In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
Responding to your question, Dr. Zainab Al-Alwani, an Instructor of Fiqh at GSISS and a teacher of Islamic and Arabic studies at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), stated,
I understand the concept of “obedience to husband” in the light of verse 71 of Surat At-Tawbah which reads, “The Believers, men and women, are awliya’ (protectors) one of another: they enjoin what is good, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.” (At-Tawbah 9:71)
Based on this verse, the concept of awliya’ and the responsibility to execute Allah’s commands is very essential in understanding the boundaries of obedience to the husband.
The wife’s obedience to the husband is not a blind one; it is always connected with the obedience to Allah Almighty and within the boundaries of ma`ruf or goodness.
Therefore, taqwa (piety) is the foundation of this obedience. This does not contradict the verse on qiwamah or guardianship because the life history of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his example towards his wives is the best evidence to determine the true meaning of obedience and guardianship.
When it comes to the Prophet’s way of dealing with his wives, we find that he used to consult them, seek advice from them, and take decisions through consultation and dialogue.
Therefore, the concept of “I command and you comply” does not exist in Islam as we answer to a higher authority; Allah the Almighty.
Going back to your questions, the husband is supposed to trust his wife’s decision in determining what is good for her as Allah Almighty has trusted the good believing women saying, “Therefore the righteous women are devoutly humble, and guard in absence what Allah would have them guard.” (An-Nisaa’4:34)
Therefore, both of you are highly urged to discuss these issues sincerely without any dictatorship or stubbornness, and in view of what serves the best interest of the family.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.