Nikah (marriage) is a great Ibaadah in Islam. It is a social obligation, an act which is highly admired by Allah SWT and a Sunnah of the Blessed Prophet SAW.
But, Subhan Allah, in this western cultured society, we have no idea what marriage is. We have no idea how to live with one's spouse, how to treat one's spouse, how to respect one's spouse, or, in short, how to be a spouse according to Islamic Shariah. Marriage in the western world is quite meaningless. People marry, but within a few years, we'll see that the couple has split up for one reason or another. Today, there is no limit to the affairs between men and women, which weakens the marriage bond. In the modern age, western civilization has beset many problems. One of the major ones being divorce. This is due to lack of understanding and lack of knowledge of what marriage exactly is, especially according to Islam.
A good example would be the recent news story of the TV show, which is now off-air, called "Who wants to marry a millionaire?" Why did the women come on the show? Was it to seek kind, loving, caring men, who will love and cherish them for the rest of their lives? Or was it because they had the chance to become millionaires themselves? The answer is obvious--it was the money. Muhammad SAW, himself, said the fitna of his Ummah will be wealth. And the men--why would they come on TV to look for someone to marry? Most likely, to gain popularity, or maybe even because they were desperate. So, what does the western society tell us about marriage? It simply teaches us that the union of a man and woman through marriage is no big deal. One can easily go into it and easily come out of it, if one desires.
On the contrary, marriage in Islam means more that just false promises that one could break this bond anytime one pleases without serious thought and consideration. Rasoolullah SAW, regarding divorce, stated that it is the most hated act of all lawful things in the sight of Allah.
Marriage is a life-long commitment and partnership. It is a natural and inevitable relationship filled with mutual love, respect, and benefit. Marriage is a beautiful institution, which makes the solitary lives of two people a partnership in the Garden of Jannah. It provides solace and comfort to two people in the hearts of each other. It stabilizes society and guarantees well-being for the community. It is an Ibaadah, a type of worship. The sweet moments a husband and wife share are more rewarding than Nafl Ibaadah. It is an Ibaadah that can lead one to Jannah, where a pious couple will be happy companions for eternity. What a blessing from Allah, Most Compassionate!
Unfortunately, because of our short-mindedness, stubbornness, pride, and ignorance in the UN-Islamic influential society that we live in, some marriages turn out to be a disaster filled with bitterness, enmity, sorrow, and regret, which is also mostly due to lack of knowledge of a successful Islamic marriage. What we must understand is the individual duties, responsibilities, and roles of the Muslim husband and the Muslim wife.
The first point which should be made is that, in Islam, the man and the woman are of equal human status. No one, whether male of female, is superior to another, except in piety. Allah does not favor a man over a woman or a white over a black, but He favors those who are righteous and obedient (to Him).
'Men and women who have surrendered (to Allah),
believing men and believing women,
obedient men and obedient women,
truthful men and truthful women,
enduring men and enduring women,
humble men and humble women,
men and women who give in charity,
men who fast and women who fast,
men and women who remember Allah in abundance--
for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.' (33:35)
When Allah created Adam alayhis-salaam, he was given all the pleasures of Jannah (Paradise), but Allah sensed an emptiness inside His new creation. To fill that emptiness, Allah created, as a companion for Adam AS, Hawwaa (Eve) alayhas-salaam, whereby, he then found complete happiness and fulfillment. Muhammad SAW was reported to have said that women are the twin-halves of men. When a man and woman have joined through marriage, they are complete. Allah describes the importance and significance of men and women to each other in the Holy Qur'an.
'They (women) are your garments and you (men) are their garments.' (2:187)
Without clothing (garments), a body is meaningless. One's clothing is one's modesty, one's protection, one's security, one's respect, one's comfort, one's reputation even. Likewise, clothing is meaningless without a body. The two must go together. If apart, their is little reason for their existence. This parable that Allah uses, defines how a husband and wife relate to each other. Just as one takes much care a protection for their most expensive garments, the spouses, who are each other's garments, should do the same. The only way they could do this is to understand that, though they are of equal status, each has different duties, responsibilities, and roles as Muslim husband and Muslim wife.
Muhammad SAW was a perfect model and a perfect example to all people in every aspect of life, including marriage. He loved all his wives dearly and treated them all equally. He knew what made happiness in marriage. He loved feeling welcomed by them and appreciated the fact that they respected him and would never go against them. He also appreciated that they did so many things to please him and he knew he could trust them not to let him down, in any way, while he was absent. The mere sight of them made him happy.
The messenger of Allah SAW was an example to all men on how to treat their wives and he always encouraged his followers to treat them kindly and lovingly: 'A good Muslim husband should treat his wife in the best possible manner.' The Qur'an states:
'Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it maybe you dislike a thing in which Allah has meant for your own good.' (4:19)
In regard to treating women kindly, Rasoolullah SAW also said: 'Fear Allah with regard to women because you have taken them in the trust of Allah and made their private parts lawful with the word of Allah.'
In Islam, the husband has no right to treat the women cruelly and unfairly. The husband should never regard his wife as a servant, but as a partner in life. The wife was regarded by Rasoolullah SAW as the best safeguard for the husband against sin. And he SAW brought a complete change in the status and position of women. The ideal of wifehood was declared to be love and affection and not subordination and inferiority.
Muhammad SAW taught that no matter how provoked a man may feel, he shall never slap his wife on the face. He discouraged this by saying: 'The best of you is he who is best to his wife.' He further said: 'Never hit your wife like the hitting of your slave.' In other words, never beat them in a way as to injure her. In some extreme cases, though, mild hitting is allowed, but even in the Qur'an, Allah says that preliminary steps should be taken before automatically looking to hitting her, which are admonishment (warning) or separation from the bed.
Our Blessed Prophet SAW also taught that it was wrong for a husband to speak abusively to her or rudely neglect her whilst out in public. The husband should also not be too strict on his wife in order to change her. Upon this, Muhammad SAW said: 'Admonish (criticize) women with good, for they have been created from the upper ribs and the most crooked thing about the rib is its upper part. If you try to straighten it, it will break. If you leave it, it will remain crooked, so give advise to women accordingly.'
A man should also not be suspicious of his wife on false grounds, for this is sin on his part and he shall not accuse her without proof. This will take him to a level of almost being regarded as a kufr. But the husband should regard his wife as a safeguard against immorality and as a consolation and comfort in times of distress.
A husband and wife are to be the best of companions. They should be each others support and comfort, "a shoulder to lean on." There was an occasion, where the Non-Muslims of Makkah would not allow the Muslims to perform Hajj. Sacrificing the animal is a part of the holy pilgrimage. So, Muhammad SAW told his followers that they would have to sacrifice the animals in the jungle, but the followers did not agree and did not obey. He asked them a couple more times, and still they thought it was not allowed to do that, so they didn't obey. In distress, Muhammad SAW went back to his wife and narrated the story to his wife, who advised him to go out, shave his head, sacrifice an animal, and his followers would do the same. He did just that and the followers, upon seeing the Prophet SAW doing what he had commanded them to do, finally obey him, with much regret of course. (May Allah forgive me if I've got the story wrong in any way.) This is an example of the love and respect of the special relationship of a husband and wife.
Another important duty of the husband is to provide his wife with finance from his wages, so that she could successfully run the household. The Prophet SAW said: 'You shall give her food when you take your food and you shall clothe her when you clothe yourself,' meaning he should take care of his wife as well as he takes care of himself, without neglecting her. Aysha RA narrated that Hind, wife of Abu Sufyan, complained to Muhammad SAW: 'Abu Sufyan is a miserly person. He does not give adequate maintenance for me and my children, but I take from his wealth without his knowledge. Is this sin on my part?' Allah's messenger SAW replied: 'Take from his property the usual amount that would suffice you and your children.'
A wife is to be loved, cherished, treated with kindness, cared for, and protected. She is not a toy or plaything for the enjoyment of the man. She is a spiritual and moral being like himself. Therefore, the husband should build a moral and spiritual relationship with his wife. This will help in establishing family units that knit together with ties of love and affection and will finally lead to the growth and development of a civilized life in communities all over the earth, but in accomplishing this, the cooperation of the wife is also essential, which leads us to the duties, responsibilities and role of the wife in a successful marriage.
The husband has been granted the God-given right as the 'head' of the family, the organizer, the supervisor of the social unit of marriage, as all social units need a 'head.'
'Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given one more strength than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in the husband's absence what Allah would have them guard.' (4:34)
So, the righteous woman, according to Allah, is one who is obedient to her husband. Rasoolullah SAW said to his companions: 'Shall I tell you about the best treasure a man can have? It is the virtuous wife who always pleases him whenever he looks at her, who obeys him when he orders her, and who guards herself when he is absent from her.' But if a wife is rebellious and cannot accept this situation, the marriage will, undoubtedly, be unsuccessful.
A righteous woman, who is fearful of Allah will have the naturalness of being a pleasing wife instilled in her. She will know that pleasing her husband is pleasing Allah and bring displeasure to her husband is bringing displeasure to Allah. Rasoolullah SAW said: 'When a man calls his wife for his need, let her come to him, though she may be cooking.' He SAW also said: 'Whenever a man calls his wife for his need and she refuses and he passes the night in an angry mood, the angels curse her until she gets up at dawn.'
The responsibilities of women, as regards to men, is described in the Qur'an and Sunnah according to feminine nature. If a woman's nature is alive and she wishes to live her life as do the pious, she will not find any difficulty of strangeness in abiding by the laws of Qur'an, Sunnah, and Islamic Shariah.
The Qur'an states: 'Therefore the women are devoutly obedient (to their husbands).' It is only natural for the husband, who is entrusted with the maintenance of the wife from her family, to expect obedience from her. The men are the benefactors. Muhammad SAW warned: 'Be not ungrateful to your benefactors.' The husband is like the ruler of a country. If the citizens do not respectfully obey him, then, no matter what he does, he will be unsuccessful in running the country. The home is the basic unit of the larger organization. It is only when the smaller units are in order that the larger unit will function smoothly. Therefore, it is essential for the home to be in an atmosphere of obedience and conformance along with love and affection. Rasoolullah SAW said: 'There is nothing better than marriage between partners who love each other.' So, the wife should feel happy to serve and please and obey her husband, even at the cost of her own comfort. For example, if the husband does not like her to go to certain people's houses, she should not go without his permission. For, this will cause him to be displeased and will put tensions between the two. Regarding this, Rasoolulah SAW said: 'No woman shall keep optional fast except with the permission of her husband.'
Woman is man's garment. Just as the garment is closest to man, the woman is closest to the man. In marriage, there are no secrets between the husband and the wife. This is the close companionship between the two, where no other relationship contains such closeness. The man is most reluctant in sharing his secrets with anyone, except his wife. The close relationship the husband has with his wife enables him to trust her with his confidentialities as well as to guard them safely. And it is the duty of the wife to not carelessly reveal her husband's secrets and confident feelings and emotions to anyone so long as she is alive. The Qur'an states that if a woman holds a grudge against her husband, it would still be unlawful for her to reveal his secrets.
Addressing women, Allah says in the Qur'an: 'Stay in your homes.' (33:33), meaning that the woman's duties should be related to and around the home. In modern times, the woman has become an external showcase for a broader audience, where in Islam, a woman has an important internal duty of caring for her home, her family, and her children. Some may refer to this as being a "housewife," which, in today's society, holds no respect. Now, what would be more respectable--cooking at a restaurant for hundreds of strangers or cooking for one's family and children? The wife and mother are the role models for the success of the future generations. They have the power to make a home or break a home. With this much power, is it fair to say that the "housewife" is useless in society? She is like the head of state, devoting herself to making her home an ideal one. She has the major responsibilities of housekeeping, taking care of everyone else's needs before her own, management of all affairs, and most importantly, raising the children as devout, pious, righteous Muslims, which, today, in this western-influenced society is difficult.
Muhammad SAW was once asked: 'O Messenger of Allah! Who is best of all women?' He SAW replied: 'One who makes her husband happy when he sees her, who obeys her when he asks her for something, and who does not to anything against his will in regard to either herself or his wealth.' He SAW also said: 'If the wife performs her 5 daily prayers, restrains herself from adultery, and obeys her husband, she will enter Paradise through whichever of its doors as she wishes.' On the other hand, the Prophet SAW also said to a group of laughing and cheering women: 'O assembly of women! You should give as much as you can in sadaqa (charity) for, I have seen that there are more women in the Hellfire than men.' When inquired as to why, the Prophet SAW said: ' You grumble and curse often and you are ungrateful to your husbands!'
So, the wife should try to please her husband in whichever way she can, according to Islam, and should not be unwilling or undesiring in obeying him and serving him through much love and careness for him. This is the secret of a successful married life as well as the means of pleasing Allah and attaining Paradise.
What is intended in making women obedient to their husbands is to cultivate in them the type of temperament and character that will make them the true partners to their husbands. An obedient wife wins the heart of her husband, therefore, gaining the upper hand. Hers is the highest place at home and in the eyes of her husband. On the other hand, a disobedient wife who quarrels with her husband and is ungrateful and unloving to him, will spend her life filled with bitterness and a rock-hard heart, not to mention the displeasure of her Lord.
As for men, Islam aims to cultivate fair-mindedness, love, and kindness on all occasions. Being the maintainer of the house, the man should not abuse his right in a displeasing and UN-Islamic manner. If he makes this sinful mistake, he should know that he will have to meet his Lord and answer for his deeds. Rasoolullah SAW said: 'The man is ruler over his wife and children and is answerable to Allah for the conduct of their affairs. The woman is the ruler over the house of her husband and children and is answerable for the conduct of her affairs.'
May Allah give all believing men and women, married or looking to marry, the towfeeq to be the ideal Muslim husband and the ideal Muslim wife with His Divine help and guidance. May He bless all present and future marriages with love, happiness, peace, and success. Ameen. Alhumdulillahi Rabbil Alameen.