I'm surprised by the use of the word captive in this hadith:

And indeed I order you to be good to the women, for they are but captives with you over whom you have no power than that, except if they come with manifest Fahishah (evil behavior). -- Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1163 [grade: sahih]

Islam Q&A interprets the word captive semi-literally: "...a woman is like a slave or prisoner of her husband, and she cannot go out of his house except with his permission...". Although, perhaps this is an ultraconservative fatwa and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Question: In what sense are wives "captives" in the hadith "...they are but captives with you..."?

Someone who's familiar with Arabic would have a more accurate idea of what the hadith says than me.

I managed to find a few variations:

... they are but like captives with you ... -- Jami` at-Tirmidh [grade: hasan]

... they are like captives in your hands ... -- Riyad as-Salihin

... you have taken them on the security of Allah ... -- Sahih Muslim 1218 a

These don't really convey the meaning of "physical imprisonment" like in the first version. It sounds more like the wife is dependent on her husband, and thus he should be good to her (as in the first part of the sentence).

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In both ahadith from Jami' at-Tirmdihi al-Mobarakfori or Abdurrahmaan ibn Abdarrahim Mubarakpuri (died 1953) محمد بن عبد الرحمن بن عبد الرحيم المباركفوري in his tohfat al-Ahodi تحفة الأحوذي says that the meaning is that they are like captives, as men have "control over them"

( فإنما هن عوان عندكم ) جمع عانية ، أي أسراء كالأسراء ، شبهن بهن عند الرجال لتحكمهن فيهن . (The Book of Tafsir)

( فإنما هن عوان ) جمع عانية ، قال في القاموس : العاني الأسير (The Book of Suckling)

The term عوان in Arabic however accepts the meaning middle-aged, which also refers to a person that is totally dependent of an other person!

The عاني masculine of عانية (to which Mubarakpuri links in both cases) has been used in an other hadith with the meaning of captive:

Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom). (sahih al-Bukhari)

The wording of Muslim is indeed "on the security of Allah بِأَمَانِ اللَّهِ "

أَخَذْتُمُوهُنَّ بِأَمَانِ اللَّهِ

Therefore an-Nawawi in his commentary on sahih Muslim is referring to the ahadith which he quoted in Riyad as-Saliheen to show that (we) husbands are asked to care for their wives and be good to her!

An-Nawawi also says that in some records it is even reported:

بِأَمَانَةِ اللَّهِ

Which might be translated: "on the trust of Allah, see more meanings of أَمَانَة here. These reports would even give a higher importance for taking care of the wives!

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