By Aisha Lemu
In marriage, the ideal Muslim husband does not impose restrictions on his wife greater than those imposed by Allah, or by the Prophet on his own family. So, a woman who is married to an ideal Muslim husband should be protected not suppressed, and is therefore likely to be very happy and contented. However, the Muslim husband is not expected to please his wife at all cost, if what pleases her may be wrong or against her interests or the interests of the family. The Qur’an says:
O you who have attained to faith! Ward off from yourselves and your families that fire. (of the Hereafter) whose fuel is human beings and stones. (At-Tahrim 66:6)
In this respect, a husband has a duty to ensure that his wife is fully educated as a Muslim. If this has been neglected in her parents’ home, he must take necessary steps to remedy it, either by teaching her himself or by arranging for her Islamic education by other means. The husband is expected to give leadership in the family. We have seen that this form of leadership is not dictatorship or tyranny. The wise husband will, as indicated, consult his wife on important matters concerning the family, and if he sees her advice is good, accept it. However, Islam has given the man authority as the head of the family and he is expected to abide by the Qur’an and Sunnah and endeavor to ensure that he and his family do not violate Islamic norms of behavior.
The kind treatment required towards a wife should not therefore include condoning her misbehavior. The Qur’an has prescribed specific graded series of three steps which the husband should take if the wife shows by her behavior that she is rebelling against Islamic norms of conduct.
His first step should be to speak to her seriously about the implication and likely consequences of what she is doing. If she fails to respond to this sincere admonition, his next step is to suspend marital relations with her for a period of time. If this step also fails he is permitted to beat her lightly as a final act of correction. If she then complies, the husband should take no further action against her (Qur’an 4:34).
‘This beating is the last resort, and not the first one; and the Prophet (peace be upon him) placed some limitations on it, as follow,
(a) It should not be on the face or on any of the easily injured part of the body
(b) It should not be hard enough to cause pain or injury or leave a mark. The Prophet indicated that if a man must beat his wife it should be more or less symbolic, with something like a toothbrush.
The Prophet himself very much disliked the beating of wives, and never beat any of his own. In Abu Dawud’s collection of Hadith, he is reported by Laqit ibn Sabrah to have said: ”Admonish your wife, and if there be any good in her she will receive it; and beat not your wife like a slave.” In another Hadith from Ayas b. Abdullah, he specifically said: “Do not beat Allah’s female servants (i.e. women).” (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)
The Muslim husband therefore has no right to beat his wife discriminately or habitually for petty offences, and if he does so, the wife has a right to seek divorce by a Shari`ah court. Similarly, as we can see, Islam has not authorized men to beat up their wives in the way we sometimes find them doing, so that the poor wife comes out injured looking as if they had done ten rounds in a boxing-ring.
The phenomenon of wife-beating is not peculiar to Muslims – it is found in all parts of the world among certain types of men. However, some Muslims unjustly claim that they have religious sanction when they beat their wives, while in most cases they are beating them only because they themselves are drunk, or brutal by nature, or just in a bad temper.
Bad temper is to be controlled, not vented on the weaker sex. The Prophet referred to this in another Hadith when he said: He is not strong who throws people down, but he is strong among us who controls himself when angry.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
The Ideal Muslim husband, therefore, strives to emulate the Prophet’s practice by avoiding beating completely and discouraging it in others. It is not at all becoming for a Muslim to be a wife-beater in defiance of the Prophet’s explicit dislike of the practice.
This brings us to another interesting aspect of the Prophet’s relationship with his wives.
He apparently allowed his wives to do what is called “answering back” by men who think that women like children, should be seen but not heard. There are several recorded instances of the Prophet’s companions remonstrating with him or with his wives about this practice. Nevertheless, he chose to allow his wives to speak their minds.
Here, we see a husband, who in spite of his love and sympathy for his wives, would not be carried away to commit injustice between them, not put himself into difficulties or wrong-doing in order to satisfy their desires beyond what was necessary. He was not ready for the role of the “hen-pecked husband.” His firmness in the matter quickly made his wives see it in its proper perspective, and peace was restored to the household without recourse to divorce or even a harsh word. It is incidents like these that make it quite clear why the Prophet (peace be upon him) is held up as a beautiful example to Muslims in every aspect of his life.
The Muslim family is ideally a very united family. Mutual understanding between husband and wife lies at the root of it. The Islamic upbringing of the children is one of its most important functions. For it to succeed as the basic unit of the Muslim Ummah, both husband and wife need to know their duties and to practice self-control in trying to abide by the Islamic code of conduct within the family.
Source: Taken with modifications from the author’s The Ideal Muslim Husband by Aisha Lemu, a British scholar & writer.