Page 87 - Islam In Focus

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The Husband – Wife Relationship
With piety as the basis of mate selection, and with the earnest satisfaction of the
conditions of marriage, the parties should be well on the way to happy and fulfilling
married life. However, Islam goes much further than this in setting the course of
behavior for husbands and wives. Many are the statements of the Qur’ an and the
Sunnah that prescribe kindness and equity, compassion and love, sympathy and
consideration, patience and good will. The Prophet goes as for as to declare that the
best Muslim is the one who is best to his family, and the greatest, most blessed joy in
life is a good, righteous wife
The consummation of marriage creates new roles for the parties concerned. Each role
is a set of equitable, proportionate rights and obligations. The role of the husband
evolves around the moral principle that it is his solemn duty of God to treat his wife
with kindness, honor, and patience; to keep her honorably or free her from the marital
bond honorably; and to cause her no harm or grief (Qur’ an, 2:229-232; 4:19). The role
of the wife is summarized in the verse that women have rights even as they have
duties, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree over them (2:228). This
degree is usually interpreted by Muslim scholars in conjunction with another passage
which states, among other things, that men are trustees, guardians, and protectors of
women because God has made some of them excel others and because men expend of
their means (Qur’ an, 4:34). This degree may be likened to what sociologists call
“ instrumental leadership” or external authority in the household due to the division of
labor and role differentiation. It does not, however, mean any categorical
discrimination or superiority of one sex to the other. (This degree question has been
misunderstood by Muslims and non – Muslims alike. We dealt with the whole matter
in great detail in The Family Structure in Islam. Our conclusion is that the verse does
not say men are better or worse than women. Nor does it say what excellence really
refers to, let alone identify it with manhood or womanhood.)
The Wife’s Rights: The Husband’s Obligations
Translated into rules of behavior, these ethical principles allocate to the wife certain
rights and corresponding obligations. Because the Qur’ an and the Sunnah of the
Prophet have commanded kindness to women, it is the husband’ s duty to consort with
his wife in an equitable and kind manner. One specific consequence of this Divine
command is his responsibility for the full maintenance of the wife, a duty which he
must discharge cheerfully, without reproach, injury, or condescendence.
Components of Maintenance
Maintenance entails the wife’ s incontestable right to lodging, clothing, nourishing,
and general care and well-being. The wife’ s residence must be adequate so as to
provide her with the reasonable level of privacy, comfort, and independence.
Foremost is the welfare of the wife and the stability of the marriage. What is true of
the residence is true of clothing, food and general care. The wife has the right to be
clothed, fed and cared for by the husband, in accordance with his means and her style
of life. These rights are to be exercised without extravagance or miserliness.