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Living Under Laws of My Brother-in-Law



Reply Date

Dec 04, 2016


As salam aleykoum, My sister got married a couple of months ago. For personal reasons I have to live with her and her husband with whom I don’t have a good relationship. Indeed he complains about me to my sister about my behavior, my way of thinking and of speaking.... It started last Ramadan when I used to spend the night at the mosque for taraweeh. I went with a girl that I met through a website that aims at getting in touch Muslim girls in my region because nobody around me prays. He said to my sister that I was becoming more and more radical, that I was putting her apart of what I was doing because she was not aware of what I was doing, that she was anxious because of me.... I had the feeling that I was doing something wrong and I do not want to cause pain to my lovely sister. He reproached me in a lot of things; according to him I act as a child, I am irresponsible and influential. The life made that my sister and I used to be very close but it was before she got married. Now I have the feeling she is not my sister anymore because SHE is highly influenced by her husband, her husband whom decides for me and does not let me any freedom. I don’t live anymore with them because I am studying abroad but I said to my sister that I plan to study Quran in a school in Morocco and so not to come back directly. She disapproves of that because of what he said to her..I feel like a stranger to my sister. I don’t recognize her anymore and I really want to improve my faith... How would she react if I tell her that I want to wear hijab.....My question is: How should I react regarding my brother-in-law? Does he have any authority on me even if I am 21? What about my sister? How should I let her understand that I want to improve my faith? I tried to discuss with her but she is convinced that her husband advises me for my well being...I feel sometimes I am not the captain of my life. Thank you for your understanding and your patience. Barak Allahu fik



Living Under Laws of My Brother-in-Law


As-Salamu `Alaikum dear sister,

Thank you for sending us your question. I am sorry to hear about the strife between you and your sister and her husband. I ask Allah to keep you strong and to grant you patience and perseverance to do what is right.

Again, I am sorry to hear of the difficulty that you are going through with your sister, and certainly from your brother-in-law. It appears from your written question that your brother-in-law does not approve of your way of life and your desire to study your religion and grow closer to Allah. Not only does he disapprove, but it also appears that you feel that your sister is being influenced by his negative attitude towards you and has caused you and your sister to grow apart. You are very upset that this has caused a distance between you and your sister and you also wonder if your brother-in-law should have any authority over you.

Sister, an important thing you should know is that you should be valued and respected no matter what you believe in or follow. If you want to practice your religion, you should have every right to do so because you are practicing for your own sake and not for anybody else’s. Belief and spirituality is a personal issue, and no one has a right to force you to take it away from you. Of course, people may have different opinions and let you know what they are, but that still does not grant them the right to sabotage your relationship with anyone or force you to (or not to) practice your religion.

That being said, it was wrong for your brother-in-law to force his opinion over you or stop you from practicing your religion. It is also wrong of him to influence your sister against you (if that is what he truly did).

The best way to remedy this is to have a private and frank conversation with him about your freedom of choice, your good intentions towards him and your sister, and to remind him that nothing and no one should come between family members. Of course, this should be a conversation and not a confrontation. I understand that you may have hurtful feelings towards him, but in order to have a successful conversation with him with the intent to try to help him understand your point-of-view, your conversation must be peaceful and empathic.

Focus on your desire to continue to have a positive relationship with your sister because that really should be the main priority. With continuous peaceful conversations and your continuation of practicing patience, good character, and perseverance, he may start to change his attitude towards you.

However, the priority remains in maintaining good ties with your sister. He may or may not change his attitude towards you. Certainly you would wish for him to do so because it would make things much easier for you and everyone else involved, but reality is that that may not happen.

While speaking with your brother-in-law, also have conversations with your sister about your desire to practice your religion and your hope to continue to have a strong relationship with her. Continue to show her that you value her, wish her well, and to see you for who you are instead of who she (or anyone else) wants you to be. Remind her that your relationship with her is a priority for you and wish that the both of you maintain a strong relationship, even though you both have different views on things. Adults can agree to disagree and still value each other, especially when it comes to family members.

Sister, it is also important for you to know that even though you may have tried to sincerely and honestly keep good ties with your sister, she may or may not accept you right away. That is when the virtues of patience and perseverance come into play.

Remember that everything you go through in life requires you to make a choice; and that choice requires you to make sacrifices and to be patient during difficult times. Remember why you wanted to practice your religion in the first place whenever you get into these hurdles.

The question now is, what is your priority? What are you willing to sacrifice for your priority? Making a choice in life also requires you to accept whatever difficulties come along with that choice. That is part of standing up for who you are; accepting the difficulties as they come and you try your best to overcome them.

May Allah help you to do what is best and give you the strength and courage to stand up for the truth.



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About Aliah F. Azmeh

Aliah F. Azmeh is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Detroit, Michigan. Aliah graduated with a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2007 and has experience working in the United States and overseas. Aliah currently works as a clinical social worker and provides individual, family, and marital counseling at Muslim Family Services in Detroit, MI.

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