“…and they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in a just manner…” Holy Qur’an (2:228)
Through this wonderful legal relationship, Islam builds the connection between the couple on the basis of an exact and just equation. The woman has her legal rights upon her husband, as also the man has legal rights upon her. In short, Islam has imposed certain rights upon both husband and wife.
Studying the marital relations in Islam we realize that Islamic laws advocating marital bonds between man and wife are based on affection, mercy, kindness and good treatment towards each other and consider the marriage contract as a sacred covenant.
How wonderfully Imam Ja’far bin Muhammad Al-Sadiq (a.s.), refers to this sacred contract! He says:
“When one of you wants to marry a woman, let him say to her: ‘I accept the covenant taken by Allah’: … And then (a woman) must be retained in honor or released in kindness.”
The religious texts and concepts define the rights of the wife upon her husband as follows:
a. Maintenance: The Wife has the right of being properly maintained by her husband and he is responsible for providing his wife with food, clothes, residence, medical treatment, adornment (as per his means) and other expenditures needed by the wife and becoming her social status, on one hand, and falling within the husband’s financial means, on the other.
Allah the Exalted says: “Lodge them where you dwell, according to your means, and harass them not so as to straiten life for them. And if they are pregnant, then spend for them till they bring forth their burden. Then, if they give suckle for you, give them their due payment and enjoin one another among you to do good; but if you disagree, then let other (woman) suckle for him. Let him who has abundance spend of his abundance, and he whose provision is measured, let him spend of that which Allah has given him; Allah does not lay a burden an any soul, except that which He has given it. Allah will bring about ease after hardship.” Holy Qur’an (65:6-7)
b. Good Treatment: The following verses of the Qur’an explain the sharing of affection love, confidence and respect with her.
“…and treat them (woman) kindly…” Holy Qur’an (4:19)
“…and then (a woman) must be retained in honor or released in kindness…” Holy Qur’an (2:229)
“And of His signs is this. He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy…” Holy Qur’an (30:21)
The Messenger (s.a.w.) said: “Verily the best of you is the best to his women; and I am the best of you to my women.”
He (s.a.w.) also said: “May Allah bless the man who does good between himself and his wife; as Allah the Exalted has given him authority over her and made him her guardian.”
Family life is the fountain of happiness and the source of love and affection. In the warmth of the home man finds his comfort and stability, and near his wife he feels pleased and secured.
The more affectionate the relations, the better the companionship between the couple and the deeper the feeling of peace, security and comfort in the souls of husband, wife and the children.
How exact is the Prophet (s.a.w.) when he says: “A man’s words to his wife: ‘I love you’ would never go out of her heart.”
Islam enhances good companionship with the wife, fulfilling her psychological and aesthetic inclinations and satisfying her sexual and instinctive desires so that all their marital dimensions may rub against each other.
It insists even further than that. Islam asks the husband to resort to every means and method that causes his wife to love him, physically, spiritually and instinctively, tying her tightly to him. Islam urges man to be keen on keeping himself good-looking and attractive to her, responding to her sexual desire, starting with foreplay for excitement so that he may reach climax with her simultaneously, as she is a matching partner to him in enjoying sexual pleasures. She is not a mere means for satisfying man’s desire.
A Tradition says: “All the believer’s diversions are futile, except in three instances: in paying court to his wife, as (only) these are true.” “When one wants to have sexual intercourse with his wife, one may not hasten her, as women, too, have their desires.” “Three acts are considered to be rude: to accompany somebody without asking his full name; to refuse an invitation for a meal, or to accept it but refuse to eat and to start sexual intercourse with the wife before fore playing.”
It is related that: The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) on entering the house of Umm Salama, smelled a strong perfume. He asked: “Is Al-Hawla here?” Umm Salama replied: “Yes, she is here complaining about her husband.” Al-Hawla came out and told the Prophet: “My husband neglects me.” He said: “Give him more, Hawla.” She answered: “I leave no perfume without using it, but he still disregards me.” He remarked: “If only he would know what he would get by approaching you!” She asked: “What would he get by approaching me?” The Prophet replied: “If he approached you, two angels would escort him and he would be like a man drawing his sword to fight for the cause of Allah. Then by having sexual intercourse, his sins would fall off him like leaves from a tree and when he takes the bath, his sins would wash off him.”
Al-Hasan bin Al-Jahm narrates that he saw Imam Al-Rida (a.s.) with his beard dyed. So I asked him: “May I be your sacrifice, I see you have dyed.” The Imam said, “Yes, embellishment increases the chastity of women. They abandon chastity when their husbands abandon embellishment.” Then he continued “Would you like to see her as she would see you, without adorning herself?” Ibn Al-Jahm answered in the negative. The Imam replied, “That is it. The habit of the prophets is to be clean, to use perfumes, to trim the hair and to frequent their wives.”
By the above quotations regarding rights of the wife upon her husband we can illustrate a clear picture of leading a good marital life and fulfill all aspects of the material, moral, instinctive and aesthetic relations between husband and wife.
The Rights of a Husband upon his Wife
To complete the equation between man and woman, Islam grants the husband certain well-defined rights upon his wife. (These are, however, less expensive and narrower in scope than her rights upon him.)
By analyzing the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Traditions we discover the basic rights granted by Islam to the husband upon the wife – rights that are explicitly and exactly defined:
“Men are the maintainers of women, because Allah has made some of them to excel others, and because they spend out of their property (for the support of women).” Holy Qur’an (4:34)
According to a narration, a woman came to the Prophet (s.a.w.) and asked him: “O Messenger of Allah, tell me what right has the husband upon the wife?” He said: “A lot.” She said: “Explain me some of them.” He replied “She may not fast without his permission, nor may she go out of her house without his consent. She has to use the best of perfumes, to wear the best of her clothes, to adorn herself as best as she can, to offer herself to him day and night, and still his rights are more than that.”
For a better explanation, the husband’s rights upon his wife can be classified as follows:
a. Protecting his home, wealth and children: The husband should make the necessary arrangements for the household and the family, otherwise the wife is not responsible for housekeeping, cooking, cleaning etc.
It is not compulsory for her to suckle her children, attend them or nurse them. Yes, Islam renders these affectionate acts for the woman and considers them good deeds and a way of approaching Allah, unless such responsibilities are stated by the husband in the conditions of the marriage agreement.
A Tradition concerning man’s right upon his wife, says: “No Muslim got a better benefit from Islam than a Muslim wife who pleases her husband, obeys his orders and protects his honor and his property during his absence.”
We also read about a wonderful arbitration conducted by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) between the Commander of Believers, Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) and his wife, Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet (s.a.w.) Imam Al-Sadiq (a.s.) narrates:
“Ali and Fatimah came to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) for arbitration concerning housework. The Prophet (s.a.w.) decided that all household work should be done by Fatimah, and all the works outside the house were to be done by Ali (a.s.). Fatimah later said: none but Allah knows how much pleased I was with this judgment of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) which spared me a man’s job.
b. Obedience and Authority: The family is an important social unit whose orderly construction depends on sound discipline and efficient organizing. As there should be some one entrusted to shoulder responsibility over his beloved family and undertake the task of guidance and leadership within its prescribed limits, Islam has therefore, authorized the husband to be obeyed and given him the upper hand over his wife and children, until they come of age. This authority, however is under the condition that he may not issue orders contradicting the commands of religion and its principles. If he orders his family to commit a sinful act, his right will lapse and he should not be obeyed.
A Tradition says: “No creature is to obeyed in disobeying the Creator.”
The following quotation from the Qur’an confirms the rights of a husband:
“Men are the maintainers of women, because Allah has made same of them excel others, and because they spend out of their property (for the support of women.)” Holy Qur’an (4:34)
A Tradition of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) says: “She may not go out of her house without his consent and should obey his orders.”
c. Good Behavior: In order to provide an atmosphere of love and stability for her husband and her children, she is to do away with all causes of unrest, disgust and whatever may disturb the peace of the family. This can be achieved by showing affection and amity to the husband and by infusing the home atmosphere with feelings of love, joy and kindness. Man may not see in his wife, nor hear from her, what he hates to see and hear. The more the sense of beauty grows in one’s self, the more one’s need for love and affection is satisfied and the less the causes of trouble, boredom, frustration, bitterness, hatred, etc. Thus, such a harmonious family life full of love, joy and affection would certainly have its effects on the behavior of its members, and on their relations with the society, especially the children, who grow up in the arms of such a loving atmosphere, contrary to a miserable and unhappy family, where the husband leads a life of hatred, tension, repulsion and ill – temper, thereby bringing ruin to the family. Such environments badly affect the children, causing them to be complex and miserable, or even pushing them to be aggressive, irresponsible and lead a vagabond life.
Islam urges the mother to be the source of love, beauty, peace and security in the house and advises her to endeavor to create a tightly knit family life full of harmony and affection.
A man said to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.): “I have a wife who welcomes me at the door when I enter the house, and sees me off when I leave. When she sees me grieved, asks me: what are you grieved for? If you are anxious about your livelihood, it is guaranteed by other than you; or if you are worried about your hereafter life, may Allah increase your worries.” The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said: “Allah has agents and she is one of them. She will get half a martyr’s reward.”
According to Jabir bin Abdallah Al-Ansari: Once the Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
“The best of your women is the prolific, the affectionate, the chaste, the endeared of her family, the humble to her husband, fortified against other than him, listens to what he says, and obeys his orders, offers herself to him when alone, but not in an unabashed manner like his.”
d. Pleasing the husband: The wife should pay proper attention to her makeup and appearance, to attract the husband and respond to his sexual inclinations, since this is quite effective in pulling the man to his wife and strengthening the relations of love between them. She should provide him with ways of enjoying her beauty and satisfy his desires and prevent him the temptation of throwing himself into the traps of forbidden desires.
Imam Al-Sadiq (a.s.) relates that a woman who came to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) was asked by him whether she was a ‘put-off woman?’ She asked the meaning of that, and the Prophet replied: “She is the woman who, when her husband calls her for some need, keeps putting it off until he falls asleep. Such a woman will, then, continuously be cursed by the angels until her husband wakes up.”
The Qur’an briefly states the right of enjoying one’s wife, by saying: “Your women are tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth when you like and do good beforehand for yourselves, and fear Allah, and know that you will (one day) meet Him. Give glad tidings to believers, (O Muhammad)” Holy Qur’an (2:223)
According to the above verse, the Qur’an confirms man’s right to enjoy his wife in diverse ways, as she, too, has the right to enjoy this relationship.
The moral and legislative note of the above verse regarding this lawfulness is evident by the ideal advice of the Qur’an:
“…and do good beforehand for yourselves, and fear Allah, and know that you will (one day) meet Him. Give glad tidings to believers.”
These pieces of advice concerning man, woman and the sexual relations prove the fact how intelligently Islam has devised ways for both husband and wife to enjoy themselves according to their respective rights, so that there can be neither oppression, nor exploitation of the woman as a result of man’s extravagance or misuse.
Islam, which encourages the woman to pay attention to her beauty, appearance and adornment for her husband and to show affection to him, at the same time prohibits her from doing the same for others except for her husband, because it would create psychological separation between the couple and drive the woman to deviation, shamelessness and faithlessness, besides creating tension, mistrust and hatred in her husband’s heart, and finally destroying the noble edifice called family.
Hence a Tradition says: “If a woman angers her husband unjustly and sleeps, Allah would not accept her prayers until the husband is content with her, and if a woman uses perfume for other than her husband, Allah would not accept her prayer until she washes it away as she washes pollution from herself.”