Islamic Law regarding rights and obligations of husband and wife

The Prophet of Islam has said, “Marriage is my Sunnah (that is recommended action of the Prophet) and whoever does not follow my Sunnah is not my true follower.” (Ibn Haiah, Babun Nikah)

Islam has put great stress on the relationship of husband and wife. It has clearly laid down the respective rights and obligations to avoid confusion and complication in this regard.

The basis of husband-wife relationship is love and compassion. In this regard the Quran states,

“And among His sings is this that He has created mates from among yourselves, that you may live in comfort with them, and he has put love and compassion among you (husband and wife). Surely in that are sings for those who think ” (30: 21)

The role of husband normatively revolves round the principles that it is his solemn duty to Allah to treat his wife with kindness, honour and patience, to keep her honourably of free her from marital bond honourably, and to cause her no harm of grief (Quran, 2 : 229-32 and 4 : 19). The wife’s position has been explained in the Quran by saying that-

“Women have similar rights over men as men have over women.” (2 : 228)

The husband in Islamic law is under obligation to maintain her wife. Maintenance includes the wife’s right to lodging, clothing, nourishing, care and well being. The wife has a right to enjoy all these things according to her status and according to capacity of her husband.

The wife, however, loses her right of maintenance, according to the unanimous opinion of the Muslim jurists, in case of Nushuz, that is her hatred of defiance of husband or her attraction to another person.

In case of husband’s recalcitrance to maintain wife, the law enforcement agencies are required to enforce maintenance. The majority of Muslim jurists also allows the wife the right to seek divorce in such a case. If she wishes so, the court must comply with her request and grant her the divorce.

The wife has also the right to receive dower from the husband at the time or in consequence of marriage. The dower is a gift of husband to his wife. This symbolises an assurance of economic security from the husband towards wife. The amount can be big or small depending on mutual agreement and economic condition of the two parties. This is, however, no price of sexual enjoyment. This can not be so because sexual enjoyment is not a one-sided affair. (Ref: The Family Structure in Islam, Chapter 3, by Dr. Hammudah Abdul Ati, American Trust Publications).

The main obligation of the wife as a partner in a marital relationship is to contribute to the success and blissfulness of the marriage as much as possible. She should be attentive to the comfort and well being of her mate. The Quran mentions good wife as “comfort of eyes.” (25 : 74)

The husband has been stated by scholars as the head of the family in Islamic family system. It is the duty of all family members to obey him in lawful matters. However, Islam has enjoined on all Muslims to manage their affairs (which includes family affairs) by mutual consultation. However, in case of disagreement, the head of the family should be obeyed. The mutual relation of men and women in Islam is that of “friend” and not of master and servant. The Quran says,

“Believers men & women are friends to one another (Wali), they enjoin right, forbid wrong, establish Salat, pay Zakat ,obey Allah & His Prophet” (9 : 71)

This is the last verse of the Quran on man-woman relationship and it shows that duties of men and women are basically same. (Please also refer verses 30 : 21; 3 : 194; 2 : 187; 33 : 35)

Husband alone has the right of sexual intimacy with wife. The wife must not allow any other person to have access to that which is exclusively the husband’s right. Wife has similar right in this regard.

Islam has given the correct principles and instructions regarding rights and obligations of husband and wife. These principles, if obeyed in true spirit, would ensure better family and social life. More