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A Husband’s Power Over his Wife

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

May 03, 2019

Question

I have seen a hadith that says: “The person who has the greatest right over the woman is her husband, and the person who has the greatest right over the man is his mother.” I want to understand why this is so? And can she not allow her parents into the house without his permission?

Consultant

Answer


Why is a womans priority her husband whereas a mans priority is his mother

Short Answer: The Hadith you mentioned was at one time classified as Hasan, or Strong. However, it was later reclassified as Da’if, or Weak and a scholar known as Al-Abaani. Upon classifying the Hadith as Weak, he criticized the previous scholar who had called it strong. It is my belief that if a woman’s husband is trying to keep her parents away – unless he has a truly legitimate reason such as them being abusive people – then he is overstepping his rights. 

………….

Salaam alaykum and thank you for your question. It is a rather heavy one, so I will jump right in, insha’Allah, and address it piece by piece.

First: The Hadith

I am not a scholar. I have not been trained in Islamic studies, much less Hadith classification, which is a science so complex that I doubt very many modern scholars understand it. For an extremely simplified overview: not all Hadith are created equal. There are different levels of “classification” in terms of the reliability of any given Hadith. Some are classified as Authentic, others as Strong, or Weak, or even Fabricated. The two most well-known collections of Hadith are from Bukhari and Muslim. The overarching classification of those collections is Sahih: Authentic.

This does not mean that every single Hadith in those collections is Authentic. Just recently on a Facebook page affiliated with About Islam, there was a discussion about a particular Hadith from Bukhari, which talked about the Prophet (saw) joining in with some male monkeys who were stoning a female monkey for adultery.

This is obviously patently ridiculous for many reasons. But it was from the collection of Bukhari, falling under that blanket classification. One participant in the conversation pointed out that the Hadith was later re-classified as Fabricated.

The Hadith mentioned in the original question was at one time classified as Hasan, or Strong. However, it was later reclassified as Da’if, or Weak and a scholar known as Al-Abaani. Upon classifying the Hadith as Weak, he criticized the previous scholar who had called it strong.

It is extremely important to realize that any oral history needs to be taken with a certain critical eye. Yes, the Prophet (saw) left his Sunnah for us, but it has been transmitted through the generations orally and classified at the hands of fallible humans. The only thing that we should accept at face value is the Quran. Hadith are very important, but are subject to the mistakes of men. There are many Hadith that are reliable and upon which we base many practices of our faith. The Hadith in question, however, is not one of those.

Why Is this So?

The reliability of the Hadith you asked about aside, I want to give you the most authentic answer available to the question you posed: I do not know. I do not and cannot know the “why” or so many things in the deen. Any scholar worth his or her salt should give the same answer. If there is something mandated by Allah, we might be able to speculate as to why. We can apply critical thinking and try to suss out the earthly benefits of behaving in a certain manner.

But at the core, if something is indeed mandated by Allah, unless He has explained to us why He has mandated it, we cannot truly know why.

The reason I want to answer this so definitively is because it is important to realize that we cannot always answer the question “why?” The word Islam comes from a word that means to submit – and we as Muslims submit to the Will of Allah, even if we do not know why. Doing something simply for the pleasure of Allah is the highest form of worship!

Does a Husband Have Unlimited Power over his Wife?

This is not the exact question you asked, but your question falls under this umbrella, so to speak.

You will find scholars who will say that a woman must submit to every whim of her husband’s and that obedience to him is her primary duty. To that, I say: where is the evidence?

In the Quran, duties to one’s parents are mentioned over and over in juxtaposition to one’s duties to Allah. Allah places parents at His side in the Quran repeatedly, subhanAllah! And never once in the Quran does Allah place a stipulation saying “this is for men only,” or “except for a woman, who has the greatest responsibility to her husband.” As a general rule, unless Allah clearly spells out different rules for men and women, we assume that men and women follow the same guidelines.

It is my belief that if a woman’s husband is trying to keep her parents away – unless he has a truly legitimate reason such as them being abusive people – then he is overstepping his rights. It is the Bible that says that a man submits to God and a woman submits to her husband – not the Quran.

Are there certain instances in which a man has rights over his wife and can reasonably expect her respectful cooperation? (I do not use the term “obedience,” as it implies a master-slave relationship) YES! But does he have the right to wield power over her at any time he pleases and for any reason? Absolutely not.

As a general rule, I would advise women to be cautious of men who are obsessed with his rights. Yes, husbands and wives have rights over one another. But marriage isn’t meant to be a combat zone. Approach the relationship with the care and love that Allah commands of us in the Quran – our only 100% infallible source of knowledge – and the rights will, insha’Allah, fall into place.

And Allah knows best.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Cherish Your Wife the Prophet’s Way (10+ Hadiths)

What Are the Rights of the Wife?

Is It the Wife’s Obligation to Serve Her Husband?




About Leah Mallery

Leah is a Muslim convert of almost a decade. She has two kids, an intercultural marriage, and half of a French degree in her back pocket, looking to switch gears to science and medicine. She has lived abroad for over a decade, having just recently become reacquainted with her roots in America. She currently lives in Michigan near her family and – masha’Allah – a sizeable Muslim community.

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