Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: I am pregnant, newly in hijab, live with my in-laws and am struggling with lack of privacy. I have my own room but have to share a bathroom and shower with my brother-in-law and his wife. What do I do?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. Congratulations on your pregnancy! May Allah reward you for enduring this difficult living arrangement. I pray that Allah eases your tribulation.
Please read A Wife’s Right to Housing Seperate From Her In-Laws by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari and share this article with your husband.
Even though it is your right to have separate quarters, you need to proceed wisely. The key here is balance, wisdom and discretion. Your husband sounds bound by cultural and family expectations. That being said, your well-being and your baby’s is extremely important.
May Allah reward you for fulfilling the obligation of hijab. I am so sorry that you are struggling to even use the bathroom at night due to your brother-in-law’s presence. Is it possible for you to keep a long hijab and a wraparound shift near the door so that you can quickly cover yourself before going to the bathroom? It’s important for you to not stop yourself from using the bathroom because you need to keep healthy and well throughout your pregnancy. As difficult as things are right now, work on accepting that this is how it will be for now, and that all discomfort is temporary, inshaAllah.
Please encourage your husband to be supportive of your hijab. He needs to set clear boundaries with his brothers e.g. ask them to call before they arrive, or to knock and give you time to wear hijab. They need to learn the basic adab of entering the home of a Muslimah, like not looking into the house until he is given permission. Give yourselves time to adjust to this new state.
Is there a local scholar you can consult, or a trusted community elder? Please have a mediated discussion about your living arrangement so that both you and your husband can calmly express your concerns. A culturally-sensitive relationship counsellor would also be an excellent option.
Think of more ways in which you can positively persuade your husband. Give yourselves a realistic timeline. Ask him if it’s possible to trial living on your own for a year, while maintaining ties with his family.
Please perform the Prayer of Need, ask Allah for an opening, and for the patience to endure until He changes things. Trust that Allah is able to do all things.
I encourage you to perform the Prayer of Guidance about moving out. If Allah makes it easy for you to move out (your husband’s heart softens) then that is a sign for you. If Allah blocks that path (your husband remains opposed to the idea), then that is a sign for you.
The arrival of a new baby is a shock to most first-time parents. Both of you will need as much help as you can get. Because of this, please do your best to keep on good terms with your in-laws. Reach out to your family for support too.
Be gentle with yourself, and with your husband. You are both about to embark on the most life-changing journey of your life, and need to be on the same page.
If it is any consolation, often the arrival of a newborn makes extended family dynamics much easier to deal with. New challenges present themselves, of course, but such is the nature of life in this dunya.
When you are stuck in a problem that seemingly is caused by creation, take a step back and reflect on your Creator. Remind yourself that this dunya is not perfect, and not everything will be to our liking. These discomforts are a sign that this dunya is not our final home. These trials are also the best opportunity to exercise virtues such as gratitude, contentment, patience, and so forth. Reset your intention, every day, for Allah. Do this every morning before you even start your day.
I pray that this trial will help you beautify yourself with Prophetic virtues, and raise your rank in Jannah. May Allah bless you with an easy birth, speedy recovery, and a loving and righteous child.
In-Laws Leaving Me No Privacy: What is the Proper Response?
Problems With In-Laws: Maintaining Distance & Advice on Mending Ties
Dealing With an Ill-Tempered Mother in Law
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani