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Serving the In-laws is not obligatory
There is another fact worthy of notice about which much negligence is observed among the people. When a wife is not responsible to cook food for her husband and his children, then she is more appropriately not responsible to cook food for the parents of the husband and his brothers and sisters. A custom has gained currency in our society that the parents of the son think that their right over the daughter-in-law has a priority over the right of the son. Therefore she is bound to serve them, no matter if she serves her husband or not. Such a misleading conception gives rise to quarrels and disputes among the daughter-in-law and other members of the family. The negative results of this conception are obvious to require any comments.
To serve In-Laws is a virtue for a woman
Bear in mind well that it is the responsibility of the son to serve his parents. It is, however, a matter of blessing and virtue for the daughter-in-law if she serves the parents of her husband willingly, as a righteous deed and source of reward for her in the Hereafter. The son does not have any right to force his wife to serve his parents in case she does not feel inclined to serve them of her own sweet will.
It is also not lawful for the parents to force their daughter-in-law to serve them. As already mentioned, if the daughter-in-law voluntarily decides to serve her in-laws for the sake of recompense in the Hereafter she is welcome to do so. This will create happy and pleasant atmosphere in the household.
Appreciate the services of a daughter-in-law
If a daughter-in-law is serving his father and mother-in-law, she is doing favour out of her moral character because she is giving this service to them only of her free will and she is not in any way liable for such services. Her in-laws should, therefore, appreciate this voluntary service from her. They should try to requite her for this and encourage her. Ignorance of these rights and liabilities create various problems in social life which play havoc to the solidarity and welfare of families through quarrels and disputes. All these troubles are taking place simply because the people have banished from their minds the limits of these mutual rights and liabilities which the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has fixed in his Traditions.
A Surprising Incident
Hazrat Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib [ra] one day related a very wonderful event. He said that among his acquaintances, there was a couple who used to visit his assembly and receive spiritual training and instructions from him. One day both of them invited him to a dinner at their house. It was the habit of respected Dr. Sahib to utter at the end of the feast a few words of praise in favour of the lady who cooked the food just to encourage and please her. The lady who had prepared the food came and stood behind the curtain and greeted him. After replying to the greeting Dr. Sahib uttered a few words of praise and appreciation about the quality and taste of the food and the art of cooking. Dr. Sahib heard the woman sobbing from behind the screen. It was disturbing. Was there anything in Dr. Sahibís words that pinched her? On being asked to state the cause of her grief and sobbing, she said, "I have been living with my husband for the last forty two years, but during this long period of association, I never heard from him a word of appreciation about my cooking. When I heard these words from you sir, I could not control myself from sobbing."
The respected Dr Sahib used to relate this story in his assemblies off and on to emphasise that such callousness can never be expected from a husband who is able to realise that it is a great favour on the part of his wife that she is serving him so selflessly and faithfully of her own sweet will and is doing all this service for which she has not been made legally responsible by the Shari'ah. A man who thinks that his wife is a maid servant and has to serve him at any cost, has no need to drop a word of praise and appreciation if she is an expert cook and sincere worker.
The Husband should serve his parents himself
A question arises as to who should serve the parents when they are old, weak or otherwise helpless on account of sickness when there is none in the house except their son and his wife? Even in such a situation, the daughter-in-law is not bound, according to the Shari'ah to serve her in-laws. It is, however, a matter of blessings and virtue for her if she serves them of her own free will with the belief to please Allah and to receive reward in the Hereafter. The son should, however, realise that it is his responsibility to help and serve his parents personally or by employing a servant for this purpose. If the wife is looking after his old parents, the husband must appreciate this service and be thankful to her.