“Are you thinking about getting married?” That was the first question I was asked after I said my shahâda. It took a whole two seconds for the witness of my testament of faith to ask me the question about matrimony. I was nowhere near thinking about getting married and responded with a resounding, “No!” And then several more No’s as the witness persisted with more well-intended marital questions.
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.