The first thing that every married Muslim must realize is that one’s spouse is first and foremost another Muslim. He/she is one’s brother and sister in Islam. Therefore, at minimum all rights that fall upon a Muslim due to the general brotherhood of Islam are also due to one’s spouse. It is a sad situation for a Muslim brother or sister to respect their Muslim brothers and sisters outside of the house but for the situation in the house to degenerate into less even than that minimum standard of respect and kindness inside the household. Therefore the first step is for every Muslim to open some of the books about respect, manners (adab) and courtesy towards other Muslims and to realize that all of those principles apply to their partner in their house. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stressed this when he said:
“No one of you has believed until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Clearly, husband and wife have even greater rights and obligations toward each other due to the great and important contract which ha been transacted between them and on which basis they live together. In the Quran, Allah states that if a husband wishes to divorce one wife and marry another that he may not take back any of the dowry which was given no matter how large it was. Then, Allah says:
“How could you take it once you have entered unto one another and they (the women) have taken from you and awesome covenant.” [Noble Quran 4:21]
Because of this “awesome covenant”, rights and obligations between husband and wife should not be looked at coldly or legalistically. Spouses should strive to make other happy and take into consideration the needs, abilities and weaknesses of the other. Since in most cases, neither spouse is completely fulfilling their obligations, they should both realize and acknowledge their own shortcomings.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in particular advised the husbands to treat their wives in the best way – perhaps due to their greater authority in the household and their greater strength. This is clear in the following hadith:
“The best of you is the best of you to their family and I am the best of you to my family.”
“I entreat you to treat women well for they have been created from a rib and the most crooked part of a rib is the upper part. If you insist on straightening it, you will break it. If you leave it, it will remain crooked. So, I entreat you to treat women well.” [Bukhari]
Actually, both spouses usually fail to some extent in fulfilling their obligations. Therefore, before criticizing the other or being harsh with the other due to some shortcoming, each one should look first to themselves and realize what wrong they may be doing.
Common Rights Between the Two
There are some rights which each of the two spouses has over the other. These include:
The right to enjoy each other.
The right to inherit from each other.
The right of confirmation of the lineage of their children.
Rights of the Wife/Obligations of the Husband
Allah said in the Quran:
“And for them (women) similar to what is upon them according to what is right..” [Noble Quran 2:228]
Commenting on this verse, Ibn Kathir wrote that the spouses have similar rights upon one another and each must do his or her best to fulfill the other’s rights. In the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), stated:
“…And beware of Allah concerning women. You have taken them as a trust from Allah and have made their bodies lawful to you by the word of Allah. You have the right upon them that they no allow anyone in your house that you dislike. If they do that, you may hit them in a way which does no harm. They have a right over you for sustenance and clothing according to what is right.” [Muslim]
The rights of the wife over the husband which we will discuss in this chapter are as follows:
Kind and proper treatment
Not to be beaten
Justice between multiple wives
To be taught her religion
Defense of her honor
The rights of the husband over the wife which we will discuss are:
Being head of the household
To be obeyed in all that is not disobedience to Allah
That she not allow anyone in the house of whom he disapproves
That she not leave the house without his permission
That she cook for him and keep his house (two opinions)
To be thanked for his efforts
That she now fast a voluntary fast without his permission
Rights of the Wife Over the Husband
This right of the wife has been discussed in some detail. Allah said in the Quran:
“And give women their dowries as a gift. Then, if they are pleased to give some of it to you, consume it with good health and enjoyment.” [Noble Quran 4:4]
The payment of the dowry to the wife is an obligation and a debt upon the husband until he pays it and there is no escaping it unless the wife freely and willingly gives up her right to it. In the past, and in many cases today, the father tries to take the mahr away from his daughter. In the jahiliya, this was justified by saying that the father was merely recouping all the expenses he put forth for his daughter who is now a member of another family and benefits them.
Nowadays, it occurs often in this country that the husband tries to take back the dowry (if it is even paid in the first place) or make use of it in forms of spending which were obligatory upon HIM in the first place. This is a lowly practice and is completely forbidden unless she explicitly allows it without any coercion or pressure. Otherwise, it is HER property and she may dispose of it (or not) as she alone sees fit.
“…And upon the father is the mother’s sustenance and her clothing according to what is reasonable. No person shall have a burden on him greater than he can bear…” [Noble Quran 2:233]
Her support is one of the most important rights of the wife over her husband. Ibn Kathir commented that the above verse implies that he must provide for her without extravagance nor the opposite, according to his ability and the standards set by his society at his time. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked by a man, “What is the right of our wives upon us?”, he (peace and blessings be upon him) answered:
“That he should feed her whenever he eats and cloth her whenever he clothes himself, that he not hit her face, that he not call her ugly and that he not boycott her except within the house.” [>Ibn Majah]
A woman is even allowed to take from her husband’s property without his knowledge if he falls below this basic level of supporting her. In a hadith recorded in Muslim and Bukhari, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told Hind bint Utbah, after she complained that her husband, Abu Sufyan, was stingy and was not maintaining her and she asked if she could take from his property without his knowledge:
“Take was is sufficient for you and your child according to what is customary.” [Muslim & Bukhari]
Support of one’s wife is one of the most important obligations of the husband. It is one of the distinguishing aspects of “husbandhood”. Allah said in the Quran:
“Men are in charge of women because of what Allah has given to some more than others and because they support them from their property.” [Noble Quran 4:34]
If a husband does not support his wife, she has no obligation to fulfill her obligations to him. If a woman goes to a judge and shows that her husband will not support her, the judge may immediately separate them according to numerous scholars.
The verse makes clear that the man being “in charge” goes back to the two causes mentioned. This means two things:
both men and women need to be aware of this right and this obligation and that the woman is under no obligation to stay in the marriage if she is not supported – regardless of his wealth and hers and
Muslim society must be organized in such a way that Muslim men are able to get the means to support a wife.
This second point is critical. If society reaches a state where women are more able to earn a living than men, this will undermine the “in charge” status of many men in their households. It will in fact undermine the Islamic household altogether. This is what is happening in virtually every Muslim land today with U.N. and other organizations giving primary attention to helping women to be economically viable and independent even when a large percentage of the men still cannot find the means to support a family. (It is the same destruction they inflicted on families in the U.S. in the 50’s 60’s with the welfare system.) The corrupting influence this will have on society as a whole cannot even begin to be described.
Women are absolutely ALLOWED in Islam to pursue business ventures (the Prophet’s first wife Khadijah was a major business woman in Makkah), employment and other means of earning money. They are, in fact, needed in various sectors such as women doctors and women teachers. However, facilitating the ability of men to earn a living and support a family is the FIRST priority in an Islamic society. All economic planning and social/economic programs must be in line with this principal.
Kind and Proper Treatment
“…And consort with your wives in a goodly manner for, if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which Allah makes a source of abundant good.” [Noble Quran 4:19]
Commenting on this verse, Ibn Kathir wrote:
“That is, have kind speech for them, deal with them with kind deeds and in a beautiful manner to the best of your ability. In the way that you love that from them, behave in that way towards them. As Allah has said, “They have rights similar to those upon them according to what is right” (2:228). The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The best of you is the best of you to his wives and I am the best of you to my wife.” It was from his behavior that he would treat them in a beautiful fashion, with a smiling face. He would sport with his wives, be gentle with them and spend generously upon them. He would laugh with his wives and he even raced Aishah… Every night, he would gather his wives together in the house of the one with whom he (peace and blessings be upon him) was going to spend the night and eat dinner with them on occasion… After he prayed the night prayer, he would enter his house and talk to his wife a little bit before sleeping, making them comforted thereby. And Allah has said:
“You have in the Messenger of Allah the best example.” [Noble Quran 33:21]
Part of the problem is Muslims buying into the fantasy world being propagated in television, movies and other media. The hadith about the rib makes it clear that it is rare to find a “perfect wife” and in the same manner, no woman should expect to find the “perfect husband”. If one is living in some fantasy world, they are apt to be greatly disappointed with real life.
In Sahih Ibn Hibban, the following was narrated:
“The wife of ‘Uthman ibn Madh’un complained to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) that her husband had no need for women. During the days he would fast and at night he would pray. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked him: “Am I not the best example for you to follow?” He answered: “Certainly, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then told him: “As for you, you pray during the night and you fast during the day. Certainly, your wife has a right upon you and your body has a right upon you so pray and sleep and fast and break your fast.”
There are several similar incidents narrated where Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave similar decisions in similar situations. In one story which took place in the presence of Umar, the Companion who was judging told the husband that since Allah had given him the right to four wives and he had only one that he could practice his praying and fasting three out of four nights, but that at least one in four had to be reserved for his wife.
Not to be Beaten
It is the right of the Muslim wife that she is not to be struck except in the case of nushuz (rebellion against the husband’s authority). Even in that case, the husband is only allowed to “strike” her, but in a way which does no harm, similar to the proper disciplining of a child. It is never lawful for him to strike her face or cause her any bruise or injury. Allah says in the Quran:
“…And (as for) those (women) from whom you anticipate rebellion, admonish them, avoid them in the sleeping place and hit them. If they obey you, do not desire and further way to (harm) them. Surely, Allah is Knowing, Great.” [Noble Quran 4:34]
It is incomprehensible how so many translators have translated the word “wadhribuhunna” in the above verse as “beat them” or, even more laughable: “beat them [lightly]”. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is an abomination which has caused much misunderstanding and opened the door to the enemies of Islam. The word in Arabic means to “strike” or “hit”. It includes everything from a tap with a tooth-stick to what in English we call beating. If it is stated that so-and-so “hit” so-and-so without further description, it would be assumed to be a single blow and it could be of any magnitude.
When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) took a tiny stick and tapped one of the Muslims on the stomach to straighten the ranks in preparation for war, he “hit” him with this meaning. Contrast this to the English phrase: “beat them”. The meaning is totally different. If you took a shoe lace and hit someone on the hand with it, you could properly say dharabtahu in Arabic but in English you could never say that you had “beaten” that person. Please get this straight and correct anyone you hear distorting the meaning of this verse in this way.
The verse mentions admonition, boycotting and hitting in the case of nushuz. This refers to a rebellion against the husband’s authority within the marriage which amounts to a breach of the marriage contract on her part. Ibn Taimia said about this:
“Nushuz in the verse: “…And (as for) those (women) from whom you anticipate rebellion (nushuz)…” means that she is recalcitrant to her husband and she is estranged to him inasmuch as she does not obey him when he calls her to bed, or she leaves the house without his permission and other similar things in which she is required to obey him.”
Many scholars have stated that the three steps must be taken sequentially, i.e., admonition then separation in sleeping and finally hitting, making hitting a last resort only in extreme situations. Thus the vast majority of what men do to their wives in spontaneous fits of rage often over trivial issues is absolutely haram and not sanctioned by Islam in any way. An-Nawawi said about his:
“At the first indication of disobedience to marital authority, a wife should be exhorted by her husband without his immediately breaking off relations with her. When she manifests her disobedience by an act which, although isolated, leaves no doubt to her intentions, he should repeat his exhortations and confine her to the house but without striking her… Only when there are repeated acts of disobedience may a husband strike his wife.”
As we said, this can NEVER be a “beating”. A husband is never allowed to strike his wife in any way which causes injury or leaves any kind of mark. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“So beware of Allah regarding women for you have taken them as a trust from Allah and you have made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have the right over them that they should not allow anyone on your furnishings who you dislike. If they do that, hit them in a way which causes no injury. And, they have the right over you to provision and clothing according to custom.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
It is actually the right of both spouses that the other not discuss their private moments with anyone else. Note the following sahih hadith:
“Is there any man among you who goes to his wife, closes the door behind them, covers themselves and conceal themselves by Allah’s concealing?” They said: “Yes.” He then said: “Then he sits after that [with others] and says, ‘I did this and that.'” They were silent. He then turned to the women and said: “Do any of you talk about such things?” They, too, were silent. Then a young girl stood up on her toes so the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) could see her and hear her and she said: “O Messenger of Allah they [the men] certainly talk about that and they [the women] also talk about it.” He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Do you know what they are like? They are like a female devil who met a male devil in the street and they satisfied their desires with the people looking on.” [Abu Daud – Sahih]
If a man has more than one wife, he is required to do justice between them in terms of physical things (housing, clothing, food, etc.) and nights spent with each. Allah said:
“And you will not be able to effect justice between the women no matter how hard you try. So do not incline [toward some] completely such that you leave [another] as if suspended. And if you reform and fear Allah, surely Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” [Noble Quran 4:129]
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) indicated that there are forms of justice which are required just as there are forms of justice which are beyond human ability. Those which are required are money, housing, clothing and the like as well as nights spent with her. Those beyond human ability are feelings of the heart and things like that. He (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“O Allah, this is my division in what I control, so do not blame me regarding that which You control and I do not.” Abu Daud (some graded it weak, others graded it hassan).
Also, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned of the dangers of not fulfilling justice where it is required between wives, saying:
“Whoever has two wives and favors one of them will be resurrected on Qiyama with one of his sides hanging down.” [Abu Daud – Sahih]
To Be Taught Her Religion
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):
“All of you are shepherds and all of you will be asked about your wards. The ruler is a shepherd and shall be asked about his wards. The man is a shepherd of his family and will be asked about his ward.” [Bukhari]
Knowledge in Islam is of two types: 1) that which is obligatory upon each and every Muslim and 2) that which must be learned by some among the Ummah. Of the first type, it is obligatory for every Muslim woman to know her beliefs, how to pray, how to fast, as well as issues particular to woman such as how to purify herself from her monthly course, etc. She must also know her obligations toward parents, her husband (and his obligations toward him), her children, her neighbors, etc. as well as her rights over each of those.
It is the obligation of the husband to make sure that she acquires all the knowledge which it is obligatory for her to acquire. If this means that he has to spend money on books or tapes, then he must do so. The scholars have emphasized the importance of this right of women to the extent that many of them have given her permission to leave the house to attend a lecture at the masjid even without her husband’s permission.
It is well-known that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim mail and female. Allah said in the Quran:
“O you who believe guard yourselves and your family members from a fire whose fuel is people and stones. Over it are tough and fearsome angels. They do not disobey Allah in any order they carry out that which they are ordered to do.” [Noble Quran 66:6]
Part of the meaning of this verse is that the husband/father (the “shepherd” of the household) must take all necessary means to ensure that all those under his guardianship (wives and children) have the opportunity and the means to acquire all the knowledge they need to worship Allah and live their lives as Allah has prescribed that we live our lives. If he has fulfilled that, then he has fulfilled his obligation and will not be asked about the sins of his wife and children. If he fails to fulfill this, then he himself will be asked about their sins and their going astray based on HIS shortcomings in not fulfilling his obligations in this regard.
In another version of the hadith about the “shepherds”, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) continues:
“…until the man will be asked about the people in his household: did he establish among them the law of Allah or did he allow it to become lost?”
To Defend Her Honor
A man should be “jealous” with regard to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in now allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned in a sahih hadith that “Three will never enter paradise… ad-dayyuth.” Ad-dayyuth (sometimes translated “henpecked”) is the weak husband who has no jealousy toward his wife and other men.
“Jealousy” in this sense means fervor for the boundaries of Allah and anger when they are transgressed. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“Verily, Allah has jealousy and the believer has jealousy. Allah’s jealousy is due to a believer committing that which He has forbidden him.” [Muslim]
This does not mean, however, that a Muslim should go overboard on this point suspecting his wife at every turn and trying to spy on her. This becomes Adh-dhann (suspicion) which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned us about in the following hadith in Bukhari and Muslim:
“Stay away from suspicion for suspicion is the most lying of speech.”
Rights of the Husband Over the Wife
In the this section, we will discuss the following rights of the husband over the wife or obligations of the wife toward her husband:
Being head of the household
To be obeyed
Control over who enters the house
Wife leaves the house only with his permission
Housework and being served by his wife (two opinions)
To be shown gratitude for his efforts
She does not fast (voluntary) except with his permission
Being the Head of the Household
When one thinks of the rights of the husband, this is probably one of the first things which comes to mind. However, a serious question must be asked: Is this a right of the husband or another right of the wife? Allah said:
“Men are in charge of women by that with which Allah has preferred some of them over others and by that which they spend from their property. So the pious women are obedient protecting in absence that which Allah has protected…” [Noble Quran 4:34]
The verse seems to present a great right of the husband over the wife. Upon deeper thought, it is clear that this verse actually points to a right of the wife and an obligation of the husband. The word for “in charge of” in Arabic indicates also support, protection and responsibility on the part of the husband for his wife. This does not just mean that he is the “boss” or the dictator in the house and whatever he says goes. Rather, it means that he has a heavy obligation to lead his family. Remember the hadith from the previous section, where in one version of the hadith about the “shepherds”, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) continues:
“…until the man will be asked about the people in his household: did he establish among them the law of Allah or did he allow it to become lost?”
Like any kind of leader or ruler, he will be held accountable before Allah Most High: did he make the decision that is most befitting for his family in this life and the hereafter or did he simply follow his desires? Did he do what was just and right or simply do what he liked to do?
In Allah’s infinite wisdom, he did not leave the basic foundation of Islamic society – the family – without organization, leadership and guidance. It is clearly upon the husband’s shoulders and is his responsibility. It is upon him to fulfill that responsibility in the correct manner.
Likewise, Muslim women must learn to accept this situation and this ruling of Allah Most High. They should resist becoming like the disbelieving women, particularly in the “West”, who are trying to take over as head of the household or think that it should be shared equally between the two spouses. The rapid degeneration and disappearance of the institution of marriage since the spreading of this corrupt belief is the clearest proof of all that it is not only against Allah’s order and His plan for us, but also against human nature and completely out of touch with reality and unworkable. I believe that the latest figures are that over HALF of the children in the U.S. are being raised in single-parent homes!
Women who follow the kuffar and their own desires in being jealous of the man’s role and trying to claim some or all of it for themselves should think about the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):
“Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) cursed manly women.”
Again, like all rights and obligations in Islam (in marriage and other areas), it is important that BOTH parties understand them and exert their best efforts to apply them in the way that is pleasing to Allah Most High.
To Be Obeyed
As we saw in the verse from An-Nisa quoted previously, it is the right of the husband that his wife obey him. This obedience, however, does not include anything which is disobedience to Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“No obedience in what is sinful. Obedience is only in what is right.” [Muslim & Bukhari]
Two things are now clear: 1) a woman is obligated to obey her husband, and 2) no Muslim may obey anyone in what is disobedience to Allah. Additionally, one strong opinion limits the required obedience of the wife to those duties being described in this chapter. In other words, the husband should not seek to control every detail of her life, even in things which have no direct impact on his rights as her husband.
What happens if there is a conflict between obeying one’s husband and obeying one’s parents? Scholars have taken two opinions on this matter. One that obedience to the husband always takes precedence over obedience to parents. Others have taken the position that obedience to one’s parents takes precedence since Allah has described being undutiful to one’s parents as one of the greatest sins after associating partners with Allah.
First of all, it is clear that the obligation of every Muslim toward their parents is very great just as the obligation of a Muslim wife to respect and obey her husband is very great. Parents should be aware that they have entered their daughter into a contract which requires her to obey her husband. Likewise, husbands should be aware of the fact that their wives have a great obligation toward their parents. When these two come into conflict, someone is probably not acting properly.
When the two do come into conflict, it seems clear that the strongest opinion is that the rights of the husband take precedence over the rights of her parents, as in the following hadith from Aishah:
“I asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): Who has the greatest right over a woman? He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Her husband. I said: And who has the greatest right over a man? He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: His mother.” [Al-Hakim – taken from Fiqh As-Sunnah]
It is the obligation of the wife to respond whenever her husband calls her to come to bed unless there is a strong reason why she cannot. Again, like in the issue of leadership, this is the way which Allah has given us to live which is best for us – since nothing we do or do not do cannot in any way harm or benefit Allah Most High. Thus, when women resist this and insist on being the ones who call the shots in this regard or that it is somehow 50/50, it is only the two of them who will suffer. It will lead to frustration, marital discord and the husband’s desire to seek fulfillment of his needs elsewhere. If he ends up turning to the haram, then a very great harm indeed has been inflicted upon society. This point is clear from many hadith, among them:
“Whenever a man calls his wife for his desire, let her come to him even if she is occupied at the oven.” [At-Tirmidhi – Sahih]
Thus, a wife must be responsive to her husband even if that involves the wasting of some wealth (by burning the bread). Because the social consequences of this breaking down are so serious, so the danger to a woman who fails to respect it is very serious. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“Whenever a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses to come, the angels curse her until morning.” [Al-Bukhari]]
Even extra acts of prayer and fasting must be curtailed if that interferes with a man’s desire for his wife’s company.
Control Over Who Enters the House
It is established from many hadith that the wife is not to allow anyone inside if she knows that her husband does not like for that person to be in the house (male or female). This is the second right of the husband over the wife, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned in the hadith:
“…And that she should not admit anyone to his house except with his permission…” [Muslim & Bukhari]
The permission referred to here does not have to be explicit for every individual. If the wife knows or has good reason to believe that her husband would not object to a particular individual, then she may allow them into the house.
That She Not Leave the House Without His Permission
The best place for a Muslim woman is in her house. When Allah addressed the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and ordered them (and, by extension, all of the Muslim women) to remain primarily in their homes, he associated the desire of women to be “out” and to display themselves with the jahiliya (the age of foolishness):
“And stay in your homes and do not display yourselves like the ways of the time of ignorance. And establish the prayer, pay the zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger…”[Noble Quran 33:33]
The scholars of tafsir state that, although the verse is explicitly directed at the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the general principle applies to all Muslim women and wives in particular – that they should not leave the house except for a legitimate purpose such as going to the masjid, seeking knowledge, shopping for household needs, etc. and that if they are married, they may not do that except with their husband’s permission. This is a point of very wide agreement among the scholars, although there doesn’t seem to be any clear and sound hadith which states it. Although the following hadith VERY strongly indicates that this is the case:
“If the wife of any of you seeks permission to go to the masjid, he may not prevent her.”[Muslim & Bukhari]
As with any right which a person may possess, this right should be used in the right fashion and not be misused such that it leads to harm and distress. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “No inflicting of harm and no reciprocating of harm.” A contemporary author, Faihan Al-Mutairi said about this:
“If a man disallows his wife from leaving the house, out of fear and honor for her, then he must not let her feel that she is a prisoner in the house and that she was only created to serve him and serve the children. Instead, he must choose a day out of the week, or less or more, according to the need and ability, to walk with his wife and children in a place that is free of temptations so that they may become happy in their hearts and out of fear of boredom. The one who studies Shari’a finds this aspect to be very clear, that is, the aspect of one sporting with his wife and trying to make her happy. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) went out with his wife, the Mother of the Believers, Aishah and raced with her. It is confirmed that Aishah said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) raced with me and I beat him. After a while when I became heavier, he raced me and beat me and said: This one is for that one.”
So those Muslims who expect their wives to stay in the house 24 hrs. per day and 7 days per week are not truly following the sunnah. Rather, they have invented an innovation which will only serve to drive women and children away from Islam.
The rights which have been stated so far are non-controversial and agreed upon among the scholars. The duty of the wife to take care of housework such as cooking, cleaning and generally serving her husband in the house is an issue about which there are different opinions. Definitely, this is and has always been the custom of the Muslims, all the way back to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions. It is part of the ihsan (good treatment) which should be exchanged between husband and wife. That is not quite the same, however, as saying that it is the husband’s right. If that is the case, then she would be committing a sin if she failed to fulfill it.
Clearly, the safe way is the way of all of the female Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who used to serve their husbands in this regard. If they had servants to help them, fine. If not, they used to handle the housework, cooking and cleaning. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself, our best example in this regard, used to help his wives with these chores.
There are many scholars on both sides of this issue as to the obligatoriness of these services. The strongest argument that they are is the following hadith of Husain ibn Muhsin that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked his aunt if she was married. When she answered in the affirmative, he said:
“How are you with respect to him?” She answered: ‘I do not fail in obeying him save in those things that I am incapable of doing.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told her: “Look to how you are with respect to him for he is your paradise and your hell-fire.”[Ahmad & others (acceptable according to Al-Albani]
Al-Albani states that this hadith is proof that a woman must serve her husband according to her ability, the first of such obligations is the bringing up of the children.
To Be Thanked for His Actions
Gratitude is one of the most important characteristics of a believer. A Muslim is grateful both to Allah for His infinite mercies and also to people who do well by him/her. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“The most grateful people to Allah Blessed and High are the most thankful of them to others.” [Ahmad]
“Those who do not thank people do not thank Allah.” [Abu Daud & others]
Although it is an obligation of the husband to look after his wife, this does not mean that she should not be thankful to him for his kindness and his efforts in looking after her welfare and happiness. This is something fundamental which should exist between husband and wife. Each of them should acknowledge the efforts of the other, show them gratitude and repay them in kindness. Allah said:
“Is the reward for good deeds extended anything other than good deeds (returned).” [Noble Quran 55:60]
It would seem from various hadith that it is specifically necessary for the wife to remind herself of this principle. Perhaps since a large part of the husband’s contribution to the household takes place as working outside of the home, she may tend to overlook it. This seems to be a common characteristic of women as can be seen in the following hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) after his night journey to see heaven, hell and Jerusalem:
“…and I saw most of its inhabitants (i.e., hell-fire) women. They said: Why, O Messenger of Allah? He said: Because of their kufr. It was said: Their kufr toward Allah? He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Their kufr toward their mate and they commit kufr (ingratitude) of good deeds extended even if you extend good deeds to one of them forever but then she sees something from who (which she dislikes) she says: I have never seen any good from you.” [Muslim & Bukhari]
In another hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warns wives in a similar manner:
“Allah does not look at a woman who does not thank her husband while she cannot do without him.” [Al-Hakim (acceptable per Sh. Al-Albani)]
She Does Not Fast (Voluntary) Without His Permission
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“It is not lawful for a woman to fast while her husband is resident except with his permission.” [Muslim & Bukhari]
Conclusion: The Importance of Fulfilling the Husband’s Rights
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave an all-encompassing advice to Muslim women in the following hadith:
“When any woman prays her five, fasts her month, guards her body and obeys her husband it is said to her: Enter paradise from whichever of its doors you wish.” [Ibn Hibban (sahih per Al-Albani)]