Allah ﷻ 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 in kindness.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:228) Therefore, tolerance and kindness are required to create a prosperous life and help build a strong family.
The Wife’s Rights
- Maintenance and Residence
A Muslim man is duty-bound to support his wife and children in kindness.
- 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.”(Soorat 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 ﷺ said, “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.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 4776; Saheeh 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.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 56; Saheeh 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 ﷺ said, “A man who neglects those who are under his care would surely be committing a sin.” (Sunan Abu Daawood: 1692)
- Living with Them in Kindness
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.” (Soorat An-Nisaa’, 4:19)
The Prophet ﷺ 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)
- Patience and Tolerance
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.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:237) The Prophet ﷺ 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.” (Saheeh Muslim: 1469)
The Prophet ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 3153; Saheeh Muslim: 1468)
- Spending the Night with the Wife
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.
- Defending Her, Representing His Honour
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 ﷺ said, “Whoever is killed defending his wife is a martyr.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 1421; Sunan Abu Daawood: 4772)
- Not Revealing Bedroom Secrets
The husband must not talk to others about his wife’s particularities and bedroom secrets to other people. The Prophet ﷺ 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.” (Saheeh Muslim: 1437)
- Not Engaging in Aggressive or Hostile Actions against her
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’ishah ~ narrated, “Allah’s Messenger ﷺ never hit anything with his hand ever, except when fighting in the path of Allah. Nor did he ever hit a servant or a woman.” (Saheeh Muslim: 2328)
- Teaching and Advising Her
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.” (Soorat At-Tahreem, 66:6) The Prophet ﷺ also said in this regard, “Every one of you is a guardian and is responsible for those in his custody.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 2416; Saheeh Muslim: 1829)
- Honouring the Conditions Stipulated by the Wife
The husband must honour the marriage contract and fulfil the conditions stipulated in it.
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 ﷺ 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.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 4856; Saheeh Muslim: 1418)
The Husband’s Rights
- Obedience in Kindness
Allah ﷻ has placed men in charge of women, being responsible for their maintenance, guidance and general care, due to the characteristics with which He has endowed them, in addition to the money they spend to support them. As the Qur’an states, “Men have charge of women because Allah has preferred the one above the other and because they spend their wealth on them.” (Soorat An-Nisaa’, 4:34)
- Attentiveness to His Sexual Needs
A Muslim woman must be attentive to her husband’s sexual needs and is recommended to beautify herself for him. If she refuses to respond to his legitimate sexual advances, she would be committing a monstrous sin, unless there is a legitimate excuse, such as being on her menses, making up an obligatory fast she has previously missed or being sick.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “If a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses, and then he spends the night angry with her, the angels will continue to curse her until the mofning.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 3065; Saheeh Muslim: 1436).
- Not Allowing Anyone He Does not Like in His House
This is his right which she must respect. The Prophet ﷺ said, “It is not lawful for a woman to observe a voluntary fast without the permission of her husband, nor is it lawful for her to allow anyone to enter his house without his permission.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 4899)
- Not Leaving the House without His Permission
One of the husband’s rights is that she is not allowed to leave the house without his permission, whether she wants to go out for a personal or general need.
A woman is recommended to serve her husband in kindness by preparing meals for him and undertaking other household chores.