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Husband-Wife relationship

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي ; وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي ; وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي ; يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجاً لِتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ مَوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“And among His Signs is this that He created for you wives (spouses) from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for people who reflect.”

(Aayah No. 21, Surah Ar-Rūm, Chapter No. 30, Holy Qur’an).

It is indeed Allah’s mercy upon mankind that He created spouses for human beings and that too from their own kind. Imagine the world with humans living without a spouse. Or imagine if a spouse was not from same kind i.e. suppose a human had a spouse from community of Jinns etc. It would have been very difficult to achieve compatibility. Alhumdolillah, the mercy of The Almighty is vast. He has blessed the mankind with this beautiful relation of husband-wife.

The relation between husband & wife is unique. Each partner has lots of rights; but the rights do not come without responsibilities. Let us try to understand what are the rights and responsibilities of husband and wife.

If we talk about the rights of a wife, by default majority (not all though) of these cover the responsibilities of a husband, and the vice versa. So we shall not break-up our discussion into sub-headings of rights or responsibilities of a wife or a husband. Rather, we shall concentrate on the items most crucial in this relationship, as they come along in different stages of a married life, and try to highlight the roles of each partner in all of these.

1. Husband & Wife are screen for one another.

هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَهُنَّ

“They are libas (i.e. body cover, screen, dress) for you and you are the same for them.”

(Aayah No. 187, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

This is an exceptional relation where the two have no Hijab among them. They are said to be screens or dress for each other. One should remember the strictness of Hijab to be observed by a lady. And some requirements of covering the Satr or Awra are to be observed even in front of the parents, siblings etc. But the only relation in which there is no Hijab is the relationship of husband & wife. And both partners have full liberty to this allowance.

2. It is obligatory for a husband to give Mahr to his wife.

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً فَإِنْ طِبْنَ لَكُمْ عَنْ شَيْءٍ مِنْهُ نَفْساً فَكُلُوهُ هَنِيئاً مَرِيئاً

“And give to the women their Mahr with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it without fear of any harm.”

(Aayah No. 4, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

Mahr is the bridal money which a husband gives to his wife at the time of marriage. There is no specified rule to fix the amount of Mahr for any marriage. It depends upon financial status of the groom and is generally mutually agreed between the two parties (families of bride and groom).

It is an obligation on the husband’s part to give this money to his wife. And he is supposed to give it happily, not under compulsion. It is the right of his wife. Remember, it is totally up to the wife that she may waive off her Mahr partly; but she can’t be influenced to do so.

I wonder how many husbands follow this order from Allah.

3. Wives should not be treated harshly; it is their right to live honourably.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَرِثُوا النِّسَاءَ كَرْهاً وَلا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ لِتَذْهَبُوا بِبَعْضِ مَا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ إِلاَّ أَنْ يَأْتِينَ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِنْ كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئاً وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْراً كَثِيراً

“O you who believe! You are prohibited to inherit women against their will; and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sex; and live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.”

(Aayah No. 4, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

This is a clear order from Allah for husbands to treat their wives with dignity, not to be harsh with them in words, actions etc. Every human has some shortcomings. It is natural for a wife also to have some negatives in her personality. But Allah advises the husbands to look into positives of the wives. Try to ignore her shortcomings and be patient. Let me quote a hadith in this context:

It was narrated from Umm Salamah (RA) that she brought some food in a dish of hers to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) & his Companions, then Aishah (RA) came, wrapped up in a garment, with a stone pestle and broke the dish. The Prophet (PBUH) gathered the broken pieces of the dish and said (to his Companions), “Eat; your mother got jealous,” twice. Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) took the dish of Aishah (RA) and sent it to Umm Salamah (RA) and he gave the dish of Umm Salamah (RA) to Aishah (RA).

(Hadith No. 3408, Book of Kind Treatment of Women, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 4).

Imagine how would an average man behave if his wife smacked a dish out of jealousy in front of his guests? But our beloved Prophet (PBUH) observed patience. And he advised same thing to his followers, as can be seen in following hadith:

It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (RA) said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “No believing man should hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one of her characteristics, he may be pleased with another.”

(Hadith No. 3645 (1467), Book of Breastfeeding, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4).

4.

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ حَافِظَاتٌ لِلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ وَاللاَّتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلا تَبْغُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلاً إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيّاً كَبِيراً

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard. As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (then) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means. Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.”

(Aayah No. 34, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

This beautiful verse explains many things. But majority of the Muslims (even scholars) have misinterpreted this verse. Let us look upon different messages from this verse, one-by-one.

4.1. Husband is care-taker (protector and maintainer) of his wife.

This verse from Holy Qur’an explains beautifully the status of husband and a wife in the relation; the responsibilities and rights of each other. But as I said earlier, this verse is misinterpreted by both genders in their cause. Let me explain the message in the verse. The first part tells us that men are protectors and maintainers of the women i.e. care-takers of the women. Some men take this verse as implying that men have a higher status over women, which is a wrong explanation. Men are physically stronger than women and they earn livelihood for them and their families. Earning bread is not an easy task and a person comes across so many hurdles which he has to overcome in order to earn livelihood. Then he spends it on his wife for all her needs. This is the responsibility of a husband. Along with this, husband has to protect his wife from all worries of outer world, from bad eyes of people and give her a dignified life along with his love. Refer to following hadith:

It was reported from Hakim bin Mu’awiyah Al-Qushairi, from his father, that he asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! What are the rights that our wives have over us?” He replied, “That you feed her when you eat, and clothe her when you wear clothes, and that you avoid hitting her in face or disgracing her, and that you avoid abandoning her except at home.”

(Hadith No. 2142, Book of Marriage, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2).

This is what is meant by men being care-takers of the women; there is no question of men having a higher status over women. It is just Allah’s decision to make men responsible for this job. So, women should not feel that this verse is against them. Neither should men try to use this verse to emphasize their superiority over women.

4.2. Women should be obedient to their husbands.

Then Allah orders women to be obedient to their husbands. For a wife, obedience and/or disobedience to her husband may decide her fate in the Hereafter. If a lady is obedient to her husband and keeps her husband pleased, she enters Paradise. Refer to following hadith:

Umm Salamah (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Whichever woman dies while her husband is pleased with her, then she enters Paradise.”

(Hadith No. 1161, Chapters on Suckling, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2).

Let me clarify that obeying a husband is obligatory for a wife; but she is not supposed to obey her husband if he orders her to do anything that leads to disobedience of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). Refer to following hadith:

Narrated Aishah (RA): An Ansari woman gave her daughter in marriage and the hair of the latter started falling out. The Ansari woman came to the Prophet (PBUH), mentioned that to him and said, “Her husband suggested that I should let her wear false hair.” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “No, for Allah sends His curse upon such ladies who lengthen their hair artificially.”

(Hadith No. 5205, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

This tells us that although women are supposed to obey their husbands, but any order or wish of the husband that leads to disobedience of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) is not to be obeyed by the wives. This is a clear ruling for all to understand.

Therefore, it should be understood that husbands have no right to stop their wives from meeting her parents, brothers, sisters and other blood relatives. Similarly, if a husband asks his wife to abandon Hijab and wear modern revealing outfits, she is not supposed to obey him at all.

Now let us see what are the consequences of a woman not obeying her husband and not keeping him happy?

Narrated Abdullah bin Abbas (RA): During the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), the sun eclipsed, Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) offered the Salat (of eclipse) and so did the people along with him. He performed a long Qiyam during which ‘Surah Al-Baqarah’ could have been recited; then he performed a prolonged bowing, then he raised his head and stood for a long time which was slightly less than that of the first Qiyam. Then he performed a prolonged bowing again, but the period was shorter than the period of the first bowing, then he stood up and then prostrated. Again he stood up, but this time the period of standing was less than the first standing. Then he performed a prolonged bowing but of a lesser duration than the first, then he stood up again for a long time but for a lesser duration than the first. Then he performed a prolonged bowing but of lesser duration than the first, and then he stood up again, and then prostrated and then finished his Salat. By then the sun eclipse had cleared. The Prophet (PBUH) then said, “The sun and the moon are two signs among the signs of Allah, and they do not eclipse because of death or birth of someone, so when you observe eclipse, remember Allah.” They (the people) said, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! We saw you stretching your hand to take something at this place of yours, then we saw you stepping backward.” He said, “I saw Paradise, and I stretched my hand to pluck a bunch (of grapes), and had I plucked it, you would have eaten of it as long as this world exists. Then I saw Hell (Fire), and I have never seen such a horrible sight as that before, and I saw that the majority of its dwellers were women.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! What is the reason for that?” He replies, “Because of their disbelief.” It was said, “Do they disbelieve in Allah (are they ungrateful to Allah)?” He replied, “They are ungrateful to their husbands and ungrateful to Al-Ihsan (good favours done to them). Even if you do good to one of them all your life, when she sees something (not of her liking) from you, she will say: I have never seen any good from you.”

(Hadith No. 5197, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

Thus, a wife disobedient and ungrateful to her husband does nothing but prepares bad for herself in the Hereafter.

4.3. Wife as a guardian

Let us go back to Aayah No. 34, Surah An-Nisa’, where Allah mentions that woman is a guardian in her husband’s absence. The husband goes out to earn livelihood. The wife stays at home. It is her duty, in absence of her husband, to be a guardian. But what is she supposed to guard?

Narrated Ibn Umar (RA): The Prophet (PBUH) said, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your words. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his off-spring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your words.”

(Hadith No. 5200, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

This makes it clear that it the responsibility of a wife to take care of her husband’s house, their children and her husband’s wealth, when he is away from the home. She is not supposed to allow anyone enter his home (in his absence as well as presence) whom he disapproves of. Apart from this, she has to guard her chastity in absence of her husband. If the parents of her husband are alive and live with them, it is her responsibility to take care of them.

Please remember, taking care of husband’s home and up-bringing of the children (i.e. the role of a lady as a wife and as a mother) is the biggest responsibility of a woman. Children spend more of their time at home with their mothers. Fathers are away from home due to their works. Therefore, the kids grow learning basic values of life and Islam from their mothers. Kids look up to their mother for getting their food, their clothing and other day-to-day works done. This takes a lot of effort for a woman. But this is what Allah wants her to do, for her success in the Hereafter depends on all this. Let me quote an example of the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH); refer to following hadith:

Narrated Ali (RA): Fatima (RA) went to the Prophet (PBUH) complaining about her sufferings and hurts from the stone mill on her hands. She heard that the prophet (PBUH) had received few slave girls. But she did not find him, so she mentioned her problem to Aishah (RA). When the Prophet (PBUH) came, Aishah (RA) informed him about that. Ali (RA) added: So the Prophet (PBUH) came to us when we had gone to bed. We wanted to get up but he said, “Stay where you are.” Then he came and sat between me and her, and I felt the coldness of his feet on my abdomen. He said, “Shall O direct you to something better than what you have requested? When you go to bed, say ‘Subhan Allah‘ thirty-three times, ‘Alhumdolillah‘ thirty-three times, and ‘Allah-o-Akbar‘ thirty-four times, for that is better for you than a servant.”

(Hadith No. 5361, Book of Provision, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

Just give a thought to this narration. The Prophet (PBUH) could have given the servant to his daughter who had to do a lot of hard work in her husband’s house. But see what his suggestion was instead?

Our Muslim sisters should take inspiration from Fatima (RA). Take her as a role model and stop worrying about the hard work you have to do at your homes. Allah shall reward you for that in the Hereafter.

4.4. Husband can discipline his wife.

This is another important part of the verse (Aayah No. 34, Surah An-Nisa’) which has been misinterpreted widely. Muslim men take the ruling of this verse as an excuse for physically assaulting their wives. Their ignorance and support from some incompetent scholars lead to raised eyebrows and Islam being wrongly portrayed as a religion that promotes male chauvinism. Let us try to understand this ruling in a correct manner.

It is mentioned that if the conduct of wife is bad i.e. she is doing acts which are affecting the peace of the family, trying to revolt against the husband unnecessarily, not respecting her parents-in-law, not obeying her husband’s genuine wishes etc., the husband is supposed to try talk to her and persuade her to make the things amicable. This is the first thing that he is supposed to do. But if this step fails to convince his wife and she keeps doing her ill-conduct, he should stop sharing bed with her i.e. stop making physical relations with her, as a means of expressing his annoyance and admonishing her. If this is able to solve the problem, then it is fine; but if still the lady does not comes to peace, then Allah has given the right to the husband to beat her i.e. physically hit her, to settle the problems and bring the lady to discipline.

Now a word apiece to both genders:

Why do women feel bad by this ruling? Are they of the opinion that they be allowed to do whatever they want to do, irrespective of how bad effects their conduct might have on the families? And men should understand that hitting their wives is the last option. There are two other steps to be observed before resorting to hitting your wife. It is not correct as per Islam to jump on to the third option straightaway and use this verse of Qur’an to your excuse. Plus, men should remember that if at all the third and last resort is to be used, then three conditions are to be observed:

a. Do not hit her on face.

b. Do not disgrace and abandon her in public.

c. Hit her lightly; you can’t flog her like flogging a slave.

The first two rulings are covered by the hadith mentioned in Section 4.1. The third ruling is covered by following hadith:

Narrated Abdullah bin Zam’a: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day.”

(Hadith No. 5204, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

Clearly, it is only light beating that is allowed, that too as a last resort, if someone feels that can be helpful. But the moment a lady realizes her mistake and agrees to reconcile and make the things peaceful, the husband has no right to beat her anymore.

I request all husbands to understand this ruling of Islam and not to misuse it.

5. Right of physical intimacy

5.1. Husband’s right

Talq bin Ali narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “When a man calls his wife to fulfill his need, then let her come even if she is at the oven.”

(Hadith No. 1160, Chapters on Suckling, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2).

When the husband calls, it is the duty of the wife to satisfy her husband. If she refuses, the consequences are as mentioned below:

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “If a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses, and he spends the night angry at her, the angels curse her until the next morning.”

(Hadith No. 5193, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7; Hadith No. 2141, Book of Marriage, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2).

In another similar narration reported by Muslim, it is mentioned that the angels curse such a woman and are not pleased till the husband of that woman is pleased with her. However, if the wife has a genuine reason for refusing (like being sick, going through her menstrual cycles etc.), there is no sin on her.

5.2. Wife’s right

Such a right is not only reserved for a husband. A wife also is a human being and she also has desires. Unlike a husband, she might feel shy of putting her desires in front of her husband, but Islam makes the husband take care of this. It is the right of a wife that her husband provides her physical satisfaction. Refer to following hadith:

Narrated Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As (RA): Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “O Abdullah! Have I not been informed that you fast all the day and stand in Salat all night?” I said, “Yes, O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)!” He said, “Do not do that. Observe the Saum sometimes and also leave them at other times; stand up for Salat at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.”

(Hadith No. 5199, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

5.3. Husband’s responsibility of not disclosing secrets of his wife

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri (RA) said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “One of the most evil people before Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who is intimate with his wife and she is intimate with him, then he publicizes her secrets.”

(Hadith No. 3542 (1437), Book of Marriage, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4).

It is shameful on part of a husband to discuss about the intimate moments of her wife with him in front of others. This damages the modesty of the lady, and Islam takes the issue of modesty (especially of women) very seriously. Allah considers such a man to be one of the most evil of the men.

5.4. Wife should not observe Saum (nawafil) without her husband’s permission.

Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “It is not lawful for a lady to observe Saum (nawafil) without permission of her husband when he is at home, and she should not allow anyone to enter his house without his consent; and whatever she spends of his wealth without being ordered by him, he will get half of the reward.”

(Hadith No. 5195, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

The reason is that if the husband is at home, then he might feel the urge for physical intimacy. Then if the wife is observing Saum, his requirement will remain unfulfilled. One should not be surprized to learn that husband’s right has been put above nawafil Ibadah. This is the beauty of Islam, for the one who tries to understand it.

This hadith also gives us the clarification about the matter discussed in Section 4.3.

6. Treatment with in-laws

Treatment of in-laws plays very important part in keeping the relations between husband and wife sweet or sour.

It is responsibility of a husband that he gives proper respect to all relatives of his wife. He should understand what feelings his wife has for her relatives and should ensure that her feelings are not hurt. Special care should be taken regarding parents and siblings of the wife. Sadly, some Muslim husbands tend to behave with her relatives in a rude manner, and stop their wives from meeting their parents and other relatives. Islam does not allow this. This is bound to hurt her feelings and have a bad effect on their marital relation.

Responsibility of a wife is even more. She lives with the in-laws and has to tread a more dangerous path; a path that could make or break her life, depending upon how she handles her course. It is very important that the wife shows utmost respect to parents of her husband and take proper care of them. Unfortunately, a woman makes this as the biggest threat to her peaceful married life. Majority of the marital disaccords occur due to strained relations between the wife and her parents-in-law (especially mother-in-law). Wife has to understand that if she does not behave properly with her parents-in-law, that wouldn’t please her husband. Even if her parents-in-law are not right in their treatment with her, she should adopt the course of patience.

Similarly, she should treat relatives of her husband with proper respect and dignity. But there is a word of caution here: Relatives of husband include his male brothers and cousins too. It is important that the wife treats them well, but Islam asks her to maintain a distance with them. It is not allowed for her to intermingle with them closely. Following hadith says it all:

Uqbah bin Amir narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Beware of entering upon women.” So a man from the Ansar said, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! What do you think about the Hamu?” So he said, “The Hamu is death.”

(Hadith No. 1171, Chapters on Suckling, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2).

Hamu stands for those relatives of the husband who are not Mahram i.e. the brothers, cousins etc. It is disliked for the woman to be alone with them or too close to them. The reason for this is obvious and need not be explained.

7. Right of a wife to get education

In present times, by the time they marry, most of the women have completed their education. However, if a woman has not completed her education by the time of her marriage, she has full right to complete her education, as it is obligatory on every Muslim to be educated. And the husband must take it as his responsibility to ensure that his wife completes her education. She even has the right to get educated more. But the wife should be honest in her pursuit of education. She should go for really useful education (some recommended educational courses for women shall be evident in next section), because she already has some big responsibilities on her shoulders as a wife which might be affected. Therefore, it is her duty to maintain a balance between her studies and her responsibilities as a wife towards her husband, home and kids.

8. Right of a wife to pursue professional career

From Islamic point of view, there is no harm if a married woman works. She is allowed to pursue professional careers, earn money and grow in their careers on equal terms with males. Example can be taken of Syeda Khadija (RA); she was a successful businesswoman.

In fact Islam recommends women to pursue certain careers. For example: it is responsibility of our society to produce female doctors specialized in gynaecology and radiology. Islamic principles ask for treatment of women patients for gynaecological problems exclusively by female doctors. Similarly, Muslim society should have specialized female doctors to carry out tests like Ultrasound etc. for female patients.

In order that women pursue these careers, they need to study these courses. Here comes need of another career for Muslim females, that of a teacher, who can teach these courses to female students.

Therefore, it is need of the hour that females come forward and take on meaningful career roles. There is also no harm if a wife intends to pursue any of her creative hobbies (like craft, arts etc.). Such works can be done from home itself.

Husbands should be understanding and supportive in such cases.

However, there are certain conditions which should be met if a woman has to pursue a profession. These are as follows:

  1. The professional career of a wife should not affect her marital life. If it is against the wish of her husband (reason could be any), such a career should not be pursued.
  2. The professional career of a wife should not lead her to ignore her duties towards her home and kids. If her career means leaving the kids unattended at home, at the mercy of maids, then such a career has to be abandoned.
  3. The career she opts for should be a meaningful one. I have already mentioned few such careers above. Tell me what is the point in a lady working as a bank executive, or on any other similar post? This point hurts me a lot when I connect it to times of recession like nowadays. Several women can be seen working in places just for the sake of pursuing their careers (they might not be requiring money as the financial needs of their families might have been taken care of by their husbands already), whereas on the other hand, several men have lost their jobs and finding it difficult to earn bread for their families. Imagine, if these ladies had not been working, it would have created extra vacancies that could have helped many men earn livelihood for their families.
  4. Working ladies should ensure that they observe all do(s) and don’t(s) for women in Islam, like Hijab etc.
  5. Even if a woman pursues her profession, the primary responsibility of providing the family with food, clothes etc. remains with the husband. In case the woman is forced to work out of necessity (if her husband is dead or she has no one else to earn livelihood for her family), then she bears the responsibility of providing her family the daily necessities, and in such a case, she can even go for any honourable profession (be it a clerical job or sales etc.).

9. Men have the right to keep more than one wife; wife doesn’t have the right to do so.

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَى فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَى وَثُلاثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَعُولُوا

“And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry women of your choice, two or three or four, but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice.”

(Aayah No. 3, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

Thus, it is allowed for men to have four wives at a time. But the condition is that one has to deal with all his wives with equality in all respects, otherwise he should not marry more than one.

But a woman is not allowed to have more than one husband at a time. We have discussed about this subject already in a separate place (refer to the article regarding ‘Polygamy’).

One point I wish to clarify in this matter. Women are of the opinion that their husband has to seek their permission for marrying another lady. This is a wrong concept. There is no requirement for a man to take permission from his existing wife in case he wishes to marry someone else. However, it is recommended that he consults with the existing wife (or wives). But if he does not consult, there is no sin on him. Therefore, women should remember that they cannot stop their husbands from a thing for which Allah has given them the permission. On the other hand, using this permission for wrong intentions shall be sinful on husband’s part and Allah will punish him accordingly.

10. Divorce

Divorce is one legitimate thing which Allah dislikes most. There is a complete separate chapter in Qur’an about the details of divorce (Surah At-Talaq, Chapter No. 65). The details related to divorce are too big to be covered fully here. So, we shall restrict our talk to major points only.

First thing to remember is that a husband can divorce his wife, but it cannot be the other way around (i.e. a wife cannot divorce her husband).

But does that mean a wife has to keep bearing the ill-effects of her strained relation with her husband? No; a woman can ask for Al-Khul.

10.1. Al-Khul

Al-Khul means parting of wife from her husband by giving him certain compensation. Refer to following verse:

فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ

“Then if you fear that they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives back for her Al-Khul;”

(Aayah No. 229, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

But she should not use this unless there is a genuine reason, because it is told to us by the Prophet (PBUH) that Paradise is prohibited for such a woman:

It was narrated from Thawban (RA) that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Any woman who asks her husband for a divorce when it is not absolutely necessary, the fragrance of Paradise will be forbidden to her.”

(Hadith No. 2055, Chapters on Divorce, Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3). 

10.2. Al-Ila

Al-Ila refers to an oath taken by a husband that he would not approach his wife for a certain period. This is referred to in following verse of Holy Qur’an:

لِلَّذِينَ يُؤْلُونَ مِنْ نِسَائِهِمْ تَرَبُّصُ أَرْبَعَةِ أَشْهُرٍ فَإِنْ فَاءُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

“Those who take oath not to have sexual relation with their wives for four months, then if they return (change their idea in this period), verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

(Aayah No. 226, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

This is something which husbands and wives should be careful about. If a husband announces Al-Ila, then he has to complete the period he has announced. But there is something which requires caution related to this. Refer to following hadith:

Narrated Nafi: Ibn Umar (RA) used to say about Al-Ila which Allah defined, “If the period of Ila expires, then the husband has either to retain his wife in a handsome manner or to divorce her as Allah has ordered.” Ibn Umar (RA) added, “When the period of four months has expired, the husband should be put in prison so that he should divorce his wife, but the divorce does not occur unless the husband himself declares it. This has been mentioned by Uthman (RA), Ali (RA), Abu Ad-Darda (RA), Aishah (RA) and twelve other Companions of the Prophet (PBUH).”

(Hadith No. 5290, Book of Divorce, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

This tells us that the maximum period for a safe Al-Ila is four months. If someone announces Al-Ila for a period less than four months, he can take back his wife. But if the period of Al-Ila exceeds four months, then it becomes obligatory on the husband to divorce his wife after completion of the period of Al-Ila.

11. Women have the right to complain.

Some people are of the opinion that a wife has to obey her husband silently, even if he treats her in a wrong manner; she is not supposed to complain about her husband, as he is her appointed Imam. This is yet another wrong concept. We have already talked that a wife is not supposed to obey her husband if he asks her to do anything against the will of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). Now if such a situation leads to clash, then what shall the lady do? Should she keep quiet? No; Islam has given her the right to complain about her husband. Refer to following:

It was narrated from Aishah (RA) that she said: “Praise be to Allah Whose hearing encompasses all voices. Khawlah came to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) complaining about her husband, but I could not hear what she said. Then Allah, the Mighty & Sublime, revealed:

قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ قَوْلَ الَّتِي تُجَادِلُكَ فِي زَوْجِهَا وَتَشْتَكِي إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَسْمَعُ تَحَاوُرَكُمَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ

“Indeed Allah has heard the statement of her that disputes with you concerning her husband, and complains to Allah. And Allah hears the argument between you both. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer.” – Aayah No. 1, Surah Al-Mujadilah, Chapter No. 58, Holy Qur’an.

(Hadith No. 3490, Book of Divorce, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 4).

This is regarding Khawlah bint Tha’labah who came to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) complaining about her husband, and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! He spent my wealth, exhausted my youth and my womb bore abundantly for him. When I became old, unable to bear children, he pronounced Zihar on me. O Allah! I complain to you.” Zihar means saying of a husband to his wife that ‘you are unlawful to me for co-habitation just like my mother’. On this Surah Al-Mujadilah was revealed.

Therefore, a woman has a right of raising her voice and complaining about her husband, in case he does not deal with her justly.

12. Husband and Wife have a share of inheritance from wealth of each other after the death of their spouse.

وَلَكُمْ نِصْفُ مَا تَرَكَ أَزْوَاجُكُمْ إِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُنَّ وَلَدٌ فَإِنْ كَانَ لَهُنَّ وَلَدٌ فَلَكُمْ الرُّبُعُ مِمَّا تَرَكْنَ مِنْ بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ يُوصِينَ بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ وَلَهُنَّ الرُّبُعُ مِمَّا تَرَكْتُمْ إِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَكُمْ وَلَدٌ فَإِنْ كَانَ لَكُمْ وَلَدٌ فَلَهُنَّ الثُّمُنُ مِمَّا تَرَكْتُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ تُوصُونَ بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ

“In that which your wives leave, your share is a half if they have no child; but if they leave a child, you get a fourth of that which they leave after payment of legacies that they may have bequeathed or debts. In that which you leave, their share (wives’) is a fourth, if you have no child; but if you leave a child, they get an eighth of that which you leave after payment of legacies that you may have bequeathed or debts.”

(Aayah No. 12, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

Husband and wife have a share from each other’s wealth if either of them dies; and the percentage is determined according to this glorious verse of Holy Qur’an.

13. Iddah

Iddah, the waiting period, is an obligation upon the wife. She has to observe Iddah in two cases: if she is divorced or when her husband dies. The period of Iddah is different for different cases.

وَاللاَّئِي يَئِسْنَ مِنْ الْمَحِيضِ مِنْ نِسَائِكُمْ إِنْ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلاثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ وَاللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ وَأُوْلاتُ الأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ يُسْراً

“And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the Iddah, if you have doubt (about their periods) is three months; and for those who have no courses, their Iddah is three months likewise, except in case of death. And for those who are pregnant (divorced or widowed), their Iddah is until they lay down their burden; and whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him.”

(Aayah No. 4, Surah At-Talaq, Chapter No. 65, Holy Qur’an).

And in Surah Al-Baqarah, Allah says:

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجاً يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْراً فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

“And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait for four months & ten days, then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no sin on you if they dispose of themselves in a just and honourable manner. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”

(Aayah No. 234, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 02, Holy Qur’an).

This can be summarized as follows:

  1. A widow has to observe an Iddah period of four months and ten days.
  2. Iddah period for women who are divorced is three months.
  3. If the lady is pregnant, then the delivery of her child ends her Iddah period (whether she is a divorced lady or a widow).

There is no such obligation for a Muslim husband, for obvious reasons.

Concluding Remarks

I have tried to talk about most of the issues which one can come across in husband-wife relation, and that has made the discussion a bit lengthy too. But it is necessary that all of us know what the Islamic rulings about the relation between husband and a wife are.

Husbands should adopt a soft attitude towards their wives. It is their duty to take care of them, provide them with shelter, food, clothing and take care of all their daily requirements. They should treat them well, love them and be friendly with them. Following hadith should be kept in mind:

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “The most complete of the believers in faith is the one with the best character among them. And the best of you are those who are best to your women.”

(Hadith No. 1162, Chapters on Suckling, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2).

Women should understand that their fate in the Hereafter depends how they treat their husbands. It can lead them to Paradise or to Hell. Obedience to their husbands, keeping their husbands pleased and respecting them are the most important of the duties of a righteous wife. The amount of respect that a husband deserves can be understood very well by following hadith:

Qais bin Sa’d said: I visited Al-Hirah, and saw that its inhabitants would prostrate to their nobles. I said (to myself), ‘Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) has more right that (people) prostrate to him.’ So I returned to the prophet (PBUH) & said, ‘I visited Al-Hirah, and saw that its inhabitants would prostrate to their nobles. And you, O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), have more right that we prostrate to you.’ He replied, “I ask you, if you passed by my grave, would you prostrate to it?” I replied, “No.” He replied, “Then don’t do so! Were I to command any person to prostrate to another, I would have commanded the women to prostrate to their husbands, due to the rights that Allah has given them over their wives.”

(Hadith No. 2140, Book of Marriage, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2).

May Allah grant wisdom, patience and temperament to all husbands and wives to honour this beautiful relationship.

And Allah knows best.

May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path…Ameen.

.سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُون َ ; وَسَلامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ ; وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

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612 comments

  1. Asalaamu Alaiaikum,

    What can a wife do if the husband does not fulfill her needs in the bedroom? Is there a punishment for men that refuse to have intimate relations with their wife without reason?

    Jazakallah Khair

  2. Wa alaikum Salam Warahmatallah,

    A wife has the right of physical intimacy and physical satisfaction from her husband. And the husband has the responsibility of satisfying the physical desires of his wife. Therefore, if the husband is not fulfilling physical needs of the wife without any valid reason, then he is at sin. There is no specified punishment for this wrongdoing in this world, but for sure there shall be a punishment for it in the Hereafter. Allah is Just, He deals with justice. If someone in this world does not give the rights of others, then that is injustice; and Allah does not like injustice.

    My advice to you will be to adopt patience and leave the matter to Allah. If things improve gradually, then thank Allah and live your life with happiness and gay. But if things do not improve, you then have the right of escalating the matter and seek some alternate course of action (like seeking Al-Khul).

    May Allah set your affairs right.

    Feel free to write back in case any doubt remains, or if you want any further advice on this or any other matter.

    And Allah knows best.

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