This question is motivated by the paper Choosing Islam: a Study of Swedish Converts by Madeleine Sultan, 1999 (link), which contains a story of a convert woman who experienced a conflict with her husband: basically, he decreed that he was going to a wedding without her, and she was unhappy about it.

The wife was confused about whether this particular decision was (a) cultural, a form of oppression, and not really Islamic, or (b) within the scope of Islam and a perfectly legitimate course of action. The paper writes:

She is not, however, sure if her husband's action, his decision-making over her head, is compatible with Islam or if it is oppression of women.

In general, a husband could theoretically make demands of his wife to the point where it becomes oppressive. Clearly, this would not be a healthy relationship, and would be regarded as inappropriate for Muslims:

This is a command to husbands, fathers, brothers and others to treat women kindly and not to oppress them; to give them their rights and to guide them to do good. This is what is obligatory upon everyone, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Treat women kindly.” -- Islam Q&A

In the above example, the husband's decision seems unnecessary, which leads me to think it's more on the oppressive side. However, there may be more to the story.

Question: How does one distinguish between a husband exercising his role as the decision maker and a husband oppressing his wife?

(My experience thus far is that Muslim men treasure their wives, and highly value their opinions, so this is a hypothetical question for me.)


1 Answer 1


Clear-cut oppression according to Islam would be to violate her rights, both obligatory ones and the Sunnah ones, for example Nafqah(maintenance), kind treatment, sexual availability, social interaction, education, right to children etc.

Anything other than that is going to be subjective and will vary according to the norms and customs of their society and culture, according to their social status and according to what the couple's mutual understanding is.

I couldn't access the paper, but in most eastern conservative societies, if the decision to not take her to a wedding was one-time then it would be considered acceptable (and the wife fussing on it would be viewed unfavorably) ... whereas permanent social isolation would be considered oppression (in most eastern societies it is a norm to take women on wedding feasts).

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