Dealing with Toxic in-laws

Your Guide to Dealing With Toxic In-Laws

Because in-laws can be a challenge, we’ve rounded up a compilation of hadiths and ayat that can help Muslims figure out what they should do from an Islamic perspective when they have a family member that harms them or abuses them. In this particular article, we’ll focus on toxic in-laws and what Islam says about dealing with them.

Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.

[QUran, 2:185]

Your relationship with your in-laws and husband is a challenging topic since family ties are extremely important in Islam. Nevertheless, it is a great idea to have a healthy discussion on this topic with reference to the Quran and Ahadith. For now, we will learn about the characteristics of toxic family members and in-laws and how to base our way of dealing with such toxicity on our Islamic teachings.

Our Prophet  said, “The ties of blood are suspended from the Throne (of God), and say, ‘Whoso doth regard us, him will God regard, and whoso doth cut us apart, him will God cut apart.’” 1 [Bukhari and Muslim]

He  also said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship.” 2 [Bukhari]

But, what if family relationships cause us severe mental, emotional, and spiritual harm? Should we continue to suffer? In my humble opinion, Islamic teachings are not meant to cause us suffering. 

If toxic family members are harming your mental, emotional and spiritual health, you need to protect yourself from harm — especially if your relationship with Allah is being affected.

We will discuss this topic in three parts: 1) Islamic teachings about family relationships; 2) characteristics of toxic family members; 3) ideas to cope with toxic family members.

1. Islamic Scriptures about Family Relationships

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First, one of the main reasons that the Prophet Muhammad was sent was to uphold family ties.

Before ‘Umar ibn ‘Absah became Muslim, he asked the Prophet:With what were you sent?” He  said: “He has sent me to uphold the ties of kinship, to break the idols and to proclaim the Oneness of Allah, not associating anything with Him.” 6 [Sahih Muslim] 

In the story of Abu Sufyaan and Herculius, Herculius asked Abu Sufyan, “What does he – [the Prophet] – enjoin upon you?” Abu Sufyan said, “He enjoins us to pray, give charity, be chaste and uphold family ties.” 7 [Bukhari and Muslim]

Second, the marriage relationship should be characterised by love, compassion, comfort, and protection. As Allah says, “And among Allah’s signs is this: that He created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you might find rest in them, and He has set between you love and compassion. Truly there are signs in this for people who reflect.” [Quran, 30:21]

Third, showing kindness to your wife and family is highly rewarded. The Prophet said, “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character, and the best of you are those who are the kindest to their wives and families.” 13 [Al-Tirmidhi] 

Fourth, a wife is required in Islam to treat her husband with respect and dutifulness. We see this mentioned in this one hadith in which the prophet states: “When any woman prays her five, fasts her month, guards her body, and obeys her husband it is said to her: “Enter paradise from whichever of its doors you wish.” 16 [Ibn Hibban, Sahih per Al-Albani]

Fifth, Islam teaches us that showing kindness to relatives is an Islamic duty. Allah says, “Show kindness to parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, the neighboring kinsman and the neighbor who is not of your kind, the companion, the traveler in need, and to the slaves you own.” [Quran, 4:36]

Finally, our faith teaches us that reconciliation and forgiveness are ideals that we should strive for.

Whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God.

[Quran, 42:40]

The Prophet Muhammad said: “Shall I not inform you of something more excellent than fasting, prayer, and charity?… It is putting things right between people.” 18 [Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 2310]

Almost every family relationship will experience broken trust at some point. It is normal for trust levels to rise and fall over the course of a relationship. Some toxic family relationships can be repaired in the long run, but both people must be willing to work at self-growth. 

2. Characteristics of Toxic Family Members

Dealing With Toxic In-Laws
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Having problems with family members does not necessarily mean they are toxic. Relationship problems are normal and can often be solved by honest communication and problem-solving. One question to ask yourself is, “Is this relationship harming me more than benefiting me?” If the relationship is more harmful, it may be toxic.

A few major characteristics of toxic family members are that they are: 1) Dishonest and disrespectful; 2) Unwilling to accept any responsibility for their behaviours; 3) Can make you feel like you are going crazy or that you are the victim of someone trying to manipulate and control you; and 4) Extremely negative and critical 

Because of their unwillingness to take responsibility, it is difficult to repair relationships with them. Setting boundaries and limits is crucial.

Toxic people act in these ways because it works to get their needs met. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t continue acting in these ways.

3. Ways to Cope with Toxic Family Members

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How you should cope with a situation like this can be complicated because every situation is unique. Here is a list of ideas. You should use your intuition and reason to choose the best course of action. Not all of these ideas will work for your particular situation.

  1. Live for Allah.
  2. Try to show toxic family members kindness and understanding, but also limit your contact with them to protect yourself from their toxic behaviours.
  3. Take care of yourself and know your limits.
  4. Find peace in truth and wisdom.
  5. Sometimes it is best to be silent.
  6. Listen to your intuition and use your reason.
  7. Set and enforce boundaries and keep your distance.
  8. Seek support.
  9. Sometimes it’s best to speak directly to toxic family members.
  10. Do not feel hatred towards toxic family members.
  11. If their toxic behaviour becomes physically abusive, it’s a legal matter that must be addressed.

Dealing With Toxic In-Laws

Showing kindness to family members is highly rewarded, but at the same time, we need to take care of ourselves so that we can be kind, healthy people in the long run. If your mental health is suffering from the effects of toxic family members, you should treat yourself with kindness and protect yourself from harm. Also, remember that you are not alone, and that many people suffer from toxic family relationships.

Just because people are related to you does not give them the right to be hurtful and dishonest.

You will be a happier person if you can avoid toxic family members and set boundaries. Setting boundaries is not easy; it means saying “no” and limiting contact. Just because people are related to you does not give them the right to be hurtful and dishonest. Family members are supposed to love and support one another.

May Allah protect us from toxic people and help everyone become better people. Ameen!