What are the responsibilities of the wife toward her husband?

The Details of the Question

- (Not as mothers of their children) Some scholars say that women do not have to do housework, but it is encouraged for them. I accept it. However:

1) What are her duties as a mere wife (not as a mother), other than preserving her chastity and protecting her husband’s property? I want to know this because most of the time the duties fall on the husband.

2) Is it not a wife’s obligation to her husband to show kindness, to be gentle?

3) Regarding obedience, as far as I know, a wife should do a duty for her husband if she is capable of it, but cooking cannot be forced in this category; then, what are the other things she must obey?

- Please give some examples of them.

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We understand the sharing of rights and duties as the parties’ voluntarily and mutually sharing “everything that is legitimate, beautiful, right, good, and beneficial for both parties; that is, helping each other to make these things happen, each of them doing their best”. I believe that a good marriage can only be formed and developed this way.

If the parties leave aside sharing voluntarily, ask the question, “Who is superior to whom, who is under whose control, who will obey whom, where, to what extent, what are whose rights, obligations and duties?” and if they start discussing these issues, first of all, it becomes clear that there is a lack of trust and love.

The authority of men in the family and the state and attitudes of women toward this authority are explained in the following verses:

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: For Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.” (an-Nisa, 4/34-35)

Now let us try to understand the issue by interpreting these two verses:

In verse 34, the fact that not only husbands but all men are protectors and rulers (qawwamun) is based on two reasons:

a) Allah gave some people superior abilities than others; therefore, men are equipped with more suitable features than women in terms of protection and management.

b) Men took on the family maintenance and other financial obligations. According to some commentators, there are two reasons for it:

The first is an immutable feature of human nature; in general, reason and logic come to the fore in men while emotions come to the fore in women. Physical strength is important in terms of protection and men are stronger in this aspect.

The second reason stems from habits, customs and attitudes depending on the conditions of culture and civilization, not from creation (human nature). These functions of men were valid more intensely in the era of Islam and to a greater extent today. According to the rules of Islamic law, the man is solely responsible for the livelihood of the family - in a broad sense - and has financial obligations such as mahr, blood money, jihad / military service.

- What powers and duties does being a “qawwam” contain for a man?

The answers to this question might vary according to time. Mujtahids and tafsir scholars who take into account not only the words of the verses and hadiths, but also the practice and therefore the customs and traditions define qawwam, which lexically means “standing over something, being dominant, caring about something, closely interested in it”, asheadship, management, education, protection, defense, improvement, earning, production”. Throughout history, men have actually undertaken these tasks and titles more than women. In our age, the dominant meaning attached to the word is “head of the family”.

Although it is understood from the verse that men are generally ahead in terms of management, defense and protection, it will be seen that the meaning of dominance and management in the family institution predominates when the sentences that follow are taken into consideration. The founding element in the family is the husband and wife.

There are religious, ethical and legal rules that form, manage and direct this basic institution. As long as the rules are followed, there is no problem. If the parties break the rules or violate the rights, various measures and sanctions will be taken to maintain order and achieve justice.

This verse deals with the wife’s violation of the law and her rebellion against the order (nushuz) in verse 128 of the same chapter. In family life, the woman is described with two attributes in terms of fulfilling her role according to the rules:

Saliha and nashiza.

Saliha (righteous) women fulfill their duties properly both in the presence of their husbands and other family members (in public) and in places where they are not present (in solitude); they do not go beyond the rules set by Allah and adopted by the society; they do not betray the family and do not harm their honor. What will be done against women who show signs of going astray and rebellion against the law (nushuz) due to some behaviors and attitudes and hence can become nashiza and how will family order and law be protected?

At this point, the Holy Quran gives the duty first to the husband as the head of the family. If the husband cannot maintain order despite taking the prescribed measures and there is fear that the family will break up, it will be referred to the arbitrators. In the verse, things that a man can do against a woman who rebels against the law and tries to disrupt the legitimate family order (nashiza) are listed as follows:

Giving advice, leaving her alone in bed and beating.

Measures such as giving advice, leaving her alone in bed, and not being on speaking terms have not posed a problem, but the measure of beating has become an important topic of discussion, especially in our age, in terms of women’s rights and human dignity.

In fact, when we refer to the books of tafsir and hadith, it is known that there are those among the previous tafsir scholars who interpret differently the beating of a woman by her husband even if she rebels, and therefore claim that beating is not permissible...

Men’s right and one degree of superiority are related to being the “head of the family”. It is deemed appropriate for the husband to be the head of the family because he not only provides the livelihood of the family but also is deemed more suitable in terms of representing, protecting and managing the family.

Islam is a divine religion that came to ensure human happiness in this world and the hereafter. Since human existence and the realization of the purpose of his creation can only occur within a community, instructions and recommendations regarding the “order of the community” also exist among the decrees of the religion. The smallest but most important community unit is the family; since it is a small community, it requires order; thus, the positions, rights and responsibilities of family members toward one another are determined.

It is necessary to understand what the Prophet (pbuh) said about the bond between children and parents, wife and husband, an individual and his relatives, and mutual rights and responsibilities within this framework; however, some men, in the past and today, have distorted the hadiths about “a woman’s obedience to her husband” from its context, and used them to oppress women and turn them into captives and even slaves. They scolded and even beat a woman because the food was salty, because she did not come to bed or go to the fields to work..., and said that they got this authority from Islam.

In fact, the following warnings and advice exist among the hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh):

“If it were permissible for a servant to prostrate before another servant, I would order women to prostrate before their husbands.” (Abu Dawud, Nikah, 40; Sharhu Awn al-Ma’bud, 6/177; Tirmidhi, Rada’, 10)

“If a husband calls his wife to his bed and she does not come, the angels curse him until the morning.” [Bukhari, Nikah 85, Bad’ul-Khalq 6; Muslim, Nikah 120-122 (1436); Abu Dawud, Nikah 41, (2141)]

If a woman allows someone you do not want into your house, you can beat her without leaving a mark and without hitting the face in order to discipline her - when there is no other choice.” (Ahwalush-Shakhsiyya, Muhammed Muhyiddin Abdulhamid, p. 116)

However, we are ordered as follows in the Quran and the Sunnah:

“Treat your spouses reasonably and legitimately”

“Avoid causing material or moral harm to them within the bond of marriage”

“Either remain married with goodness or separate with goodness.”

Our Prophet cancelled the marriages of the girls and women who were married off by their guardians to people they did not like or want. His own daughter, Fatima (ra) did not consent to her husband Ali’s second marriage, and the Prophet (pbuh) sided with his daughter and told his son-in-law to “either divorce Fatima or give up the second marriage”.

Fatima (ra) and her husband sometimes argued and got angry with each other; in such cases, his beloved father did not say to his daughter, “The angels will curse you; make peace immediately and do as he says.” Ali (ra) did not try to beat his wife; the Prophet (pbuh) intervened and reconciled them, allowing them to return to normal marriage life.

Our Prophet’s own wives objected to him on some issues that were not subject to religious orders; they asked him for some things he did not want to do; they were not on speaking terms for a while but then they talked, made peace and returned to a happy life.

The Prophet (pbuh) prohibited “wife beating”, which was very common; since this sudden and absolute prohibition disrupted the usual order, he later allowed it “as a last resort and on the condition that it would be slight against the women who did not comply with the marriage law”. However, he himself never hit his wives throughout his life. He said, “Those who beat their wives are not the best of you” and “How can you beat your wives, with whom you will share a bed in the evening, like animals?”

Those who unilaterally take the advice given for the proper course of family life to the husband not to abuse his authority and to the wife not to abuse her femininity, and those who oppress and wrong the other party should know that they go beyond the wishes and purposes of Allah and His Messenger. And they should know that obedience to any human being (including husbands, mothers, fathers and those who govern the state) is not absolute. No one is obeyed in their unjust or illegitimate orders and demands.

If a woman is hurt by her husband and if her gentle heart is broken, what the husband should do is to please her heart by complying with the hadith “the best of you are those who treat their women in the best way” and to solve the problem with openheartedness and love instead of saying, “Do what I say immediately; I am the leader; you will obey me; if you do not obey me, the angels will curse you...”

The way of attaining the love of Allah is to follow the Perfect Man whom He sent as a model, to take him as a guide in life, and to never deviate from his footsteps. Instead of taking some of what he said and not taking others, it is necessary to take and apply his words as a whole and pay attention to his purpose.

If Muslims do so, they will be happy and live happily to the extent that it is possible in this world - before dying and going to Paradise.

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