The Interference of Parents in the Lives of Their Children
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Hussain Madhahiri
Today we shall discuss about the interference of parents in the lives of their children. This topic has always been an important matter of debate. Lots of unnecessary problems crop up because of uncalled for interference in the affairs of the children by their parents. Many divorces, too, take place between young couples because of parental interference. If we really want our children to flourish and progress, we should refrain from interfering in their affairs. We should not try to become uninvited judges of their problems. We find that this malaise is deep rooted in our society. It has gone to such an extent that even the men of piety, even those who are regular in salah and even those who are understanding, intentionally or unintentionally, cause problems for their children by their interference.
We need to learn a lesson from animals. They care for their offspring only till the time they need it. When they are capable of fending for themselves, the father and the mother leave them free to go their own way! We find that certain birds feed grains to their chicks for a few days only. When they find that the chicks are strong enough to fly, they teach their chicks to fly. When the chick has learnt to fly, they do not allow it to remain in the nest! You must have noticed that when a lamb is born, the mother exhibits a special affection and concern for it. She feeds it with her own milk for about two months and doesn’t allow it to eat grass. When the lamb is strong enough to graze and feed itself, a degree of unconcern for the little one grows in the mother. This instinct is found in all animals. It is found in humans too. It is only that we don’t act on it. Our duty is to give a good upbringing to our daughters in all aspects - material, emotional, and spiritual. Give her a good Islamic upbringing. When it is time to marry her off, arrange her marriage so that she can start her future life with her husband. After this, the parents should refrain from interfering in their affairs. Now comes the time when the mothers should not be nosey about the affairs of their daughters. If some differences crop up between the daughter and the son-in-law, the parents should side with the son-in-law, instead of siding with their daughter, even if the son-in-law is at fault. To become an obstacle in the daughters married life, to plant thoughts in her mind and gain control over her are acts of oppression. The interference of parents many times becomes the cause of break-up of marriages of young couples. Even if things don’t reach the stage of divorce, it will become the cause of reduction in love between the young couple.
It is our duty, too, to give a proper Islamic upbringing to our sons. We must take care of their material, emotional and spiritual needs and give decent men to the society. When this son becomes an adult, it is the duty of the parents to find a suitable spouse for him, so that he can start his married life. Now the parents should refrain from interfering in the matters of the young couple. If it comes to their notice that the young couples have some differences, they should take sides with the daughter-in-law even if she is at fault. Later on, point out her mistake to her and show her the correct way. But right now, it is important to put out the fire of discord and not fan it. If the parents find that the newly wed couple are having a fight, they should wisely try to defuse the situation. But generally we find that the parents of married young men, especially the fathers, side with their sons and thus create problems in their married life. Mothers in turn expect their sons to do their bidding. Even if the mother orders her son to divorce his wife, she expects him to obey her. Only then will she be pleased with him. The father wants his son to be permanently enslaved to him and do his bidding. This is completely wrong. Such people deal a terrific blow to love, create tensions and destroy homes.
Then the fate of those who committed misdeeds was that they denied the signs of Allah and they used to deride them.
The Holy Quran says that those who trouble the believing men and the believing women, and don’t express sincere repentance thereafter, will not only be consigned to Hell but will have to bear the punishment of fire. Those who sow discord should know that there are two terrible punishments awaiting them. In this world they too, will become entangled in discord. A mother-in-law who creates unnecessary problems for her daughter-in-law should know, the Quran says, that her own daughter might face a similar situation. Similarly a woman who creates problems for her son-in-law should be aware that her own son will also have to face similar problems. In the Hereafter, this discord that she has created will assume the form of fire and entwine itself around her feet. At another place, the Holy Quran uses a more stern language:
…for persecution is worse than slaughter…
Telling tales, creating tensions and finding fault with others are sins worse that murder. The sin of killing someone is so great that if someone kills an innocent person, it is equal to killing the entire mankind:
… whosoever killeth a human being for other than man-slaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind,…
Spreading discord and creating bitterness between a husband and wife are sins worse than killing someone. A foolish old man who had caused separation between his son and daughter-in-law, came to Imam Hussain (a.s.). The Imam (a.s.) told him, “I have heard that you have instigated separation between your son and his wife” When the man nodded his head in the affirmative, the Imam (a.s.) rejoined, “Do you know what magnitude of sin you have committed? Instead of causing their separation, if you had cut their veins your sin would have been lighter than what you have perpetrated!” If someone cuts off the veins of another and kills him in this painful way, how big a sin is this? If a person kills someone and cuts his dead body into pieces, he will rise on the Day of Judgement in the form of a dog or a beast. Imam Hussain (a.s.) is telling us that causing separation between husband and wife is a bigger sin than killing two people. This tradition tells us that making up tales and creating hatred between people is a sin bigger than taking human life. In our society fault finding is generally associated with the mother-in-law. She makes allegations so that her son does not think well of his wife. What does the mother-in-law achieve by doing this? Only troubles and problems. The first problem is that her son will become disturbed. After this, her son will never strive to keep her happy. Then she will have to face punishment in the hereafter. Some mothers-in-law are so ignorant that they treat their good and considerate sons-in-law as beggars. They are so foolish, they do not ponder upon the outcome of their behaviour. Some mothers-in-law give preferential treatment to one son-in-law over the other. One daughter was married some years ago and the second one very recently! So the recent son-in-law received better treatment. These mothers don’t realize how much they hurt their own daughters.
Sometimes the mothers-in-law use such harsh language, and inflict such deep wounds that the sons-in-law cannot forget it for the rest of their lives. People should abstain from polluting their tongues with bad language, otherwise these will assume the form of scorpions and keep stinging the person on the day of Judgement! It is a shame for the mother-in-law that instead of being friendly and affectionate with the daughter-in-law, she stings her like a scorpion. She should treat her as she would treat her own daughter, or even better than that. The father-in-law, who is like her father, should also love her like his daughter. Instead we find her being treated as an enemy. For example, she is told that the dowry was insufficient. Shame on the people who harbour such thoughts. Sometimes a son-in-law doesn’t speak with the father–in-law because the dowry was less. Is this not a shameful attitude? The daughter-in-law should treat the mother-in-law with love and affection because it is the mother-in-law who has brought up her husband, and then handed him over to her. She should respect and love her father-in-law because he has undergone a lot of trouble to raise her husband. I shall quote a parable here. A bitterly cold wind was blowing. A camel arrived at a hen coop. He put his head inside the coop, asked for some space and stepped right inside. In doing so, he destroyed the coop. Instead of finding shelter for himself he ended up destroying the shelter of the hen. Many newly-wed daughters-in-law too are like this. They want to totally dominate their husbands. They want to drive their parents-in-law out of the house. How foolish is this attitude! This attitude is inhuman, and such people are committing a grave sin. What I want to stress here is that the parents and the children who live and share life amicably are always a blessed and happy family. They will be together in Heaven congratulating each other. To the contrary, in families where there are dissensions, hatred, and differences for small material advantages, they will neither have peace in this life nor rewards in the Hereafter. When a mother-in-law nags her daughter-in-law for bringing a meagre dowry, when a mother-in-law taunts a son-in-law for being poor and unable to meet the household expenses, they are earning for themselves a place in the Hell with this attitude. The daughter-in-law will be in Hell, when the husband will arrive there and curse her. Then the mother-in-law will arrive and curse her. The daughter-in-law will in turn curse her. Then the girl’s mother will arrive and curse her daughter, blaming her for landing them in Hell. I am telling you only what the Quran says. When all these will have gathered, they will blame each other, for their own faults. The Quran says that all of these are cursed, because they have landed each other in Hell. If this is going to be the outcome, why do we fight at home?
I make a fervent appeal to the daughters-in-law. They should strive to be loyal to their husbands and their family. They should strive to spend a happy and contented life with their husbands and other members of his family. I appeal to the sons, too, to be loyal to their wives and should not act on the foolish dictates of their mothers. I especially appeal to the ladies because if the girl remains loyal, her mother-in-law cannot interfere in their affairs or destroy their home. She should be sensible and not listen to foolish talk. If the newly wed wife heeds the gossip mill, her life will be destroyed at the beginning of the married days. In many a case the result is a divorce!
I know of several cases of divorce. When I ponder over them, I find that in most instances the mothers-in-law are the cause of the break up. The fathers-in-law, too, show a lack of understanding. Instead of adopting a discreet silence, they interfere with the affairs of the young couple. The parents of the boy should take sides with the daughter-in-law. It is the responsibility of the girls’ parents to support the son-in-law. When a small quarrel erupts between the couple, instead of brokering a compromise, they further fan the flames of discord and thus the couple starts fighting. It is a terrible thing for the husband and wife to fight with each other.
If a young wife fights with her husband and goes away to her parents’ home, her mother and mother-in-law should try to cool her down and convince her to return home. A sensible father will tell her that her home is where her husband lives and she should go back there. He will take the daughter to her husband’s home and tell him to let bygones be bygones. Thus the difference between man and wife can be nipped in the bud. However angry and excitable the young son-in-law is, if the mother-in-law takes back her daughter to his home and talks to him for sometime, he will cool down. If the parents-in-law are good to the daughter-in-law, treat her with affection and side with her when some quarrel erupts, the daughter-in-law, however bad she may be, will reciprocate their love, and there will be no discord in the house.
When a man returns home after the day’s hard work, which according to the Quran is a place of rest and relaxation, he expects the care and support of his wife to tide over the tiredness and refresh himself. But sometimes, instead of comfort, the home becomes a source of torture. The wife, who has been feeling lonely all day long, starts complaining to her husband as soon as she sees him. She complains to him about his parents - today your mother said this to me, your father scolded me like this. Then as soon as his mother finds him alone, she starts backbiting about his wife - your wife is stupid, she has no brains, actually she is not fit for our house. The poor man is already tired after working the whole day, listening to all this tires him the more. He becomes disturbed. The home is no longer a shelter for him. Do you realize how great a sin this is? The retribution for backbiting is more than the retribution for fornication. According to a tradition of the Holy Prophet (s), if a fornicator dies without repenting, then as soon as he reaches the gates of Hell, such an intolerably foul smell will arise out of his private parts that the inhabitants of Hell will plead will Allah to relieve them of the foul smell. Fornication is such a grave sin. But a bigger sin is to backbite about someone and destroy or cause a decrease in the regard others have for him. If you backbite about your daughter-in-law to your son, or accuse her falsely, it is a very grave sin. On the day of Judgement, such people will be dipped in a lake of putrid water and will stay there as long as everyone is through with giving their account of deeds. Then, they will be consigned to Hell in the same state. Don’t backbite because it is a major sin. A newly married girl and her mother-in-law should refrain from backbiting against each other. Certain mothers-in-law are so low, that they are always on the look-out for the faults of their daughters-in-law, so that they can condemn the daughter-in-law and backbite about her to their sons. If only such mothers-in-law knew what the Holy Prophet (s) has said. He(s) has said, “O people who believe. Do not be critical of others nor interfere in the matters of other people. If you do so, Allah will put you to shame on the Day of Judgement!” She should realise that tomorrow her daughter can get the same treatment she metes out to her daughter-in-law today. This world will pass, but what will happen in the Hereafter? The first day in the grave is very difficult. The parents-in-law should not be concerned about the dowry. Only foolish people have such concerns. They should not be worried that their daughter-in-law has brought scanty dowry. What they should be worried and concerned about is their graves. It is a crime for the mother-in-law to rummage the purse of her daughter-in-law. Similarly the wife should not check her husband’s wallet - these actions have grave consequences.
I make a fervent appeal to the parents not to interfere in the affairs of their grown-up children. Leave them free to carve their own futures. Do not hurt others - worry about your Hereafter.
Obeying the Husband
It is natural for the wife to obey the husband. If a wife doesn’t obey her husband, she is acting against nature. As you are well aware, all organizations must have a chief or a head. Imagine the smallest organization, say, with seven members, with no chief. There will be no discipline or order in such an organisation. According to wise men, the home is not just an organisation; it is a small kingdom with many such small kingdoms making up the nation. The small kingdom, too, needs a chief. The law of nature dictates that man should be the head of the family, because providing for the household expenses and the legal responsibility of feeding and clothing the wife rests with the husband.
The Holy Quran entrusts this function to the husband thus:
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).
The affairs of the home are in the control of man because he has the nature and capability of performing this function. The second aspect is that Islam entrusts the men with the responsibility of providing the basic necessities for the women. Therefore the wives should be obedient to the husbands. Similarly the children should be obedient to the father. A home where the children do not listen to their father is like an organisation where certain employees do not listen to the chief. If a wife wants to have her own way in running of the house, against the wishes of the husband, then it will be like an organization where the deputy chief disregards the chief. Obviously such an organisation cannot progress. Such organisations are subject to fights and strife. If the members of a family desire unity, peace, and comfort, the children should obey their father, and the wife should listen to her husband, because this is his right.
The second right of a husband is the right of intercourse with the wife. In this respect the wife has to be totally obedient to the husband. If she does otherwise, in the view of all the Jurists, she is Nashiza (disobedient). Such a woman cannot demand food, clothing and shelter from the husband because she is denying him the right to intercourse. The Holy Quran has strong views about this matter. There are several traditions too on the subject. The author of Wasail writes that a young girl came to the presence of the Prophet of Allah (s) and inquired, “O Prophet of Allah! I want to get married. What rights does the husband have over the wife?” The Prophet (s) said, “The first right that the husband has over the wife is that she should not act like a thief at home. She should not become rebellious. She should not pretend to do something and in reality do something else.” The girl said, “I shall take good care of this matter!” Then the Prophet (s) said, “The second right of the husband is that the wife must totally submit to his natural instinct of sexual intercourse.” The girl assented to this condition too. The Prophet (s) then said, “If any differences crop up at home, it will be your duty to ask for pardon from your husband and you should not sleep till he is pleased.” The third condition appeared harsh to the girl and she asked, “Do I have to ask the pardon of my husband, even if he is on the wrong, even if he is the oppressor?” The Prophet (s) replied emphatically, “Yes! Even if your husband is oppressive and at fault, it will be your duty to seek a truce and ask for his pardon!”
The reason for this injunction is that the very existence of woman is for love and affection. She has been created for radiating love and affection. The Holy Quran considers a woman who possesses two qualities to be good:
So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded ….
A good wife is one who is humble and submissive with her husband. She does not have an abusing tongue and is chaste - whether she is alone or has company. Whether she is at home or in the street, she must remain chaste. Just as she observes hijab in public, in the same way she should also hijab in front of her namahram relatives. Thus she should observe hijab in front of her husband’s brothers, in front of her husband’s uncles, in front of the shopkeepers in her neighbourhood, in front of neighbours, and acquaintances etc.,
The wife should be obedient and submissive to the husband in matters of sex. Similarly the husband should also listen to the one who helps him and co-operates with him. Just as an organisation has advisers or consultants, so does the home. At home it is the wife who helps and advices the husband. All the programmes for the family are to be finalized by the husband, but he should consult the wife. If she makes a good suggestion, he should accept it.
One tradition of Ameerul Mu'mineen (a.s.) is very popular. Some people deduce a wrong meaning from it: “Consult your wives, but don’t follow their advice!” Can he ever suggest that men should consult their wives and turn down their ideas even if they are good? Do people think that Ali (a.s.) will ever give such advice. The real meaning of the tradition is that the husbands must consult their wives and turn down their suggestions only if they are not good. The men must listen to their wives, but the final decision is in his hands. He may accept her suggestion.
This statement of Ameerul Mu'mineen is totally in agreement with what the Holy Quran says on the matter. The Quran addresses the Holy Prophet, “Consult with your companions. Don’t ignore them. Don’t ignore the Muslims. Respect their personalities. But deciding the programmes is your duty.”
… And when thou art resolved, then put the trust in Allah …
The Quran and the tradition of Ameerul Mu’mineen (a) say the same thing. Man must consult his wife, because she is his adviser. If her suggestion is not good, then he should exercise discretion in the matter. In one of the traditions the Prophet of Allah (s) has said that one must consult his eldest son in important matters. The son is the master for the first seven years, a slave or servant for the next seven years and an assistant for the next seven years of his life. For the first seven years of a child's life, we must listen to what he says and wants. During the next seven years he should be trained to do work and should be made to work, so that he becomes a good human being and is not lazy. When he becomes above fourteen years of age, he should be consulted. Our children have a special place in society which should be given to them. It is the parents who can raise children with strong characters. It is wrong to tell a fourteen year old boy or girl that he/she is stupid or foolish.
The Holy Quran says that we must treat our children with kindness. Use words like ‘my dear’ while addressing them. Address them politely and with affection. They must be told to be polite in talking to others. They should also be instructed that any type of polytheism is a major sin. Instruct them gently, explain kindly, make matters clear for them and then leave them alone. If we do all this, we will make our children decent persons. Our kindness towards our children will nourish the instinct of love in them. The traditions indicate to us that we should maintain closeness with our children, consult them when they come of age and accept their suggestions if they are worth adopting. Some men are so thoughtless that they keep the members of their families uninformed about their concerns. They don’t inform their families about the nature and type of job they do, they don’t share with the family their plans for the future. It is not only the children who do not know anything; even their wives are totally ignorant about these matters. She does not know what her husband does for a living; she does not know how her husband meets the household expenses. She only knows that the husband leaves home in the morning and returns in the evening with an abusive tongue. Husbands should take their wives into confidence, because the wives are their deputies at home. If the husband is the head of the family, the wife is his helper in running the house. It is not right for the chief of any organization to ignore his deputy and keep him uninformed about the goings on. The wife, too, should cooperate with the husband in implementing his plans. This attitude will reinforce the husband's love for his wife. When the wives dutifully follow the instructions of their husbands, it is as if they are following the dictates of the Quran. The husbands must also remember that the Quran says that husbands should not ask their wives to do anything that goes against the Shariah.
The wife too has certain rights which the husband is obliged to fulfil. Psychologists say that if a person wants a comfortable and happy family-life, he should not get into fights and arguments. The husband should inform his wife and children about the steps taken by him in fulfilling their rights. It would be nice if the husband kept his family informed about his income and expenditure. When the husband refuses to spend, his family considers him to be a miser. But if they know that his income is less, they will no longer consider him a miser; neither will they make unnecessary demands. If the husband disregards his wife, it will affect her character. She will no longer love her husband or be a good wife to him. I appeal to you not to insult your children, because if a young person is insulted, no crime is too big for him. The wife must obey her husband. In turn, the husband must consult with his wife and not ignore her.
Home and the Rule of Law
I would like to say that laws and regulations cannot be enforced in homes. What will be more effective in the environment of the homes - laws and regulations or kindness, companionship, friendship, and thoughtfulness? The poet says:
Who am I? Layla! And who is Layla? It is I
Both are one soul in two separate bodies
If regulations come in the way, then the matters will go haywire. For example: The husband can tell the wife, “Don’t step out of the house, because this is my right.” Now the wife is obliged to take her husband’s permission before stepping out of the house. This is a right given to men by Islam. If the husband wants to enforce the law a hundred percent, can his wife visit her parents if she wishes to? No. She wants to visit a neighbour. She can’t. She has to live in the seclusion of the four walls of her house. But, if you enforce such strictness on your wife, she can also do a lot of things (in retaliation). There is a saying among the people that if you keep a woman in a house of steel, you cannot prevent her from going out if she is not a modest woman. Through enforcement of laws in a harsh manner we cannot prevent the wives from doing what they wish to do. But this can be achieved through companionship and being friendly. The thing that truly makes a woman totally submissive is thoughtfulness, kindness, honesty and friendship! If we make the wife our adviser and confidante instead of neglecting her, there will not be any need for enforcing the regulations. Suppose the wife also starts enforcing rules, like the husband? For example, she tells her husband, “Pay up, or else I will not nurse the child. Pay up! Only then will I do some work in the house. Get me a servant, if I don’t have a servant to help me in the house, I will not do any work. If you work, only then will I work in the house. I am obliged to submit to you only for sex, so I refuse to do anything else at home.” In such a situation the home will begin to resemble a prison. A time might come when the husband thinks of dissolving the marriage. If the husband strictly enforces laws at home, the wife will start complaining within ten days. Therefore, we cannot insist on following strict laws and regulations in the day to day life! According to Quran, the best course is:
Indeed Allah enjoins justice and kindness …
This means that justice and thoughtfulness must be equally balanced. The wife must be obedient to the husband, not under duress, but with affection. The husband should keep rapport with his wife so that she obeys him. The wife should deal with the husband with such love and affection, that he is obliged to reciprocate with kindness. Kindness and obedience cannot be obtained by enforcing laws.
I know many people who adopt such stern attitude in their lives, the results of which are very unfortunate. For example: If a wife’s chadar accidentally moves away from her face, the husband starts shouting at her. Maybe, the first time the wife will not protest. She may even put up with his rude remarks a few more times. But a time comes when the wife becomes rebellious and discards the chadar totally, to the extent that she goes in front of the namahram in that state. In your presence she will wear the veil, but when you are away, she abandons it. Such things happen because the husband is an authoritarian. He is unbearably strict. There are certain husbands who tell their wives: you have no right to talk to my brother. You have no right to talk in the presence of my relatives. Such harshness results in serious consequences. Some wives too, have such negative attitudes with their husbands, even if the husbands are patient. But when a husband has had enough, he divorces her. I appeal to you that the environment of your home should be one of love and amity, not one of dominance and enforcing rules. For example, the woman is chaste and observes proper hijab, still her strict husband does not allow her to step out of the house. He doesn’t allow her to visit friends, or go to the market to buy something. He doesn’t even allow her to visit her parents. Should she not visit her parents? If you cannot get along with them, should she forsake them as well? By doing this you are only inviting trouble for yourself and your children. The stricter a husband is with his wife, the more stubborn she will become. What is desired of the husband and wife is to develop love and affection. Then they will be able to give their best attention to the upbringing of their children. They should be more concerned about the whereabouts of the daughter. Where does she go? Who are her friends? Does she come home on time? But if the parents become strict with their children, they too, will complain. We come across children who frequent places which their parents disapprove of. When the reason for this is investigated, it is found that their upbringing was not on proper lines. Even if some attempts were made at upbringing, it was not with love and affection. Islam says that both excess and deficit are undesirable. Ameer al Mu'mineen (a.s.) has said:
An ignorant person is either lazy or hasty.
Some characterless people can become friendly, but their friendship is such that the day they clash, their attitude undergoes such a drastic change that they start accusing others falsely. Such people cannot train their children. Even if they find some time to sit with their children, they use such harsh words that the personality of the child is badly hurt.
Another thing I want to point out is that people should desist from misusing rules and regulations. In the view of Islam this is not a good practice. I have written a book, Taqallab Dar Qanoon, on this subject. I have extensively made reference to traditions and the verses of the Quran to make my point. For example people take interest but do not call it interest. They give 10,000 on loan on the condition that it will be returned along with another 1,000 and the creditor will give 1kg sugar in return for the additional 1,000. So, in their view no interest was taken or paid! This is definitely a misuse of the regulations.
May Allah’s blessings be on one of the leading personalities of the Qum Seminary, Shaykh Abd al Karim Yazdi, who once related that a man was repentant after pronouncing the Talaq (pronouncement of divorce) to his wife three times. Before the matter became public he came to the Shaykh and asked for a way out of the predicament. The man said that if they did the Halala for the woman, his family would lose their reputation in the society. Halala is the process of a divorced woman marrying another person, establishing conjugal relations with him, divorcing him to become eligible for marrying the first husband. The Shaykh says that one very pious looking person was sitting in the first row in the mosque. Thus he asked that man to marry the ex-wife, on the condition that he would have to divorce her in the morning so that she could marry her first husband. The man was also promised some money. The woman was married to that man. However the next morning the man refused to divorce her. The Shaykh said that they tried to persuade him but he would not agree. Ultimately the lady committed suicide but that man would not divorce her. One sentence that the Shaykh often repeated from the pulpit was, “Certain men of justice are worse than Shimr!”
This man was just. He had not committed any sin. He expressed his unwillingness to divorce the woman. But he is worse than Shimr because he was misusing a rule. Unfortunately this very danger of misusing rules and regulations is found more amongst pious people. A girl goes to school. Under the pretext of studying she tells her mother that she cannot do any housework for her. This is the misuse that the late Hajj Shaykhh had pointed out. This girl is just, her stand is legitimate as far as rules are concerned but she is worse than Shimr! Her attitude will harm the household one day or the other!
Although you are a Mu'min, you are worse than Shimr because you are too harsh and stubborn in enforcing the regulations. This attitude might render your pious wife and daughter rebellious sometime in the future.