Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: My parents have an unstable marriage. I know my dad will expel my mother once me and my brother are married. My mum wants us to marry one of her nieces from Pakistan so that one of us will stay with the parents. But we don’t want that.
Is there any way to make my parents, especially my father, see that what they are doing is wrong?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us, and for seeking an answer to your family’s difficulties.
I am sorry to hear about the state of your parents’ marriage. If you know that your father will mistreat your mother after you and your brother leave your family home, then you must both come to an agreement about how to look after her.
Whoever marries you or your brother will have to deal with the reality of potentially living with her mother-in-law and the other will stay with her father-in-law. For most women, this is not easy, especially if you marry someone who grew up in the West. This is the advantage of marrying from ‘back home’. Women who were raised in more traditional settings are usually much more at ease with living with extended family.
It is worth mentioning that a wife has rights to completely separate living quarters. An ideal scenario could be living next door to your parent or your parent lives in the main house and you and your wife in a granny flat at the back. However, not everyone can afford that.
You must have a clear discussion with your parents, especially your mother, and let them know where you and your brother stand. Reassure her that you want to look after her, but it has to be with a wife and living arrangements of your choice. Start the conversation now, before you meet someone you do want to marry. Be prepared to give and take.
Abu Huraira reported that a person said: “Allah’s Messenger (upon hime be blessings and peace), who amongst the people is most deserving of my good treatment?” He said: “Your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives according to the order (of nearness).” [Sahih Muslim]
When Muslim parents migrate to the West from traditional cultures, they hold onto cultural practices and expectations. Meanwhile, their children integrate into their new home and want more Western lifestyles. The big clashes often start when it comes to children getting married, if not sooner.
It sounds like your mother has it all planned out – one of her sons will marry her niece, she will live with both, and that way, she is safe from being abandoned by her husband. However, the reality is that neither you or your brother are keen. Speak to her with gentleness, and help her see your point of view. Try your best to understand hers. She sounds afraid of being abandoned, and those who are afraid of losing their loved ones cling on even tighter, instead of letting go and trusting that Allah will provide.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Bukhari]
Your parents are oppressing each other through living a daily cold war. I encourage you and your brother to speak to your parents calmly and kindly. Pick settings where they are more likely to be receptive to your advice. Clearly, you would need to have separate conversations with each of them. Tell them how you are concerned about the state of their marriage, and how they’ve lost their sincere concern for one another.
Many parents dislike getting advised by their children, especially when they know they are in the wrong. Who do your parents listen to? Is there a community elder or local scholar who can intervene?
Sometimes, parents in unhappy marriages choose to stay out of convenience, or fear of ‘losing face’ in the community by getting divorced. All you can do is advise them, and if they choose to stay in a dysfunctional marriage, that is their choice, and they will be the ones to answer to Allah. Fighting reality will only make you miserable. You can use this as a reminder that the dunya is imperfect.
Please perform the Prayer of Need and ask Allah for help. Please watch this excellent video on How To Develop Meaningful Relationships With Parents.
Marrying from Pakistan does not automatically doom you to relive your parent’s marriage. Marrying from your locality does not guarantee a happy marriage, either. Be open to either possibility, and leave it to Allah. There are pros and cons to each scenario, and I pray that Allah blesses you with what brings you closest to Him. I pray that you turn to Allah in times of good, so that He does not draw you closer through times of difficulty.
Please educate yourself about the spirit and the law behind a successful Muslim marriage by doing this course before you get married.
You carry the wounds of growing up in a home with a toxic marriage. Before you even consider getting married, please speak to a culturally-sensitive counsellor. As much as you consciously do not want to repeat your parents’ marriage, the reality is that your subconscious default is what you saw growing up. It will take time, effort and patience, but you can modify your baseline and become a better husband and a better father, inshaAllah.
Universities often have counsellors or psychologists as part of your student services. Please consult them, and please encourage your brother to do the same. Speaking to your respective therapists will help you counsel your parents, or at the very minimum, help you come to peace with what you cannot change.
Please refer to the following links:
How Does a Child Deal With Parents Who Fight Each Other?
My Parents Tend to Fight Very Often: What Should I Do?
A Reader on Calling to Allah, Giving Advice, and Commanding the Good
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani