How to Handle Marital Rights?

02 August, 2016
Q I come from a Muslim family and my father is a conservative man. He is a rich man with average looks married to a woman (my mother) who is outstandingly beautiful with 13 years of age gap. Since my childhood, regular fights (verbal) between my parents is a usual thing. For every reason his excuse was Islam and he reiterates that “Islam gives the ultimate power to men and not women”. Living in a western culture, this was very hard for us (the children) to absorb. Now we are back in a country where law is always on husband’s side. So I need to understand Islamic laws to counter his allegation against my mother. Following are the situations: My mother’s parents are not good people according to my father and that is why they do not have the right to live with my mother. He always justifies this with how a women needs to obey her husband… They both are over 80 years and there is hardly anyone to look after them. In my lifetime I have never seen them misbehave with my father. Yes, they are not rich enough to succumb to all his wishes! My mother can only meet people who my father wishes. And believe me when I say that he just needs no reason to dislike a person. A person just has to say something good to my mother, or be nice to her and that would antagonize my father. He is a very jealous man, who doesn’t trust his wife. We are forced to come back to his birthplace and here he has every possible control over us, so how can we stop him from doing all this? Can I stop my father from verbally abusing my mother and from doubting her or disbelieving her on every occasion. My mother is a timid person and I am afraid my father’s behavior is affecting her health as well. What right does Islam give under this circumstances to wife and daughter? I need to mention that we are still financially dependent on him. Thank you for your patience, but I guess people like you are my only solution to my problems. Will eagerly wait for your answer.


Salam Dear Sister,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

I do believe you when you say that in your country law is always in the side of men against women. In fact, the rate of violence against women in Bangladesh is much higher than any other country.

Tragic enough, is that when we were at the Beijing Conference on Women, the anti-Islamic organizations, which came to embarrass Islam and to claim that it is a faith that degrades women, brought with them – as a live demonstration for their claim – ladies from your country whose faces and bodies were allover in black and blue! Thus, this problem goes far beyond the case of your mother to be an exposition of: culture versus religious.

Funny enough, is that this culture always justifies itself in terms of the religion. Simply, as you’ve quoted your father saying: “Islam gives the ultimate power to men and not women!” I think your father, like many others, is confused in the understanding of the Quranic expression, in Surah 4, verse 34:

{Men are protectors and maintainers of women…}

People tend to confuse the word quamah, which means responsibility in Arabic, with the word power. In fact, the word quamah does not give any sense of the “ultimate” as it is conditioned with fulfilling man’s duties towards his family.

Continuous family splits between any married couples are due to common reasons:

  • First:

    Deficiency in understanding Islam that makes both partners ignorant of their rights and duties towards the other partner. This is as well as being ignorant of their roles in life, which makes them step on one another’s tiptoes!

    No one under any circumstances should transgress his/her limits towards the other. These limits are best expressed by God when he orders men in Surah 4, verse 19, saying:

    {… live with them [women] on a footing of kindness and equity …}

    Also, by Prophet Muhammad when he says to men in his final farewell sermon:

    “O people! Fear Allah concerning women. Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah and have made their persons lawful unto you by words of Allah.”How to Handle Marital Rights

    This instruction had been chosen among few others, to be his last words to his ummah (nation) before he died. It is a sign of great importance and priority to the stability and dignity of the whole ummah. In this nation of Islam there is no place for humiliated individuals either by domestic or state tyranny.

    Simultaneously, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ordered women in more than one hadith to respect their husbands. For example:

    “Three people, their prayers will not mount up any higher than their heads: An imaam who leads people in prayer by force, a woman who sleeps at night while her husband is angry with her and two brothers in estrangement.” (Reported by Ibn Magah.)

    Thus, Islam makes it clear that it is no one’s right to dehumanize the other.

  • Second:

    The long silence of the ill treated partner – either the man or the woman – towards ill-treatment, till abuse and humiliation become an established style of life. This is which becomes hard to challenge.

    By rejecting silence I don’t mean insolence or disrespect towards the other, as mutual respect in married life is a “sacred” value in Islam. Here, I exactly mean this healthy and mature behavior of decent dialogue that should continuously exist between any married couple in order to speak out their liking and disliking.

    It is known that the wives of the prophet (peace be upon him) used to talk things over with him and to make him reconsider some of his decisions sometimes. The only time he could not accept their argument was when they asked him to reconsider his policy of expenditure and asked him to increase their allowance. Only then he abandoned them ‘decently’ and ‘sadly’ as he could never accept his household to be attracted to dunya (this materialistic life).

    He (peace be upon him) could not compromise with any dislike to his ascetic and humble life. Thus, he gave them the choice of either divorce or accepting this life as it is. Of course, they chose him and regretted what they had done! This is the example of harmonious married life based on dialogue and mutual understanding.

  • Third:

    Building a healthy marriage on bases of “power” and “rights” makes it a conditioned relationship. Rather, it should be based on ‘kindness’ and ‘mercy’. This, I’m sure enables the couple to gain more rights and even power, but through an atmosphere of love, rather than tension.

As for your series of questions, I am answering them separately:How to Handle Marital Rights

  • In the general, it is not the husband’s right to cut off his wife’s relationship with her parents. Yet, it is not his duty or obligation to host them in his own house and spend his money on them. If he does this then it is out of favor.

    Again this issue should be discussed through love and mercy, rather than rights and power. I think that if your mother tries her best to sway your father and his family with extra favors, he will be glad to pay back the favor.

  • As for his over jealousy, I understand that if she follows the rules of Islam concerning her dress and ethics of mixing with non-mahram men, she will not give him a reason or a chance to feel jealous. I don’t think he is to blame for being annoyed when a strange man says something “good” to her or acts “nicely” towards her, when she is young and beautiful!

    This is not a sign of distrust, but a sign of natural jealousy towards one beloved woman, a virtue that the western mentality has forgotten for long. Still, if you are sure that she observes Islamic ethics and yet he distrusts her, then his attitude must be regarded as an act of abuse. It is her right in case of verified abuse to take all possible actions; beginning with getting mutual friends and relatives to interfere, up to asking for divorce.

    Still, let me tell your mother to try a new strategy with her husband. That is to get rid of her timidity and open civilized mature conversations, without getting into “regular fights”. This is how she should convince him of her needs and how she should express her suffering.

  • In all cultures, it is the father who leads the family regarding the issue of where and how to live. This is usually in accordance to his work conditions. But, in case where you are living now is so disturbing to you all, you can try to negotiate it politely, in order to convince him of moving. Yet, if he insists, it is your duty to keep patient with full respect to his decision and don’t forget that you, the children, are all leaving the house for marriage sooner or later.
  • As for your need to stop him from abusing her, you can do it in a democratic, yet polite manner. It can be in the form of a nice rather than a harsh request. This is because it is never acceptable in Islam that a son or a daughter should show the least amount of disrespect to the parents. It is not because we are financially dependant on them but even, or specially, when they are dependent on us. You can read this in Surah 17, verse 23:

    {And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve [any] but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them [so much as] “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word.}

    The more we humble ourselves to them even if they mistreat us, the more we prove our faith and sincerity to Allah. This is as disrespect with parents is a major sin that leads to Hellfire.

    I do prefer to avoid the direct way of instructing parents. So, I recommend that you try to play your own witty tricks on him, such as putting books and articles concerning the Islamic view of marriage and the life of Prophet Muhammad as a husband on his way. Another idea is to play religious tapes about the duties of husbands…etc. I’m sure it is never too late for your father to change!How to Handle Marital Rights

    I know that it is difficult for you to accept this value of “ultimate submission to parents” which the West calls “patriarchal,” specially that you were brought up in a western society. Still, you have to realize that such difficult “sacrifices” lead at the end to this strong sense of family, which we Muslims enjoy.

I would like to give one final advice to husbands and parents, who live in places where legal systems are unjustly in their favor. This is that it is much happier to gain the wife’s and children’s respect and obedience through love, than through fear… It is such a sorrow to see them waiting for the right moment to break the chains and escape!

Wishing you all the best sweet sister, I thank you again and please keep in touch.