When we seek out knowledge about marriage we see that the Qur’an and Sunnah have assigned tremendous importance to the marriage contract and have distinguished it above all other contracts. Indeed the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, “When a man marries, he has completed half of his religion and he needs only to fear Allah to complete the other half.” (Mishkat) In the Qur’an, Allah says, “And how could you take it (back) while you have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a firm and strong covenant?” [4:81]
Purpose of Marriage
Therefore, marriage must be entered into whole-heartedly and taken very seriously by each of the two partners, and both of them must be committed to making their marriage a success. A marriage is truly successful and prosperous only when it is mutually rewarding. Allah suggests that both partners come together to cover, protect and beautify each other in the same way that a garment covers, protects and beautifies the one who wears it. [2:187] Through this metaphor, we understand that when two people get married, they cease to consider themselves individuals but instead as a couple – each person benefiting by the other equally. In order to flourish, there can be no hint of selfishness or refusal to compromise between them. There must be an agreement between the two partners that each of them will work together to solve whatever problems arise. They will assist one another and sacrifice in order to gain mutual happiness, pleasure and peace. This is the purpose and goal of marriage according to the Shari’ah. As the Lord of the Heavens and Earth has said, “He it is Who has created you from a single person and [then] He has created from him his wife, in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her.” [7:189]
Allah has designated specific roles for both partners. Only when these rights are observed and these obligations fulfilled, can tranquility descend upon the couple and security surround them in their certain success. If either of the two partners, out of ignorance or intention, refuses to fulfill his or her duties and thereby does not honor the rights of the other, the household becomes a living Hell. Unfortunately, this is a common situation today. Let us focus now on the responsibilities and desirable characteristics of a Muslim husband. Many brothers have never asked themselves: “What are the rights of a wife upon her husband?”, “What is my responsibility toward her?”, “What do I owe her?” Never asking these questions, or answering them with ignorance, causes many problems in Muslim households. What are the characteristics every man should possess in order to be a good husband to his wife? The example of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, is the ideal model. Let us look specifically at these characteristics and how we may achieve them in our lives.
First of all let us understand that Islam is a complete way of life which offers guidance for mankind in all matters. Allah is the All-Knowing the All-Wise and He has taken account of everything which concerns us. He has included the solution to all of our problems in His Shari’ah. Nothing has been overlooked. The characteristics of a Muslim husband and the way to acquire them have been made clearer and easier to accomplish through the example of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam. Allah says, “Indeed you have in the messenger of Allah a most excellent example of conduct for him who looks forward to the meeting with Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” [33:21]
Unfortunately many brothers interpret this in a limited way – they focus on what we know of the dress and physical attributes of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, and his Sahaba. There is no question that the best example of a husband and father is the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam. Why is it, then, that so many of us are so far from his example in this area? Could it be that other examples around us influence our behavior more? Do we believe that our financial contribution should represent our dedication to our families? Or have we deliberately ignored the model Allah has provided us. Allah has taught us that if we want to achieve Allah’s pleasure in all spheres of life, the best example for us is His Messenger, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam. Indeed, the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, himself has informed us that the excellence of his example encompasses and includes everything, especially his behavior toward his wives. He, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “The best of you are those who are best toward their wives and I am the best of you toward my wives.” (Tirmithi)
Piety & Fear of Allah
This subject is not new. When Ata’ and Ubaydullah ibn Umayr once asked Aisha about the nature of Prophet Muhammad’s behavior with her: “Aisha started to weep and said, ‘One night he stood up [intending to offer the night prayer] and said, ‘O Aisha, let me be alone so that I may worship my Lord.’ He stood up, purified himself and continued to pray and weep until the ground became wet. Bilal came and made the adhan. When he saw the Prophet crying, he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah [why do] you cry, when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?’ Prophet Mohammed replied, ‘[Then, for that] should I not be a thankful slave?'” (Ibn Hibban)
This is one example that demonstrates the intensity of our Prophet’s devotion to his Lord – his extreme piety and tremendous fear of Allah. Any man, who wishes to emulate him, should start by emulating his taqwa (piety). For it is taqwa of the heart which serves as a foundation for good deeds, manners and morals and makes the observance of the rights of others easy. If a man really and truly wants to be a good husband to his wife, he must also possess fear of Allah. If a man has the fear of Allah, and it is this fear that most influences his relationship and his dealings with his wife, he fears what Allah may do to him if he harms her or treats her in a way that is unjust and therefore will never mistreat her in any way – physically or verbally. He knows that he has to meet Allah and answer for all that he has said and done. Indeed this is why Hasan ibn Ali said when asked, “‘O Hasan I have a daughter. To whom do you think I should marry her?’ Hasan said, ‘Marry her to [a man] who [fears Allah]; for if he [truly fears Allah] and if he loves her he will honor her and [even] if he doesn’t love her, he will never oppress or abuse her [because he fears Allah].'”
Among the most important rights a woman has is her right to be educated about her religion. This responsibility is incumbent upon her husband. Therefore, one of the most desirable characteristics of a Muslim husband is that he himself is knowledgeable about Islam and teaches his wife whatever he knows. Why would any Muslim husband want to deny his wife this right? Is it not his wife who will guide his children as they grow? Isn’t she the one who teaches them about haram and halal? Isn’t she the one to see that they learn to pray and fast? Isn’t she the one who must protect her husband’s place and belongings in his absence according to Islamic guidelines? If her knowledge about the deen is limited, the entire family will suffer. Many men seek to shelter their wives from outside influences by forbidding them to participate in outside activities. Many men may fear that if their wife’s Imaan becomes stronger, she will object to his behavior or certain weaknesses in his character. These are reasons that should compel us to participate in her Islamic education, so as she learns, so will we.
Couples can discuss topics that concern them and agree on how they will integrate new information into their family’s routine. With this type of cooperation, there is less room for misunderstandings, and less opportunity for one Muslim to feel superior to another within the household. This practice will draw the family members closer to each other and, more importantly, closer to Allah. “O you who believe! Protect yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are [appointed] angels stern and severe, who do not hesitate to fulfill the commandments of Allah [to inflict punishment upon the people of Hell] but [rather] they do [precisely] what they have been commanded [to do]!” [66:6]
We can see that taking an active role in our family’s Islamic education protects our families from the fire of Hell. We must strive to set the best example possible for our children, wives and brothers in Islam. It is only by taking personal responsibility, that we can improve the current state of the Ummah. We are creating Muslim communities where our children and grandchildren and brothers and sisters in Islam will find themselves flourishing or deteriorating in. We must ensure that they have the means to flourish by improving our own knowledge of Islam and constantly sharing it with our families. We need not look far to see members of our Ummah who have failed to keep Islam as the central focus in their homes. Let us move forward by each of us looking at ourselves and asking Allah to help us to achieve this goal.
If we fail to reach this goal, the consequences in the Hereafter are even more grave, especially for the husband. As the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, said, “Each one of you is a shepherd and every shepherd will be asked about his flock… and the man will be asked about his family.” (Bukhari and Muslim) When the Day of Judgment comes, will our reasons for not educating our families be sufficient for Allah? Will we be able to offer any excuse after Allah and His Messenger have made it clear that educating our wives is a duty enjoined upon him that he will be asked about?
Brothers, do your wives read the Qur’an, Hadeeth and Seerah of Prophet Mohammed, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam? Do they understand their meanings? Do they practice what they have learned? It is our obligation to make certain that our wives have the opportunity and means to continuously increase their knowledge. To do so will not only please Allah but will improve the relations of everyone in our homes, our Ummah, and inshaAllah the societies in which we live.
Presentation is Key
Another responsibility of the Muslim husband is to assist his wife in obeying the commands of Allah. If she should transgress the limits of Allah, then it becomes his duty to advise her, admonish her and actually physically prevent her from doing so. However, it is the right of the wife that this admonishment be coupled with kindness and mercy. As Allah says, “And [it was] by the Mercy of Allah, [that] you dealt gently with them. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so overlook their faults, ask that [Allah’s] forgiveness be granted to them and consult with them in [the] affairs of the moment.” [3:159]
Therefore, if a husband is over-bearing and insisting, his wife’s behavior will most likely not be corrected. She may even persist in her disobedience, returning his cruelty. Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, advised us to “treat women kindly. [The] woman has been created from a rib [which is curved]. The most crooked part of the rib is the uppermost part. If you were to try [to force] it straight you will [certainly] break it and if you leave it as it is, it will remain curved. So [admonish] women kindly.” (Bukhari and Muslim) So when a husband offers advise, or reminds or admonishes his wife, he must take this hadeeth into consideration and exercise his authority in a gentle manner in order to bring about the desired result.
A wife is an Advisor
The nature of marriage is one of a continuous growing relationship. Every person has likes and dislikes and wants to feel his or her opinion matters. Also, because a husband and wife spend many hours, days and years together, InshaAllah, they get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well. It is for this reason that a wife can be the best advisor for her husband. Also, sometimes we are so involved in other aspects of a situation that we find it hard to find a suitable solution. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, used to discuss certain matters with his wives and ask for their advice.
An example of this happened shortly after the treaty of Hudaybeyah was signed. Many of the Prophet’s companions were displeased with the treaty and the great number of compromises it contained. So, when the Prophet ordered the companions to shave their heads, slaughter their animals and prepare to return to Madinah, instead of complying as they had always done in the past, the companions remained in their places. This greatly disturbed the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, for his companions had never disobeyed him in this manner before. He, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, went to Umm Salamah and asked her for advice. She told him, “You are the Messenger of Allah. Shave your head and slaughter your animal and the people will do as you have done.” So the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, had his head shaved and slaughtered his animal and the people followed him.
Because a wife usually knows her husband better than anyone else, it is naturally her place to offer him constructive criticism and it is her husband’s duty to consider it. Many men would not like to hear criticism from their wives, but, many times she is the best one to offer an accurate assessment of his character and behavior. We should realize that none of us is perfect, and that Allah allowed us this safe relationship where we can offer help to one another and use every opportunity available to improve ourselves and the image we present as a model for our families, friends and others. As Umar ibnul Khattab once said, “May Allah have Mercy upon the one who points out my shortcomings.”
Isn’t that women’s work? That is the opinion that many of us have. It is true that most of the time, women care for the house and children. But, this does not mean that it should be their responsibility alone. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, never enjoyed coming home to relax in leisure after a hard day at work. His work did not end with his coming home; instead, a new order of engagements and activities commenced. Aisha was once asked, “How was the Prophet’s conduct in his home?” She said, “He was like one of you at home, yet he was most lenient and most generous. His spirits were high at all times, [he] smiled and even joined [us] in laughter at times. He was ready to give a helping hand to his wives in the ordinary work of the house, [he] sew[ed] his own clothes [and] mend[ed] his own shoes. In general, he helped in whatever work his wives did. However, when the call to prayer was pronounced, he dropped everything and hurried to the masjid.” (Tabaqat of Ibn Sad)
So the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, showed us that we should deal with our wives with consideration for their sensitive and delicate nature in all things. The same kind and gentle manner prescribed for correcting her should also exist with what we view as her work. We know about the Prophet’s opinion that his work did not end at the doorway to his home. He took the initiative to do whatever needed to be done. This idea is very important today. Many of us do not realize the amount of effort that goes into keeping the house clean, the children cared for and the meals prepared. Brothers just try to imagine what your lives would be like if for some reason you had to do all of this by yourself, in addition to a job outside the home. It would seem impossible. It helps to show your wife that you appreciate her efforts. You may tell her that you appreciate her, but do you show her? When was the last time you did the laundry, ran the vacuum, changed a diaper, provided a home-cooked meal for your family, or gave your wife a day off (while you completed her chores for that day)? This may seem strange to you, but I guarantee that if you did this at least once a month, your relationship with your wife will become even better. Showing the initiative to help your wife, and lessen her burden will mean so much more to her than the effort you put forth.
Although active participation in the housework and the care of the children was never a problem for the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, it seems to be inconceivable to many modern men. They feel that housework is beneath them and that if they were to stoop to that level, their peers would see them as weak – perhaps controlled by their wives. The reality is that Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, was the ruler of Madinah, Commanding General of the Muslim military, the Imam of the Muslims, their Grand Mufti and Allah’s Khaleel and His Chosen Messenger as well as the head of a number of households. Yet all of this status and rank did not detract from his humility or cause him to think that household chores were beneath him.
Ask yourself which of the men in your Muslim community have been happily married for twenty or more years? We cannot assume that merely being twenty years together means they are both happy. Find a man who you know to be happy and family-oriented and who speaks highly of his wife. Go and ask him what his wife appreciates most about him. Here you will find your answer. More than likely, this man cares more about the happiness of his family than the opinions of the men around him.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Doesn’t it feel good when you play your favorite sport? You get to run and use your body and make yourself tired. Isn’t this better than feeling tired from worrying or working too hard? Allah has directed us to take care of our bodies, not only men but women also. Aisha reported, “I raced with the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, and beat him in the race. Later, after I had put on some weight, we raced again. This time he was the winner. At that time he said to me, “This one cancels that one.” (Abu Dawud) On another occasion Aisha said, “By Allah, I saw the Messenger of Allah standing at the door of my house, while the Abyssinians were displaying their skill with spears in the courtyard of the Prophet’s masjid. He concealed me with his cloth so that I could see their play and he stood there for me until I [became tired and] left. So, be understanding of the young woman who is eager for entertainment.” (Muslim) Here we can see that it was not the intention of Allah to keep a woman in her house, hidden from any temptation to participate in physical exercise. In fact, it is one of the duties and responsibilities of the Muslim husband to spend quality time with his wife and to allow her to engage in permissible forms of recreation. It is really not right for a husband to go out to play a game while his wife remains tucked away in the house with no one to talk to except a three-year-old.
Many brothers feel that the Islamic regulations concerning hijab forbid a woman to leave the house for recreation, but the above evidences seem to refute this position. In fact, when a woman wears hijab, she is recognized as a Muslim woman and thus protected from being molested. And, the society is protected from the fitnah that would occur if she were not properly clothed. Husbands have to realize that women need exercise, just as much, if not more than they do. Men are often complaining about their wives’ weight, but as soon as a wife asks their husband to take her out for a walk so that she might lose some weight he says, “No, your place is in the home!” A Muslim husband must take his wife out on a regular basis for recreation. Some permissible types are as follows: Horseback riding, a trip to a country farm or park, a zoo, a museum, picnic (in a secluded place), a scenic drive, fishing, or boating. These are just a few of the many things that the Shari’ah has either encouraged or permitted. In all circumstances the woman should wear the proper hijab and seclusion should be sought. Even if others are around the woman, she may still enjoy herself within limits.
May Allah guide the Muslim husbands and allow them to see the importance of this matter.
On Loan from Allah
We know that everything we possess is on loan from Allah. He enables us to earn money through our work in this world. We do our best to use that money to provide for our families in the best way possible.
The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, said, “When a person spends upon his family, hoping for reward from Allah, then that spending is counted (in his record of good deeds) as a charity.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Allah says, “Let the man of means spend according to his means, [as for] the man whose resources are limited, let him spend according to what Allah has given him.” [65:7]
Truth or Consequence
Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) says, “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is in the sight of Allah that you say that which you do not do.” [61:2-3]. There must be total agreement between our words and deeds. One should carry into effect whatever he says, and when he has no intention of doing it, or lacks the means necessary to fulfill a promise, he should not say it.
We can see that Prophet Muhammed, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, was not typical for the men around him in many ways. We also know that his way was the best in the Sight of Allah. Allah wanted his life to be the example we have to follow. We see others around us behaving in one way and we have the Sunnah as a contrasting example. We see families in turmoil, divorce becoming more common, children disinterested in Islam and our elders crying. We must all become active participants in the ummah.
It is our responsibility to influence the world around us, not to succumb to its influence on us. We must strive everyday to emulate the perfect example Allah has given us. We must work harder to participate in our families’ Islamic education, we must show our wives that we appreciate their efforts by helping them, and we must also encourage them to seek more knowledge about Islam in order to enrich our children with such an environment. We need to check our behavior when dealing with our wives. Are we really treating them in a kind and gentle manner? Do we always do what we say?
When the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “When a man marries he has completed half of his religion and he needs only fear Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to complete the other half.” (Mishkat), he was reminding us that marriage is not separate from, but part of the deen. Therefore, all aspects of our marital relationship should follow the way of Islam.