Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Can a wife seek separate accommodation apart from family?
A wife is entitled to her own, private living quarters, and a husband is religiously duty-bound to provide this for her in accordance with his financial means. She may forgo her right, however, for alternative living arrangements with in-laws or extended family, but she is under no obligation to do so.
Under no circumstances should a wife tolerate abuse, particularly physical abuse, from the husband’s family, or anybody else for that matter. Abuse is completely impermissible and a grave wrong, and the wife should do the wrongdoers a favor by stepping away into the safety and security of her parents’ home if necessary.
Defining Private Living Quarters
Allah Most High says, “Let them live where you live during their waiting period, according to your means. And do not harass them to make their stay unbearable.” [Quran, 65:6]. The scholars explain that this verse states the duty to house a wife in her own accommodation.
The jurists (fuqaha) define a wife’s private space primarily in two ways:
- or those of lesser means, according to the society the couple is in, the requirement is to provide something which minimally has a room, bathroom, and kitchen which cannot be accessed without her permission. A communal bathroom or kitchen is not sufficient and a wife is not expected to live with her husband in such a space, barring very exceptional situations.
- For those of average means or the wealthy, the requirement is to provide something which has multiple rooms in it in accordance with the customary standards of living for those who possess similar financial means. This corresponds to the command to “Treat them fairly.” [Quran, 4:19]
In difficult circumstances, it would be from a wife’s excellence, generosity, and gracious character to put up with her husband’s inability to provide suitable living quarters, perhaps due to a lack of finances, a job, or the like. But the husband should not become complacent. Rather, he should come up with a plan to fulfill his duty, responsibly, just as he takes care of other religious duties in his life.
The Need for Facilitation in Marriage
Parents and families need to recognize the fact that the new couple needs time and space in order to begin their married life together on the right foot. Providing the requisite accommodation should not, however, become an excuse to excessively delay marriage, or a barrier preventing marriage altogether. Such matters often aggravate problems faced by those wanting to marry and needlessly make the unlawful easier than the lawful.
Given the times in which we live, it is imperative for young people and others to plainly see that getting into lawful relationships is relatively straightforward. Accordingly, perhaps there can be a setup where the couple gets married, goes to university or the like, and then moves in together when this phase of life is over. Otherwise, arrangements may be made for them to live together during this time too.
Regular Supplication, Prayer, and Counselling
When faced with hardships and trials in life, one thing which is highly encouraged in the prophetic sunna is the Prayer of Need (salat al-haja). That prayer should be coupled with fervent supplication, whenever able, but especially at blessed times such as before the entrance of dawn (fajr), asking Allah Most High to facilitate the good for one in life.
Finally, and if a problem persists, it may be worth seeking the advice of a trusted and sensitive counselor, ideally a Muslim, who can help one work through turbulence in marriage. Of course, given the sensitivity of the situation at hand and the limited information provided, I’d also recommend seeking the advice of trusted friends and a local, reliable scholar. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar; Abu’l Haj, Subul al-Wifaq fi Ahkam al-Zawaj wa al-Talaq]
And Allah Most High knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan, and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.