The Muslim and His Wife

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The true Muslim is an ideal husband

The true Muslim abides by the clear, unambiguous texts of the Qur'an which command him to treat women fairly and decently. He cannot be other than an ideal husband, so his wife enjoys his gentle company and close companionship, no matter how long they stay together. When he comes home, he greets his wife and children with a smiling face and extends to them the blessed greeting that Allah has enjoined and made the distinctive greeting of Islam9:

Note: 9. The words with which Muslims should greet one another are "al-salaam 'alaykum" (peace be upon you), not "Hi," "Hello," or "Good morning."

( . . . But if you enter houses, salute each other - a greeting or blessing and purity as from Allah . . .) (Qur'an 24:61)

The Prophet (s) encouraged Anas (r) to use this greeting: "O my son, when you go home greet your family with salaam: it will be a blessing for you and your family."10

Note: 10. Reported by al-Tirmidhi who said: it is a hasan gharib hadith.

It is truly a great blessing for a man to meet his family with a pleasant greeting, for it contributes to a happy, friendly and pleasant atmosphere. He should lend a hand if he sees that his wife needs his help, and he should say some words of comfort if he feels that she is complaining of tiredness, weariness or boredom. He should make her feel that she is living with a strong, generous, tolerant husband who will protect her and care for her, who cares about her and will meet all her legitimate needs as long as he is able. He should also satisfy her femininity by making himself attractive to her - within Islamic limits - and should give her a share of his time and interest. He should not let his study, work, hobbies, responsibilities or friends take up all of his time and keep him from her. Islam guarantees woman's right to enjoy her husband to the extent that it even tells the husband not to spend Allah's time in worship, which is the best and most honourable of deeds, lest the balance and equilibrium upon which this religion is based be disturbed. We see this in the report of 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As (r), who says that when the Prophet (s) learned of his overzealousness in worship, he said to him:

´Have I not heard that you fast all day and stay up all night in prayer?' 'Abdullah said, ´That is true, O Messenger of Allah.' The Prophet (s) told him: ´Do not do that. Fast and break your fast, sleep and get up. For your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, your wife has a right over you, and your visitors have a right over you. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Khawlah, the daughter of Hakim, who was the wife of 'Uthman ibn Maz'un (r), came to the wives of the Prophet (s) wearing a tattered dress and looking unkempt. They asked her, "What is wrong with you?" She told them about her husband: "At night he stays up in prayer, and during the day he fasts." They told the Prophet (s) what she had said, so when he saw 'Uthman ibn Maz'un, he admonished him and said, "Do you not have an example in me?" 'Uthman said, "Of course, may Allah cause me to be sacrificed for you!" Later, she (Khawlah) came back wearing fine clothes and with a pleasant scent. According to another report, the Prophet (s) told him: "O 'Uthman, monasticism has not been prescribed for us. Do you not have an example in me? For by Allah, I am the one out of all of you who fears Allah the most and keeps most strictly within His bounds."11

Note: 11. See al-Hilyah, 1/106; Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, 3/394; al-Kanz, 8/305.

The Prophet (s) used to instil this guidance in his Companions and showed them how to achieve fairness and balance between their spiritual lives and their private lives with their spouses, until this fairness and balance became second nature to them. Then they would encourage one another to adhere to it, and would appeal to the Prophet (s) if one of their number sought to go beyond the limits and was becoming extreme in his asceticism, self-denial and worship.

Imam Bukhari narrated that Abu Juhayfah (r) said:

´The Prophet (s) established brotherhood between Salman and Abul Darda'. Salman visited Abul Darda' and saw Umm al Darda' looking unkempt. He asked her, 'What is the matter with you?' She said, 'Your brother Abul Darda' has no need of this world.' Abul Darda' came and made some food for him, and told him: 'Eat; I am fasting.' Salman said, 'I will not eat until you eat,· so he ate. That night, Abul Darda' wanted to spend the night in prayer, but Salman told him to sleep, so he went to sleep. Then he wanted to get up, but Salman again told him to sleep. In the last part of the night, Salman told him, 'Now get up.' So they prayed, and Salman told him: 'Your Rabb has a right over you, your soul has a right over you, and your wife has a right over you, so fulfil your duty to each one who has a right over you.' Abul Darda' came to the Prophet (s) and told him about what had happened, and the Prophet (s) said: 'Salman is right.''

The conscientious Muslim does not neglect to relieve the tedium of routine life with his wife, so he spices their daily life with a little gentle humour and playfulness from time to time. In doing so, he follows the example of the Prophet (s) whose whole life is the highest example for us. Although he was constantly busy with the overwhelming task of laying the foundations of Islam, building the Muslim Ummah, directing the army in jihad, and numerous other concerns, he did not let that keep him from being an ideal husband to his wives, treating them in the best possible way, with a smiling face and a touch of gentle humour.

An example is the report given by 'A'ishah (r) who said:

´I came to the Prophet (s) with some harirah (a dish made with flour and milk) that I had cooked for him, and told Sawdah (r) - as the Prophet (s) was sitting between me and her 'Eat.' She refused, so I said, 'Either you eat, or I will fill your face · She still refused, so I put my hand in the harirah and daubed her face with it. The Prophet (s) laughed, put some harirah in her hand, and told her: 'Do the same to her ·' In another report: ´He lowered his knee (moved out of the way) so that she could get her own back on me, then she took some from the plate and wiped my face with it, and the Prophet (s) smiled.'12

Note: 12. Al-Haythami, 4/316; al-Muntakhab 4/393; Kan- al-'Umm l, 7/302. Al-Haythami said: It was narrated by Abu Ya'l , and its narrators are those who narrated in sahih (Bukhari), except for Muhammad ibn 'Amr ibn 'Alqamah, whose hadith is hasan.

Is this not an example of tolerance and an easy-going nature which makes a wife happy through a humorous and light-hearted attitude?

'A'ishah also reported that once, when she went on a journey with the Prophet (s), she challenged him to a race, and won. Later, when she had gained weight, she raced him again, but this time he won, and told her, "This is for that."13

Note: 13. A sahih hadith, narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawud.

The generous-hearted Prophet (s) was so keen to make his beloved young wife feel happy that he would call her to enjoy some innocent kinds of entertainment that would gladden her heart. 'A'ishah reports that on one occasion:

´The Prophet (s) was sitting, and he heard some noise from people and children outside. There was a group of people gathered around some Abyssinians who were dancing. He said, 'O 'A'ishah, come and see · I put my cheek on his shoulder and looked through the gap. Then he said, 'O 'A'ishah, have you had enough, have you had enough?' I said, 'No,· just to see how much I meant to him, and I saw him shifting his weight from one foot to the other' (i.e. he was tired, but he was willing to stay as long as she wanted to watch the spectacle.)14

Note: 14. Reported by al-Nisa'i via Yazid ibn Ruman from 'A'ishah. See also different reports from her in Fath­ al-?ari, ?ab al-'idayn (chapter on the two Eids).

In another report, 'A'ishah said:

´By Allah, I saw the Prophet (U) standing at the door of my room, when some Abyssinians were playing with spears in the mosque. The Messenger of Allah (U) screened me with his cloak so that I could watch the spear play over his shoulder. He stayed there for my sake, until I had seen enough. So pay attention to young girls· need for entertainment. (Bukhari and Muslim)

When he sees the example of the Prophet's kind behaviour, generosity and good humour towards his wives, the true Muslim cannot but treat his wife kindly and gently, with an easy-going attitude, so long as this is within the limits of permissible and innocent entertainment.

The true Muslim does not overreact and become angry for trivial reasons, as many ignorant husbands do, creating uproar if their wives offer them food that is not to their liking, or their meal is a little late, or any of the other reasons which often cause an inordinate amount of anger, arguments and trouble between the spouses. The Muslim who is truly following the example of the Prophet (s) always remembers aspects of his character that remind him to be generous, kind and tolerant. So he remembers that one of the characteristics of the Prophet (s) is that ´he never criticized food. If he liked it, he ate it, and if he did not like it, he simply left it. (Bukhari and Muslim)

And he remembers that the Prophet (s) asked his family for some simple food he could eat with bread. They told him, "We have nothing apart from vinegar." He asked them to bring it and said, ´How good a simple food is vinegar, how good a simple food is vinegar.' (Muslim)

Let them listen to this hadith, those foolish husbands whose eyes flash with anger at their wives, mistakes, when their food is a little late or not to their liking. Their poor wives may have genuine, pressing reasons for making these mistakes, but these husbands become angry without caring to know those reasons, on the basis of an incorrect understanding of the phrase "men are qawwamun over women"!

The true Muslim husband does not stop at showing kindness and generosity towards his wife, but he extends his respect and kindness towards her decent (female) friends. This is in accordance with the practise of the Prophet (s). 'A'ishah narrated:

´An old woman came to the Prophet (s) and he smiled at her, showed her respect, and asked her, 'How are you" How have you been doing?' She answered, 'I am fine, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, O Messenger of Allah.'' When she had left, 'A'ishah said, ´Why did you welcome this old woman so warmly, in a way that you do not welcome anyone else?' The Prophet (s) replied, ´She used to come and visit us when Khadijah was alive. Do you not know that honouring the ties of friendship is part of faith?'15

Note: 15. Reported by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak; he said it is sahih according to the condition of Bukhari and Muslim.

A wife may become angry for any reason, and keep away from her husband, making him feel her anger. In this case, the Muslim husband responds with tolerance and kindness, based on his deep insight into the psychology and nature of woman, as the Prophet (s) used to treat his wives whenever they were angry with him and kept away from him all day until night fell.

'Umar ibn al-Khattab (r) said: "We Quraysh used to have control over our women. When we came to Madinah we found a people whose women had control over them, and our women began to learn from their women. I used to live in al-'Awali, among Banu Umayyah ibn Zayd. One day my wife was angry with me, and was arguing with me. I did not like this, but she told me, 'Do you not like me arguing with you? By Allah, the wives of the Prophet (s) argue with him. They get angry and keep away from him all day, until night falls!, So I went to see Hafsah and asked her, 'Do you argue with the Prophet (s)?, She said, 'Yes., I asked her, 'Do you get angry and keep away from him all day until night falls?, She said, 'Yes., I said, 'The one who does that is doomed to loss! Do you not fear the anger of Allah on the account of the anger of His Prophet? Soon you will be condemned! Do not argue with the Messenger of Allah, and do not ask him for anything. Ask me for whatever you need.," (Bukhari, Muslim, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisa'i) 'Umar came to the Prophet (s) and told him about what had happened in his house, and the conversation he had with Hafsah, and the Prophet (s) smiled.

The Muslim should develop this tolerant attitude, so that he will be following the example of the Prophet (s) in his behaviour and deeds. Then he will be living proof that Islam is the religion of a superior lifestyle; and that the misery, disintegration, confusion and anxiety that individuals, families and societies are suffering from are caused by man's ignorance and misconceptions of the noble values promulgated by Islam. These are precious principles which, if adopted by the husband, would put an end to arguments and divisions in family life, and would bring peace, stability, happiness and security to the home.

One of the most successful husbands

Hence the smart Muslim husband is one of the most successful husbands ever, and the most beloved to a faithful, pure, righteous wife, because of his adherence to the guidance of Islam. He has a deep and compassionate understanding of her nature and psychology, and he directs her towards the straight path of Islam, which is in complete harmony with the true nature of mankind. He recognizes her inclinations, desires and moods, and tries to reconcile between them and the ideal life and behaviour he wants for her, while never forgetting for an instant that she has been created from a bent rib, and straightening a bent rib is impossible.

He understands his wife and respects her feelings

The true Muslim always understands his wife and respects her feelings. He does not criticize her family or any of her relations in front of her, out of respect for her feelings. In return, she respects his feelings and does not do or say anything that may adversely affect any member of his family.

He does not disclose any secret that she has entrusted to him, or spread any story that she has told him in confidence, for carelessness in such matters all too often explodes into conflict between the spouses and extinguishes the love between them. The sincere Muslim husband is protected from all of that, so long as he continues to follow the guidance of Islam.

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