Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
How long can Muslim neglect their spouse emotionally? And what are the valid reasons for which one can ignore? Is fulfilling the emotional needs of our spouses in marriage an obligation or a recommendation?
Please, do provide references from the Quran and Sunna. And I am not speaking of treating the spouse disrespectfully. I do know that is haram.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
Understanding the Nature of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence)
Your question is framed and worded in legal terms. The sacred law of Islam does not pertain to inward realities, such as emotions. For this reason, you will not find a book of jurisprudence speaking of emotional rights in the way you are now.
Beyond Jurisprudence (Fiqh)
Despite the immense importance of the sacred law as it pertains to Islamic jurisprudence, the religion of Islam extends well beyond the letter of the law. The jurisprudence merely lays down the limits and boundaries of what is actionable and what is not.
That said, fulfilling the emotional needs of a spouse is indeed an obligation of propriety and legal dignity (muru’aa), not to mention spirituality. These are the higher levels of Islamic guidance.
Aiming for Excellence (Ihsan)
In a legal sense, marriage is merely a contract, with each party having rights and responsibilities. However, in the more profound religious sense, marriage is a union of two believers on the journey to seek the pleasure of Allah Most High through the mutual support marriage offers.
This breakdown is visible in the Prophetic narration known as the narration of Angel Gabriel (Jibril).
In summary, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) was asked by the Angel Jibril, ‘What is Islam?’; ‘What is faith (iman); and ‘What is excellence (ihsan).’
Islam can be understood as a minimal submission to the letter of the law. In contrast, excellence is to go above and beyond the minimum in pursuit of the Divine contentment and complete emulation of the best of creation, the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Lofty Ranks of the Good Spouse
It is because being good to one’s spouse above the minimal requirements of the letter of the law that those who uphold good character and excellence attain the rank of electhood (khayriyya).
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best of you are the best of you to their spouse, and I am the best of you to my spouse.” [Tirmidhi]
For these reasons and others, it is important that one chooses their spouse very carefully, especially for a woman to choose a husband. For this reason, the Messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace) emphasized good character as a criterion for a husband.
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When one whose religious practice and character pleases you proposes to you, marry your daughters to him. If you do not, there will be strife in the land and great corruption.” [Tirmidhi]
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then 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 stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest 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 Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.