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:
2- He is not allowed to treat his wife scornfully or repulsively.
3- He should be just enough to view and appreciate her merits as he views her defects.
4- Mercy and compassion should be the common traits among the husband and wife.
Responding to the question, Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, states:
One of the merits of Islam is that it honors woman and corrects the negative image of woman that was depicted in the past.
Islam gives women a lot of rights that were long denied to her, and it cares for her feelings as a human being, in contrast to some trends of thoughts and customs in some countries.
Almighty Allah enjoins husbands to consort with their wives in kindness in many texts, and one of the features of such kindness is caring for their feelings as follows:
1- A Muslim man should refrain from reminding her of her faults and defects in a way detestable to her, whether they are deformities that she can do nothing about, or moral defects such as forgetfulness or talkativeness.
This is because Almighty Allah generally prohibits backbiting, slander, name-calling, and swearing.
Moreover, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said about treating one’s wife, “Do not hit her on the face nor uglify her (i.e., nor say to her, ‘May Allah uglify you’).” (Abu Dawud)
Commenting on this hadith, Al-Hafizh Al-Mundhiri says: “It means that a man should never verbally abuse his wife or say to her, ‘May Allah uglify you.’”
2- A Muslim should never treat his wife disapprovingly, scornfully, or repulsively. He should be just enough to view and appreciate her merits as he views her defects. Almighty Allah says: “for if you hate them it may happen that you hate a thing wherein Allah has placed much good.)(An-Nisaa’ 4: 19)
In addition, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her manners, he will be pleased with another.” (Muslim)
In this regard, we may mention the incident reported by Al-Mawardi in his book entitled Al-Ahkam As-Sultaniyyah: Caliph `Umar ibn Al-Khattab saw a man circumambulating the Kabah while carrying a beautiful woman and saying words indicating that he was granting her the reward of his performance of Hajj. `Umar asked the man, “Who is this woman to whom you grant the reward of your Hajj?” The man replied, “She is my wife, Commander of the Believers. She is foolish, stubborn, and gluttonous.” `Umar said to the man, “Why don’t you divorce her then?” The man replied, “She is so beautiful that I cannot dislike her, and she is a mother of (my) children so I cannot divorce her.” `Umar said to him, “It’s up to you then.”
3- A Muslim man should never mention the charms of other women to his wife to enrage her or hurt her feelings. This hurts the wife’s feelings most, especially if that woman whom the husband praises is another wife of his, a neighbor, or any woman he knows.
Doing so is only permissible if the husband intends to show her the good manners of a certain woman so that his wife may be equally good and follow her example.
In this regard, Al-Bukhari and Muslim related that `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “I never felt jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did of Khadijah, though I have never seen her [as Khadijah died when `A’ishah was young], for the Prophet used to mention and praise her very often, and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadijah. When I sometimes said to him, ‘(You mention Khadijah in such a way) as if there is no woman on earth but Khadijah,’ he would say, ‘Khadijah was such-and-such (enlisting her good attributes), and from her I had children’.”
4- A Muslim husband should keep the secrets of his wife, especially her private affairs which are known to none but him. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The most wicked among the people in the sight of Allah on the Day of Judgment is the man who enjoys his wife and she enjoys him (i.e. by having sexual intercourse), and then he reveals her secret (of their intercourse).”(Muslim)
Moreover, when a righteous man was asked why he wanted to divorce his wife, he said, “A wise man never reveals the secrets of his wife.” Then, when he was asked, after divorcing her, why he did, he said, “Why should I talk about a woman who is not my wife?!”
5. A Muslim husband should call his wife with an honorific name that she likes, but this is a matter of custom.
6- A Muslim should greet his wife when he comes home to give her a feeling of cordiality and tranquility. Anas narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said to him, “O son! Whenever you come home and see your household, greet them. This will be a blessing upon you and your household.”(At-Tirmidhi)
These are some of the features that show how Islam cares for the feelings of woman, obligating her husband to treat her kindly.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.