بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى اللهم وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه والتابعين
Firstly the matter of marriage is important, and when it comes to polygamy it becomes even more severe, as the amanah becomes double, triple or quadruple depending on the situation:
Islam requires the man who has more than one wife to treat his wives equally and fairly. Marrying a second, third or fourth wife is something that is unanimously recognized in the Islamic Law and accepted by all madhahib, and it is an aspect of the law, where one negates the ayat openly knowing that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, the person automatically exists the fold of Islam for doing the same, so we must take care to handle fragile items with out-most care for the benefit of our and our spouses akhira, Allah Ta’ala said in surat an Nisa Chapter 4, ayat 3-5:
وإن خفتم ألا تقسطوا في اليتامى فانكحوا ما طاب لكم من النساء مثنى وثلاث ورباع فإن خفتم ألا تعدلوا فواحدة أو ما ملكت أيمانكم ذلك أدنى ألا تعولوا
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].
وآتوا النساء صدقاتهن نحلة فإن طبن لكم عن شيء منه نفسا فكلوه هنيئا مريئا
And give the women [upon marriage] their [bridal] gifts graciously. But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease.
ولا تؤتوا السفهاء أموالكم التي جعل الله لكم قياما وارزقوهم فيها واكسوهم وقولوا لهم قولا معروفا
And do not give the weak-minded your property, which Allah has made a means of sustenance for you, but provide for them with it and clothe them and speak to them words of appropriate kindness.
So the short answer to the dilemma posed is that we say: as long as the man is able to conduct himself in that marriage according to what Islamic Law demands of him – of upholding strict justice between his wives, he may marry again. He must endeavor to the best of his ability to be just and treat them equally.
But before we get to the treatment and ability we need to look at the following aspect of a polygamous marriage and the pros and cons of a multiple wife scenario.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “ Whoever has two wives and treated one of them better than the other will come in the Hereafter with his body twisted to one side” [Musnad Ahmad, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, and Sunan al-Nasa’î]
We can be sure that being just is a means of minimizing the difficulties of a polygamous marriage, especially with respect to the first wife’s feelings.
Indeed, you need to appreciate your first wife’s feelings. She is naturally going to suffer from jealousy against the woman who has come into a new marital relationship with her husband of sometimes many years.
Even the wives of the Prophet ﷺ suffered in this way. Once, one of the Prophet’s wives sent him a platter of food while he was at `A’ishah’s house. `ِA’ishah knocked the platter out of the hand of the servant who brought it, causing the platter to break in half.
The Prophet ﷺ was calm and exercised wisdom in how he handled the situation. He put the two halves back together and collected the food back into it, he then said to the sahaba present: “Your mother (referring to `A’ishah as one of the Mothers of the Believers) is feeling jealous.” He then sent one of `A’ishah’s platters along with the servant to take to the other wife as a replacement. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (4824)]
I warn you sternly against betraying any preference for your second wife over your first. Do not praise your second wife in your first wife’s presence. Do not threat your first wife or her children baldly in any way. Instead, take greater care to honor their rights.
Take care never to reduce anything of what you give to your first wife because of your second wife. Speak lovingly to her. Let her know that she is still your first love. Let her feel that you are more comfortable when you are with her. Tell her this. Such words will soothe her feelings.
You never need to mention your second wife at all in your first wife’s presence. Try not to talk about her even with your children. Be sensitive to your wife’s feelings and do not provoke her jealousy. You should show the same sensitivity to your second wife’s feelings when you are with her.
As for divorcing your second wife due to your first wife’s anger, this is not right, especially if your second wife has done nothing wrong. What sin did she commit? Should she, along with her child, be punished as a victim of your rushing into marrying her without giving your situation sufficient thought, or because you find yourself incapable of coping with the feelings that women inevitably experience as a consequence of your decision to enter into a polygamous marriage?
You need to do what you must to reconcile your two wives. At the very least, you should make it so each of your wives can comfortably live her own life, focusing on her own household and children. You better treat them both justly. Generally, these problems are worse at the beginning of the marriage. After a few years, things usually calm down.
You need to beseech your Lord in supplication, to make you stronger than these problems. You need to exercise patience. You have to be kind, gentle, and open-hearted throughout these difficulties. Problems like these are common, and many people face them.
We would remind your first wife of the Prophet’s ﷺ words: “A woman should not ask for her sister to be divorced so she can have him to herself.” [Sahîh Muslim]
We would finally recommend that you go to those who are specialized in these matters so you can learn how to manage your family life successfully and overcome your difficulties. This would be best for all of your family.
The Husband must be fair, what is meant by fairness in spending the night is: that he should divide his time equally among his wives, so if he spends one or two nights with the first, he must spend the same amount of time with each of his other wives.
The Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah and the view of most of the Muslim scholars indicate that the man must divide his time, night and day, among his wives, and must divide it equally, and that he is not allowed to be unfair in that. Al-Umm, 5/110
What is meant by fairness in accommodation is that each of them should have her own accommodation where he comes to her, and their accommodation should not vary with the intention of favoring one over the other.
Ibn Qudaamah said:
The man does not have the right to make his two wives live together in one house without their consent, whether they are young or old, because that causes them harm due to the enmity and jealousy that exists between them, so making them live together provokes arguments and fighting, and each of them can hear sounds when he is intimate with the other, or she can see that. But if they agree to that then it is permissible, because they have that right but they are also allowed to forego it. Al-Mughni, 7/229.
If the husband wants her (his wife) to live with her co-wife or her in-laws, such as his mother, sister or daughter from another wife, or with his relatives, and she refuses, then he must accommodate her in a separate house, because they may annoy her or harm her if she lives with them. Her refusal is an indication of that annoyance and harm. Also he needs to be able to have intercourse with her and be intimate with her at any time that suits him, and that is not possible if a third person is present. Badaa’i al-Sanaa’i’, 4/23.
What is meant by fairness in spending and clothing is that he should spend on them as much as he can afford.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
With regard to fairness in spending and clothing, this is also Sunnah, following the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), He used to spend equally on his wives, and also used to divide his time equally among them. Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 32/269.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
He (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to treat them equally as regards staying the night, spending time with them and spending on them. Zaad al-Ma’aad, 1/151
With regard to other things, it does not matter if he does not treat them equally, such as giving a gift to one of them, or being more inclined towards one of them in his heart, or giving her more clothing than he is obliged to, or having intercourse with one of them more than another, without intending to harm the other. But if he treats them all equally that is better.
Ibn Qudaamah said:
He does not have to treat his wives equally in spending and clothing if he does what he is required for each of them.
Imam Ahmad said:
Concerning a man who had two wives – he has the right to give one more than the other with regard to spending, desire and clothing, if the other has enough, and he may buy a finer garment for her, so long as the other has enough.
This is because it is too difficult to treat them equally with regard to all these matters, and if it were made obligatory he would not be able to do it, except with great difficulty. This is why it is not obligatory, such as treating them equally with regard to intercourse. Al-Mughni, 7/232.
Al-Haafidh ibn Hajar said:
If he gives each of them her rights with regard to clothing, spending and spending time with them, then it does not matter if his heart is inclined more towards one or if he gives one a gift… Fath al-Baari, 9/391.
Imam An-Nawawi said:
Our companions said: If he treats them equally (in the matters where that is required), he does not have to treat them equally with regard to intercourse, rather he should stay overnight with all of them but he does not have to have intercourse with each of them. He may have intercourse with some of them when it is their turn for him to stay with them and not others. But it is mustahabb for him not to neglect intimacy with some of them and to treat them all equally in this matter. Sharh Muslim, 10/46.
Ibn Qudaamah said:
We do not know of any dispute among the scholars regarding the fact that it is not obligatory to treat one’s wives equally as regards intercourse, which is the view of Maalik and al-Shaafa’i, because intercourse has to do with desire and inclination, and there is no way to treat them equally in this regard. A man’s heart may incline more to one of them than the other. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire”
‘Ubaydah al-Salmaani said concerning love and intercourse:
If you are able to treat them equally with regard to intercourse that is better, because it is more fair and just… But it is not obligatory to treat them equally with regard to intimacy that is less than intercourse, kissing, touching, etc, because if it is not essential to treat them equally with regard to intercourse, then that applies even more to the things that lead to it. Al-Mughni, 7/234, 235.
With regard to the husband going out when it is one wife’s turn, if that is because of some need and he does not intend to hurt her and he is not going out to the other wife, there is nothing wrong with that in sha Allaah. The basis of equal sharing of time is staying the night: he has to spend most of the night with the wife whose turn it is. Allaah has not created any hardship in religion, and it does not prevent the husband from going out or going shopping or attending classes during the time of one of his wives, if he does not intend to hurt her by going out, and he does not spend most of the night outside the house of the wife whose turn it is.
Some of the scholars have spoken in strict terms about fairness in dividing his time, and they say that everyone who goes against that is not treating his wives equally. Some of them even say that if he comes to the first wife after sunset and to the second after ‘Isha’, he is not treating them equally.
What that means is that the husband must finish with all his business during the day, before the sun goes down, so that he can control the time when he goes to his wives each day, so that he goes at a specific hour each day. That may have been possible in the past when life was simpler and there were less necessities and people could live with less. But it is not possible now. How many men now can regulate their movements in such a way as to make sure they enter the house before the sun goes down each day, so that their division of time and their spending the night with each wife is completely equal?
Rather it is more appropriate to suggest that he must spend most of the night in the house, without specifying the time when he should come in or go out, because his living circumstances or other people’s rights or the pursuit of knowledge and other circumstances may require him to go home late or leave home early. So what matters is that he should stay with the wife whose turn it is for most of the night, because the point of staying with his wife is to keep her company and be intimate with her, which can be achieved by the husband spending most of the night with her. We have seen from the ahaadeeth quoted above the way in which this division of time was achieved in the family of the Prophet ﷺ. The fact that he ﷺ visited his other wives by night or by day, or met with them in the house of the wife whose turn it was did not contradict this fair division of time, even though it is well known that these visits and meetings might detract somewhat from the rights of the wife whose night it was, because it took some of her own time, and she had the exclusive right to this time where the others did not.
Hence I think that what matters with regard to the issue of dividing the husband’s time among his wives is that he should spend most of the night with her whilst stipulating that his coming late should not be done with the intention of harming the wife whose night it is, rather it is the result of the husband’s everyday work.
THE FIQH OF THE RIGHTS OF HUSBAND AND WIFE:
Effect of a Sound Marriage: Rights of the Husband and Wife
The first thing that every married Muslim must realize is that one’s spouse is first and foremost another Muslim. He/she is one’s brother and sister in Islam. Therefore, at minimum all rights that fall upon a Muslim due to the general brotherhood of Islam are also due to one’s spouse. It is a sad situation for a Muslim brother or sister to respect their Muslim brothers and sisters outside of the house but for the situation in the house to degenerate into less even than that minimum standard of respect and kindness inside the household. Therefore the first step is for every Muslim to open some of the books about respect, manners (adab) and courtesy towards other Muslims and to realize that all of those principles apply to their partner in their house. The Prophet ﷺ stressed this when he said:
“No one of you has believed until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Clearly, husband and wife have even greater rights and obligations toward each other due to the great and important contract which has been transacted between them, and on which basis they live together.
In the Quran, Allah states that if a husband wishes to divorce one wife and marry another that he may not take back any of the dowry which was given no matter how large it was. Then, Allah says:
“How could you take it once you have entered unto one another and they (the women) have taken from you and awesome covenant.” [4:21]
Because of this “awesome covenant”, rights and obligations between husband and wife should not be looked at coldly or legalistically. Spouses should strive to make other happy and take into consideration the needs, abilities and weaknesses of the other. Since in most cases, neither spouse is completely fulfilling their obligations, they should both realize and acknowledge their own shortcomings.
The Prophet ﷺ) in particular advised the husbands to treat their wives in the best way – perhaps due to their greater authority in the household and their greater strength. This is clear in the following hadith:
“The best of you is the best of you to their family and I am the best of you to my family.”
“I entreat you to treat women well for they have been created from a rib and the most crooked part of a rib is the upper part. If you insist on straightening it, you will break it. If you leave it, it will remain crooked. So, I entreat you to treat women well.” [Bukhari]
Actually, both spouses usually fail to some extent in fulfilling their obligations. Therefore, before criticizing the other or being harsh with the other due to some shortcoming, each one should look first to themselves and realize what wrong they may be doing.
Common Rights between the Two:
There are some rights which each of the two spouses has over the other. These include:
- The right to enjoy each other.
- The right to inherit from each other.
- The right of confirmation of the lineage of their children.
Rights of the Wife/Obligations of the Husband:
Allah said in the Quran:
“And for them (women) similar to what is upon them according to what is right..” [2:228]
Commenting on this verse, Ibn Kathir wrote that the spouses have similar rights upon one another and each must do his or her best to fulfill the other’s rights. In the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Nabi ﷺ, stated:
“…And beware of Allah concerning women. You have taken them as a trust from Allah and have made their bodies lawful to you by the word of Allah. You have the right upon them that they no allow anyone in your house that you dislike. If they do that, you may hit them in a way which does no harm. They have a right over you for sustenance and clothing according to what is right.” [Muslim]
The rights of the wife over the husband which we will discuss in detail are as follows:
- The dowry
- Kind and proper treatment
- Marital relations
- Not to be beaten
- Justice between multiple wives
- To be taught her religion
- Defense of her honor
The rights of the husband over the wife which we will discuss in detail are:
- Being head of the household
- To be obeyed in all that is not disobedience to Allah
- Marital relations
- That she not allow anyone in the house of whom he disapproves
- That she not leave the house without his permission
- That she cook for him and keep his house (two opinions)
- To be thanked for his efforts
- That she now fast a voluntary fast without his permission
Rights of the Wife over the Husband:
- Dowry (Mahr)
This right of the wife has been discussed in some detail by many of the mashayekh and ulama. Allah said in the Quran:
And give the women [upon marriage] their [bridal] gifts graciously. But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease. (4:4)
The payment of the dowry to the wife is an obligation and a debt upon the husband until he pays it and there is no escaping it unless the wife freely and willingly gives up her right to it. In the past, and in many cases today, the father tries to take the mahr away from his daughter. In the jahiliya, this was justified by saying that the father was merely recouping all the expenses he put forth for his daughter who is now a member of another family and benefits them.
Nowadays, it occurs often in Australia where the husband tries to take back the Mahr (that is if it is even paid in the first place) or make use of it in forms of spending which were obligatory upon HIM in the first place. This is a lowly practice and is completely forbidden unless she explicitly allows it, (this practice is a Kabira al-Kabair, a Major Sin) without any coercion or pressure. Otherwise, it is HER property and she may dispose of it (or not) as she alone sees fit.
- Support (Nafaqah)
“…And upon the father is the mother’s sustenance and her clothing according to what is reasonable. No person shall have a burden on him greater than he can bear…” [2:233]
Her support is one of the most important rights of the wife over her husband. Ibn Kathir commented that the above verse implies that he must provide for her without extravagance nor the opposite, according to his ability and the standards set by his society at his time. When the Prophet ﷺ was asked by a man, “What is the right of our wives upon us?”,
He ﷺ answered:
“That he should feed her whenever he eats and cloth her whenever he clothes himself, that he not hit her face, that he not call her ugly and that he not boycott her except within the house.” [Ibn Majah]
A woman is even allowed to take from her husband’s property without his knowledge if he falls below this basic level of supporting her. In a hadith recorded in Muslim and Bukhari, the Prophet ﷺ told Hind bint Utbah, after she complained that her husband, Abu Sufyan, was stingy and was not maintaining her and she asked if she could take from his property without his knowledge:
“Take was is sufficient for you and your child according to what is customary.” [Muslim & Bukhari]
Support of one’s wife is one of the most important obligations of the husband. It is one of the distinguishing aspects of “husbandhood”. Allah said in the Quran:
“Men are in charge of women because of what Allah has given to some more than others and because they support them from their property.” [4:34]
If a husband does not support his wife, she has no obligation to fulfill her obligations to him. If a woman goes to a judge and shows that her husband will not support her, the judge may immediately separate them according to numerous scholars.
The verse makes clear that the man being “in charge” goes back to the two causes mentioned. This means two things:
- Both men and women need to be aware of this right and this obligation and that the woman is under no obligation to stay in the marriage if she is not supported – regardless of his wealth and hers.
- Muslim society must be organized in such a way that Muslim men are able to get the means to support a wife.
This second point is critical. If society reaches a state where women are more able to earn a living than men, this will undermine the “in charge” status of many men in their households. It will in fact undermine the Islamic household altogether. This is what is happening in virtually every Muslim land today with U.N. and other organizations giving primary attention to helping women to be economically viable and independent even when a large percentage of the men still cannot find the means to support a family. (It is the same destruction they inflicted on families in the U.S. in the 50’s 60’s with the welfare system.) The corrupting influence this will have on society as a whole cannot even begin to be described.
Women are absolutely ALLOWED in Islam to pursue business ventures (the Prophet’s ﷺ first wife Khadijah was a major business woman in Makkah), employment and other means of earning money. They are, in fact, needed in various sectors such as women doctors and women teachers. However, facilitating the ability of men to earn a living and support a family is the FIRST priority in an Islamic society. All economic planning and social/economic programs must be in line with this principal.
- Kind and Proper Treatment
“…And consort with your wives in a goodly manner for, if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which Allah makes a source of abundant good.” [4:19]
Commenting on this verse, Ibn Kathir wrote:
“That is, have kind speech for them, deal with them with kind deeds and in a beautiful manner to the best of your ability. In the way that you love that from them, behave in that way towards them. As Allah has said, “They have rights similar to those upon them according to what is right” (2:228).
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The best of you is the best of you to his wives and I am the best of you to my wife.” It was from his behavior that he would treat them in a beautiful fashion, with a smiling face. He would sport with his wives, be gentle with them and spend generously upon them. He would laugh with his wives and he even raced Aishah… Every night, he would gather his wives together in the house of the one with whom he ﷺ was going to spend the night and eat dinner with them on occasion… After he prayed the night prayer, he would enter his house and talk to his wife a little bit before sleeping, making them comforted thereby. And Allah has said:
“You have in the Messenger of Allah the best example.” [33:21]
Part of the problem today is Muslims buying into the fantasy world being propagated in television, movies and other media. The hadith about the rib makes it clear that it is rare to find a “perfect wife” and in the same manner, no woman should expect to find the “perfect husband”. If one is living in some fantasy world, they are apt to be greatly disappointed with real life.
- Physical Relations
In Sahih Ibn Hibban, the following was narrated:
“The wife of ‘Uthman ibn Madh’un complained to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ that her husband had no need for women. During the days he would fast and at night he would pray. The Prophet ﷺ 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 Prophet ﷺ 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.”
There are several similar incidents narrated where Companions of the Prophet ﷺ gave similar decisions in similar situations. In one story which took place in the presence of Umar, the Companion who was judging told the husband that since Allah had given him the right to four wives and he had only one that he could practice his praying and fasting three out of four nights, but that at least one in four had to be reserved for his wife.
- Not to be Beaten
It is the right of the Muslim wife that she is not to be struck except in the case of nushuz (rebellion against the husband’s authority). Even in that case, the husband is only allowed to “strike” her, but in a way which does no harm, similar to the proper disciplining of a child. It is never lawful for him to strike her face or cause her any bruise or injury. Allah says in the Quran:
“…And (as for) those (women) from whom you anticipate rebellion, admonish them, avoid them in the sleeping place and hit them. If they obey you, do not desire and further way to (harm) them. Surely, Allah is Knowing, Great.” [4:34]
It is incomprehensible how so many translators have translated the word “wadhribuhunna” in the above verse as “beat them” or, even more laughable: “beat them [lightly]”. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is an abomination which has caused much misunderstanding and opened the door to the enemies of Islam. The word in Arabic means to “strike” or “hit”. It includes everything from a tap with a tooth-stick to what in English we call beating. If it is stated that so-and-so “hit” so-and-so without further description, it would be assumed to be a single blow and it could be of any magnitude.
When the Prophet ﷺ took a tiny stick and tapped one of the Muslims on the stomach to straighten the ranks in preparation for war, he “hit” him with this meaning. Contrast this to the English phrase: “beat them”. The meaning is totally different. If you took a shoe lace and hit someone on the hand with it, you could properly say dharabtahu in Arabic but in English you could never say that you had “beaten” that person.
The verse mentions admonition, boycotting and hitting in the case of nushuz. This refers to a rebellion against the husband’s authority within the marriage which amounts to a breach of the marriage contract on her part. Ibn Taymiyyaa said about this:
“Nushuz in the verse: “…And (as for) those (women) from whom you anticipate rebellion (nushuz)…” means that she is recalcitrant to her husband and she is estranged to him inasmuch as she does not obey him when he calls her to bed, or she leaves the house without his permission and other similar things in which she is required to obey him.”
Many scholars have stated that the three steps must be taken sequentially, i.e., admonition then separation in sleeping and finally hitting, making hitting a last resort only in extreme situations. Thus the vast majority of what men do to their wives in spontaneous fits of rage often over trivial issues is absolutely haram and not sanctioned by Islam in any way. An-Nawawi said about this:
“At the first indication of disobedience to marital authority, a wife should be exhorted by her husband without his immediately breaking off relations with her. When she manifests her disobedience by an act which, although isolated, leaves no doubt to her intentions, he should repeat his exhortations and confine her to the house but without striking her… Only when there are repeated acts of disobedience may a husband strike his wife.”
As we said, this can NEVER be a “beating”. A husband is never allowed to strike his wife in any way which causes injury or leaves any kind of mark. The Prophet ﷺ said:
“So beware of Allah regarding women for you have taken them as a trust from Allah and you have made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have the right over them that they should not allow anyone on your furnishings who you dislike. If they do that, hit them in a way which causes no injury. And, they have the right over you to provision and clothing according to custom.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
It is actually the right of both spouses that the other not discuss their private moments with anyone else.
Note the following sahih hadith:
“Is there any man among you who goes to his wife, closes the door behind them, covers themselves and conceal themselves by Allah’s concealing?” They said: “Yes.” He then said: “Then he sits after that [with others] and says, ‘I did this and that.'” They were silent. He then turned to the women and said: “Do any of you talk about such things?” They, too, were silent. Then a young girl stood up on her toes so the Prophet ﷺ could see her and hear her and she said: “O Messenger of Allah they [the men] certainly talk about that and they [the women] also talk about it.” He ﷺ said: “Do you know what they are like? They are like a female devil who met a male devil in the street and they satisfied their desires with the people looking on.” [Abu Dawud – Sahih]
If a man has more than one wife, he is required to do justice between them in terms of physical things (housing, clothing, food, etc.) and nights spent with each. Allah said:
“And you will not be able to effect justice between the women no matter how hard you try. So do not incline [toward some] completely such that you leave [another] as if suspended. And if you reform and fear Allah, surely Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” [4:129]
The Prophet ﷺ indicated that there are forms of justice which are required just as there are forms of justice which are beyond human ability. Those which are required are money, housing, clothing and the like as well as nights spent with her. Those beyond human ability are feelings of the heart and things like that. He ﷺ said:
“O Allah, this is my division in what I control, so do not blame me regarding that which You control and I do not.” [Abu Dawud-Hasan]
Also, the Prophet ﷺ warned of the dangers of not fulfilling justice where it is required between wives, saying:
“Whoever has two wives and favors one of them will be resurrected on Qiyama with one of his sides hanging down.” [Abu Dawud – Sahih]
- To Be Taught Her Religion
The Prophet ﷺsaid:
“All of you are shepherds and all of you will be asked about your wards. The ruler is a shepherd and shall be asked about his wards. The man is a shepherd of his family and will be asked about his ward.” [Bukhari]
Knowledge in Islam is of two types:
1) That which is obligatory upon each and every Muslim.
2) That which must be learned by some among the Ummah.
Of the first type, it is obligatory for every Muslim woman to know her beliefs, how to pray, how to fast, as well as issues particular to woman such as how to purify herself from her monthly course, etc. She must also know her obligations toward parents, her husband (and his obligations toward her), her children, her neighbors, etc. as well as her rights over each of those.
It is the obligation of the husband to make sure that she acquires all the knowledge which it is obligatory for her to acquire. If this means that he has to spend money on books or tapes, then he must do so. The scholars have emphasized the importance of this right of women to the extent that many of them have given her permission to leave the house to attend a lecture at the masjid even without her husband’s permission.
It is well-known that the Prophet ﷺ said that seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim male and female. Allah said in the Quran:
“O you who believe guard yourselves and your family members from a fire whose fuel is people and stones. Over it are tough and fearsome angels. They do not disobey Allah in any order they carry out that which they are ordered to do.” [66:6]
Part of the meaning of this verse is that the husband/father (the “shepherd” of the household) must take all necessary means to ensure that all those under his guardianship (wives and children) have the opportunity and the means to acquire all the knowledge they need to worship Allah and live their lives as Allah has prescribed that we live our lives. If he has fulfilled that, then he has fulfilled his obligation and will not be asked about the sins of his wife and children. If he fails to fulfill this, then he himself will be asked about their sins and their going astray based on HIS shortcomings in not fulfilling his obligations in this regard.
In another version of the hadith about the “shepherds”, the Prophet ﷺ continues:
“…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?”
- To Defend Her Honor
A man should be “jealous” with regard to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in now allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate. The Prophet ﷺ mentioned in a sahih hadith that “Three will never enter paradise… ad-dayyuth.” Ad-dayyuth (sometimes translated “henpecked”) is the weak husband who has no jealousy toward his wife and other men.
“Jealousy” in this sense means fervor for the boundaries of Allah and anger when they are transgressed.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
“Verily, Allah has jealousy and the believer has jealousy. Allah’s jealousy is due to a believer committing that which He has forbidden him.” [Muslim]
This does not mean, however, that a Muslim should go overboard on this point suspecting his wife at every turn and trying to spy on her. This becomes Adh-dhann (suspicion) which the Prophet ﷺ warned us about in the following hadith in Bukhari and Muslim:
“Stay away from suspicion for suspicion is the most lying of speech.”
Rights of the Husband Over the Wife
In this section, we will discuss the following rights of the husband over the wife or obligations of the wife toward her husband:
- Being head of the household
- To be obeyed
- Physical relations
- Control over who enters the house
- Wife leaves the house only with his permission
- Housework and being served by his wife (two opinions)
- To be shown gratitude for his efforts
- 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?
“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…” [4:34]
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 ﷺ continues:
“…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 LIKE THE ONES HERE 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 ﷺ:
“Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) 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-Nisa 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 (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“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.
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, and once married it precedes the obedience to the parents, the obedience to the husband is greater.
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 Aishah:
“I asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): Who has the greatest right over a woman? He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Her husband. I said: And who has the greatest right over a man? He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: His mother.” [Al-Hakim – 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:
“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 ﷺ said:
“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, SO ANY SUNNAH PRAYERS OR NON OBLIGATORY FASTS ARE TO BE LEFT WHEN THE HUSBAND CALLS.
- 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 ﷺ mentioned in the hadith:
“…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 ﷺ 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):
“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…” [33:33]
The scholars of tafasir state that, although the verse is explicitly directed at the wives of the Prophet ﷺ, 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, shopping 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:
“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 ﷺ said: “No inflicting of harm and no reciprocating of harm.” A contemporary author, Faihan 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’ah finds this aspect to be very clear, that is, the aspect of one sporting with his wife and trying to make her happy. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ went out with his wife, the Mother of the Believers, A’isha and raced with her. It is confirmed that Aishah said: “The Prophet ﷺ 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 serve 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 ﷺ and his Companions. It is part of the ihsan (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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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 SERIOUSNESS of these services. The strongest argument that they are on is the following hadith of Husain ibn Muhsin that the Prophet ﷺ) 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 (peace and blessings be upon him) told her: “Look to how you are with respect to him for he is your paradise and your hell-fire.” [Ahmad & others sahih by Al-Albani]
Al-Albani 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.
- To Be Thanked for His Actions
Gratitude is one of the most important characteristics of a believer. A Muslim is grateful both to Allah for His infinite mercies and also to people who do well by him/her. The Prophet ﷺ said:
“The most grateful people to Allah Blessed and High are the most thankful of them to others.” [Ahmad]
“Those who do not thank people do not thank Allah.” [Abu Dawud & others]
Although it is an obligation of the husband to look after his wife, this does not mean that she should not be thankful to him for his kindness and his efforts in looking after her welfare and happiness. This is something fundamental which should exist between husband and wife. Each of them should acknowledge the efforts of the other, show them gratitude and repay them in kindness. Allah said:
“Is the reward for good deeds extended anything other than good deeds (returned).” [55:60]
It would seem from various hadith that it is specifically necessary for the wife to remind herself of this principle. Perhaps since a large part of the husband’s contribution to the household takes place as working outside of the home, she may tend to overlook it. This seems to be a common characteristic of women as can be seen in the following hadith of the Prophet ﷺ after his night journey to see heaven, hell and Jerusalem:
“…and I saw most of its inhabitants (i.e., hell-fire) women. They said: Why, O Messenger of Allah? He said: Because of their kufr. It was said: Their kufr toward Allah? He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Their kufr toward their mate and they commit kufr (ingratitude) of good deeds extended even if you extend good deeds to one of them forever but then she sees something from who (which she dislikes) she says: I have never seen any good from you.” [Muslim & Bukhari]
In another hadith, the Prophet ﷺ warns wives in a similar manner:
“Allah does not look at a woman who does not thank her husband while she cannot do without him.” [Al-Hakim (acceptable per Sh. Al-Albani)\]
- She Does Not Fast (Voluntary) Without His Permission
The Prophet ﷺ said:
“It is not lawful for a woman to fast while her husband is resident except with his permission.” [Muslim & Bukhari]
Conclusion: The Importance of Fulfilling the Husband’s Rights
The Prophet ﷺ gave an all-encompassing advice to Muslim women in the following hadith:
“When any woman prays her five, fasts her month, guards her body and obeys her husband it is said to her: Enter paradise from whichever of its doors you wish.” [Ibn Hibban (sahih per Al-Albani)]
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS AND 4 MOST COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q: Does the first wife have to know about the second one being married (this means does the husband ask for her approval and not whether the second wife is hidden)?
A: As to whether the first wife has a right to object to her husband’s marrying another woman. According to scholars, the Shari`ah does not require the husband to get the consent of the first wife for a second marriage. If the conditions for a second marriage are right according to the Shari`ah, he can legally go ahead and marry. But as always we need to understand the spirit of the Islamic ruling first and the Usul behind it when we give yes or no answers.
For instance, if the second marriage is likely to upset the first marriage and the family structure which is already established is going to suffer, then a second marriage should be avoided, as it undermines the very purpose of the Islamic rules of marriage. The usul ruling on marriage is that we marry in the dunya and the akhira, so the sacramental status of marriage in Islaam is of high status and must not be played with.
On the other hand the permission of plural marriage is given in the context of protecting widows, as they need to be taken care of, or those sisters which have been divorced with children and need a care taker, this is again something which we support and praise. In the very same verse it is stated clearly that if a man cannot treat his wives with equity, he should not marry more than one woman. This is a clause usually ignored or taken lightly by many men, depriving women the rights Allah Almighty has granted.
It is also worth mentioning that the bride has the right before marriage to demand her fiance to agree in advance to certain conditions of hers, in case he is interested in pursuing another marriage later on. Actually, this can be part of the marriage contract. As it is the duty of Muslims to fulfill all obligations, the Muslim husband cannot but honor such a condition.
Q: I am in process of getting married as a seconded wife to my fiancée; he does not want to tell his current wife about this marriage. How will he treat me equal if she doesn’t know of the second marriage? Isn’t he required by Islamic law to tell the first wife and to treat us equally in time and other rights?
A: Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions. Basically a marriage contract should be performed publicly and should be made known to the people, in order to distinguish it from the illegal contracts. The Prophet ﷺ said: Make the marriage publicly known. [ Ahmad] This is a likeable practice; otherwise, informing the first wife or the second wife or the children is not a compulsory condition of a valid marriage. If the marriage contract is established fulfilling the compulsory conditions such as determining exactly who the bride and groom are, having the consent of the guardian of the woman, doing the contract in the presence of two witnesses, etc., then this marriage is valid if no other legal thing that hinders legal marriage is there. Therefore, if the marriage contract is performed fulfilling all the conditions then it is a valid marriage even though the wife and children are not aware of this marriage. But it is compulsory on the husband to deal justly among his wives.
Q: assalam o alaiqum sheikh. I know a learned sister who has studied the shafa’ie mazhab. We were discussing islamic polygyny and she said that the scholars of the past have said that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th wives are accumulation of dunyah (unless the man has a purely religious reason for more mariages) while the first wife is for a man’s akhirah. She did not directly mention the scholars or books where this was said. Hence I am writing this question to verify with you about what she said; that the scholars of the past consider the first marriage to be for the deen while the 2nd and subsequent marriages are considered to be accumulation of worldly desires.
A: All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad ﷺ, is His slave and Messenger.
We could not find any of the scholars stating what you have mentioned in the question. You may ask the sister who reported that opinion to you for the source.
It is known that the Prophet ﷺ, had eleven wives and passed away leaving behind nine living wives. All marriages of the Prophet ﷺ, had valid and legitimate purposes. Some scholars held that it is recommended to take a second wife; some even maintained that it is incumbent on the man to take a second wife if he is unable to maintain his chastity and his first wife does not satisfy his sexual needs, on condition that he can treat them justly.
Ibn Qudaamah wrote, “In marriage, people are of three categories. Some men may fear to fall into temptation if they do not marry. According to the majority of jurists, it is obligatory on such a man to marry in order to guard himself against what is unlawful….” [Al-Mughni]
It should be noted that there is no difference in this regard between the first or second marriage; the Hanbali scholar Al-Mardaawi wrote, “It is recommended that he confines himself to marrying only one wife if he is sexually satisfied and able to preserve his chastity, according to the preferred opinion of the Hanbali Mathhab. Ibn Al-Jawzi said: ‘unless he is not satisfied with only one wife.’ It was also said that it is recommended to take a second wife as in the case he is not satisfied with only one. This is what is apparent from the pronouncement of Imaam Ahmad. He maintained that in this case, he should borrow money (if financially unable) and take a second wife; then there is hope that he will escape (temptation).” [Al-Insaaf]
Allaah Knows best.
Q: salamu alaikum shaikh my wife died 2 year back, i am 49 years old i have a daughter 20 year son 18 year ,now i want to get marry but my children say there mother has asked them if she die , my children should not allow me to get marry again they should not keep any relation if i do so and her soul will not be in peace. They are now confuse what to do as they also want me to get marry. please advice me.
A: All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad ﷺ, is His slave and Messenger.
Marriage is a matter of virtue that the religion encourages. A Muslim who is capable of getting married should not abstain doing so; it is even deemed obligatory if the person fears falling into temptation as underlined in our other answers.
In fact, refraining from marriage with no legitimate impediment while being able to get married is contrary to the guidance of the Prophet ﷺ. Anas reported that the Prophet ﷺ, said: “… and I take marry; so whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not of me.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
Imam Ahmad said, “Being single is not compatible with Islam.”
The Companions were keen on getting married. Ruqayyah, the Prophet’s ﷺ daughter was married to ‘Uthmaan ﷺ. When she passed away, the Prophet ﷺ, married off her sister Umm Kulthoom to ‘Uthmaan.
The wife does not have the right to bequest that her husband should not remarry after her death or request her children to sever their relations with their father if he remarries. It is impermissible for the children to execute such an invalid bequest; it is even prohibited for them to obey such a command even if their mother asked them to do so before her death because it involves undutifulness (to their father) and severing ties of kinship.
We ask Allah to give you and us what ever is best for our akhirah, may Allah purify us in this world so that we may come out clean in the everlasting world that follows.
والله تعالى أعلم
وصلى اللهم وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه والتابعين
أخوك أبو ناصر