Allah Says (what means): “By Him Who created male and female; Verily, your efforts and deeds are diverse.” [Quran 92:3-4]
In these verses, Allah declares that He created men and women to be different, with unique roles, functions and skills. As in society, where there is a division of labor, so too in a family; each member has different responsibilities. Generally, Islam upholds that women are entrusted with the nurturing role, and men, with the guardian role. Therefore, women are given the right of financial support.
Allah Says (what means): “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means…” [Quran 4:34]
This guardianship and greater financial responsibility is given to men, requires that they provide women with not, only monetary support, but also physical protection and kind and respectful treatment.
The Muslim woman has the privilege to earn money, the right to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage all of her assets in any way she pleases. She can run her own business and no one has any claim on her earnings including her husband. Allah Says (what means): “And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you to excel others. For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women there is reward for what they have earned, and ask Allah of His bounty. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything.” [Quran 4:32]
Furthermore, a woman inherits from her relatives. Allah Says (what means): “There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and those nearest related, whether, the property be small or large – a legal share.” [Quran 4:7]
Rights of a Wife:
Allah Says (what means): “And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put affection and mercy between you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect.” [Quran 30:21]
Marriage is therefore not just a physical or emotional necessity, but in fact it is a relationship of mutual rights and obligations based on divine guidance. Allah created men and women with complimentary natures, and in the Quran, He laid out a system of laws to support harmonious interaction between the sexes. Allah Says (what means): “…They are your garments and you are their garments.” [Quran 2:187]
Clothing provides physical protection and covers the beauty and faults of the body. Likewise, a spouse is viewed this way. Each protects the other and hides the faults and compliments the characteristics of the spouse.
To foster the love and security that come with marriage, Muslim wives have various rights. The first of the wife’s rights is to receive Mahr (marriage dowry), a gift from the husband, which is part of the marriage contract and required for the legality and validity of the marriage.
The second right of a wife is maintenance. Despite any wealth she may have, her husband is obligated to provide her with food, shelter and clothing. He is not forced, however, to spend beyond his capability and his wife is not entitled to make unreasonable demands. Allah Says (what means): “Let the rich man spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease.” [Quran 65:7]
Allah tells us in the Quran that men are guardians over women and are afforded the leadership in the family. His responsibility for obeying Allah extends to guiding his family to obey Allah at all times.
A wife’s rights also extend beyond material needs, as she has the right to kind treatment. The Prophet said: “…The best of you are those who are best (in treatment) to their wives.” [At-Tirmithi, Ibn Maajah and Al-Bayhaqi]
Allah tells us that He created mates and put love, mercy, and tranquillity between them. Both men and women have a need for companionship and sexual needs, and marriage is designed to fulfill those needs. For one spouse to deny this satisfaction to the other, temptation will rise to seek satisfying it elsewhere.
Duties of a Wife:
With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives have certain obligations towards their husbands. Allah Says (what means): “…The righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard (i.e. their chastity, their husband’s property, etc.).” [Quran 4:34]
A wife is to keep her husband’s secrets and protect their marital privacy. Issues of intimacy or faults of his, that would dishonor him, are not to be spread by the wife, just as he is expected to guard her honor.
A wife must also guard her husband’s property. She must safeguard his home and possessions, to the best of her ability, from theft or damage. She should manage the household affairs wisely so as to prevent loss or waste. She should not allow anyone to enter the house whom her husband dislikes nor incur any expenses of which her husband disapproves.
A Muslim woman must cooperate and coordinate with her husband. There cannot, however, be cooperation with a man who is disobedient to Allah. She should not fulfill his requests if he wants her to do something Islamicaly unlawful. A husband also should not take advantage of his wife, but rather he should consider her needs and happiness.
Allah Says (what means): “It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has strayed in a plain error.” [Quran 33:36]
The Muslim woman was given a role, duties and rights more than 1400 years ago that most women do not enjoy today, even in the West. These are rights granted by Allah and are designed to keep balance in the society; what may seem unjust or missing in one place is compensated for or explained in another place.
Indeed Islam is a complete way of life.