My mother in law is a 70 years old lady, she has no medical problems, all her children are wealthy, educated and married, she currently lives with one of her sons and literally travels the world every three to four times a year. She does a lot around the house and is very active, but over the past 6 to 7 years she has been gossiping, and very negative about everything around her. She changes every positive into a negative. It has come to the point that it is causing stress in our relationship as everything we do seems we haven’t done anything. At her age it is hard to explain to her how to be more appreciatve and thankful to the blessings she has. Is there any hadith or duas to help her understand the positives in her life?
Answered by Umm Yusuf Abdul Sattar
Verified by Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf
In the name of Allah Most Beneficent, Most Merciful. We pray that you are in the best of faith.
In this situation, the most important principle to keep in mind is that our relationships with elders should be based on love and respect. With that in mind, ask yourself whether your feelings are due to sincere concern for your mother-in-law and her relationship with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), or if perhaps there are other issues, as there often are between mother and daughter-in-laws.
If it is the former, and you are reasonably certain that she will respond positively, you, or perhaps someone closer to her own age, can point out some of the more egregious instances of her complaints and negativism. Gently remind her of the words from Surah Al-Hujuraat, “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are a sin. Do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it, [so similarly, avoid backbiting]. And fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Verse 12] Or the hadith in which the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) described the act of backbiting when passing by some graves. “They are being punished and not for anything very great. One of them did not guard himself from urine and the other was involved in backbiting.” [Sahih Bukhari] Yet another reminder from the hadith is that our silence is rewarded as well. “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say (something good) or he should keep silent.” [Sahih Bukhari]
If it is the latter, the unintended consequence of your pointing things out would most likely be argumentation and conflict, which may well further deteriorate your relationship with her.
We would also suggest that you make dua for yourself and for your mother-in-law as it is a powerful act of worship in any situation. The importance and power of du’a are clear in the words of the Qur’an and Hadith. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the verses of Surah Ghafir, “And your Sustainer has said, ‘Ask from Me and I will accept your duas. Those who are too arrogant to worship me will enter the fire disgraced.” [Verse 60] Or the verse of Surah Al-Baqarah, which states, “And when My servants ask you regarding Me, indeed I am close. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me.” [Verse 186]
The words of our Beloved Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) in regards to dua are, “Dua is the weapon of a believer, a pillar of religion and the light of the heavens and earth.”
By focusing on dua and recognizing the power of sincere supplication to change a situation, you will be strengthening your iman and drawing yourself closer to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Again, rather than cause any hurt with your words, it is best to place the matter with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
Lastly, we would suggest family activities, such as reading and discussing the seerah of the Beloved Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and the Sahaba. This might be a good way to point out the need to be grateful, without directing it toward your mother-in-law specifically. When we reflect on the life of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), we see that he (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) never saw anything but good in all that afflicted him, whether it was never meeting his father, losing his mother in childhood, losing children in his own life, his own people turning against him, or seeing his companions tortured because of their belief. We realize that they never reacted with anything except contentment and excellence; this will help us appreciate the immense blessings bestowed on us.
Umm Yusuf Abdul Sattar