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Permission from My Husband? Am I a Slave?

27 December, 2023
Q I’ve been reading a few of the articles on your website, and they’ve been so helpful!

To give you some background information, my boyfriend, a Sunni Muslim from India, introduced me to Islam a while ago.

We’ve been discussing my conversion for a while now. He encourages me to truly believe in it and accept it.

Not just for his sake. It is a requirement for us to get married.

There are some questions which he is unable to answer and some “requirements” he has stated that feel inherently wrong to me.

I’m not trying to criticize the Quran or God, I’m just explaining how much certain things my boyfriend says deeply bother me.

For example, I have been listening to the Quran, but I had not yet gotten to the Surrah about The Women.

He informed me that women in Islam are expected, as stated almost explicitly in this Surrah, to be obedient to their husbands and ask permission (to go out of the home, etc.). I

did look up this surrah after, but I am still struggling to understand how women, especially those raised in the west, apply it to their lives.

I understand that there are certain rights that a wife and husband have in a relationship, but I cannot wrap my head around the idea that women always being obedient to their husbands is one of them.

Of course, I would consult my boyfriend on topics I believe only affect me and even defer the final say to him on joint decisions, not out of obedience, but respect for his opinion and wisdom. And I would expect him to do the same.

The same goes for the idea of permission. I’m fine with asking for his permission to go out with my friends on certain nights for dinner if he can return that respect and consideration.

But when it is just me asking, it would feel less like being partners and more like being a master and an obedient servant.

I trust my boyfriend, but I also need the right to make my own choices. I interpreted his statement as a request for me to give up my free will to another human being, something I would not give to anyone.

I really care for him and want to reconcile this issue, but I cannot accept it as he as explained.

So, I’m consulting you to ask for another opinion on how Muslim women, especially ones living in America, might handle this situation or how you think it should be applied.

So much of Islam makes sense to me, but there are certain issues like this on which I cannot accept my boyfriend’s opinion.

I was hoping for someone’s example of how they handle this in their day to day lives, and how they apply the specifications of the Quran to a modern existence in America.

I’m incredibly grateful for your help in advance. Also, I wanted to apologize for any misconceptions, unintentional insults, or misinformation I have relayed in this email.

I don’t pretend to know very much about Islam as I am still learning and looking for different perspectives.

Thank you again,


In this counseling answer:

I am wondering why he is pressing the issues of obedience to him if you marry when he is not being obedient to Allah by having a relationship with you, but that’s another topic.

While learning his culture and getting to know the societal standards and norms in the part of India from which he comes, you may see something that doesn’t seem right to you.

If you don’t find it in the Quran or in reputable Hadiths such as ones narrated by Bukhari or Muslim, you may want to question it further.

To be obedient and submissive means that there is a level of respect and honor, just as a husband should have for his wife.

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You are to be helpmates for one another with your husband in charge.

Salam ‘Alaikum sister,

Thank you for writing in with your question, it is admirable that you are seeking information about Islam and marriage.

Please do not apologize! You have said nothing wrong.

In fact, your questions are a sign that you desire to learn more. May Allah bless your journey.

Thinking about becoming a Muslim

Some people rush into marriage without really understanding what an Islamic marriage entails or in your case as a woman, what your rights are.

As your boyfriend is a Muslim and you are possibly thinking of reverting, I would suggest sister that you continue to study and learn about Islam before making a commitment to revert.

When we take shahada, which is our testimony of faith, we take it based on our knowledge.

That Islam is the one true religion and that there is no God but Allah and that the prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was His last messenger. This is between you and Allah SWT.

As you know already, this should not be something that you do in order to get married to your boyfriend.

Furthermore, your boyfriend may be a bit misinformed when he states that it is a requirement for you to become Muslim in order to get married to him unless you are not within the criteria.

Check out this counseling video:

I’m not sure which religion you practice or if you even practice a religion, but Muslim men are permitted to marry women of the books.

This means a Muslim man can marry a practicing Christian, Jew and obviously a Muslim woman.

So, if you fall into any of those categories you do not have to revert for him to marry you. It is preferable that you revert.

However it is only from the depths of your heart and true belief that should you revert to Islam.

One cannot revert to Islam just to please a potential marriage partner, a friend, family member, or anyone else.

Becoming a Muslim and practicing Islam is a very serious matter and a very important life change.

It takes dedication and a true heart dedicated to Islam. With that said, let’s look at some of your concerns.

Regarding some of the other requirements pertaining to the rights of a wife and a husband.

Culture & Islam

First, I would like to ask you insha’Allah to study your boyfriend’s culture and learn what his customs and beliefs are.

Ask him questions about his hometown, his family, and what it was like growing up.

As he is from India, he may have some cultural beliefs that he is introducing as Islamic beliefs.

This is often an issue at times when people hold very strong tribal or cultural beliefs and interpret them as Islamic rules or laws.

For instance, in some cultures, they feel that it is mandatory that the parents pick out the spouse for their children, which is untrue.

As Muslims, we can marry whomever we choose so long as that person meets Islamic requirements.

Difference between Islam and culture

Also, we are not being disrespectful towards our parents if we do not marry who they chose.

Other cultural traditions dictate the girl’s family pays a dowry to the boy and his family.

This is also incorrect, it is the man who pays a dowry to his wife to be.

Most people are well-meaning concerning cultural practices and Islam.

However, as traditions and practices are handed down generation after generation, it may be that they are not aware that it is not Islamic law.

While learning his culture and getting to know the societal standards and norms in the part of India from which he comes, you may see something that doesn’t seem right to you.

If you don’t find it in the Quran or in reputable Hadiths such as ones narrated by Bukhari or Muslim, you may want to question it further.

Permission from My Husband? Am I a Slave? - About Islam

While cultures and tribal traditions and beliefs can be a very beautiful and enriching experience, we must be careful not to let it intertwine with Islam.

There are also traditional practices in some countries which are harmful to women but accepted by society.

Women’s Rights in Islam

In Islam, women have been given many rights. For instance, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), women were given the right to vote.

In Islam, women were given the right to vote way before women were given the right to vote in the US.

In marriage, you have the right to have your husband provide for your financial support, which is food, shelter, clothing, etc.

You also have the right to be treated well; that means to be treated with love, respect, kindness, and mercy.

You have the right to seek a divorce. You have the right to go to school if you choose or to work.

There are many women in Islam who are doctors, lawyers, teachers, CEO’s, and even politicians. Should you choose to work, the money you earn from your job is not your husband’s, but it is yours and should you choose to contribute to the household that is a blessing.

You have the right to have children should you choose to as well as the right to stay home and care for them (many women in the US wish for this!).

These are only a few of a woman’s rights sister and I encourage you to become more familiar with them.

Obedience & Submission

In regards to women and obedience to their husbands, yes we are to be obedient to our husbands. This is also stated in the Bible.

However, it is not to be taken as an oppressive condition, but it is to be understood as a partnership where the husband is the head of the household.

The idea that you must ask your husband every time you want to leave home is not carried out in a restrictive or oppressive sense. It is not meant to be a master and slave arrangement.

As you live in the US, you wonder how women adapt to this in a marriage.

As the US claims to be a Christian country, marriages based on Biblical principles have this familial order as well.

“Ephesians 5: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” 

Based on the above verse, it appears that there should not be an issue or confusion for Christian women in the US as it is in their teachings as well.

Different perspective

Sister, try to look at it from a different perspective. You and a potential husband each share a special bond and trust.

You consult him, and he consults you, but in the final, he is the head of the household.

The prophet (PBUH) was the best of husbands and he did consult with his wives.

I am sure that you do not want to be with a man who is not capable of being a loving head of the household, do you?

I do understand, however, your fear of the words “obedient” and “submissive” as there are much abuse and mistreatment of women.

Some men do take these terms to oppressive and violent extremes and it means just the opposite.

One must be worthy of having the position of “head of home”.

To be obedient and submissive means that there is a level of respect and honor, just as a husband should have for his wife.

So, in his honor and out of respect for her, he is not going to put down anything harsh or unfair upon her.

For instance, if you want to go out for dinner with your girlfriends and your husband had something planned that night, he may suggest that you go out another night.

Also, for safety reasons, it’s good to be accompanied or knows where you are in case something happens or if there’s an emergency.

It is not to be taken as a prison sentence.

Marriage is a partnership wherein a husband and wife live in harmony. They trust one another. 

The husband is required to be affectionate and accommodating to meet the needs of his wife in all regards.

However, as to who is in charge, it is the husband who is more suitable to be the head of the family.

Is not a case of gender that dictates submissiveness, it is an authority.

In the Qur’an 4:34, women are directed to submit to men, and again not because men are superior human beings, but because they have been given the authority to be the head of their households.

Trusting Helpmates

In regards to seeking permission every time you want to leave the house, if there is mutual trust between you and your husband then in general circumstances there’s no need for you to keep asking for permission to go out.

I have never heard a wife say, “May I please go to the store?” I have heard, “honey, I’m going to the store is there anything you need?”

The husband may say “Oh I need this and that” . Or he may say, “Honey, I think it’s too late to be going to the store, wait until tomorrow.”

This is where the wife should be obedient and trust her husband in his judgment.

Just as your husband may say “I’m going to so and so’s a house”, you may feel it is a bad idea for valid reasons. And express your opinions in a loving way.

He would be wise to listen to you prior to deciding. Your husband is not to be an oppressor.

You are to be helpmates for one another. With your husband in charge.

The Quran states that

“And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable” (2:228). 

Notice the words “reasonable”? A man must be just and reasonable sister, as we must be just and reasonable as well. Marriage is about to give and take.

Look at the Present

Sister, what is your relationship like now? It seems you have been together for a while.

Do you ask him if you can do things now? Is he over-bearing? Does he make unreasonable demands?

If so, it may be time to rethink things. If not, then perhaps he will be a just, loving, and respectful husband.

As your boyfriend is a Muslim. This relationship is haram in itself -as he is not supposed to have a girlfriend.

I am wondering why he is pressing the issues of obedience to him. If you marry when he is not being obedient to Allah.

By having a relationship with you, but that’s another topic.

The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was the Best of Husbands

Sister, insha’Allah continue studying Islam, learn about your boyfriend’s cultural practices and way of life.

Take some Islamic pre-marital classes to learn more about marriage. The rights of each spouse and what Allah expects from us.

Read about the prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his wives.

The prophet was indeed the best of husbands and his wives were happy and accomplished.

I think you would enjoy learning about his wives, you will be inspired.


Your best position insha’Allah is to become as educated as possible before deciding to revert. As well as deciding to marry your fiancé.

Don’t view the words “obedient” and “submissive” as negative in this situation.

Because a truly loving, just, and merciful husband will make these words a blessing and a safeguard.

A Muslim husband does not confine nor take away your individuality or choices.

He adds to it, as you add to him. Together you become as one.

Lastly, About Islam has a very good section on women in Islam.

There is a special folder on their website, and I would highly recommend that you read it thoroughly.

We wish you the best.



Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.