Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: My father-in-law wants us to move in with him, his wife, and his daughter. My husband and I don’t want to, mostly because my father-in-law is very bossy and will try to make decisions for us and our children. Now he is not on speaking terms with us, including our children, and he blames me for not letting his son go back to him.
Would it be sensible, under such circumstances, to move in with them?
Answer: Assalam alaykum wa rahmatuLlah wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah make a way out for you from your tribulation.
Subhan Allah, it looks like there are many layers to this difficult situation. I pray that Allah makes things easier for all of you, and grants you tawfiq in resolving this issue.
In short, no, you are not sinning by living apart from your father-in-law. Please refer to this excellent resource—A Wife’s Right to Housing Separate From Her In-Laws. Even under the best of circumstances, you still have the right to separate quarters. Despite this, it is common for families to give up this right, in order to keep their elderly parents company. May Allah reward them for embodying the Prophetic virtue of goodness to parents.
However, in your case, it sounds like the environment in your father-in-law’s home is toxic, and it would be sinful for you to expose your children to such harm.
Your father-in-law, as difficult as he may be, must still be treated with respect and kindness. Being disrespectful and unkind to him would cause you and your husband to fall into sin. You are not responsible for his actions, but you are responsible for how you respond to his actions.
Narrated Abu Umamah (may Allah be pleased with him), The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “I guarantee a house in the surroundings of Paradise for a man who avoids quarrelling even if he were in the right, a house in the middle of Paradise for a man who avoids lying even if he were joking, and a house in the upper part of Paradise for a man who made his character good.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
Treat this situation as a real-life application of inculcating and manifesting Prophetic character. Our Beloved Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) shows us countless examples in his life where he returned harshness with gentleness. I am not asking you to be a doormat, because your dignity is sacred, but I am urging you to be the better person.
Ties of kinship
Abdullah bin Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) 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 his ties to the womb are severed and he connects it.” [Tirmidhi]
I encourage you, your husband, and your children to send gifts to your father-in-law. Ask your children to write him letters enquiring about his health, and so on. Your husband needs to call his father regularly and make that effort to visit him weekly even if your father-in-law refuses to pick up the phone or open the door.
Please make dua for Allah to heal him, and for Allah to mend your family ties. Remember to perform The Prayer of Need as often as you are able to.
As troubled as you are by your father-in-law, try to imagine what it would be like to actually be him. Being consumed by anger and bitterness is exhausting. AlhamduliLlah that you have the gift of insight into your behavior. People like him do not, and they spend their entire lives blaming everyone else. This is a psychological illness, as well as a disease of the heart.
It sounds like your father-in-law is deeply unhappy and perhaps even depressed. Unfortunately, the person who is in most need of counseling is the least likely to get help.
Please consider seeing a culturally-sensitive counselor to help you, your husband and your children cope. It is easy to fall into ‘should’ thinking (e.g. my father-in-law should be more reasonable etc), but doing so will only make all of you feel worse. A counselor can help you reach a point of acceptance about what you cannot change, and help you empower yourself to change what you can change.
Please nourish yourselves spiritually during this testing time. Increase in your acts of worship and remember that there is always wisdom in Allah’s Decree, even if we cannot see it.
How Do We Maintain Family Ties With Bloodthirsty Relatives?
A Reader on Family Ties
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah
Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi‘i fiqh, Arabic, Sirah, Aqidah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajwid. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.