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Islamic Fiqh- Transactions- Halal and Haram- Lesson (13-22): Relationship between spouses
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Praise be to Allah, the Lord of Creations, and Peace and blessings be upon our prophet Muhammad, the faithful and the honest.
 Oh, Allah, we know nothing but what You teach us. You are the All- Knower, the Wise. Oh Allah, teach us what is good for us, and benefit us from what You taught us, and increase our knowledge. Show us the righteous things as righteous and help us to do them, and show us the bad things as bad and help us to keep away from them.
  O Allah our Lord, lead us out from the depths of darkness and illusion, unto the lights of erudition and knowledge, and from the muddy shallows of lusts unto the heavens of Your Vicinity.

The way to achieve true happiness: 

 
Dear brothers, this is lesson no. 13 of the series Halal and Haram in Islam. Last lecture, we discussed some Islamic rulings concerning the relationship between spouses, and we talked about the women who are forbidden for marriage because of kinship. Before we start discussing this subject, I would like to begin with an introduction. 

One achieves true happiness when he lives according to the teachings of the Noble Qur'an; when he lives according to Allah's Plan. When Allah the Almighty created human in two genders: male and female, He ordained marriage in which spouses find harmony, intimacy and tranquility. Allah the Almighty says:

(And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.)


 

[Ar-Rum, 21]

The really successful person is the one who makes every effort to make his marriage in harmony with the Divine Plan (i.e. the teachings of Islam). Thus, the happiest person is the one who acts upon Islam in every aspect of his life; in his marriage, job, social relationships, everyday activities, sinless halal entertainment, and so on, since he will live in harmony with the Method of Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He (His Commands and Prohibitions). 

Let me give you the following example to make this point clear: if your car is very modern, and it is not designed for driving on rocky roads,  but you drive it on an unpaved road which is full of holes, rocks, hills, steep slopes, mud, dirt, etc. you will not enjoy its unique characteristics. Whereas when you drive it on paved roads, you will enjoy smooth driving since these roads are compatible with it. Thus, some cars are designed for driving on rocky roads while others are not, so you cannot drive modern cars on rough bumpy roads, because if you run over a big rock, it may damage the bottom of your car, some of its equipment may break down, and it brakes may fail. On the other hand, when you drive this car on paved roads; you will drive it smoothly since your car is compatible with such roads and vice versa. In the same way, human nature is compatible with Shari'ah (Islamic Laws), i.e. when one gets to know Allah the Almighty and abides by His Orders and Prohibitions, he will feel deeply relaxed since he lives in harmony with the Divine Method.

The true believer's relationships are in accordance with Allah's Method:


 
In fact, the human soul is created in accordance with Allah's Commands, so when one turns away from Him, he will feel empty inside, he will feel anxious, lost, worried about his future, and will have a persistent sense of danger, whereas when he believes in Allah the Almighty, turns to Him in repentance, and adheres to His Orders, he will be at ease since he lives in harmony with Allah's Commands. For example, ponder over the following Noble Ayah on marital relationships: Allah the Almighty says:

(Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other.)

[An-Nisa, 34]

The true believing husband makes his marital relationship in compatible with this Noble Ayah; according to Allah's Will, the husband is the one who is responsible for the maintenance, protection and overall leadership of the family since this Qawamah is given to husbands, not to wives. Also, Allah the Almighty says:

(And live with them honourably.)

[An-Nisa, 19]

This is how men should deal with their wives. Allah the Almighty says: 

(And live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.)


[An-Nisa, 19]

Thus, the true believer makes every effort to make his relationships in accordance with the Divine Method of Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He.

Marriage is legislated in order to meet basic human needs: 

As for marital relationships, whether we like it or not, both males and females are attracted to each other. In other words, it is an undeniable fact that men have sexual desire for women and vice versa. However, getting married is the only lawful way of fulfilling theses mutual desires. Thus, according to the Divine Method, this sexual need should be fulfilled only through marriage, not through Zina (adultery) which is the root of all evil in the world. This desire is met illegally in nightclubs, brothels, house of prostitution, etc. while the believer never fulfills his sexual desire except through marriage since it is the only legal way legislated by Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He. 
  
Generally speaking, one of the signs of success is to make every effort to live in accordance with Allah's Method (to adhere to Allah's Commands). For example, as for marriage, every one of us should ask himself: Is my marriage in accordance with the teachings of Islam mentioned in the Noble Quran? If not, then ask Allah the Almighty to grant you success to do so and never lose hope or think that it is beyond your capacity, but rather seek help from Him, since He never burdens a person except within his capacity. Thus, Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, has made marriage the only way to fulfill sexual desires between spouses.

The purpose of marriage:

 
The long-term purpose of marriage is to build strong relations between tribes, clans, and families. Actually, the word 'Musaharah' (relationship by marriage) is derived from the verb 'Sahara' which means to melt. In other words, after marriage, the couples' families will melt and merge into each other; one family will have a son-in-law, while the other family will have a daughter-in-law. In addition to fulfilling innate sexual desires, marriage helps in building strong relations between families, tribes, nations, etc. like the strong relations which is established between two states when a king of one state marries a princess of a neighboring state. Furthermore, giving birth to children is one of the fruits of marriage.

In brief, marriage is the only lawful way to fulfill one's sexual desires, it helps in merging families into each other, and it results in giving birth to children who receive one's compassion and kindness. For this reason, marriage is the root of all goodness, whereas Zina is the root of all evil, because after a young woman commits Zina, she will be carelessly left alone and will be rejected by her society, while when a woman gets married, she becomes a respected wife. Also, as days pass, she will have sons, daughters, sons-in-law, and daughters-in law, etc. and the older she gets, the more respected she becomes.

A basic principle regarding marital relationship:


Allah the Almighty says:

(And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.)

[Ar-Rum, 21]

This Noble Ayah "…That you may find repose in them" should be one's marital life motto, i.e. a wife should be a source of tranquility and inner peace for her husband, not a source of boredom. Unfortunately, some husbands may say that they suffer from serious marital discords which turn their houses into a piece of Hell, and so they find happiness outside their houses. On the other hand, some wives heave a sigh of relief when their husbands get out of their houses. Actually, these unhealthy situations should be handled. Allah the Almighty says: 

(And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them,…) 

The Ayah means to find tranquility in them. 

(… And He has put between you affection and mercy.)


 
The most accurate definition of affection is the behavior which expresses love. Thus, love is a feeling inside one's heart, while affection is the behavior which indicates love. So, "…And He has put between you affection" refers to the behavior which indicates the feeling of love one feels inside his heart. As for mercy, it means to be a compassionate spouse, i.e. the husband should be kind and merciful to his beloved wife if she is afflicted with an incurable disease. In turn, the wife should be kind and merciful to her beloved rich husband if he becomes poor, or if he is afflicted with a serious disease. Thus, marital relationship should be based on two principles: love and mercy. Allah the Almighty says:

(… That you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy.)


 

The most critical points concerning marital relationships

Actually, Islam regulates every aspect of one's life starting with principles which regulate one's marital relationship and ending with principles which regulate international affairs. So, it includes principles which regulate international, social, and psychological relationships as well as marital intimacy related to one's private life. As for the Divine Method concerning the intimate relationship between couples, Allah the Almighty says:
  

(They ask you concerning menstruation. Say: that is an Adha (a harmful thing for a husband to have a sexual intercourse with his wife while she is having her menses), therefore keep away from women during menses.)


 

[Al-Baqarah, 222]

I read an article, which includes nearly 20 items, about some terrible health risks of having sex during menstruation. Allah the Almighty says:

(…that is an Adha (a harmful thing for a husband to have a sexual intercourse with his wife while she is having her menses), therefore keep away from women during menses)


 

[Al-Baqarah, 222]

In fact, the People of the Scripture adopted two contradictory attitudes about dealing with women when they get their periods; the first party used to expel their wives from their houses during their menstruation. Furthermore, they used to abstain from eating together with them. On the other hand, the other party used to completely neglect that matter; they used to have sexual relations with their wives in their period.  As for Islam, it adopted a moderate attitude; Allah the Almighty says:

(…therefore keep away from women during menses)

In Islam, there is no command to abstain from staying or sitting with one's wife when she is in her period, but rather one can sit with her in their house, eat the food she cooks, spend his night with her, etc. the only thing he should avoid is to have intercourse with her in the place of sowing of seed for him; in her vagina, and to be intimate with her concerning the area between the naval and the knee. Thus, one should not completely keep away from his wife when she is in her period. Allah the Almighty says: 

(They ask you concerning menstruation. Say: that is an Adha (a harmful thing for a husband to have a sexual intercourse with his wife while she is having her menses), therefore keep away from women during menses and go not unto them till they have purified(from menses and have taken a bath). And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah has ordained for you (go in unto them in any manner as long as it is in their vagina). Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves (by taking a bath and cleaning and washing thoroughly their private parts, bodies, for their prayers, etc.).)

 

[Al-Baqarah, 222]


"…Till they have purified" means till their period is over, while "And when they have purified themselves" means when they take a bath. Allah the Almighty says:

(And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah has ordained for you (go in unto them in any manner as long as it is in their vagina).)

This means one can have sexual relation with his wife as long as it is in her vagina. Allah the Almighty says:
 

(Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves (by taking a bath and cleaning and washing thoroughly their private parts, bodies, for their prayers, etc.). )

Which means Allah the Almighty loves those who purify themselves are those who have sexual relation with their wives in the pure part (the vagina) not in the impure place (the anus). Thus, the intimate relationship between spouses is controlled and regulated by this aforementioned Noble Ayah; it is forbidden to have sex with your wife while she is menstruating, or to have sex with her in the impure part (i.e. the anus).  These are the most important points concerning sexual relationship between husbands and wives. 

Shari'ah ruling on the intimate relationship between spouses

In following Noble Ayah, there is another instruction with regards to sexual relationship between spouses; Allah the Almighty says: 

(Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus), when or how you will, and send (good deeds, or ask Allah to bestow upon you pious offspring) before you for your ownselves. And fear Allah, and know that you are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give good tidings to the believers (O Muhammad PBUH).) 


[Al-Baqarah, 223]

The word 'tilth' in "So go to your tilth" means the place of sowing of seeds, which refers indirectly to the vagina. This indicates that it is prohibited to make sexual relation with one's wife in the other part (the anus) since it is impure. Thus, the meaning of this Ayah is quite clear, but it refers implicitly (to the prohibition of anal sex).

Also, there is another slight hint in this Noble Ayah; Allah the Almighty says, "…And send before you for your own selves" which refers to the foreplay. One should never behave like animals and have sex with his wife without foreplay, but rather he should start with sweet words and kind acts. Thus, these are some Islamic rulings on the sexual relationship between spouses.

The Divine Method concerning the relationship between spouses

1-    Affection and mercy

As for the relationship between spouses in general, Allah the Almighty says:

(And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.)

[Ar-Rum, 21]

This means the relationship between spouses is based on finding peace, affection and mercy.

2-    Abstaining from sexual relation during menstruation

As for the intimate relationship between spouses, Allah the Almighty says:

(They ask you concerning menstruation. Say: that is an Adha (a harmful thing for a husband to have a sexual intercourse with his wife while she is having her menses), therefore keep away from women during menses and go not unto them till they have purified.)

[Al-Baqarah, 222]

3-    Sweet words strengthens the relationship between spouses

Let us ponder over the slight hint in the following Ayah. Allah the Almighty says:

(Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus), when or how you will, and send (good deeds, or ask Allah to bestow upon you pious offspring) before you for your own selves. And fear Allah, and know that you are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give good tidings to the believers (O Muhammad PBUH).)


[Al-Baqarah, 223]

"…When or how you will," means at any time and in any manner you want as long as it is in her vagina not in the anus. "…Send before you for your own selves" refers indirectly to saying heart touching love words and to performing foreplay before having sex, lest one's sexual relation with his wife could be likened to that of animals.

Some scholars said, "Performing foreplay has a great effect on the heath of the baby too; it might be the reason why some newborn babies have better health than others." Accordingly, "…Send before you for your own selves" might be the reason behind having a healthy baby. Of course, Allah the Almighty knows best. He says:

(Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus), when or how you will, and send (good deeds, or ask Allah to bestow upon you pious offspring) before you for your ownselves. And fear Allah, and know that you are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give good tidings to the believers (O Muhammad PBUH).) 


[Al-Baqarah, 223]

4-    Keeping your marriage private

The fourth principle is to keep your marriage private. Kindly, pay close attention to my words, and I hope they do not sound harsh. The true believer never tells others about his intimate relationship with his wife, because when Allah the Almighty describes the righteous women, He says:
 

(…And guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband's property, etc.))

So, one should keep his own secrets to himself and should tell no one about his intimate relationship with his wife. 

Never reveal secrets about your intimate relationship with your wife:

Dear brother, telling others about the intimate details of your marital life is a major sin which is only committed by the one who has no sense of honor. The proof of this point is mentioned in the following Noble Hadith in which the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:
    

(Among the most wicked of people in the eye of Allah on the Day of Judgment is the men who goes to his wife and she comes to him, and then he divulges her secret.) 

[Muslim]

Thus, the fourth principle concerning marital relationship in Islam is abstaining from revealing the intimate details of one's married life.

(It was reported from Asmaa' bint Yazeed that she was with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and men and women were sitting with him, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Would any man say what he did with his wife? Would any woman tell others what she did with her husband?" The people kept quiet and did not answer. I [Asmaa'] said: "Yes, by Allah, O Messenger of Allah, they (women) do that, and they (men) do that." He said, "Do not do that. It is like a male devil meeting a female devil in the road and having intercourse with her whilst the people are watching.") 

 

(Narrated by Abu Dawood, no. 1/339; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Adaab al-Zafaaf, p. 143).

 
This means when someone tells people about his sexual relation with his wife, it is as if he is having intercourse with her before them to watch.

In concise, there are four Shari'ah rulings (on marital relationship): 

firstly, "Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth", which means you can have sexual relations with your wives in any manner you want as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus.

Secondly, "They ask you concerning menstruation. Say: that is an Adha (a harmful thing for a husband to have a sexual intercourse with his wife while she is having her menses), therefore keep away from women during menses."

Thirdly, "…Send before you for your own selves", which refers indirectly to saying kind words and to performing foreplay before having sex with one's wife. 

Fourthly, one should keep his own secrets to himself and should never tell anyone about his intimate relationship with his wife. 

One more point, children at an early stage in their lives should know nothing about sex and other matters related to it. In other words, as you all know, private parts have two functions (i.e. they are organs of the reproductive system as well as the urinary system), but have you ever thought about the wisdom behind that? The answer is to protect the little kid from corruption. The little kid normally knows nothing about sex, and he may think that the only function of his private parts is to empty the bladder, so he will be protected from many psychological and emotional problems. On the other hand, teaching children about matters related to sex at an early age leads to many negative consequences. Moreover, it corrupts their Fitrah (the sound human nature which is instilled in humans' souls and hearts that drives them to believe in Allah and long to know Him).

The practice of birth-control:

Actually, the (Shari'ah ruling on the) practice of controlling the number of children a person has, using various methods of contraception is one of the most important topics nowadays. It was narrated in the two most authentic books of Hadith that the noble companions said that they used to practice azl (coitus interruptus) during the lifetime of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, (and he did not forbid them to do that). Although this method may sound primitive, it is the best and the safest of birth-control methods since other methods have serious complications. For example, copper-IUD may cause uterus fibroids. Also, birth control pills sometimes cause obesity, cellulite, nervous tension, and other serious health risks, because these pills contain man-made hormones which can seriously harm women health. Hence, practicing azl (coitus interruptus or using a condom) is the best birth-control method.

Jabir Ibn Abd-Allah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the companions of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him said:

(We used to practise 'azl (withdraw the penis from wife while having intercourse) during the lifetime of Allah's Messenger, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him), and he did not forbid us.)

[Muslim]

In fact, nothing can ever happen against Allah's Will. I was told that  a couple agreed on delaying pregnancy for three years, but after those years, the wife got pregnant, and she gave birth to three babies at once! Also, I was told that a couple have 12 children despite using family planning methods! Actually, couples should choose the birth-control method wisely, because global pharmaceutical companies are only concerned with making profits, i.e. although birth control pills and man-made hormones have serious health problems such as stress and nervous tension, they do not care; they only think about making money. 

Actually, after selling millions of those drugs throughout the world, recent studies have confirmed that birth control pills can potentially increase cancer risk, and that is why experienced physicians rarely prescribe drugs, because they contain harmful chemicals which may have negative effect on your health. In other words, although drugs can make you feel better, they have serious side effects. 

Abu Sa'id Al-Khidri, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that a man came to the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said: 

("O Messenger of Allah, I have a slave-girl and I practice azl, because I dislike that she becomes pregnant. I intend (by intercourse) what the men intend by it. But the Jews say that the withdrawal method – where a man does not ejaculate into a woman's vagina is the minor live burial of children. The Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said: "The Jews told a lie. If Allah intends to create it, you cannot turn it away.")


[As-Sunan As-Sughra ]

Thus, it is permissible to practice azl in Islam. However, problems arise when a state imposes a compulsory population control policy on its citizens, such as china's one-child policy. It led many families to kill their female babies, since they prefer having sons (who are more able to get well-paid jobs than daughters). Consequently, there are many kidnapping gangs targeting young girls who are at marriage age. Furthermore, there are 50 million single men in China who are desperately seeking a wife, which is a scary statistic. Thus, it is okay for spouses to use a family planning method, but when a state imposes a compulsory population control policy on its citizens, this law may have severe repercussion on the society.

It was narrated that while a group of people were sitting with the Khalifah (caliph) Umar Ibn Al-Khatab, may Allah be pleased with him, discussing the subject of  azl, a man said: "Jews claim that azl is the minor live burial of children", but our master Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "Azl is not considered a minor burial of children until the fetus goes through seven stages of development; basically man is created from an extract of clay, then a sperm-drop, then the sperm-drop is formed into a clinging clot, then the clot is made into a lump of flesh, then bones are formed from the lump, then bones are covered with flesh; then it is developed into another creation." Upon hearing that, our master Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "You have told the truth, may Allah grant you a long life."
 
Actually, not only azl is permitted in Islam, but also abortion (which is forbidden in Islam) is permitted in cases of emergency, like when a trustworthy qualified Muslim physician orders an abortion to save the life of the mother. 
 

Bringing up children properly is one's most important religious duty :

The second point revolves around the following Hadith: 

(Abu Dawood (2050) narrated that Ma'qil Ibn Yasaar said: A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, "I have found a woman who is of good lineage and is beautiful, but she does not children. Should I marry her?" He said, "No." Then he came again with the same question and he told him not to marry her. Then he came a third time with the same question and he said: "Marry those who are loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great numbers before the other nations.")


[Ad-Dailami] 

Undoubtedly, what is meant by the words of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, is not the number of Muslims, because it is quality not quantity that matters. In other words, some careless parents give birth to many children and let them play outside unsupervised. Furthermore, they neglect their parental responsibilities, such as bringing them up properly (according to the teachings of Islam), being sure they get the nutrition they need, caring about their education, and giving effective instructions to them, etc. which will make them a burden to others as well as to their society. Thus, careless parenting is largely irrelevant to the essence of Islam, because bringing up children properly is one's most important religious duty. It was narrated that 'Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said:

(The Messenger of Allah said: 'The best (most pure) food that a man eats is that which he has earned himself, and his child (and his child's wealth) is part of his earning.")

Thus, after having a baby, you should provide him with all his needs. Unfortunately, someone may neglect his parental responsibilities on the ground that he himself is a self-made man, and he is teaching his kids to be self-reliant too. Therefore, he lets his child alone in evil company who will definitely have bad influence on him. Actually, that self-made man managed to survive, because when he was about his son's age, maybe in the 1930s or the in the 1940s, he lived in a healthy society where moral corruption was not widespread, crimes rarely occurred, and most people were religiously committed; they used to fear Allah's Punishments and Warnings. 

In contrast, nowadays, our society is suffering from severe problems such as drugs and crimes; one gets addicted to drugs the first time he uses it which is really scary.  In my own opinion, it is ok to read some newspaper reports on some crimes committed in our society to increase parents' awareness. For example, one should never send his little daughter alone to buy some milk since she may get kidnapped. Thus, the parents are responsible for their children; they should not neglect their parental responsibilities but rather they should exercise close monitoring and supervision over them, i.e. to keep a close eye on them. They should know when they come back home, when they go out of the house, etc. Also, parents should prevent little girls from going alone to the market, lest they face potential danger, and so on. Actually, whoever fulfills his parental responsibilities successfully has gained true happiness.

The mutual responsibilities of spouses towards each other:

As I have mentioned above, if a trustworthy qualified Muslim physician confirms that the continuity of pregnancy would put the mother's life at risk, Islam allows abortion to save her, whereas it is forbidden to abort the fetus without a valid reason, i.e. it is not permitted for a Muslim husband to ask his wife to get an abortion because they already have three children and he does not want more, this is a completely unacceptable reason.

After marriage, the married couple will be united as one; there are no longer two entities (two individuals), but now there is one entity (a married couple). Consequently, each one of them becomes totally responsible for the other, while when the wife neglects her duties towards her husband, this may cause him to deviate from the Straight Path, and vice versa. In other words, the believing women conceals her beauty from strangers and does not display it except to her husband, while the woman who disobeys Allah the Almighty behaves quite the opposite; she displays her beauty and ornaments to non-mahram men (The Arabic term mahram is derived from haraam which literally means something which is sacred, or sacrosanct, or prohibited. In the terminology of Islamic Jurisprudence a mahram relative is generally one to whom marriage is absolutely and permanently prohibited; and a non-mahram is generally one to whom marriage is allowed). Furthermore, she makes her voice soft and attractive while speaking with them, whereas she entirely neglects her outer appearance in front of her husband when she is at home. Verily, this is a sign of moral delinquency and deviation. Moreover, she may bring upon herself the Wrath of Allah the Almighty due to that delinquent behavior. Actually, the perfect description of the status of married couples, and how they will be united as one is mentioned in the Noble Ayah below in which Allah the Almighty says:

(They are Libas [i.e. body cover, or screen, or Sakan, (i.e. you enjoy the pleasure of living with her - as in Verse 7:189) Tafsir At-Tabari], for you and you are the same for them)


[Al-Baqarah, 187]

This Noble Ayah accurately reflects how married couples are no longer two entities (two individuals), but rather one entity, since one's spouse is closer to him than the clothes he wears. The other meaning of this Noble Ayah is that when one fulfills his sexual needs with his wife, it helps him maintain his chastity, lower his gaze and preserve his modesty.

Some orientalists interpreted the word 'Libas' literally as pants! Actually, interpreting the Noble Qur'an should be based on accurate understanding and deep faith, while the literal interpretation of the Qur'an does not convey its proper meaning. For instance, interpreting the word 'Libas' as pants makes it miss the exalted sense of the word which indicates total unity between the married couple. Allah the Almighty says:

(And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses, etc.) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.)


[Al-Baqarah, 228]

Husbands have a degree of leadership over their wives:

Actually, the true believer knows that his wife's rights over him are similar to his rights over her. In other words, if he wants his wife to care about her appearance at home, he should also care about his appearance at home, if he wants her to respect his parents, he should respect her parents, and if he wants her to take care of him, he should take care of her, and so on. Allah the Almighty says:

(And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses, etc.) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.)


[Al-Baqarah, 228]

This means men have only one degree over their wives which is the degree of leadership. This degree could be likened to the difference between the rank of a major general and a brigadier general; not to the big difference between the rank of a major general and an enlisted soldier. Thus, the above-mentioned Noble Ayah indicates that there is just one degree between men and their wives. Allah the Almighty says:
(But men have a degree (of responsibility) over them.)

Based on this Ayah, the true believer knows for sure that he has only one degree over his wife which is the degree of leadership, because a ship can only have one captain, otherwise we may end up with two different destinations, which may lead to confusion and consequently the ship will properly sink. However, leaders should never be arbitrary, or act oppressively or abusively, i.e. although husbands make the final decision, they should consult their wives. The proof of that is mentioned in the following Noble Ayah in which Allah the Almighty says:

(And let each of you accept the advice of the other in a just way)

[Al-Talaq, 6]

This means take mutual counsel together; the husband should accept the advice of his wife and the wife should accept the advice of her husband as well. Thus, it is desirable for the husband to consult his wife and to follow her opinion, following by that the example of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, who took the advice of the Mother of Believers Um Salamah, may Allah be pleased with her, during the story of Al-Hudaybiyyah (when the Prophet made a peace deal with Quraysh, agreeing to go back and not to enter Makkah that year, and ordered his companion to offer their sacrifices but no one did that, then Um Salamah advised him to go out, sacrifice his camel and shave his head. When he did that, they got up and offered their sacrifices). We can learn from this act of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, that although one has a degree over his wife, it is desirable for him to consult her and to take her opinion in order to show her respect, to please her and to make her really feel that she is his partner.

The wife's rights upon her husband:

It was narrated that a man came to the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, and asked him: "O Messenger of Allah, what is the right of the wife of one of us over him?" He replied: "That you should give her food when you eat…" Let's ponder over those wise words of the Noble Prophet. If you earn middle-class income, you do not have to make money illegally in order to buy the best food for your wife. On the other hand, it is not permissible for you to eat excellent food at a restaurant or while going for a picnic with your friends, whereas your wife eats cheap food at home.

So, that man asked the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him: "O Messenger of Allah, what is the right of the wife of one of us over him? He replied:

(That you should give her food when you eat, clothe her when you clothe yourself, do not strike her on the face, do not revile her or separate yourself from her except in the house.)

These wise words should be regarded as principles to apply to life. According to them, if you live on a limited income, you do not have to go after ill-gotten gains, to take bribes, or to resort to fraud or forgery in order to provide your wife with fancy food, since you will never be burdened beyond your scope. Allah the Almighty says:

(But bestow on them (divorced women) a suitable gift, the rich according to his means, and the poor according to his means)

So, the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said: 

(That you should give her food when you eat,…)

On the other hand, you will get blamed when you only care about your own needs and neglect hers.  The Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, went on saying:

(Do not strike her on the face,..)

This means it is not permissible for a husband to hit his wife's face, because she will feel deeply humiliated since face is the most honored part of the body. The Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

(If one of you were to hit, he should avoid hitting the face) 

He also said, "Do not revile her…", which means never curse the day you meet your wife or the day you meet her family, and never say to her that you are fairly unlucky in your marriage, or that you regard your marriage a calamity that you are afflicted with, because these words will definitely cause emotional detachment in marriage.
 
Actually, as long as you have chosen your wife wisely; as long as you have married the right wife, do not make marital problems bigger than they really are, since she is the mother of your children (and your life partner as well), so do not make a mountain out of a molehill. As the saying goes, "Focus on your small problems, and they will become bigger than they really are. Stop focusing on your big problems, and they will become smaller than they really are." So, it depends on your attitude; whether you think positively or negatively. 

You may hear the following saying: "There are some devout worshippers of Allah the Almighty who whenever they wish something, it happens by the Will of Him." You can interpret that positively saying that their Du'a is always answered. On the other hand, you can interpret it negatively, saying that the will of those righteous worshippers is independent of (or resembles) the Will of Allah the Almighty (which is of course a polytheistic belief). Likewise, if a wife gets so mad at her husband and says something hurtful to him, he can either divorce her and make things worse or ignore that word and consider the problem insignificant. Actually, wise people do not exaggerate problems. 

Let me tell you this story. When one of the noble companions noticed that his money was stolen, he invoked Allah the Almighty saying: "O Allah, if the one who stole my money was compelled by poverty, then grant him barakh (Allah's Blessings) in that money, but  if he did that despite having enough money, then forgive him and make it the last time he steals." Thus, wise people avoid exaggerating their problems, realizing the true size of them, which is the secret to success in life.  On the other hand, only stupid and foolish people exaggerate their problems and turn little problems into big ones. 

For example, when a marital dispute or a marital conflict occurs, one should never force his wife to leave the house or let her do that, because as long as she is still at home, they may manage to solve their marital problem, no matter how serious it is, two or three days later. Whereas when she leaves her house, the most trivial problem may become a big issue over time. For example, if someone orders his wife, in a moment of anger, to leave the house, and she goes to the house of her parents or of one of her relatives such as her paternal aunt, her maternal aunt, etc. her relatives will sympathize deeply with her, and they will try to convince her not to go back to her husband. Eventually, she will stubbornly insist on her attitude. On the other hand, her husband will feel very angry at her since she has not called him, and he will stubbornly insist on his attitude. Therefore, listen to this piece of advice: whenever a marital conflict occurs, never order your wife to leave her home.  In fact, one should think too much before making a fateful decision such as the decision of divorce; if the wife is still at home, the biggest problem will become small, while when she leaves her home, the most trivial problem will turn into a big one. So, one should act wisely when he faces any problem. Allah the Almighty says:

(And he, to whom Hikmah is granted, is indeed granted abundant good.) 

Never make a decision when you are angry, but rather wait for a week, because things may change; your point of view may be altered, you may regret, and the one who has hurt you may sincerely apologize to you and present convincing reasons for his act, etc. Thus, things may totally change. I repeat what the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

(That you should give her (your wife) food when you eat, clothe her when you clothe yourself, do not strike her on the face, do not revile her or separate yourself from her except in the house.)

The right of the husband upon his wife:

Consider the following Noble Hadith on the rights of the husband upon his wife: Muadh Ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said: 

(It is not permitted for a woman who believes in Allah the Almighty 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…)

For example, if a husband asks his wife not to allow her female neighbor to visit her, because she has no moral values, nevertheless she allows that woman to visit her, she is disobeying the orders of the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, since she should be loyal to her husband, not to that stranger. 

Also, if a financial dispute occurs between her family and her husband, she should stand by him, i.e. she should never conspire with her father and her brothers against her husband, because marriage is the most sacred contract. The Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

(…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 the Almighty 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 the Almighty.)


[Al-Hakim and Al-Bayhaqi]

Actually, our sisters in faith do not pay attention to this Noble Hadith, i.e. if a woman tries to please her husband although he has mistreated her, Allah the Almighty will reward her abundantly, because she shows him respect (i.e. she does that for the Sake of Allah the Almighty even if her husband does not deserve her respect).

The mutual rights of spouses:

Actually, spouses owe each other the duty to tolerate each other patiently and to treat each other kindly, i.e. both of them tries to get closer to Allah the Almighty through bearing with patience his/her spouse's annoying behavior and through treating him/her kindly. Thus, tolerating one's spouse with patience and treating him/her kindly are two ways to get closer to Allah the Almighty. This is my last point on the mutual rights and duties of spouses. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

(A believer must not hate (his wife) believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics he will be pleased with another.)

[Muslim]

Once a man came to my house complaining against his wife, and he wanted to divorce her. He asked me for a piece of advice, so I asked him, "Has she ever betrayed you?" He answered, No, she has never betrayed me!" Then, I asked him, "Does she cook badly?" He answered, "No, she cooks very well." As I kept asking him one question after the other, he unintentionally mentioned many positive qualities of his wife, and he felt ashamed of himself. She is faithful to him, and she never cheats on him, she is a righteous woman who performs the five daily prayers, and she is a good housewife who cooks very well and keeps her house clean. So, if a bad thing happens unexpectedly, it should never be regarded a reason to consider divorce, which is the most hated thing by Allah the Almighty. It was narrated in the tradition that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him said:
 

(Divorce is so hated that it causes the Arsh  (Thorne) of Allah to shake.)

I know a man who divorced his wife, and his second wife refused to take care of his children, so he was obliged to ask one of his close relatives to take care of them. Unfortunately, that careless relative did not bring them up properly, and his/her neglectful behavior caused them to deviate and led them to delinquency. Eventually, those children became a source of great sorrow for their father till the very last day of his life. Thus, divorce is a serious disaster.

After having kids, one should give priority to their interests over his owns, and he should make sacrifices for them. Verily, this is the perfect attitude. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

(A believer must not hate (his wife) believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics he will be pleased with another.)


[Muslim ]

Also, Allah the Almighty said:

(And live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.) 


[An-Nisa, 19]

Living with wives honorably does not only mean to avoid causing harm to them but also to endure the harm caused by them. Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, tests different people with different trials (according to their different levels of patience). Hence, Allah the Almighty tests some people with ill-mannered wives, others with undutiful children, others with illness, and others with poverty, and so on. 

Dear brothers, Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

(There are three  whose prayers do not rise more than a hand span above their heads: A man who leads people (in prayer) when they do not like him; a woman who has spent the night with her husband angry with her; and two brothers who have severed contact with one another.)


[At-Tirmidhi]

So, their acts of worship are worthless. 

Searching for authentic texts is the method of every caller to Islam:

By the way, a man once asked me, "What are the books you depend on in your lectures?" I answered him that there are no particular books, i.e. I depend on Noble Ayat and Noble Hadith, I choose some reliable texts from several books, I gather them together, then I discuss them in details during my lectures. Thus, there are no specific books.

In the introduction to his great book 'Al- Muwafaqat' (Reconciliation of the Fundamentals of Islamic Law)- Volume 12, Imam Ash-Shatibi, may Allah have mercy on his soul, said, "Knowledge is only acquired from pious trustworthy scholars", because there are many Da'if (weak) or Maudu' (fabricated, forged) Ahadeeth. For example, I found in an Islamic book the following tradition: 

"A beautiful woman was performing prayer among the noble companions, and they were captivated by her beauty so they gathered around her; some of them prayed behind her and others prayed in front of her!" 

Unquestionably, considerable doubts are raised over this tradition. So, when I prepare my lectures, I depend on authentic clearly-interpreted texts, and I pick up many subjects from several books and references, not only from one reference. I hope you keep this point in your mind.

Muslim's life must be free from major sins:

When the relationship between spouses becomes so difficult to maintain, and when the continuation of their marriage has serious negative impact on both of them and will cause them to deviate, then divorce is the best solution for them since Allah the Almighty made is as a safety valve for marriages. Unlike the Muslim communities, divorce is a social taboo in non-Muslim communities. Therefore, spouses find that the only solution to their marital problems is to desert each other (which is called marital abandonment or desertion) and to resort to immoral acts and practices, whereas Muslim's life is free from such major sins since divorce is permitted in Islam. Allah the Almighty says:

(…either take them back in a good manner or part with them in a good manner.)

[Al-Talaq, 2]

Let me tell you the story of Shuraih, who was a judge, and whose wife is the best example of the righteous wife. Shuraih reported that on his weeding day, his wife said to him: "I am a stranger to you, and I have no idea about your morals and attitudes, so tell me what you like and I will do it, and what you hate and I will avoid it.' She continued, 'There must be among your people a woman that you could have married and a man among my people that I could have married, but Allah has accomplished a matter already ordained in His Knowledge. Allah has given you control over me, so obey Him; either retain me on reasonable terms or release me with kindness. This is all I have to say and may Allah forgive us both." Shuraih, then, said, "I found myself in need of giving a Khutbah, which I had not delivered for quite a long time. I said, 'All praise is due to Allah. We praise Him, seek His aid and ask for His forgiveness. Peace and Blessing be upon Muhammad. You (i.e. his wife) have said many things, which, if you stand firm on, you will be rewarded, but if you fail, they will be evidence against you. I love such and such things, and I hate such and such things. You may spread whatever good deed you see, and conceal whatever evil deed you see.' She, then, said, 'What would you say to my relatives visiting?' I replied, 'I prefer that we visit them from time to time, so they will not get bored. The Prophet, peace be upon him said, "Visiting people from time to time makes you more beloved".' She said, 'Which of your neighbors do you want to visit me?' I said, 'The family of such and such are good people, and the family of such and such are bad company.' Shuraih, then, said, "I had a wonderful wedding night and our first year was marvelous." 
 
When the new year came and upon my return from the court, I found my mother-in-law in our house. My mother-in-law looked at me and asked, 'How do you find your wife?' I said, 'The best wife a man can ever have.' She, then, said, 'O Abu Umayyah, I swear that men have never been inflicted with a worse evil than a spoilt woman, so discipline your wife'. Then she looked at her daughter and ordered her to obey her husband. I lived with my wife for twenty years and never complained against her."

The key to marital happiness lies in one's hands:

Dear brothers, believe me, the key to your marital happiness lies in your hand, i.e. follow the Orders of Allah the Almighty and abstain from His Prohibitions then see how your married life will be filled with happiness. In other words, if you want to have a blessed marriage, you should pay the cost for it which is to lower your gaze (when you see non-mahram women), to treat your wife with kindness, and to try to draw closer to Allah the Almighty by being patient with her, fulfilling your responsibilities towards her, helping her to get closer to Allah the Almighty, and caring about her faith, not only about the matters related to this worldly life. 
Although someone may be satisfied with his wife, who has heedless heart and weak faith, he will never be genuinely pleased with her until he helps her get to know Allah the Almighty and draw closer to Him.

In conclusion, the only way to have a happy marriage is to achieve true happiness by worshipping Allah the Almighty and getting closer to Him, and then to help your wife draw closer to Him in order to achieve true happiness as well. Only then, you will be genuinely pleased with her.
 

Translation  : Rana Saraqbi
Edited by      : Kawthar Hajj Saleh