Are Muslim Women Supposed to be Mindless Slaves in Marriage?

01 October, 2017
Q I was surfing through your Q's and A's and came across this response in a questions "In the family, the Holy Quran says that the leader should be the husband or the father. Because, the man is given more duties such as meeting the expenses of the members of the family, as mentioned in the verse. The woman’s domain is the home; but in the case of a difference in opinion, the woman should listen to her husband and abide by his wishes. It is to be emphasized here that this is not for enforcing male domination, but for the sake of peace and harmony. We must also understand that it is the differences in opinion between husband and wife that lead to divorce and the disruption of a healthy family life. Therefore, it is imperative that such discord should be solved at the root itself as far as possible. "My Question is, why aren't Muslim women allowed to be happy in marriage? If there is a serious disagreement between the husband and wife, why must the wife always sacrifice her happiness in order to "avoid divorce and the disruption of a healthy family life"? Is having a wife who after constantly giving into her husbands demands, leading her a nervous breakdown, the picture of a healthy family? What about the children? The sons will learn that they have the right to treat their mother in whatever manner they please, again leading the wife to be distressed! Is this the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, dealt with his wives, by ORDERING them to OBEY him all the time? I can hardly believe that the Messenger of Peace was a dictator in his home. Please clarify.


Short Answer: Of course not! This sort of blind, mindless obedience is not keeping peace in the family, it’s open injustice. Wives are partners with their husbands in having a good Muslim family. Husbands should lead with compassion, kindness, and wisdom, not an iron fist.

Salam Dear Sister,

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

The family unit is the building block of society. If families are strong then the society will be strong.

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Hopefully I can add to the discussion and this will help us all understand the issue a little better as a result.

Blind Obedience is not Unity, It is Injustice

Allah says in the Quran what is translated as:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what God would have them guard. (Quran 4: 34-35)

We must be very careful to avoid extreme interpretations of the Quran. Taking words literally must be avoided, especially when trying to interpret a translation.

Just because a word in Arabic is translated to be “obedient”, this does not imply that women may be ordered about by their husbands as a master would do to the slave, or as a dog might be expected to behave.

Neither the husband nor the wife has a right to make the other a servant, or to make them miserable for the sake of unity.

This is not unity, it is injustice.

There is no expectation in Islam that women must obey their husbands blindly, and be miserable accepting whatever he dishes out.

If both husband and wife are people of prayer, fasting, and charity, there will be very little chance that disputes of a serious nature will arise, and if they do, they will be solved very quickly.

This is the modeling that our children need.

Words do not carry as much weight with children as do actions, so we must be careful to show our children how to treat others, not just quote Quran and Hadith and then perform the opposite.

Unfortunately, there seem to be fewer of these types of husbands and wives than is needed to build a strong family and strong society.

Seek Out Guidance For Marriage

We must take the Quran, Sunnah (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the traditions of his family members, companions, the entirety of Islam, as a whole.

If we pick verses or ahadith, or specific words out of context, we will not come to a balanced understanding of Islam, nor of life in general.

This requires study of the Quran, Hadith, history, etc. which is a responsibility on every Muslim’s shoulders, man and woman alike.

We look to scholars for guidance, and we pray to God for wisdom and proper understanding so that we may lead peaceful and prosperous lives, but we are individually responsible to know what Islam teaches.

Although scholars are blessed with knowledge and wisdom, they cannot relieve us of this responsibility.

The Husband Should Be the *Compassionate* Leader

Having said that, the family unit needs a leader just like any other group in society requires leadership.

Even if we conduct a business meeting, for example, we choose a leader to guide the discussion and to make final decisions on everyone’s behalf.

We assign duties, tasks, and responsibilities to lessen the load on any one individual.

The family is no different. Someone should take on the role of leader, not out of pride and honor, but out of responsibility.

This role has been placed on men, but women can often display greater wisdom and leadership in their families and should use their wisdom to influence their husbands to follow what is best.

Some are very skilled at making the husband think it was his idea all along.

Between husband and wife, the man is responsible to God to provide for the financial upkeep and physical protection of his family, and men are well-suited for this role.

Women carry no responsibility to God to financially provide food, clothing and shelter for their husbands and children.

If she does leave the home to work, this would be considered an act of charity on the wife’s part and the husband must increase his help with childcare during those times.

Prophet Muhammad: The Model Husband

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had a lot to say about the importance of treating mothers, wives, and daughters with the utmost in kindness and was the best example of how men should conduct themselves as sons, fathers, and husbands.

Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“The best amongst you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best to my family”. (Ibn Majah)

The Prophet, peace be upon him, never beat his wife, nor his children. He did not yell at them, or order them around. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to take care of himself for the most part.

He did not sit at home and send his wife to go out and work.

He put the needs of his wives and children before his own, peace be upon him, and this is what we need from both husband and wife today.

Even his servants were treated with dignity and respect, eating what he ate, and dressing as he dressed, peace be upon him.

He used to listen to his wives’ opinions on important matters and follow their advice when their wisdom was beneficial to him and the Muslim community.

In summary, a wife is a partner in building a strong and happy Muslim family, not a servant to her husband, their children or to his family.

Husbands need to remember their own mothers and sisters when deciding to mistreat their wives and daughters out of pride or arrogance.

Wives need to remember their own fathers and brothers when deciding to mistreat or be unappreciative to their husbands.

I hope this has been beneficial to you.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From AboutIslam’s archives)

Read more…

Silent Spouses: Misunderstanding Patience

5 Things to Do If You Feel Your Husband is Bossy

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About Waleed Najmeddine
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine is a Canadian born Muslim and public school administrator. He is an active member of the Muslim community and enjoys educating Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam. He currently holds a Master of Education degree in leadership and school improvement.