Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: How do I deal with my sisters-in-law who boldly disrespect their parents and their brother? They often criticize, correct & belittle their parents, their brother, me and my small children.
Am I obligated to keep ties with them and if so, to what extent?
It has started to interfere in our relationship with my husband’s parents because they live there.
I pray this finds you well. Dear sister, may Allah lift this tribulation from you. Being tested by family members is very heartbreaking. Trust that Allah hears your dua.
‘Abdullah bin Amr narrated that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “Merely maintaining the ties of kinship is not adequate. But connecting the ties of kinship is when ties to the womb are severed, and he connects it.” [Tirmidhi]
As painful as this might be for you to hear, yes, you are still obligated to maintain ties with them.
1) Please perform the Prayer of Need and beg Allah to lift this tribulation from you.
2) Keep contact with your sisters-in-law to a minimum. For example, visit them during the two Eids and break your fast with them at least once in Ramadan.
3) Send them gifts with the intention of pleasing Allah. Try your best not to expect acknowledgement or gratitude from them.
4) Instead of visiting your family’s home, arrange to have a meal with your parents at a local cafe or restaurant, or invite them over to your home. If your parents ask why, explain that you’d like a more pleasant visit.
Please take the time to comfort and guide your children. It is so sad that they have become afraid of their critical aunties. May Allah heal this rift, and fill all of your hearts with sincere love and concern, for His sake.
If your children ask why their aunties are behaving this way, tell them what Ustadh Usama Canon explained: “Hurt people, hurt people.”
Please use this hardship as a learning opportunity. Explain to your children that although what their aunties is doing is wrong, they are still family, and the Prophetic response is to maintain family ties. That being said, emphasise that their safety and dignity is important, and teach them how to stay safe. Help them to be assertive, while remaining respectful.
If they are old enough, role play what they can say to their aunties, and what they can do, the next time they are belittled. If they are still too young, then please advocate for them, and make it clear to your sisters-in-law that it is unacceptable for them to treat your children like that. If they resist, then minimise your children’s exposure to them.
Explain that there is an adab to giving advice to others, and share stories of how kind and gentle the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) was when he gave counsel to others.
Children who are exposed to verbal and emotional abuse from their family members begin to expect it from others outside their family. This makes them vulnerable to future abuse from other people. Please keep this in mind, and watch out for red flags as they face challenges in school and beyond.
Please refer to the following links:
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Photo: Kham Tran