When to Give Your Spouse the ‘Silent Treatment’?

Only for the sake of Allah

The most important point to remember here, is that neither spouse should use ‘the silent treatment’ to manipulate and punish the other just to seek personal revenge.

The only time the Quran allows a husband to forsake his wife in bed, is purely for the sake of Allah, in order to save his marriage from divorce and to give his wife a chance to return to righteousness.

This command of Allah should not be misused by any husband for the boost of his own ego, coupled with the misuse of his authority and higher status over her, in order to cause her undeserved pain or suffering without a cause that is justified in Islamic Shari’ah.

Lest any male reader of this article mistakenly think that Islam allows him to give his wife the silent treatment unconditionally, I’d like to point out something very crucial that our modern-day scholars have said: that, many a time, it is the husband’s own sins or bad attitude towards his wife that becomes the cause of her willful defiance (nushooz) towards him:

The husband has to look for the causes of his wife’s willful defiance.. These causes may include the husbandYes, you may be one of the causes of her willful defiance, either because of sins that you are committing – as one of the salaf said: “I see the effect of my sins in my mount and my wife”, in her bad attitude or refusal to obey him – or the husband may have a bad attitude towards his wife so her behavior is a reaction against the way he deals with her.” [IslamQA]

When Prophet Muhammad gave his wives the ‘silent treatment’

This incident is a prime example of when it becomes Islamically permissible for one spouse to give the silent treatment to the other.

The Prophet took such a serious oath, and relinquished the company and beds of all of his wives, because of a demand that they had made upon him, which was against the conduct befitting the wives of a Prophet. For this, even Allah admonished all of them in the Quran. 

famous incident that has been reported in authentic Prophetic traditions, describes how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once separated himself physically from all of his wives, and vowed to not visit any of them for a month.

Nevertheless, in this article, it is not my intention to go into the depth of what the Prophet’s wives did that made him relinquish them for a month, but rather, I want to just point out that he took the rather serious step of giving his wives ‘the silent treatment’, only once, in a case of dire necessity.

What’s more, the Prophet never gave his wives the silent treatment for anything done against his own self, but rather, only when the laws or limits of Allah’s Deen were crossed or undermined in any manner.

Conclusion

In such a scenario, while giving them all their due Islamic rights (such as obedience and sexual intimacy by the wife for her husband, and kind treatment and maintenance by the husband for his wife), the hurt or wronged spouse should sincerely and firmly advise their other half about the seriousness of their behavior in the light of Islam.

If this doesn’t work, they can give them the silent treatment without withholding any of the rights that Allah has made due upon them, as a means of bringing about reformation and correction of faith.

If not accompanied by clear, open communication and candid conversation about how the adverse behavior or attitude of one spouse is affecting the marriage, giving them the silent treatment becomes merely the cause of further dissension, distance and discord, and not the means of correction and spiritual reform that it is supposed to be.

Whether it is the husband or wife who is meting out the silent treatment towards their other half, they should ask themselves these critical questions:

– Am I giving him/her the silent treatment just to avenge the way I was mistreated, or to express my disapproval at the way Allah is being disobeyed?

– Will my giving him/her the silent treatment bring about correction, improvement and righteousness? Or will it just create a further distance between us?

– Will it please Allah, or Shaitan?

In the answers to these questions lie the keys to humility, self-correction and self-enlightenment for both husband and wife.

First published: May 2014

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