By Sadaf A. Omar
Last week we discussed about the first part of Imam Jawzi’s book ‘Minhaj ul Qasidin’ (‘The Path of the Focussed’) that gives some advice to husbands on how to prepare for marriage and have realistic expectations from it. Surprisingly his list of advice to women is much shorter, simply because Imam Jawzi believes that as the ‘qawwam’ of the household, the husband has greater responsibilities.
In this section, Imam Jawzi identifies the following responsibilities of wives:
- Chastity and Keeping Secrets: This is essential for matrimonial harmony and trust. Both spouses are urged to be faithful in body and spirit to each other and their mutual ideals and goals. The Quran has likened spouses to garments because garments not only protect and beautify, they also hide your ‘secrets’ i.e. your private parts and any physical and temperamental defects or weaknesses you might have.
- Contentment: This trait in women helps ensure that men do not veer toward earning from haram means in an effort to meet household needs and demands. The women amongst our Pious Predecessors used to urge their menfolk when they would leave for work, to avoid earning through unlawful means, for they felt they could withstand hunger but could not tolerate burning in Hellfire.
- Spend Wisely: The money the husband hands over to his wife, particularly for household purposes, is an amanah. You must spend wisely, economising where necessary, balancing between needs and wants, budgeting carefully. If you want to give sadqah out of it, that is indeed commendable and worthy of reward for both of you, but only with your husband’s permission. If you do so without his permission, then your husband gets the reward of the sadqah but you earn Allah’s displeasure. Considering this, imagine Allah’s displeasure for those wives who consider it acceptable (and even clever) to pilfer money from their husband’s wallet.
- Manage the household: The woman is designated as the manager/overseer of the house chores and the servants under their employment.
- Spend your time wisely: Your time is an amanah from Allah. Imam Jawzi advises women to be gainfully employed. Family and household responsibilities are indeed time guzzlers, but for those of us blessed with domestic help, it is essential to spend time in activities that benefit us, our families and the society at large in this world and the next. For instance, you could be involved in learning or teaching either the Deen or any other skill, you could work for charities or run a home-based business. Of course, now a large number of women are gainfully employed, but we need to assess how beneficial our employment is for the family and what impacts it has on our duties as wives and mothers. Our primary duty is as the nurturer of the family, not its provider and the Imam encourages wives to spend most of their time at home.
- Socialise with Permission: Imam Jawzi advices wives to avoid gossiping with neighbours. This is sage advice since it helps ensure that family matters aren’t food for malicious entertainment and politics doesn’t cause rift in an area that should be your source of support and peace. Likewise, entertain guests with your husband’s permission and in his absence, restrict your activities.
- Prioritise your husband: Imam Jawzi emphasises this duty because only when there is order and precedence within the family will it be a stable and peaceful building block of society. The husband is responsible for provisions and protection and as wives you have to provide him the comfort, support and wise counsel that will enable him to lead you and your family to eternal success.
Finally, Imam Jawzi advises mothers of daughters to carefully prepare and teach their daughters the duties, responsibilities and challenges that marriage entails. This ensures that young wives have practical advice to help them manage the challenges of building, sustaining and balancing a new relationship with not only their husbands but his family and friends as well.