What can we say to a woman whose husband's family mistreat her?
Chapter 2

وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاهْجُرْهُمْ هَجْراً جَمِيلاً (سورۃ المزمل, آية 10)

And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble dignity. (Surah 73, Verse 10)

Samira is a good wife, mother to five children. She has been married for twenty years and lives in peace and happiness with her husband and children. But there is a permanent sad look in her eyes. As the teacher of one of her sons I always asked myself what was troubling her.

I received my answer by chance. Samira's son was absent from school for a week and I decided to visit the family to discover the reason for his absence. One evening I went to the child's house, climbed the stairs and knocked on the door. The boy opened the door and Samira greeted me warmly, but, although she smiled, her expression was still melancholy. We talked and she told me that from the first day of her marriage she had been suffering. Her sisters-in-law harassed her and gossiped about her at every opportunity; she kept her silence and forgave them. But a week ago something terrible had happened. One of her sisters-in-law accused her of informing the police that her brother-in-law had been involved in a fight in the village the previous week. It was a lie, said Samira, but her oldest brother-in-law then burst into her house and demanded that her husband divorce her. He did this without trying to clarify the truth. "Luckily for me, my husband refused. He wanted to prove my innocence and asked to hear the recording of the telephone call to the police so as to identify the voice. He also asked for a printout of the conversation so as to ensure that I was not the one who called the police. I would never have done such a thing," Samira said with great pain. "It is against all the norms and values I was raised on."

Since then Samira has been depressed. She and her children do not leave the house. She cries all the time and does not know what to do. I advised her not to take note of her sisters- and brothers-in-law, to keep her distance from people who are envious of her. Then I opened the Quran which I always carry with me and read her Verse 10 of Surah 73: "And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble dignity." Samira was cheered and thanked me.

Explanation: Samira's fate has not been a happy one. In some societies it is easier to keep one's distance from undesirable relatives but in others the individual is forced to spend his life not only alongside a spouse but with the spouse's family as well, and is condemned to a life of endless squabbling. That is Samira's story. Her sisters- and brothers-in law permit themselves to interfere in her life, to accuse her and to pressure her husband to divorce her. This is by no means a simple situation. In traditional societies the relationship with the spouse usually replaces previous family ties and loyalty now belongs to the spouse. Samira's husband did well to demand facts and not insinuations and not to bow to pressure. He would have done better to defend his wife against her sisters-in-law and to put them in their place. In any event, the teacher did right in coming to see the family because of her concern for her pupil and in giving Samira good advice from the Quran - not to quarrel, to tolerate in silence the remarks of those who wanted to harm her and to keep her distance from them.