Rights and Duties of Husband and Wife

Marriage is a relationship of comfort, trust, confidence, mercy, loyalty, affection, and love. It can also involve mutual compromise, and at times, frustration. In order to provide structure and balance to the marital relationship, Islam specifies certain rights and obligations for both husband and wife.

The Ideal Relationship

The Qur'an describes the marital relationship as one of warmth and security. “Among His signs is this — that Allah created for you spouses from among yourselves, that you may dwell with them in tranquility, and Allah has put love and mercy between your hearts” (Qur'an 30:21).

Couples are bound to face difficulties and get frustrated with one another from time to time. The Qur'an advises that even in these situations, we should “Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity” and remember that “even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good” (Qur'an 4:19). Couples should always try to see the best in each other.

On many occasions, Muhammad advised his companions to treat their wives with respect, honor, and tenderness. He said, “The most perfect man in his faith is the one whose behavior is most excellent, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives.” In another circumstance, he advised: “Only an honorable man treats his wife honorably, and only a wicked man humiliates his wife.”

Roles and Responsibilities

Marriage in Islam is described as a partnership, with each spouse contributing to the common welfare and health of the family unit. Cooperation between husband and wife is required, and each couple has some flexibility in their own family arrangements.

In marriage, a woman retains the same rights she had as a single woman, including the full rights to own and dispose of her own property as she sees fit, and to earn and retain her own income. Once the couple has children, however, she needs to balance her rights with her responsibilities toward her children. The wife has the right to a comfortable place to live, provided by the husband, with all financial needs taken care of. In return, she has a responsibility to be loyal to her husband and to maintain a relaxing home atmosphere.

The Qur'an describes husbands and wives in this way: “They are garments for you, and you are garments for them” (Qur'an 2:187). A garment, used as a metaphor in this verse, gives a person warmth, protection, comfort, and decency. Ideally, this is what a husband and wife offer each other.

The husband, in return for being entirely responsible for the financial needs of the family, has the right to be the final arbiter in family disputes. His authority, however, is neither absolute nor unchecked. As long as his final decisions are in accordance with Islam, his wife should willingly cooperate out of love, respect, and honor for him. A husband should be kind and understanding with his wife, and he should treat her in a tender and loving manner.

Many people today have come to realize that it is not easy to “have it all” in terms of career, parenthood, social life, and so on. In Islam, the basic duties are divided so that no one person feels responsible for it all. Within this framework, each couple is free to discuss and choose any type of arrangement that meets their personal needs or unique situation. Overall, Muslims believe that the system is balanced and fair, with each person afforded both rights and corresponding responsibilities.

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