What Are a Wife’s Rights and Responsibilities in a Difficult Marriage?


Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

1. If a woman marries a convert, what are the responsibilities of the wife towards the husband’s Islamic education?

2. If a sinful Muslim husband demands his rights to be fulfilled (respect, etc.), what would be the wife’s rights?

3. Is it right to advise that respect can be somewhat potentially higher if the husband follows Islam and guides the family Islamically?

4. If a husband tells the wife he is starting to “not like her” and that if she finds him with someone else, to not be surprised – how should the wife be motivated in the marriage?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayr for your questions. I pray this finds you in the best of states. Insha’Allah I will answer your questions in order.

1. If a woman marries a husband who has reverted to Islam a few years before marriage, what are the responsibilities of the wife (if born Muslim) towards the husband’s Islamic education?

When a person becomes Muslim, the obligation of knowledge is two-fold, seeking it and providing it. The person themselves are obliged to seek knowledge of the fundamentals of the religion, and those who are aware of his/her need, and are able to provide such knowledge, are obliged to give it.

What is meant by fundamental knowledge of the religion is that which the person needs to make their belief and worship valid, as well as any other aspects that maybe relevant to their specific situation such as marriage and trade. It does not include Islamic knowledge beyond this.

Offering this knowledge is a communal obligation (fard kifayah). If one person fulfils it then it suffices. As such, a wife is not obligated to teach her husband matters of the religion (revert or not), if there are others who can and are willing to do so. In these situations, if the wife did take it upon herself to teach him, then this would be a virtuous act and carry tremendous reward.

If, however, there is no one else available except the wife, then it would become personally obligatory on her to teach the husband his personally obligatory knowledge (fard ‘ayn), not as a right of a husband, but as a fellow Muslim.

2. If a Muslim husband demands his rights to be fulfilled (respect, etc.), however is not god-fearing i.e. does not fast, pray, has done drugs almost the whole of the marriage, etc, what would be the wife’s rights if she fulfills her duties as a Muslima i.e. prays, fasts?

A wife’s rights usually include things like suitable accommodation, food and clothes, toiletries etc. and other things usual for a woman of her social standing, as well as the right to live cordially, without abuse or neglect.

The situation you have described is obviously sensitive and requires discussion and support to resolve what is clearly deep seated issues. Islam provides and protects rights, including material, physical and emotional rights, but these legal rights do not usually resolve matters of disrespect and personal religious practice.

I would suggest seeking out professional marital counselling as well as encouraging the husband to seek out counselling for his own struggles, which seems necessary.

If the husband is not practicing the religion, and engaged in substance abuse, then these would be strong reasons to consider separation, especially if the husband is not willing to change or seek help. The wife will be rewarded for her patience, but is not obligated to live with someone who has such serious problems and addictions, more so if he is not fulfilling her legal rights as well. One should seek further advice from local scholars.

3. If a husband compares his wife’s respect towards him to that of a pious couple who prays together, is it right to advise that respect can be somewhat potentially higher if the husband follows Islam and guides the family Islamically?

Yes, it is correct to advise a person that respect comes about from being upright, principled, and practicing the religion, and inappropriate for a person to demand respect while they do nothing to earn it. However, one should choose wisely how they advise others, so as not to make matters worse. Sometimes a firm word is needed, other times being gentle is better. Sometimes getting a third party to intervene is a good solution.

4. If a husband sees faults and has high expectations of the wife i.e. business, baby, household, groceries, cooking, laundry, cleaning, without helping – and with this, tells the wife he is starting to “not like her” and that if she finds him with someone else, to not be surprised – how should the wife move forward and be motivated in the marriage?

The simple answer is that in such situations, the wife will not be motivated or incline towards the husband, and for good reason. Marriage is a two-way street, requires give and take, the least of which is to acknowledge the other and their efforts. The description you have given is a form of psychological abuse, aimed at making the person feel worthless, unattractive and insecure. Intentional or not, it is wrong and prohibited.

Moving Forward

In all the scenarios you have given, and acknowledging that there may well be much more to the relationship than is written here, it seems such a marriage is very troubled and requires either professional advice and support, or separation. The wife should consider where she sees her own life and spiritual growth heading, as well as what the situation would be should she have children.

May Allah grant ease and peace in all our affairs.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.