The Rights of a Husband and a Wife

The first thing that every married person must realize that one’s spouse is first and foremost another Muslim. He/she is one’s brother/sister in Islam. Therefore, all the rights that fall upon a Muslim due to the general brotherhood of Islam are also due to one’s spouse. There are books on the behavior of a Muslim, brotherhood and love and loyalty among Muslims and all of those principles apply to a married person as his spouse is part of that Islamic brotherhood and community. Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) also stressed this point when he stated, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”284 However, one’s spouse has even more rights upon a person due to the great and important contract that has been contracted between them.285

Therefore, when discussing the rights of the husbands and wives, this matter should not be looked at in a cold or legal fashion. The relationship between the husband and wife must be much more than a matter of rights stated by the law that each must abide by. Instead, it should be a relationship of love, support and mutual understanding. Each spouse should take into consideration the needs and abilities of the other spouse. They should attempt to make each other happy, even if they have to compromise sometimes, and not simply be out to make sure that they are getting all of their rights in the marriage.
Actually, it is usually the case that neither spouse is completely fulfilling the rights of the other and making the other happy. Hence, they both have to realize and accept their shortcomings.

The Prophet (peace be upon him), in particular, advised the husbands to treat their wives in the best way perhaps due to their greater authority or due to their greater strength, in general. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The best of you is the one who is best to his family (wife) and I am the best of you to my family.”286 The Prophet (peace be upon him) also advised, “I advise you to treat women well for they have certainly been created from the upper part of the rib and the most crooked part of the rib is the upper part. If you then try to make it straight, you will break it off; if you leave it, it will remain crooked. So, I advise you to treat women well.”287

Actually, both spouses, in general, fail to some extent in their fulfilling of the other’s obligations. Hence, before criticizing the other or being harsh with the other due to some shortcoming, the person should look to himself and realize what wrong he himself is doing.

At the same time, though, Islamic Law has clearly laid down some rights and responsibilities so that both parties in the marriage know exactly what is expected of them and know what they need to fulfill to be a proper spouse.
Thus, for example, Allah says, “And they [women] have rights [over their husbands] similar to those over them according to what is reasonable” (2:228).

In sum, the rights of the wife or the obligations of the husband include, among others, the following:

(1) Receiving her proper dower: Allah says, “And give the women their dower with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it without fear of any harm” (4:4).

(2) Being fully and completely financially maintained by her husband: Allah says, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means” (4:34). Furthermore, in a hadith recorded by al- Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told Hind bint Utbah, when she complained that her husband (Abu Sufyan) was very stingy and was not maintaining her and she asked if she could take from his wealth without his knowledge, “Take what is sufficient for you and your child, according to what is customary.”

(3) Being treated in a proper and kind manner: Allah states, “And consort with your wives in a goodly manner, for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which Allah might yet make a source of abundant good” (4:19).

(4) Having the right to sexual intercourse: In the Sahih of Ibn Hibban there is the following narration: The wife of Uthman ibn Madh’oon complained to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) that her husband had no need for women. During the day, he would fast and at night, he would pray. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him, “Am I not the best example for you to follow?” He answered, “Certainly, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) then told him, “As for you, you pray during the night and you fast during the day. Certainly, your wife has a right upon you. And your body has a right upon you. So pray and sleep and fast and break your fast.”

(5) Having the right to “privacy”: Note the following hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Is there any man among you who goes to his wife, closes the door behind then, covers themselves and conceal themselves by Allah’s concealing.” They said, “Yes.” He then said, “Then he sits after that [with others] and he says, ‘I did this and that.’” They were silent. He then turned to the women and said, “Do you any of you talk about such things?” They were also silent. Then a young girl came walking on her toes so the Prophet (peace be upon him) could see her and hear her and she said, “O Messenger of Allah, they [the men] certainly talk about it and they [the women] also talk about it.” He said, “Do you know what they are like? They are like a female devil who met a devil in the street and they satisfied their desires with the people looking on.”288

(6) The right to being taught or learning her religion.

On the other hand, the rights of the husband or the responsibilities of the women include:

(1) Being the head of the household: Allah has said, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means” (4:34). Although this is usually stated as a right of the husband, it is actually a heavy responsibility on his shoulders, as it means that he has the responsibility to guide his family and keep them along the straight path.

(2) Having the right to be obeyed: This goes with the first right. A person cannot be the head of something if he has no authority.

(3) Having his wife answer his call to meet his sexual needs: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses to come, the angels curse her until the morning.”289

(4) That the wife will not allow anyone in his house except by his permission: In a hadith recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Do not allow anyone into his house except by permission.”

If the husband and wife enter into the marriage with the right intention of pleasing Allah and pleasing each other, recognizing their roles and responsibilities in the marriage and treating each other with proper Islamic behavior, Allah willing, their union will be a blessed union that will stretch from this life into the Hereafter.

284 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

285 Allah says in the Quran, “And how could you take it [back] while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a firm and strong covenant” (4:21).

286 Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and ibn Majah. According to al-Albani, it is sahih. See Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani, Sahih al-Jaami, hadith #3315.

287 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

288 Recorded by Abu Dawud. According to al-Albani, it is sahih. See al-Albani, Sahih al-Jaami, hadith #7037.

289 Recorded by al-Bukhari.