In this section, we will discuss the following rights of the husband over the wife or obligations of the wife toward her husband:

Being the Head of the Household

When one thinks of the rights of the husband, this is probably one of the first things which come to mind. However, a serious question must be asked: Is this a right of the husband or another right of the wife? Allah said: {Men are in charge of women by that with which Allah has preferred some of them over others and by that which they spend from their property. So the pious women are obedient protecting in absence that which Allah has protected…} An-Nisaa:34

The verse seems to present a great right of the husband over the wife. Upon deeper thought, it is clear that this verse actually points to the right of the wife and the obligation of the husband. The word “in charge of” in Arabic indicates also support, protection, and responsibility on the part of the husband for his wife. This does not just mean that he is the “boss” or the dictator in the house and whatever he says goes. Rather, it means that he has a heavy obligation to lead his family. Remember the hadith from the previous section, where in one version of the hadith about the “shepherds”, the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) continues: “…until the man will be asked about the people in his household: did he establish among them the law of Allah or did he allow it to become lost?”

Like any kind of leader or ruler, he will be held accountable before Allah Most High: did he make the decision that is most befitting for his family in this life and the hereafter or did he simply follow his desires? Did he do what was just and right or simply do what he liked to do?

In Allah’s infinite wisdom, he did not leave the basic foundation of Islamic society – the family – without organization, leadership, and guidance. It is clear upon the husband’s shoulders and is his responsibility. It is upon him to fulfill that responsibility in the correct manner.

Likewise, Muslim women must learn to accept this situation and the ruling of Allah Most High. They should resist becoming like the disbelieving women, particularly in the “West”, who are trying to take over as head of the household or think that it should be shared equally between the two spouses. The rapid degeneration and disappearance of the institution of marriage since the spreading of this corrupt belief is the clearest proof of all that it is not only against Allah’s order and His plan for us but also against human nature and completely out of touch with reality and unworkable. I believe that the latest figures are that over HALF of the children in the U.S. are being raised in single-parent homes!

Women who follow the kuffar and their own desires in being jealous of the man’s role and trying to claim some or all of it for themselves should think about the hadith of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam): “Allah’s Messenger (SAS) cursed manly women.”

Again, like all rights and obligations in Islam (in marriage and other areas), it is important that BOTH parties understand them and exert their best efforts to apply them in a way that is pleasing to Allah Most High.

To Be Obeyed

As we saw in the verse from An-Nisaa quoted previously, it is the right of the husband that his wife obeys him. This obedience, however, does not include anything which is disobedience to Allah. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) said: “No obedience in what is sinful. Obedience is only in what is right.” Muslim & Bukhari

Two things are now clear:
1) a woman is obligated to obey her husband, and
2) no Muslim may obey anyone in what is disobedience to Allah.
Additionally, one strong opinion limits the required obedience of the wife to those duties described in this chapter. In other words, the husband should not seek to control every detail of her life, even in things that have no direct impact on his rights as her husband.

What happens if there is a conflict between obeying one’s husband and obeying one’s parents? Scholars have taken two opinions on this matter. One that obedience to the husband always takes precedence over obedience to parents. Others have taken the position that obedience to one’s parents takes precedence since Allah has described being undutiful to one’s parents as one of the greatest sins after associating partners with Allah.

First of all, it is clear that the obligation of every Muslim toward their parents is very great just as the obligation of a Muslim wife to respect and obey her husband is very great. Parents should be aware that they have entered their daughter into a contract that requires her to obey her husband. Likewise, husbands should be aware of the fact that their wives have a great obligation toward their parents. When these two come into conflict, someone is probably not acting properly.

When the two do come into conflict, it seems clear that the strongest opinion is that the rights of the husband take precedence over the rights of her parents, as in the following hadith from Aisha: “I asked the Prophet (SAS): Who has the greatest right over a woman? He (SAS) said: Her husband. I said: And who has the greatest right over a man? He (SAS) said: His mother.” (Al-Haakim – taken from Fiqh As-Sunnah

Physical Relations

It is the obligation of the wife to respond whenever her husband calls her to come to bed unless there is a strong reason why she cannot. Again, like in the issue of leadership, this is the way that Allah has given us to live which is best for us – since nothing we do or do not do cannot in any way harm or benefit Allah Most High. Thus, when women resist this and insist on being the ones who call the shots in this regard or that it is somehow 50/50, it is only the two of them who will suffer. It will lead to frustration, marital discord, and the husband’s desire to seek fulfillment of his needs elsewhere. If he ends up turning to the haram, then very great harm indeed has been inflicted upon society. This point is clear from many hadith, among them: “Whenever a man calls his wife for his desire, let her come to him even if she is occupied at the oven.” At-Tirmidhi (sahih)

Thus, a wife must be responsive to her husband even if that involves wasting of some wealth (by burning the bread). Because the social consequences of this breaking down are so serious, the danger to a woman who fails to respect it is very serious. The Prophet (SAS) said:  “Whenever a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses to come, the angels curse her until morning.” Al-Bukhari

Even extra acts of prayer and fasting must be curtailed if they interfere with a man’s desire for his wife’s company.

Control Over Who Enters the House

It is established from many hadith that the wife is not to allow anyone inside if she knows that her husband does not like for that person to be in the house (male or female). This is the second right of the husband over the wife, as the Prophet (SAS) mentioned in the hadith: “…And that she should not admit anyone to his house except with his permission…” Muslim & Bukhari

The permission referred to here does not have to be explicit for every individual. If the wife knows or has good reason to believe that her husband would not object to a particular individual, then she may allow them into the house.

That She Not Leave the House Without His Permission

The best place for a Muslim woman is in her house. When Allah addressed the wives of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) and ordered them (and, by extension, all of the Muslim women) to remain primarily in their homes, he associated the desire of women to be “out” and to display themselves with the jahiliya (the age of foolishness): {And stay in your homes and do not display yourselves like the ways of the time of ignorance. And establish the prayer, pay the zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger…} Al-Ahzaab:33

The scholars of Tafseer state that, although the verse is explicitly directed at the wives of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), the general principle applies to all Muslim women and wives in particular – that they should not leave the house except for a legitimate purpose such as going to the masjid, seeking knowledge, shopping for household needs, etc. and that if they are married, they may not do that except with their husband’s permission. This is a point of very wide agreement among the scholars, although there doesn’t seem to be any clear and sound hadith that states it. Although the following hadith VERY strongly indicates that this is the case: “If the wife of any of you seeks permission to go to the masjid, he may not prevent her.” Muslim & Bukhari

As with any right which a person may possess, this right should be used in the right fashion and not be misused such that it leads to harm and distress. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) said: “No inflicting of harm and no reciprocating of harm.” A contemporary author, Faihaan Al-Mutairi said about this:

“If a man disallows his wife from leaving the house, out of fear and honor for her, then he must not let her feel that she is a prisoner in the house and that she was only created to serve him and serve the children. Instead, he must choose a day out of the week, or less or more, according to the need and ability, to walk with his wife and children in a place that is free of temptations so that they may become happy in their hearts and out of fear of boredom. The one who studies Shari’a finds this aspect to be very clear, that is, the aspect of one sporting with his wife and trying to make her happy. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) went out with his wife, the Mother of the Believers, Aisha(R.A.), and raced with her. It is confirmed that Aisha said: “The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) raced with me and I beat him. After a while when I became heavier, he raced me and beat me and said: “This one is for that one.”

So those Muslims who expect their wives to stay in the house 24 hrs. per day and 7 days per week are not truly following the sunnah. Rather, they have invented an innovation that will only serve to drive women and children away from Islam.


The rights which have been stated so far are non-controversial and agreed upon among the scholars. The duty of the wife to take care of housework such as cooking, cleaning and generally serving her husband in the house is an issue about which there are different opinions. Definitely, this is and has always been the custom of the Muslims, all the way back to the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) and his Companions. It is part of the ihsaan (good treatment) which should be exchanged between husband and wife. That is not quite the same, however, as saying that it is the husband’s right. If that is the case, then she would be committing a sin if she failed to fulfill it.

Clearly, the safe way is the way of all of the female Companions of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) who used to serve their husbands in this regard. If they had servants to help them, fine. If not, they used to handle the housework, cooking, and cleaning. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) himself, our best example in this regard, used to help his wives with these chores.

There are many scholars on both sides of this issue as to the obligatoriness of these services. The strongest argument they are in the following hadith of Husain ibn Muhsin that the Prophet (SAS) asked his aunt if she was married. When she answered in the affirmative, he said:

“How are you with respect to him?” She answered: ‘I do not fail in obeying him save in those things that I am incapable of doing.’ The Prophet (SAS) told her: “Look to how you are with respect to him for he is your paradise and your hell-fire.” Ahmad & others (acceptable according to Al-Albaani).

Al-Albaani states that this hadith is proof that a woman must serve her husband according to her ability, the first of such obligations is the bringing up of the children.

To Be Thanked for His Actions

Gratitude is one of the most important characteristics of a believer. A Muslim is grateful both to Allah for His infinite mercies and also to people who do well by him/her. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) said: “The most grateful people to Allah Blessed and High are the most thankful of them to others.” Ahmad

“Those who do not thank people do not thank Allah.” Abu Daud & others

Although it is an obligation of the husband to look after his wife, this does not mean that she should not be thankful to him for his kindness and his efforts in looking after her welfare and happiness. This is something fundamental that should exist between husband and wife. Each of them should acknowledge the efforts of the other, show them gratitude, and repay them in kindness. Allah said: {Is the reward for good deeds extended anything other than good deeds (returned)} Ar-Rahman:60

It would seem from various hadith that it is specifically necessary for the wife to remind herself of this principle. Perhaps since a large part of the husband’s contribution to the household takes place as working outside of the home, she may tend to overlook it. This seems to be a common characteristic of women as can be seen in the following hadith of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) after his night journey to see heaven, hell, and Jerusalem:

“…and I saw most of its inhabitants (i.e., hell-fire) women. They said: Why, O Messenger of Allah? He said: Because of their kufr. It was said: Their kufr toward Allah? He (SAS) said: Their kufr toward their mate and they commit kufr (ingratitude) of good deeds extended even if you extend good deeds to one of them forever but then she sees something from who (which she dislikes) she says: I have never seen any good from you.” Muslim & Bukhari

In another hadith, the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) warns wives in a similar manner: “Allah does not look at a woman who does not thank her husband while she cannot do without him.” Al-Hakim (acceptable per Sh. Al-Albani)

She Does Not Fast (Voluntarily) Without His Permission

The Prophet (SAS) said: “It is not lawful for a woman to fast while her husband is resident except with his permission.” Muslim & Bukhari

Conclusion: The Importance of Fulfilling the Husband’s Rights

The Prophet (SAS) gave all-encompassing advice to Muslim women in the following hadith: “When any woman prays her five, fasts her month, guards her body and obeys her husband it is said to her: Enter paradise from whichever of its doors you wish.” Ibn Hibban (sahih per Al-Albani)