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The Honorable Status of a Wife in Islam

Within the Islamic tradition, there is a strong emphasis on the position of the wife, as our narrations and the lives of the holy personalities demonstrate.

In this day and age where women are often objectified, Islam makes the necessary reforms to allow for the progress and growth of family life by honoring the status of the wife. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) states, “My brother Gabriel has not stopped informing [me] about the rights of women so much [so] that I thought [perhaps] a husband does not have the rights to utter ‘uff’ to her.”[1] The methods employed to protect the rights of wives in Islam include the establishment of laws in regard to respect, dowry, and financial obligations.

Respect

The first and most important right that a wife has over her husband is to be treated with respect and kindness. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) has commanded, “Whoever marries, must honor his wife.”[2] It is imperative to recognize the position that wives have in the household as equal partners to their husbands. But Islamic law goes further to safeguard the rights of women in a marriage, especially due to the oppression they faced historically in the pre-Islamic period. In a time when girls were buried alive and women were sold as property, the Quran and God’s final messenger provided a roadmap of what respect and caring for the wife looks like.

Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) illustrates this notion, “She [the wife] has a right that you treat her with love, mercy, attachment, and affection. She is the center of your comfort and the medium of your pleasure. She is a great bounty.”[3] As we can see through the words of the Imam, there is an opportunity for us to truly attain unique pleasure in this life and the next by building our homes on the foundation of love, mercy, and respect.

Dowry

An important part of the marriage agreement, before a woman is married, is that she has the right to ask her husband for a gift (dowry) as a condition of their getting married. For example, she can ask her husband to pay for her hajj expenses or provide her with any other gift such as jewelry, clothing, books, or cash. She can even ask for a non-tangible gift such as teaching her the Quran or any religious or non-religious subjects. If the husband agrees to fulfill her request, it becomes a binding contract that she has the right either to collect or to waive in his favor. If he intentionally fails to fulfill her request, he is transgressing God’s boundaries and committing a sin. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “Whoever fails to provide a woman with her dowry [intentionally], [he has committed a sin] …God will tell him on the Day of Judgment… ‘you have oppressed my servant [the wife],’ and his good deeds will be taken from him and will be given to his wife according to her right.”[4]

Financial Rights

When a woman gets married, she has financial rights over her husband in that he must provide her with all the necessities for her to live a comfortable life. It is incumbent upon the husband to offer the provisions of the house and sustain his wife financially according to what is socially appropriate. In Islamic law, the financial right of the wife is known as nafaqa (which literally means expenses) which should cover her needs in terms of food, drink, clothing, health care, and other tools required for her subjective standard of living. The nafaqa would vary depending on the economic status of the husband.  For example, a man with the financial means to provide a home, car, and an abundance of belongings to his family should naturally provide sufficient expenditures for his wife and not financially restrict her. On the other hand, a man who may not have such financial means should provide what he can to the best of his ability. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “A wife’s rights on her husband are that he should provide her with food, clothes, and not treat her with ill manners. When he discharges these duties, I swear by God, he has paid her due.”[5]

Bits of Advice:

  1. Help each other with housework. It is important for a couple to work together to fulfill the day-to-day responsibilities of the house. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “God will establish the reward of as many years of fasting in the daytime and staying up at night to pray as there are hairs on one’s body for helping his wife with the housework.”[6] In responding to the advice of the Prophet (pbuh&hp), it is vital that we build our homes by dividing up our tasks so as to not burden one another.
  2. Forgive each other’s wrongdoings. As mentioned before, an important component of marriage is to cultivate mercy between ourselves. If we find that we have done wrong to our partners, it is vital to seek forgiveness from them and to also forgive them if they have wronged us in any way. Imam al-Sadiq (p) was asked, “What rights does a woman have on her husband, for which, if he acted accordingly, would be regarded as a [doer of good]?” The Imam replied, ‘He must provide her with [all of her necessities], and he should forgive her mistakes.”[7]
  3. Express love and kindness. The holy infallibles have emphasized the importance of the kindness and respect a couple should show one another. Imam al-Sadiq (p) states, “Among the characteristics of the prophets of God is that they loved their wives.”[8] It is important to express love and kindness with words, actions, and spending quality time with each other.

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References

[1] Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 14. p. 252

[2] Bihar al-Anwar, vol.103, p. 224.

[3] Risalat al-Huquq, Haq al-zawja.

[4] Bihar al-Anwar, vol.100, p. 349.

[5] Uddat al-Dai, vol. 1, p.81.

[6] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 101, p. 132.

[7] al-Hadaiq al-Nadhira, vol. 23, 122.

[8] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 103, p. 236.

source: imam-us

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