Allāh has created men and women as company for one another so that they can live in peace and tranquility according to the commands of Allāh and the Sunnāh of His Messenger Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam.
Living in peace and tranquility, however, becomes difficult if we follow Shaytān or our nafs (inner-self). This can and does happen when the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship becomes toxic and they oppose each other on any and all issues. Many marriages suffer because of this problem. Tensions build up gradually and life becomes difficult for all involved not least the man concerned i.e. the son of one woman and the husband of another.
Given below are some tips on how these broken relationships can be addressed while constantly seeking the help of Allāh.
- When your son gets married see that your daughter-in-law does not feel like a stranger in her own new home. Win her confidence by giving her your full attention and support. Never let her feel she is unwanted or inadequate.
- Try as much as you can to fulfill her needs if they do not go out of bounds. If you do not know the Shariah limits, then ask a scholar or take a class with one to find out so that you can strive to remain within them. She might have been a pampered child of her parents so it is your duty to see that she does not feel their absence very strongly.
- Assure her that you are like her real mother not by words only but by your sincere actions too! Try to be very amiable and friendly to her. Never talk to her harshly. Keep her secrets as a mother would do. How extraordinary would that mother-in-law be who would let her daughter-in-law feel like someone very special?
- At no cost you should let her feel like an intruder or your competitor or the ‘snatcher’ of your son. No matter how attached you are to your son you will have to share him with your daughter-in-law.
- In some cases the father-in-law, sisters-in-law and even some brothers-in-law try to or end up bringing harm to a family member’s life by interfering in their affairs. A pious mother-in-law uses her influence and authority to prevent this happening especially to her daughter-in-law and never contributes to the problem.
- Parents of the husband should realise that by using their influence and authority unjustly with other family memebers they are usurping the rights of their daughter-in-law – rights which Allah Himself has granted her. Why would any sane person confront Allah the High and Mighty in that manner?
- The husband as well as the in-laws might find it convenient that wife/daughter-in-law stay together with the family. However, the Shariah grants her every right to have a separate house in which she can live with her husband and children. If the woman decides on her own accord to live with her in-laws and to serve them then she is being generous with her right and would earn great rewards from Allah. In that case, however, you must recognize that she is not honoring any ‘right’ of the in-laws and therefore you should not impose demands much less unreasonable ones on her.
- Dahej or dowry: One aspect of the culture of kuffār that has crept into the Islamic communities of the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other smaller states) is that of the un-Islamic dowry. This dowry is the transfer of wealth from the bride’s side to the groom’s side upon marriage. If the bride’s parents fail to do so for one reason or another, the girl suffers a lot of humiliation, beating and sometimes even death. This practice inverts the Sunnah and is open Zulm (oppression) and its punishment is very severe in the hereafter, and in this world. This entire practice should be shunned and discarded if any blessings are expected in a marriage.
- One of the biggest challenges of married life is to get along well with your in- laws. However, you can achieve this by trying to win the hearts of your in-law family without, of course, crossing the boundaries of the Shariah.
- The ‘nagging, meddling mother-in-law’ is often blamed for being the cause of the ‘war’ with the daughter-in-law. However, the daughter-in-law is not blameless, as it conflict can never be one-sided. In fact, the daughter-in- law can be the main culprit. Be aware of this and don’t assume because you are younger or less influential in the family that you cannot have any responsibility for the conflict.
- Just as being a daughter-in-law is new to you, chances are, taking up the role of a mother-in-law is new to her. Always try and convey a positive attitude towards her. The older woman is probably just trying her best to fit into her role as a mom-in-law. The central idea is to show respect to her even if you feel she is being grossly unfair to you. Never talk to her rudely even if you have lost your temper.
- The Shariah grants you every right to have a separate house in which you can live with your husband and children. If, however, you decide to live with your in-laws and serve them then you can earn rewards from Allāh. In that case remember you have taken on that commitment and you need to put up with its challenges for the sake of Allah. Also, remember that by honoring and serving your in-laws you are earning the pleasure of your husband and with that the pleasure of Allah and Jannāh as the reward. If you are being forced to live with your in-laws against your will then consult with a reputable and knowledgeable scholar to have that matter addressed before it leads to further disobedience of Allah and problems.
- You should be aware that under normal circumstances the husband is obligated to give priority to the upkeep and maintenance of his wife even before his parents. Yet he still must respect, honor, serve, and see to the rights of his parents, and you should fully cooperate with him in doing so for the pleasure of Allāh. In no way should you wrongfully be the cause of a split between him and them. If you do that then you might see its consequences in your children in future and certainly with Allah in the next world.
- It sometimes happens that in the initial stages of your married life, you might encounter numerous problems. At that time, you must exercise Sabr (the virtue of patience or endurance or more accurately, perseverance and persistence) with the husband and/or in-laws. If you do not know the Shariah limits, then ask a scholar or take a class with one to find out so that you can strive to remain within them. Remember Sabr is characterized as being one of the branches of Imān (faith). If you exercise Sabr for the sake of Allāh Ta’ālā in the initial stages, then the later part of your married life will insha Allāh turn out to be very blissful.
- Maintain contact with your parents especially your mother. Indeed, there are many technologies available that make doing so easy and affordable. Ensure that you do not inform her of any unpleasant details of your relationship with your husband or in-laws unless you firmly believe that she will be able to help fix the problem and it will not simply upset her and potentially make things worse. Some newly married women spend hours talking to their mother about their married life and a lot of backbiting can occur. Backbiting poisons hearts, minds, and relationships and should be avoided completely so only mention negative points when you are honestly convinced that it will help and not harm.
- Some women go a step further. They discuss these details on social media. They are not even bothered that they are committing major sins by doing so. This invites shame and ruin from mankind that the Creator of mankind and should never even be considered. Take only halal means to have problems resolved.
Given below is a very touching ancient Chinese story. Most of us might have come across it but the temptation to relate it at this juncture is irresistible. We cannot vouch for its authenticity but the message it contains is very powerful.
A long time ago in China, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law. In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn’t get along with her mother-in-law at all. Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law’s habits. In addition, she criticized Li-Li constantly.
Days passed, and weeks passed.
Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. But what made the situation even worse was that, according to ancient Chinese tradition, Li-Li had to bow to her mother-in-law and obey her every wish. All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing Li-Li’s poor husband great distress.
Finally, Li-Li could not tolerate her mother-in-law’s bad temper and dictatorship any longer, and she decided to do something about it! Li-Li went to see her father’s good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs. She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all. The wise Mr. Huang thought for a while, and finally said, “Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you.” Li-Li said, “Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do.”
Mr. Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs. He told Li-Li, “You can’t use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law because that would cause people to become suspicious. Therefore, I am giving you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body. Every other day prepare some delicious meal and put a little of these herbs in her serving. Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspects you, during the days she is consuming the poison, you must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. “Don’t argue with her. Obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.” Li-Li was very happy. She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of murdering her mother-in-law.
Weeks went by, and months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr. Huang had said about avoiding suspicion. So she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother. After six months had passed, the whole household had changed. Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn’t had an argument with her mother-in-law in six months because she now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with. The mother-in-law’s attitude towards Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li-Li was the best daughter-in- law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter. Li-Li’s husband was very happy to see what was happening.
So now Li-Li has a problem. The situation has changed but what about the poison inside her mother-in-law that would eventually kill her?
Li-Li rushed to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help. She said, “Mr. Huang, please help me to keep off the poison from killing my mother-in-law. She’s changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her.”
Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. “Li-Li, there’s nothing to worry about. I never gave you any poison. The herbs I gave you were vitamins to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her.”
In conclusion, here is one tip that is for both of you, mother-in-law as well as the daughter-in-law, that will surely bring good if you have the will, courage, and sincere trust in Allah Most High to implement it:
Know your rights and hers as well – so that you can compromise with yours and but not with hers purely for the pleasure of Allāh. That way, if Allāh wills, you will become role models for all the mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law and Allah will take care of the rest.
And Allāh Ta’ālā Knows Best.