Does the duty of taking care old parents belong to son and his wife?

The Details of the Question

Does the duty of taking care old parents belong to son and his wife?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Looking after the old mother and father is a duty for their children, not for daughters-in-law or sons-in-law.

There will always be some troubles in societies or people that Islam is not practiced properly. We need to cure these troubles with the Quran and Islam.

When Islam evaluates situations, it considers them in terms of being fard (obligatory) or haram (forbidden). That is, it expresses matters as “it is forbidden or it is not forbidden”.

For this reason, something that is not obligatory does not mean that it does not have to be done. For example, in the sect Hanafi, the prayer (salat) done without reading the Surah al-Fatiha is valid. However, reading al-Fatiha in the prayer is wajib (compulsory). It means leaving to do a wajib act does not invalidate the prayer. It does not mean that the prayer can be performed without reading al-Fatiha. Reading al-Fatiha is wajib; one who omits it deliberately will be responsible for it. However, the prayer is valid because the fards of the prayer have been performed.

Islamic scholars say the following about whether daughters-in-law are responsible for looking after their mothers-in-law: “It is not obligatory for a daughter-in-law to look after her husband and even her child. For this reason, she is also not responsible for looking after a mother-in-law. The rule is like that in terms of being fard. Namely, it is not a sin if a woman does not look after her mother-in-law. However, she is regarded to have abandoned sunnah and committed makrooh (something abominable) if she does so.

Let us suppose we are talking to a daughter-in-law:

Your mother-in-law, as she is your husband’s mother, is the grandmother of your children. Even if you divorce your husband or your husband dies, you will still be relatives due to your children. There will be rights and responsibilities within the family whether little or much depending on the frequency you will see and meet each other. You will maintain your relationships with each other in an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance without harming love, respect and religious criteria. There will not be a problem if you feel comfortable in terms of religion and conscience, but if you behave coldly against her, hurt her feelings, gossip about her, and do not meet her legitimate demands, you will be unfair to her. You should apologize to her and ask her to forgive you.

A woman should behave well towards her husband’s parents

A woman should behave well towards her husband and her husband’s parents. She should respect, appreciate them and be polite to them. The woman does her husband a kindness by helping her mother-in-law. Because of this, the husband, paying attention to his wife’s acts, behaves similarly towards his wife and her parents. Doing so, the woman actually does herself a kindness. Allah said in the Surah ar-Rahman 60 “Is the reward of goodness anything but goodness?”

Our Prophet (pbuh) says, “A good man is the one who is good and useful to people

The mercy that our Prophet taught to Islamic community is very broad one; it is not just for relatives but also for all human beings. In a Hadith he says:

Allah does not feel compassion for those who do not feel compassion for people. (Muslim)

Allah will also be merciful towards those who are merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth (people or things) so Allah will be merciful to you. (Tirmidhi)

In our time, some cause the family life to be unbearable by saying, “the woman does not have to wash the clothes of her husband and does not have to suckle her children”. Even if she is not obliged to do that in terms of responsibilities, there is also a dimension related to the religion, humanity, and mercy. While a working woman is serving people that she knows or not for eight hours in a day, why does not she serve her husband, child, and her husband’s mother and father? Those kinds of thoughts and similar mistakes cause uneasiness and discontent in many homes. Family members need to obey Allah and His Messenger and then to each other if it is legitimate in order to be happy both in the world and in the hereafter. Nobody’s orders have to be carried out if they are contrary to Islam.

On the other hand, if everybody behaves responsibly towards each other, it will bring about happiness in the family. Or else, the family life will be unbearable. What is more, life is not limited with the life in this world; there also exists the life in the hereafter, which is the real life. We should build an atmosphere like in the Heaven in our homes far away from harams, full of the air of the Quran and Sunnah, because Allah loves people who do good deeds.

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