In Islam the marriage of a man and a woman is not just a financial and physical arrangement of living together but a sacred contract, a gift of God, to lead a happy, enjoyable life and continue the lineage. The main goal of marriage in Islam is the realization of tranquility and compassions between the spouses. For the attainment of this supreme goal, Islam defines certain duties and rights for the husband and wife.
Piety is the basis of choosing the life partner. Several statements of Holy Qur’an and Sunnah prescribe kindness and equity, compassion and love, sympathy and consideration, patience and goodwill. The Prophet (peace be upon him), says: “The best Muslim is the one who is best to his family.” Also, he says, “… and the most blessed joy in life is a good, righteous wife.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi)
The role of the husband revolves around the moral principle that it is his solemn duty to Allah to treat his wife with kindness, honor, and patience; to keep her honorably or free her from the marital bond honorably; and to cause her no harm or grief. Allah Almighty says : “…and live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing through which Allah brings a good deal of good.” (4:19)
The role of the wife is summarized in the verse that women have rights even as they have duties, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree over them. Allah Almighty says, “And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (2:228)
This degree is usually interpreted by Muslim scholars in conjunction with another passage which states, among other things, that men are trustees, guardians, and protectors of women because Allah has made some of them excel others and because men expend of their means. Allah Almighty says: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in their husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard. As to those women on whose part you see ill condct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) and beat them (lightly, if it is useful). But if they obey you, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is ever Most High, Most Great.” (4:34)
Since the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah have commanded kindness to women, it is the husband’s duty to: consort with his wife in an equitable and kind manner; have responsibility for the full maintenance of wife, a duty which he must discharge cheerfully, without reproach, injury, or condescendence. Allah Almighty says: “Let the rich man spend according to his means; and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease. (65:7)
Components of maintenance:
Maintenance entails the wife’s incontestable right to lodging, clothing, nourishing, and general care and well-being.
The wife’s residence must be adequate so as to provide her with the reasonable level of privacy, comfort, and independence. The welfare of the wife and the stability of the marriage should be the ultimate goal.
What is true of the residence is true of clothing, food, and general care. The wife has the right to be clothed, fed, and cared for by the husband, in accordance with his means and her style of living. These rights are to be exercised without extravagance or miserliness.
A husband is commanded by the law of God to treat his wife with equity; respect her feelings, and to show her kindness and consideration.
The husband is also commanded not to show his wife any aversion or to subject her to suspense or uncertainty. He should not keep his wife with the intention of inflicting harm on her or hindering her freedom.
Let her demand freedom from the marital bond, if he has no love or sympathy for her.
The main obligation of the wife as a partner in a marital relationship is to contribute to the success and blissfulness of the marriage as much as possible. She must be attentive to the comfort and well being of her mate. She may neither offend him nor hurt his feelings. Perhaps nothing can illustrate the point better than the Qur’anic statement which describes the righteous people as those who pray saying: “… Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders of the Muttaqun (the pious).” (25:74)
This is the basis on which all the wife’s obligations rest and from which they flow. To fulfill this basic obligation, a wife must be faithful, trustworthy, and honest. She must not deceive her mate by deliberately avoiding conception lest it deprives him of legitimate progeny. She must not allow any other person to have access to that which is exclusively the husband’s right, i.e. sexual intimacy. She must not receive anyone in his home whom the husband does not like. She may not accept their gifts without his approval. This is probably meant to avoid jealousy, suspicion, gossip, etc., and also to maintain the integrity of all parties concerned.
The husband’s possessions are her trust. If she has access to any portion thereof, or if she is entrusted with any fund, she must discharge her duty wisely and thriftily. She may not lend or dispose of any of his belongings without his permission.
With respect to intimacy, the wife is to make herself desirable, to be attractive, responsive, and cooperative.
A wife may not deny herself to her husband; due consideration is, of course, given to health and decency.
Moreover, the wife is not permitted to do anything that may render her companionship less desirable or less gratifying. If she neglects herself, the husband has the right to interfere with her freedom to rectify the situation and ensure maximum self-fulfillment for both partners. She is not permitted to do anything on his part that may impede her gratification.