I would like to know the relationship that a husband and a wife must have with their parents in law. I have read many articles talking extensively about the wife’s relationship with her husband’s parents, but none about the relationship of the husband with the wife’s parents. Is it that they are of equal importance? For example, after marriage would it be permitted to spend equal time at both parents’ houses? Also, if the couple is living at the husband’s parents’ house and the wife wishes to spend time with her parents, would they have to seek permission from the husband’s parents?
In addition, I read recently in an article, I’m not sure if it was written by a Hanafi scholar, that a wife must forego her own parents for the husband’s parents and adopt them as her own to the extent of taking them above her own parents. I find this difficult, especially when you are an only child to your parents and they have no one else to help them. What would be the case when the parents are old and need someone to take care of them?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The wife’s responsibility is to obey her husband in everything permissible related to their marriage. The husband’s responsibility is to take care of her needs, support her and look after her in a proper manner.
Besides this, there are no obligatory religious duties on either of the spouses with regards to their parents in-laws. Both sets of parents should be respected and loved as elder family members, but one does not owe them any obligatory rights. At the same time, there are immense rewards for both husband and wife to take care of their respective in-laws and to assist them whenever possible, within reasonable bounds.
If the wife wishes to visit her parents or spend some time with them, she can do so with the permission of her husband. They are not obliged to seek permission from the husband’s parents. However, if they were informed in a polite and gentle manner, it may be better in some situations.
Also, the husband cannot prevent his wife from visiting her parents once a week. This is her legal right that she may see her parents once a week. (Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar, and confirmed by Ibn Abidin in Radd al-Muhtar, 2/1028).
No need to forgo one’s own parents
Finally, the wife does not, by any means, need to forego her own parents. However, her main priority is her husband. She can take care of her parents, help them, assist them and at the same time serve her own children and husband.
Marriage is based on love and mercy
Note, however, that the way to deal with marital issues is not law but love and mercy: When it comes down to law, with each sticking to millimetre measurements of their rights, marriages fail, because rarely does any love and affection remain with such legalism.
Allah Most High summed up the spirit of Islamic marriage for us:
“And of His signs is this: He created for you spouses from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He placed between you love and mercy. Lo! Herein indeed are portents for those who reflect.” [Qur’an, 30.21]
With love, even major differences become minor.
And Allah Knows Best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK