10 Guiding Principles in Establishing Cordial Relations with In-laws


The word ‘in-laws’, by convention, has a negative connotation, in our part of the world in particular, where society has not broken the shackles of oppressive cultural practices. Our knee-jerk response to a discussion on in-laws, therefore, tends to be restricted to what’s ‘wrong’ with them. In such an atmosphere, it becomes difficult to see beyond the stereotypes and consider our own individual situations in a fair light.

A lot of people seem to know that in Islam there is no obligation on the daughter-in-law to care for her husband’s family. But in considering this, they forget that there are other rights that they still need to fulfil by virtue of the in-laws being, at the very least, their brothers and sisters in Islam.

Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (rta) reported that the Prophet (sa) said, “None of you will believe until you love for another what you love for yourself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Would we love for ourselves that people talk negatively about us behind our backs? Would we love that people harbour feelings of hatred towards us? Would we love for our own parents to be constantly criticized and/or shunned by their daughters- or sons-in-law?

Here are some things to focus on, in our relationship with our in-laws:

  1. Start off with good expectations of them. Not everything other people tell us about their in-laws has to be true about ours.
  2. People are not all good or all bad. Everyone has positive and negative qualities. We do, too. In fact, there is some good even in the worst of us. Look for that good. Focus on it instead of on what is not to your liking.
  3. Everyone needs, and thrives on, respect. Respect for the other person cannot be developed if we notice only their negative qualities and keep mentioning them in front of other people. (You think your mother-in-law does that to you? Before you pass a judgement on her, examine your own attitude and ask yourself: are you perhaps doing that to her, too?)
  4. Don’t talk about her behind her back unless it is to mention her good qualities. Backbiting destroys relationships especially because it perpetuates a negative image of a person in everyone’s minds and makes us ignore our own shortcomings.
  5. Misunderstandings arise when we don’t really know the other person well. Limited conversations and interactions related to household chores are not the best breeding ground for establishing meaningful relationships. Really knowing the other person means we know what makes them happy, what makes them special as a person, what they want out of life, what struggles they have faced, and what they have accomplished so far. Taking interest in another person and considering him or her a human being worthy of knowing can make a world of difference in how our relationships can develop.
  6. Be fair. Noticing only what you don’t like about your mother-in-law? Stop. Remind yourself of all the things she does that perhaps help you out. Does she watch the kids, supervise the maid, and do the cooking every now and then? Sometimes we are looking so hard at all the things that annoy us that we forget to notice what is good in the other person. If we notice only the negatives then we are not really being fair.
  7. Feel responsible to bring out the best in other people. Our feelings towards them will translate into our attitude towards them. If we check our feelings constantly, we can correct our attitude, too.
  8. Keep your eyes on your Akhirah. Sometimes we are so busy keeping our sight on how others should be that we forget to evaluate our own selves. Are we on the correct path, towards Jannah? Or are we letting ourselves drift off?
  9. You don’t own anybody. Not yourself. Not your husband. Not your children. They are all an Amanah (trust) from Allah. We have to do our best with that Amanah. Your in-laws have a right over your husband and children, too. Make sure you are not taking away that right.
  10. Make excuses for your in-laws because nobody is perfect. Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, once said: “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.” (Narrated by Imam Al-Bayhaqi in his Shuab al-Iman)

The principle being stated here is that no one is free of error, and everyone makes mistakes. If we would like our mistakes to be overlooked then we should want the same for others.

May Allah guide us to be of excellent character in all of our relationships. Ameen.

Image courtesy: Flickr

Role Reversal

Mother in lawBy an appreciative mother-in-law

I must share, how fortunate I am to have a wonderful daughter-in-law. Alhumdullilah! I know that it sounds unbelievable, but it is true. No, she is not retarded. Actually, she is a warm and caring girl, just the way she was, when I chose her for my son.

What is the secret behind this relationship? I can think of many, the obvious being Allah’s (swt) mercy on us, and the wonderful friends around us. They are caring souls, who gently yet immediately point out to me every time I am being insensitive, and they also remind me of my days as a Bahu (daughter-in-law).

I think that this is the common problem we mothers-in-law have. We have forgotten our days, when we were newly married, very sensitive, eager to please, but were not quite sure how! Especially, if we were married into a joint family, we had to be very careful not to tread on anyone’s toes. If we showed concern for our mothers-in-law, our sisters-in-law would brand us as ‘Chamchis’ (flatterers). If we would mind our own business, we would be called ‘cold fish.’ It just seemed like a no win situation! But I want to remind us all of what we pledged to ourselves at that time – that we would never do the same to our daughters-in-law!

We pledged that we would fuss over them, when they would be newly married, for they were coming into a strange home, with people, who have different ways of life. We would help them through their initial awkwardness, encourage them when they would make an effort, over look or gently explain when they would make a ‘faux pas.’

We pledged we would make them feel special, when they would conceive. We swore that we would let them name their babies and invite all their friends and relatives to the Aqeeqah. We said that we would not interfere in the children’s upbringing, especially where discipline was concerned. If they are old enough to be married and have children, then they are old enough to make their own decisions. They will be questioned in the Akhirah about their children – not us!

Narrated by Anas (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “No one of you becomes a true believer, until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

I know, you are probably thinking this is a Bahu (daughter-in-law) writing, pretending to be a Saas (mother-in-law). Let me now turn my attention to the Bahus (daughters-in-law).

Try to visualize yourself as the mother-in-law, which you will, Insha’Allah, be one day. How this beautiful, young girl comes into your son’s life, and all of a sudden, you cease to exist for him. How you endured the pangs of childbirth, the sleepless nights, stress during his exams, kept a stiff upper lip each time he was bullied. Where will you be then? Old age and redundancy is not a very exciting prospect, is it?  I bet all the mothers-in-law are misty-eyed and are nodding their heads.

Seriously girls, are you so insecure that if your husband comes home from work and first goes to meet his mother, you feel he loves you any less? If he doesn’t do so, you should encourage him to start. Remember, we are role models for our kids. Our attitude and behavior will set the trend for theirs. If they have seen their grandparents being given respect, they will do the same for their parents and elders.

Anas Ibn Malik (rta) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “If a young man honours an older person on account of his age, Allah (swt) appoints someone to show reverence to him in his old age.” (Tirmidhi)

We are all humans and make mistakes; no one is perfect. If we want perfection in others, we should examine ourselves first. Are we perfect? Don’t we err? If we expect others to overlook our mistakes and forgive us, then we should do the same. Let’s not have any expectations from anyone, because we will always be disappointed.

How often we make excuses for our mother’s behaviour, where our Bhabis (brothers’ wives) are concerned; let us use that same compassion for our mothers-in-law.

Words of advice: Cultivate friendships with well-meaning, sensible, older women as I have with sincere younger friends. They will, Insha’Allah, help you understand your mothers-in-law. Don’t involve your mum, she will naturally be biased towards you and will then harbor ill feelings towards your ma-in-law, and that, definitely, will not help the situation.

Before signing off, I do not want to do any disservice to my late mother-in-law, may Allah (swt) rest her soul in peace. She was a wonderful mother-in-law as is my mother. I have been very fortunate to have such amazing role models, Alhumdullilah.

Good Pickings

Can women find any good in their mothers-in-law, asks Uzma Rizvi

Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law share a special bond – a bond that is sometimes difficult to come to terms with. Some have it easy and adjust with one another from day one, while others have differences that are resolved over time. Some keep bickering all their lives, and some just learn to tolerate each other’s shortcomings. So, when I was assigned this article to dig up qualities that women admire about their moms-in-law, I took it up with some reservations – Would I be opening a can of worms? Will I get any positive replies? Well, read on and find out.

When I put the question to Samira, who lives in a joint family, she was quiet for a long time, then said: “Right now I just cannot come up with any thing I admire about my mom-in-law, except that … I can say, she is time-conscious. She does not procrastinate, whether it is visiting people, doing household chores, or just going to the bazar. As for her other commendable qualities I will call you back if I can think of more.” I have not heard from her since!

Rafiqua, remembers her mother-in-law quite fondly and answered readily, “My mother-in-law expired a few years ago, but before that we had thirty years together. The thing I liked most about her was that she did a lot of Ibadah, whereas in my family I had not seen elders praying so much or so regularly. I also appreciated that although I had four daughters she never ever taunted me, like many in-laws do. Though we had our share of misunderstandings, she would always make up some how through her actions. Like she would call me for a chitchat, or would just hug me for seemingly no reason at all.”

Mahnaz gave a meaningful smile, when asked to identify some worthy characteristics of her mother-in-law, “Umm…let me think. It’s a little difficult to come up with something.” Then she admitted, “Yeah, I know one thing, she is very patient with everybody – with her husband, with her son and with me. Even if she does not like something she usually keeps quiet and shows no reaction, no matter how much it bothers her. While I, on the other hand, am impatient. Now, I have learnt that her way of keeping quiet and letting things simmer down is a real asset in maintaining peace around the house.”

Sajida lived as a newly wed bahu with her mother-in-law only for a few months, before the lady expired. “Unforgettable,” is how she describes her mother-in-law, and adds, “She was very loving. The most admirable thing about her was that she would go out of the way to help others. She would pool in money for the needy. And yes, she also had wonderful tips and hints about house-keeping and interacting with people.”

Now, that was not too difficult, was it? It just takes some effort to focus on virtues. Whenever a misunderstanding occurs, let us remind ourselves that each one of us has positive and negative traits. If we focus on the good rather than on the bad traits of others (especially close relatives), we will not only make our lives stress-free, but will also earn Allah’s pleasure.

* (Some names have been changed)