Chapter 8 (...Continued)

Rights of the Wife Over the Husband

Dowry (Mahr)

This right of the wife has been discussed in some detail.  Allah said in the Qur'an:

{Wa aatoo an-nisaa'a saduqaatihinna nihlatan.  Fa in tibna lakum 'an shai'in minhu nafsan fa kuloohu hanee'an maree'an.}
{And give women their dowries as a gift.  Then, if they are pleased to give some of it to you, consume it with good health and enjoyment.}  An-Nisaa:4

The payment of the dowry to the wife is an obligation and a debt upon the husband until he pays it and there is no escaping it unless the wife freely and willingly gives up her right to it.  In the past, and in many cases today, the father tries to take the mahr away from his daughter.  In the jahiliya, this was justified by saying that the father was merely recouping all the expenses he put forth for his daughter who is now a member of another family and benefits them.

Nowadays, it occurs often in this country that the husband tries to take back the dowry (if it is even paid in the first place) or make use of it in forms of spending which were obligatory upon HIM in the first place.  This is a lowly practice and is completely forbidden unless she explicitly allows it without any coercion or pressure.  Otherwise, it is HER property and she may dispose of it (or not) as she alone sees fit.

Support (Nafaqah)

Allah says:

{...Wa 'alaa al-mauloodi lahu rizquhunna wa kiswatuhunna bi al-ma'roofi laa tukallafu nafsun illa wus'ahaa...}
{...And upon the father is the mother's sustenance and her clothing according to what is reasonable.  No person shall have a burden on him greater than he can bear...}  Al-Baqara:233

Her support is one of the most important rights of the wife over her husband.  Ibn Katheer commented that the above verse implies that he must provide for her without extravagance nor the opposite, according to his ability and the standards set by his society at his time.  When the Prophet (sas) was asked by a man, "What is the right of our wives upon us?", he (sas) answered:

"An yut'imahaa idha ta'ima wa an yaksoohaa idhaa iktasaa wa laa yadhribi al-wajhi wa laa yuqabbih wa laa yahjur illa fiy al-baiti."
"That he should feed her whenever he eats and cloth her whenever he clothes himself, that he not hit her face, that he not call her ugly and that he not boycott her except within the house."  Ibn Majah

A woman is even allowed to take from her husband's property without his knowledge if he falls below this basic level of supporting her.  In a hadith recorded in Muslim and Bukhari, the Prophet (sas) told Hind bint Utbah, after she complained that her husband, Abu Sufyan, was stingy and was not maintaining her and she asked if she could take from his property without his knowledge:

"Khudhiy maa yakfeeka wa waladaki bi al-ma'roofi"
"Take was is sufficient for you and your child according to what is customary."  Muslim & Bukhari

Support of one's wife is one of the most important obligations of the husband.  It is one of the distinguishing aspects of "husbandhood".  Allah said in the Qur'an:

{Ar-rijaalu qawwaamoona 'alaa an-nisaa'i bimaa fadh-dhala Allahu ba'dhahum 'alaa ba'dhin wa bimaa anfaqoo min amwaalihim...}
{Men are in charge of women because of what Allah has given to some more than others and because they support them from their property.}  An-Nisaa:34

If a husband does not support his wife, she has no obligation to fulfill her obligations to him.  If a woman goes to a judge and shows that her husband will not support her, the judge may immediately separate them according to numerous scholars. 

The verse makes clear that the man being "in charge" goes back to the two causes mentioned.  This means two things: 

1) both men and women need to be aware of this right and this obligation and that the woman is under no obligation to stay in the marriage if she is not supported - regardless of his wealth and hers and

2) Muslim society must be organized in such a way that Muslim men are able to get the means to support a wife. 

This second point is critical.  If society reaches a state where women are more able to earn a living than men, this will undermine the "in charge" status of many men in their households.  It wil in fact undermine the Islamic household altogether.  This is what is happening in virtually every Muslim land today with U.N. and other organizations giving primary attention to helping women to be economically viable and independent even when a large percentage of the men still cannot find the means to support a family.  (It is the same destruction they inflicted on families in the U.S. in the 50's 60's with the welfare system.)  The corrupting influence this will have on society as a whole cannot even begin to be described. 

Women are absolutely ALLOWED in Islam to pursue business ventures (the Prophet's first wife Khadija was a major business woman in Makka), employment and other means of earning money.  They are, in fact, needed in various sectors such as women doctors and women teachers.  However, facilitating the ability of men to earn a living and support a family is the FIRST priority in an Islamic society.  All economic planning and social/economic programs must be in line with this principal.

Kind and Proper Treatment

Allah says:

{...Wa 'aashiroohunna bi al-ma'roofi fa in karihtumoohunna ta 'asaa an takrahoo shai'an wa yaj'ala Allahu feehi khairan katheeran.}
{...And consort with your wives in a goodly manner for, if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something  which Allah makes a source of abundant good.} An-Nisaa:19

Commenting on this verse, Ibn Katheer wrote:

"That is, have kind speech for them, deal with them with kind deeds and in a beautiful manner to the best of your ability.  In the way that you love that from them, behave in that way towards them.  As Allah has said, "They have rights similar to those upon them according to what is right" (Al-Baqarah:228).  The Messenger of Allah (sas) said: "The best of you is the best of you to his wives and I am the best of you to my wife."  It was from his behavior that he would treat them in a beautiful fashion, with a smiling face.  He would sport with his wives, be gentle with them and spend generously upon them.  He would laugh with his wives and he even raced Aisha... Every night, he would gather his wives together in the house of the one with whom he (sas) was going to spend the night and eat dinner with them on occasion... After he prayed the night prayer, he would enter his house and talk to his wife a little bit before sleeping, making them comforted thereby.  And Allah has said: {You have in the Messenger of Allah the best example.}"

Part of the problem is Muslims buying into the fantasy world being propagated in television, movies and other media.  The hadith about the rib makes it clear that it is rare to find a "perfect wife" and in the same manner, no woman should expect to find the "perfect husband".  If one is living in some fantasy world, they are apt to be greatly disappointed with real life.

Physical Relations

In Sahih Ibn Hibban, the following was narrated:

"The wife of 'Uthman ibn Madh'oon complained to the Messenger of Allah (sas) that her husband had no need for women.  During the days he would fast and at night he would pray.  The Prophet (sas) asked him: "Am I not the best example for you to follow?"  He answered: "Certainly, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you."  The Prophet (sas) then told him:  "As for you, you pray during the night and you fast during the day.  Certainly, your wife has a right upon you and your body has a right upon you so pray and sleep and fast and break your fast."

There are several similar incidents narrated where Companions of the Prophet (sas) gave similar decisions in similar situations.  In one story which took place in the presence of Umar, the Companion who was judging told the husband that since Allah had given him the right to four wives and he had only one that he could practice his praying and fasting three out of four nights, but that at least one in four had to be reserved for his wife.

Not to be Beaten

It is the right of the Muslim wife that she is not to be struck except in the case of nushooz (rebellion against the husband's authority).  Even in that case, the husband is only allowed to "strike" her, but in a way which does no harm, similar to the proper disciplining of a child.  It is never lawful for him to strike her face or cause her any bruise or injury.  Allah says in the Qur'an:

{...Wa allaatiy takhaafoona nushoozahunna fa'idhoohunna wahjuroohunna fiy al-madhaaji'i wadhriboohunna fa in ata'nakum falaa tabghoo 'alaihinna sabeelan inna Allaha kaana 'aliyyan kabeeran.}
{...And (as for) those (women) from whom you anticipate rebellion, admonish them, avoid them in the sleeping place and hit them.  If they obey you, do not desire and further way to (harm) them.  Surely, Allah is Knowing, Great.}  An-Nisaa:34

 It is incomprehensible how so many translators have translated the word "wadhriboohunna" in the above verse as "beat them" or, even more laughable:  "beat them [lightly]".  This is wrong, wrong, wrong.  It is an abomination which has caused much misunderstanding and opened the door to the enemies of Islam.  The word in Arabic means to "strike" or "hit".  It inludes everything from a tap with a tooth-stick to what in English we call beating.  If it is stated that so-and-so "hit" so-and-so without further description, it would be assumed to be a single blow and it could be of any magnitude. 

When the Prophet (sas) took a tiny stick and tapped one of the Muslims on the stomach to straighten the ranks in preparation for war, he "hit" him with this meaning.  Contrast this to the English phrase:  "beat them".  The meaning is totally different.  If you took a shoe lace and hit someone on the hand with it, you could properly say dharabtahu in Arabic but in English you could never say that you had "beaten" that person.  Please get this straight and correct anyone you hear distorting the meaning of this verse in this way.

The verse mentions admonition, boycotting and hitting in the case of nushooz.  This refers to a rebellion against the husband's authority within the marriage which amounts to a breach of the marriage contract on her part.  Ibn Taimia said about this:

"Nushooz in the verse: {...And (as for) those (women) from whom you anticipate rebellion (nushooz)...} means that she is recalcritrant to her husband and she is estranged to him inasmuch as she does not obey him when he calls her to bed, or she leaves the house without his permission and other similar things in which she is required to obey him."

Many scholars have stated that the three steps must be taken sequentially, i.e, admonition then separation in sleeping and finally hitting, making hitting a last resort only in extreme situations.  Thus the vast majority of whan men do to their wives in spontaneous fits of rage often over trivial issues is absolutely haraam and not sanctioned by Islam in any way.  An-Nawawi said about his:

"At the first indication of disobedience to marital authority, a wife should be exhorted by her husband without his immediately breaking off relations with her.  When she manifests her disobedience by an act which, although isolated, leaves no doubt to her intentions, he should repeat his exhortations and confine her to the house but without striking her... Only when there are repeated acts of disobedience may a husband strike his wife."

As we said, this can NEVER be a "beating".  A husband is never allowed to strike his wife in any way which causes injury or leaves any kind of mark.  The Prophet (sas) said:

"Fattaqoo Allaha fiy an-nisaa'i fa innakum akhadhtumoohunna bi amaani Allahi wa istahlaltum furoojahunna bi kalimati Allahi wa lakum 'alaihinna an laa yooti'na furushakum ahadan takrahoonahu fa in fa'alna dhaalika fadhriboohunna dharban ghaira mubarrihin wa lahunna 'alaikum rizquhunna wa kiswatuhunna bi al-ma'roofi."
"So beware of Allah regarding women for you have taken them as a trust from Allah and you have made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah.  You have the right over them that they should not allow anyone on your furnishings who you dislike.  If they do that, hit them in a way which causes no injury.  And, they have the right over you to provision and clothing according to custom." Bukhari & Muslim

Privacy

It is actually the right of both spouses that the other not discuss their private moments with anyone else.  Note the following sahih hadith:

"Is there any man among you who goes to his wife, closes the door behind them, covers themselves and conceal themselves by Allah's concealing?"  They said: "Yes."  He then said: "Then he sits after that [with others] and says, 'I did this and that.'"  They were silent.  He then turned to the women and said: "Do any of you talk about such things?"  They, too, were silent.  Then a young girl stood up on her toes so the Prophet (sas) could see her and hear her and she said: "O Messenger of Allah they [the men] certainly talk about that and they [the women] also talk about it."  He (sas) said:  "Do you know what they are like?  They are like a female devil who met a male devil in the street and they satisfied their desires with the people looking on."  Abu Daud (sahih)

Justice

If a man has more than one wife, he is required to do justice between them in terms of physical things (housing, clothing, food, etc.) and nights spent with each.  Allah said:

{Wa lan tastatee'oo an ta'diloo baina an-nisaa'i wa lau harastum.  Fa laa tameeloo kulla al-maili fa tadhharuhaa ka al-mu'allaqati.  Wa in tuslihoo wa tattaqoo ta inna Allaha kaana ghafooran raheeman.}
{And you will not be able to effect justice between the women no matter how hard you try.  So do not incline [toward some] completely such that you leave [another] as if suspended.  And if you reform and fear Allah, surely Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.}  An-Nisaa:129

The Prophet (sas) indicated that there are forms of justice which are required just as there are forms of justice which are beyond human ability.  Those which are required are money, housing, cloting and the like as well as nights spent with her.  Those beyond human ability are feelings of the heart and things like that.  He  (sas) said:

"Allahumma hadhaa qismiy feemaa amliku falaa talumniy feemaa tamliku wa laa amliku."
"O Allah, this is my division in what I control, so do not blame me regarding that which You control and I do not."  Abu Daud (some graded it weak, others graded it hassan).

Also, the Prophet (sas) warned of the dangers of not fulfilling justice where it is required between wives, saying:

"Man kana lahu imra'taan fa maala ilaa ihdaahumaa jaa'a yauma al-qiyamati wa shiqquhu maa'ilun."
"Whoever has two wives and favors one of them will be resurrected on Qiyama with one of his sides hanging down."  Abu Daud (sahih)

To Be Taught Her Religion

The Prophet (sas):

"Kullukum raa'in wa kullukum mas'oolun 'an ra'iyyatihi.  Al-imaamu raa'in wa mas'oolun 'an ra'iyyatihi wa ar-rajulu raa'in tiy ahlihi wa huwa mas'oolun 'an ra'iyyatihi."
"All of you are shepherds and all of you will be asked about your wards.  The ruler is a shepherd and shall be asked about his wards.  The man is a shepherd of his family and will be asked about his ward."  Bukhari

Knowledge in Islam is of two types:  1) that which is obligatory upon each and every Muslim and 2) that which must be learned by some among the Ummah.  Of the first type, it is obligatory for every Muslim woman to know her beliefs, how to pray, how to fast, as well as issues particular to woman such as how to purify herself from her monthly course, etc.  She must also know her obligations toward parents, her husband (and his obligations toward him), her children, her neighbors, etc. as well as her rights over each of those.

It is the obligation of the husband to make sure that she acquires all the knowledge which it is obligatory for her to acquire.  If this means that he has to spend money on books or tapes, then he must do so.  The scholars have emphasized the importance of this right of women to the extent that many of them have given her permission to leave the house to attend a lecture at the masjid even without her husband's permission.

It is well-known that the Prophet (sas) said that seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim mail and female.  Allah said in the Qur'an:

{Yaa ayyuhaa alladhina aamanoo qoo anfusakum wa ahleekum naaran waqooduhaa an-naasu wa al-hijaaratu 'alaihaa malaa'ikatun ghilaadhun shidaadun la ya'soona Allaha maa amarahum wa yaf'aloona ma yu'maroona.}
{O you who believe guard yourselves and your family members from a fire whose fuel is people and stones.  Over it are tough and fearsome angels.  They do not disobey Allah in any order they carry out that which they are ordered to do.}  At-Tahreem:6

Part of the meaning of this verse is that the husband/father (the "shepherd" of the household) must take all necessary means to ensure that all those under his guardianship (wives and children) have the opportunity and the means to acquire all the knowledge they need to worship Allah and live their lives as Allah has prescribed that we live our lives.  If he has fulfilled that, then he has fulfilled his obligation and will not be asked about the sins of his wife and children.  If he fails to fulfill this, then he himself will be asked about their sins and their going astray based on HIS shortcomings in not fulfilling his obligations in this regard.

In another version of the hadith about the "shepherds", the Prophet (sas) continues:

"...hattaa yus'ala ar-rajulu 'an ahli baitihi:  a aqaama feehim shar'a Allahi am adhaa'a?"
"...until the man will be asked about the people in his household:  did he establish among them the law of Allah or did he allow it to become lost?"

To Defend Her Honor

A man should be "jealous" with regard to his wife's honor and standing.  He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back.  Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general but a right of the spouse specifically.  He should also be jealous in now allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate.  The Prophet (sas) mentioned in a sahih hadith that "Three will never enter paradise... ad-dayyooth."  Ad-dayyooth (sometimes translated "henpecked") is the weak husband who has no jealousy toward his wife and other men.

"Jealousy" in this sense means fervor for the boundaries of Allah and anger when they are transgressed.  The Prophet (sas) said:

"Inna Allaha yughaaru wa inna al-mu'mina yughaaru wa ghairatu Allahi an ya'tiya al-mu'minu maa harrama 'alaihi."
"Verily, Allah has jealousy and the believer has jealousy.  Allah's jealousy is due to a believer committing that which He has forbidden him."  Muslim

This does not mean, however, that a Muslim should go overboard on this point suspecting his wife at every turn and trying to spy on her.  This becomes Adh-dhann (suspicion) which the Prophet (sas) warned us about in the following hadith in Bukhari and Muslim:

"Iyyaakum wa adh-dhanna fa inna adh-dhanna akdhabu al-hadith."
"Stay away from suspicion for suspicion is the most lying of speech."