Response: I thank you for your
reply. However, what I am trying to seek here is from the point of view of
parents themselves. You have said that children should and must show
kindness towards their parents and after marital contract, the moral
obligations are on respective spouses as well. This point is also well
appreciated. But what rights could parents assert upon their
son/daughter-in-law? Is serving parents-in-law equally obligatory on
children-in-law just as it is on their own children? Or is the wife/husband
accountable to their spouse’s rights only? I would appreciate if your
response could clearly delineate culture and religion. I am asking purely
from the religious point of view. May be, one of the ways to throw light on
this could be to look at the cultural practices of marriage and family
structures at the time of the Prophet (sws). Perhaps, we may be able to
understand in this way, why is there no clear and direct religious teachings
on the issue.
Comment: You have hinted
towards a good clue that explains the reason why we don’t find clear
instructions of the Prophet (sws) in this matter. Actually, there was no
need to since every person would settle in a separate home, and there was no
concept of joint family system nor did they abhor the thought of their
mother marrying someone else after the demise of their father. So much so,
they would keep even their wives in separate homes. As you may know, the
Prophet (sws) himself provided separate homes to his wives near the Mosque
of the Prophet in Madīnah. Thus, there was virtually no question about the
rights of the in laws.
However, as far as my previous
reply is considered, there is a very interesting point to note as compared
with the question you have again put forth. You write:
What I am trying to seek
here is from the point of view of parents themselves?
But what rights could
parents assert upon their son/daughter-in-law?
In my reply I had concluded:
‘As an obvious corollary of this agreement, her relations become yours and
yours hers. It is for this reason that I opine that the aforementioned
directive of treating your parents well extend to your spouse’s parents as
well. You are indeed obligated to show kindness to them as you do to your
Although this statement is
from the perspective of children, I think that it equally means that your
spouse’s parents are in the capacity to seek whatever help they need from
you, after you have assumed the position of their son-in-law, just as your
own parents can.
I, though, agree that this
expectation of help and service is likely to be more on your wife from your
parent’s side than on you by her parents. It is the way this world has been
designed. Parents feel more comfortable living with their sons instead of
their daughters. Consequently, the demand for service is more likely to fall
on the wives’ side. However, it does not mean that in any case, if your
wife’s parents seek your shelter and help, the obligation that rests with
you is less intensive than that with your wife in respect of your parents.
You have asked whether it is
obligatory to be of service to your spouse’s parents as it is with your own
parents. With all due respect, I would like to say that it is not good to
view every thing in this perspective. We must not divide everything between
the obligatory and the allowable and between the allowed and the forbidden.
We are, indeed, moral beings. The sense of morality that we are innately
blessed with guides us to the way we should live our life in this world. We
must comply with the dictates of this sense no matter if it is obligatory or
recommended. Thus, keeping in view the essence of Islamic teachings, and the
instructions of intuition, I daresay a person will be held accountable on
the Last Day if he did not help a ‘stranger’ when he could, not to mention
his in laws. No doubt, the extent of our duty changes as the nature of
relationship changes, and surely our intuition and conscience would help us
decide in this respect. But, I again assert that, as far as your spouse’s
parents and your own parents are concerned, I see no difference regarding
the provision of service and help.