Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam


Marriage in Islam

Part Three

By Adil Salahi

Subject Index
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight

Must a wife serve her husband?

Q). Is it a must for a wife to serve her husband by preparing food for him, washing his clothes, etc. or is it not a must?

A). The Islamic scholars say that this issue depends on the customs and traditions in the community. If the wife serves her husband just like what her relatives do, then she must serve him. The wives of the Prophet (pbuh) used to serve him, prepare his food, clean his clothes, etc.

Also the Prophet's daughters and the wives of the Prophet's companions did the same to their husbands.

If the wife is not accustomed to serve in the house of her own family but depends on house-maids and domestic servants, like the daughters of the well-off people, then it is not a must for her to serve her husband, but it is recommendable.

The rights of husband and wife

Q). Different problems arise in different marriages, I should be grateful if you would kindly comment on the rights and duties of a husband and wife when the following problems arise.

If the wife is disobedient in both domestic and religious matters.

If she misuses the money given to her by her husband and gives it to her relations although they may be rich.

If she refuses to move to her husband’s home, where he wishes to live permanently.

If she passes offensive remarks against her husband, claiming that she is only joking.

If she refuses to resign from her employment.

If she refuses to give their child the name her husband wants to give him

Is a husband within his rights to talk to his friends about his wife?

(Name and address withheld)

A). Islam views marriage as a relationship, which brings two persons together in frieand compassion. Problems and quarrels arise in almost every marriage. Rare indeed is a marriage, which is free of them. It is when such problems and differences arise that compassion, consideration and affection are most needed in order to overcome the difficulty, reconcile the partners and ensure the safety of the marriage and the family, and above all to safeguard the interests of the children. It is important, therefore, to make the rights and limits of each of the two partners absolutely clear in order to reduce the effects of these problems to the minimum. It is also important that authority in the family should be well defined. Islam gives that authority to the husband, on the basis that it is he who earns the money and is required to look after his wife and children. Islam, however, does not neglect the other half of the marriage, namely, the wife. It ensures that the wife is treated with respect and honor and makes it clear that she is entitled to exercise her rights, which are commensurate with her duties. The Prophet says: "The best among you is the best in his treatment of his household, and I am the best of you in my treatment of my household." The Prophet was not boasting about his treatment of his wives when he said so. Far is it from him to boast about anything he does. The Prophet said that only because he is the example Allah expects us to follow. When we know that he has extended to his wives the best treatment a woman can dream of, then by following his example, we are practicing our religion, earning reward from Allah and ensuring our own happiness.

Having said that, I realize that not all marriages can be happy. Some of them are stormy, and some always suffer form the incompatibility of the personalities of both partners. Problems which in the beginning may be small are soon compounded and family life becomes a continuous misery. In order to solve problems of the type mentioned in the reader’s letter, it is important to know what are the rights and the duties of each in every situation. Taking these cases one by one, let us consider the Islamic answer to them.

It is the duty of a wife to obey her husband in all matters which affect the family, provided that his wishes and what he tells her to do does not contravene any Islamic law or regulation. Having said that, I should perhaps add that life in the family should not be treated as life in a military camp, with orders issued morning and evening and differences of opinion treated as disobedience leading to mutiny. If the husband, however, expresses a certain wish or expects something from his wife which he makes clearly understood, then his wife should endeavor to fulfill that as long as it does not badly affect her or their family and it does not constitute a disobedience of Allah. The Prophet says: ”No creature may be obeyed in what constitutes disobedience to Allah.” If the wife is habitually disobedient in ordinary matters, her husband should counsel her that her attitude is bound to leave adverse effects on both of them and their children. The Qur’an speaks of three different stages of dealing with such disobedience. Allah states in the Qur’an: As those women whose rebellion you have reason to fear, admonish them first: then leave them alone in bed: then beat them(lightly): and if they subsequently pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Allah is indeed most high, great. (4:34) It must be clearly understood that the physical punishment mentioned in verse is treated as the last resort and it must not be severe or on the woman’s face. It should be viewed only as a corrective measure, which is not used except in extreme cases. Admonition and staying away from bed must be tried first. As for the disobedience in religious matters, the Qur’an advises us Bid your family to pray, and be patient with them. This divine instruction may be carried over so as to include all religious duties. One has to tell his wife and members of his family to attend to their religious duties and treat them wisely so as to encourage them to fulfill those duties. He should explain to them their duties toward Allah, quoting always from the Qur’anic verse implying clear instruction that he or she should do something, he is far more likely to comply than when the instruction is given in the words of human being.

The Prophet makes clear that woman should not spend her husband’s money without his consent, not even for charity. This is because it is normally the husband who earns the money. Hence, he should have the final say in how it is spent. The Prophet says: ”No woman may spend something from her husband’s house without his permission.” The Prophet was asked: ”Not even food” He said: that is the best of our money.” It is, however, permissible for a woman to give away perishable food if she fears that it will perish if kept, and her family does not need it. She need not wait for her husband to give his permission in that particular case. If a woman nevertheless spends some money, which belongs to her husband for a charitable purpose, he earns the reward for it and she incurs the blame for spending it without having his consent first.

If her husband’s home is adequate for the family and meets all the requirements of a home, then it is her duty to move to it if her husband asks her to do so. If she does not, she is considered rebellious and she forfeits her right to financial support by her husband.

This attitude cannot be condoned at all. It is indeed forbidden. The Prophet was asked: “who has the greatest claim over a woman?” He answered: “Her Husband” He was then asked: “who has the greatest claim over a man?” He answered “His mother.” In view of this hadith, passing offensive remarks to the person who has the greatest claim to a woman’s respect and good treatment is the direct opposite of her duty.

The normal situation is that the husband works in order to earn his living and support his family. A woman is not supposed to work because she does not need to do so. A recent ruling by an Egyptian court, however, states that if a man marries a woman when she is employed or having a regular job, and he agrees to her continued working, then he has no right to prevent her from continuing with her work. If he, nevertheless, asks her to quit her job and she disobeys, then her disobedience is not considered rebellion in the technical sense which makes her forfeit her right to be supported. This ruling is based on the assumption that her husband's agreement to her work at the time of their marriage is deemed to be one of the conditions of the marriage. The Prophet says: “Believers, abide by whatever conditions they accept.”

Ii is the right of the husband to give his children their names. Here again mutual agreement promotes good and healthy atmosphere in the family. This should never be an issue of contention in any family.

It is not appropriate from the Islamic point of view to speak to other people about one’s wife. It is permissible, however to seek advice from people of wise judgement or to seek good counsel. If it is for that purpose that one speaks about his wife to others, then he must always remember that he should not speak ill of her, so that they form a bad opinion of her. What he says about her should never be tantamount to backbiting her. He should remember that she also has a right over him to protect her and to make others hold her in good esteem. He should never say a word of untruth about her.

Woman's responsibilities

Q). Could you explain the responsibilities of a Muslim woman when her husband is absent or working abroad.

(Name and address withheld)

A). It seems that the question is concerned mainly with a long absence, not a short trip lasting a few days. Such an absence of the husband creates a very difficult situation for the wife, particularly when cultural traditions dictate certain requirement which may not be very convenient for her, or she may not be able to cope with. Hence it is important to know what are her duties and what are her rights. If she is asked to do more than her duties, it shoube appreciated that she is being kind and what she is doing should be met with gratitude. If some of her rights are unavoidably denied her, then again her being accommodating should be appreciated.

To start with, it is her right that her husband should not prolong his absence more than four months at a time without her free and willing agreement. She is also entitled to have her full expenses provided at regular intervals, so that she is not left wanting for any thing that is necessary for her and her children. She should have a suitable accommodation, according to her husband’s means. If that is in a flat or a house, which belongs to her husband, she should be provided with suitable care so that she can call on someone who is trustworthy in cases of emergency. If she is left with her parents, then that should give her the best sort of care.

Many people consider that such a wife should stay with her husband's family and give help in household duties. This is not necessary, but it may be suitable. There is no requirement that she should stay with her in-laws. If she does, then they must know that she is not required by Islamic law to do all household duties.

She is expected to help in order to maintain good relations, and to be kind to her husband's parents, but she is under no obligation to do so. Hence her kindness should be appreciated as such, not to be treated as a fulfillment of a duty. She should at all times be very respectful of her husband's parents and maintain good relations with his family.

On the other hand, she should protect her husband’s property and reputation in his absence. There is no need to speak about her duties of being faithful and of having no relationship with any man which is unbecoming of a religious and faithful Muslim woman.

That is taken for granted, and it is a duty of every Muslim woman whether she is staying with her husband in the same home or he is away, and even if he does not mind her having such a relationship. She must also look after their children as best as she can. If she does all that, she is deemed to have carried out her responsibilities

When local customs are in conflict with Islamic teachings.

Q) Being a widower, I am trying to arrange a marriage with a divorcee, after having made sure that she is willing to look after my children.

My brother has sent me her photograph, but I feel that I should meet her personally and ask some questions which I feel to be very important for my children and me. However, her brother insists that he will not breach the local custom, which allows an authorized representative of mine to her but not me personally. Could you please explain what is the religious view?

A). I am afraid local customs may interfere to make things difficult when Islam wants them simple. Marriage is a lifetime relationship. Hence, it is very important to make sure that one is choosing the right partner.

Islam is easy and makes things simple and easy. The Prophet says: "This religion has been made easy, so you should approach it in a gentle and easy way. Anyone who approaches this religion in a hard or violent way will surely be defeated." Indeed ease and simplicity are the mark of this faith in all facets of life.

In marriage, as Indeed in everything else, Islam makes things simple. It is people who try to make them difficult.

You speak of a local custom, which prevents a prospective husband from seeing the woman he wants to marry. Yet it is acceptable that a representative of that man can see her. It is a fact that no one can replace the prospective husband himself in forming an overall opinion of a prospective wife. His relatives may go and see her, and then give a full account of the meeting, but then he will be looking at her with their eyes. This is not sufficient. It is for this reason that the Prophet has advised his companions to look at their prospective wives before they marry them. He told one of his companions: "If you can see of her what will persuade you that she will be a suitable wife for you, then do so." This is an authentic Hadith and the companion to whom the Prophet said these words reports that he stood in hiding in some place where he knew she would be coming. That is because he wanted to see her as she is and judge how she conducts herself with her friends.

He did not want to see her in a situation where she would be aware that a suitor is looking at her. In other words, he wanted to see her without any affectation, makeup or special behavior.

What you want to do is perfectly legitimate and it is acceptable from the Islamic point of view. Indeed, it is much more relevant in your case because of the fact that you have children and you want your future wife to look after them. Hence you need to make sure that she is of the right type.

What you need to do is to explain to the woman's brother that you are serious about your proposal, but you want to make sure that you and his sister are clear about what lies ahead for both of you. Perhaps it is useful to enlist the support of a scholar to your community who may tell her brother that this is perfectly acceptable from the Islamic point of view. May God render your effort a success

Promises that cannot be fulfilled

Q). When I got married, my wife tried to make me feel that my first obligation is toward her. Whatever she wants should take precedence over what my parents may require. This has created problems particularly because she wanted to live alone, when I cannot afford to look after my parents and my wife if we are to use two separate homes. This has led me to seek work in the Kingdom. As I was about to leave I promised my parents and my wife to call them for pilgrimage. However, I cannot afford doing that for all the three at the same time. Yet when I asked my wife to delay her pilgrimage, she refused. Her father wrote me a letter of insulting for breaking my promise. I replied in the same vein, but I have thought of borrowing money in order to pay for my wife's pilgrimage. Please comment.

(Name and address withheld)

A). First of all I would like to reassure you that from the Islamic point of view, there is nothing wrong with what you have done, except perhaps in writing to your father-in law in the same abusive language he had used with you.

This is certainly wrong on his part, but to reply in kind is also wrong. Hence, you should have stuck to Islamic values and refrained from answering him in kind.

You have been trying to discharge all your responsibilities to the best of your ability. That is all that Islam requires of anybody. If your efforts fall short of fulfilling your best expectations, no blame should be attached to you. What you promised your wife is to invite her to do the pilgrimage. If you cannot do that this year, then you may fulfill that promise next year. You can try to compensate for that by obtaining a visitor's visa for her, and that will be more than adequate, because she will be able to spend longer time with you.

If that can be extended until the pilgrimage season, she would get more than she bargained for. To be abusive when you do that is certainly unacceptable from the Islamic point of view.

My feeling is that your wife has been trying to get the best deal for herself, thinking little of your other obligations. In doing so, she has been selfish. I must hasten to say that I am only saying this on the basis of your story. Therefore, I am not making a judgment in the matter. A judgment can only be made after hearing both sides and cross-examining each of them. What I am saying is only made on the assumption that what you have said is true. When your wife insists that you get her a separate home and you cannot afford that because you have to look after your parents also, she is making an unreasonable demand. She is entitled to be provided with a good standard of living, according to your means. She cannot simply ignore the fact that your parents need your help and that your earnings must pay for all your obligations.

What you should do now is to make your position clear to your wife. You should tell her frankly that you are not going abandon your parents for her sake in the same way, as you do not expect her to abandon her parents. You should tell her also that in the circumstances, she has to tolerate the fact that your income can only maintain a certain standard of living and she is expected to cooperate in maintaining that by reducing her demands to what is reasonable. If she cannot promise that, then you should leave her to stay with her parents for a while. She may soon get tired of that and become more willing to reach a compromise. If you maintain your stand showing her that you really care for her and want her to be with you, but you are only asking her to be practical and reasonable, then you may soon find her relenting, and may be her parents would appreciate your stand. You must not be critical of her parents or use any abusive language either to her or her parents. You should maintain a proper standard of decency. You should not borrow money in order to bring her for pilgrimage. God does not require that from anyone.

You say that you have not had any communication with her or her family for several months. There is no harm in taking the initiative and write her a reassuring letter explaining your position in a reconciliatory way. Alternatively you may try to get some wise person from her family or a mutual friend to speak for you. You should explain to such a person that you cannot walk out on any of your responsibilities.

In an Islamic community people appreciate a person who takes care of his elderly parents. You should not despair, but you should act wisely. May God guide you to the best way, which ensures the happiness of your family.

To get married to an outsider

Q) I have been attracted to a girl for a very long time and we both agree that we should get married. However, the problem is that although she is a Muslim, she is West Indian whereas my family is in Pakistan. My family will not even consider the possibility of marriage. Should I ignore them and go ahead with the marriage, or pander to their prejudices and look for someone else?

A) It is not an Islamic problem. There is no racial barrier to marriage in Islam. The point is that the person concerned does not need the consent of his parents. If he is well established and able to look after himself and the girl, he can get married. We are no longer living in a static society, and strict family bonds may no longer be relevant in the new situation. However, the questioner sounds a little hesitant and appears not to have the moral courage to break with the wishes of his family.

Love between the couple at the moment may be very strong, but he must also consider that later on his marriage may affect his integration into the Muslim community. After one or two years when the initial attraction has worn off, will he still be able to protect his wife and children in the face of a hostile environment?

Once there is love. This is what is important from the Islamic point of view. But it is also a question with wider implications, which should not be overlooked. All eventualities should be discussed and carefully thought out.

Marriage away from home

Q). My friend and I are planning to get married. There is trouble between our two countries, which makes it difficult for us to travel to my home country for marriage. Is it possible for us to get married here in the Kingdom without the presence of my father?

S.A. Abdullah, Riyadh

A). You do not have to travel to another place in order to get married if any circumstances make such a travel inconvenient. In this day and age when communications are so easy, it is not difficult to make sure of meeting any formality that a legal arrangement requires. However, the best arrangement for your marriage is the presence of your father when the marriage contract is made. If there is no difficulty to prevent his travel, then you may invite him to come over for a visit or an Umrah when you also arrange for your marriage contract to be made. If that is difficult, then he may appoint someone here in the Kingdom to act as your guardian for the purpose of making your marriage contract. But if there is difficulty in doing that, such as your father being incapable of undertaking normal tasks, or your having no real guardian, and there is no relative here who may act in such a capacity, then someone of good standing in the community may be appointed as your guardian. The guardian, whoever he is, should make sure that the marriage is a suitable one and that there is no impediment to it from any angle, particularly the Islamic legal angle. He then may proceed to do the contract with your consent.

Articles Muslim Matrimonials and More