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Do Wives Have Any Rights in Islam?

31 October, 2016
Q I have two questions: 1. According to Islam, does the wife have no say or right in anything? 2. According to Islam, what are the rules with husband and wife? Please give passages in Quran.


Salam Dear Jasmine,

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

In fact, before answering I’d like to correct a certain misunderstanding related to giving passages from Quran. Although Quran is the major source of Islamic law, it is not the only one.

This is because we also have the Prophet’s sayings and acts in the different situations, in which he is meant to be taken as a model example by the Muslim community.

Thus, it is not correct to restrict yourself to Quran alone, because without the other sources like sunnah – the sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the acts of his great companions, together along with ijtihad (the legal opinions of modern scholars), your practice of Islam will be deficient.

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Thus, just let me feel free to answer your questions, with reference to all possible Islamic sources of legislation and not only Quran.

Let me start with your first question, about wives having no opinion in anything! In fact, when starting the marriage project, the girl’s opinion is an indispensable prerequisite for considering a marriage as valid. Without the girl’s acceptance the marriage is considered null. It is narrated that:

‘A girl went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: ‘My father forced me to marry his nephew, just to raise his standard of living’. The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave her the choice to continue or terminate the marriage. She said: ‘I will continue, but I only wanted all girls to know that their fathers have no rights on them in this matter.’ (Ibn Majah)

After marriage, even the simplest details of life are shared responsibility between the two spouses, like that of deciding to wean a baby!

{…If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, …}

Surah 2 Verse 233

It is forbidden that the decision of family planning should be a single decision either from the man or from women. Consider this example of the good women at the time of prophethood, who interfered in the way their husbands earned living, warning them against illegal money saying: ‘Beware of illegal money, we can be patient at hunger, but cannot be patient at the Hell fire.’

Look at the dynamic role of wives, in their own lives and compare it to the passiveness of today’s women under the pressure of culture, tradition or ignorance of their rights.

Tyranny on the level of the family is the same as tyranny on the level of nations and peoples. A tyrant cannot work freely, unless his partners in life give him this chance, by reacting passively and submissively to his mischief!

Thus a polite dialogue is what every couple needs, in order to achieve this level of understanding and to let each one be well heard.

As for your second question, excuse me for expressing my dislike of the word ‘rules’, because the relationship between a husband and a wife is the subject of mutual love and mercy, but not rules. Quran made this clear in the following verse:

{And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.}

Surah 30 Verse 21

Rules and laws are there, when love and mercy disappear! It is true that according to the rule, a man should sustain his wife, according to his income, even if she is rich. If he is incapable, it is his wife’s right to get a divorce.

Still, according to love and mercy, the wife of the venerable companion of the Prophet – Ibn Mas’ud – went to the Prophet with another woman, to ask him secretly, if they can help their poor husbands to spend on the houses, as they are well to do. The Prophet praised their compassion with their husbands and said:

‘There are two rewards for them, the reward of kinship and the reward ofsadaqa (charity).’ (Narrated by Muslim)

According to the rule, the housework is not necessarily the responsibility of the wife, and it may be part of the husband’s financial responsibility to hire her a servant.

Still, according to love and mercy, the noblest lady of all Muslim women, Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, learned from her great father certain prayers that would facilitate the housework for her instead of a servant.

Again, Asma’, the daughter of Abu Bakr, used to help her poor beloved husband, till her hands became wrinkled although she came from a luxurious house.

Simultaneously, the loving husband should follow the model example of the noblest of noble men, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who – though having many wives – used to help in the house work and to mend his own socks, hating to disturb any of his wives with these tasks.

Thus, it is not a matter of ‘dictated’ duties and responsibilities, as much as, mutual compassion and a willingness to sacrifice.

Salam and please keep in touch.