Head of the family.
Man is also considered to be the head of the family. The Qur’an recommends that wives be obedient and adaptable to their husbands. Wives should also keep the secrets of their husbands and protect their honour and integrity. Islamic scholars consider this important in running a smooth family system. A family must have a leader to be responsible for taking final decisions. The family head should be the husband because Allah has bestowed upon them the role of leadership as He said in Quran 2 verse 228:
“Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have more right to take them back in this [period] if they want reconciliation. And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority]. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.”
Responsibilities and rights of husbands and wives.
The responsibility of the husband is to provide feeding, clothing, housing and general welfare of the wife and children. He is expected to protect them from external danger, ensure their proper Islamic education to prevent them from doing wrong out of ignorance and protect the interest of his wife and have al-budu(sex with one’s spouse).
The duty of the wife is to make the home comfortable and a happy place for the whole family and accept the offer of her husband in bed. The mother is very crucial in the upbringing of the children as an Arabic proverb says: Al Ummu Mudrasatuun, which means the mother is a school. She cooks and does the household chores but the men are responsible for that too. The Prophet Muhammad has shown a great example in the Sunnah.
The Islamic Sharee’ah stresses that the wife is under the obligation of obeying her husband. This remains unless he commands her to disobey Allah The Exalted. She is required to obey him and exert her utmost effort to fulfil his needs in a way that makes him satisfied and thankful. This Prophet Muhammad said: “If the woman performs the five daily prayers, fasts the month of Ramadan, maintains her chastity and obeys her husband, she will enter the Paradise of her Lord.”
Obedience is the first right that Islam acknowledges for the husband over his wife. She is required to obey him in everything unless he commands her to do an act of disobedience to Allah. The Prophet said: “No creature should be obeyed when it comes to disobeying the Creator.”
Al-Aswad reported: I asked Aisha, “What did the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, do when he was with his family?” Aisha said, “The Prophet would do chores for his family and he would go out when it was time for prayer.”(Source: Sahīh al-Bukhārī 644)
When asked about how the Prophet of Islam used to live in his house, the Prophet’s wife, `Aisha (Radi Allahu Ta‘ala Anha), said that he used to repair his own shoes, sew his clothes and carry out all such household chores done without complaint or want for more. (Authenticated by Al-Albani).
Why is the prolonged refusal of sexual relations by husband or wife considered a reason for divorce?
The prolonged refusal of sexual relations without reasonable cause by either the husband or a wife is considered a ground for divorce because it is an obligation of marriage in Sharia. Having sexual intercourse with one’s spouse also prevents the partners from fulfilling their sexual desires outside of the marriage. Allah has made it halal and rewarding, it is also classified as an act of Ibadah as proved in the hadith below.
It was narrated from Abu Dharr that some people from among the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “O Messenger of Allah, the rich people will get more reward. They pray as we pray, and they fast as we fast, but they give in charity from their excess wealth.” He said, “Has not Allah given you things with which you can give charity? Every tasbeehah (saying ‘Subhanallah (Glory be to Allaah)’) is a charity. Every Takbeerah (saying ‘Allaahuakbar (Allah is Most Great)’) is a charity. Every Tahmeedah (saying alhamdulillah (praise be to Allaah)’ is a charity. Every Tahleelah (saying Laa ilaaha illallah (there is no god but Allah) is a charity. Enjoining what is good is a charity. Forbidding what is evil is a charity. Having intercourse (with one’s wife) is a charity.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah if one of us fulfils his desire, is there reward in that?” He said, “Do you not see that if he does it in a haram way he will have the burden of sin? So if he does it in a halal way, he will have a reward for that.”
(Narrated by Imam Muslim)
Shari’ah(law) prohibiting Idrar(ill-treatment) of the wife.
Idrar generally means harm but in this case, it refers to the ill-treatment of the wife. It includes;
- Lack of maintenance.
- Prolonged unreasonable denial of intercourse.
- Prolonged deliberate absence.
- Unwarranted beating.
- Abusing the wife or her parents.
- Taking intoxicants.
- Ill-treatment by local customs.
A wife can establish idrar in a court that her husband is guilty of idrar towards her, the judge may dissolve the marriage and the wife will not forfeit any of her mahr(dowry) because the husband has clearly violated the provisions of Sharia regarding their marriage.
Status of women before Islam.
Women’s smaller stature and strength, and their natural disabilities during pregnancy have always put them at a disadvantage making them seem inferior to patriarchy. The dependent role of women in some societies has generally equated with inferiority. Women have commonly been looked down as intellectually, morally and spiritually inferior to men. It still exists till this day but luckily, practising Muslim societies are not susceptible to this cave-man belief. Women’s education was neglected and their equal status was denied by the law preventing them from inheriting or owning property. In some parts of the world, women have been treated a little better than slaves. In some places, women are regarded as properties of their husbands or family to be inherited on his death. Some societies have regarded women as toys to be passed from man to man for his entertainment. Consequently, the birth of female children will be scorned with a sigh or curse. Some societies even sanctioned the burial alive of female infants.
Aspects of Islam that introduced changes to Women‘s status.
- Spiritual status
The Quran and hadith affirm in several places on the equal spiritual status of men and women, their equal religious duties and their equal reward for their deeds. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most pious. No one can claim any superiority over the other based on race or colour Individual piety is the only thing that makes a person better and greater than the other one.
Example in Quran 33 verse 35: Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.
Allah the exalted says in Quran 16 verse 97: Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.
- Intellectual status
The increase of taqwa is required for the moral and spiritual development of both male and female. The Prophet spelt out the need for both man and woman to study and seek knowledge. A hadith says: “The search for knowledge is a duty for every Muslim”. The idea of leaving women uneducated and cut out from intellectual life is an unislamic one which is what the Quran and Sunnah have prescribed. The Prophet Muhammad(SAW) said: Teaching a woman is like teaching a nation.
- Property owning status
Under the Sunnah, women are recognized as independent individuals and not as properties of their husbands. Therefore, they can legally own property in their own right, earn and inherit wealth and invest or dispose of it as they wish.
- Status and rights in marriage.
The Islamic marriage mahr is an indicator of the status of women in Islam. The old system of bride price in some parts of the world is replaced by the mahr which is a free gift to the bride herself (not her family) which later remains her property.
Quoted from The last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) “ O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”
“The Best Of You Are Those Who Are Best To Their Women.” Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1162).
- Status as mothers.
The feelings of a mother are considered important in Islam so every child is urged to treat her with love, kindness, respect and honour. The Prophet was reported to have said that Jannah(paradise) lies at the feet of our mothers. When someone asked the Prophet who is the most entitled to his kindest companionship, the Prophet said his mother and the man asked two more times, the Prophet still said his mother before he then said his father.
- Status during divorce and child custody.
If a woman wants a divorce from her husband, she goes to the Sharia court to make her complaints. If the qadi(judge), finds it reasonable, the divorce will be charged without her returning her mahr(dowry). In the case of child custody, the child automatically stays with the mother if he or she is below the age of seven, if he is above seven he chooses, and if he is in adolescence he can decide to live alone.
The practice in some areas of extreme seclusion, involving depriving females of access to broad education and participation in the affairs of the Muslim Ummah has resulted in unhealthy ignorance among women which leads to lowering the status of their Islamic rights. The solution to the problem is giving females equal access to Islamic and general knowledge through education in accordance with the Prophetic tradition and in enlightening the society in general and the younger generation in particular, about the status of women in Islam.
Some fun facts about women in Islam. Did you know?
- When she is a daughter, she opens the door of Jannah for her father, when she is a mother, the Jannah of her children lies under her feet and when she is a wife she completes half the deen for her husband.
- Hazrat Ali(RA): If the eyes of a female cry over a man that oppressed her, Angels will curse him with every step he walks.
- Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: Your wives are your partners, not your servants
- Women are considered the diamonds of Islam although there will be more of them in Jahannam(hellfire).
- Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: the curse of Allah is on the one who causes difficulty to his mother, the curse of Angels and the curse of mankind. Allah does not accept his fard and nafl worship as long as he does not repent and obey his mother. He has gained her pleasure as best as he can. Allah’s pleasure is in his mother’s pleasure and his wrath his concealed in hers.
- The first person to embrace Islam was a woman named Khadija.
- The first martyr in Islam was a woman named Sumayyah.
- The greatest scholar in Islam was a woman named Aisha.
- Prophet Muhammad(SAW) said: It is only the generous in the character who is good in character and only the evil one who insults them.
- Prophet Muhammad(SAW) said: Fear Allah in respect of women and the best of you are those who behave best to their wives.