Summary of 3.36 Marital Relations I (Wife’s Rights)
We started by talking about the various consequences of the marriage contract.’ We focused more on the mutual rights and obligation between husband and wife.’ We indicated that these rights and obligations are founded on ethical and religious ground for marriage in Islam.’ We explained the question of servitude to God and fulfilling our trusteeship on earth and the description of marriage in Islam as a sort of comfort, dwelling and mutual concern.’ The specific rights of the woman can be divided into financial rights (maintenance) and non-financial rights.’ We discussed the question of maintenance and what it entails.’ We discussed every reasonable need for the wife in terms of food, clothing, lodging and medication.’ We also covered the special case and what happens if the husband becomes poor and is unable to support his wife or when he is miserly.’ We mainly covered the financial segment of the wife’s rights.

7.37′ Marital Relations II (Wife’s Rights)

Host:’ Could you give us an idea of what the non-financial rights of the wife include?

Jamal Badawi:

This is perhaps the more important part of the wife’s rights in Islam.’ It is not enough to provide sufficient food and clothing for the wife and deal with her as an asset at home.’ In fact one can put his wife in a palace and provide her with the most magnificent food and clothing but she could still be the most miserable person.’ Why?’ Because of the lack of feeling.

Marriage is not just a partnership in food and drink, it is a partnership in feelings, affection, relationship, talking, sharing the sorrows and happiness.’ The Quran does emphasize this and in fact in the previous program when we talked about the ethical foundation of marriage we referred to the various terms used in the Quran used to show this intimacy and closeness, consideration and mutual kindness that should be found between husband and wife.’ If we want to put it in a nutshell we are talking about the kind and considerate treatment of the wife.’ The Quran refers to this in (4:5) ‘Speak to them words of kindness and justice.

In the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) we find a great deal of emphasis on this part of the relationship between husband and wife.’ In Al Tirmithi was narrated that he said ‘The most perfect believers are those whom are the best in conduct, and the best of you are the best to their wives.” So he put goodness to one’s wife as one of the major criteria of determining weather the person is really good or not.’ In a similar saying in Bukhari and Muslim he said ‘I commend you to be kind and considerate to women.” In another saying he says it is only the generous in character who is good and considerate to women and it is only the wicked in character who insults them.’ We also find that in his behavior he was the model in how a husband should treat his wife.’ Not just to be kind but to simply enjoy life without too many formalities and barriers.’ People are surprised when they hear about a great personality like Prophet Muhammad who raced with his wife Aisha.’ The ran and each tried to beat the other.’ Also busy as he may have been and as particular as he was on the question of statues or three dimensional objects which had human or animal figure; when he found that his wife Aisha (when she was really young) was playing with dolls he did not object to it (exempted and not condemned in Islamic Law).’ Even when some of her friends came to play with her he would smile and laugh with them.’ He did not take the approach that some people think is best, where the husband is always strict and never smiles or laughs.’ This simple interaction between husband and wife was a practice of the Prophet and was recommended by him to his followers.

Good treatment is a necessity and to avoid causing hurt or harm to one’s wife.’ The Prophet (PBUH) was asked as narrated by Abu Dawood and Ibn Hidban ‘What is the right of one’s wife on him?” He replied ‘You feed her whenever you eat, you cloth her whenever you cloth yourself (buy clothing), never slap her on the face (regarded as an insult), never swear at her and never desert her except in the house (even if she is rebellious one should not leave the house and go out).” We have seen in the previous program verses from the Quran which emphasis the nature of consideration and mutual compassion.’ A wife who gets more attention and less of the materialistic things is the happier wife.

Host:’ Would these rights apply if the relationship between the husband and wife is not a good one?

Jamal Badawi:

Of course it sounds somewhat idealistic and we realize our human shortcomings and weaknesses but at least it points the way and perhaps one can strive as much as is possible to try and fulfill this.’ Even if the relationship is not an idealistic one these rights still apply.’ First of all, one of the basic ethical teachings of the Quran is that one should be just and equitable regardless of his or her personal feelings with other Muslims or with non-Muslims.’ In the Quran in (5:9) it says ‘O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.” Many interpret this to be related to the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims, so then this means that between husband and wife justice should be found no matter what personal there may be.’ A husband is not free from faults and shortcomings so why can he be overly critical and see his wife’s short comings in a magnified clear way and not look at his own shortcomings.’ If the person notices that his wife is doing something that he does not like (which is not casual but a type of bad habit) the Prophet provides a nice answer to this.’ As narrated in Muslim he says ‘Let no believing man (husband) dislike or hate a believing woman (wife).’ If he dislikes some aspects of her conduct or behavior he should be able to find something else, that is good, that he can admire.” This is a nice reference that the idea of perfection in every respect does not exist and what the Prophet teaches is that one should not be overly idealistic in his expectations of what he wants his wife to be or what she wants her husband to be.’ They should way the short comings with the disadvantages and they should be fair in this kind of assessment.

The Quran answers this question in (4:19) ‘live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.” This means that a great of blessing and goodness might come to one through their wife whom they at one time or another disliked.’ Some jurists say she could be a very faithful wife or if he happens to fall sick she will prove to be very considerate.’ One should not expect the impossible.’ The Hadith or saying of the Prophet when he says that a woman is like a curved rib and he begins and ends by saying be kind and considerate to women.’ Women and men have special inclinations like a rib so we don’t try to force the rib or it will break so we try to give allowance to the natural emotional inclination of both men and women.’ Of course in the case of women it is quite important.’ the other thing to remember is that not all marital life is romance, like one reads about or sees in movies. ‘Even if there is a fair degree of love and affection there are definitely situations where they need more than just romance to establish a household.’ Omar, the second Caliph after the Prophet, once mentioned that when a man came to complain about his wife and was planning to divorce her because he felt that she did not love him.’ Omar said that very few homes are built on this romanic love and that there are other things such as the relationship, mutual concern besides the romance.’ I am not saying that romance is bad or unneeded but that one should be realistic in his expectation or else he or she would be perusing an illusionary objective that can never be reached.

Host:’ What is Islam’s position on jealousy?

Jamal Badawi:

It depends on what jealousy is referring to.’ If what is meant by jealousy is that the person does not want any body to flirt or touch his wife it is not only permissible but is required as part of good treatment of the wife which protects her and one’s self from any acts which may lead to indecency.’ This does not mean that over possessiveness is ok as some people may interpret it.’ We find that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as narrated in Al Tabarani and in similar sayings are found in Al Nassai and Al Hakim he said that there are three types of people who would not get into Paradise.’ One category is aldayooth.’ When he was asked what aldayooth was he said a man who does not care who sees his family or goes to his wife.’ This is regarded as being very bad not to have this sense of jealousy to one’s spouse.’ This is not a matter of over possessiveness or always assuming bad intention or evil motives on the part of the wife or others.’ In one saying of the Prophet as narrated in Abu Dawood and Al Nassai he mentioned that there are two types of jealousy: one that God likes and one that God dislikes.’ The kind of jealousy that God likes is this kind of decency and not wanting people to flirt with one’s wife, or vise versa.’ The other type of jealousy which the kind that God does not like is doonna reyba which is without good reason and to always have bad intention.’ In fact, one of the teachings of the Prophet is that if one is coming back from travel he should not suddenly bust into his house at night as if he is trying to see whether she is on good behavior.’ It was actually recommended that he sends warning that he would arrive ahead of time which would give her a chance to get ready.’ It depends on what jealousy means.

Host:’ Are there any other rights of a Muslim wife?

Jamal Badawi:

There was one area that I was rather hesitant to include, especially with the nature of this program.’ After some thought I did prepare some information on this.’ After all in the matter of intimate husband and wife relations it is quite customary for people to vulgarize this in the media etc and to talk about it in its proper context would not be bad.’ Basically it is the right of the wife to be fulfilled and satisfied in the area of her instinctive needs.’ In fact many Muslim jurists include this as a right for the woman and a duty on the husband.

We will cover a few examples from the early days of Islam which show that these things were not taboo and in order to reflect the understanding of the contemporaries of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about the wholesome and natural way of looking at this relationship.’ In one story Omar, the Caliph, was walking around (he used to walk around at night in order to see if anyone was in need or trouble) and he passed by a house and heard a woman reading poems.’ Basically the poem said that the night had become too dark and too lonely, difficult and long and that there was no one to talk and no companionship.’ He asked about her case and he was told that her husband was in a military campaign and was away for a few months and she missed him badly.’ He immediately went to his daughter and asked her a question she was rather shy to answer.’ He asked how long can a wife be away from her husband in terms of intimate relations.’ She was a little shy and said that maybe 4 to 5 months.’ As soon as he found this out he immediately decreed that even people sent on military campaigns could only go for 4 months.’ That would allow one month for traveling, 4 month participation and one moth to come back, so that they can see and spend some time with their wife.’ This shows the very natural way of looking at this kind of relationship.

Another story which is even more interesting:’ A person came to the Caliph, Omar, who was a woman.’ She came and said ‘Oh commander of the believers, my husband fasts during the day and spends the nights in prayers.’ I hate to complain about him because he is obedient to God.” Omar did not understand her question and said ‘Oh what a wonderful husband you have.” The woman repeated again ‘Omar he fasts and prays and obeys God, I hate to complain.” And again he responded ‘Oh what a wonderful husband you have!” Then there was another person sitting there by the name of Ka’ab Al Asadi who looked at Omar and said ‘Oh Commander of believers this woman is really complaining about her husband keeping apart form her in terms of intimate relationship.” Omar said ‘Since you understood her message why don’t you judge between her and her husband.” He agreed.’ He called to her husband and told him that his wife was complaining against him.’ The husband said ‘Is she complaining that I am not providing her with food or drink or anything like that?” And the judge said no.’ Then the wife intervened and made a subtle poem to the effect that her husband’s love of God and his acts of worship keep him away from her.’ The husband understood her message and made another beautiful poem to the effect that his love of God kept him busy with so many spiritual acts.’ Then the judge responded with a third poem trying to hint that he should be pious but that he should also give his wife her due right.’ Then he made a judgement and said you can spend three nights doing acts of worship but the fourth night you give to your wife.’ Omar was sitting there and admired the understanding and wisdom of Ka’ab and he said ‘I don’t know what to wonder about: your intelligence and astute understanding of her complaint or should I wonder more about the astute and wise way that you judged in order to settle their dispute.’ Go, I will appoint you a judge in Basra (now Iraq).

Host:’ What do these examples signify about Islam’s view regarding this aspect of marital relationships?

Jamal Badawi:

First, it shows that there is no hang up in Islam concerning sex or marital relations so long as it is satisfied within the normal marital relationship.’ As indicated in the previous program marriage is regarded as a blessing from God which is both spiritual, psychologically comforting and physical satisfaction of one’s needs and instinct.’ There is a saying of the Prophet that we mentioned in the series on Moral Teachings in Islam which was narrated by Muslim where the Prophet said ‘If one of you goes to his wife (to have intimate relations) he gets divine reward from God.” The companions wondered why a person who enjoys himself gets reward and he answered ‘That if the person does not get that enjoyment in the permissible wholesome marriage wouldn’t he get it through unlawful ways?” They said yes.’ So he asked ‘If he does so would he be punished for it?” They said yes.’ He replied ‘If he does it in the wholesome manner he gets reward for it.” In one version of this saying he also says ‘Why do you count the punishment for a sin but not the reward for the right thing?” The Prophet was so sensitive in his teaching of how a Muslim should be considerate towards the needs of his wife and that he has patients even in the most intimate of relationships so that she may also attain her satisfaction.’ There are specific guidances which are found in the sayings of the Prophet as well as in other books about Islamic jurisprudence about how to make this relationship a successful and satisfying one for both.’ There are several sayings of the prophet concerning prayers at the beginning as narrated in both Bukhari and Muslim ‘Oh God protect us from Satan and keep Satan away from whatever you bestow on us.” And the Prophet (PBUH) said that if a child is born as a result of this relationship Satan would not be able to mislead.’ In a another saying of the Prophet (PBUH) he indicated that a person should not go to his wife like an animal but rather to have a messenger between him and his wife.’ The companions asked what kind of messenger?’ He responded ‘The kiss and talk.” 1400 years ago it was regarded as something strange that religious teachings talked about proper stimulation and making sure that there was mutual satisfaction of both parties.’ In fact on other occasions we find that the Quran itself hints to this in (2:223) ‘Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah.” One should not be inconsiderate for the need of sufficient preparation.’ Some may find it strange that religious teachings and a Holy Book would hint to this.’ All of this stems from Islamic philosophy to life and that it is a natural instinctive thing and that it is not an evil in itself and the way of satisfaction which may be good or evil.