The most infamous familial conflict is between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, with the husband in the middle. Fiqh (application of divine Law based on educated understanding) tells us, generally speaking, that a husband’s “duty” is to his mother, while a wife’s “obedience” is to her husband. This can create a sense of a tiered-hierarchy that cascades from the husband’s mother at the top, to the husband, to the wife. A wife’s fear in this gradation is that the husband’s mother will be a controlling woman, and that she will use her “power” to bend her son to her will and by extension control her daughter-in-law or sabotage the marriage. From the mother’s perspective, the apprehension is that the daughter-in-law will be manipulative and make the son distant from his mother. As for the husband, his worry is that he’ll never escape having to choose between these two women, with no moment of respite. Many of us are wedged right here. Should a man repeatedly acquiesce to his controlling parents if it’s causing damage to his marriage? At what point can a line be drawn that denotes acceptable requests from destructive neediness? This may be emotionally difficult to discuss, and spiritually confusing, given the number and power of the ayât (verses) of the Quran and ahadîth (statements of the Prophet) that edify and extol us with regard to the lofty status and duty we owe to our parents. But what we must realize is that as thinking adults, we have a responsibility to establish healthy boundaries in all of our relationships, even ones for which we are greatly indebted, which is a part of a balance in relationships that the Quran and the Prophet also teach us.
Husbands and wives in conflict often sound like whiny children. He’ll whine that she doesn’t ever want to have sex, and she’ll whine in turn that he’s lazy around the house and still on his mother’s apron strings. Perhaps they’ll come to a compromise to both start meeting each other’s needs more, but both are always keeping a close eye and a tight score, and as soon as one person starts to falter the other withdraws in turn. While it is important for us to understand our responsibilities to our spouse, if we never go beyond that, we’ll never get beyond a technically functioning marriage but an emotionally dysfunctional relationship. Many are the couples who fulfill the fiqhî requirements of marriage but are still unhappy. They’re unhappy because in spite of meeting each other’s needs, they still have conflict about those needs, and they don’t understand why that is or how to resolve it.
“SURAT AL-A’RÂF IS a beautiful means to soothe our insecurities, as throughout the surah we are reminded of the various ways that Shayṭân seeks to make us feel insecure, followed by numerous examples of past Messengers and their conflicts with their people –experiencing the same emotions and doubts that we do. The good news is that we can become familiar with our own insecurities, and the more familiar we are with them, the more aware we can be of Shayṭân’s determination to use them.”