DIFFERENT ROLES OF WOMEN IN ISLAM
Women has been given a high esteem in Islam, one of the most prominent features of women in Islam is her deep faith in Allah سبحانه و تعالىand her sincere conviction that whatever happens in this Universe or whatever fate befalls is only by the will of Allah سبحانه و تعالى. Women has been elevated in position as mothers, daughters and wives in Islam.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’aan concerning the necessity and importance of the preservation and care of new born children, the very first right of the child: (And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Surely, such a killing is a great sin.). Qur’an.Surah17:31.
Islam requires parents to give their children beautiful names, take proper care of them, take care of all their needs, provide for them reasonably in accordance with the parent’s income, and ensure a decent, respected and honorable life for them.
And the authentic prophetic tradition says: “Verily Allah سبحانه و تعالىhas prohibited for you to be disobedient and ungrateful to your mothers or to bury your daughters alive…” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:1407 & Sahih AL-Muslim H:593
Thus they have the right of blood money if killed, as it is reported by Aishah رضي الله عنه: “Two women from Huthail tribe fought and one threw a stone and killed the other and that which was in her womb, so the Prophet ﷺjudged that the blood money is a slave boy or girl, and the blood money of the woman (100 she-camels) was to be paid by her clansmen.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:3512 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:1681.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the GloriousQur’aan: (Mothers shall nurse their children for two whole years, for those parents who desire to complete the term of suckling, and the father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother’s food and clothing on a reasonable basis.) Quran.Surah Al-Baqra 2:233.
Care and guardianship of children is the most important right after the right of (milk) nursing by the mother. The mother is entitled to the custody of the child, son or daughter at the early stage of life, between the ages of one and thirteen or fourteen. This applies particularly in cases of divorce due to essential differences between parents. Islam entitles the mother to her child’s custody during early childhood because she, generally, is more caring and attentive to the child’s needs. ‘Abdullah bin Amr رضي الله عنهrelated that a woman came to the Prophet ﷺcomplaining about her husband saying:
“My womb held my baby as a fetus, my breast nursed the baby as an infant, and my lap carried the child for a long time. Now the father divorced me and he wants to rip the baby away from me!” He ﷺsaid: “You deserve the child’s custody more as long as you do not remarry.” Abu Dawood H:2276 & others.
Parents are obligated to treat all their children mercifully and with compassion. Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنهreported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺkissed Hasan ibn Ali رضي الله عنه(his grandson) in the presence of Aqra’ ibn Habis at-Tameemi رضي الله عنهwho said, “I have ten children and I never kissed any of them.” Upon that he ﷺlooked at him and replied: “Whoever does not have mercy will not receive mercy.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5651
Islamic law stipulates that parents must care and pay attention to their children, especially girls for their special needs.
The Prophet ﷺalso said: “Whoever supports two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Day of Resurrection like this.” The Messenger of Allah ﷺthen joined his fingers to illustrate this. Sahih Al-Muslim H:2631.
Islamic laws and teachings mandate that parents raise their children with the best manners and offer them a sound, beneficial and healthy education. The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: “It is enough sin for a person to neglect those for whose care he is responsible.” Sahih Al-Muslim H:996.
Ibn Umar رضي الله عنهreported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid: “Each one of you is a shepherd and each one of you is responsible for those under his care. A leader is a shepherd and is responsible for his citizens. A man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is a shepherd in her husband’s home and is responsible for whatever is under her care. A servant is a shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for whatever is under his care. Each one of you is a shepherd and each one of you is responsible for whatever is under his care.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:853 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:1829.
Islam commands justice in all matters and this general ruling is applied to all children regardless of their sexes. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an: (Verily Allah سبحانه و تعالىenjoins justice and the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He سبحانه و تعالىforbids all shameful deeds, wickedness, and injustice and oppression. He سبحانه و تعالىadmonishes you that you may take heed.) Qur’an.Surah An-Nahal 16:90.
Aishah رضي الله عنه, the Prophet’s ﷺwife and the mother of the believers said: A poor woman came to my door carrying two little girls. I offered them three dates (i.e. since I had nothing else). She gave each of her two girls a date, and lifted the third one to her mouth to eat. Both her daughters urged her to feed them more, so she split the last date into two pieces and gave one half to each of her two daughters. I admired what the woman had done and told the story to the Prophet of Allah ﷺwho said upon hearing it: “Verily Allah سبحانه و تعالىobligated paradise for her due to this act of hers” or “liberated her from the Hellfire due to this act of hers.” Sahih Al-Muslim H:2630.
And in another authentic narration he ﷺsaid at the end: “Whoever is tested by trials in caring for these daughters, they will be a cover for him from Hellfire.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:1352 & Sahih Al- Muslim H:2629.
Islam calls for material and emotional justice and fair treatment from both parents to their children, regardless of their sexes. A male child is not to be given special preference over a female child, or vice versa.
The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid to one of his companions who had given a present to only one of his children: “Did you give all your children like this?”
He said: “No.”
He said: “Fear Allah سبحانه و تعالىand be just with all of your children.” [Muslim #1623]
Islam emphasizes the importance of taking care of orphans. Being an orphan has a great negative impact on the mental, spiritual and emotional status of a child. This state may lead an orphan to deviation or corruption at times, especially if the orphan exists in a society that does not give him due care, fulfill his needs and be kind and merciful to him.
Islam pays special attention to the welfare of orphans, males and females alike. Islam requires that the immediate relatives of that orphan take good care of him/her. If there are no relatives, then it becomes the responsibility of the Islamic State to take care of them, manage their affairs and provide them with care. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’aan:
(As for the orphans, do not treat them with harshness.) Qur’an.Surah Ad-Duha 93:9.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, also states in the Glorious Qur’aan: (Verily, those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, they eat up only a fire into their bellies, and they will be burnt in the Blazing fire!) Qur’an.Surah An-Nisa 4:10.
The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: “Verily I declare the gravity of the rights of the two weak persons: the orphan and the woman.”Haakim H:211 & Tabarani.
Here he ﷺindicates the great sin to perpetrate any harm or injustice to these two, who, according to their natural weakness in the society, often are neglected or denied their rights.
Allah’s Prophet ﷺalso said: “Avoid the seven cardinal sins that cause destruction.”
The companions رضي الله عنهمasked: “O Prophet of Allah ﷺ! What are these sins?”
He ﷺsaid: “To associate others in the worship of Allah سبحانه و تعالى, to practice sorcery, to kill a human soul for no just reason, to deal with interest, to devour the wealth of an orphan, to flee from the battlefield, and to accuse the innocent, chaste, believing women with adultery.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:2615 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:89.
Many other Prophetic statements have been reported as urging believing Muslims to sponsor orphans, take good care of them, be kind to them, and demonstrate love and affection for them. For instance he ﷺsaid : “I and the guardian of an orphan are like these two in Paradise.” He then indicated with his index and middle fingers. Sahih Al-Bukhari H:4998.
Islam cares for the welfare of those illegitimate children who, through no fault of theirs, are left without any acknowledgement from their parents. The Islamic government is required to take care of such children, exactly as any other orphan so that they may become, by the will of Allah سبحانه و تعالى, normal and beneficial members of the society. As the Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid as a general ruling of benevolence: “…you have reward for (doing good to) every living being.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:2334.
Islamic jurisprudence obligated the fathers (or guardians) to ask the opinion of the daughters when it comes to marriage, as her opinion is an essential condition for the validity of the marriage. She is free from any coercion, and may accept the person or reject a proposal.
The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: “A divorcee or widow should not be married without her permission and a virgin girl must not enter wedlock until she approves.” They asked: “And how does she approve O Messenger of Allah ﷺ?”
He ﷺsaid: “She stays quiet (i.e. out of shyness but doesn’t indicate disapproval).” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:4843.
Imam Ahmad رحمت اللهand others report that ‘Aishah رضي الله عنهsaid: A woman came to Allah’s Prophet ﷺand said: “O, Prophet of Allah ﷺ! My father offered me in marriage to his nephew to elevate his social status.”
Allah’s Prophet ﷺreturned the matter to her hands, to accept and approve the marriage or to reject. The woman said: “I approve now of what my father has done, but I wanted to teach other women that their fathers have no right in this (to force them to marry whoever they want).” Musnad Ahmad H:25027.
This is because daughters are precious, as the Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid in a verified tradition: “Do not force the daughters and girls for they are precious and delightful companions.” Musnad Ahmad H:17411 and verified.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, says in the Glorious Qur’aan: (Among His signs is that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find tranquility in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy.) Qur’an.Surah Ar-Room 30:21.
One of the great signs of the Benevolence, Mercy and Power of Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, is that He created for mankind mates, one from the other, so that they are comforted, satisfied and assisted by one another.
The basic foundation of the society is the family, and the husband and the wife are co-partners in that family upon which a Muslim home is established. For the success of the family and the tranquility of the home, Islam grants each spouse certain rights and duties. We will only focus on the rights of the wives in the following section.
Dowry: A dowry is the right of every bride at the time of marriage. A marriage contract is not considered legal and complete unless and until a dowry has been specified. This right cannot be forfeited, even if the bride approves, until after the marriage contract is completed. The dowry belongs to the woman entering marriage, and she has the freedom to do whatever she wants with what she owns after the marriage contract is fulfilled. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’aan: (Give the women whom you marry their dowry with a good heart. If they remit any part of it to you, of their own good pleasure, take it and enjoy it fully without fear of any harm.) Qur’an.Surah An-Nisa 4:4.
The husband is not allowed to take anything back from the dowry if he decides later to divorce her; as Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’aan:
(If you intend to replace a wife by another and you have given one of them a huge sum of gold as dowry, take not the least of it back; would you take it wrongfully without a right and with a manifest sin. And how can you take it back while you have entered with intimate relationship unto each other, and they (the wives) have taken from you a firm and strong covenant?) Qur’an.Surah An-Nisa 4:20-1.
This verse indicates, significantly, the sacredness of the marriage vows and the intimacy of the marriage relationship, as well as the right of retaining the dowry gift in case of divorce. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, also states in the Glorious Qur’aan: (O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. Live with them honorably; if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah سبحانه و تعالىbrings through it a great deal of good.) Qur’an.Surah An-Nisa 4:19.
This verse ensures the wife’s rights and complete justice even if the man dislikes her for any reason. This is also mentioned in an authentic prophetic tradition wherein Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنهreported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid: “A believer must not hate a believing woman (i.e. his wife): if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” Sahih Al-Muslim H:1469.
Financial Support: The husband must give honorable and sufficient sustenance to his household according to his status and means. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, says: (Let the rich man spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah سبحانه و تعالىhas given him. Allah سبحانه و تعالىputs no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah سبحانه و تعالىwill grant after hardship ease.) Qur’an.Surah At-Talaq 65:7.
If a sufficiently rich man refuses to spend on his family in accordance with his level of means, and the wife was able to take a portion of his wealth, she may take that which satisfies her essential needs and that of her children, avoiding wastage and extravagance. Hind bint ‘Utbah رضي الله عنهcame to the Prophet ﷺcomplaining about her husband, saying: “My husband is a miser and does not spend enough on me and his children.”
He ﷺreplied: “Take whatever suffices you and your child within proper bounds.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5049.
If a husband came under heavy financial strain and was incapable of fulfilling his family’s financial needs, or if he left his wife for an extensive period of time, whereby the wife was harmed due to that absence, the wife is entitled to seek court intervention, if she desires to annul that marriage, as indicated by the verdicts of the jurists in Islamic jurisprudence.
The Prophet of Allah ﷺexplained these rights when he ﷺsaid: “Fear Allah in (the affairs of) women for you have taken them by the oath of Allah سبحانه و تعالى, and made their intimate relations legal by the sacred word of Allah سبحانه و تعالى: your right is that no one you dislike should (be allowed to enter) sit on your bed (or cushions), and if this happens then you may hit them lightly, and their right is that you feed and clothe them within proper bounds.” Sahih Al-Muslim H:1218.
The Prophet ﷺsaid to his companion Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas رضي الله عنه: “No amount you spend on your family seeking reward from Allah سبحانه و تعالىbut that He will reward you even if it is a bite of food that you put in your wife’s mouth.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:2592 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:1628.
Justice, Equality and Fairness: Men who are married to more than one wife are required to act with justice, fairness and equality in dealing with them. This includes provision, clothing, housing and sharing his time, concerns and intimate relations. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Beneficent, says: (And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan-girls, then marry (other) 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 (the captives and the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is better to prevent you from doing injustice.) Qur’an.Surah Nisa 4:3.
The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: “He who has two wives and leans to one as opposed to the other will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides fallen.” Abu Dawood H:2133, Tirmidhi H:1141,& others and verified
This indicates that the husband must demonstrate justice, fairness and equality amongst all his wives. He is warned of this dire punishment of paralysis and deformity in the hereafter, just as he paralyzed and deformed the rights of one of his wives in this world.
It is unlawful for a man to mistreat his wife in any fashion with abuse, hardships, harassment, undue burdens, insults, beatings, abuse to her wealth and funds, forbidding her from lawful outings, etc in an attempt to force her to pay all that she possesses as ransom to her husband so that he may release her through divorce. Islamic laws do permit the husband to impose certain restrictions upon the wife that displays some immoral and shameful conduct, dishonorable to him and his family, and harmful to the entire society and social order. The purpose of these restrictions is to seek her to return to proper behavior. Those who continue to act indiscreetly, leading to suspicion of actual infidelity may be offered divorce, just as she may seek “Khul’” wherein she asks for dissolving the marriage contract due to his misbehavior.
Protection and Preservation: A husband must protect and prevent his wife and children from any possible harm or immorality to the best of his abilities. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, says: (O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not the Commands they receive from Allah سبحانه و تعالى, and do what they are commanded.)Quran.Surah At-Tarhim 66:6.
All that protects from unlawful and shameful deeds is commendable, but extremism is not. He ﷺ also said: There is a kind of jealousy that Allah سبحانه و تعالىloves and a kind which He hates: the kind that he loves is in the doubtful acts, and the kind he hates is in the acts without any doubt.”Abu Dawood H:2659 & Nasa`e H:2558.
Certain types of jealousy are acceptable and commendable, and others are not, as the Prophet of Allah ﷺexplained above, and in a verified tradition he said: “Verily Allah سبحانه و تعالىgets jealous and the believer gets jealous and the jealousy of Allah سبحانه و تعالىis to see a believer doing unlawful acts…” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:4925, & Sahih Al-Muslim H:2761.
Companionship, care and intimate relationships: A husband must live with his wife honorably, kindly and with respect. He must maintain a decent, clean and acceptable appearance when he relaxes in his household, just as he likes his wife to do for him at home, since this is only mutual respect and decency to one another. The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid, encouraging and explaining the comprehensive principle about good character and behavior:
“The most complete believers are those with the best characters, and the best of you are those who are best to their womenfolk.” Tirmidhi H:1162 & Ibn Hibbaan.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺused to mend his own clothes or shoes and help his wives with their daily chores. His wife Aishah رضي الله عنهwas once asked: “What did the Messenger of Allah ﷺuse to do while at home?”
She رضي الله عنهresponded: “He used to serve and assist his household, and when he would hear the call to prayer, he would leave to pray.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:644.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺwas always pleasant, kind and caring to all, and would occasionally play and joke politely with his family members. The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: “Everything without containing the remembrance of Allah سبحانه و تعالىis just amusement and play except four: to joke and play with one’s wife, to train one’s horse, to walk between two destinations, and to learn swimming.” Nasa'e H:8939 and verified.
This tradition indicates that most pastimes and amusements are built merely for play, a waste of time and are therefore without reward, except these mentioned above which are useful, lawful, and fulfill valid beneficial purposes. Allah’s Prophet ﷺis also well known for being cheerful and decent in joking with his family and playing with them. An example of this fun pastime is when ‘Aishah رضي الله عنهthe mother of the believers, said: Allah’s Prophet ﷺraced with me and I won the race before I grew and gained weight. After I became a bit older and put on weight he raced with me again and he won. The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid to me upon winning the race:
“This (win of mine makes up) for that (win of yours).” Ahmad H:26320 & Abu Dawood H:2578.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺis reported to have sat in the house for a short while with his family, talking to them, giving them company and showing kindness, before going to sleep, and after offering the late evening prayer. In the authentic traditions we find that Ibn ‘Abbas narrated رضي الله عنه: “I slept at the house of Maymunah رضي الله عنه(his aunt and the Prophet’s ﷺwife) one night to see the Prophet’s worship in night prayer. He talked with his wife for a period of time, and then slept. Later in the night he awakened and prayed what Allah had written for him.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:4293 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:763.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’aan: (Indeed in the Messenger of Allah ﷺyou have a good example to follow for whoever has hope in (the Meeting with) Allah سبحانه و تعالىand the Last Day, and remembers Allah سبحانه و تعالىmuch.) Qur’an.Surah Al-Ahzab 33:2.
Hence, Allah’s Prophet ﷺis the best exmple to follow for all of us, the believing Muslims. Muslims ought to follow the pattern of Allah’s Prophet ﷺin all of their affairs, personal and public, throughout their lives.
All the secrets of the wife should be kept and preserved and her shortcomings hidden. No private affairs should be made public or shared as a conversation item, even among the closest friends. The Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid: “One of the worst people in the sight of Allah سبحانه و تعالىon the Day of Resurrection is a man who has intimate relations with his wife, or a wife who has the same with her husband, then one of them discloses that privacy to others.” Sahih Al-Muslim H:1437 & others
It is the right of the married woman to spend the night with her husband and have sexual fulfillment, satisfaction, and gratification. This right is one of the most emphasized rights in Islam, equal to the need of man to have his fulfillment. The husband is required and obliged by Islamic law to fulfill the sexual rights of his spouse, to ensure the satisfaction of the spouse so as to prevent her from being inclined towards shameful acts, may Allah سبحانه و تعالىforbid. A spouse, as any other female, has a great need for being loved and cherished, cared for, and fulfillment of her natural and physical rightful desires.
Islam forbids husbands from engaging themselves in matters of physical worship and devotions, like prayers and fasting, in a way that may detract them from attending to their spouses’ physical, sexual and social needs. In a famous incident Salman Al-Farisi رضي الله عنهreported: “I went to visit my brother in faith, Abu-Darda رضي الله عنهand upon arrival, I was greeted by his spouse Um Darda رضي الله عنهwho was in an unkempt state. Seeing that, I asked her, ‘What is the matter with you; why are you in this state and not attentive to your husband?’
She said: ‘Your brother, Abu-Darda رضي الله عنهhas no interest in this world and its affairs. He spends his nights praying and days fasting!‘
Upon the arrival of Abu-Darda,رضي الله عنهwho welcomed Salman and offered him some food, Salman رضي الله عنهsaid: ‘Why do not you eat with me?’
Abu-Darda رضي الله عنهsaid: ‘I am fasting.‘
Salman رضي الله عنهsaid: ‘By Allah you must break your fast and eat with me.’
Abu-Darda رضي الله عنهbroke his fast and ate with Salman رضي الله عنه. Salman رضي الله عنهspent that night with Abu-Darda رضي الله عنه, and Abu Darda رضي الله عنهgot up during the night to offer some night prayers whereupon Salman رضي الله عنهstopped him from doing so, saying: ‘Your body has certain rights upon you, your Lord has certain rights upon you, and your family has certain rights upon you. Fast some days and break the fast on others, approach your spouse (for marital relations). Grant everyone their due right.’
Just before the break of dawn, Salman رضي الله عنهpermitted Abu-Darda رضي الله عنهto get up and offer prayers. Both of them rose, performed ablution, offered prayers and then headed to the Masjid to offer Fajr (dawn) prayer. Upon finishing the prayer with the Prophet of Allah ﷺAbu-Darda رضي الله عنهreported to the Prophet ﷺabout the incident. The Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: ‘Salman رضي الله عنهhas spoken the truth.’” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:1867.
Considering the needs of his wife, a husband should not be away from home for an extended period of time. Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab رضي الله عنهafter consulting with his daughter Hafsa رضي الله عنهabout the length of the period a woman can patiently bear her husband’s absence, set this period six months.
Abdur-Razaq رحمت اللهand others narrated a famous story that: “Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنهwas making night rounds when he heard a woman lament: The night has grown long, and its end is dark and black,
I am sleepless since I have, with whom to play, no lover, If there was not (the Lord) whose Throne is above the Heavens, The sides of this bed, would roll, shake and quiver!
In the morning he went to her and asked her the reason for her poetry, and she answered that her husband had gone with the soldiers on a long campaign. Umar رضي الله عنهthen conferred with his daughter Hafsa رضي الله عنهon how long a woman can be patient for her husband to return. After some moments of hesitation and embarrassment, in which he convinced her that this question was for the general good of the Muslims, she replied six months.”
After this, Umar رضي الله عنهwould close a campaign within six months so that they could return to their wives within that time. This period is approximate since circumstances may allow it to be less, or force it to be more. She may tolerate the absence of her husband for more than six months, or she may demand him to come back before that time.
The husband may not refuse or deny his spouse’s legitimate request unless he has a valid excuse. A husband must not make any financial decisions on behalf of his spouse unless she gives him such permission. The husband has no right to take any of his spouse’s financial assets without her approval.
He should also consult his spouse in the major household decisions, children’s affairs and other mutual affairs. It is not wise to dictate a man’s opinion upon the other members of the family without listening to the spouse’s opinion, as long as her opinion is wise and correct. Allah’s Prophet ﷺgave us a practical example in this matter. On the “Day of the Pact” with the Quraish tribe, the Prophet ﷺ commanded his companions to shave their heads and to exit the state of ‘Ihraam‘, but they were slow and did not hasten to fulfill his command. Um Salamah رضي الله عنهhis wife, recommended that he do so himself and then go out before his companions. Allah’s Prophet ﷺacted upon the recommendation of his wife, doing what she suggested, and when the companions saw his action they all hastened in obedience.
A husband must avoid counting every innocent mistake his spouse may make. For instance, the Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: “A husband should not come to his home from a journey late at night (i.e. without announcing his arrival in advance).” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:4948 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:715.
This recommendation is given so that the wife may comb her hair or wash herself and that the husband may not find his spouse in an unprepared state, which might become a reason for his displeasure. Of course with the modern facilities, nowadays husbands have the ability to inform their wives well in advance, whether the arrival is during the daytime or late in the night.
It is the obligation of a husband to be kind, attentive, sharing and caring with his spouse. He must deal with her with honesty, decency, patience and care, and must take into consideration her human nature. Women appreciate being loved tenderly and well taken care of. A husband must demonstrate his affection, love, appreciation, caring, consideration and genuine keenness of his spouse.
The system of divorce in Islam is designed to protect the rights and interests of the women, and allow ample opportunity and time for reconciliation. We will discuss in more detail below, but here we only mention that in divorce, as in marriage, one must act decent with civil behavior to assure the right of both parties, as Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Most Wise, says:
(Divorce is two times: then one may retain with goodness (and reasonable terms), or let go with goodness (and reasonable terms).) Qur’an.Surah Al-Baqra 2:229.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Most Beneficent, has repeatedly emphasized the right of parents in general and the mother in particular. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Qur’aan: (Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him; and that you be good to your parents. If one of them or both reach old age in your life, do not say to them a word of the faintest complaint or disrespect, nor shout at them; but address them in terms of honor.) Qur’an.Surah Al-Isra 17:23.
In this verse the right of Allah سبحانه و تعالىto be worshiped is placed adjacent to the right of parents, and all scholars agree that the rights of parents in Islam are greater and placed before all others except Allah سبحانه و تعالى.
Obedience to parents must be given priority over all others including the wife. This does not mean that the wife is to be humiliated or insulted in any matter, but only that parents should be given priority in obedience over all others on the condition that they do not disobey Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, and His Prophet ﷺ.
Allah’s سبحانه و تعالىpleasure or displeasure with man is but an indication of the pleasure of the parents with their son or daughter, as the Prophet ﷺindicated when he said: “Allah’s سبحانه و تعالىpleasure with man is through the pleasure of the parents and His displeasure is through the displeasure of the parents.” Ibn Hibban H:429 & Tabrani and verified
“Birr ul-Walidain” means being obedient, good and kind to them, pleasing them and taking care of their needs, especially in old age. Serving them is considered obligatory service and preferred over participating in the various acts of volunteer service like in some form of Jihad (i.e., striving in the cause of Allah سبحانه و تعالى). A man came to ask permission to go for Jihad and the Messenger of Allah ﷺasked if his parents were alive to which he replied in the affirmative. Then he said to the man: “So strive for them and exert yourself (jaahid).” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:2842 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:2549.
This is also confirmed in an authentic tradition that Ibn Mas’ood رضي الله عنهnarrated:
“I asked Allah’s Prophet ﷺ: ‘O Prophet of Allah ﷺ: What is the most beloved act in the sight of Allah سبحانه و تعالى?’
He ﷺsaid: “Offering the prayer in its proper time.”
I asked: ‘What comes next, O Prophet of Allah ﷺ?’
He ﷺsaid: “Being good, kind, respectful, obedient and caring to your parents.”
I further asked: ‘What comes next, O Prophet of Allah ﷺ?’
He ﷺsaid: “Striving in the cause of Allah سبحانه و تعالى.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5625 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:139.
In another tradition Abdullah bin Amr bin al-Aas رضي الله عنهnarrated: “A man came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺand said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allah ﷺ! I shall give you my pledge of allegiance to migrate and strive in the cause of Allah سبحانه و تعالىseeking His reward only.’
Upon hearing that the Prophet ﷺasked the man: “Are your parents alive?”
The man said: ‘Yes, O Prophet of Allah ﷺ, both of them are living.’
He ﷺsaid: “Do you seek the reward from Allah سبحانه و تعالى?”
He ﷺsaid: ‘Yes.’
He ﷺsaid: “Then go back to your parents and be the best and kindest companion for them.” Sahih Al-Muslim H:2549.
And in another authentic tradition Mu’awiyah as-Sulami رضي الله عنهsaid to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ:
‘I want to go for Jihad in the way of Allah سبحانه و تعالى.’
The Messenger of Allah ﷺasked: “Is your mother alive?”
He said: ‘Yes.’
He said: “Stay with her, for Jannah is under her feet.” Musna Ahmad H:1557 & Nasa'e H:3104 and verified.
This idiomatic expression shows the degree of deference, respect and obedience that the children should show to their mother to earn her pleasure by continuous care and service, which leads to attaining the pleasure of Allah سبحانه و تعالىand His Paradise, the promised reward for all rightly guided and devout believers.
Mothers have greater right and deserve more kindness, help service, good treatment and companionship than the fathers because the mother is the first one to care for the children and she suffers more directly with daily hardships in their upbringing. Bukhari رحمت اللهand others report that Abu-Hurairah رضي الله عنهnarrated:
“A man came to the Prophet ﷺand asked him: ‘O Prophet of Allah ﷺ! Who is the most deserving and worthy of my good company?’
Allah’s Prophet ﷺanswered: “Your mother.”
The man asked: ‘Who comes next after her?’
He ﷺsaid: “Your mother.”
The man asked again: ‘Who comes next after her?’
He ﷺsaid: “Your mother.”
The man asked again: ‘Who comes next after her?’
He ﷺsaid: “Your father.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5625 & Sahih Al- Muslim H:2548.
This comprehensive lesson is a summary proving that the mothers deserve the utmost in obedience, benevolence and concern throughout their lives.
This tradition indicates that a mother has three times the rights of that of a father due to the sufferings she experiences during the various stages of her child’s life; in pregnancy, delivery, nursing, and raising the child.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’aan: (And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and good to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship. The duration of carrying him (in the womb) and weaning is two years. So thank Me and to your parents; unto Me is the final destination.) Qur’an.Surah Luqman 31:14.
Mothers are given priority over fathers in terms of special kindness, care, duty, help, and obedience. Both parents, in accordance with Islamic teachings and principles, are to be obeyed, respected and not differed with as long as they do not command or order their children to disobey their Creator. If they order their children to perform an act of disobedience to Allah سبحانه و تعالىthen they are to be disobeyed in that particular matter only and a son or daughter must continue to fulfill their normal duties towards parents in other matters. They are expected to serve them, help them in their worldly affairs, and come to their rescue when they need them. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an:
(And if parents strive with you to make you join in worship with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the worldly (affairs) kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you did throughout your life.) Quran.Surah Lqman 31:15.
Parents must be respected, obeyed and offered financial assistance by their children, even if they have a different religion or faith, other than Islam, as long as they do not demand that their son or daughter do any act of disobedience to Allah سبحانه و تعالى. Asma binte Abu-Bakr رضي الله عنهsaid: My mother, who was still a pagan, came to visit. I went to the Messenger of Allah ﷺseeking his verdict. I said, “She has come to visit and she is interested in Islam, should I maintain my relationship with her?”
The Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid: “Yes, indeed, stay connected to your mother.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:2477 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:1003.
Islam’s encouragement to sons and daughters to treat their mothers with kindness, obedience and care – and to beckon to give any possible assistance to their parents in their various daily household chores – is illustrated in the following lengthy tradition wherein Abu-Hurairah رضي الله عنهnarrated that the Prophet ﷺsaid: “Only three infants spoke while still in the cradle. The first was Jesus, son of Mary.
The second was an Israeli at the time of Juraij, a monk who used to seclude himself in a chamber and devote his time to prayer and the worship of Allah سبحانه و تعالى. One day Juraij’s mother asked for his help while he was engaged with his prayers. He said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! I am confused as to whom should I give priority; my prayers to you or my mother.’
He continued his prayers, and neglected his mother’s request for help; upon this Juraij’s mother left. On the following morning the mother did the same, and Juraij also continued his prayers and neglected his mother’s call for help. On the following day, Juraij’s mother came again to him and called him to help her, as she had done in the past two days. Juraij did not respond. Upon seeing that, the mother said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! Have Juraij look at the faces of prostitutes before he dies.’
At the time Israelis used to highly admire the amount and manner of Juraij’s worship, prayers and seclusion to which he devoted himself. A very beautiful and attractive prostitute that was popular among the people proposed to Israelis: ‘If you wish, I can tempt Juraij and cause him to have illegal sexual relations with me.’
The prostitute set out to execute her plan, trying her best to lure Juraij into illegal sex with her, but her efforts were a failure. She then approached a shepherd who used to graze his flock close to Juraij’s chamber and offered herself to the shepherd who showed no hesitation. The prostitute became pregnant and upon delivery accused Juraij of being the father of the child. The Israelis went to Juraij in his chamber, drove him out, destroyed the chamber and started beating him.
He asked: “What is the matter? Why are you beating me?”
They said: “You have fornicated with this prostitute and she delivered a baby from you, while you pretended to be a pious man.”
Juraij said: “Would you bring the baby here and let me offer my prayers to prove to you that I am not the father of that child.”
The Israelis permitted Juraij to offer his prayers, and they brought the baby. When Juraij finished his prayers, he went to the baby and pointed to his belly with his hand asking: “Who is your real father?”
The baby still in the cradle, said: “My father is the shepherd.”
Upon hearing the baby’s statement and confession, the Israelis started kissing Juraij, seeking his blessings and said: “Should we reconstruct a chamber out of gold for you?”
He said: “No. But just rebuild it of clay and mud as it was built before.”
And so they did.
The third baby who spoke in the cradle was an infant who was nursing at his mother’s breast when a knight wearing fancy clothes passed by on a beautiful horse. The nursing mother said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! In the future let my son be like this knight.’
Upon hearing this supplication the nursing infant left his mother’s breast and said, while looking at the knight himself: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! In the future do not make me like this knight’. Then the infant went back to sucking.
(The narrator of the Hadith, Abu-Hurairah رضي الله عنه), said:
‘I can remember the Prophet ﷺimitating the infant’s nursing his mother’s breast by placing his index finger in his mouth and sucking it.’
Then the mother and her nursing infant passed by a maid who was being beaten by her master and others accusing her with fornication and theft. The maid continued to say: ‘Allah سبحانه و تعالىsuffices me and He is My Guardian!’
The mother said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! Do not let my child be like this woman in the future.’
Upon hearing his mother’s statement, the infant left his mother’s breast and said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! In the future let me be like this woman!’
The mother, upon hearing her infant’s statement, addressed him saying: ‘Son! What is the matter with you? A nicely dressed knight passed by on a very nice horse, with a high status and power and I wished that you would be like him in the future; but you refused to be like him. Then when we passed by that maid who was beaten and disciplined for an accusation of fornication and theft, and I prayed to Allah سبحانه و تعالىfor you not to be tortured and accused like her, you also rejected my supplication.’
The infant said: ‘O Mother, as for the knight, he was a tyrant and thus I asked Allah سبحانه و تعالىnot to make me like him. As for the beaten and accused maid, she had neither fornicated nor stolen. Thus I asked Allah سبحانه و تعالىto make me innocent and pure like her!” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:3253.
Disobeying parents, disrespecting them and failing to fulfill their rights is the greatest of sins. The punishment from Allah سبحانه و تعالىof this sin is not only in the hereafter but in this life as well, as it is narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid: “Two (kinds of sins) Allah سبحانه و تعالىwill forward (the punishment of) in this world: violent transgression and disobedience of children to their parents.” Tirmidhi H:2511 & Ibn Maajah H:4211 and verified.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺalso said: “Verily, Allah سبحانه و تعالىhas forbidden you to disobey your mothers, to prevent people from their rights, to ask people for what you are not entitled, to bury your baby-girls alive. He detests for you to gossip, to ask too many questions, or to waste your wealth.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5630.
The Prophet ﷺillustrated that being good and kind to parents is essential in the fulfillment of the supplications and prayers of man throughout his life, as Ibn Umar رضي الله عنهreported the Prophet ﷺas saying in a lengthy tradition: “Three men of the previous times set out on a journey. When night approached they slept in a cave at the base of a mountain. Upon entering the cave, a boulder rolled down and completely closed the cave’s entrance. They talked the situation over and concluded that there was no way out of this trouble except with prayers and supplications. ‘We had better seek the help of Allah سبحانه و تعالىreferring to the best and most righteous deed that we have done in our lives.’
The first man said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! I had two elderly parents and I never would offer my wife and children anything to eat or drink before I offered them. One day I had to go a long distance seeking food for my herd and I was late coming back. Upon arrival I found both of my parents asleep. I milked the sheep in order to offer my parents their dinner, but since I hated to wake them up for their drink, I remained standing next to them carrying the milk pot in my hand waiting for them to wake up. I did not offer my wife or children anything before I offered them. At the break of the Dawn, they woke up and by this time my children were at my feet crying for milk. When they woke up, I offered them their milk. O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! If you know that I have done that for Your sake, please rescue us from this trap.’
Upon that the rock was moved slightly away from the cave’s entrance, but not enough to let them out.
The second man said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! I had a female cousin from my father’s side who was the most beloved woman to me on the face of the Earth. I had an intense desire for her, but she refused. At one point in time she came under financial stress due to famine. She came to me asking for help. I offered her a hundred and twenty golden Dinars so that she would let me have what I wanted from her. Under the duress of her pressing need and financial situation she agreed. When I was ready to begin relations with her, she said, ‘O Cousin! Fear Allah سبحانه و تعالى! And do not remove the seal of virginity except in the rightful manner.’ Upon hearing that, I got up and did not touch her, although she was the most beloved and desired woman to me. I did not take back the gold, which I gave her.’
Then he raised his hands to the heavens and said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! If You know I have done, what I did, for Your cause and pleasure, please remove the trap that we are in. Remove the rock from the cave’s entrance so that we can get out!’
Upon which, the rock moved another small distance but still not enough to enable them to escape.
The third man said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! You know that I once employed some workers and at the end of the day I paid their wages except to the one who had left without collecting his pay. I invested his wages in my business and kept a special note and account for it. The money that belonged to this worker grew during the years, and after many years the worker came to me asking for the wage that he did not take on that day of his work. I pointed out to him large herds of sheep, cows, camels, and slaves and servants, and said to him: ‘All that you see is yours! That is the wage that I owe you!’ The poor worker was stunned and said: ‘Please do not ridicule and make fun of me! I am only asking for my one-day wage. The employer said: ‘I am neither ridiculing you nor making fun of you. This is all yours.’ The worker took all that I pointed out for him and left.’
Then the man raised his hands to heavens and said: ‘O Allah سبحانه و تعالى! If I have done what I did for Your cause and pleasure, remove the trap from which we are suffering.’
Upon that the rock rolled away from the cave’s entrance and the three men left the cave, free once again.’ ” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:2152.
Islam teaches that seeking the pleasure of the parents, and being good, kind, helpful, considerate to them, respecting and caring for them throughout their life, is a major way to expiate and remove the burden of our sins in this world. Abdullah Ibn Umar رضي الله عنهsaid:
“A man came to Allah’s Prophet ﷺand said: ‘O Prophet ﷺ! I have committed a major sin. Do you think that I can atone for it?’
He asked: “Do you have a mother living?”
The man answered in the negative.
The Prophet ﷺasked the man: “Do you have a maternal aunt living?”
The man answered in the positive. Allah’s Prophet ﷺsaid to him: “Be good and kind to her.” Tirmidhi H:1904 & Ibn Hibban H:435.
This tradition indicates her right since the maternal aunt, in Islamic jurisprudence, has a similar status in some respects as of the mother, since the Prophet of Allah ﷺsaid: “The sister of the mother has a status similar to the mother.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:2552.
These broad guidelines show the major rights of parents in general, and mothers in particular, and illustrate that mothers remain uniquely respected in Islamic teachings.
The same general rights are legislated in Islamic jurisprudence for women as are required for men. A concern for general public welfare and mutual support of one another is a trademark of the Islamic social system. The Prophet ﷺsaid:
“The similitude of the believers in their mutual care, love and kindness to one another is like one human body: if one organ aches, this prompts the entire body to be feverish and remain awake.” Sahih Al-Muslim H:2586.
And he ﷺsaid: “The believers, one to another, are like a firm structure, supporting one another.” He then intertwined his fingers. Sahih Al-Bukhari H:467 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:2585.
A woman as an aunt, niece, cousin, or any type of relative, regardless of the distance, is included in the kinfolk to whom Allah سبحانه و تعالى commanded to be good, kind and supportive. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Qur’aan:
(Would you then, if you were given the authority, do mischief in the land, and sever your ties of kinship?) Qur’an.Surah Muhammad 47:22.
The Prophet ﷺsaid: “A person who severs his kinship ties, will never enter Jannah .” Sahih Al-Muslim H:2556.
And he ﷺsaid: “Charity to a poor person is one charity, and to a (poor) relative two charities: a charity and a connection of a relative.” Tirmidhi H:658 & Ibn Maajah H:1844and verified.
If a woman is a neighbor and she is a Muslim, she is entitled to two rights: the right of Islam, and the right of a neighbor. Allah سبحانه و تعالى, the Exalted, states in the Qur’aan: (Worship Allah سبحانه و تعالىand join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinfolk, orphans, the poor who beg, the neighbor who is related to you, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer you meet, and those slaves whom your right hand possesses. Verily, Allah سبحانه و تعالىdoes not like anyone who is proud and boastful) Qur’an.Surah An-Nisa 4:36.
Islam obligates a Muslim to be good to all his or her neighbors. The Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid: “Jibreel عليه السلام(Archangel Gabriel) continued to recommend me to take care of the neighbor so much so that I thought the neighbor was going to be made a legal heir.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5668.
He ﷺalso said: “By Allah سبحانه و تعالىhe is not a believer, by Allah سبحانه و تعالىhe is not a believer, by Allah سبحانه و تعالىhe is not a believer!
They asked: “Who, O Messenger of Allah ﷺ?”
He ﷺsaid: “The one from whose harm the neighbor is not safe.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5670.
It is also reported by Asfahani رحمت اللهin Hilyatul-Awliya that Talhah رضي الله عنهsaid: “Umar Ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنهwent out of his home one night. I decided to follow him to see what he was doing during the night. I saw him entering a certain house and after a while I saw him come out and enter another house. In the morning I went to the first house and entered it to find out who lives there. To my surprise I found an old, blind and disabled woman. I asked her: ‘What did the man, who came in your home last night, want from you?’
She said: ‘This man has been taking care of me for a time now, serving my needs and helping me and supporting me.’
Talha رضي الله عنهsaid to himself: ‘Why should I investigate Umar’s رضي الله عنهactions?‘
The Messenger of Allah ﷺsaid:
“The person caring for the widows and the poor is like the one who is on the path of Allah, and as if he said: Like one who stands in prayer without sitting down and like the one who fasts without breaking the fast.” Sahih Al-Bukhari H:5038 & Sahih Al-Muslim H:2982.
These are some distinguishing aspects of honoring, respecting, caring for, and supporting women according to Islamic teachings that summarize the rights of women. We believe that women never witnessed this extent of respect and honor throughout the history of mankind on earth. Some traditions show that the Islamic law never tolerated crimes or abuses against a woman during any stage of her life.