The Muslim and His Wife

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Chapter 4

Islamic View of Marriage and Woman

Marriage in Islam offers tranquillity to the soul and peace to the mind, so that man and woman may live together in an atmosphere of love, mercy, harmony, co-operation, mutual advice and tolerance, and lay the foundation for raising a Muslim family in a nurturing, sound environment.

The Holy Qur'an has described, in the most moving and eloquent terms, this eternal, natural relationship between man and woman, which is filled with tranquillity, security, love, understanding and compassion:

( 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}: verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.) (Qur'an 30:21)

Marriage is a union of souls, in the deepest sense. Allah joins these two souls together so that they may enjoy tranquillity and stability in a marital home filled with sincere love and compassionate mercy.

In Islam, the righteous woman is viewed as one of the joys of this life, and a great blessing to a man, for he comes home to her and relaxes after facing the struggles of life, and finds with her incomparable peace, comfort and pleasure. The Prophet (s) spoke only the truth said:

´This world is just temporary conveniences, and the best comfort in this word is a righteous woman.' (Muslim)

Islam regards marriage very highly, and views femininity as something to be valued and cherished.

The ideal Muslim's wife

On the basis of this view of marriage and of women, the Muslim is not attracted by the empty-headed attitude displayed by some girls nowadays. Rather, he is attracted by a sound Muslim personality, and he takes his time in choosing a partner for life, looking for a partner who has the right Islamic characteristics which make for a stable and happy married life. Therefore he is not interested in the superficial physical beauty, grace and elegance that are the sole concern of empty-headed youngsters. While he may not ignore physical looks, he must look for strong religious beliefs and practise, intelligence, and good behaviour, following the advice of the Prophet (s):

´A woman may be married for four things: for her wealth, for her noble descent, for her beauty or for her religion. Choose the one who is religious, lest your hands be rubbed with dust (Bukhari and Muslim)

Although the Prophet (s) advised the young Muslim to look for a religious wife, this does not mean that he should ignore his preferences regarding physical beauty. The Prophet (s) encouraged seeing a woman before finalizing the marriage, so that a Muslim will not find himself trapped in a marriage with a woman he finds unattractive.

Al-Mughirah ibn Sha'bah said:

´I got engaged to a woman at the time of the Prophet (s). He asked me, 'Have you seen her?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'Go and have a look at her, because it is more fitting that love and compatibility be established between you.''1

Note: 1. Reported by al-Nisa'i, with a sahih isnad.

A man who had got engaged to a woman of the Ansar came to the Prophet (s), who asked him: ´Have you seen her?' He said, ´No.' so the Prophet (s) ordered him to go and see her.2

Note: 2. Reported by al-Nisa'i and Ibn Majah, with a sahih isnad.

The Prophet (s) emphasized, in more than one hadith, the fact that beauty is one of the basic characteristics that a man should look for in a woman, besides the other, moral, characteristics that are desirable. Indeed, the two are inseparable. For example, he told Ibn 'Abbas (r):

´Shall I tell you the most precious thing a man can have" It is a righteous wife: when he looks at her he is pleased, when he tells her to do something she obeys, and when he is away she is faithful and loyal to him.'3

Note: 3. Reported by al-Hakim, who said it is sahih according to the conditions of Bukhari and Muslim.

Abu Hurayrah (r) said: ´The Prophet (s) was asked: 'Which woman is the best?' He said, 'The one who pleases him when he looks at her, who obeys him when he tells her to do something, and who does not do something he dislikes with regard to herself or to his wealth.'4

Note: 4. Reported by Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad, with a sahih isnad.

This is the guidance given by the Prophet (s) regarding the personality of the woman who can bring happiness, tranquillity and stability to a man, and who can make a cheerful, pleasant and secure home in which to raise a brood of successful, courageous, intelligent children. The Prophet (s) insisted that marriage should be firmly built on a solid foundation, striking a balance between physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs, so that it will not be rocked by personality clashes or differences in attitude. Therefore the true Muslim who is guided by the Shariah of Allah in Allah's affairs, does not fall for the wiles of the "jezebels" who are the beautiful women of bad character; rather he (s) tells people: "Beware of the 'jezebels·."5

Note: 5. "Iyyakum wa khadra, al-diman" (literally, "Beware of the greens of dung") is a well-known saying in Arabic. It is a proverb, not a hadith of the Prophet (s). [Author]

He follows the guidance of Islam in his married life

After marriage, the true Muslim adheres to the Islamic injunction to treat his wife well. The Islamic recommendations concerning women, and the way in which Islam encourages men to respect them, are nothing short of amazing.

Islam recommends men to treat women well, and gives them a status that they have never enjoyed in any other religion. So we see the Prophet (s) admonishing all men:

´Treat women kindly, for woman was created from a rib. The part of it that is most bent is the top. If you try to straighten it you will break it, and if you leave it alone it will remain bent. So treat women kindly. (Bukhari and Muslim)

According to a report given by Bukhari and Muslim, he (s) said:

´Woman is like a rib: if you try to straighten it you will break it, and if you enjoy her (or your relationship with her), you will do so in spite of her crookedness.'

According to a report given by Muslim, he (s) said:

´Woman was created from a rib. She will never be straightforward and consistent for you in any way. If you enjoy her (or your relationship with her), you will do so in spite of her crookedness. If you try to straighten her, you will break her, and her breaking is her divorce.'

This description given by the Prophet (s) eloquently describes the reality and nature of woman. She will not remain consistent in the way her husband may wish, but the Muslim husband must understand that this is her nature, the way she has been created. He should not try to straighten her in the way he is convinced is correct, but he should respect her unique feminine nature and accept her the way Allah made her, complete with the "crookedness" that means that she will not be as he wishes in some aspects. If he insists on straightening her and moulding her to his wishes, it will be like trying to straighten a bent rib: it will break in his hands, and the breaking of a woman is divorce (i.e., the matter will end in divorce).

When the Muslim husband truly follows this guidance of the Prophet (s), which is based on a deep understanding of the psychology and nature of women, he will tolerate his wife's mistakes and turn a blind eye to her faults, recognizing that these are part of her nature. Thus the marital home will be safe and calm, free from shouting or arguments.

We may note that in the hadith quoted above, the Prophet (s) started with the words "Treat women kindly," then after analyzing the nature of woman, he ended with the same words: "Treat women kindly." How great was the concern of the Prophet (s) for women, and how deep was his understanding of their psychology! Does the sincere Muslim husband have any choice but to follow this guidance and put it into practise at every moment?

The Prophet's concern for women reached such an extent that he did not forget to remind Muslims to treat them kindly, in his farewell sermon (khutbat al-wada'). This is the khutbah in which the Prophet (s) reiterated the essential points of Islam, when he realized that this was the last time he would stand and address the Muslims during hajj. He did not omit to advise Muslims to treat women kindly, beginning his words concerning women with a warning that is indicative of his care and concern:

´. . . Interact with women kindly, for they are prisoners and you have no other power over them than that, if they are guilty of open lewdness, then refuse to share their beds, and beat them, but not severely, but if they return to obedience, (then) seek not against them means of annoyance. You have rights over your women and they have rights over you. Your right over them is that they should not entertain at your hearth anyone (or commit adultery with), and not to allow into your home anyone whom you dislike, and their right over you is that you should feed and clothe them well.'6

Note: 6. Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a hasan sahih hadith.

This is good advice, in which every sincere Muslim husband recognizes the wisdom of the Prophet (s) in defining the rights and duties of husband and wife in a framework of mercy and compassion towards women which leaves no room for even thinking of oppressing or harming one's wife.

The Prophet (s) gave many recommendations concerning women, to the extent that he described the man who treats his wife well as being one of the best and among the élite of his Ummah:

´The believer who has the most perfect faith is the one whose behaviour is best, and the best of you are the ones who are best to their women.'7

Note: 7. Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a hasan sahih hadith.

Some women came to the family of the Prophet (s) complaining about their husbands. So the Prophet (s) announced to the men:

´Many women have visited the family of Muhammad, complaining about their husbands. Verily those are not the best among you.'8

Note: 8. Reported by Abu Dawud, al-Nisa'i and Ibn Majah. Ibn Hijr said in al-Isabah: "Its isnad is sahih."

True Islam is pre-eminent in its fairness and respect towards women, and in its recommendation to husbands to treat their wives well even if they dislike them. This is something which women have never enjoyed throughout their history, except in this religion. Allah says in the Qur'an:

( . . . live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.) (Qur'an 4:19)

This Ayah touches the heart of the true Muslim, so that his anger is soothed and his dislike towards his wife is lessened. In this way Islam protects the sacred marriage bond from being exposed to the danger of turbulent emotions and the folly of changing moods. When a man came to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (r) and told him that he wanted to divorce his wife because he disliked her, 'Umar (r) said, "Woe to you! Are families only built on love? Where is your consideration and care?"

The marriage bond in Islam is of greater importance than emotional whims and rises above the pressures of crazy animal urges. The true Muslim possesses enough chivalry, nobility, courtesy, patience, generosity and strength of character to make him rise above any dislike of his wife in his dealings with her. Far be it from him to think only in terms of mindless animal instincts or making a profit!

The true Muslim cannot do other than obey his Rabb; so he treats his wife well even if he dislikes her, because he understands the words of his wise Rabb about the things that are hidden from him, and they are many. A man may dislike something and try to distance himself from it, when in fact it is full of goodness and blessing. The true Muslim knows how to love and how to hate. Love is not blind for him, neither does he go to extremes of dislike and hatred, but in either case his attitude is moderate and balanced.

The Prophet (s) explained that even if a husband dislikes his believing Muslim wife, she will still have some favourable characteristics which will please him, so he should not ignore the good side of her character and focus only on the negative aspects:

´No believing man should hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one of her characteristics, there will be others that do please him.' (Muslim)

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