The Rights of Wives and Husbands in Islam
Those are limits set by God: those who obey God and His Apostle will be admitted to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath, to abide therein (forever) and that will be the Supreme achievement. [Holy Quran: Nisaa 4:13]
An Outlook on Family Rights
The rights of wives and husbands are completely described in the Glorious Quran. When studying them one can recognize these mutual rights as being one of the miracles of the pure culture of Islam. No other school of thought has so thoroughly attended to the rights of wives and their husbands until now, and none can do so from now until the end of time. These rights include obligatory and recommended rights. Disrespecting the obligatory rights without the other person's consent is the cause of divine punishment, and not honoring the recommended rights will lessen the sweetness of life. A major portion of these mutual rights are described in Vasa'il al-Shiaa, volumes 20-22, printed by Al-i-Bayt Press. As much as is required, I shall quote traditions from this volume, and instruct my dear readers to carefully read over those volumes.
Firstly, to bless the discussion I shall mention a few Quranic verses related to the matter and then I shall quote the traditions.
I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires; I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) nature created by God. Whoever, forsaking God, takes Satan for a friend, has of a surety suffered a loss that is manifest. [Holy Quran Nisaa 4:119]
And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable: [Holy Quran: Baqara: 2:228]
And yet they had already covenanted with God not to turn their backs, and a covenant with God must (surely) be answered for. [Holy Quran: Ahzab 33:15]
Isaq, the son of Ammac, said that he had asked Imam Sadiq what right does a woman have whose fulfillment by her husband implies that he is a good doer. The Imam replied that he should feed her properly and provide her with clothing. And when she does something out of ignorance, he should forgive her. Then the Imam said my father had a bothersome wife but he would always forgive her. The sixth Imam quoted the Prophet (Pbuh) as saying: Gabriel recommended on behalf of wives so much so that I thought divorcing her is not permissible unless she commits adultery. He also said good mercy be upon the man who performs all the affairs for himself and his wife well, since God the Almighty has granted to men the control of women, and established the husband as her guardian. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: One who ignores his wife's rights is deprived of God’s Mercy. He also said: The best of you is one who is the best for his family and I am a model for you in this regard. He also said: A man's wife is his slave and the person most loved by God the Almighty is the one who treats his slaves kindly. The rights of the wife:
1- Providing the means for living.
The Prophet (Pbuh) said one must provide the foodstuffs and clothing of his wife in the best manner. Imam Sajjad said: Going to the market and buying one Durham of meat which my wife desires is better than freeing a slave. The sixth Imam said: The most fortunate man is the one who manages the affairs of his wife and children.
2- Sexual intercourse.
The eight Imam was asked about a man who had a young wife whom he had not slept with for nearly a year due to a disaster that had come upon him. He had no intentions to bother his wife but the disaster caused him to do so. Was he sinning? The Imam answered: Of course. After four months passed, he was sinning. Abuzar asked the Prophet: Is a man's love-making to his wife divinely rewarded even though it brings pleasure? The Prophet (Pbuh) answered: Yes, of course. Is it not forbidden to satisfy your sexual desires unlawfully? Abuzar answered yes. Then the Prophet (Pbuh) said: Certainly its lawful form is divinely rewarded. It is considered desirable in divine teachings for a man to sleep with his wife for love-making once every four nights.
3-Improving the Living Conditions
The Prophet (Pbuh) said: When a man goes to shop for his wife, he is similar to one who takes charity to the house of the needy. When he gets home, he should first give what he has bought to his daughters. This is so because one who makes his daughter happy is similar to one who frees a slave from Ismael's generation. And one who makes his son happy by giving him something is similar to one who cries for fear of God given that God shall take such a person into Heaven filled with blessings.
Imam Musa said: Men's wives are their slaves. When God gives blessings to anyone he should use it to improve the living conditions of his slave or else that blessing might be taken away from him. The Prophet (Pbuh) has admonished against a man being full while his wife is hungry. The sixth Imam said: A man should try to do the following things even if it is against his own desires.
(1) Treating the family well
(2) Trying to improve his living conditions without being wasteful
(3) Being concerned about protecting the family's honor.
The fourth Imam said: God is more pleased with the one who brings about more improvement in his family's living conditions. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Whatever a Muslim man buys for his wife has a reward similar to that of charity.
(4) Respecting the wife
The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Anyone who gets married should respect his wife. He also said: Anyone who hits his wife more than three times (at once), will be disgraced by God in the Hereafter. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Can you expect to hug your wife at night, having beaten her in the day time? He also said: In fact a woman is a doll; Anyone who marries one should not commit sin with it. He also said: I wonder about a man who beats his wife, while he himself deserves to be beaten more. Do not beat your wives with a stick since there is retaliation for this act. The Commander of the Faithful said: The women you are responsible for are a trust for you. Don't be strict with them and leave them up in the air. Haola asked the Prophet: What rights does a women have over a man? The Prophet (Pbuh) replied: Gabriel made so many recommendations on behalf of women that I thought a man cannot say the slightest thing to her. Gabriel said: O' Muhammad, be afraid of God in regards to women. They bear the sufferings and hardships of life. Women have rights over you since they have placed their bodies in your control for pleasure, they carry your children within their bodies until the time for delivery and they experience dangerous pains. Be kind to them. Keep them satisfied so they'll get along well with you. Don't say your wives are ugly or you don't like them. Don't be greedy about what you have given as the nuptial gift or take any of it back by force.
(5) Grooming oneself and keeping clean
Just as men like to see their wives looking pretty, clean, wearing nice clothes and using good scent, women have the same desires for their husbands: cleanliness, grooming, taking baths, brushing teeth, washing one's hair, combing one's hair, cutting one's nails, using scent, wearing proper clothing and the rest of the allowed grooming. These acts will please the woman and increase her chastity. She will not go after other men and think about getting another husband. Hassan ibn Jahm said: The 8th Imam dyed his hair and I asked him why. He said that a man's grooming himself increases the chastity of his wife. Women abandon chastity because they never saw their husbands grooming themselves. Then the 8th Imam asked if I would like to see my wife in a disheveled state. Hazrat Reza quoted on the authority of his grandfather that the women of the Israelites turned away from chastity for no reason at all, except that their husbands didn't groom themselves. Then the Hazrat said: Women expect the same things of men that men expect of them. Some men are really unfair and don't groom themselves. They don't go to the barbers often and they smoke cigarettes. Therefore their teeth and mouth are dirty and bad-smelling. They don't wear the appropriate clothing and don't care about their looks. Yet they expect their wives to submit themselves to them. These men are oppressors who deserve to be blamed and punished.
(6) Speaking Decently and Courteously
Swearing, or using a vulgar language will force the person we are facing to react no matter who they are. When you complain too much your wife will be upset, and this will ruin your mutual life. The Commander of the Faithful has ordered men: Be patient with your wife under all circumstances and treat her with kindness.
(7) Be content with your share of control over life
Some men give up all their God-given free will and totally submit themselves to the will of their wives. Some women take full control of their husband's will and try to run their lives in any way they wish. This sort of life usually turns into a Satanic life with a lot of sin, waste and unlawful desires. The house and the family deviate from the main and divine principles when life is void of spirituality. Today, a large percentage of families suffer from this devastating catastrophe. Instead of life being dependent on the man's decision, it depends on the woman's. Instead of the man being the husband of the wife, the wife is her husband's master. God forbid that the man disobeys the woman's wants even if it is unlawful and ungodly. A fight will be started by the woman which will not end until the man surrenders or divorces her. Regarding such men who have lost control over their wives, Imam Ali said: Any man who gives his control over to his wife is damned. He also said: The man who totally submits to his wife shall be thrown into the Fire of Hell by God with his face down. They asked him why and he replied: Because the wife requests see-through clothing and he accepts it.
Regarding this issue, Imam Ali conducted a public sermon when a man complained against his wife: O' people! Never obey your wife. Do not give her any property. Do not grant the control of your life to her. If such people are left free to do as they wish, they will ruin everybody's life and disobey their husband's orders. We have discovered that these people are not pious when in need; quickly submit to lust; think about collecting gold and silver until very old and are selfish and haughty when they are weak. If some of what they want is not provided to them, they ignore all your kindness and favors and will always remember your bad actions. They will accuse without any hesitation and will never stop their rebellion and are constantly trotting on Satan's path. [Vasa'il, v.20, p.180, Al-i-Bayt Press]
The Rights of the Husband
A major factor in strengthening the ties of mutual life is dependent upon the woman respecting her husband's rights. The wife should only consider God and the Hereafter and not let anyone else interfere in regards to her husband's rights. Others may be mistaken or have bad intentions and it may even be that the cause of such interference in the life of the newly-wed couple is pure jealously. Women should remember that they are easily influenced by others. They should consider this element of their nature, and pay close attention to the possibility of others being wrong. They should remember God and their situation in the Hereafter and respect the man's humane, divine and religious rights.
The man likes the woman to be his woman. She should maintain her sex role as a woman, as this is her nature by creation. She should limit her beauty, appeal, seduction, and coquettishness to her husband. She should neither follow others nor should she accept the interference of distant or close relatives, neighbors or guests. Anyway, she should be the wife of her husband, and live based on his lawful desires. She should run the affairs of the home according to her husband's will, and be a good mother to her children. Some women forget that they are feminine. They become rough, harsh, bitter and man-like. This shall make man's life really bitter, and make him sorry about getting married. They may even get fed up with life. Some of the rights of the husband include: The woman should submit herself to her husband's sexual desires whenever he needs her. The woman should obey her husband in all moral and religious affairs. The woman should seek her husband's permission to leave the house, except for the required pilgrimage to Mecca.
Imam Baqir said: A woman came to the Prophet (Pbuh) and asked him what rights does the husband have over the wife? He said: She must obey the husband, and not be rebellious. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: A woman who performs her five required daily prayers, fasts for the month of Ramadan, performs the pilgrimage to Mecca, obeys her husband, recognizes the rights of Imam Ali, being that he must be obeyed, shall enter Heaven from anyone of the eight gates which she desires to. Pay close attention to this very important tradition from the noble Prophet of Islam: Any good woman who worships God, performs the obligatory religious acts, and obeys her husband will enter Heaven. Any woman who says her prayers, does not leave the house unnecessarily, and obeys her husband shall be forgiven all her past and future sins by God. The Prophet (Pbuh) told a woman named Haola: By the God who entrusted me with Prophethood, a husband has rights over his wife. She should submit to his sexual desires. She should not disobey his orders, and not oppose or quarrel with him. In a very important and strong statement the Prophet (Pbuh) said: A woman has not fulfilled God's rights as long as she has not fulfilled her husband's rights. You should not conclude from the above traditions that the key to a woman's prosperity is solely obeying her husband. But she should also have faith, worship God, do her religious duties, and avoid doing what is forbidden. This means that she may prosper in this world and the Hereafter only if she gathers all these realties within herself.
2- Sexual submission:
It is obligatory for the wife to sexually submit herself to her husband at times when there is no religious excuse. It is even recommended that she declares her readiness to him. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: A woman should use the best perfume, wear her prettiest clothes, and groom herself in the best possible form. She should appear in front of her husband every morning and night displaying her beauties. The husband has even more rights than this. If a woman carries out the instructions of the Prophet (Pbuh) exactly, she can keep her husband for herself, and keep him away from looking at or chasing other women, even in a lawful manner. This is exactly the situation which causes conflicts. The wife wants to wear her best clothes, perfume, and make-up for going out to wedding parties or visit her friends and relatives, but appears in front of her husband as she is. Even after she returns from the party, she does not give her husband the slightest chance to see her. This hurts the husband's feelings and weakens their relationship and may prepare the grounds for other problems. Many young and middle-aged men have come to me to complain about their wives' indifference and lack of interest in sexual submission and not making themselves up for them. They have expressed their interest in temporary marriage or divorce and re-marriage and have asked me to solve their problem. My only recommendation to women at this stage is to wholeheartedly follow the instructions of the Immaculate Imams and the Noble Prophet. This way their husband will not become lustful outside the house and they will not have any marital problems. Or else your life will be ruined and you will be responsible for it in the Hereafter. In regards to man's attraction to his wife and her submission to him the Prophet (Pbuh) said: Do not elongate your prayers to avoid submitting to your husband.
3- Going out of the House:
Unfortunately, many women who have quit being a woman, and consider themselves to be men do not obey their husbands in regards to seeking permission to go out of the house. If it was deemed proper for women to freely go out of the house, then God would not have made it conditional upon the husband's permission. Some women left the house without their husband's permission. They caused sedition and corruption. They let out their hair and showed their face. They disturbed the pure atmosphere of the society. They acted sexy and coquettish in the streets. They even sometimes forced the men not to object in an attempt to protect their honor, so that these women could act as they pleased. They imitated the Western culture, that of the Jews and the Christians. They made such catastrophes for Islam and the Muslims that can never be compensated for. The Prophet (Pbuh) has ordered a woman not to leave the house without her husband's consent. And if she does so without his permission, all the heavenly angels and each jinn or man who passes by her will damn her until she returns home. Imam Sadiq said: One of the men from the Helpers (Ansar) went on a trip and ordered his wife not to leave the house until he returned home. Her father got ill while her husband was away. She sent a messenger to the Prophet (Pbuh) asking him if she could visit her father. The Prophet (Pbuh) replied that she should obey her husband and stay at home. Her father got worse and she sent another message but received the same reply. Her father passed away and she sent another messenger to go and pray for her father, but she received the same reply. They buried her father but the woman stayed at home. The Prophet (Pbuh) sent a messenger to her and he said that God forgave you and your father for obeying your husband. The Commander of the Faithful has instructed men as follows: Protect your women from the eyes of strange men, since this will better guard their chastity. The bad influences of bringing untrustworthy men to your house is the same as letting them go out to be seen in public. Make an effort so that they know no one but you.
4- Don't bother your husband, and don't be vulgar and ill-tempered:
The Prophet (Pbuh) has made an amazing speech regarding this issue. He delivered this lecture for women. O' women, pay charity in God's way, even though it be your ornaments, even a date, since many of you swear and are ungrateful to your husband and will be the fuel for the Fire of Hell. A woman said are we not mothers. Don't we carry the babies in our wombs for many months. Don't we breastfeed them. Aren't these girls the heads of some households, and these sisters sympathetic to their brothers? The Prophet (Pbuh) said yes. You get pregnant. You deliver children. You breastfeed them. You are kind. If women did not bother their husbands and got along with them, then no praying woman would burn in the Fire of Hell.
The sixth Imam said: These people's prayers are not accepted: A maid's prayers who runs away are not accepted until she returns to her owners huose; a woman whose husband is dissatisfied with her from night until the morning; and a leader who leads the people, but the people do not want him. Ali, the son of Jafar asked his brother Imam Musa Kazim: What is the status of a woman's prayers and conditions who angers her husband with her bad temper and vulgarity? He answered she is sinful until her husband is pleased with her. The Prophet (Pbuh) told Haola: I swear by God who appointed me to Prophethood through my honesty and trustworthiness that when a men gets angry with his wife, God too will be angry with her. The Prophet (Pbuh) has asked women not to expect of their husbands more than they can provide for them and not to degrade their status before anyone whether it be a relative or a stranger. The sixth Imam said: A woman who bothers her husband, and makes him sorrowful is damned. A woman who obeys her husband under any circumstances and respects him and does not bother him is prosperous.
5- Working at home:
The Prophet (Pbuh) told Haola: God shall prepare various delicious meals in Heaven for women who prepare delicious meals for their husbands. He will tell them to eat and drink as a reward for their efforts in this world. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: God shall look favorably at any woman who changes the decorations in the house to make the house look better. Whoever is favorably looked at by God will be saved from punishment. Imam Baqir said: Zahra (Pbuh) took care of the work inside the house such as preparing the dough and cooking the bread, and the Commander of the Faithful took care of the work outside the house such as shopping and collecting wood.
6- Respect your husband and treat him well:
The seventh Imam said: A woman's Jihad is to take good care of her husband. A woman Jihad is being grateful to her husband; being kind with him; bearing with him when he is poor; seeing him off when he leaves, and welcoming him when he comes home; totally submitting to her husband at allowed times; putting on good clothes and make up for him; properly running the affairs of the house; avoiding wastefulness and not asking him for more than he can buy. Such acts which are defined by the Prophet (Pbuh) and the Imams as a wife's duty towards her husband are her Jihad (Holy War) Imam Baqir said: Nothing can intercede on behalf of a woman in God's presence than her husband's consent. The sixth Imam said: Some people went to see the Prophet (Pbuh) and said we saw some folks who prostrated in front of their leaders. Will you let us do so in front of you? The Prophet (Pbuh) said: No, but if I were to issue such an order, I would order women to prostrate in front of their husbands. The Prophet (Pbuh) told Haola: God will make any woman who obeys her husband, and is patient with him under all circumstances a companion of the wife of the Prophet Jacob (Pbuh) in the Hereafter. God will grant any woman a reward for bearing the bitter words of her husband. For each word, He will count one day of fasting of a fighter in the way of God as her reward. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: A husband's right over his wife is that she should turn up the light of his house, cook the food; welcome him at the door when he comes home; prepare water and a towel for him to wash his hands and face; and submit herself to him sexually whenever she does not have a religious excuse. The Commander of the Faithful stood by the dead body of his wife Fatimah upon her death and said:
O' God. I am pleased with your Prophet's daughter. O' God, please be her companion, and alleviate her fears.
7- Do not make yourselves up except for your husband :
The Prophet (Pbuh) told Haola: Do not let anyone other than your husband see your ornaments and jewelry. Do not put on any perfume in the absence of your husband. Do not show off your attractive scarf and wrists. If you do so, you will ruin our religion and make God angry. The Prophet (Pbuh) admonished women against wearing attractive clothes outside the house. He also forbade wearing jewelry that might make noticeable noise. A very important tradition exists from the Prophet, and must be seriously considered by the Muslims. Any man, whose wife puts on make-up and leaves the house to go out and be seen in public with his consent, is a cuckold, and it is not a sin to call him so. For each step that she takes, a house full of fire will be prepared for him. Limit them in this respect, since these limitations are a cause of happiness and pleasure for you and family.
8- Do not use your husbands property without his consent:
The sixth Imam said: A wife is not free to let a slave free, give charity or bet without her husband's consent, however, the payment of the obligatory alms tax, visiting her relatives and doing good deeds do not need his permission. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: A woman should not donate any of her husband's property without his consent. Should she do so, she will be sinful and the reward of her act will belong to the man. I shall once again say that the material presented here regarding the rights of husbands and wives mostly comes from volumes twenty-one through volume twenty-two of the noble book "Vasa'il" printed by Al-i-Bayt Press, and several traditions have been cited from volume 103 of Bihar al-Anwar. Those who wish to study this subject further should refer to these valuable books.