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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES

Treatment of mothers-in-law

One of the ways in which a wife expresses her respect towards her husband is by honouring and respecting his mother. The Muslim woman who truly understands the teachings of her faith knows that the person who has the greatest right over a man is his mother, as one notes in many sayings of the Prophet, pbuh. She helps him to honour and respect his mother, by also honouring and respecting her. In this way she will do herself and her husband a favour, as she will be helping him to do good deeds and fear Allah Ta'ala. At the same time, she will endear herself to her husband who will appreciate her respect towards his family in general, and towards his mother in particular. 

Nothing could please a decent, righteous and respectful man more than seeing strong ties of love and respect between his wife and his family, and nothing could be more hateful to a decent man than to see those ties destroyed by an uncaring wife. The Muslim family which is guided by faith in Allah Ta'ala and follows the teachings of Islam is unlikely to fall into the trap of such jahili (ignorant) behaviour, which usually flourishes in communities today.

A Muslim wife may find herself being tested by her mother-in-law and other in-laws, if they are not of good character. If such is the case, she is obliged to treat them in the best way possible, which requires a great deal of cleverness and courtesy in repelling evil with that which is better. She will maintain a balance between her relationship with her in-laws and her relationship with her husband, and she will protect herself and her marriage from any adverse effects that may result from the lack of such a balance.

The Muslim woman should never think that she is the only one who is required to be a good and caring companion to her spouse, and that nothing similar is required of her husband or that there is nothing wrong with him mistreating her or failing to fulfill some of the responsibilities of marriage. Islam has regulated the marital relationship by giving each partner both rights and duties. The wife's duties of honouring and taking care of her husband are balanced by the rights that she has over him, which are that he should protect her honour and dignity from all kinds of mockery, humiliation, trials and oppression. These rights of the wife comprise the husband's duties towards her: he is obliged to honour them and fulfil them as completely as possible.

One of the Muslim husband's duties is to fulfill his role of qawwam (maintainer and protector of the family) properly. This is a role that can only be properly fulfilled by a man who is a successful leader in his home and family, one who possesses likeable character and qualities. Such a man has a noble and worthy attitude, is tolerant, overlooks minor errors, is in control of his married life, and is generous without being extravagant. He respects his wife's feelings and makes her feel that she shares the responsibility of running the household affairs, bringing up the children, and working with him to build a sound Muslim family, as Islam wants it to be.

Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi  

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