12 November, 2007

Of Mothers and In-laws

"Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, And that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, Say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, But address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, Lower to them the wing of humility, and say: 'My Lord! bestow on them Your Mercy as they Cherished me in childhood' " (Al Quran 17:23-24).

Parents, in any society, have and are always given the highest of respect and regards. In Islam, both the Holly Quran and the Hadiths, give clear instructions on how parents should be treated. The very special place of parents, especially that of mothers has been clearly described by Prophet Muhammad in these two hadiths:

"A man asked the Prophet: 'Whom should I honor most?' The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother!'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your father".

“Heaven is under the feet of your mothers”.

It is, most, with this in mind: the special position and standing that parents have in a family, and especially that which mothers have; and with what is now happening to two young men whom I know - one a relative and the other, a friend - that prompted me to write this.
And then there is my own personal experience, now in my second marriage, which is similar in many ways to the two men's.

Most young men here, first live with their parents after marriage (a very expensive process here) and only later, may be after many years, move to a separate home. And that's where - to his parents home - my young relative went to live after his marriage, just a few months ago. And already he is facing the greatest problem he has ever faced in the whole of his life: just after these few months of living with his mother and sisters (his father passed away years back) - his mother is now insisting that he should divorce his wife. His mother says, the wife is 'no good at all' for his son, a 'bad influence' on him and not 'suitable for the family'. She says - it's either her son divorces his wife (this being supported by the young man's sisters) or he should consider himself no longer her son. The young man, who is now very much in love with his wife, is so miserable and so much at a loss at what to do, that I fear of what would happen next. A tragedy could be in the making.

What is saddest, is that - my young relatives' mother is one of the kindest and most dignified woman that I know of and so is the young man; on the other hand, I am told that the young woman whom my relative married is not only very smart but, so far, the best wife one can have. But well, due to whatever misunderstanding - it seems, the young wife and her mother in law are now deeply divided. Only God knows, where this would lead to; worse, it could lead to a divorce or, like a friend of mines' similar problem, it could mean that my relative and his wife have to move to a separate home and really hurt and offend the man's mother; and it could even be devastating to the young man's mother.

About one and a half years ago, a friend of mine got married; and he too, moved his new wife to his parents home where his mother, brothers and sisters live (he too, had lost his father a few years back). He too became very close to his wife and deeply loves her. But within a few months after the marriage, he was facing such big problems at home that I thought he would lose his sanity. The problems became so bad that in the end he first moved his pregnant wife to her parents home and then later after finding a flat, furnishing it with new stuff (as he didn't take any of his from his parents home), he then moved her there. Still, to date, he continues to face many problems from his mother (whom he adores); his mother insists that my friend's wife is 'no good' at all for his son and that her son is only 'wasting' time with her.

What a heart wrenching dilemma for these two young men, and for many like them! And truly tragic! As it is, here in Hadhramout, most mothers hate to have their daughters getting married and moving in to their sons-in-law's parents home; and yet, the same mothers - when their sons get married and bring in to their homes their wives - would mistreat the young women and try to dictate on them. The other main problem, and many times, it is what causes the most problems, are the sisters-in-law. In most homes, it's the sisters in-law who would initially instigate problems between the newly arrived wife of their brother and their family, especially - the mother. And once the mother takes it in to her mind that the daughter-in-law is bad, the problem and friction only increases and either leads to divorce or the man, against his parents wishes, moves out or the couple continue to live in the same young man's parents home - in misery and always in problems.

Marriage is not, never, supposed to be so. Both the Holly Quran and Hadiths are very clear on that:

"O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr (dowry, bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good." (Al Quran 4:19)

"Among the Muslims, the most perfect as regards his faith is the one whose character is most excellent, and the best among you are those who treat their wives well." (Hadith, At-Tirmidhi)
And yet, many women here continue to be in unhappy marriages and lead very miserable lives; mainly because of in-laws. What I fail to understand is: why don't fathers too, cause such misery, either to their sons in law or daughters in law? The same goes for brothers: they very rarely cause problems for their brothers or sisters in law. And why should sisters be so much against the women their brothers marry? As for mothers, I find it even more difficult to understand: most boys and men are very close to their mothers and have very high regards for them. It's mothers too, who are very fond and love their sons most, and yet the moment the son gets married, they seem to go haywire. The Freudian 'Oedipus complex' can explain why mothers react in such a way to their daughters-in-law; but, I can't find any explanation as to why sisters, who themselves understand so well how hard it is to live with in-laws and hate and avoid living with in-laws - would treat their sisters-in-law so badly!