Building a Happy Muslim Family: Exploring the Duties of Husband and Wife
In Islam, the family is regarded as a fundamental building block of society. It consists of a husband and wife who, through the procreation of children, form a close-knit unit with shared goals and interests. The well-being of each member is intertwined with that of the entire family, and after marriage, both partners are expected to prioritize the needs of the family as a whole, rather than just their individual desires. Islam strongly values the strengthening of the family structure and the cultivation of healthy relationships between spouses (Khurshid, 1997). To this end, Islam has established clear rights and responsibilities for each member of the family. In Islam, marriage involves certain duties for both partners. Some of these duties are shared equally between them, while others complement each other, and some are the responsibility of only one partner. If either partner fails to fulfill their duties, it can negatively affect the purpose and fulfillment of the marriage. (Khurshid, 1997)
The Responsibilities of the Husband
The key to a family's success lies in how a man takes care of his wife, which is considered as important as a woman's duty towards her husband. A man's most valuable deed is to treat his wife in a way that transforms her into a virtuous personality. To achieve this, a man should understand his wife's behavior and desires, and organize his life according to her righteous requests. He can influence her by displaying good manners and attitude, which will make her interested in him and fulfilling her duties for better household scenarios. There are material and immaterial roles in fulfilling these duties. Some of these roles are done with materials while others are immaterial. (Lawal Mohammed, 2015)
One of the responsibilities of a husband is to provide his wife with a dower (Mahr) before the marriage that will be considered legal. The dower can be given in any form that the woman prefers, such as money or jewellery, and the mode of payment can be determined by mutual agreement. It can be paid in installments, deferred, or paid immediately before the marriage contract is signed. Regardless of the mode of payment, it is the woman's right and the husband's duty to fulfill this obligation. In addition, the way to take care of the wife after the marriage contract is to give alimony (nafqah), alimony is an obligation that the husband must fulfill. The words of Allah SWT in surah Al-Talaq, verse 7:
"Spend the rich from their wealth and whoever has limited means, then spend from what Allah has given him. Allah does not burden that soul except what Allah gives it. Later, Allah will make after the hardship there will be pleasure."
These are the material way to fulfilling these duties. (Lawal Mohammed, 2015)
One of the ways to take care of your wife without showing your property or material is to treat your wife well and respect her. This is because the Quran teaches husbands to get along with their wives in a good way, either from a customary point of view and more importantly, based on Sharia. Most scholars believe that it is obligatory for the husband to serve his wife who is unable or infirm and unable to take care of herself. This also includes doing housework according to the ability, energy, and time that can be given when at home.
One of the husband's immaterial responsibilities towards his wives is to treat all his wives justly and fairly, especially in terms of material possessions like the division of properties, meals, clothing, and accessibility (in polygamy situation). If a husband fails to do so, he will face consequences in this life and in the hereafter, such as unrest in the home and being resurrected as a deformed being. However, a husband may not be able to control his feelings of love towards each wife equally because it's in the hands of Allah. The Prophet used to distribute things fairly among his wives but would pray for forgiveness for not being able to control his heart. So, a Muslim husband is obligated to treat his wife with respect, kindness, and consideration, regardless of the number of wives he has. (Jurlda Lamce, 2013)
Other than that, showing appreciation and gratitude is an important aspect of a healthy and fulfilling marriage, and is especially important for husbands to show towards their wives. This means that husband should express their appreciation for their wife’s contributions to the family, whether it's through their care and nurturing of the household, their efforts in raising and educating their children, and professional pursuits. When husbands show appreciation and gratitude towards their wives, it helps to build a positive and supportive relationship and creates an environment of mutual respect and love. In the Islamic perspective, showing appreciation and gratitude towards one's spouse is considered a virtuous act, and is encouraged as a means of strengthening the bonds of marriage and fostering a harmonious and peaceful family life. (Jurlda Lamce, 2013)
The Responsibilities of Wife
The concept of obedience to one's husband is often misunderstood or misinterpreted. It is important to note that this obedience is not blind or absolute, but rather it is conditional and balanced with the husband's responsibilities towards his wife. According to Islamic teachings, a wife is expected to be obedient to her husband in matters that do not go against the teachings of Islam. This obedience is seen as a way of showing respect, love, and support toward her husband, and it is considered to be a fundamental aspect of a healthy and fulfilling marriage. However, it's important to note that this obedience is not unconditional or absolute. If a husband commands his wife to do something that goes against the teachings of Islam or is harmful to herself or others, then she is not obligated to obey him (Jurlda Lamce, 2013). The concept of obedience to one's husband in Islam is not intended to promote inequality or oppression, but rather to establish a framework for a harmonious and loving relationship between husband and wife, based on mutual respect, love, and cooperation.
Moreover, the responsibility of a wife may be to provide emotional support to her partner. Emotional support can be defined as the provision of empathy, care, and concern to help someone cope with their feelings or difficulties. In a marriage, emotional support can be crucial in maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship. A wife can provide emotional support to her partner by actively listening to their concerns and showing empathy and understanding. This can help to create a safe and supportive environment where both partners feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. This also can help to ease his stress and anxiety and strengthen the bond between the couple. It's important to note that emotional support is a two-way street, and both partners should be willing to provide support to each other when needed. By creating a supportive and nurturing environment within the marriage, both partners can feel valued, appreciated, and loved, leading to a satisfying relationship. (Ibrahim Amini, 2013)
From the Islamic perspective also, preserving the honor and dignity of the family is considered to be an important responsibility of the wife. It refers to maintaining the family's reputation, a husband, reputation, and social status in the community by avoiding any actions or behavior that could bring disgrace to the family. A wife is expected to be mindful of her actions and behavior, both inside and outside the home, as they can reflect on her family's reputation. This includes dressing modestly, avoiding gossip, and maintaining good manners and etiquette in all her interactions with others. Moreover, a wife is expected to be loyal to her husband and to protect his honor and dignity as well. It's important to note that preserving the honor and dignity of the family does not mean sacrificing one's own rights or compromising one's own values or beliefs. (Lawal Mohammed, 2015)
The Relation between SDG 16 and the Responsibilities of a Spouses.
Certainly, the responsibilities of spouses can be related to SDG Goal 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions. SDG Goal 16 aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. In the context of marriage, spouses have responsibilities towards each other that contribute to building peaceful and inclusive societies. For example, mutual respect and love, spouses are expected to treat each other with respect and love. This creates a peaceful and harmonious relationship and contributes towards building a peaceful and inclusive society. When spouses treat each other with respect and love, it fosters a sense of mutual understanding and empathy, which helps to create a peaceful and harmonious relationship. This can extend to their interactions with others in their community, promoting social cohesion and peaceful relations. Furthermore, when spouses are respectful and loving towards each other, they are less likely to engage in abusive or violent behavior toward each other, which contributes to building a just and equitable society. Overall, the responsibility of spouses to treat each other with respect and love is an essential element of building a peaceful and inclusive society, which is a key objective of SDG Goal 16. It promotes healthy relationships, healthy families, and strong institutions, all of which are essential for the promotion of peace and justice.
In conclusion, the responsibilities of spouses in the Islamic perspective are based on the principles of mutual respect, love, and cooperation. Both husbands and wives have important roles to play in building a healthy and productive family, which is the foundation of a strong and peaceful society.
Lawal Mohammed (2015), The Role of Spouses Under Islamic Family Law, International Affairs and Global Strategy, Vol. 37. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/234670779.pdf
Ibrahim Amini, An Introduction to the Right and Duties of women in Islam, Al-islam, https://www.al-islam.org/introduction-rights-and-duties-women-islam-ibrahim-amini/mutual-rights-and-responsibilities-spouses
Jurlda Lamce (2013), The Rights and Obligations of Spouses in Islamic Classic Law, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306526575_The_Rights_and_Obligations_of_Spouses_in_Islamic_Classic_Law
About the author
Nurfazlin binti Bukhari is an undergraduate student of the Department of Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh at International Islamic University (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.