How does Islam view In laws
Goodness extends to all mankind
Allah Almighty commanded us to be good to each other throughout the Quran and specifically in Surah Nisa, when he said:
Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away, the companion at your side, the traveller, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful. (4:36)
Are in laws the same as blood ties?
Allah Almighty has also commanded us to connect blood ties.
What about in laws?
There are many misconceptions about our relationship with our in laws. ￼
Firstly, are they arham (your blood relatives) or not?
Sometimes yes – if you married a cousin, then you are related to your in laws by blood as we as by being in laws.
However if they are not blood relatives, Allah Almighty says they are your relatives by marriage, as in Surah Furqan:
And it is He who has created from water a human being and made him [a relative by] lineage and marriage. And ever is yours Lord competent [concerning creation]. (25:54)
Your in laws are not equal to your blood relatives.
Nevertheless they are the family of your spouse and as such deserve respect and care.
We have to be good to in laws without doubt. Treat them with respect, with kindness.
They are closer to us than our neighbours, and our neighbours have been mentioned in the Quran with so many rights that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Jibril kept recommending me to treat my neighbour well until I thought that he would tell me to make him one of my heirs. (Bukhari)
Where do the rights of in laws end?
In the Asian community, when a woman gets married this is viewed culturally as a shift for her, from her original family to her new family.
This shift regards her new family as the replacement of her original family, and a far greater priority than her own family. The new family is viewed as superior to her blood family. ￼
This shift is entirely cultural and has no basis in Islam. That her in laws replace her parents is not from the shariah at all.
There is nothing in the Quran or the sunnah to suggest that this is required of women. It is a totally baseless cultural practice.
Your parents are your parents. They are your obligation. Not your in laws.
Visiting in laws
Is it an obligation for wives to visit her in laws? Are they sinful if they do not visit?
It is not an obligation for women to visit their in laws. This does not mean they should not visit their in laws. But when asked whether it is an obligation or not, the answer is no. However we must bear in mind the general principle that we have to good relations with all people, and that includes in laws.
Serving in laws
It is not your obligation to serve your in laws. Your obligation is to serve your parents. However do your best and as much as possible to look after your in laws.
We have to draw the line between what is cultural and what is Islamic. If one of your parents is ill, it is your obligation to look after them. It is not your obligation to look after your in laws. It is certainly recommended and rewarded. But not under the label of obligation.
I have come across many cases of acute psychological suffering among daughters in law. There are women who are terrified to leave their homes because they did not get permission from their mothers in law – as if they are five years old!
There are many cases I have come across, where a woman’s parents are ill and her husband prevents her from visiting her parents because he wants her to look after his parents. Even when he has sisters! His sisters are princesses who are not willing to serve their own mother. They expect the daughter in law to serve their mother. This is a very abusive relationship. No. Her parents are her priority.
Reward and reciprocity
Of course you will be rewarded for being caring towards your mother in law, this is part of having good character and being kind. However this should be reciprocal and flow from both sides.
Change oppressive attitudes and move towards goodness
It takes time to digest this and try to change the deeply ingrained mentality of a community.
When we understand the balance between our families and in laws it will minimise the problems and the suffering we have in our relationships.
There is no competition between the families. There is superior or inferior. And the overriding sentiment should be to care for one another.
When we reset our communities in accordance with Allah’s decree, instead of having a bitter relationship, we will have a sweet relationship because everyone will know their rights.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim at the Ladies Tafseer Class in London on 29th Jan 2019
January 22, 2021