WIFE’S RIGHTS IN ISLAM
Allah has entitled husband and wife to certain rights, made it incumbent upon both of them to discharge their duties and encourages them to engage in anything that is bound to promote marital life and preserve it. Indeed, they are both responsible for the welfare of the family and neither of them should demand the other to do something beyond their capacity, as the Qur’an states, “And women have rights similar to those of men over them to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them.” Quran Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:228 Therefore, tolerance and kindness are required to create a prosperous life and help build a strong family.
The wife’s maintenance entails her incontestable right to food, drink, clothing, general care and a suitable home, even if she is wealthy.
How is the amount of maintenance calculated? The husband ought to spend on his wife in accordance with his means without extravagance or miserliness, as the Qur’an states, “Let the man of means spend according to his means: and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him.” Quran Surah At-Talaaq, 65:7
He must spend on her in kindness, without ever implying that he is doing her favours or humiliating her in any way whatsoever. Indeed, such maintenance is not a favour but a duty he ought to discharge towards his wife in kindness, as the Qur’an clearly exhorts him.
When a Muslim man fulfils his duty of supporting his wife and children, he will be rewarded abundantly by Allah, as the Prophet Muhammadﷺsaid, “When a man spends on his family, anticipating Allah’s reward in the hereafter, this act of his will be counted as an act of charity.” Sahih Al-Bukhari: 5351(Vol.7: 263); Sahih Muslim: 1401 He also said, “You will be rewarded for whatever you spend for Allah’s sake even if it were a morsel of food which you put in your wife’s mouth.” Sahih Al-Bukhari: 56; Sahih Muslim: 1628 Those who refuse, or neglect their duty to spend on their families despite their ability to do so committing a terrible sin for their negligence, as the Prophet said, “It is sufficient sin for a man that he neglects him whom he maintains.” Sunan Abu Daawood: 1692, classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 827
This means showing good character, kindness, gentleness in word and deed and putting up with the occasional faults and negligence. As the Qur’an states, “Live together with them courteously and in kindness. If you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something in which Allah has placed a lot of good.” Quran Surah An-Nisaa’, 4:19
The Prophet said, “The believers who have perfect faith are those with the best character, and the best of them are those who treat their women the best.” Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 1162
“The believers who have perfect faith are those with the best character, and the best among you are those who treat their wives the best.” Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 2612; Musnad Ahmad: 24677
The best of you are the kindest towards their wives, and I am the kindest amongst you to my wives.” Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 3895
One of the Prophet’s companions once asked him, “Messenger of Allah, what is the right the wife of one of us has on him?” he said, “To feed her whenever you feed yourself and to clothe her whenever you clothe yourself; do not slap her across the face, revile her or separate yourself from her except in the house.” Sunan Abu Daawood: 2142
A man must make allowances for women’s nature, which is obviously different from that of men; he must also try to look at life from all sides, considering the advantages and disadvantages of his wife, for no one is free from faults. Both spouses must exercise patience and take into account the positive aspects of each other’s personality, as the Qur’an states, “Do not forget to show kindness to each other.” Quran Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:237 The Prophet also said in this respect, “A believer must not harbour any rancour against a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will certainly be pleased with another.” Sahih Muslim: 1469
The Prophet urges men to treat women with kindness, pointing their attention to the fact that women’s emotional and psychological nature is different from that of men, that such differences between men and women are in actual fact complementary and must in no way give rise to discord and eventual divorce. The Prophet said, “Treat women well and with kindness, for a woman was created from the rib and thus she will not be straightened according to your way. If you want to enjoy her, you will have to enjoy her with her twist. If you try to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her is divorcing her.” Sahih Al-Bukhari: 3153; Sahih Muslim: 1468
The husband is recommended to spend the night with his wife and must do so at least once every four days. He must also observe equal division of nights between co-wives in cases of polygamy.
When a man marries a woman, she becomes his ‘honour’ which he must stubbornly defend even if he gets killed in the process, as the Prophet said, “Whoever is killed defending his wife is a martyr.” Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 1421; Sunan Abu Daawood: 4772 and Sunan Nasai 4089
The husband must not talk to others about his wife’s particularities and bedroom secrets to other people. The Prophet said, “The worst person in the eyes of Allah on the Day of Judgement is that couple who have an intimate relationship with each other and the man then reveals their bedroom secrets to others.” Sahih Muslim: 1437
To solve marital problems, Islam has laid down a number of rules, including the following:
Problems may be solved through constructive dialogue and wisdom in order to correct mistakes.
In cases of rebellion, disloyalty and ill-conduct, the husband may stop talking to her, but without exceeding three days; if this course of action does not seem to work, then he may temporarily abandon her in bed or abstain from the usual sexual intimacy, but without leaving the house.
‛Aa’isha(R) narrated, “Allah’s Messenger never hit anything with his hand ever, except when fighting in the path of Allah. Nor did he ever hit a slave or a woman.” Sahih Muslim: 2328
The husband must enjoin his family members to act rightly and forbid them to act inappropriately. He ought to strive hard to help them follow the path that leads to Paradise and avoid those paths that lead to Hellfire. Teaching them by precept and example, he can do so by acting on obeying Allah’s commands and avoiding things He has prohibited. The wife must also advise her husband, guide him to the right path and discuss with him ways of giving the best possible upbringing to their children. As the Qur’an states, “O You who believe, safeguard yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones.” Quran Surah At-Tahreem, 66:6 The Prophet also said in this regard, “Every one of you is a guardian and is responsible for those in his custody.” Sahih Al-Bukhari: 2416; Sahih Muslim: 1829
If the wife makes a stipulation at the time of concluding the marriage contract, such as having a particular kind of accommodation or expenses and the husband agrees to such a condition, he must fulfil such an obligation, for a marriage contract is one of the most solemn agreements and obligations. The Prophet said, “Of all the conditions which you have to fulfil, the conditions which make it legal for you to have sexual relations (i.e. the marriage contract) have the greatest right to be fulfilled.” Sahih Al-Bukhari: 4856; Sahih Muslim: 1418