Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Can a husband cage his wife in the house? Can a husband not allow the wife to meet her relatives, especially parents, siblings, and friends (some scholars say it’s his right)?
And not allow her to do any work, just the household work, and disallow her to make any contact with others and doesn’t have intimacy with her when she wants, as the husband does have the power to reject the sexual desire of the wife and woman is obliged to suppress her feelings in marriage because in Islam she only has right not to get hit and food, shelter, and clothes (and that too of the husband choice).
Doesn’t this make her a slave to her husband? Is the husband sinful for this, or is this right? If it is, then how can the wife live in peace?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
The feeling one gets from this question is that a knowledge of the beauty of the Sacred law of Islam is missing.
Islam is categorically against oppression, sexism, and treating people disrespectfully or tyrannically. Imprisonment of one’s spouse and treating them as a slave is antithetical to the entirety of the Prophetic example; in fact, it is the way of the worst of people.
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives. I am the best of you to my wife.” [Tirmidhi]
True Islam Is Clothed in Mercy
Islam’s approach to marital roles is an approach based on Divine wisdom, fairness, and mercy. Allah Most High tells us that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) was sent as a Mercy to all of mankind.
This means that every instruction, every guidance, every rule, every command, and every prohibition is clothed and imbued with mercy. If practiced correctly, the Prophetic teachings are a beauty, mercy, and healing for mankind.
It is the neglect of the Prophetic advice, the self-centered approach to marriage, and the personal mental, emotional, and spiritual traumas that people spew at their spouses and children that give us an ugly lens through which to see Islam.
This is especially true when terms like “This is my right!”, “You have to do this!” or “I don’t have to do this.”
What Does Islam Really Say?
Marriage is a Sacred bond. A firm commitment (ghaliza) is how Allah Most High describes it.
Allah Most High says, “And how could you take it back after having enjoyed each other intimately and she has taken from you a firm commitment?” [Quran, 4:21]
Through marriage, Allah Most High has allowed for the union of two humans physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, and, most importantly, spiritually. It is through this marriage that each spouse, ideally, will have a mirror in their spouse through which they can put their egos in check and remedy their hearts.
Marriage, like other attachments, are tools by which one can become spiritually refined. A person who has parents who have rights on them, teachers who have rights on them, and many other examples of responsibility-based relationships – such a person is more likely to be self-less, concerned for the wellbeing of others as opposed to themselves, and committed to serving rather than being served.
Marriage as a Spiritual Reformation
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When a servant (of Allah) marries, he has completed half of the religion. Let him then fear Allah in the remaining half.” [Ahmad]
Some scholars have noted that one’s spiritual progression to the nearness and contentment of Allah Most High involves worshipping Allah Most High outwardly (i.e., with one’s limbs) and inwardly (with one’s heart).
The worship of the heart comprises removing the sicknesses of the heart and adorning the heart with its virtuous qualities. This second part (the inward worship) is nearly impossible without someone to help you find your faults, as many are subtle and can remain hidden.
Rights in Proportion to Responsibilities
Due to this fact, it is a serious covenant between both spouses: each having rights in proportion to their responsibilities.
The husband’s rights are that:
- No one be allowed to enter his home without his explicit or implied permission;
- His honor be preserved in his absence;
- His wife does not leave home without explicit or implied permission;
- He can demand intimacy when there is no legal preventative, such as sickness or menstruation;
- He be obeyed in permissible matters that pertain to the above rights. [al-Mawsu’a al-Fiqhiyya al-Kuwaitiyya]
Note: demanding does not mean forcing; it merely means that he can request intimacy, and she would be sinful for refusing without a valid legal excuse
She also shares the right to intimacy, except that he alone has the right to demand it.
The husband’s responsibilities:
In light of the above rights, the husband’s responsibilities are apportioned.
His responsibilities are:
- To provide a safe and secure residence for his wife and children;
- To protect his wife and children;
- To fulfill the needs of his wife regarding intimacy to assist in preserving her chastity;
- To financially provide for his wife and children;
- To facilitate her acquiring her personally obligatory knowledge of Islam. [Ibid.]
A Healthy Marriage
Allah Most High commands in the Quran the righteous treatment of their spouse. Allah Most High says, “Live with them in accordance with what is fair and kind: if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something in which God has put much good.” [Quran, 4:19]
Once a marriage gets to the point where spouses say, “This is my right. You have to do this.” or “This is not your right in the Sacred law” – this is a sign of mutual love and respect has deteriorated.
The rights of marriage that the Sacred law determines are only needed in the case of a dispute. If the marriage is based on selflessness and mutual respect, detailed knowledge of rights is unnecessary, as each strives to do right by their spouse.
This does not mean there will be no disputes in the marriage. People have different views and opinions and sometimes clash with their spouses. It is for this reason that communication is important.
The foundation of good communication in marriage is building trust. A person will be unable to open up and place themselves in a situation of vulnerability (which is crucial for sincere communication) if one is afraid that they will be rebuked or criticized in such a vulnerable situation.
You must dig down and seek out the mercy of your hearts towards the other and renew your intentions to treat the other with mercy, kindness, and good assumptions, for the sake of Allah Most High.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch teaches Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences.
He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he studied for three years in Dar al-Mustafa under some of the most outstanding scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib.
In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.