Many conflicts occur when people demand their rights but do not live up to their responsibilities. Conflicts also occur because of unreasonable expectations. A family is like a corporation and the spouses are the corporate officers responsible for its wellbeing. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) made marriage a sacred institution and characterized the bond between the spouses as a potent covenant (meethaq ghaleeth). He described the attachment between the spouses as a special type of love and mercy (mawaddatan wa rahmah).

Everybody knows their rights. However, people pay less attention to fulfilling their responsibilities. Many of us rely on cultural and societal norms, or even on misinterpretation of the Quranic verses when determining their rights and considering their responsibilities. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) and His messenger, Muhammad (salla Allahu alaihi wasalam) spelled out the rights and the responsibilities of the spouses. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) described how one should treat his wife by (wa’ashiroohonna bil ma’roof). Scholars (Ibn Katheer, Ibu Also’ood, Al’Aloosi and others) understood (wa’ashiroohonna bil ma’roof) to include:

  • Talk nicely and with respect to your wife and avoid derogatory language.
  • Pick the best of actions when dealing with your wife, (including what relates to marital relations, financial support, protection), etc.
  • Look your best to her as she should look her best to you.

This is a brief summary of her rights. The scholars added husbands who do not abide by these have disobeyed Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). Prophet Muhammad, (salla Allahu alaihi wasalam), said that had he ordered any person to do prostration (sujood) for anybody, other than Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), he would have ordered the wife to prostrate before her husband.

We should ask ourselves regularly, am I living up to my responsibility as a spouse? Ask your spouse to help you define areas that need improvement and work on them. This should be done at times of harmony, when constructive criticism wouldn’t be viewed as an attack. These communications should be done regularly, as feedback in advance of a problem could prevent a problem. When it comes to your rights, politely communicate your needs, having asked yourself: (1) Can your spouse meet your needs, without enduring emotional, physical, economic or other hardships? (2) Does your spouse know that you think you are deprived of these specific rights? (3)What is the best way and time to bring this issue to your spouse’s attention? Be prepared to suggest reasonable solutions as well as a gradual program to achieve your goal.

Requesting your rights should be done with the intention of getting your needs met, not as an attempt to point out shortcomings that are beyond the control of your spouse. Keep in mind, it is not your right to drive a $50,000 car, live in a $500,000 home, or carry a $5,000 purse. Recall the hadith of our holy prophet (pbuh), when asked, “What are the rights of the wife over her husband?” He, (peace be upon him), responded, “You should feed them as you feed yourself and clothe them as you clothe yourself.”

By Dr Bassam Jody