There are so many stereotypes that arisen about Islamic marriages and the roles that spouses play. One of the biggest of those stereotypes is that Islamic women are oppressed and treated harshly by their spouses and the other is that women have no rights in the marriage, and are only there to serve the needs of their spouses. These stereotypes come as a result of the actions of a few who call themselves Muslims, as well as the stereotypes presented by the Western media.
In Islam, both spouses have certain rights and duties to one another, and hopefully, these can dispel some of the myths promoted by the media and western society. Moreover, wives have certain rights and husbands have certain duties to their wives.
First, a husband is responsible for his wife’s maintenance. This right comes from the Quran and the Sunnah (the way of Islamic life as given to us by our Prophet – PBUH). It does not matter whether the wife is Muslim, non-Muslim, rich or poor. It is the responsibility of the husband to care for his wife and his family financially. Moreover, this important because it allows the wife the ability to perform her duties as a wife and a mother, and it assures her security. That maintenance involves her right to a home, clothing, food and general care (medication, healthcare, etc.). The right to a home includes privacy, comfort and independence. Additionally, if the wife is unable to attend to her household duties, the husband is, if he can afford it, to provide her with assistance, such as a maid, to assist her.
The wife is entitled to Mahr which is a marriage gift. The marriage contract is not valid without it. Moreover, it does not have to be money or gold. Mahr is a gift from the bride to the groom, and is prescribed under Islamic law. In other cultures, the girl’s family either pays for the wedding or must provide a gift to the husband to marry the daughter. This goes against Islamic law, as it degrades women and is contrary to the character of Islam.
Last, the husband is commanded by Allah to treat his wife with fairness, respect and kindness. Our Prophet (PBUH) stressed the importance of this, and it is reported to have said that “The best Muslim is one who is the best husband.”
As clearly seen by the duties owed to the wife, Islam does not oppress women, and in fact, pushes for respect and responsibility towards women. So the next time you watch something on television or read something in a newspaper that contradicts the requirements of Islamic marriage law, remind yourself that our Prophet’s (PBUH) statement: “The best Muslim is one who is the best husband,” and because of that alone, Islam does not discriminate against or oppress women, and in particular does not allow for husbands to treat their wives badly.
In addition to the rights of the wife and duties of the husband, Islam prescribes that the wife has certain obligations to her husband and the husband has certain rights. We will discuss those in Rights and Duties of Spouses Part 2.