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Balancing the rights of husband and parents?


Q. I want to know – is it true that in Islam a guidance of a husband is the law for his wife, she must implicitly obey him. And may a husband forbid his wife to visit her parents? If between the husband’s guidance and parents guidance there is a contradiction (the conflict), whom of them the wife must obey?

(Query published as received)

A. Islam has emphasized on the wife to be obedient to the husband and on the husband to treat the wife with kindness, compassion and justice. Both components are necessary in a successful marriage and if both husband and wife play their proper roles in the marriage, the objectives of marriage will be fulfilled.

Sayyiduna Qays bin Sa’ad (Radiyallahu Anhu) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said after explaining to the Sahabah that it is prohibited to prostrate to anyone besides Allah:

لو كنت آمرا أحدا أن يسجد لأحد لأمرت النساء أن يسجدن لأزواجهن لما جعل الله لهم عليهن من الحق
“If I had to command prostration to anyone, I would have commanded wives to prostrate to their husbands due to the great right they have over them”
(Abu Dawood, Hadith #: 2140)

In another Hadith, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:

إذا صلت المرأة خمسها، وصامت شهرها، وحفظت فرجها، وأطاعت زوجها قيل لها: ادخلي الجنة من أي أبواب الجنة شئت
“When a woman is punctual on her five daily Salaah and fasts for the month of Ramadaan and safeguards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her (on the day of Judgment): Enter through whichever door of Paradise you wish”
(Musnad Ahmed, Hadith #: 1661, Narrated by Abdurrahman bin Auf)

And with regards to husbands treating their wives with compassion, Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:

وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِنْ كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا
And treat them (your wives) in a good manner. If you dislike them, then it is quite likely that you dislike something and Allah has placed a lot of good in it (Surah an-Nisaa, Verse: 19)

In the Hadith, the Prophet of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said,

خيركم خيركم لأهله وأنا خيركم لأهلي
“The best of you is he who is good to his wife and I am good to my wife”
(Tirmizi, #: 4269, Narrated by Aa’ishah)

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah (Radiallahu Anhu) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said,

استوصوا بالنساء خيرا
“Treat your wives with kindness”.
(Sahih al-Bukhari, #: 5186, Narrated by Abu Hurayrah)

So as you can see from the abovementioned divine texts, it is the duty of the wife to obey her husband whilst it is also the duty of the husband to be kind and fair to his wife. However, it should be noted that with regards to the obedience of the husband, the wife is not allowed to obey her husband in matters that are not permissible. For example, if the husband commands the wife to accompany him to a casino or pub, it will not be permissible for her to obey him in this regard.

This leads us to the other part of your question. Should she obey her husband if he forbids her from visiting her parents? If she obeys her husband and does not visit her parents at all, this will result in her breaking off ties with her parents which is a major sin. So she cannot be expected to obey her husband in this regard. However, at the same time, she cannot also visit her parents so often where it leads to a problem in the marriage. A balance has to be struck between the obedience of the husband and the visiting of her parents. Likewise, a balance has to be struck between the pleasing of the parents and the husband as both are equally important. In situations where the commands of both come into conflict, the wife will have to weigh the situation and look at the best interests of preserving her marriage, as long as the wish of the husband is not in contradiction to the laws of Shari’ah.

The jurists have provided the guideline that the wife should be allowed to visit her parents at least once a week if they are nearby. If they are distant or it is difficult to go to them, she should be allowed to visit them based on the usual practice of people. (Raddul Muhtar & al-Bahrur Ra’iq).

ينبغي أن يأذن لها في زيارتهما في الحين بعد الحين على قدر متعارف

The husband and wife should form some mutual agreement as to when and how often she can visit her parents. He should be considerate of her feelings and she should also be considerate of his position as the husband.

And Allah Knows Best

Mufti Suhail Tarmahomed

Fatwa Department
Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)
Council of Muslim Theologians

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