Husband and wife complement each other in Islam. They should not fight for leadership.
They are both equal in the sight of Allah (SWT), and each one of them has their rights and responsibilities.
Like a pilot and co-pilot of a big plane, they both help each other in performing different tasks and duties. The best pilots and co-pilots are the ones who work together in harmony as a team. They both need each other, and they can’t function properly without their partner’s support.
If you visualize their children as passengers, then their responsibility is to ensure they all have a safe and enjoyable flight till they reach their final destination.
Like any project, organization or community, there must be a clear leader, and the line of command must be known and respected for all to work in harmony.
Rights & Responsibilities
Allah (SWT) tells us in the Quran about married couples:
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth… (4:34)
So supporting the family and covering its expenses is the husband’s main duty, not the wife. This does not mean that a wife can’t contribute to the family’s expenses if she wants to and can afford it, but it is not her main responsibility.
In return, Allah (SWT) gave husbands one degree in responsibility and authority above wives, as mentioned in Chapter 2 of the Quran:
… And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority]. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. (2:228)
This means that it is the husband’s ultimate responsibility to safely lead his family to their destination. This is the same as the pilot’s responsibility to land safely and get passengers to disembark at the airport terminal.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Each one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master and he is responsible for it. No doubt, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said:
The best among you is your best to his family, and I am your best to my family. (At-Tirmidhi)
So husbands are responsible for their families, and they should treat them in the best way possible.
Shura, or mutual consultation, is an important ingredient for pilots and co-pilots to successfully work together in harmony. A good pilot should never be a dictator but should listen to his co-pilot’s opinions and seek his or her views on matters related to the airplane and the flight. The co-pilot should also do the same.
The same principle applies for husband and wife. Before taking a family decision, they should spend enough time to review and discuss the matter in order to reach consensus and to agree on the best option. This is a win-win scenario, as the suggestions and concerns of both sides are discussed, and a consensus is reached to take the best decision for all the family.
But husbands and wives often dispute on family decisions. This usually happens in the absence of shura, harmony and understanding. Some husbands like to take most decisions on their own, and this type of dictatorship often leads to problems.
One example is that of a husband who gets a job offer to work abroad, where he would earn more than double the salary he earns at home. He should not take this decision without shura, as his travel abroad has a direct impact on his wife and children.
Some wives take a similar approach and may not consult their husbands on important matters related to their children.
Both are wrong. They should both apply shura in family matters before they implement important decisions.
Leaders in Dangerous and Critical Moments
When a pilot is preparing to land the plane on the runway, only one person should be in control. This means the co-pilot should follow the orders of the leader at this critical moment and not argue.
Because this is a critical moment when the safety of all those on board is at risk. It is not the right time for an argument or a dispute or a fight for leadership.
Two captains sink the ship because it is a recipe for disaster. How would the crew know which captain is in command? And what should they do if they get conflicting orders?
The same principle applies in a marriage. During normal days of ease, husband and wife have plenty of time to discuss future decisions. They should have a healthy dialogue and analyze the pros and cons of each future scenario. And the more time they spend for positive shura before implementing a decision, the higher quality this decision will be.
This is the right context for understanding a wife’s duty to obey her husband.
So, are you a good co-pilot to your husband?
And are you a responsible and caring pilot for your wife and family?