The Deal with ze Brother-in-Law

>> Saturday, December 10, 2011

Assalamulaykum dear sisters!
First off (and I'm sure you've heard this a lot, but it's really true!) I think your blog is just soo awesome, and everyone on here is amazing for their contributions, may Allah reward you guys InshAllah =D
Okay, so my question is about something pretty misunderstood I think in the Muslim community. I'd like for you to give advice about "the brother-in-law". I know about the hadith that states, "The brother-in-law is (or is like) death!", but honestly, how do we go about the situation? I'm actually the little sister of the scared of mommyhood sis, so you'll understand that my sister just got married Alhamdulilah and the guy will be in my house with us. Thing is, he's in the family and has known me since I was a kid. I think he really does care about me and no doubt sees me as his little sister, so he jokes around with me and all that other stuff. There's absolutely no tension in the relationship and he's the kinda guy that like, NEEDS people around him, talking, laughing, and all lol.
I'm only 14, and he's so much older, but I'd really like to know more about the Islamic perspective. Is it something really that sinful? How do you deal with the problem? Thank you, =)

Wa'alaikum salam wa rahmatullah, Enya!

I'm glad you love this blog! I do too! And it's all because of the effort we all put in it together, alhamdulillah. :) May Allah (swt) accept our efforts and keep our intentions pure. 

Okay, now getting on to answering the question *rubbing hands together! :P*. I was actually pretty excited about this one because I was in the same situation two years ago (and still am, really). You were right; the brother-in-law is not your mahram. Firstly, I think we should clear up who exactly a mahram is so we're all on the same page. By definition (for a female), a mahram is a male whom a woman can never marry because of close relationship--father, brother, son, gramps, uncle, etc.--and we're not required to cover ourselves in front of them. (Your husband becomes your mahram right after the nikaah.) So that basically means that every other guy out there, including our other male relatives, is not our mahram. Now that's the easy part, innit?

The thing is, most people do know about  this, but we tend to make exceptions because of our culture. That's where the confusion comes in, when people start blending the lines between culture and Islam. What we fail to realize is that Islam is our deen; it's a way of life, how we're supposed to live our life. Now that's where the hard part comes in...

So what can you do? I can tell you from experience, this isn't easy, especially since your brother-in-law lives (or will be living) at your house. You obviously can't just pretend he's not there. That would be sorta rude, won't it?  What helps me is remembering that he's just like any other non-mahram guy I come across during the day. How do we interact with them? We do our best to make sure those interactions are PublicPurposeful, and Limited. Keeping that in mind helps. Yes, he is my twin's husband. He holds a place dear to her heart, but in reality, for me, he's not my mahram, so it's not my place to become friends with him. (Yes, it will get lonely if your brothers and your sister are in a different room hanging out together with him when they (sister and husband) come over, and you can hear them laughing and having fun, but then, think of all the reward you'll be getting from Allah [swt]. You're going against your nafs to obey a command of Allah's. How awesome is that?) I can just imagine you thinking right now, "So what, am I supposed to ignore him now? Act like I never had that easygoing relationship with him?"  Of course not, you can't simply ignore him. He's going to wonder why (I mean, you guys are buddies! You can't expect any less, right?), and you'll answer it's because of the mahram issue, ultimately Islam, to which he might sort of be miffed at. We don't want that, do we? It was through the infinite hikmah (wisdom) of Allah (swt) that he decided our brother-in-laws can't be our mahrams. We might not understand the reasoning behind it, and that's okay. We don't have to. We trust Allah's wisdom. He looks at His creation with seventy times more mercy than a mother does to her child. SubhanAllah! So I think it's most definitely safe to say that Allah (swt) always has our best interests at "heart". :D

You mentioned you're only fourteen. MashaAllah, it's great that you've already given this some thought. Think about it, three years from now, you'll be seventeen. The longer you put this off, the harder it'll become, and if you look on the bright side, if you start now, it'll become easier for the future inshaAllah.

You can start off on your part. If you wear hijaab, make sure you keep it on in front of him. If you wear an abaya, wear a long khimaar/chaadar when he's in the room. Try not to joke around with him. If he does make a joke, maybe smile, but don't encourage him. Try steering clear of his path, and if you do come across him, just exchange pleasantries. Be cordial. :) 

It might help to talk to your sister about this, so she can in turn speak with her husband and explain it to him inshaAllah. :) Suggest to her and your parents that it will be better for all involved that their bedroom and bathroom be further apart from yours. If it's possible, maybe even on another floor. This should hopefully limit your contact and avoid any unnecessary bumping into each other.

But now, you've lost a "brother", so to speak, haven't you? If you have any actual brothers, this is a great time to build that relationship with them, or if you don't have brothers, with your dad then. You'd be surprised at how great friends dads can be! Give it a try, inshaAllah! :)

And, by the way, he can still care about you as his wife's younger sister, and he probably still will. I'm sure you're an integral part of your sister's life, so in order to please her, he'll do stuff for you, like, I don't know, maybe if your sister's carving Applebee's Molten Lava Cake one night, and he knows you're in the house, he'll prolly bring one for you too (this is really good stuff!). :P Even better, how about you make/buy them a welcoming gift when they're about to move in?

Lastly, and most importantly, make du'aa. Make lots and lots and lots of du'aa for Allah (swt) to facilitate this for you, forgive you, and keep your intentions pure. Tell Allah (swt) you're breaking off this relationship in order to please Him. 

I sincerely hope this answer helped you, Enya. If you still have any more questions about this, you're more than welcome to ask again. And maybe some of our readers have some more advice they can offer on this matter. : )

May Allah (swt) make this easy for you! Seriously, it's not so bad. It may seem a bit daunting at first, but you'll be a pro at this soon enough, inshaAllah! :D

One more thing before I sign off, always remember that the harder your test is from Allah (swt), the greater the reward you'll get, inshaAllah! 


7 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Anonymous,  December 11, 2011 at 7:50 AM  

I think this is a new writer & I just wanted to say- this is really written well! Answered all the questions that came into my head as I read it. Good job Apple Blossoms!

fatimah December 12, 2011 at 1:00 AM  

Assalam alykum warahmatullah.
This post reminded me of importance of keeping distance toward non-mahrams. My cousin will come to our house and I worry if he want to go shopping etc. with me as we did when I was non-muslim. :(
Jazaki Allahu khair, sister Apple Blossoms.

Anonymous,  December 12, 2011 at 1:04 AM  

beautiful post and beautiful blossoms. :-)

LaCandyEater,  December 13, 2011 at 7:36 PM  

Masha Allah Sister Apple Blosom! That was some great advice! :)

And to the sister try and talk to your parents and ask them to sit down with your brother-in-law. Try and have them explain to him Islam's view on things. He may understand it better coming from them and respect your parents wishes.
As a last resort I would tell you to try and avoid your brother-in-law, even though it's horrible to avoid people.

But if he doesn't seem to get the message, try to conveniently do something else when he's home. Take showers around the time he gets home. Maybe go to a friends house now and then. By no means is this a good plan, but desperate times can call for desperate measures.
Again, this is only as a last resort :). Try the Aunites advice first Insha Allah


Enya,  December 18, 2011 at 7:34 AM  

I know that this is kind of really late, but Jazaki Allahu khair for the wonderful advice!! This truly did help me out, in fact I printed it out to remind myself (not just dealing with bros-in-law) but with any of our non-mahrams we should not have a deep friendship. It's also nice to know I'm not the only one in this situation. Thanks much, again! :)

Anonymous,  December 18, 2011 at 10:16 AM  

Wa iyyaki. I'm glad it helped, alhamdulillah!
-Apple Blossoms

Anonymous,  December 21, 2011 at 5:15 AM  

Wow! im jus sooo glad that the whole purdah step was takken by mom 13 years ago, nd now we dunt have to face neting new, cuz all of our relatives sort of understood us..:):).. may Allah grant everyone patience

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Asalamu aialkum!
Well, what do you think? You know, you're part of the team, as well. Please help a sister out and share your own advice/experiences/etc. One for all and all for one =)
P.S. I reserve the right to remove any disrespectful comment ;)

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