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As I understand, Muslim wives are required to be obedient:

... So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. ... -- Qur'an 4:34

However, the notion of "obedience" is foreign to me; it raises a host of "what ifs" and concerns about exploitation. Interacting with real Muslim couples, however, paints a different picture. I'm not seeing a wife be ordered around like a servant girl, but instead Muslim men seem to treasure their wives.

Question: What does being an obedient wife really mean?

For example, how frequently do Muslim husbands make requests? For the husbands here, what are some requests you make of your wife (if it's okay to say)? For the wives here, what are some requests your husband makes of you (if it's okay to say)?

A related question was asked here So righteous women are devoutly obedient ,Meaning of obedient wife? but I'm left with a feeling analogous to learning to drive a car through an instruction manual.

Which of the following is a better description of a typical Islamic husband-wife relationship? It's hard to tell from the definitions alone.

  1. The husband has a large degree of control over his wife. It is typical for him to order her to do things multiple times a day. Example requests: (a) wearing a niqab/abaya, (b) sexual acts to be performed in a specific way, (c) housework, adequately and timely performed, (d) disassociation with certain friends, (e) refraining from obtaining an education and employment. It's best not to nag, joke, or express an opinion. Her access to money is through him, and he controls her purchases. Disobedience results in her being considered a bad Muslim by the Islamic community. If she asks for help, she will simply be told to obey, and that her obedience is her husband's right. Even if the husband makes a bad request, she needs to comply (provided it's not haram).

  2. A wife has a large degree of autonomy. In everyday life, she's largely free to do what she likes. Nobody is really going to make a fuss if she doesn't feel like cooking. Occasionally the husband may make an important family decision, such as moving to another city for work, but will take into consideration his wife's needs and concerns. The wife is able to pursue a career alongside her husband (or even instead of her husband), and may earn more money than him.

(I'm guessing a realistic impression is somewhere in between these two extremes, and vary with the couple's preferences. I'm after a "feel" for how obedience works in everyday life in spousal relationships in Islam.)

Online, I've seen: (a) Muslim men brag about how obedient their wives are, (b) Muslim men complain about how their wives complain when obeying. It seems obedience is an attractive quality to Muslim men.

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    In-short, obedient wife only means that wife is supposed to keep her husband happy by doing what he likes/wishes and avoiding anything he does not like. And try to fulfil all his wills until or unless they contradict any islamic teaching. And the question you linked answer explains very greatly, and i didn't understood what exactly you need more clarification about in this question, so maybe, i can suggest an edit in this question to make it more clear if possible. – Zia Ul Rehman Mughal Sep 4 '16 at 6:35
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones - very true however one should not get mixed into the social/west corruption and think like such. Obedience is also keeping ones self to themselves, not engaging with others or being tempted by "encounters" and such too. Taking care/looking after the husband or the home is definitely right up there. As years go on, things DO change in marriage (not just with Islamic marriages) but the point here would be to TALK to one another and improve the marriage. – Ahmed ilyas Sep 4 '16 at 7:51
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones - exactly. Today however people don't see that. its all about 1 gender being more superior than the other and having a witch hunt against the other. It's corruption both morally and ethically and just not right. Indeed you are correct and something people lack ALOT of understanding these days - make your husband happy as best as you can as well as making the wife happy as best as he can. It's THAT simple but people LOVE to complicate it when there is no need. – Ahmed ilyas Sep 4 '16 at 10:25
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    Of course what you describe is possible as reality and practice are mostly different than theory and this is because we are human having a mind a heart and a soul ... so everybody may have "an own" understanding or interpretation... but if things go too far for any of the partners the shari'a rules must be consulted or applied. – Medi1Saif Sep 4 '16 at 10:46
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    ضربتم في الارض,وضربت عليهم المسكنة, ضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُم, in all these examples from Quran none of the word usage means "physical striking",and more of "set forth, set down". The misinterpretation of the word in the verse made beating up women (by all means) halal , while God calls for reconciliation ?! Think. – user19208 Sep 5 '16 at 8:27
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The 13th century scholar, Ibn Khatir said in the commentary of the said verse:

Allah said,

(but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance),) meaning, when the wife obeys her husband in all that Allah has allowed, then no means of annoyance from the husband are allowed against his wife. Therefore, in this case, the husband does not have the right to beat her or shun her bed. Allah's statement,

"when the wife obeys her husband in all that Allah has allowed" -- means that the wife obeys the husband only if what the husband asks her to do is halal in Islam. If he tells her to do something that is haram, she must disobey him. Prophet once said something that means something like there is no obedience to the creation over the creator. And obedience doesn't apply if what the husband asked the wife to do is masbooh (doubtful matters).

Further reading: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/36194/32459 (references are provided in it)

  • I don't see how this answers the question. It doesn't outline what the obligations of the wife are, just how the husband should not treat her if she fulfills them, and something that is not part of her obligations. This might be an answer if it is implied that "it is fard for her to obey any demands of her husband that do not require her to perform a haram act". Is that the case? – G. Bach Dec 11 '16 at 20:12
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This is I believe a rather subtle issue. But hopefully with close observation that you have had of Muslim couples you can make sense of this.

The "obedience" concept should be understood in the light of Islam's preferred family structure wherein the husband assumes a central role because of being the primary income-producer and in charge of finances of the family and therefore with a greater final say on family choices and priorities (not that he shouldn't consult the wife or family members before making the final say). Husband is also the protector of family. So these roles inevitably give the husband a sort of practical authority over the family. The wife in contrast assumes a more inner and inward role in the family, mainly engaged with housework and raising children within the means and possibilities afforded by the husband. This distinct form of division of labor naturally requires the wife to be more compliant and "obedient" with the husband than the visa versa.

This division of labor that has been prevalent with most traditional and specially Abrahamic societies is not without reason but is based on the Divine wisdom of family structure and what role each gender is most fit fulfilling with respect to their distinct biological and psychological makeup that can be summarized with referenced to the greater natural vigor and rationality of the male gender in contrast to greater gentleness and emotionalism of female gender, opposite qualities that form a wonderful, vital synthesis when combined and united with proper order in married life.

Keeping up this traditional pattern of family life however is admittedly difficult given the different norms and structure of the modern society. A deeper understanding of religious wisdom and its contrast with the modern way of life, reveals the latter to be a deviation from the normal order of things that is the Divine order of things.

Indeed, all traditional societies have gone through chaos, deformation and crisis by the expansion of the modern way of life that has largely imposed itself on them through colonialist/imperialist inroads of the now-globalized Capitalist Western civilization into traditional societies.

Now given this state of civlizational defeat and confusion, what shall the intelligent religious people and specifically Muslims do nowadays? For this period of history, it seems that we need to work for discovering and recognizing the spirit and wisdom behind the traditional way of life and then try to gradually reform our life for better conformity with that spirit without having to either isolate ourselves from the modern society or fully let ourselves immerse into its inferior way of life. This would be more art than science but the greater our knowledge of Islamic wisdom of life the greater our success in working a smooth transition towards a more Islamic way of life on the individual and social level away from the dictates of a civilization that is crumbling sooner or later under its own weight of ignorance of the sacred religious wisdom!

  • I started writing the answer above before the edits in question! I may revise my answer to cover the new edits in the question. – infatuated Sep 4 '16 at 7:53
  • Comments appreciated in case of disagreement. – infatuated Sep 4 '16 at 8:26
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones, Well there's actually an academic discipline already dedicated to that "interesting" idea mentioned in those two paragraphs. Have a look: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postcolonialism – infatuated Sep 4 '16 at 9:52
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I'll answer your question but let me first tell you how the relationship between husband and wife is to be according to prophet's life

Women are not required to cook, clean, look after children. Either the husband has to do it or he has to get her a maid. They can even ask for compensation when they breastfeed. They are also entitled to get mahr, and nafaqah. So she can spend freely as a queen.

In return the husband has authority over her leaving the house, can ask for sex on demand.

The above mentioned are the default of Islam. During aqd ie when the marriage contract is being agreed a wife can say I will only marry you if I'm always allowed to study. The husband can say no I don't like that, then the wife would I can't live without out and so marriage happens. The husband can say I want you to work ( again just as a odd example to point out that marriage in Islam is very very much negotiable) and the wife could say OK, and that is written in the contract. If any party breaks their oath then the marriage can be nullified.

Now pause and think for a second what kind of a dull life that would be if we are to stick with what's mandatory. The wife never cooking for his husband who comes home tired from work and if he asks for food she would say: "not my problem, I'm not suppose to give you food" and the husband when ever going to be he would say, " since you agreed to on-demand sex get down here for sex".

Islam can't force any husband or wife to love the other. It will never work. What good does food do a husband when his wife is forced to make? What good does going out on a date night do to a wife when the husband is forced to take her out (there is no such commandment, it's just an example). Islam says the best of the wives are the wives who cook, clean, in some narrations it has been explicitly said:

The best of wives are ones who when they see their husband coming home they give him a glass of water ...The best of husbands are ones who come home with a smile...The best of wives are wives are ones who are most humble to their husbands...The best of husbands are ones who listen to the what his family wants. Spends time with his children...addresses her sexual needs


In addition you mentioned:

(a) wearing a niqab/abaya:

As long as it's hijab then it's good, the husband can't dictate that not having niqab is haraam. Saying something halal is haram is a sin. What he can do is limit her from leaving the house which again isn't a nice thing to do.

(b) sexual acts to be performed in a specific way

As long as it's halal then yes. But the wife can also request, and it's recommended that he obliges. Certain thing at certain times are actually mandatory for him to do

(c) housework, adequately and timely performed,

As I mentioned it's not a requirement, it's something she has to do out of love.

(d) disassociation with certain friends,

He can make a request. But again he can't make something halal as haram. However if a friend is one who invites you to turn away from Allah then it's different. Still forcing your wife into something isn't good. I mean people have free-will and Allah doesn't reward you for doing the right thing with no good intention. That being said if my wife is going to see a horrible friend I will give her warning and maybe after a while I would try to admonish her logically.

(e) refraining from obtaining an education and employment.

Again a husband can refrain from not leaving the house (so she can't study_, but again what kind of a life would that be?! Usually this is something that should be discussed upon marriage and signing the contract/agreement. Having that said couples should also be considerate of their children's upbringings.

(f)It's best not to nag, joke, or express an opinion.

To joke with non-mahram, that's the law. It's non-negotiable. It's haram. To not-nag is simply to say: Don't be human. Doesn't make much sense to me. To express opinion is again saying you're not a human. You don't exist. Doesn't make sense at all

(g)Her access to money is through him, and he controls her purchases.

When a wife gets her nafaqah she allowed to spend it on whatever she pleases. She could spend it on a bra, or 10 boxes of chocolate or to make a donation or whatsoever. If a husband controls this then likely he has broke the contract of marriage.


Number 2 is much more like what Islam suggests. Yet if a husband has to make a final decision on something, say for moving to a new city because of financial needs then he has to do it, Though it's best to do it with discussing explaining and consulting with his wife as if he doesn't have a job, then there's no house, no car, no food, no clothes, not school, etc. When I want to make such decisions I inform my wife and she always talks about some small details that I wasn't carrying about and it turns out to be extremely helpful.

These are based on Shia view point

  • Is this answer from a Shia point of view? – Sakib Arifin Jan 12 '17 at 14:25
  • @MohammadSakibArifin yes brother, I made an edit to include it – Honey Jan 12 '17 at 14:59
  • "Women are not required to cook, clean, look after children" They are if the husband tells them to, since those demands are for halal actions. "(d) disassociation with certain friends - He can make a request. But again he can't make something halal as haram." He can demand she cease contact with certain friends, and her not following his halal demands - and this would be a halal demand - relieves him of his duty to financially support her. – G. Bach Mar 9 '17 at 12:30
  • @G.Bach In Shia, they aren't required to cook, clean. If the wife doesn't want to then the husband has to get maid or cook himself or buy food from other places. She's also not required to simply avoid friendship with others. Yet for both of these situations it's recommended that she listens. If she doesn't still he must financially support her. If she leaves the house without his permission or doesn't oblige in the bed—then he's relieved of financial support – Honey Mar 9 '17 at 12:50
  • I've never seen any scholar, sunni or shi'a, say that a wife does not have to obey her husband's halal demands. Can you cite scholarly sources that say this? – G. Bach Mar 9 '17 at 12:56
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Interestingly, in the last three nights I was listening to lectures covering the topic of marriage. I give a short review of what the lecturer said.

A marriage should be like a home for the husband and the wife. The wife is a home for her husband and he is a home for her. A home is a place where you like to come to, a refuge, where you feel loved, safe and comfortable.

As Allah (swt) has created man and woman out of one soul, they are equal. The "superiority" of the man is meant in terms of his responsibility for the whole family in financial matters and safety. The relationship between husband and wife is in no way one of master (husband) and obedient slave (wife). The wife is not obliged to do the cooking, washing and cleaning for him but she does it out of love for her husband and to make him happy.

Vice versa, the husband should behave in a way that makes his wife happy and deepens their relationship. Therefore he should participate in the housework and be patient when he sees his wife under stress.

The speaker related to an incident when the Prophet and Ali came to the house of Fatimah. She was sitting with Hassan on her lab, grinding wheat and a broom was leaning on the wall. The Prophet asked Ali which of the chores he wanted to do and he chose to clean the floor. The Prophet chose for himself to grind the wheat so that his daughter Fatimah could attend to the child.

The Prophet is the best role model for a husband.

His daughter Fatimah, in her marriage with Ali, is the best role model for a wife.

One day Ali came home and saw his wife Fatimah very pale and weak. He asked her whether she was ill but she replied that she was not but had not eaten well for some days. Ali asked why she had not eaten well. She answered that she did not have enough food in the house. He asked her why she did not tell him, as he is responsible to provide enough food for the family. She answered that she did not want to put a burden on him.

How often do we as wifes put pressure on our husbands even for minor things?

When Ali was asked to describe his relationship to Fatimah, he answered that they were like pigeons in a nest feeding each other. How beautiful is this kind of relationship!

Often we face difficulties when the ego is too big, when we are not willing to sacrifice for the family. This is particularly difficult when you have grown up in Western societies, which propagate egoism and narcissism.

A wife being obedient to her husband means that she takes care of her modesty and good akhlaq even when he is not there. Furthermore she has to take care of the finances and spend money sensibly. When she wants to go out or meet friends, she has to discuss this with her husband and if he for a good reason (maybe he finds that the location is not appropriate for a Muslim woman) has objections against it, she should stay at home to end his worries.

On the other hand, the husband is adviced to give time to his wife and children and to be cheerful and pleasant with them.

Respect each other, love each other, have patience in difficult situations and sacrifice for the family - these are the aspects of a successful marriage, as being lived by the Holy Prophet of Islam and his family.

-3

Man the Obedience is not required at the verse you mentioned (They miss translate it , they miss interpret it ) "Kanetat" -> alone : means they don't make close relations with other men . eg : They don't go to the market and speak with other men for long time . "Save the hidden" -> they don't go and tell secrets of home outside .

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