Why is a lot of emphasis placed on the Husband and Wife living separately from the husband’s parents?
I would like to see some evidence from Quran and hadith that suggest that husband and wife should live separately. If this is true, then how does the Sunnah suggest we take care of our aging parents if our parents can’t live under our roofs?
There are two separate things here, and one should not be confused with the other. The legal responsibility of a wife is one thing and her moral responsibility is another. What has been explained in the many earlier articles is the legal responsibility of the wife upon marriage.
From a Shariah perspective, it is not the wife’s responsibility to look after her parents’ in-law or take care of them. She does not have to live with them; hence, it will not be sinful or even blameworthy if she chooses to live separately from her in-laws.
You state that you would like to see some evidences from the Qur’an or Sunnah suggesting that the husband and wife should live separately, hence just ponder over the following Hadith:
Sayyiduna Amr ibn al-Ahwas narrates a long Hadith in which he relates the sermon given by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) at the time of his farewell Hajj. From amongst the many advices given by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), he stated:
“Beware! I advise you to treat your women honourably, for these women are confined in your homes. Other than this, you cannot demand anything from them except if they commit a manifest sin…” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 3087)
The above words of wisdom should be kept in mind by every husband. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) explained that a woman, upon marrying, leaves behind her parents, family, friends and everything else in order to come and live with her husband. She sacrifices everything for the sake of her new life-partner, and becomes tied and confined with her husband. Thus, the husband should reflect on this, and by doing so, he would never attempt to treat his wife in an ill manner.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) then stated that the husband does not have any further rights over his wife other than her being confined and tied up with him. This is a huge sacrifice given by the wife; hence the husband should not demand and expect anything more than that.
From this Hadith, the jurists (fuqaha) have deduced that the wife is not legally responsible for serving her in-laws. The husband cannot demand from her to take care of his own parents, for that is not legally binding on her. Rather, the Hadith states that the husband cannot demand anything besides the fact that the woman has confined herself to him.
Having said that, it is a great act of virtue and blessings for the wife if she serves her parents in-law, for which she will be immensely rewarded. She should try her best in taking care of them, but this is not her responsibility or duty per se.
Indeed, there are many texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah emphasising the importance of looking after one’s parents, but we should remember that this is the duty of the son. The husband is responsible to look after his own parents and not enforce this duty upon his wife. He most definitely does not have to send them to a nursing home; rather, he may provide a separate home for his wife and daily take care of the needs of his parents. He may even reside close to his parent’s home and spend a lot of time there. He should help in their daily affairs and take care of them. If his wife wishes to join in, she will be committing a great act of virtue but she cannot be forced. We need to always keep in mind the words of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) where he said that give each person the right they deserve. By doing so, we will have a more blissful, happy and pleasant atmosphere, Insha Allah.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK