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RELATIONSHIP WITH IN-LAWS: ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE (1)






By

Ibn 'Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori

Inroduction

Islaam is an organized religion which regulates the conducts of Muslims in all circumstances. Islaam emphasises good conduct and sound character in dealing with all manner of people. That is why the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said in a hadith, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه: 

(( إنما بعثت لأتمم مكارم الأخلاق ))

"Indeed, I have been raised to perfect good character" [Musnad ul Bazzaar] 

He صلى الله عليه وسلم said this as if he has no other duties, except to command good behaviour. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم didn't just command good behaviours. He didn't just command good manners, he was himself, an embodiment of good character. This is evident in the ways he dealt with people around him which earned him the title "al-ameen" (the trustworthy). The excellent behaviour of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم is confirmed and stamped by Allaah سبحانه وتعالى when He says in Suratul Qalam: "وإنك لعلى خلق عظيم" (And you possess outstandingly high sense of morals). 

Therefore, the manner of dealing with people with goodness is of great importance in Islaam. A Muslim should be good to his relatives (close or distant). A Muslim must be good to his neighbors (Muslim or non-Muslim). There are many hadiths pointing to the importance of doing good to one's parent, wives, children and all of our relatives. This is part of keeping the ties of kinship. Cutting ties of kinship is a grievous sin in sight of Allaah It is part of keeping tie of kinship to be good towards our in-laws. In fact, this work is mainly intended to correct the anomalies associated with dealing with in-laws in our society from Islamic perspective. 

Legal Basis for Goodness Towards In-laws

The legal basis for good and cordial relationship with relatives, including in-laws is in Quran 4, verse 36, where Allaah says:

(وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ وَالصَّاحِبِ بِالْجَنْبِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَنْ كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا)

"Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful". [Surat An-Nisa' 36]

Similarly, in a hadith, reported by Anas رضي الله عنه, the Prophet said:

((من أحب أن يبسط له رزقه وينسأله في أثره فليصل رحمه))

"Whoever likes to have increase in his wealth and to live long, should honor ties of kinship" [Bukhari and Muslim ]

Who is an In-law

An in-law has been defined as a "person you are related to because of your marriage; especially, the father or mother of your husband or wife" (Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary). From this definition, it can be deduced that a in-law is not limited to the parents of parties to a marriage, it includes other people who are related to them by blood. This captures the customary definition of in-law in our contemporary society.

Spouse and In-laws

A man should not think, after marriage, everything is over, then, he can start behaving anyhow he likes to his father/mother in-law or any of their relatives. A man should behave well to the parent and other relatives of his spouse the same way he behaves well towards his own parent and relatives. This is an important area that every married man or would be husband should understand and put into consideration. A husband should try to win the love of his in-laws by doing good to them always. A man should relate with his in-laws in a way that they would be assured their daughter is in a safe hand.

A woman on the other hand, should also be good towards her father/mother in-law and other relatives of his husband. The best of women are women with good character and manners of approach. Going by the kind of society we find ourselves, a woman needs a lot of patience to successfully manage her in-laws. A woman doesn't need to act like a slave before she could be respected and honoured by her in-laws. It suffices her to display considerable level of fear of Allaah and maturity in dealing with anyone that comes her way within her husband's family. She should be able to study her in-laws very well to know how to win their hearts. Although, some in-laws (especially mother in-laws and sister in-laws) might prove so difficult to manage, but with patience, maturity and Allaah's help, they can be well managed. 

A man or woman should not only pray for good spouse, he or she should include good in-laws in his or her prayers too. It is one thing to have a good spouse, it is another thing to have good in-laws. Both are very essential to enjoy a good marital life. People who have encountered bad in-laws at a point or the other in their marriages usually have a lot to say. But really, there is need to note that there can't be a smoke without fire. The cause of these problems as earlier noted is lack of good conduct in the course of relating with one another in the society. This has cost a lot of young men and women their precious marriages.

Marriage on the Ground of Friendship and Familiarity

One of the reasons for conducting marriages within close communities or on friendship basis is to ensure there is peace and tranquility in those marriages, and bearing in mind pre-existing cordial relationship between the familes. It is believed that when two persons from familiar families marry one another, the love would increase and the marriage would be much more successful. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Companions رضي الله عنهم practised this and it was fruitful. They recorded the best kinds of marriages in the history of mankind. They were the best three or four generations as reported in authentic narrations.

Let us think of the case of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and 'Aaishah رضي الله عنها, daughter of his best friend, Abubakr رضي الله عنه. The marriage of Faatimah رضي الله عنها with 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib رضي الله عنه is a great example. Then, the case of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and Hafsah رضي الله عنها, daughter of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه is also relevant. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم also married two of his daughters to Uthman ibn 'Affaan رضي الله عنه. These are best friends and they are the best examples for us as far as close relationship marriage is concerned. They were not only bounded by the deen, they were bounded by blood and ties of kinship.

But today, friends are even afraid of giving out their daughters to their own friend's son, talk more of their friends. Marrying of one's friend's daughter is fast becoming a taboo in our society because our understanding of Sunnah is poor and we do not have the required standard of akhlaaq (good conducts) to manage issues in marriages. In this time of fitnah, many marriages conducted based of familiarity are usually unsuccessful, talk less of distant marriages. You will find two families who were hitherto good friends becoming enemies due to poor manner by which they manage relationship between in-laws. The major problems are: lack of proper understanding of Sunnah which gave birth to insincerity and injustice. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said in a hadith reported by 'Aaishah رضي الله عنها :

((ما زال جبريل يوصيني بالجار حتى ظننت سيورثه))

"Jibreeel did not stop ordering me (regarding) neighbor, to the extent that I was thinking he (the neighbor) would be made to inherit me" [Bukhari and Muslim]

If this was the case of a neighbor, what more of close family friends that are further bounded together by marriage. If this hadith is given due consideration in our affairs, we wouldn't have much problems because everyone would be treated with goodness. We would not be in fear of evil from one another. A man or woman would not fear any evil from his or her in-laws, and vice versa. But in our present society, everyone is suspecting one another. 

Role of a Father In-law

A father in-law should relate with his son or daughter in-law in a pleasant way that would make him or her feel safe with the family. Some spouses cannot eat in their in-law's houses. Their minds have been poisoned. They fear iminent evils from one another. Even while walking within in-law's houses, they do so with fear. The seed of suspicion and hatred have been sown in the hearts. Spouses and in-laws should learn from the example of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and 'Ali رضي الله عنه. The duo were very close. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم gave 'Ali رضي الله عنه free access to him and they loved each other. 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib رضي الله عنه knew how much the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم loved Faatimah رضي الله عنها. By this, he used not to hurt her because hurting Faatimah رضي الله عنها could be tantamount to hurting the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم. 

Consequently, father in-law should show love to his son in-law by drawing him close to him, chat with him, joke and smile with him, and discuss lifetime experiences with him so that he can learn some wisdom. This would go a long way to promote love between couples. One day, I took a friend of mine to my father in-law over a professional matter. My friend saw the way my father in-law was relating with me freely, joking and discussing politics and some other issues. He quietly told me, that was the same way he and his father in-law relate. I was very happy to hear that, and I smiled. I told my friend "when a son in-law behaves well to his father in-law, it gives the father in-law an impression that her daughter is doing well with him". 

.....to be continued in sha Allaah

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