Troubled Relation with Sister-in-law

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Question

Assalamu alaykum. First of all, thank you for your assistance. I would like to know about my rights regarding my sister-in-law. She has been living with us for a long time. From the beginning, she never helped me with the tasks, she comes and goes as she wishes, but she comes at lunch time with everything ready. She just does some things when my husband is at home. She does not show any respect for me and takes every chance to make that clear; for instance, she leaves empty bottles in the middle for me to throw them, or when I have just finished to clean the kitchen, she leaves a glass or a dish in the sink... small things maybe, but always one after another. The worst is that she does not care about her nephews, my children. She was really cruel with them on occasions, while she shows her nicer side to other nephews. What I do not understand is why she is living with us instead of with the other brothers... though they and their wives do not have the same consideration as we have. I tried from the first day to be her friend, and nobody knows all the things that I did for her (except my husband). I love my husband very much, but I cannot stand living with her any longer. What can I do? What do you suggest for me to do? By the way, I have tried to talk with her many times, but it is useless. My husband knows, and even he himself has complained to me about her selfish behavior, but he never told her.
Thanks in advance. May Allah reward you!

Answer

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.

May Allah make it easy for you. Everything that happens in our lives is by the Wisdom of Allah. He created us to worship Him alone; therefore, it is an act of worship to know how to deal with people in your life. We are ordered to have good manners with others. The Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) have many evidences for us to learn and submit to. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said, “Among the dearest of you to me and those who will be seated closest to me on the Day of Resurrection are those of you who are best in manners.” [At-Tirmithi] You come across people who have good manners and others who do not. Allah, the Most Merciful, wants from you to have the best manners in both situations.

In your case, I would advise you to ignore the bad behavior that you described from your sister-in-law, and react to it – to the best of your ability – with the best manners. This is a very difficult task, of course, unless you sincerely seek the rewards from Allah. The devil will whisper that your sister-in-law will take advantage of your good manners and will increase her bad behavior; these are whispers of the devil, and Allah ordered us to disobey him. The outcome is definitely good for you if you treat her nicely and patiently. You did not mention the reason why she is staying with you. There are two possibilities: either she stays somewhere else, or it is not an option.

If there are other places but she chooses to stay with you, that that is a good sign for you and your husband, so continue to show perseverance and compassion. If there is no other choice, then that is an even more important reason to remain patient.

There is another important point to consider: when people live together, the worst of them comes out. She might not be that bad of a person. Those who live with us receive the worst of our behavior. This is wrong, of course, as the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said, “The best among you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family.” [At-Tirmithi and Ibn Maajah] Part of the understanding of the hadith is to be more patient with one’s family and those who live with you, because there are no formalities in the relationship.

The same thing applies to what you said, that she does not care about your children and cares more about other nephews. This is definitely wrong, but part of it is the fact that she sees your children all the time, so there are no formalities in the relationship. This is like when our children think that we as parents are harsher than uncles or so, because all they see from the uncles are the occasional visits that are full of smiles and gifts, etc. I am not trying to find excuses for bad manners but rather giving you reasons to remain patient.

Also, a great help for you is that your husband is supportive to you. It would be extremely difficult for you if your husband was taking his sister’s side. That would help you to work it out with your husband so that you continue to help your husband to be kind to his relatives.

It is a matter of fact that Allah, the Most High, does not waste the deeds of those who do good, and the outcome of good deeds and patience is so great that you would wish that you would do more of it. Your patience and good manners can be a means for the Mercy of Allah and blessings in your family and children.

If you are not able to take that route of patience and perseverance and it is a valid option for her to move out without a sin or severing the ties of kinship, then, with proper consultation and wise steps, your husband can take this route.

So seek help from Allah and continue to be kind, and may Allah reward you for it.

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