My Notes on “The Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage” by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Learn before you get into positions of responsibility” ~ Sayyidina ‘Umar

According to the School of Imam Malik, Marriage is Recommended (Mandub) and not obligatory (Fard). One must consider, however, that it is a Sunnah of our Messenger, upon him be peace.

At the primary level, marriage in Islam is a contractual agreement. Hence both parties are expected to perform their side of the contract for it to work.

We need to know the terms of the contract before we enter into the transaction. What does it mean, in reality, for you to marry your beloved “according to the Book of God and the Sunnah of His Messenger“?

What follows are the notes I have taken having listened to the ‘The Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage’. Please note that the full audio is approximately 9 hours in length and what follows is very much a skeletal structure of an enlightened discourse.

The Wife’s Rights

1. A dowry;

2. Maintenance. This consists of, but is not limited to, being fed, clothed and housed in a habitable and good environment with a good location. The Wife has a right to be afforded the benefit of appliances and material things that are known in the culture in which she lives;

A Wife cannot be deprived of the things she is accustomed to by way of her socio-economic class;

This is subject to 2 conditions:

a) The Husband must be financially capable of supporting his Wife; or

b) The Wife must be prepared to fulfil her legally binding responsibilities that we are mentioning.

The Husband must provide palatable food which is the custom of the culture and, again, what the Wife is used to.

In terms of meat and fruit (which are more expensive than staple foods), Imam Sawi said it depends on the people of her class. The wealthy in Egypt ate meat about 3 times a week.

3. The wedding feast (the Walima);

4. The cost of a midwife for safe delivery of the child;

5. Clothing, being what the Wife is used to. The Husband is not obliged to purchase ornamental clothes;

6. Medical expenses and cosmetics (oils, soaps, henna dyes etc.) A man is not obliged for haircuts, nails, makeovers etc. unless stipulated in the marriage contract(!);

7. An appropriate living state for the Wife, being in the very least a separate bathroom, kitchen and bedroom with it’s own lock. A Wife has the right to her own private space;

8. Kitchen utensils are bought from the dowry. In most customs, the men are to furnish the home;

A sharifah has the right to refuse living accommodation where others have access to her private life.

A Wife who is from a lower socio-economic class cannot refuse to live with relatives as the Husband probably cannot afford an alternative. Nonetheless, if harm can be shown, the Wife is entitled to her own place;

9. A right to visit her parents (limited to once a week if they live in the same city) if any more, then the Husband can let her do this but it is not a right;

10. Encouragement of kinship bonds with her family and friends by her Husband;

11. A stipulation in the marriage contract declaring a divorce should the Husband take a second Wife. If no such stipulation exists, and the Wife is distress by the second, then this is grounds for divorce;

12. An obligation for the Wife to retain her family name.

Shared Rights

1. Beautiful companionship (Husn al-Ishra). The right of each to be treated beautifully by the other. It is possible to get into an exploitative relationship with those who marry women especially from south eastern traditions in which they have been raised up with double standards between boys and girls. Just because she may ‘like to do everything‘ doesn’t mean that she should be doing everything.

2. Not forgetting the rights of the family by doing too much ibadat. Perhaps not very common nowadays.

3. Adhering to the principles of forgiveness. Just let it go! Good nature is contagious whilst irritability is less so. You should look at the qualities of your spouse that please you, but shortcomings should be discussed.

4. Shared intimacy and pleasure.

Imam al Ghazali said that sensual pleasure is a glimpse of the delights of the akhira.

Imam Nawawi has said that all appetites of the human cause to harden the heart except intimacy between a Husband and Wife within the lawful bounds of marriage. This actually causes the heart to soften [Shaykh Hamza said that this is particularly apparent in some men who get married].

Qadi Abu bakr ibn al-Arabi, the great Andalusian Maliki scholar said: “A woman’s demand for sexual intercourse from her husband in no way negates praiseworthy modesty. Nor does it negate virtuous dignity, because it is an essential goal of marriage. Thus, if he [the Husband] was being difficult, then she is permitted to demand it on religious grounds, and this is a completely dignified demand on her part“.

“Kissing and sweet words” are a Sunnah.

They should both wear good clothes and take care of hygiene.

Bodily hair should be removed, at the very least, every forty days.

It is encouraged to seek refuge from shaytan and pray two rakats before. In this society, we have often seen things that we shouldn’t have, on TV etc. Husbands need to consider a Wife’s natural shyness.

5. Mutual inheritance between the spouses according to the Quranic injunctions. [This is discussed at length in the audio].

6. Resolving recalcitrance. This is defined as “Arrogant disobedience by a Husband to his Wife or a Wife to her Husband which involves gross neglect of the rights involved in the marriage previously mentioned“.

According to the commentary on verse 4:34 of the Qur’an the student of Ibn Abbas said “He should never hit her, rather he should display anger towards her“. It is haram to harm someone according to the consensus of the scholars (ijma’) save for a hadd punishment. Shaykh Hamza mentioned that this Surah will continue to be problematic if not analysed in light of the Sunnah.

The Husband’s Rights

1. The right to sexual pleasure. Ibn Hajar’s commentary states that a Husband should take his Wife’s state into consideration and have a largesse that sometimes it is not appropriate. This right also belongs to the Wife as we have seen by Ibn al-Arabi’s comment!

2. The right to discipline the children. Before the age of 7 there should be no physical discipline and even after that age, any strike should be non-violent which does not leave a trace. There should never be physical beating of anybody.

3. The right to house the Wife in the Husband’s house.

The Wife must be aware of her Husband’s financial state before marriage as this will effect the state of her accommodation etc.

The four conditions where a Wife may not relocate with her Husband are:

a) if she doesn’t receive her dowry;
b) the Husband isn’t trustworthy through previous experience;
c) the prospective land is in any way dangerous to her; and
d) she will be unable to see her family and friends.

4. If the Wife does not work, then The right to have the house maintained. In such cases, the Wife should not refuse reasonable domestic chores. This includes bread making, laundry and sweeping.

If a woman is a sharifah, her status is elevated and she should be given domestic help by a maid, if asked(!)

A wife is not responsible for sewing or embroidery or anything which she could be paid a wage for.

A woman of high standing is excluded from the obligation of domestic chores according to the Malikis.

Where the woman does work, the above should be considered in light of this and chores should be distributed equally between the Husband and Wife.

5. Obedience concerning the Husband’s rights upon the Wife. If the point of contention is not within the Husband’s rights then a Wife does not have to do it.

A Wife has every right to refuse to cook for her Husband’s guests.

We have to honour women and their rights.

Ibn Abbas said “I like to adorn myself for my wife just as my wife adorns herself for me“.

6. The man has a right to command his wife when God’s rights are concerned, and visa versa.

7. The Husband has a right that his Wife consult him if she wishes to perform nafilah which will affect the Husband’s rights.

If the man is away from the house, say on a trip, then the Wife may do so without consultation.

An example where prior consultation would be required includes extra pilgrimages.

8. The Husband’s for his Wife to guard her chastity and honour. This too works visa versa as the Husband may be prone to socialising in inappropriate environments.

For the Wife, this would include speaking in hushed tones with other men.

9. The Husband’s right for his child(ren) to be breastfed.

The first three months from a child’s birth should not be avoided, as the milk is very rich.

There are 2 conditions where this right does not apply:

a) A woman of high social standing does not have to breastfeed. The practice of the Arabs was to hire a wet-nurse, which Islam did not abrogate. If you can’t find a wet-nurse, then the Wife should breastfeed. Stopping must be by mutual consultation; or

b) A wife who is sick and/or whose milk is not abundant and Is therefore unable to fulfil the obligation.

If the divorce is reconcilable then the Wife must feed in the idda. If it’s an irrevocable divorce, then the Husband must pay the Wife for the milk.

The Wife has a right to be paid from the Husband’s inheritance should he die within the idda period.

10. The Husband’s right that his Wife treat his relatives with respect and show no harm towards them. This works visa versa but were focusing on the Husband’s rights at present.

Living with good is showing kindness to the family.

The Sharia takes into account that you may not like your in-laws!

11. The Husband’s right of lineage and religion. The child(ren) should take the Father’s surname. There is nothing wrong with having a Mother’s middle name as is the custom (‘urf) in Mexican culture.

Success is by God. Blessings upon His Beloved.


This entry was posted in Children, Community, Hamza Yusuf, Love, Marriage, Women. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My Notes on “The Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage” by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

  1. Beard says:

    Masha’Allah, excellent article, yet again. Everyone is talking about marriage but they don’t know the Fiqh!

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