Ayesha Hamid (ckeytee) wrote in marriage_islam,
Ayesha Hamid
ckeytee
marriage_islam

Assalamualaykum.. taken from The IDEAL MUSLIMAH by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi

The Muslim Women and Her Husband

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/humanrelations/womeninislam/idealmuslimah/

Marriage in Islam

In Islam, marriage is a blessed contract between a man and a woman, in which each becomes "permitted" to the other, and they begin the long journey of life in a spirit of love, co-operation, harmony and tolerance, where each feels at ease with the other, and finds tranquillity, contentment and comfort in the company of the other. The Qur'an has described this relationship between men and women, which brings love, harmony, trust and compassion, in the most moving and eloquent terms:

( And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts] . . .) (Qur'an 30:21)
 
This is the strongest of bonds, in which Allah (SWT) unites the two Muslim partners, who come together on the basis of love, understanding, co-operation and mutual advice, and establish a Muslim family in which children will live and grow up, and they will develop the good character and behaviour taught by Islam. The Muslim family is the strongest component of a Muslim society when its members are productive and constructive, helping and encouraging one another to be good and righteous, and competing with one another in good works.

The righteous woman is the pillar, cornerstone and foundation of the Muslim family. She is seen as the greatest joy in a man's life, as the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"This world is just temporary conveniences, and the best comfort in this world is a righteous women."1
 
A righteous woman is the greatest blessing that Allah (SWT) can give to a man, for with her he can find comfort and rest after the exhausting struggle of earning a living. With his wife, he can find incomparable tranquillity and pleasure.

How can a woman be the best comfort in this world? How can she be a successful woman, true to her own femininity, and honoured and loved? This is what will be explained in the following pages:

She chooses a good husband

One of the ways in which Islam has honoured woman is by giving her the right to choose her husband. Her parents have no right to force her to marry someone she dislikes. The Muslim woman knows this right, but she does not reject the advice and guidance of her parents when a potential suitor comes along, because they have her best interests at heart, and they have more experience of life and people. At the same time, she does not forego this right because of her father's wishes that may make him force his daughter into a marriage with someone she dislikes.

There are many texts that support the woman in this sensitive issue, for example the report quoted by Imam Bukhari from al-Khansa' bint Khidam:

"My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). He said to me: `Accept what your father has arranged.' I said, `I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.' He said, `Then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.' I said, `I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter's matters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them).'"2
 
At first, the Prophet (PBUH) told al-Khansa' to obey her father, and this is as it should be, because the concern of fathers for their daughters' well-being is well-known. But when he realized that her father wanted to force her into a marriage she did not want, he gave her the freedom to choose, and saved her from the oppression of a father who wanted to force her into an unwanted marriage.

Islam does not want to impose an unbearable burden on women by forcing them to marry a man they dislike, because it wants marriages to be successful, based on compatibility between the partners; there should be common ground between them in terms of physical looks, attitudes, habits, inclinations and aspirations. If something goes wrong, and the woman feels that she cannot love her husband sincerely, and fears that she may commit the sin of disobeying and opposing this husband whom she does not love, then she may ask for a divorce. This is confirmed by the report in which the wife of Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas, Jamilah the sister of `Abdullah ibn Ubayy, came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said: "O Messenger of Allah, I have nothing against Thabit ibn Qays as regards his religion or his behaviour, but I hate to commit any act of kufr when I am a Muslim. The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Will you give his garden back to him?" - her mahr had been a garden. She said, "Yes." So the Messenger of Allah sent word to him: "Take back your garden, and give her one pronouncement of divorce."3

According to a report given by Bukhari from Ibn `Abbas, she said, "I do not blame Thabit for anything with regard to his religion or his behaviour, but I do not like him."
 
Islam has protected woman's pride and humanity, and has respected her wishes with regard to the choice of a husband with whom she will spend the rest of her life. It is not acceptable for anyone, no matter who he is, to force a woman into a marriage with a man she does not like.

There is no clearer indication of this than the story of Barirah, an Ethiopian slave-girl who belonged to `Utbah ibn Abu Lahab, who forced her to marry another slave whose name was Mughith. She would never have accepted him as a husband if she had been in control of her own affairs. `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) took pity on her, so she bought her and set her free. Then this young woman felt that she was free and in control of her own affairs, and that she could take a decision about her marriage. She asked her husband for a divorce. Her husband used to follow her, weeping, whilst she rejected him. Bukhari quotes Ibn `Abbas describing this freed woman who insisted on the annulment of her marriage to someone she did not love; the big-hearted Prophet (PBUH) commented on this moving sight, and sought to intervene.

Ibn `Abbas said:

"Barirah's husband was a slave, who was known as Mughith. I can almost see him, running after her and crying, with tears running down onto his beard. The Prophet (PBUH) said to `Abbas, `O `Abbas, do you not find it strange, how much Mugith loves Barirah, and how much Barirah hates Mughith?' The Prophet (PBUH) said (to Barirah), `Why do you not go back to him?' She said, `O Messenger of Allah, are you commanding me to do so?' He said, `I am merely trying to intervene on his behalf.' She said, `I have no need of him.'"4The Prophet (PBUH) was deeply moved by this display of human emotion: deep and overwhelming love on the part of the husband, and equally powerful hatred on the part of the wife. He could not help but remind the wife, and ask her why she did not go back to him, as he was her husband and the father of her child. This believing woman asked him, whether he was ordering her to do so: was this a command, a binding obligation? The Prophet (PBUH), this great law-giver and educator, replied that he was merely trying to intercede and bring about reconciliation if possible; he was not trying to force anybody to do something they did not wish to.

Let those stubborn, hard-hearted fathers who oppress their own daughters listen to the teaching of the Prophet (PBUH)!

The Muslim woman who understands the teachings of her religion has wise and correct standards when it comes to choosing a husband. She does not concern herself just with good looks, high status, a luxurious lifestyle or any of the other things that usually attract women. She looks into his level of religious commitment and his attitude and behaviour, because these are the pillars of a successful marriage, and the best features of a husband. Islamic teaching indicates the importance of these qualities in a potential husband, as Islam obliges a woman to accept the proposal of anyone who has these qualities, lest fitnah and corruption become widespread in society:

"If there comes to you one with whose religion and attitude you are satisfied, then give your daughter to him in marriage, for if you do not do so, fitnah anmischief will become widespread on earth."5
 
Just as the true Muslim young man will not be attracted to the pretty girls who have grown up in a bad environment, so the Muslim young woman who is guided by her religion will not be attracted to stupid "play-boy" types, no matter how handsome they may be. Rather she will be attracted to the serious, educated, believing man who is clean-living and pure of heart, whose behaviour is good and whose understanding of religion is sound. No-one is a suitable partner for the good, believing woman except a good, believing man; and no-one is a suitable partner for the wayward, immoral woman but a wayward, immoral man, as Allah (SWT) has said: ( Women impure are for men impure, and men impure for women impure, and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity . . .) (Qur'an 24:26)
 
This does not mean that the Muslim woman should completely ignore the matter of physical appearance, and put up with unattractiveness or ugliness. It is her right - as stated above - to marry a man for whom her heart may be filled with love, and who is pleasing to her both in his appearance and in his conduct. Appearance should not be neglected at the expense of inner nature, or vice versa. A woman should choose a man who is attractive to her in all aspects, one who will gain her admiration and respect. The true Muslim woman is never dazzled by outward appearances, and she never lets them distract her from seeing the essence of a potential spouse.

The Muslim woman knows that the man has the right of qiwamah over her, as the Qur'an says:

( Men are the protectors and maintainers [qawwamun] of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means . . .) (Qur'an 4:34)
 
Hence she wants to marry a man of whose qiwamah over her she will feel proud, one whom she will be happy to marry and never regret it. She wants a man who will take her hand in his and set out to fulfil their life's mission of establishing a Muslim family and raising a new generation of intelligent and caring children, in an atmosphere of love and harmony, which will not be impeded by conflicting attitudes or religious differences. Believing men and believing women are supposed to walk side-by-side on the journey of life, which is a serious matter for the believer, so that they may fulfil the great mission with which Allah (SWT) has entrusted mankind, men and women alike, as the Qur'an says: ( For Muslim men and women - for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are constant and patient, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast [and deny themselves], for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise - for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.) (Qur'an 33:35)
 
In order to achieve this great goal of strengthening the marriage bond, and establishing a stable family life, it is essential to choose the right partner in the first place.

Among the great Muslim women who are known for their strength of character, lofty aspirations and far-sightedness in their choice of a husband is Umm Sulaym bint Milhan, who was one of the first Ansar women to embrace Islam. She was married to Malik ibn Nadar, and bore him a son, Anas. When she embraced Islam, her husband Malik was angry with her, and left her, but she persisted in her Islam. Shortly afterwards, she heard the news of his death, and she was still in the flower of her youth. She bore it all with the hope of reward, for the sake of Allah (SWT), and devoted herself to taking care of her ten-year-old son Anas. She took him to the Prophet (PBUH), so that he could serve him (and learn from him).

One of the best young men of Madinah, one of the best-looking, richest and strongest, came to seek her hand in marriage. This was Abu Talhah - before he became Muslim. Many of the young women of Yathrib liked him because of his wealth, strength and youthful good looks, and he thought that Umm Sulaym would joyfully rush to accept his offer. But to his astonishment, she told him, "O Abu Talhah, do you not know that your god whom you worship is just a tree that grew in the ground and was carved into shape by the slave of Banu so-and-so." He said, "Of course." She said, "Do you not feel ashamed to prostrate yourself to a piece of wood that grew in the ground and was carved by the slave of Banu so-and-so?" Abu Talhah was stubborn, and hinted to her of an expensive dowry and luxurious lifestyle, but she persisted in her point of view, and told him frankly: "O Abu Talhah, a man like you could not be turned away, but you are a disbelieving man, and I am a Muslim woman. It is not permitted for me to marry you, but if you were to embrace Islam, that would be my dowry (mahr), and I would ask you for nothing more."6

He returned the following day to try to tempt her with a larger dowry and more generous gift, but she stood firm, and her persistance and maturity only enhanced her beauty in his eyes. She said to him, "O Abu Talhah, do you not know that your god whom you worship was carved by the carpenter slave of so-and-so? If you were to set it alight, it would burn." Her words came as a shock to Abu Talhah, and he asked himself, Does the Lord burn? Then he uttered the words: "Ashhadu an la ilaha ill-Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul-Allah."

Then Umm Sulaym said to her son Anas, with joy flooding her entire being, "O Anas, marry me to Abu Talhah." So Anas brought witnesses and the marriage was solemnized.

Abu Talhah was so happy that he was determined to put all his wealth at Umm Sulaym's disposal, but hers was the attitude of the selfless, proud, sincere believing woman. She told him, "O Abu Talhah, I married you for the sake of Allah (SWT), and I will not take any other dowry." She knew that when Abu Talhah embraced Islam, she did not only win herself a worthy husband, but she also earned a reward from Allah (SWT) that was better than owning red camels (the most highly-prized kind) in this world, as she had heard the Prophet (PBUH) say:

"If Allah (SWT) were to guide one person to Islam through you, it is better for you than owning red camels."7
 
Such great Muslim women are examples worthy of emulation, from whom Muslim women may learn purity of faith, strength of character, soundness of belief and wisdom in choosing a husband.

She is obedient to her husband

and shows him respect

The true Muslim woman is always obedient to her husband, provided that no sin is involved. She is respectful towards him and is always eager to please him and make him happy. If he is poor, she does not complain about his being unable to spend much. She does not complain about her housework, because she remembers that many of the virtuous women in Islamic history set an example of patience, goodness and a positive attitude in serving their husbands and taking care of their homes despite the poverty and hardships they faced. One of the foremost of these exemplary wives is Fatimah al-Zahra', the daughter of Muhammad (PBUH) and the wife of `Ali ibn Abi Talib (RAA). She used to complain of the pain in her hands caused by grinding grain with the hand-mill. Her husband `Ali ibn Abi Talib said to her one day, "Your father has brought some female slaves, so go and ask him for one of them to come and serve you." She went to her father, but she felt too shy to ask him for what she wanted. `Ali went and asked him to provide a servant for his beloved daughter, but the Prophet (PBUH) could not respond to those who most dear to him whilst ignoring the needs of the poor among the Muslims, so he came to his daughter and her husband and said: "Shall I not teach you something that is better than that for which you asked me? When you go to bed at night, say `Subhan Allah' thirty-three times, `Al-hamdu lillah' thirty-three times, and `Allahu akbar' thirty-four times. This is better for you than a servant."

Then he bid them farewell and left, after inin them this divine help which would make them forget their tiredness and help them to overcome their exhaustion.

`Ali (RAA) began to repeat the words that the Prophet (PBUH) had taught him. He said, "I never stopped doing that after he had taught me these words." One of his companions asked him, "Not even on the night of Siffin?" He said, "Not even on the night of Siffin."8
 
Asma' bint Abi Bakr al-Siddiq served her husband al-Zubayr, and took care of the house. Her husband had a horse, which she took care of, feeding it and exercising it. She also repaired the water-bucket, made bread, and carried dates on her head from far away. Bukhari and Muslim report this in her own words: "Al-Zubayr married me, and he had no wealth, no slaves, nothing except his horse. I used to feed his horse, looking after it and exercising it. I crushed date-stones to feed his camel. I used to bring water and repair the bucket, and I used to make bread but I could not bake it, so some of my Ansari neighbours, who were kind women, used to bake it for me. I used to carry the dates from the garden that the Prophet (PBUH) had given to al-Zubayr on my head, and this garden was two-thirds of a farsakh away. One day I was coming back with the dates on my head. I met the Messenger of Allah, who had a group of his Companions with him. He called me, then told his camel to sit down so that I could ride behind him. I told (al-Zubayr), `I felt shy, because I know that you are a jealous man.' He said, `It is worse for me to see you carrying the dates on your head than to see you riding behind him.' Later, Abu Bakr sent me a servant, who relieved me of having to take care of the horse; it was as if I had been released from slavery."9
 
The true Muslim woman devotes herself to taking care of her house and husband. She knows her husband's rights over her, and how great they are, as was confirmed by the Prophet's words: "No human being is permitted to prostrate to another, but if this were permitted I would have ordered wives to prostrate to their husbands, because of the greatness of the rights they have over them."10And: "If I were to order anyone to prostrate to anyone else, I would have ordered women to prostrate to their husbands."11

`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "Who has the greatest rights over a woman?" He said, "Her husband." She asked, `And who has the greatest rights over a man?" He said, "His mother."12

A woman came to ask the Prophet (PBUH) about some matter, and when he had dealt with it, he asked her, "Do you have a husband?" She said, "Yes." He asked her, "How are you with him?" She said, "I never fall short in my duties, except for that which is beyond me." He said, "Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell."13
 
 

How can the Muslim woman complain about taking care of her house and husband when she hears these words of Prophetic guidance? She should fulfil her household duties and take care of her husband in a spirit of joy, because she is not carrying a tiresome burden, she is doing work in her home that she knows will bring reward from Allah (SWT).

The Sahabah, may Allah (SWT) be pleased with them, and those who followed them understood this Islamic teaching and transmitted it from the Prophet (PBUH). When a bride was prepared for marriage, she would be told to serve her husband and take care of his rights. Thus the Muslim woman knew her duties towards her husband, and down through the ages caring for her husband and being a good wife were established womanly attributes. One example of this is what was said by the faqih al-Hanbali ibn al-Jawzi in his book Ahkam al-Nisa' (p. 331): In the second century AH there was a righteous man called Shu`ayb ibn Harb, who used to fast and spend his nights in prayer. He wanted to marry a woman, and told her humbly, "I am a bad-tempered man." She replied, tactfully and cleverly, "The one who makes you lose your temper is worse than you." He realized that there stood before him a woman who was intelligent, wise and mature. He immediately said to her, "You will be my wife."

This woman had a clear understanding of how to be a good wife, which confirmed to the man who had come to seek her hand that she was a woman who would understand the psychology and nature of her husband and would know what would please him and what would make him angry; she would be able to win his heart and earn his admiration and respect, and would close the door to every possible source of conflict that could disrupt their married life. The woman who does not understand these realities does not deserve to be a successful wife; through her ignorance and shortcomings she may provoke her husband to lose his temper, in which case, she would be worse than him, for being the direct cause of his anger.

The tactful Muslim woman is never like this. She helps her husband to be of good character, by displaying different types of intelligence, cleverness and alertness in the way she deals with him. This opens his heart to her and makes him fond of her, because being a good wife is a not only a quality that she may boast about among her friends, but it is also a religious obligation for which Allah (SWT) will call her to account: if she has done well, she will be rewarded, but if she has fallen short she will have to pay the penalty.

One of the most important ways in which the Muslim woman obeys her husband is by respecting his wishes with regard to the permissible pleasures of daily life, such as social visits, food, dress, speech, etc. The more she responds to his wishes in such matters, the happier and more enjoyable the couple's life becomes, and the closer it is to the spirit and teachings of Islam.

The Muslim woman does not forget that her obedience to her husband is one of the things that may lead her to Paradise, as the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"If a woman prays her five daily prayers, fasts her month (of Ramadan), obeys her husband and guards her chastity, then it will be said to her: `Enter Paradise by whichever of its gates you wish.'"14Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: `Any woman who dies, and her husband is pleased with her, will enter Paradise.'"15
 
The Prophet (PBUH) draw a clear and delightful picture of the well-behaved, easy-going, loving, righteous Muslim wife, one who will be happy in this world and the next: "Shall I not tell you about your wives in Paradise?" We said, "Of course, O Messenger of Allah." He said, "They are fertile and loving. If she becomes angry or is mistreated, or her husband becomes angry, she says, `My hand is in your hand; I shall never sleep until you are pleased with me.'"16
 
The true Muslim woman knows that Islam, which has multiplied her reward for obeying her husband and made it a means of her admittance to Paradise, has also warned every woman who deviates from the path of marital obedience and neglects to take care of her husband, that she will be guilty of sin, and will incur the wrath and curses of the angels.

Bukhari and Muslim report from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"If a man calls his wife to his bed and she does not come, and he goes to sleep angry with her, the angels will curse her until the morning."17
 
Muslim reports from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (PBUH) said Imam: "By the One in Whose hand is my soul, there is no man who calls his wife to his bed, and she refuses him, but the One Who is in heaven will be angry with her, until the husband is pleased with her once more."18
 
The angels' curse will befall every woman who is rebellious and disobedient; this does not exclude those who are too slow and reluctant to respond to their husbands: "Allah (SWT) will curse those procrastinating women who, when their husbands call them to their beds, say `I will, I will . . .' until he falls asleep." 19
 
Marriage in Islam is intended to protect the chastity of men and women alike, therefore it is the woman's duty to respond to her husband's requests for conjugal relations. She should not givsilly excuses and try to avoid it. For this reason, several hadith urge a wife to respond to her husband's needs as much as she is able, no matter how busy she may be or whatever obstacles there may be, so long as there is no urgent or unavoidable reason not to do so.

In one of these hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"If a man calls his wife to his bed, let her respond, even if she is riding her camel [i.e., very busy]."20And: "If a man calls his wife, then let her come, even if she is busy at the oven."21The issue of protecting a man's chastity and keeping him away from temptation is more important than anything else that a woman can do, because Islam wants men and women alike to live in an environment which is entirely pure and free from any motive of fitnah or haram pleasures. The flames of sexual desire and thoughts of pursuing them through haram means can only be extinguished by means of discharging that natural energy in natural and lawful ways. This is what the Prophet (PBUH) meant in the hadith narrated by Muslim from Jabir: "If anyone of you is attracted to a woman, let him go to his wife and have intercourse with her, for that will calm him down."22
 
The warning given to the woman whose husband is angry with her reaches such an extent that it would shake the conscience of every righteous wife who has faith in Allah (SWT) and the Last Day: she is told that her prayer and good deeds will not be accepted, until her husband is pleased with her again. This is stated in the hadith narrated by Jabir from `Abdullah: "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: `There are three people whose prayers will not be accepted, neither their good works: a disobedient slave until he returns to his masters and puts his hand in theirs; a woman whose husband is angry with her, until he is pleased with her again; and the drunkard, until he becomes sober.'"23
 
When these hadith refer to the husband being angry with his wife, they refer to cases in which the husband is right and the wife is wrong. When the opposite is the case, and the husband is wrong, then his anger has no negative implications for her; in fact, Allah (SWT) will reward the wife for her patience. But the wife is still required to obey her husband, so long as no sin is involved, because there should be no obedience to a created being if it entails disobedience to the Creator. Concerning this, the Prophet (PBUH) said: "It is not permitted for a woman who believes in Allah (SWT) to allow anyone into her husband's house whom he dislikes; or to go out when he does not want her to; or to obey anyone else against him; or to forsake his bed; or to hit him. If he is wrong, then let her come to him until he is pleased with her, and if he accepts her then all is well, Allah (SWT) will accept her deeds and make her position stronger, and there will be no sin on her. If he does not accept her, then at least she will have done her best and excused herself in the sight of Allah (SWT)."24.
 
Another aspect of wifely obedience is that she should not fast at times other than Ramadan except with his permission, that she should not allow anyone to enter his house without his permission, and that she should not spend any of his earnings without his permission. If she spends anything without him having told her to do so, then half of the reward for that spending will be given to him. The true Muslim woman takes heed of this teaching which was stated by the Prophet (PBUH) in the hadith: "It is not permitted for a woman to fast when her husband is present, except with his permission; or to allow anyone into his house except with his permission; or to spend any of his earnings unless he has told her to do so, otherwise half of the reward will be given to him."25
 
According to a report given by Muslim, he (PBUH) said: "A woman should not fast if her husband is present, except with his permission. She should not allow anyone to enter his house when he is present without his permission. Whatever she spends of his wealth without him having told her to do so, half of the reward for it will be given to him."26
 
The point here is the permission of the husband. If a wife gives some of his money in voluntary charity without his permission, then she will not receive any reward; on the contrary, it will be recorded as a sin on her part. If she wants to spend in his absence, and she knows that if he knew about it he would give his permission, then she is allowed to do so, otherwise it is not permitted.

Mutual understanding and harmony between husband and wife cannot be achieved unless there is understanding between them on such matters, so that neither of them will fall into such errors and troubles as may damage the marriage which Islam has built on a basis of love and mercy, and sought to maintain its purity, care and harmony.

If the husband is a miser, and spends too little on her and her children, then she is allowed to spend as much as she needs from his wealth on herself and her children, in moderation, without his knowledge. The Prophet (PBUH) stated this to Hind bint `Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan, when she came to him and said, "O Messenger of Allah, Abu Sufyan is a stingy man. What he gives me is not enough for me and my child, unless I take from him without his knowledge." He told her, "Take what is enough for you and your child, in moderation."27 Thus Islam has made women responsible for good conduct in their running of the household affairs.

The Muslim woman understands the responsibility that Islam has given her, to take care of her husband's house and children by making her a "shepherd" over her husband's house and children. She has been specifically reminded of this responsibility in recognition of her role, in the hadith in which the Prophet (PBUH) made every individual in the Islamic society responsible for those under his or her authority in such a way that no-one, man or woman, may evade responsibility:

"Each of you is a shepherd, and each is responsible for those under his care. A ruler is a shepherd; a man is the shepherd of his family; a woman is the shepherd of her husband's house and children. For each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for those under his care."28
 
The true Muslim woman is always described as being loving towards her children and caring towards her husband. These are two of the most beautiful characteristics that a woman of any time or place may possess. The Prophet (PBUH) praised these two characteristics, which were embodied by the women of Quraysh, who represented the best women among the Arabs in terms of loving their children, caring for their husbands, respecting their rights and looking after their wealth with care, honesty and wisdom: "The best women who ride camels are the women of Quraysh. They are the most compassionate towards their children when they are small, and the most careful with regard to their husbands' wealth."29
 
This is a valuable testimony on the part of the Prophet (PBUH), attesting to the psychological and moral qualities of the women of Quraysh which enhanced their beauty and virtue. This testimony respresents a call to every Muslim woman to emulate the women of Quraysh in loving her children and taking care of her husband. These two important characteristics contribute to the success of a marriage, make individuals and families happy, and help a society to advance.

It is a great honour for a woman to take care of her husband every morning and evening, and wherever he goes, treating him with gentleness and good manners which will fill his life with joy, tranquillity and stability. Muslim women have the best example in `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her), who used to accompany the Prophet (PBUH) on Hajj, surrounding him with her care, putting perfume on him with her own hands before he entered ihram, and after he finished his ihram, before he performed tawaf al-ifadah.30 She chose for him the best perfume that she could find. This is stated in a number of sahih hadith reported by Bukhari and Muslim, for example:

"I applied perfume to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) with myown hands before he entered the state of ihram and when he concluded it before circumambulating the House."31

"I applied perfume to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) with these two hands of mine when he entered ihram and when he concluded it, before he performed tawaf," - and she spread her hands.32

`Urwah said: "I asked `A'ishah, `With what did you perfume the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) at the time when he entered ihram?' She said, `With the best of perfume.'"33
 
According to another report also given by Muslim, `A'ishah said: "I applied the best perfume I could find to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) before he entered ihram and when he concluded it, before he perfomed tawaf al-ifadah."34

When the Prophet (PBUH) was in seclusion (i`tikaf), he would lean his head towards `A'ishah, and she would comb and wash his hair. Bukhari and Muslim both report this in sahih hadith narrated from `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her), such as:

"When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was in i`tikaf, he inclined his head towards me and I combed his hair, and he did not enter the house except to answer the call of nature."35

"I used to wash the Prophet's head when I was menstruating."36
 
 

`Aishah urged women to take good care of their husbands and to recognize the rights that their husbands had over them. She saw these rights as being so great and so important that a woman was barely qualified to wipe the dust from her husband's feet with her face, as she stated: "O womenfolk, if you knew the rights that your husbands have over you, every one of you would wipe the dust from her husband's feet with her face."37

This is a vivid expression of the importance of the husband's rights over his wife. `A'ishah wanted to bring this to women's attention, so as to remove from the hearts of arrogant and stubborn women all those harsh, obstinate feelings that all too often destroy a marriage and turn it into a living hell.

Honouring and respecting one's husband is one of the characteristic attitudes of this ummah. It is one of the good manners known at the time of jahiliyyah that were endorsed by Islam and perpetuated by the Arabs after they embraced Islam. Our Arab heritage is filled with texts that eloquently describe the advice given by mothers to their daughters, to care for, honour and respect their husbands; these texts may be regarded as invaluable social documents.

One of the most famous and most beautiful of these texts was recorded by `Abd al-Malik ibn `Umayr al-Qurashi, who was one of the outstanding scholars of the second century AH. He quotes the words of advice given by Umamah bint al-Harith, one of the most eloquent and learned women, who was possessed of wisdom and great maturity, to her daughter on the eve of her marriage. These beautiful words deserve to be inscribed in golden ink.

`Abd al-Malik said: "When `Awf ibn Muhallim al-Shaybani, one of the most highly respected leaders of the Arab nobility during the jahiliyyah, married his daughter Umm Iyas to al-Harith ibn `Amr al-Kindi, she was made ready to be taken to the groom, then her mother Umamah came in to her, to advise her, and said:

`O my daughter, if it were deemed unnecessary to give you this advice because of good manners and noble descent, then it would have been unnecessary for you, because you possess these qualities, but it will serve as a reminder to those who are forgetful, and will help those who are wise.

`O my daughter, if a woman were able to do without a husband by virtue of her father's wealth and her need for her father, then you of all people would be most able to do without a husband, but women were created for men just as men were created for them.

`O my daughter, you are about to leave the home in which you grew up, where you first learned to walk, to go to a place you do not know, to a companion with whom you are unfamiliar. By marrying you he has become a master over you, so be like a servant to him, and he will become like a servant to you.

`Take from me ten qualities, which will be a provision and a reminder for you.

`The first and second of them are: be content in his company, and listen to and obey him, for contentment brings peace of mind, and listening to and obeying one's husband pleases Allah.

`The third and fourth of them are: make sure that you smell good and look good; he should not see anything ugly in you, and he should not smell anything but a pleasant smell from you. Kohl is the best kind of beautification to be found, and water is better than the rarest perfume.

`The fifth and the sixth of them are: prepare his food on time, and keep quiet when he is asleep, for raging hunger is like a burning flame, and disturbing his sleep will make him angry.

`The seventh and eighth of them are: take care of his servants (or employees) and children, and take care of his wealth, for taking care of his wealth shows that you appreciate him, and taking care of his children and servants shows good management.

`The ninth and tenth of them are: never disclose any of his secrets, and never disobey any of his orders, for if you disclose any of his secrets you will never feel safe from his possible betrayal, and if you disobey him, his heart will be filled with hatred towards you.

`Be careful, O my daughter, of showing joy in front of him when he is upset, and do not show sorrow in front of him when he is happy, because the former shows a lack of judgement, whilst the latter will make him unhappy.

`Show him as much honour and respect as you can, and agree with him as much as you can, so that he will enjoy your companionship and conversation.

`Know, O my daughter, that you will not achieve what you would like to until you put his pleasure before your own, and his wishes before yours, in whatever you like and dislike. And may Allah (SWT) choose what is best for you and protect you.'"38

She was taken to her husband, and the marriage was a great success; she gave birth to kings who ruled after him.

This advice clearly included everything that one could think of as regards the good manners that a young girl needs to know about in order to treat her husband properly and be a suitable companion for him. The words of this wise mother deserve to be taken as the standard for every young girl who is about to get married.

If she is rich, the true Muslim woman does not let her wealth and financial independence make her blind to the importance of respecting her husband's rights over her. She still takes care of him and honours him, no matter how rich she is or may become. She knows that she is obliged to show gratitude to Allah for the blessings He has bestowed upon her, so she increases her charitable giving for the sake of Allah. The first person to whom she should give generously is her own husband, if he is poor; in this case she will receive two rewards, one for taking care of a family member, and another for giving charity, as the Prophet (PBUH) stated in the hadith narrated by Zaynab al-Thaqafiyyah, the wife of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud (RAA):

"The Prophet (PBUH) told us: `O women, give in charity even if it is some of your jewellery.' She said, `I went back to `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud and told him. `You are a man of little wealth, and the Prophet (PBUH) has commanded us to give charity, so go and ask him whether it is permissible for me to give you charity. If it is, I will do so; if it is not, I will give charity to someone else.' `Abdullah said, `No, you go and ask.' So I went, and I found a woman of the Ansar at the Prophet's door, who also had the question. We felt too shy to go in, out of respect, so Bilal came out and we asked him, `Go and tell the Messenger of Allah that there are two women at the door asking you: Is it permissible for them to give sadaqah to their husbands and the orphans in their care? But do not tell him who we are.' So Bilal went in and conveyed this message to the Prophet (PBUH), who asked, `Who are they?' Bilal said, `One of the women of the Ansar, and Zaynab/' The Prophet (PBUH) asked, `Which Zaynab is it?' Bilal said, `The wife of `Abdullah.' The Prophet (PBUH) said: `They will have two rewards, the reward for upholdithe relationship, and the reward for giving charity.'"39 According to a report given by Bukhari, he said, "Your husband and your child are more deserving of your charity."40
 
The true Muslim woman is always careful to give thanks for Allah's blessings if her life is easy, and she never loses her patience if she encounters difficulty. She never forgets the warning that the Prophet (PBUH) issued to women in general, when he saw that most of the inhabitants of Hell will be women, and so she seeks refuge with Allah from becoming one of them. Bukhari and Muslim narrated from Ibn `Abbas (RAA) that the Prophet (PBUH) said: "O women, give charity, for I have surely seen that you form the majority of the inhabitants of Hell." They asked, `Why is this so, O Messenger of Allah?" He said, "Because you curse too much, and are ungrateful for good treatment (on the part of your husbands)."41

According to another report given by Bukhari, he said, "because they are ungrateful for good and kind treatment. Even if you treated one of them (these ungrateful women) well for an entire lifetime, then she saw one fault in you, she would say, `I have never seen anything good from you!'"42

According to a report given by Ahmad, a man said, "O Messenger of Allah, are they not our mothers and sisters and wives?" He said, "Of course, but when they are treated generously they are ungrateful, and when they are tested, they do not have patience."43
 
 

When the true Muslim woman thinks about these sahih hadith which describe the fate of most women in the Hereafter, she is always on the alert lest she fall into the sins of ingratitude towards her husband, or frequent cursing, or denying her husband's good treatment of her, or forgetting to give thanks for times of ease, or failing to be patient at times of difficulty. In any case, she hastens to give charity as the Prophet (PBUH) urged all women to do, in the hope that it may save them from that awful fate which will befall most of those women who deviate from truth and let trivial matters distract them from remembering Allah (SWT) and the Last Day, and whose bad qualities will ultimately lead them into the Fire of Hell. The Muslim woman, on the other hand, sets the highest example of respect towards one's husband and taking note of his good qualities. This is the attitude of loyalty that befits the true Muslim woman who respects her husband's rights and does not ignore his virtues.

Muslim women's history is full of stories which reflect this loyalty and recognition of the good qualities of the husband. One of these stories is that of Asma' bint `Umays, who was one of the greatest women in Islam, and one of the first women to migrate to Madinah. She was married to Ja`far ibn Abi Talib, then to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, then to `Ali, may Allah be pleased with them all. On one occasion, her two sons Muhammad ibn Ja`far and Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr were competing with one another, each of them saying. "I am better than you, and my father is better than your father." `Ali said to her, "Judge between them, O Asma'." She said, "I have never seen a young man among the Arabs who was better than Ja`far, and I have never seen a mature man who was better than Abu Bakr." `Ali said, "You have not left anything for me. If you had said anything other than what you have said, I would have hated you!" Asma' said: "These are the best three, and you are one of them even if you are the least of them."44

What a clever and eloquent answer this wise woman gave! She gave each of her three husbands the respect he deserved, and pleased `Ali, even though he was the least of them, because she included all of them in that group of the best.

She treats his mother and family

with kindness and respect

One of the ways in which a wife expresses her respect towards her husband is by honouring and respecting his mother.

The Muslim woman who truly understands the teachings of her religion knows that the person who has the greatest right over a man is his mother, as we have seen in the hadith of `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) quoted above. So she helps him to honour and respect his mother, by also honouring and respecting her. In this way she will do herself and her husband a favour, as she will helping him to do good deeds and fear Allah (SWT), as commanded by the Qur'an. At the same time, she will endear herself to her husband, who will appreciate her honour and respect towards his family in general, and towards his mother in particular. Nothing could please a decent, righteous and respectful man more than seeing strong ties of love and respect between his wife and his family, and nothing could be more hateful to a decent man than to see those ties destroyed by the forces of evil, hatred and conspiracy. The Muslim family which is guided by faith in Allah (SWT) and follows the pure teachings of Islam is unlikely to fall into the trap of such jahili behaviour, which usually flourishes in an environment that is far removed from the true teachings of this religion.

A Muslim wife may find herself being tested by her mother-in-law and other in-laws, if they are not of good character. If such is the case, she is obliged to treat them in the best way possible, which requires a great deal of cleverness, courtesy, diplomacy and repelling evil with that which is better. Thus she will maintain a balance between her relationship with her in-laws and her relationship with her husband, and she will protect herself and her marriage from any adverse effects that may result from the lack of such a balance.

The Muslim woman should never think that she is the only one who is required to be a good and caring companion to her spouse, and that nothing similar is required of her husband or that there is nothing wrong with him mistreating her or failing to fulfil some of the responsibilities of marriage. Islam has regulated the marital relationship by giving each partner both rights and duties. The wife's duties of honouring and taking care of her husband are balanced by the rights that she has over him, which are that he should protect her honour and dignity from all kinds of mockery, humiliation, trials or oppression. These rights of the wife comprise the husband's duties towards her: he is obliged to honour them and fulfil them as completely as possible.

One of the Muslim husband's duties is to fulfil his role of qawwam (maintainer and protector) properly. This is a role that can only be properly fulfilled by a man who is a successful leader in his home and family, one who possesses likeable masculine qualities. Such a man has a noble and worthy attitude, is tolerant, overlooks minor errors, is in control of his married life, and is generous without being extravagant. He respects his wife's feelings and makes her feel that she shares the responsibility of running the household affairs, bringing up the children, and working with him to build a sound Muslim family, as Islam wants it to be.

to be continued

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