By: Ruhaifa Adil
When a girl gets married, everything changes. She leaves her home to go live with a man she has probably not known before; to live without her parents in a completely new house for which she is now solely responsible. She also has a new family – her husband’s parents, siblings, and relatives whose hearts she must win.
Undoubtedly, Islam has given the in-laws no control or claim over the wives of their sons. There are no definite rights prescribed by our religion for in-laws and the daughter-in-law is under no compulsion to obey their demands regarding her routine, her activities, her housekeeping and so on. However, all said and done, her in-laws are people who her husband loves. And the best way to settle into her husband’s life is to embrace his family with love and affection.
Here are six things every Muslim daughter-in-law must keep in mind when it is time for her to begin her new life and foster cordial relationship with her in-laws:
1- Know your rights and their rights!
Do not enter into this new phase of life without knowing the rights your husband must give you and the rights he must extend to his own relatives. Try to read up on the relationship the Prophet (saw) maintained with his wives as well. This is not only so that you can demand what is rightfully yours, but also to make sure that you do not transgress on others’ rights. Once you know what Allah has ordained for them and for you, you can discuss the situation with your husband if you are unhappy with any arrangement and inshallah it can be sorted out amicably and within the laws of Islam.
2- Your in-laws may have more rights than you think
Even though as in-laws they may have no defined rights on you, your husband’s parents do hold certain rights over you. If, for instance, you live in the same house as your in-laws, or your houses/portions are in close proximity, your in-laws hold a very important position in your life as your neighbours. Islam has given so many rights to neighbours, that the Prophet (sa) said that he thought that they would be included in a person’s inheritance! (Ibn Majah; sound) As neighbours, extend your best behaviour towards your in-laws. Share your food with them, invite them over to your house. visit them often, and take gifts if possible, for gifts increase love between people. (al-Adab al-Mufrad; reliable)
Even if your in-laws are not your neighbours, they are Muslims. Every Muslim has certain rights upon the other, the basic of which is the right of being said Salaam to (giving greetings of peace)! (Muslim) The Prophet (sa) also said that you have not believed unless you love for your brother what you love for yourself. (at-Tirmidhi; sound) Extend the best for your in-laws and know that even if they don’t reciprocate, Allah will reward you for obeying Him.
3- Get to know the homemaker who preceded you!
Do not forget that your mother-in-law is the one who was responsible for taking care of your husband before you came into his life. He is used to her ways, and most importantly, he’s used the food that she served him. As you master the culinary arts in your new kitchen, involve your mother-in-law and ask her to help you out. It will please her that you are taking her advice; it will ensure she does not feel completely isolated or replaced since your advent into the family. It will also sow the seeds of a long and fruitful relation with your husband’s mother and your children’s grandmother. Every child is close to his mother and your husband will undoubtedly be pleased with you for helping him care and love for his mother, who spent many years of difficulty in raising him to be the man he is.
4- Don’t be defensive
Sometimes, even well-meaning in-laws cross their boundaries when they offer advice and insist on their experience on matters to be taken into account. In particular, their advice on housekeeping and child-rearing leads to many ill-feelings between the hearts of the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. The best thing to keep in mind at this time is to not be defensive. Indeed, experience is the name of the mistakes others have made, and it is a good idea to lend an ear to what your in-laws have to say without getting reactive and defensive. Listen to what they have to say, and if there is some merit or lessons to glean from it, do so; it does not make sense for the same family to make the same mistakes twice. You are not obliged to follow what they say, but sometimes just listening to their words of advice can make them feel satisfied and you may then make your choices as you want.
5- You are a garment for your husband and his family by extension
Allah says in the Qur’an that the husband and wife are garments for each other (Al-Baqarah Ayah 187). Garments not only adorn a person, they also protect the person and hide their blemishes and faults. Your husband’s family is a part of who he is. Do not talk about them to your family and friends, or backbite about them. Do not share secrets of their family with your own and do not break the trust your husband has placed in you in accepting you in his life, and opening up to you about his family. Every family has skeletons in the closet, and you must fulfil your role as being part of his family by making sure they remain within the closet.
6- Complete the deen (religion) of your husband
A husband and wife complete half their deen for each other. (al-Bayhaqi, reliable); you can help your husband complete his responsibilities towards his parents by facilitating him, not hindering him. This does not mean that you are obliged to look after his parents for him; that is the responsibility of your husband. But you can definitely help him out by extending your best behaviour and manners to them and not creating an uncomfortable atmosphere in the house. Try and give them more than what their rights are willingly, expecting your reward from Allah alone and rejoicing in the fact that you are helping your husband achieve his Jannah (paradise) with your help!
Ruhaifa Adil is a mother of four, a practising Muslimah, an avid reader, and a passionate writer. She works primarily as a trainer for mothers and teachers, advocating a multi sensorial, learner-centred approach, which she has learnt through her work as a remedial specialist for children with dyslexia. She is also an author of English textbooks, based on the teachings of the Quran (currently under editing), and creative director of a Tafseer app for kids (soon to be launched Insha’Allah).