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Allah has deemed marriage a sacred union in Islam. He made it a blessed relationship of divinely prescribed mutual rights and responsibilities. Thus, Allah SWT created men and women with natures that complement each other, describing spouses as each others’ garments in Surah Al-Baqarah. A wife’s rights in Islam are indeed emphasized upon in the Quran and Sunnah.
A subtle indication to demonstrate that, like garments cover the body, so should a husband and wife cover and embrace each other’s flaws. Thankfully Islam also provides guidelines for choosing a spouse, which in all likelihood contributes to a successful marriage when adhered to. Certainly, we find righteousness on top of the list of credentials to look out for.
As in all human relationships, both the husband and wife have been awarded rights and assigned duties. For starters, the wife is a homemaker, and the husband is the head of the family and breadwinner. Their respective roles are in perfect harmony with their physical, mental, and emotional characteristics.
It should be mentioned that in 7th century Arabia where these roles were initially awarded, women were treated like cattle. This was before the advent of Islam when women could be bought and sold. Women couldn’t inherit, and baby girls were buried alive at birth, until Islam came along and swept them off their feet.
Allah carefully defined and elevated the status of women in every capacity. Serving a mother became the means for a child’s entry into Paradise. Raising daughters well, rendered a father worthy of Paradise. Showing kindness to his wife became the true measure of a husband’s lofty status, as seen in a hadith in Sunan At-Tirmidhi. Such is the beauty and truth of Islam. Herein, we seek to review a wife’s rights in Islam and her duties.
Prophetic advice regarding a wife’s rights in Islam
In a Sahih Muslim hadith, we find that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said in his ‘Farewell Sermon’ to fear Allah regarding women. He said that Allah has made intercourse with them lawful and also given men rights over them, such as showing faithfulness. Allah has permitted men to punish their wives if they transgress, but without severity. A wife’s rights in Islam are to be fed and clothed sufficiently by their husbands.
The wife’s right in Islam upon her husband
Islam awards a wife rights from the moment her marriage contract is drawn up. They are as follows:
- It is important to realize that there can be no marriage without the woman’s consent
- Islam obligates the husband to pay the ‘mahr’ (dowry). Allah mentioned this in Surah An-Nisa
- The husband is, of course, obliged to spend on her food, shelter, and clothing according to his means (maintenance), as stated in Surah At-Talaq
- The wife has a right to her own money and property which her husband cannot lay a claim to without her consent
- A husband is duty-bound to fulfill his wife’s sexual needs
- If there are co-wives, he should uphold their fair treatment
- He must live with his wife honorably and be her guardian
- As we learn in Surah An-Nisa, he should humor, praise, and be kind to his wife
- It is forbidden for a husband to cause his wife physical harm, which is what the Prophet (PBUH) declared in a hadith in Sunan Ibn Majah.
A wife’s responsibilities to her husband in Islam
It is only natural for a wife’s rights to come with responsibilities.
Some of a husband’s rights on his wife are as listed below:
- A wife must obey her husband in all that doesn’t involve any disobedience to Allah; this is most important
- She must preserve her honor, children, home, and wealth in his absence, as stated in Surah An-Nisa
- A good Muslim wife must indeed serve her husband to the best of her ability in terms of cooking, cleaning, washing his clothes, etc.
- She must keep his secrets and not divulge details of their sexual intimacies
- She must beautify herself for him and smell and look nice
- A wife should not spend her husband’s wealth without his permission
- She mustn’t allow anyone to enter his house without his consent
- A point often overlooked is that a good wife will not keep a voluntary fast without taking her husband’s permission
- She should not ask her husband for a divorce without a good reason
- She should not curse, nag, or disrespect her husband
- A Muslim wife should never be ungrateful to her husband, as the Prophet (PBUH) said, as recorded in a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari, that he saw Hell and discovered that most of its dwellers were women, because of their ingratitude to their husbands
- Above all, she must not be unfaithful to him
- She must not refuse him in bed, as the Prophet PBUH said, according to a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari, that the wife who does so, angering her husband, will be cursed by the angels until the morning
- A good Muslim wife treats her husband’s relatives, in particular, honorably
The facts mentioned above make it abundantly clear to readers that marriage is all about mutual love, compromise, and compassion between husband and wife in Islam. In Surah Ar-Rum, we are told that wives were created to be a source of tranquility, and Allah placed love and mercy between husband and wife.