In this counseling answer:
• One can choose to advocate for herself at this point and start sticking up for herself with her husband and his parents. Or one can choose to leave and not come back.
• Finding a local counselor would also be very wise if available in her area.
Thank you for your question. I think you already know the obvious answer to your question, but I’ll validate you by saying, of course, this isn’t acceptable for a Muslim family. It’s not acceptable for any human being to be treated like this.
Your sister isn’t getting free food, rather it is her right to be fed, clothed, housed, and treated with respect, love, and kindness in whatever home she resides in that her husband has provided for her to live in. She isn’t responsible to “earn” her right to eat or have a seat at the table. Rather, it is entirely her husband’s obligation to do so.
Whatever problems the husband and wife may have had over the years seems to be exacerbated by her in-laws consistent meddling and mistreatment of her.
This all being said, I think it’s equally important to understand that your sister, although she is based on your description a victim of some form of emotional abuse, do have a choice.
She can choose to advocate for herself at this point and start sticking up for herself with her husband and his parents. Or she can choose to leave and not come back.
Limits of Obedience
A culture that reveres elders and asks that a woman respect them equally must understand the limits to what elders, or in-laws, can say, do, or demand from others including their own children let alone their daughter-in-law. These limits are derived from our religion. At a bare minimum is the following hadith:
“None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.” [Al-Bukhari] [Muslim]
Whether it is a husband, a wife, a child, a mother in law, a father in law, or anyone else, we are obligated to treat other people the way we want to be treated. It takes a person who has taqwa (God-consciousness) to be able to reflect on their own actions and choices and how they treat other people.
It often takes a person standing up for themselves, an arbitrator, or the end of a marriage in order for other people to realize that the treatment they chose was extremely damaging to the other person, especially if that individual let them know exactly why they are leaving.
On the other hand, some people have too much darkness in their heart to listen which is why it’s best when a person can dissolve such a relationship.
Was There Ever Love and Happiness?
Your sister needs support to decide what she wants for her future and how she wants to handle it.
More details on her situation would be helpful. Has her husband ever been kind and loving to her for an extended period of time? Did they get along and the problem happened when his parents began to get involved in their marriage? Have they ever had time alone together for an extended period of time in order to develop their relationship with one and other?
The answers to these questions really affect the direction that someone may advise her to go in.
If she has been married for seven years and never shown love, kindness, affection, compromise, consideration, dialogue, or respect then no one should expect a miraculous change from either her husband or his family without some serious external pressure.
Check out this counseling video:
Pressure can include her family becoming involved in speaking with her husband, directly and alone, or involving the presence of a trusted religious figure who values women and men equally in a marriage and would not tell her something like “be patient and try to make them happy.”
In your desire to help your sister, whom I sure you love very much and want to help, you have to ask her the right questions and get the full picture. When people are hurting, they can delete the good stuff from the past and only focus on the negatives. Because I am hearing your version of her situation as a third party, it’s essential I express no doubt in what you’ve shared but rather a desire to make sure all the facts are as you’ve presented them based on what you’ve been told.
Dealing with Her Miscarriage
I do not know for what exact reason the family has decided to turn against her or send her home, or if the miscarriage is the reason for being sent home (which is a tragic response), but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to head home for her so long as your parents are supportive and loving towards her.
A break would likely be good for her mental wellbeing. It would give her the opportunity to think clearly about what she wants to do in her life and in her marriage.
She also needs to be supported in knowing that the miscarriage isn’t her fault and she needn’t take responsibility for what has happened.
“Allah knows what every female carries and what the wombs lose [prematurely] or exceed. And everything with Him is by due measure.” (13:8)
She has lost a child and will be grieving for some time. This is natural and normal. Many people forever feel both the connection the loss of their child for the rest of their lives especially if the pregnancy was beyond the one hundred and twenty days after which the soul is breathed into the forming baby.
Please, be there for her just to listen, to let her cry, to let her speak. She needs a safe place to process her feelings.
Finding a local counselor would also be very wise if available in her area. Even consider looking for one online so she has a safe person to confide in during this difficult time. Maybe doing the legwork for her in finding someone and even paying for several sessions as a family can go a long way in her processing, healing, and determining what to do next.
There is a beautiful organization called Children of Jannah which offers resources for parents who have lost children. This can be an additional resource to share with her that she can view on her own time privately.
Final Reminder About Seeking Arbitration
I want to wrap up with the reminder that your sister has rights and options in her situation. Based on the Qur’an, she is in a situation to involve an arbitrator who will speak on her behalf and help her in demanding that she be treated with respect and dignity and giving her husband’s side a chance to articulate legitimate grievances.
“And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Acquainted [with all things].” (4:35)
May Allah reward you for caring for your sister and aid her in finding the path that brings her closest to Him and to a life where she is happy.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.