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Question

What are the wife's rights and responsibilities toward her husband, and what are the husband's rights and responsibilities toward his wife?

Answered by

Sheikh Nizâr al-Shu`aybî
The rights in marriage fall into 3 categories:
1- Mutual rights between the two spouses.
2- Husband’s rights.
3- Wife’s rights.
These rights translate into the following duties that the husband and wife owe to each other:

Duties that are mutual:

First Duty: To forgive each other’s small mistakes.

Second Duty: To provide emotional support in both happiness and sadness

Third Duty: To offer each other wholesome advice concerning obedience to Allah.

(These 3 duties are implied in Allah’s statement: “Live with them in kindness.”)

Fourth Duty: To keep each other’s secrets. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “The people of the worst stature with Allah on the Day of Judgment are men who confide in their wives, and wives who confide in their husbands, and then they spread each other’s secrets around.” [Sahîh Muslim]

Fifth Duty: To pass the night with one another. Women must tend to their husband’s needs even if they don’t feel that need themselves. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If a man invites his wife to his bed and she refuses, and as a consequence he goes to sleep angry, then the angels curse her until she rises.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî].

This is a mutual duty. Regarding men, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to his ascetic Companion Abû al-Dardâ’: “O Abâ al-Dardâ, you have a duty to your body, and to your Lord, and to your guest, and to your wife. Fast and break your fasts, pray, and be intimate with your wife. Give everyone their due right.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]

Sixth Duty: To adorn themselves in a reasonable manner. This is implied in the verse: “Be intimate with them in kindness.” And “They have as what is asked of them in kindness.”

The husband’s duties to his wife are as follows:

First Duty: To financially support his wife. This is a financial right, and includes: food, drink, clothing, and other basic needs.

Allah says: “Someone who is well off should spend from his fortune, and whoever is poor should spend from what Allah gives him.”

Islamic Law does not define this expenditure monetarily, but left it to the customary practices of society.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Fear Allah when it comes to women, for they are helpers you took in faithfulness to Allah. You also find it permissible to enjoy their femininity lawfully with Allah’s word. You owe it to them to spend money on them for their food and clothes in kindness.” [Sahîh Muslim]

The expenditure should be within the means of the husband. He should not be asked to spend what he cannot afford.

Second Duty: To provide appropriate housing within the means of the husband. The wife has a right to her own home wherein she can feel comfortable. Allah says, regarding a newly divorced woman: “House them as you house yourselves as is available.” If this is for the divorced woman, then the wife who is under the marriage contract is worthier.

Third Duty: Assisting them in their quest for salvation by teaching them their religion and reprimanding them for disobeying Allah.

Allah says: “O believers! Protect yourselves and your families from a Fire which is fuelled by men and stones.”

Fourth Duty: To pay a dower. This is a right which precedes the contract. It is a symbol of honoring the woman and it is not permissible to neglect it until after the contract.

The wife’s duties to her husband are as follows:

First Duty: Obedience. A wife should be as obedient as she can to her husband. This preserves the family and protects it from collapsing. This is part of Islam’s organizing of the family structure. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked: ‘Which women are the best?’ he answered: “The one who pleases him when he looks at her, obeys him when he asks something of her, and is not disobedient in herself or her money in what he hates.” [Musnad Ahmad]

One should note that a wife’s obedience to her husband falls into one of four categories:
1- To ask her to do something this is commanded by Islam, such as the five prayers. Here the wife must obey her husband, and she would be considered sinful from two perspectives if she fails to obey.

2- To ask her to do something which is beneficial to him, or to refrain from doing something which is harmful to him, such as things which have to do with his food or clothes. She should obey him here unless there is a valid excuse not to.

3- To ask her to do something which falls into her personal affairs, such as asking her to give him money or forbidding her from speaking to a friend for no good reason. Here she can obey him if she wants but she does not have to. She should consider the benefit and harm of such obedience.

4- To order her to disobey Allah’s commands, and here she must disobey her husband.
Second duty: Not to leave the house unless the husband permits it. She should also never sleep outside the house unless she has permission.

Third duty: To refrain from fasting voluntarily unless she has permission. Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “It is not permissible for a woman to fast while her husband is present unless he permits it, nor is it permissible for her to allow anyone into the house unless he permits it.”

Fourth duty: Not to let anyone into the house unless he permits it. This is also derived from the above-mentioned hadîth.

Fifth duty: To guard his property. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best women who have ridden camels are those of Quraysh. They are the most tender to a young child and guard what their husbands own.” [Sahîh al-Bukharî]

Sixth duty: To serve and run the house in a reasonable fashion. This does not mean physical work on the part of the woman if a woman of her standing does not generally engage in physical work. It also does not mean physical work if her health does not permit it.