The status of women in Islam is that of dignity, honor and respect. The current practices by many Muslim men don’t reflect their true status in our community today. Many men follow more of the cultural influences rather than the Islamic teachings that truly appreciate and respect women. This dignity and respect provided by Islam is way beyond what the so called free women get in the west where they are treated as objects rather than equal human beings. The purpose of this article is to bring back the status of women through the actions of men towards women and for husbands to learn what their obligations are towards their wives.
The Rights of a Woman
Allah has sent down clear messages through our Prophet SAW and the Quran to establish the true status of women in Islam. A woman is not lesser then a man but rather she is his counterpart. Reported by Ayesha, Anas and Umm Salaym (may Allah be pleased with them) that Prophet SAW said “Indeed, the women are only full sisters of men” (recorded by Ahmad, Abu Dawud)
Many men consider the physical weakness of women as a measuring stick of equality between the genders but rather these are just features where Allah has given to one over another. Rather this weakness of women brings about more responsibility for the man to be very careful not to overstep her rights. Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW said “I strongly admonish you in regard to the right of the two weak ones; the orphans and the woman.” (recorded by Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
The Rights of the Wife
A husband that fulfills the rights of the wife is showing his taqwa (loving Allah and fearing his punishment). A marriage contract is not only a contract with the woman you marry but it’s a trust you take with Allah as well. Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet SAW said “Have taqwa of Allah in regard to your women. Indeed, you took them (in marriage) through a trust with Allah, and had access to their private parts by Allah’s word (permission). They have a right on you that you provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner.” (recorded by Muslim)
Providing the rights of a wife in Islam is a clear obligation and requirement in Islam and neglecting them constitutes a clear act of disobedience towards Allah. With these clear concepts understood we can proceed to some specific rights related to women in Islam:
1. Ghayrah (Love and concern)
A husband should show love and concern for his wife and her well being. This is through his actions, words and thoughts about his wife. Ghayrah however has two fronts, one of love and concern and the other of distrust and suspicion without reason. Jabir Bin Atik (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet SAW said “Indeed, there is a form of ghayrah that Allah loves, and a form that Allah hates. Ghayrah that Allah loves is that which is based on (valid) suspicion. And ghayrah that Allah hates is that which is with (valid) suspicion.” (recorded by Ahmad and Abu Dawud) A man that doesn’t possess this has no sense of protection, love and concern for his wife or her honor.
Safety and security are the top priority for any human being and are required for one to function normally and properly. Since a wife is the weaker partner in terms of strength of the two spouses it is the obligation of the husband to provide protection. This obligation is not only towards his wife but also his family as the leader of the household or family. In Surah An-Nisa Allah says “Men are in charge of women by (right of) what (qualities) Allah has given one over the other and what they spend (in support) from their wealth.” (Verse 34) This verse refers to the status of leadership that Allah has appointed the man with in the relationship and as a leader one of your primary responsibilities is to provide safety and a harmonious surrounding.
3. Protecting the Wife’s Secrets
It is a obligation and the right of the wife that they guard each others secrets, especially in the matters of privacy that no other person can know expect for a spouse. These secrets are for any physical attribute, emotional or of a intimate act or reactions to it. Abu Said al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Messenger of Allah SAW said “indeed, among the people who will have the most grievous position before Allah on the day of Resurrection is a man who, after he approaches his wife and she privately approaches him, he exposes her secrets.” (recorded by Muslim)
4. Financial Responsibility
One of the major obligations of the husband is the financial responsibility towards his wife and children. Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) reported the Messenger of Allah SAW said “They (your women) have a right on you – that you provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner.” (recorded by Muslim)
One factor that one must understand is the concept of spending within his means and for the woman not to ask for things that she knows are currently beyond his financial means. Allah says in Surah Talaq verse 7 “Let a man of wealth spend from his wealth; and as for him whose provision is restricted – let him spend from what Allah has given him. Allah does not require from a soul except (according to) what He has given it. Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease.”
This responsibility if carried out with the right intentions can be very rewarding for men as the status of such spending has been clearly outlined in a hadith for us. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet SAW said “A dinar that you spend for Allah’s cause, a dinar that you contribute towards freeing a slave, a dinar that you give as charity to a needy person, and a dinar that you spend on your family; the one yielding the greatest reward is that which you spend on your family.” (recorded by Muslim)
If the man neglects this responsibility and has sufficient means but doesn’t provide adequately for his family it is permissible for the wife to take from his wealth without his permission to support herself and her children. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that Hind bint Utbah came to the Prophet SAW and said “O Allah’s Messenger! Indeed, Abu Sufyan is a stingy man. He does not give me what would suffice me and my children – except for that which I take without his knowledge.” The Prophet SAW said “Take of his money, in a reasonable manner, as much as would suffice you and your children.” (recorded by Muslim)
5. Intimacy & Love
The wife has a right just like the husband does when it comes to emotional and physical gratification. It is not permissible for a husband to neglect his wife so that she doesn’t enjoy any love or affection.
6. Provide a Reasonable Dwelling
It is one of rights of the wife to have a reasonable dwelling place provided by the husband according to the standard that the wife is used to.
The first financial right of the wife is the dowry (Mahr). This responsibility is due as soon as the marriage contract is performed or upon khalwah.
It is a misconception that women are supposed to do all the work around the house and the woman is to just serve the husband. The reality is that women take the major portion of the responsibility but it is also an obligation for the man to help his wife and his family. As we can see from the example of Prophet SAW, Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) was asked, “What did the Prophet SAW do at Home?” She replied “He used to be at the service of his family; and when it was time for prayer, he would go out to pray.” (recorded by Bukhari)
Many men use the excuse that they don’t have sufficient time to help, but if you look closely at the life of the Prophet SAW and how busy he was and still he served and helped. Therefore as men, every one of us, as the leader of household, must help and service our wife and families.
9. Kindness and Compassion
It is the right of the wife upon the husband to be treated kindly, respectfully and with compassion. Allah says in Surah An-Nisa verse 19 “Live with them (your wives) in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good.”
10. Best of your Goodness
Our treatment towards our wives and children should be the best amongst all people. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported the Messenger of Allah SAW said “The best of you are those who are the best to his family, and I am the best of you towards my family.” (recorded by al-Tirmidhi)
11. Understanding and Respecting
It is an obligation upon the man to understand the nature of women (especially his own wife) physically and emotionally. Also the husband has to understand that a woman can show her dislike or anger through attitude towards him in many different ways. He must understand this and must be patient with her. The man should certainly not make this attitude a vehicle for him to mount a counter attack or revenge for her actions. A man should understand this part and not be too forceful in making her ideal to his criteria, rather he should understand that women are different in nature and certainly always react differently. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Prophet SAW said “Take good care of women, because the woman was created from a bent rib, and the most curved part of a rib is its upper end. If you insist on straightening it , you will break it; and If you leave it, it will remain bent. So take good care of women.” (recorded by Bukhari and Muslim)
12. Focusing on the Good and being Just
One of the rights of being treated fairly as a wife is for the husband to overlook some negatives with many of the positives that she possesses. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW said “Let not a believing man hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her traits, he would be pleased by others.” (recorded in Muslim)
Being the chief of the family it is an obligation upon the husband to treat his wife and family with fairness and justice. He should not use his material and physical superiority to oppress his wife and family. Abdullah Bin Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW said “Avoid oppression, because oppression will result in deep darkness on the Day of Resurrection.” (recorded by Muslim)
13. Entertaining your Wife
Another right of the wife over the husband is his time being spent with his wife. He is to enjoy this time with her in playful and lawful things that would bring joy to her heart. Jabir Bin Abdillah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet SAW said “Everything that does not involve the remembrance of Allah is futile, senseless, and wasted – except for four acts: a man entertaining his wife, a man training his horse, a man walking between the two posts (when practicing archery), and teaching swimming to another man.” (recorded by An Nasai)