Q: Alhamdulillah I am married to a wonderful man for four years and we have been blessed with two beautiful sons. Before we married, my husband explained that he fully financially supported his unemployed parents. I accepted that and agreed that it was his duty as their eldest son. He pays for their house, all their living expenses and medical bills. However during the past two years it has transpired that my father in law has accumulated a large amount of debt. This includes credit card debt, overdue accounts and money he has borrowed over the past 15 years, from other family members. I have also recently realised that my husband’s unemployed brother and his (employed) wife are having all their daily meals at my in-laws without any contribution to the grocery bill. My husband also has a divorced sister with three kids , now living with his parents and making a minimum contribution. It has become clear to me that all my father in law’s debt has accumulated in trying to pay for extra groceries as well as some failed business attempts. I have a full time job and rely on my parents and extra domestic help – to help raise my two boys. I need to be employed in order to pay half of all our own living expenses – because my husband would not be able to afford paying for two homes. My in-laws are of no support to us because they have no income and they are looking after their other grandchildren. I have insisted that my husband and his siblings start paying off their father’s debt as further interest keeps on accumulating. Up to now, none of them had made any attempts to start rectifying the bad financial situation. The financial strain ,as well the stress of juggling being a full time working mum, is starting to suck the joy out of my marriage. Firstly – I need clarity as to whether my father in law’s debt will become the responsibility of my husband and sons,should he die before paying all his dues. Secondly – am I entitled to ask my husband to start insisting that his siblings make more of a contribution, since all the debt was literally accumulated to feed them. Thirdly – if my husband was not supporting his siblings, I would not need to work in order to assist financially – because he would have enough to run our home, and I could be home with my kids. What rights do I have as a muslim wife to enforce this? My in-laws lack financial management skills. All my attempts in trying to show them how to budget and save have been met with resistance, because they see me as having a priveleged lifestyle since I come from a financially stable family. My own parents worked very hard to ensure that we were never raised with debt and also made sure we never lived beyond our means. The value system and work ethic that I have been raised with regarding money and lifestyle, seems to be very different to my in-laws. And I want to make sure that my children are not influenced by their bad spending habits. An example would be my divorced sister in law who has not paid her kids school fees for three years. However, when she received her December bonus – the first thing she bought was Justin Beiber concert tickets! This shows me that she was raised with an entitlement attitude – my kids are entitled to concert tickets, even though I have not paid for their private school education and also refuse to put them into a cheaper public school. My in-laws go on holiday every December , which is usually paid for by my husband. Instead of telling their son to forfeit the holiday in order to maybe use the same money to pay off some of their debt – they happily enjoy the “undeserved” luxury and post holiday pics all over social media. My main concern is for my own children – I am trying to raise them with good values, and showing them that it is a sin to waste and be extravagant – because that will take the barakah out of your life. Please advise or suggest ways in which I can help save my marriage without having to threaten my husband with separation , if he does not enforce stricter financial control with his family.
A: The obligation of the husband is first to his wife, children and parents. It is wrong for him to neglect their rights in any way.
And Allah Ta’ala (الله تعالى) knows best.
Mufti Ebrahim Salejee (Isipingo Beach)