Please help me because I am at my wits end! I am married to a man who has 2 children from another marriage (Amani is seven and Ahmed is five). My husband is Muslim and his ex-partner is also Muslim (she reverted to Islam). My husband and his ex-wife ended their marriage four years ago after a series of arguments.
Immediately after the separation, the ex-wife continued to allow my husband to see his two children without any problem. However, in the months that followed, she limited his contact with the children until eventually he decided to go to court to fight for his kids. After a number of years of mediation and trying to resolve the situation through solicitors, the case went back to court and his ex-wife gained custody of the children. He now sees his children every other weekend, two days during the week, and half of all the school holidays.
I married my husband a year ago, and since then I have stood back and witnessed his ex-wife using her kids to make my husband’s life a misery. She makes my stepdaughter hug and kiss her stepfather in front of my husband to make him jealous. She has also told Ahmed that my husband is not his father (even though he is) and that he is no longer a part of the family. According to her, he is not allowed to be washed by his father or even drink from the same bottle as his father in case he picks up germs!
When my husband goes to collect the children for midweek contact, she insists on making her daughter wear dirty clothes just to displease him. My husband took his son to the hairdressers to get his hair cut short. When the mother came to collect the children, I saw her tease my stepson in the car over his haircut and she made fun of him. I feel so sorry for that boy because he is only 5 years old and doesn't deserve this treatment from his own mother! When my husband cut his son’s hair in the past, she had the nerve to call her son “ugly” in front of his father, stepfather, and sisters! This was just to get back at my husband of course.
I am in a difficult position, I want to tell the ex-wife to stop bullying my husband every time she comes to our house or we go to collect the kids from her house, but I am scared it is going to make the situation even worse. At the same time, I don’t want to stand back and watch her torturing my husband and her kids. It is not right, and Islamically she should respect her kids, not use them just to get back at her ex-partner. When the children are with us they are like two different people. They are happy, comfortable, and relaxed, but when they are near their mother they get tense and don’t kiss their father in front of her or wave him goodbye.
Unfortunately, the courts can't do anything about it. In the UK, the law is on the mother’s side and the father has practically no rights. My husband prays to Allah to help us all, as I do. I really hope things get better.
Do you think I should talk to the ex-wife and let her know that her behavior is affecting her children?
In this counseling answer:
•The process of consultation in marriage is stressed in Islam, and this also applies in a divorce where children are concerned; consultation should be the goal.
•Seeing as all secular solutions have failed, why not consider the role of a trusted imam or sheikh in the community, one that your husband’s ex-wife might respect and listen to.
•Both your husband and his ex-wife should attend more than one consultation with a respected member of your community, to put the past to rest and learn what their duties are to their children.
As-salamu `alaykum my dear sister,
We really feel sorry for you and the situation that your husband and the children find themselves in. Some Muslims revert to Islam with deep and sincere intentions, while others bring with them the heritage from their jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance) days. Your stepchildren’s mother has obviously used the civil system of custody law to avenge the harm that she feels has been inflicted upon her.
In order not be unfair, please bear in mind that because you have been able to bring out the best in your husband, does not mean that his ex-wife was able to do the same, and that might be a basis for her anger, even though we cannot justify this. In the selfishness of her anger, she has also inflicted harm upon her children. By the grace of Allah, al-hamdu lillah, they seem to know that they still have their father’s love and your love. This will help them much in their self-worth as she destroys their self-confidence in her blind anger.
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In general, in these situations, civil law can only create an imbalance, because civil law fails to recognize the rights of both parents. At the same time, if you make an input into the situation by talking to her, it may only result in her casting a wider net in her path of wrath, which will increase the negative impact upon the children.
Furthermore, it is not clear if her new husband is a Muslim or not, or whether the children’s mother is still a Muslim or a practicing Muslim, despite her actions. In this sense, the well being of the children lies with their biological father, but one must also add that children aged seven and five are not well placed to decide whom they should live with; although the biological father has a right to protect their rights.
The process of consultation in marriage is stressed in Islam, and this also applies in a divorce where children are concerned; consultation should be the goal. Seeing as all secular solutions have failed, why not consider the role of a trusted imam or sheikh in the community, one that your husband’s ex-wife might respect and listen to. Both your husband and his ex-wife should attend more than one consultation with a respected member of your community, to put the past to rest and learn what their duties are to their children.
It may take some time to convince her of this step, but it is one that should be pursued with care and good intentions, so that her anger will lose impetus, and so that your husband’s ex-wife can wake up to the harm that her actions are causing her children before it is too late.
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