He bought me these two things and afterwards things got worst with my mother in law. All she ever talks to me about is why was I sleeping in the afternoon, or why am I not doing this or how the automatic washing machine has affected the budget, or how I am wasting her son's money, or why am I going out with him even if it’s to a minute drive shop. All she ever does is complaining meanwhile my other in-laws acted as nothing happened. Then on daily basis whenever my husband came back to home from work, she calls him and complains about us being a big spender and me being such an ill-mannered wife. She said I was brainwashing her son. When I didn't respond much to her complains which were baseless she started saying things like “Son, your wife is not used to living with a mother; her mother has not raised her well”. (I lost my mother to cancer 4 years ago). I replied, “For ALLAH's sake leave my mother alone for she's dead and is someone you've never known.” My husband has been really supportive. My father asked me to ignore her and be kind and humble. But next day my mother in law called my father and again complained to him about me while twisting all the facts and lied that she didn't say anything about my mother and I over reacted to create a scene. My father told her that he would come here to resolve the matters. My mother-in-law called and apologized my dad next day. These were only the start of what I may now call a nightmare. ALLAH be our witness we haven't spent anything extravagant or big not even a small shopping for ourselves as every penny my husband earns either gets cut in his debts and the rest is given at his home. (Back at home my mom in law burdened herself with a loan of half a million Pakistani rupees.) My husband is the eldest son and the main source of money. Our current, biggest issue is now that I had some gold from my father and also from my husband’s family as my mahr. My mother in law told me to leave them to her when I was travelling back to Pakistan for a visit as she can take care of them better. But I did not. I travelled with them and came back with them, they were in my luggage. Right after arriving home again, I got really sick and had to go to the hospital for a week. During my stay, my mother in law asked my husband to take back some gold they gave me as mahr. He said he would ask me when I recovered. Then when I got home, I found that some of the little purse I had my golds in disappeared. We checked everywhere within my room then my husband told me that his mother has asked him to return that gifted 2pieces gold bangle set back to her but he didn't mention it cause I was not well. I wanted to go to the police directly. Of course, my in-laws denied that they took any gold from me. My husband said it can be a third person who was taking advantage of my weak relationship with his parents. He strongly condemned me to call anyone a thief before it's proved. Then my brother in law and my father in law accused me saying that I planned this against them and as he's a heart patient if anything happens to him will be due to his unfaithful son and her thief wife. They always badmouth me because I am not wearing hijab. Actually, the women in their family do not wear hijab and they do not keep their prayers while I pray regularly, read the Quran, fast although I know I am not a perfect Muslim. My husband left his home and we got separated from the joint family system. While all this happened, our newly purchase car on loan got into accident and we got heavy financial loss cause of that. We are in trauma. My question is, my husband visits his parents once in a while and now my mother in law wants to visit her son's home to congratulate him. Is it even allowed Islamicaly that without deciding that matter and still blaming me she wants to come and congratulate us - for what? I asked my husband to ask them to first resolve the gold issue by finding the thief and clear my position and myself from all the accusations they made. He asked his father but he said he would never fill a complaint and that his wife (me) is dead for them and he shouldn't talk about it again. What should I now? This accusation is killing me and I cannot meet my mother in law? I am not a good Muslim, but I haven't done anything that bad to anyone. Help me please. JazakAllah. Your sister in islam.

Counselor

Answer


How to Deal with In-Laws Who Don't Respect You

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

Thank you for writing to us and discussing your most important concerns. As I understand it, you are married and it was an arranged marriage and you are now living in a Middle-Eastern country with your husband’s family which appears to be quite large.  As you live in a family setting, which is not what you are used to, it is completely understandable that you feel frustrated, especially as you stated “the day after I arrived my mom in law yelled at my husband for taking me out for coffee alone and lectured him on how in a joint family system his wife should take care of all and should always go along with everyone else outside.” While this may have been confusing to hear as you and your husband certainly are entitled to alone time, it may be normal for his mom and family to expect you to “do all” and only go out “when everyone else is going along”. But these are cultural values sister, not Islamic ones.

As long as you and your husband have agreed between you how you both will live, who goes where and when then you need not be concerned with your mother-in-law’s complaints as you must have your separate life outside of the joint family for your marriage to be successful. While we are to be kind, respectful, and empathetic to our mother-in-law’s needs and wishes, by no means a daughter-in-law is considered a maid or “chained” to the family’s demands. While living in a joint family does carry certain responsibilities, you must also make alone time for just you and your husband. This will strengthen your marriage in sha’ Allah, provide away time so the two of you can bond more as well as create fun times as often living with many others and having to be responsible for a lot of chores can be stressful.

As you stated, your mother-in-law complains of the things you and your husband purchased the home and she constantly degrades you and your upbringing. This is despicable. To add further injury, she lied to your dad and insulted your mom who passed away a few years back (may Allah forgive her and grant her Jannah). Upon her return, she continues to cause fitnah, this time pulling other family members in to help her with her plots.

Your father-in-law also has no respect nor compassion based on what you have written. The matter of the missing gold, the fact that his family has huge loans and seems to always be seeking money are all signs of desperate peoples. You stated that they do not even keep prayers; therefore, along with their horrible actions towards you (and probably others), you can see they are not very much of an Islamic family.

Sister, the description you gave of what you sent through is horrific, indeed. I am so sorry you had to go through this. Alhumdulillah, you have a strong, loving husband who was and is willing to stand up to his parents and do what is right.

Based on what you have said, this family (mostly your mother-in-law) is one who is not happy, not balanced, and of one who is angry.  She may be jealous, angry that her own life did not turn out as she expected, or both. Whatever the case may  be,  it needs  to be  resolved as soon as  possible- if possible.

Towards the end of your question, it seems that now you and your husband are living in your own place which is a blessing, alhamdulillah. As you now know how his family is, you will in sha’ Allah know how to guard yourself against any more harm from them. You seems to be a lovely, respectful young Muslimah and you are also strong to go through so much abuse without snapping. Your husband should know how lucky he is to have you as his family is very challenging. I think he does know this. He seems like a wonderful husband to you as well; Allah (swt) has blessed you both with each other.

With that said as far as the gold being stolen and your name being disrespected in regards to this and other issues within your husband’s family, please, dear sister, try to put that in the past. I know it is hard, I know it hurts. However, those who know you, those who know your husband’s family know the truth. More importantly, Allah (swt) knows the truth of the matter and really, that is all that matters at this point. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an that

“Indeed, those who [falsely] accuse chaste, unaware and believing women have cursed in this world and the Hereafter; and they will have a great punishment.” (24:23)    

With this in mind sister, know that Allah (swt) sees all and Allah (swt) will hold those accountable for their lies, backbiting, and accusations. Therefore, I would try to let everything go and try to focus on the here and now, creating a happy home for your husband and future children, in sha’ Allah. This is where the real “gold” lies – within your relationship and blessings from Allah (swt).

Yes, your husband is right that his parents have a right to visit your home. For better or worse, they are still his parents and he too must show kindness to them even when they are not kind. He is accountable to Allah (swt) for this. However, he can (and should) inform them that when they do visit, they are to show respect in his home, not argue, and certainly not insult or speak harshly to you, his wife. In sha’ Allah, he can inform them that he maintains an Islamic home and there will not be toleration for fitnah of any kind.

As far as your trauma and hurt sister, I kindly suggest that you seek out counseling so you can relief yourself of all this pain and betrayal you have been going through. You may also be suffering from depression due to all you have gone through; thus, an empathetic counselor may help you navigate the pain so you can let go of it and continue on with your life. I say this as your in-laws will be a part of your life and in sha’ Allah you will become strong enough again to deal with whatever comes your way.  However, if your husband sets the ground rules for behaviors in his (your) home, it should not be as it was before.

Lastly and most importantly, seek refuge in Allah (swt). Make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) that He (swt) helps you forgive (as we love to be forgiven by Allah), that He (swt) helps you heal and that He (swt) continues to bless your marriage.

You and your husband went through a huge test concerning your love for one another as well as upholding Islamic principles. Now you have your own home and in sha’ Allah you will find it in your heart to forgive, but be mindful so that your husband can fulfill his Islamic obligations to his family.  In the Qur’an, it states

“If [instead] you show [some] good or conceal it or pardon an offense – indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Competent.” (4:149)

Your husband has stood on your side as he should (a lot of men won’t) so you are blessed in that regard. So, please trust in Allah’s protection, trust in your husband’s protection, and greet your in-laws with kindness, yet understand who they are and made du’aa’ that Allah (swt) softens their hearts. Offer them your smile, the food in your home, a comfy place to rest and ensure their needs are met. As stated in the Qur’an,

 “And let not those of virtue among you and wealth swear not to give [aid] to their relatives and the needy and the emigrants for the cause of Allah, and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (24:22)

I am confident, dear sister, you will be able to get passed this for the sake of Allah (swt) and for the sake of your marriage. While your in-laws treated you horrid, Allah (swt) will hold them accountable on the Day of Judgment unless they seek forgiveness and change their ways. You are not like them. You will in sha’ Allah rise above all of this as you were raised to be honorable, respectful, and fearful of Allah (swt) as well as kind to others. Please do not let them “steal” these blessings.

You are in our prayers, sister. we wish you the best.

Salam,

***

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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