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Matrimonial Rights in Islam - Part 2

Adopted from the book "A New Perspective : Women in Islam" by : Sayyid Mustafa Qazwini and Fatma Saleh

Fatma:Why did Islam choose men to be the caretakers of women?

Sayyid: Scholars cite many explanations. However, primarily scholars focus on the biological fact that men are physically stronger than women; therefore, men are more apt to exert themselves for the livelihood of their families. Hence, men become the caretakers of women. In addition, the nature of a man’s psychological development is audacious and chivalrous.

Addressing the word “qaanitaat,” some scholars have transcribed the word as meaning obedient, yet it has many other meanings in Arabic. For example, it can mean truly devoted, or lifting of hands during prayer, or listening, or submitting, and perhaps it could give meaning of obedience, but again obedience toward the husband is only limited within the religious perimeter. That is to say, if the husband makes a request of his wife, and that request is indoctrinated or practiced by Islam, and if it were within her ability, then the wife should cooperate and adhere to the request. On the other hand, if the husband makes a request of his wife which is religiously unlawful, or inappropriate, or not within her ability, then she is not obligated to obey his request.

Fatma: In the archives of Islamic literature, there are some traditions regarding women that I find to be degrading and highly reprehensible. I would like your comment on one particular tradition of the Prophet and its veracity.

It is not right that any human being should prostrate to another being, and if it were right for any human being to prostrate to another human being I would have ordered the woman to prostrate to her husband due to the greatness of his rights upon her. By Him in whose Hands my soul, if from his foot to the crown of his head there was a wound pouring forth with puss and she came and licked that then she would still not have fulfilled his rights. 37

Sayyid: Keep in mind when we discussed the authenticity of some traditions in the chapter “Making Clarity,” I explained that not all traditions of the Prophet were authentic. Then, in the beginning of this chapter, I also discussed that not all Arabic terms can be translated properly. However, I am familiar with the first half of the tradition, but I cannot verify the authenticity of the second half (“foot to the crown…”).

This tradition is allegorical, in the sense that if a woman were fortunate enough to marry a pious man with exceptional qualities, one who treated her extraordinary well and fulfilled all her physically and emotionally needs, then, respectfully, she would treat him in the same manner.

Fatma: How do you elucidate this tradition from Imam Ali, who not only happened to be one of the rightful rulers of Islam, 38 but also shared one of the closest ties to the Prophet? 39

O, you people! Women are deficient in faith, deficient in shares, and deficient in intelligence. As regards to the deficiency in their faith, it is their abstention from prayers and fasting during their menstrual period. As regards to deficiency in their intelligence, it is because the evidence of two women is equal to that of one man. As for the deficiency of their shares, that is because of their share in inheritance being half of men. So, beware of the evils of women. Be on your guard even from those of them who are good. Do not obey them even in good things so that they may not attract you to evils. 40

Sayyid: Imam Ali was not suggesting or confirming that Allah insufficiently created women. There is no deficiency in the creation of women.

“We have indeed created man in the best of molds” (95:4).

The concluded examples that Imam Ali draws on are metaphoric and the tradition is missing a fundamental part which was the incident that infused the words. Imam Ali was indirectly addressing one woman who caused a great deal of damage to the Islamic communityin the battle of Camel. However, this subject would deter us from our topic. For further details, one can refer to other resources. 41


“And the rights of the wives—in relation to their husbands—are equal to their obligations—toward their husbands” (2:228).

You briefly touched upon this verse and, interestingly, mentioned the words “conditional” and “reciprocal compliance.” Can you elaborate on this matter?

Sayyid: When it comes to the rights of men and women, the Qur’an always speaks about mutuality, cooperation, and respect. These are the fundamental principals in any matrimonial relationship.

“Wa lahunna methullathi ‘al ayhinna bil-ma’ruuf” is translated as “And the rights of the wives—in relation to the husbands—are equal to the obligations toward their husbands” (2:228).

This verse is the basis by which the foundation of matrimonial relationships must thrive. Allah notes that, in the same way men have rights over women, women also have rights over men.

Fatma: What are those rights that a husband has upon his wife?

Sayyid: It is extremely important to mention both the husband’s rights upon the wife, and the wife’s rights upon the husband in order to compare and comprehend the very delicate issue of Islamic matrimonial rights. Keeping in mind that the relationship of husband and wife is based on mutuality, cooperation, and respect, there are indoctrinated rights which husbands have upon their wives, and the Islamic jurists (fuqaha)note them as the following:

1) Haqq-al-ta’a: which means the right ofcompliance from the wife. The compliances are that the husband can require his wife to comply with her religious and moral duties.Furthermore, she is not to leave the house without his permission, if it encroaches upon his right for “tamkeem”(see below #2).

2) Tamkeem:which means that the wife makes herself physically available to her husband provided that she is physically and psychologically well. Alternatively, some scholars refer to it as Haqq-l-istimta’a—the right of physical and emotional enjoyment.

3) Haqq-al-maiyah:which means that the wife spends time with her husband; a form of companionship.

The wife’s rights upon her husband are as follows:

1) Nafaqa:which means that the husband is required to financially cover all the living expenditures of his wife. This is a very broad term, and it involves a stupendous list of miscellaneous items needed for living, such as shelter, clothing, home fixtures, and money.

2) Haqq-al-irwa`al-jinsi: which means physical fulfillment. This right not only discusses the act of intimacy, but also entails the romantic and playful gestures made by the husband to his wife.

3) Muthajia: which means to be in bed with one’s wife. It does not necessarily mean being intimate with her, but coming home, being next to her, sleeping in the same house, in the same bed (mandated: wajib) at least one night out of every four. Although it is highly recommended to be with one’s wife every night.

4) The Qur’an words it beautifully, “Live with them [women] on a footing of kindness and equity: wa ‘aashiruuhun-na bil-ma ‘ruuf,” which means a peaceful coexistence between the couples (4:19).This verse inevitably touches upon every aspect of a woman’s life—physical, psychological, emotional, financial, and spiritual.

It is important to note that the rights stated are conditional and not absolute.

Fatma: Although it may be too complex to extensively detail each right you mentioned, I believe that it is important to briefly explain them. In addition, you indicate that these rights are governed by reciprocal compliances and, if broken, then subsequently an injunction and verdict would be issued. Could you clarify the circumstances regarding the potential injunctions, and how the verdicts could be implemented?

Sayyid: Islamic scholars use the Arabic terms nushuuz and shiqaaqa whenever there is a predicament or an abiding breach of matrimonial rights. Consequently, there are twoclassifications of discordance or incompliance.

1) Nashiz (nushuuz/nasuza) pertains to the sole partner who has neglected or disregarded the matrimonial responsibilities.

2) Shiqaaq pertains to partners that are disagreeing simultaneously or behaving evasively toward their obligatory duties.

When any of the classifications are in violation, then subsequently a judgment would be rendered.

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