Praise be to Allah.
You should understand that differences are human nature; human beings are not all the same in terms of attitude, religious commitment, reasoning and behaviour. You should also pay attention to the fact that when a person grows older, their reasoning diminishes and they become childlike in many ways. You should also remember that you are dealing with your husband’s mother, and usually mothers-in-law feel as jealous of their sons’ wives as they would of a co-wife.
If you pay attention to all of the above, then your problems will begin to seem insignificant and your worry will be dispelled. What you are suffering from is something that many women suffer from, and it needs two important things: patience and wisdom.
So bear with patience whatever you see and hear from your husband’s family, and be wise in your dealings with them, especially with your husband’s mother, for by means of your wisdom you will be able to avoid many problems and you will earn their approval or at least put a stop to their ill will towards you; and you will also win your husband’s heart and please him.
Wisdom in your dealings with your husband’s mother means that you must speak nicely to her, praise her, pray for her, respond to her requests and be more concerned about her than she is herself, if she takes medicine, for example, or she has an appointment to visit a doctor. Gifts also play a major role in softening her heart and changing the way she deals with you.
But it should also be noted that you are not obliged to serve her or take care of her in the sense of it being an Islamic obligation. What you are doing is something that is mustahabb and is liked in Islam, and it is also kindness towards your husband. Perhaps if she realizes that you are doing something that is not obligatory upon you in sharee’ah, and your husband realizes that also, this will elevate your status in their eyes.
This does not mean that you should go along with her in gheebah or backbiting when she does that; rather you should advise her to stop eating the flesh of people by backbiting them. If she stops, that will be better for her, and you will have the reward for that, but if she continues and does not pay attention, then it is not permissible for you to sit with her when she is backbiting about others. Rather you must leave her company and your doing this may play a role in her stopping backbiting. It is not sufficient for you to denounce it in your heart in this case, because you do not come under the heading of being forced to do it. It is essential for her and her son to understand this ruling, and you should understand that if you stay with her when she is doing that, then you are a partner with her in the sin of backbiting, so how about if you join in with them by speaking?
You have every right to have a separate house in which you live with your husband and children, and you have the right to privacy, if your husband wants you to live with his family, and he will not be disobeying his mother if he allows you that. The wise and intelligent man weighs things against the standards of sharee’ah, and gives each person who is entitled to rights his or her due, and he does not take away from one in order to give to another.
But despite that we know how difficult it is to live separately in many cases, especially in current circumstances when finding suitable accommodation, especially in the big cities, is very difficult to achieve. In this case the man must look at his circumstances in general with an open mind, so that he will not make things difficult for himself or for the people around him. Allaah has decreed proficiency in all things.
Your husband has to understand the reality of your situation with his mother, because this is causing you to be edgy, which is affecting your children. It may also be affecting your husband. Hence he should hasten to solve the problems in his household, and he should accept frank discussion with you in all matters. He has to bear the responsibility that Islam has enjoined on him, and he has to honour his family, which also includes advising them and reminding them if they do something that is contrary to sharee’ah. He is also responsible for treating his wife kindly and he is responsible for raising his children. He is in great need of someone who can discuss these matters frankly with him and help him, and you are the main support who can help him in all these matters.
We ask Allaah to guide you and set your affairs straight, and to reconcile between you, and to make you a happy family in this world and in the Hereafter.
And Allaah knows best.