Muslim Matrimonials and More's Ask Bilqis


July 11, 2003

Bilqis is currently on sabbatical, so this question is answered by Wael Abdelgawad, the Editor.


Dear Wael,

I am a Muslima who wears hijab. I am married and my brother in-law lives with us. My husband has tried to help him in every way to stand on his feet, but to be honest nothing seems to work. Most of the time he is unemployed and does not think about his future and the inconvience he causes for me.

My husband has done all he can, and we cant seem to get him to move out or keep a job. He is a 35 year old, going nowhere in life. I would appreciate any advice you could offer.


- A Frustrated Wife


Dear Frustrated Wife, As-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah,

It's time for your brother-in-law to move out.

Of course families must help one another in time of need. But Allah says in the Qur'an, in Surah 2:273,

"(Charity is) for those in need, who, in Allah's cause are restricted (from travel), and cannot move about in the land, seeking (For trade or work)..."

It doesn't sound like your brother-in-law is in need or that he is one of those people who cannot move about in the land, seeking work; rather, it sounds like he is taking advantage of your hospitality.

To tell you the truth, you are not really doing your brother-in-law a favor. Because you are giving him free room and board he has no incentive to go out and earn his own living and build his own family (the true incentive should be his own desire and motivation, but these seem to be lacking). After all, if he can stay with you and eat your food indefinitely, then why should he bother to work?

He has to learn to stand on his own two feet and to work for his living according to the example of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who worked all his life. Aside from his work as a merchant, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), by doing routine manual work and sometimes even toiling at such manual labor as digging of deep trenches in rocky earth, set a practical example for his companions and the Muslim Ummah (nation) so that they may follow him and know the importance of hard work.

In addition, I am sure that your brother-in-law's presence in your house is a great inconvenience to you because it forces you to wear hijab at all times in the home, and it could create awkward and un-Islamic situations with you and he being alone in the home when your husband is at work, particularly because the brother-in-law does not work.

You said that your husband has done all he can, but "can't seem to get him to move out." Obviously there is one thing you and your husband have not done, which is simply to kick him out.

Give him a 30-day ultimatum, and tell him that at the end of the 30 days he will be evicted, no ands, ifs or buts. No doubt he will have a lot of excuses and guilt trips to lay on you. If you fall for those excuses and guilt trips, then you have no one to blame but yourself. Make it clear to him that you are not bluffing and that at the end of 30 days his stuff will be set outside the door and the locks will be changed. If you can afford it, offer him enough money for the first month's rent in his own apartment, so that he will have no excuses.

At the end of the 30 days, if he has not moved out, then you have to follow through and put him out. It may seem cruel, but he is obviously a freeloader and an unmotivated individual, and unless you take drastic steps I suspect he will still be living with you when you are grandparents!

At first he might resent you and be angry with you. But once he has a place of his own and is living by the fruits of his labor, he may be grateful to you for giving him a push. Allah says in the Qur'an that,

"Is it they who would portion out the Mercy of your Lord? It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in the life of this world..." (Surah 43:032).

Your brother-in-law too will receive the livelihood that Allah has portioned for him; but first he has to go out and seek it.

Best regards,

- Wael Abdelgawad, and Editor Muslim Matrimonials