Enough about wives! What makes the ideal Muslim husband?
By B. Aisha Lemu
Reprinted from MissionIslam.com
Much ink has been spilled, and much breath, in defining the role of Muslim women; the rights of Muslim women; the duties of Muslim women, what constitutes an ideal Muslim wife. Maybe because there has so much misunderstanding of the role of women, we seem to give it special emphasis in lectures and books.
However since men and women are interdependent, it is not wise to concentrate on one and remain silent about the other.
The last time I was invited to speak about “The ideal Muslim Wife”, I made a promise that my next assignment would be to prepare a lecture on ” The ideal Muslim Husband”. Many men seem to feel that women, and their wives in particular, should be ideal Muslims, while they themselves and their fellow men behave as they like without reference to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and unchallenged by the Shari’ah.
This paper is therefore intended to redress the balance; to turn the spotlight on to the men, so that they might be aware of the Islamic standard for an ideal husband, as they try to reach that standard as much as they wish their wives to reach the standard of an ideal Muslim wife.
The obvious place to look for these standards of behaviour is in the Qur’an and Hadith.
Let us therefore start at the beginning. How does the ideal husband behave before marriage? After all, a man does not totally change his character with effect from his wedding day. The bride is joining her life with that of another person whose personality and habits have been in some degree already formed. What then should be the behavior towards women by a young man before marriage?
Islam does not accept the view common in the western secular society that before marriage a young man is expected to “sow his wild oats” – whether by frequenting prostitutes or by sleeping around, or having any form of “trial marriage”. For all such activities the Qur’an has prescribed a legal punishment of 100 lashes. [Qur’an 24:2]
The Qur’an moreover says;
“And as for those who are unable to marry, let them live in continence until Allah grants them sufficiently out of his bounty….”
To assist young men in this situation the Prophet (saws) in a Hadith recorded in Bukhari further advised;
“Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at women and preserves your chastity; but those who cannot should fast, for it is a means of cooling passion.”
For those who have the means to get married, how should they go about it? We have mentioned that the modern western practice of having girlfriends and trial marriages is emphatically unlawful for Muslims. Instead it is expected that the family and friends will play a big role in finding out in detail about the character and circumstances of the proposed partner before allowing the feelings of the boy and girl to be aroused has several advantages. Its effect is to cut out a lot of the embarrassment, temptation and heartache which are common in the western system of courtship and intimate relations before marriage.
The boy is expected to share with his parents certain priorities in the type of girl he hopes to marry, and this is mentioned in a Hadith related by Abu Hurairah in which the Prophet (saws) advised:
“A women may be sought for her wealth, her birth, her beauty or he religious character. But do look for the religious women. And if you do it for any other consideration, your hands be rubbed in dirt!” [Bukhari and Muslim]
In other words the key to success in marriage is seen as the moral quality of the partner. The ideal Muslim bridegroom therefore goes into marriage with the responsible attitude of a person establishing a family on the best possible foundation of love and mutual compassion, and not of infatuation over beauty, ambition for wealth or social position. The Qur’an has described the marriage relationship in these terms;
“Among His signs is the fact that he has created spouses from among yourselves, so that you may find tranquillity with them; and he has put love and mercy between you. In that are signs for people who reflect.”
“They (wives) are garments for you, while you are garments for them.”
Having sought his bride in an honourable way, and married her in the manner prescribed by the Prophet- that is with public celebration but the minimum of fuss and ostentation- what are the Muslim husband’s duties?
His first duty is maintenance and protection, and overall responsibility for the welfare of his wife, which is prescribed in the Qur’an:
“Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which Allah has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions….”
This includes feeding, clothing and shelter for the wife and for any children of the marriage. This is a legally enforceable duty, which remains even after divorce until the expiry of the Iddah or even longer in the view of some of the scholars. Financial responsibility for the family therefore rests squarely on the husband, and the wife has no duty to contribute to family expenses unless she has the means and the wish to do so.
The legal obligations of a husband do not stop with provision of the basic requirements relating to maintenance and protection. He is also expected to give her company and marital relations, and to avoid doing anything that would harm her.
These obligations are enforced by the Shari’ah. If a man fails to maintain his wife or fails to visit her for more than a certain period of time, the wife has grounds to be granted a divorce by a Shari’ah Court. Similarly, if she can prove to the court that the husband is doing harm (Idrar), be it by drinking alcohol, or beating her without lawful cause, or abusing her or her parents and so on, she is entitled to be granted a divorce. In none of these cases can the husband claim back any part of the dowry or presents he has given to the wife. I would like to make a note here that every situation has to be evaluated on its merits and circumstances by a Shar’iah Court. These points mentioned above are general precepts in the Shar’iah.
The Husband is however urged in the Qur’an to avoid divorce and try to preserve marriage even if it is not ideal. This is to be done in the first instance by exercising patience with his wife’s faults. The Qur’an say’s;
“Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.”
The Prophet (saws) also emphasised the undesirability of divorce in a Hadith found in Abu Dau’d’s collection:
“The most hateful of all lawful things, in the sight of Allah, is divorce.”
The ideal husband should therefore, if need arises, make full use of Qur’anic provisions for reconciliation and arbitration [Qur’an 4:34] before proceeding with divorce
If a man does divorce his wife, he should follow the steps approved in the Qur’an and Sunnah regarding a revocable divorce. This allows for cooling off and reconciliation before it becomes final on the final pronouncement. The divorce is not to be pronounced while the wife is in menstruation, but when she has finished menstruation and not yet resumed marital relations with the husband. (Qur’an 65:1) In other words divorce is not to be pronounced in anger or at random, but at a specific time when the husband is in control of his reason, and the wife herself is not in the state of emotional upset that sometimes occurs whilst she is pregnant or may accompany menstruation.
The husband is to continue good treatment of his wife even if divorce decided upon. He is to keep and feed her as before in his own house until the expiry of her iddah (waiting period) without harassment, [Qur’an 65:1, 65:6] and to make provision for her according to his means.
He is not to take back any of the gifts he may have given her before or during the marriage:
“The parties should either hold together on equitable terms or separate with kindness. It is not lawful for you (men) to take back any of your gifts from your wives.”
On the contrary, the husband is to give her a gift or some form of maintenance to sustain her after divorce [Qur’an 2:241]. Moreover, he is not to interfere if after divorce she wishes to marry someone else:
“……and when you divorce women and they have reached the end of their waiting term, hinder them not from marrying other men if they have agreed with each other in a fair manner.”
The husband should also know that according to the Shari’ah he is not always the one to have custody of his children after divorce, contrary to the common practice in some countries. It is the wife who is given priority in custody of children in many cases, in accordance with a Hadith related by Amru b. Shu’aib in Ibn Majah, which tells how a woman came to the Prophet (saws) and said:
“Truly my belly served as a container for my son here, and my breast served as a skin bag for him (to drink out of), and my bosom served as a refuge for him; and now his father has divorced me, and he (also) desires to take away from me.” The Prophet (saws) said: “You have a better right to have him as long as you do not marry again.” [Ibn Majah]
We would also like to point out again however, that the decision as to the custody of the children has to be evaluated by a Shar’iah Court, which will consider the particular circumstances surrounding the family and the children’s best welfare.
In the Maliki School of Islamic Jurisprudence, this rule is systematised to give priority in custody of children to the mother and to 5 other relatives before the custody could be claimed by the father. This custody lasts until puberty for a son and until marriage for a daughter, while the financial responsibility for their maintenance remains with their father.
The knowledge of the necessity of separation from his children must certainly act as a reality check when a husband is indiscriminately deciding to divorce.
It should also be realised the husband is required to be faithful in marriage as the wife must. The punishment for adultery of a married person, male or female, under the Shari’ah is death. The fact that the punishment may not be applied in this world, does not make the sin any less in the sight of Allah. A sin that is not expiated in this world is after all going to follow a person to the grave.
Therefore the husband should not fail to follow Allah’s command in the Qur’an:
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity: verily this will be most conductive to their purity (and) verily Allah is aware of all that they do.”
Those married men who cruise around in their cars looking for school girls to pick up are surely disgracing themselves, and forfeiting all right to require chastity of their wives.
If for some reason, the husband cannot manage with his first wife but does not want to divorce her, he is not prohibited from contracting another marriage, provided it is done in a legal and honorable way.
The permission to marry more then one wife at a time is however conditional:
“…….if you fear you cannot do justice between them, then marry only one.” [Qur’an 4:3]
This condition is often taken very lightly in some countries, where polygamy has long been a social custom. No words in the Qur’an, however, are without meaning, this verse should not be taken lightly. A weak husband will not be respected and will not act fairly between his wives, whereby, his marrying more then one is likely to lead to injustice, constant disharmony and the break up of his family. This is not in his interests or theirs or in the interests of the Muslim Ummah.
If having married more then one, however, a husband finds his heart inclining to one at the expense of the other, he is warned that this inclination should not reach the stage of neglect of the needs of the other wife:
“And you will not be able to treat your wives with equal justice however much you desire it. But do not incline towards one to the exclusion of the other, leaving her as it were in suspense.”
This warning against injustice is strongly reinforced by the Hadith in which Abu Hurairah (raa) reported the Prophet (saws) as saying:
“Whoever has two wives and does not treat them equally, shall come on the day of resurrection with half his body hanging down.” [Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah]
We have so far examined the legal framework of marriage and divorce as outlined mainly in the Qur’an. This now needs to be filled in with illustration and elaboration drawn from the Sunnah, since the Qur’an tells us :
“You have in the apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern of conduct for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the last day.”
How did the Prophet (saws) then, behave as a husband? Obviously he observed the legal framework, but how did he behave in his day-to-day relationships with his wives?
A lot of information is to be gathered about this from the Hadith, both directly and indirectly, and also from the Sirah (the biography of the Prophet (saws)).
His guiding principle on the treatment of wives is stated in some well known Ahadith;
“From among the believers are those who have the kindest disposition and are the kindest to their families- such are those who show the most perfect faith. “The best among them are those who are kindest to their wives.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
How did the Prophet (saws) himself exemplify this kindness?
Firstly he was not a difficult or remote or tyrannical husband of the type who regards all household chores as “women’s work”. In a Hadith in Bukhari:
Aisha (raa) was asked by Al-Aswad b. Yazid what the Prophet used to do in the house. She replied: “He used to work for his family, that is serve his family, and when prayer time came, he went out for prayer.” [Bukhari]
Other Hadith tell us that he used to mend his own clothes.
Secondly he didn’t make a fuss about food. It is recorded in a Hadith from Abu Hurairah (raa) in the collection of Muslim:
“Allah’s Messenger never found fault with food. If he liked something, he ate it, and if he disliked it, he just abstained from it.” [Muslim]
Implying that he never complained about the food or it’s cooking.
Aisha (raa) reported that whenever she was sick, the Prophet (saws) would come to her to show his sympathy. Nor, was he ashamed to let it be known that his love for his wife was greater then his love for any other human being. It is recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim that someone asked the Prophet: “Who among all the people is most beloved by you?” And he said “Aisha”.
This love and understanding for Aisha did not eclipse his high regard for his first wife Khadijah, who had been his only wife for about 25 years until her death. Aisha (raa) reported that he always treasured the memory of Khadijah who had supported and encouraged him through the difficult years in Mecca, and that he use to regularly give gifts to Khadijah’s closest friends as an expression of his undiminished esteem and love for her.
The Prophet (saws) never held himself apart from his wives as if they were by their nature as women inferior. On the Contrary, he included “playing games with one’s wife” as one of the legitimate entertainments. According to the following Hadith:
“…….There is no amusement which is praiseworthy except three, namely training a horse, sporting with one’s wife and shooting arrows with a bow.” [Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah and Baihaqi]
In illustration of this practice, Aisha (raa) records that on more then one occasion she and the Prophet (saws) ran races and sometimes she won and sometimes he won. Most men nowadays consider it far beneath their dignity to play any sort of game with their wives, and their marriages are the duller and poorer for it.
I think this is one of the problems we encounter in the way we learn about the life of the Prophet (saws). Most of the history books dwell on the political and military aspects of the Prophet’s (saws) life, and his personality, which was obviously very attractive, eludes our knowledge. We tend to, for this reason picture him as always serious, while the Hadith informs us that although he rarely laughed aloud, “Nobody used to smile as much as he did.” This is fully in accordance with the Hadith: “Smiling at your brother (Muslim) is a charity.”
The Prophet’s (saws) attitude towards female children and female education is a beautiful elaboration of what is found in the Qur’an. The Qur’an not only forbade the jahiliyyah practice of female infanticide, but even condemned the practice of showing disappointment or anger over the birth of a female child. [Qur’an 16:58-59]
A Hadith related by Ibn Abbas in fact encourages the reverse:
“Whoever has a female child and does not bury her alive, nor hide her in contempt, nor prefers his male child over her, Allah will allow him to enter Paradise.” [Abu Da’ud]
The Prophet (saws) showed the greatest love and affection for his female children, particularly for Fatima. Aisha (raa) related that “Whenever the Prophet (saws) saw Fatima (raa), he would welcome her, and rising from his seat would kiss her, and then taking her by the hand would seat her in his own seat.” [Bukhari]
He decreed that every Muslim – male and female- must as a duty seek knowledge and prescribed education for all children in the following words:
“No present or gift of a parent, out of all the gifts and presents to a child, is superior to a good broad (general) education.” [Tirmidhi and Baihaqi]
He laid special emphasis on the education of daughters:
“Whoever brings up two sisters or two daughters, and gives them a broad education, and treats them well, and gives them in marriage, for him is Paradise.” [Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi]
This concern for the education of girls was reflected in his teaching of Aisha (raa), who was still a young girl when he married her, and was only 18 when he died. She had a natural ability for learning and a strong sense of reasoning, and he taught her as much as she was ready to learn. He was so impressed and pleased with her learning that he even told people:
“You can learn half your religion from this rosy-cheeked girl.”
He therefore encouraged people to consult her in religious matters, and after his death she became one of the major sources of Hadith.
From all this we can see that some people’s resistance to allowing their daughters to have access to knowledge is not only misguided but quite contrary to all the Prophet (saws) preached and practiced. An ideal-Muslim husband is therefore expected to be deeply committed to and involved in the education of all his children – the daughters as much as the son’s.
The Prophet (saws) respect for a wife’s intelligence and understanding was also reflected in his readiness to consult his wives and respond to their good advice. An instance of this practice is recorded on the occasion of the signing of the treaty of Hudaibihiyah. Many of the Muslims were reluctant to accept treaty. They did not want to go home without performing pilgrimage and they considered some parts of the Treaty disadvantageous to the Muslims. They were therefore reluctant to obey his instructions to slaughter their sacrificial camels and shave their heads, which would symbolise that the Pilgrimage was over and the matter closed. The Prophet (saws) withdrew to his tent in perplexity, and told his wife Umm Salamah what had happened. She advised him: “Go out and speak to no man until you have performed your sacrifice.” The Prophet (saws) followed her advice, and slaughtered the camel calling: “Bismillah, Allahu akbar” in a loud voice, whereupon the Muslims forgot their reluctance and raced to make their own sacrifices.
The presence of Umm Salamah on this journey exemplifies another aspect of the Prophet’s (saws) dealings with his wives. One or more of them almost invariably accompanied him on his journeys and campaigns. To ensure fairness they would draw lots as to which wife or wives would accompany him.
His wives were thus not kept locked up so that they could not experience what was going on in the outside world. They wore modest clothes (hijab) and went out and saw everything that was going on, and they participated when necessary, for example in nursing the wounded on the battlefields.
The following Hadith is narrated by Aisha (raa):
“Umar once criticised the Prophet’s wife Saudah for going out, saying he had recognised her in the street. So she appealed to the Prophet (saws) for support and he supported her saying: “Women have the right to go out for their needs.” [Bukhari]
Similarly the Prophet (saws) allowed his wives and other women to go out to the Mosques for their prayers. He also advised other men:
“Do not prevent the female servants of Allah (i.e. from the Mosques).” [Muslim]
The ideal Muslim husband therefore does not impose restrictions on his wife greater then those imposed by Allah (swt), or by the Prophet (saws) on his own family.
All the foregoing indicate that the women who is married to an ideal Muslim husband is protected but not suppressed, and is therefore likely to be happy and contented.
However, the Muslim husband is not expected to please his wife at all cost, if what pleases her may be wrong or against her interests or the interests of the family.
The Qur’an say’s:
“O you who have attained to faith! Ward off from yourselves and your families
that fire (of the hereafter) whose fuel is Human beings and stones.”
In this respect a husband has a duty to ensure that his wife is fully educated as a Muslim. If this has been neglected in her parents’ home, he must take necessary steps to remedy it. Either by teaching her himself or by arranging for her Islamic education by other means. The husband is expected to give leadership in the family. We have seen that this form of leadership is not dictatorship or tyranny. The wise husband will, as indicated, consult his wife on important matters concerning the family, and if he sees her advice is good, accept it. However, Islam has given the man authority as the head of the family, and he is expected to abide by the Qur’an and Sunnah and endeavour to ensure that his family do not violate Islamic norms of behavior. The kind of treatment required should not therefore include condoning her misbehavior.
The Qur’an has prescribed a specific graded series of three steps, which the husband should take if the wife shows that she is rebelling against Islamic norms of conduct.
His first step should be to speak to her seriously about the implication and likely consequences of what she is doing. If she fails to respond to this sincere admonition, his next step is to suspend marital relations with her for a period of time.
The Prophet (saws) himself very much disliked the beating of wives, and never beat any of his own. In Abu Da’ud’s collection of Hadith he is reported by Laqit B. Sabrah to have said:
“Admonish your wife, and if there be any good in her she will receive it; and beat not your wife like a slave.”
In another Hadith from Ayas b. Abdullah he specifically said:-
“Do not beat Allah’s female servants (i.e women).” [Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah]
In Tirmidhi’s collection is another Hadith related by Amru b. al Ahwas:
“And enjoin on one another goodness towards women; verily they are married to you: you have no power over them at all unless they come in for a flagrantly filthy action; but if they are devoted to you, then seek no way against them. And verily, you have rights over your women, and they have rights over you.” [Tirmidhi]
The Muslim husband therefore has no right to beat his wife indiscriminately or habitually for petty offences, and if he does, the wife has a right to seek divorce by a Shari’ah court. Similarly, as we can see, Islam has not authorised men to beat up their wives.
The phenomenon of wife beating is not peculiar to Muslims – it is found in all parts of the world among certain types of men. However, some Muslims unjustly claim that they have religious sanction when they beat their wives, while in most cases they are beating them only because they themselves are brutal by nature, or just in a bad temper.
Bad temper is to be controlled, not vented on the weaker sex. The Prophet (saws) referred to this in another Hadith when he said:
“He is not strong who throws people down, but he is strong among us who controls himself when he is angry.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Aisha observed this self-control in the Prophet (saws) behavior:
The Prophet (saws) never beat any of his wives or servants; in fact he did not strike anything with his hand except in the cause of Allah, or when the prohibitions of Allah were violated, and he retaliated on behalf of Allah.
The ideal Muslim husband therefore strives to emulate the Prophet’s (saws) practice by avoiding beating completely and discouraging it from others. It is not at all becoming for a Muslim to be a wife-beater in defiance of the Prophet’s (saws) explicit dislike of the practice.
This brings us to another interesting aspect of the Prophet’s (saws) relationship with his wives.
He apparently allowed his wives to do what is called “answering back” to men who think that women, like children, should be seen and not heard. There are several recorded instances of the Prophet’s (saws) companions remonstrating with him or with his wives about this practice. Nevertheless he chose to allow his wives to speak their minds.
An incident related in Ibn Ishaq’s sirat Rasul Allah (An early biography of the Prophet) makes an interesting reading:
One day Umar rebuked his wife for something and she sharply answered him back: and when he expostulated with her she replied that the wives of the Prophet (saws) were in the habit of answering him back so why should she not do the same? “And there is one of them,” she added, meaning their daughter (Hafsah), “Who speaks her mind unabashed from morning until night.”
Greatly troubled by this, Umar went to Hafsah, who did not deny that what her mother said was true. “You have neither the grace of Aisha nor the beauty of Zainab,” he said, hoping to shake her self confidence; and when these words seemed to have no effect, he added: “Are you so sure that if you anger the Prophet (saws), Allah will not destroy you in his anger?” Then he went to his cousin Umm Salamah (another wife of the Prophet) and said: “Is it true that you speak your minds to Allah’s messenger (saws) and answer him with no respect?”
“By all that is wonderful,”said Umm Salamah, “What call have you to come between Allah’s messenger (saws) and his wives? Yes, by God, we speak our minds, and if he allows us to do so that is his affair, and if he forbids us he will find us more obedient to him then we are to you.” Umar then realised he had gone too far and withdrew.
In this anecdote we can clearly hear the voices of women who respect their husband not because they are afraid of him or out of hypocrisy, but out of genuine admiration and love. The fact that he allowed them to speak their minds shows that the Prophet (saws) never regarded women as slaves or second-class citizens but as human beings to whom Allah (swt) has given reason and the ability to distinguish right from wrong as he has given them to men.
Aisha went further in a Hadith to say that when the Prophet (saws) told her something she would question him closely about it so that she could understand its justification before she was satisfied. The Prophet (saws) did not tell her she had no right to cross question him because he was a Prophet and a man, while she was only a young woman. It appears on the contrary that he appreciated her critical faculty and clear thinking.
*Retold in Muhammad- his Life based on the Earliest Source by Lings (Islamic Texts Society/George Allen & Unwin 1983)
From this we can see that the Prophet (saws) had such calm inner certainty and natural leadership qualities that he did not need to assert himself over his wives, or be on the defensive against them. Those men who behave like tyrants in the home, who assert their rule in an arbitrary or violent manner, are usually the weak ones who actually suffer from hidden inferiority complexes and are afraid of being shown up as mentally or morally inferior to their wives. To forestall this they physically frighten their wives, who are then afraid to open their mouths in their husband’s presence, let alone to disagree with him.
Another incident illustrates how the Prophet (saws) asserted his leadership of his family without harsh words or violence. This is revealed in the way he treated his wives when they became too demanding of the comforts of this world. Aisha (raa) related that before the capture of the oasis of Khaybar she had not known what it was to eat her fill of dates. The Prophet’s wives, fully aware of the general poverty of the Muslims in Medina, asked only for their basic needs. After the capture of Khaybar with it’s rich agricultural produce, the Muslims were better off, and the Prophet (saws) was able to give his wives some presents, and they were not slow in learning to ask for more comforts. This led to problems because in fairness, what was given to one should be given to all, and this could not always be exactly fulfilled. There developed considerable resentment among some of his wives, which disrupted the peace of the household. When his advice to them was not heeded he followed the next Qur’anic step and withdrew himself from them all and stayed in a roofed verandah that was the only room he had apart from his wives’ apartments.
Rumor soon spread that the Prophet (saws) had divorced his wives, and the wives, in suspense, regretted bitterly their demands on him. He then let it be known through Umar that he had not divorced them but that he did not wish to see any of them until a full lunar month had elapsed.
At the end of the month he asked his wives one by one to make their own choice in accordance with the newly revealed verses of the Qur’an:
“O Prophet, say to your wives: If you desire but the life of this world and it’s charms, then come and I will bestow it’s goods upon you, I will release you with a fair release. But if you desire Allah and his messenger and the abode of the hereafter, then verily Allah has laid in store for you a mighty reward, for such of you as do good.”
Aisha replied without hesitation: “Verily, I desire Allah and his Messenger and the abode of the hereafter” and there was not one of his wives who did not choose the same. These events are related in a number of Hadith books, including Bukhari and Muslim.
Here we see a husband who in spite of his love and sympathy for his wives, would not be carried away to commit injustice between them, not put himself into difficulties or wrong -doing in order to satisfy their desires beyond what was necessary. He was not ready for the role of the “hen-pecked husband.” His firmness in the matter quickly made his wives see it in its proper perspective, and peace was restored to the household without recourse to divorce or even harsh word.
It is incidents like these that make it quite clear why the Prophet (saws) is held up a beautiful example to the Muslims in every aspect of his life.
There are of course numerous other facets of his personality and behavior, which contributed to making him an ideal husband.
He was of course clean and pure both in his thoughts and person, and very generous in accordance with his own saying:
“Verily Allah is pure and loves the pure, is clean and loves the clean, is beneficent and loves the beneficent, is generous and loves the generous.” [Tirmidhi]
Another very important characteristic was his love of children. Love of her own children is almost automatic to a mother and with that love goes a care and concern for their children in any matter with the same degree of love, and consider the children to be “women’s affair”. In our own society today this is a common phenomenon where it is the mother who often plays the major role in ensuring that the children are clothed and cared for, that their school fees are paid, that they learn good behavior and so on. While it is good that the mother shows this love and concern, it is not approved for father to abandon his own moral and financial responsibilities and ignore the proper education and upbringing of his own children.
We have mentioned the Prophet’s (saws) own role in the upbringing of his own daughters (it was only the daughters that survived to maturity) and on his emphasis on education for both sexes. There are also numerous Hadith indicating his love for children and his practice of showing his love for them.
For example in a Hadith from Abu Hurairah (raa) it is related as follows:
“The Prophet of Allah kissed his grandson Hassan the son of Ali in the presence of Agra’ B. Habis, whereupon Agra’ said: “Verily, I have children and yet I have not kissed any of them.” The Prophet looked towards him and said: ‘What can I do for you if Allah has taken away mercy from your heart. He that shows no mercy shall have no mercy shown to him.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
The Muslim family is therefore ideally a very united family. Mutual understanding between husband and wife lies at the root of it. The Islamic upbringing of children is one of its most important functions. For it to succeed as the basic unit of the Muslim Ummah, both husband and wife need to know their duties and to practice self-control in trying to abide by the Islamic code of conduct within the family.
I wish to draw this paper to a close by approaching the subject briefly from a different angle. We have so far looked at the duties of the Muslim husband as spelled out in the Qur’an and seen how these points were expanded and added to in the Sunnah. We have also taken recorded incidents in the life of the Prophet (saws) as an illustration of an ideal Muslim husband in action.
Lastly, I approached the question “What is an ideal Muslim husband” by asking Muslim women to tell me what they thought.
To this end a questionnaire was passed to a random group of Muslim women, who informed me what they considered the most desirable qualities for an ideal Muslim husband to be.
To this end, a random group of 35 Muslim women living locally, mainly married ones were selected.
The five most important qualities scored 2 points each and the five next most important qualities scored 1 point each. The result is shown below:
Women’s Order of Priority in the Desirable Qualities of an Ideal Muslim Husband
- 1st. A Pious Muslim 49
- 2nd. Truthfulness and honesty 47
- 3rd A good leader 40
- 4th Justice and fairness 38
- 5th Love of children 37
- 6th Kindness and consideration 31
- 7th Readiness to consult his wife 30
- 8th Good manners 29
- 9th Chastity and good morals 26
- 10th Trustworthiness and reliability 25
- 11th Avoids quarreling and beating 22
- 12th Clean habits 20
- 13th Strength of mind and will 19
- 14th Gentleness 17
- 15th Generosity 14
- 16th A loving nature 16
- 17th Ability to be contented with one wife 15
- 18th Sense of humour 13
- 19th Reasonableness 11
- 20th Firmness 9
- 21st Intelligence 8
- 22nd Seriousness 7
- 23rd Good looks 6
- 24th Physical strength 4
- 25th Wealth 1
This list of qualities is not of course comprehensive, and there are a few important omissions. However, it raises many interesting points for our brothers to consider in their endeavor to qualify as a potential or actual ideal Muslim husband.
Those who feared that by adhering to Islamic piety and moral standards they would frighten women away will see that they are actually at the top of the league.
This information also confirms the natural order of things referred to and upheld in the Qur’an, in that women do apparently want their men folk to lead and not be led. Leadership has to be deserved and qualified by all the other qualities mentioned in the upper part of the list, such as piety, truthfulness, fairness, kindness, consultation, good manners, good morals and so on.
It is interesting to go over in one’s mind the qualities of the Prophet (saws) mentioned in the earlier part of this paper and match them with this list to see how far the Prophet’s (saws) behavior to his wives demonstrates perfectly those qualities to which women give priority.
Therefore any man who wants to make a success of his marriage cannot go wrong if he takes as his model and example the practice of the blessed Prophet (saws).
For our brothers I pray for Allah to give them the faith and moral strength to attain those great qualities and thereby make a success of their marriages.
For our sisters I pray for Allah’s guidance to make each of us worthy of being the ideal wife of an ideal Muslim husband.