In the name of Allah ,the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Chapter 8 (...Continued)
Rights of the Husband Over the Wife

In the this section, we will discuss the following rights of the husband over the wife or obligations of the wife toward her husband:

  1. Being head of the household
  2. To be obeyed
  3. Physical relations
  4. Control over who enters the house
  5. Wife leaves the house only with his permission
  6. Housework and being served by his wife (two opinions)
  7. To be shown gratitude for his efforts
  8. She does not fast (voluntary) except with his permission

Being the Head of the Household

When one thinks of the rights of the husband, this is probably one of the first things which comes to mind.  However, a serious question must be asked:  Is this a right of the husband or another right of the wife?  Allah said:

{Ar-rijaalu qawwaamoona 'alaa an-nisaa'i bimaa fadh-dhala Allahu ba'dhahum 'alaa ba'dhin wa bimaa anfaqoo min amwaalihim.  Fa as-saalihaatu qaanitaatun haafidhaatun lil ghaibi bimaa hafidha Allahu...}
{Men are in charge of women by that with which Allah has preferred some of them over others and by that which they spend from their property.  So the pious women are obedient protecting in absence that which Allah has protected...}  An-Nisaa:34

The verse seems to present a great right of the husband over the wife.  Upon deeper thought, it is clear that this verse actually points to a right of the wife and an obligation of the husband.  The word for "in charge of" in Arabic indicates also support, protection and responsibility on the part of the husband for his wife.  This does not just mean that he is the "boss" or the dictator in the house and whatever he says goes.  Rather, it means that he has a heavy obligation to lead his family.  Remember the hadith from the previous section, where in one 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?"

Like any kind of leader or ruler, he will be held accountable before Allah Most High:  did he make the decision that is most befitting for his family in this life and the hereafter or did he simply follow his desires?  Did he do what was just and right or simply do what he liked to do?

In Allah's infinite wisdom, he did not leave the basic foundation of Islamic society - the family - without organization, leadership and guidance.  It is clearly upon the husband's shoulders and is his responsibility.  It is upon him to fulfill that responsibility in the correct manner.

Likewise, Muslim women must learn to accept this situation and this ruling of Allah Most High.  They should resist becoming like the disbelieving women, particularly in the "West", who are trying to take over as head of the household or think that it should be shared equally between the two spouses.  The rapid degeneration and disappearance of the institution of marriage since the spreading of this corrupt belief is the clearest proof of all that it is not only against Allah's order and His plan for us, but also against human nature and completely out of touch with reality and unworkable.  I believe that the latest figures are that over HALF of the children in the U.S. are being raised in single-parent homes!

Women who follow the kuffar and their own desires in being jealous of the man's role and trying to claim some or all of it for themselves should think about the hadith of the Prophet (sas):

"La'ana rasoolu Allahi (sas) ar-rajulata min an-nisaa'i."
"Allah's Messenger (sas) cursed manly women."

Again, like all rights and obligations in Islam (in marriage and other areas), it is important that BOTH parties understand them and exert their best efforts to apply them in the way that is pleasing to Allah Most High.

To Be Obeyed

As we saw in the verse from An-Nisaa quoted previously, it is the right of the husband that his wife obey him.  This obedience, however, does not include anything which is disobedience to Allah.  The Prophet (sas) said:

"Laa taa'ata fiy ma'siyatin.  Innamaa at-taa'atu fiy al-ma'roofi."
"No obedience in what is sinful.  Obedience is only in what is right."  Muslim & Bukhari

Two things are now clear:  1) a woman is obligated to obey her husband, and 2) no Muslim may obey anyone in what is disobedience to Allah.  Additionally, one strong opinion limits the required obedience of the wife to those duties being described in this chapter.  In other words, the husband should not seek to control every detail of her life, even in things which have no direct impact on his rights as her husband.

What happens if there is a conflict between obeying one's husband and obeying one's parents?  Scholars have taken two opinions on this matter.  One that obedience to the husband always takes precedence over obedience to parents.  Others have taken the position that obedience to one's parents takes precedence since Allah has described being undutiful to one's parents as one of the greatest sins after associating partners with Allah.

First of all, it is clear that the obligation of every Muslim toward their parents is very great just as the obligation of a Muslim wife to respect and obey her husband is very great.  Parents should be aware that they have entered their daughter into a contract which requires her to obey her husband.  Likewise, husbands should be aware of the fact that their wives have a great obligation toward their parents.  When these two come into conflict, someone is probably not acting properly.

When the two do come into conflict, it seems clear that the strongest opinion is that the rights of the husband take precedence over the rights of her parents, as in the following hadith from Aisha:

"I asked the Prophet (sas): Who has the greatest right over a woman?  He (sas) said:  Her husband.  I said:  And who has the greatest right over a man?  He (sas) saiid:  His mother."  (Al-Haakim - taken from Fiqh As-Sunnah)

Physical Relations

It is the obligation of the wife to respond whenever her husband calls her to come to bed unless there is a strong reason why she cannot.  Again, like in the issue of leadership, this is the way which Allah has given us to live which is best for us - since nothing we do or do not do cannot in any way harm or benefit Allah Most High.  Thus, when women resist this and insist on being the ones who call the shots in this regard or that it is somehow 50/50, it is only the two of them who will suffer.  It will lead to frustration, marital discord and the husband's desire to seek fulfillment of his needs elsewhere.  If he ends up turning to the haram, then a very great harm indeed has been inflicted upon society.  This point is clear from many hadith, among them:

"Idhaa ar-rajulu da'aa zaujatahu li haajatihi tal ta'tihi wa in kaanat 'alaa at-tannoor."
"Whenever a man calls his wife for his desire, let her come to him even if she is occupied at the oven."  At-Tirmidhi (sahih)

Thus, a wife must be responsive to her husband even if that involves the wasting of some wealth (by burning the bread).  Because the social consequences of this breaking down are so serious, so the danger to a woman who fails to respect it is very serious.  The Prophet (sas) said:

"Idhaa da'aa ar-rajulu imra'tahu ilaa firaashihi fa abat an tajeepa la'anathaa al-malaa'ikatu hattaa tusbiha."
"Whenever a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses to come, the angels curse her until morning."  Al-Bukhari

Even extra acts of prayer and fasting must be curtailed if that interferes with a man's desire for his wife's company.

Control Over Who Enters the House

It is established from many hadith that the wife is not to allow anyone inside if she knows that her husband does not like for that person to be in the house (male or female).  This is the second right of the husband over the wife, as the Prophet (sas) mentioned in the hadith:

"...Wa laa ta'dhana fiy baitihi illa bi idhnihi..."
"...And that she should not admit anyone to his house except with his permission..."  Muslim & Bukhari

The permission referred to here does not have to be explicit for every individual.  If the wife knows or has good reason to believe that her husband would not object to a particular individual, then she may allow them into the house.

That She Not Leave the House Without His Permission

The best place for a Muslim woman is in her house.  When Allah addressed the wives of the Prophet (sas) and ordered them (and, by extension, all of the Muslim women) to remain primarily in their homes, he associated the desire of women to be "out" and to display themselves with the jahiliya (the age of foolishness):

{Wa qurna fiy buyootikunna wa laa tabarrujna tabarruji al-jahiliya al-oolaa wa aqimna as-salaata wa aateena az-zakaata wa ati'na Allaha wa rasoolahu...}
{And stay in your homes and do not display yourselves like the ways of the time of ignorance.  And establish the prayer, pay the zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger...}  Al-Ahzaab:33

The scholars of tafseer state that, although the verse is explicitly directed at the wives of the Prophet (sas), the general principle applies to all Muslim women and wives in particular - that they should not leave the house except for a legitimate purpose such as going to the masjid, seeking knowledge, shoping for household needs, etc. and that if they are married, they may not do that except with their husband's permission.  This is a point of very wide agreement among the scholars, although there doesn't seem to be any clear and sound hadith which states it.  Although the following hadith VERY strongly indicates that this is the case:

"Idhaa ista'dhanat imra'atu ahadikum ilaa al-masjid falaa yamna'haa."
"If the wife of any of you seeks permission to go to the masjid, he may not prevent her."  Muslim & Bukhari

As with any right which a person may possess, this right should be used in the right fashion and not be misused such that it leads to harm and distress.  The Prophet (sas) said:  "No inflicting of harm and no reciprocating of harm."  A contemporary author, Faihaan Al-Mutairi said about this:

"If a man disallows his wife from leaving the house, out of fear and honor for her, then he must not let her feel that she is a prisoner in the house and that she was only created to serve him and serve the children.  Instead, he must choose a day out of the week, or less or more, according to the need and ability, to walk with his wife and children in a place that is free of temptations so that they may become happy in their hearts and out of fear of boredom.  The one who studies Shari'a finds this aspect to be very clear, that is, the aspect of one sproting with his wife and trying to make her happy.  The Messenger of Allah (sas) went out with his wife, the Mother of the Believers, Aisha and raced with her.  It is confirmed that Aisha said: "The Prophet (sas) raced with me and I beat him.  After a while when I became heavier, he raced me and beat me and said:  This one is for that one."

So those Muslims who expect their wives to stay in the house 24 hrs. per day and 7 days per week are not truly following the sunnah.  Rather, they have invented an innovation which will only server to drive women and children away from Islam.


The rights which have been stated so far are non-controversial and agreed upon among the scholars.  The duty of the wife to take care of housework such as cooking, cleaning and generally serving her husband in the house is an issue about which there are different opinions.  Definitely, this is and has always been the custom of the Muslims, all the way back to the Prophet (sas) and his Companions.  It is part of the ihsaan (good treatment) which should be exchanged between husband and wife.  That is not quite the same, however, as saying that it is the husband's right.  If that is the case, then she would be committing a sin if she failed to fulfill it.

Clearly, the safe way is the way of all of the female Companions of the Prophet (sas) who used to serve their husbands in this regard.  If they had servants to help them, fine.  If not, they used to handle the housework, cooking and cleaning.  The Prophet (sas) himself, our best example in this regard, used to help his wives with these chores.

There are many scholars on both sides of this issue as to the obligatoriness of these services.  The strongest argument that they are is the following hadith of Husain ibn Muhsin that the Prophet (sas) asked his aunt if she was married.  When she answered in the affirmative, he said:

"How are you with respect to him?"  She answered: 'I do not fail in obeying him save in those things that I am incapable of doing.'  The Prophet (sas) told her:  "Look to how you are with respect to him for he is your paradise and your hell-fire." Ahmad & others (acceptable according to Al-Albaani).

Al-Albaani states that this hadith is proof that a woman must serve her husband according to her ability, the first of such obligations is the bringing up of the children.