Compiled by Sadaf Azhar Omar
Life is a trial, and like everything that Allah (swt) has bestowed on us, it is a ‘mixed’ blessing. That means it is a source of comfort and irksome responsibility and sometimes even irritation. Imam Jawzi in his book “Minhaj Al-Qasideen” (“The Path of the Focussed”) gives some advice on how to prepare for marriage and have realistic expectations from it. With ‘perfect’ couples portraying unrealistic goals on social media, his advice is essential for our times.
Imam Jawzi identifies twelve responsibilities of husbands:
- Walima – it is Sunnah to have a welcome party for the bride.
- Ihsan (excellence) – the Prophet (sa) has praised the one who treats his womenfolk well. This treatment is not confined to fulfilling your role as a provider and protector but also being patient when they irritate you or cause discomfort. This is the level of excellence in behaviour that Allah (swt) seeks in husbands. Remember that the Prophet’s (sa) wives would question him and if angry, even stop talking to him. Yet, he never scolded his wives harshly, let alone physically abuse them.
- Patience – bear with women’s emotional nature patiently and guide them. In a Saheeh Hadeeth, the rib has been used as an analogy to understand women’s nature. The rib protects the heart and lungs, but it is bent – if you try to straighten it, you will break it. Similarly, women nurture the family and as such are more emotionally sensitive, so treat them gently.
- Humour – the Prophet (sa) enjoyed his wives’ company and is reported to have joked and played with them. Sawda (rtaf) was known for cheering the Prophet (sa) with her light-hearted observations. Of course, it is imperative that these playful interactions do not rob either of their dignity and do not involve taunting or sarcasm that can undermine the husband’s role as the head of family.
- Respect – husbands must allow privacy and personal space to their wives and avoid ‘spying’ on them or doubting their intentions. This can lead to mutual distrust and ill will. It is for this reason that the Prophet (sa) has warned us against returning home from travels at night, so as not to catch wives unprepared to welcome their husbands.
- Spend – husbands must feed, clothe, and house their wives similar to themselves. It is important to be equitable in this regard, while being neither wasteful nor miserly.
- Educate – unfortunately, sex education is viewed negatively in our society. On the contrary, it is imperative to be knowledgeable about basic human physiology, so as to avoid physical distress. Also, husbands must be educated about the rulings and problems regarding menstruation and post-partum discharge, so that they are empathetic towards such issues as PMS and PPD and realize their responsibility in ensuring their wives’ health and sanitation.
- Justice – this is especially true for those with more than one wife. While such husbands have chosen to enjoy this divine privilege, they must realize that they are divinely answerable for fulfilling their responsibilities equally between their wives.
- Conflict – disagreements are natural, because each one of us differs in attitude and perception. If the wife disagrees vociferously or refuses to obey her husband’s instructions, Imam Jawzi advises husbands to approach conflict resolution in a gradual and patient manner. Firstly, he should discuss with her, advise her, and warn her. Then, he may express his acute displeasure by refusing to sleep with her or talk to her. Finally, he may lightly strike her but in a manner that is neither hurtful nor leaves a mark on her.
- Intimacy – husbands must learn the obligations and Sunnah of intimacy in marriage, as well as its forbidden aspects.
- Fatherhood – children are a natural and usually welcome aspect of marriage. Therefore, men should be aware of their role and duties as fathers, before they plan a family, so that they are mentally prepared for the drastic changes in routine, budget and family dynamics.
- Divorce – marriages are contracts that can be revoked. Since men usually initiate divorce proceedings or are responsible for paying the Mahr (bridal gift), they must be aware of the rules and complications of this process. Most importantly they must treat their wives honourably (taking care not to divulge any intimate details or personal matters) and thoughtfully during this process. Consider Hasan bin Ali’s (rtam) attitude: he divorced his wife and sent her away with a gift of ten thousand Dirhams. His wife commented that this was a small gift from a parting beloved.
Imam Jawzi then lists the responsibilities of a wife, but this is a much shorter list for the simple reason that Allah (swt) has made the husband the leader of the family, and as such, his responsibilities are greater. As the head of the family unit, he has to exercise greater forbearance and wisdom in dealing with family conflicts and so he must be well versed in the Islamic and cultural obligations.
Be on the look out for the marital guide for the wife coming next week.