Friday, April 30, 2010

THE STATUS AND RIGHTS OF A WIFE IN ISLAM (Part-2)

THE STATUS AND RIGHTS OF A WIFE IN ISLAM
By Mufti Taqi Usmani (rah) 

Women are in your confinement
Hazrat Umr bin al-Ahwas al-Jashim (rah) has narrated that in the farewell sermon the Holy Prophet (saws) praised Almighty Allah, offered counsels and delivered a speech and then said: Beware! I advise you to do good to women. Accept this advice. This is the sentence which occurred in the previous Tradition. His next sentence was : because those women live with you confined in your houses.

The Holy Prophet (saws) has mentioned an attribute of women that if man reflects over this attribute only, he can never think of misbehaving with them.

A Lesson from an Ignorant Girl
Our dear Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (RAH) used to tell his disciples to learn a lesson from an ignorant, uneducated girl who surrenders herself to a stranger after uttering at the time of the Nikah only two words of acceptance. She honours these two words so solemnly and completely that she leaves her mother, father, brothers and sisters and the entire family and becomes inseparably tied to and confined with her husband. An ignorant girl honours these two words so truly and sincerely that she surrenders herself to one person, her husband but you could not honour

your pledge of these two words by surrendering yourself to Almighty Allah. This girl is much better than you. She honoured so completely her pledge of Nikah, but you did not honour your pledge of the two words of the article of Faith.

Sacrifices of the woman for your sake
The Holy Prophet (saws) has said in this Tradition, "How tremendous sacrifice the woman has undergone for your sake. If the matter was just the reverse and it were said to you, you would have to leave your family, your parents, after your marriage what an awkward situation it would be for you. As for the woman she has become confined to a strange surrounding, a strange house and a strange person and that, too, for the whole of her life. That is why the Holy Prophet (saws) said in his tradition: Will you not mind this sacrifice? Do take heed of this and treat her well and with love.

You have no claim upon them
Thereafter the Holy Prophet (saws) has spoken a very serious sentence of far-reaching consequences. When the meaning of this sentence is explained to men they get annoyed. That sentence is: according to the laws of the Shari ah the only demand you can make of them is that they should live with you in your house. You have no other claim upon them

Cooking is not the duty of a wife
From this Tradition the Jurists have deduced a ruling of delicate nature and which makes men annoyed. The ruling lays down that according to the Shari ah it is not the re-sponsibility of a woman to cook food for the household. For this purpose the Jurists have divided women into two classes. Women of one class are those who do household work, including cooking food in their parent's houses. The other class consists of women who do not cook food in their father's house where cooks are employed for this work. If after marriage a woman of the latter class goes to her husband's house she is not at all responsible to cook food, religiously, legally, morally or otherwise. On the other hand, that wife may ask her husband to hire a cook for her as man is obliged to provide her with food along with other necessaries of life. The Jurists write:

It is the responsibility of the husband to provide his wife with cooked food.
The wife cannot be forced lo cook food neither by force, nor by the law, because the Holy Prophet (saws) has said in clear words:

You have a right to keep them in your house which it is not lawful for them to leave without your permission.
With this exception the laws of the Shari ah have imposed no responsibility on them. However. If she belongs to the first category the one who used to cook food in her parents' house she too is not legally responsible to cook food i.e. she cannot be compelled by law to cook food. However, the responsibility falls on her only morally. In such a case the husband is responsible only to provide the food materials. Even then it is not her responsibility to cook food for the husband and the children. A wife in this class cannot ask her husband to provide her with cooked food. However, if she refuses to cook food for her husband and the children, the court cannot force her to do it. The respected Jurists have explained these problems at great length.

Serving the In-laws is not obligatory
There is another fact worthy of notice about which much negligence is observed among the people. When a wife is not responsible to cook food for her husband and his children, then she is more appropriately not responsible to cook food for the parents of the husband and his brothers and sisters. A custom has gained currency in our society that the parents of the son think that their right over the daughter-in-law has a priority over the right of the son. Therefore she is bound to serve them, no matter if she serves her husband or not. Such a misleading conception gives rise to quarrels and disputes among the daughter-in-law and other members of the family. The negative results of this conception are obvious to require any comments.

To serve In-Laws is a virtue for a woman
Bear in mind well that it is the responsibility of the son to serve his parents. It is. however, a matter of blessing and virtue for the daughter-in-law if she serves the parents of her husband willingly, as a righteous deed and source of reward for her in the Hereafter. The son does not have any right to force his wife to serve his parents in case she does not feel inclined to serve them of her own sweet will. It is also not lawful for the parents to force their daughter-in-law to serve them. As already mentioned, if the daughter-in-law voluntarily-decides to serve her in-laws for the sake of recompense in the Hereafter she is welcome to do so. This will create happy and pleasant at-mosphere in the household.

Appreciate the services of a daughter-in-law
If a daughter-in-law is serving his father and mother-in-law, she is doing favour out of her moral character because she is giving this service to them only of her free will and she is not in any way liable for such services. Her in-laws should, therefore, appreciate this voluntary service from her. They should try to requite her for this and encourage her. Ignorance of these rights and liabilities create various problems in social life which play havoc to the solidarity and welfare of families through quarrels and disputes. All these troubles are taking place simply because the people have banished from their minds the limits of these mutual rights and liabilities which the Holy Prophet # has fixed in his Traditions.

A Surprising Incident
Hazrat Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (RAH) one day related a very wonderful event. He said that among his acquaintances, there was a couple who used to visit his assembly and receive spiritual training and instructions from him. One day both of them invited him to a dinner at their house. It was the habit of respected Dr. Sahib to utter at the end of the feast a few words of praise in favour of the lady who cooked the food just to encourage and please her. The lady who had prepared the food came and stood behind the curtain and greeted him. After replying to the greeting Dr. Sahib uttered a few words of praise and appreciation about the quality and taste of the food and the art of cooking. Dr. Sahib heard the woman sobbing from behind the screen. It was disturbing. Was there anything in Dr. Sahib's words that pinched her? On being asked to state the cause of her grief and sobbing, she said. "I have been living with my husband for the last forty two years, but during this long period of association I never heard from him a word of appreciation about my cooking. When I heard these words from you sir, I could not control myself from sobbing".

The respected Dr. Sahib used to relate this story in his assemblies off and on to emphasize that such callousness can never be expected from a husband who is able to realize that it is a great favour on the part of his wife that she is serving him so selflessly and faithfully of her own sweet will and is doing all this service for which she has not been made legally responsible by the Shari ah. A man who thinks that his wife is a maid servant and has to serve him at any cost, has no need to drop a word of praise and appreciation if she is an expert cook and sincere worker.

The Husband should serve his parents himself
A question arises as to who should serve the parents when they are old, weak, or otherwise helpless on account of sickness when there is none in the house except their son and his wife? Even in such a situation the daughter-in-law is not bound, according to the Shari ah to serve her in-laws. It is, however, a matter of blessings and virtue for her if she serves them of her own free will with the belief to please Allah and to receive reward in the Hereafter. The son should, however, realise that it is his responsibility to help and serve his parents personally or by employing a servant for this purpose. If the wife is looking his old parents the husband must appreciate this service and be thankful to her.

Husband's permission for going out
But here is another requirement to note in order to understand the true position. After knowing only one side of a case and being ignorant of' the other side people begin to take undue advantage. It has already been explained in detail that it is not obligator}' for a wife to cook food, according to the laws of the Shari'ah. In his Tradition the Holy Prophet 4fc has said that "women remain confined to your houses like captives". It means that it is not lawful for them, to go out of the house without the permission of their husbands. Just as the jurists have explained in detail the issue of cooking food, in the same way they have also explained in detail that women cannot leave the house for meeting kinsmen, even their parents without the permission of their husbands. If the parents visit the house of their son-in-law to meet their daughter, the husband cannot prevent them from seeing her. The jurists have prescribed limits for such casual visits. The parents may visit their daughter only once a week and go back after seeing her. This is their daughter's right which a husband cannot deny, yet she cannot go out of the house without her husband's permission. Thus Almighty Allah has. in His mercy, created a balance between the rights and responsibilities of husband and wife. On the one hand the wife is not legally bound to cook food and. on the other hand, she is legally bound not to go out of the house without her husband's permission.

Mutual Co-operation is vital for smooth life
Whatever has been stated above is only the legal side of the matter; but the beauty of mutual behaviour with each other is that each should try to please the other. Hazrat Ali (ra) and Hazrat Fatimah (RA) had distributed the duties of the household between them in such a way that Hazrat Ali (ra) did all the outdoor wok, while Hazrat Fatimah (ra) performed the indoor work. This is exactly the Sunnah (practice) of the Holy Prophet (saws) which should be
followed. Husband and wife should not always involve themselves in the implications of the law. The best way is that both should behave with each other open-heartedly. The division of work between husband and wife on outdoor and indoor basis is a natural division to enable them both to keep the vehicle of life going smoothly.

If she commits the immodesty
If these women commit open lewdness, that lewd-ness cannot be tolerated in any case. In such a situation they should be dealt with according to the injunction laid down by the Holy Qur'an. First of all they should be admonished, then, if they insist-on their sin. let their bed be separated. If they still do not accept the admonition and continue in their lewdness, then it is permitted to inflict them with light beating which should not cause any injury. If they refrain from the lewdness and mend their ways, then one should not find fault with them, but they should be let off. without further pinching them.

Beware! These women have rights over you that you behave with them well. Be generous in discharging your obligations in the matter of providing them with clothes, food and their other needs. This does not mean that you should meet only their basic needs: you are expected to be generous and liberal in supplying their lawful needs.
Pocket money for a wife
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (rah) has dealt in his guiding sermons with some topics with special emphasis. I intend to reproduce two or three of these in this discourse, as they are generally overlooked by the people. Firstly, the liabilities about a wife does not mean that she should be provided only with food and clothes. It is also a part of this cost that she should be paid a suitable amount as pocket expenses in addition to the cost of living, making her free to spend this additional amount as she likes. There are persons who arrange for food and clothes but do not care for pocket expenses. Hazrat Thanawi has said that payment of some amount as pocket money is also necessary, because there are many items when a person feels ashamed to disclose to other that she needs a certain thing. The wife should, therefore, must have some extra amount as pocket money so that she may not seek other means to satisfy her needs. Hazrat Thanawi (RAH) has warned that those who do not provide pocket money to their wives are blamable.

Being generous for Family
Another point to note is that one should be generous and liberal in spending money on the needs of the household. One must not limit expenses to basic needs. One should provide money with a generous hand so that the expenses of the household may be met with ease and freedom according to the financial means of the house-keeper. Some people complain that, on the one hand, there is stress that one should not be extravagant and at the same time there are instructions not to be miser in spending money on the household. A question now arises as to what is the line of demarcation between the two. What is extravagance and what is not extravagance?

Simple or comfortable accommodation both are lawful
To remove this confusion Hazrat Thanawi (RAH) has said: that accommodations are of two kinds, a place which is just enough to accommodate the members of the family. It may be an ordinary hut. it is possible for a man to live some how even in such structures. This is lawful in the first degree. The second kind is that the house should provide living accommodation as well as a reasonable degree of comforts. For example, the house should be concrete-built, equipped with fans and electric lights. If a person provides this service in his house in order to make life easy and comfortable, this cannot be regarded as extravagance.

Decoration is also lawful
In the third degree, along with means of comfort a house should also have some decoration. For example, a man has a concrete built house with plastered walls, electricity and fans, but it has no paint on it. Even an unpainted house like this is fit for living, but without white-washing and proper painting it lacks in decoration. If the house owner gets the house colour washed and painted for the sake of decoration this too is lawful in the laws of the
Shari ah.

In short to live in an ordinary house is lawful, it is also lawful to live in a house provided with certain comforts and amenities as well as some decoration. Decoration here means some additional improvement made in the house, like painting, etc, which is pleasing to the eyes and cheering to the heart. There is no harm in this and is permissible in the Shari ah.
Show off is not lawful
Then follows the fourth degree which is mere "Show off. The house-owner is doing something which aims neither at comfort, nor at decoration; the aim is to show his riches. Thereby he wants to impose his superiority on others and to show that he is a big thing. All this comes within the definition of "Show off which is not lawful in the laws of the Shari ah. It is also extravagance.

The limits of extravagance
These four categories also apply to food and clothes, and in all other things of life. A man wears costly clothes in order to receive comfort, to please himself and the members of his household and his acquaintances, friends and visitors, there is no harm. On the other hand there is a person who wears valuable clothes with the intention that he may be considered a rich and wealthy man, a man of exalted position in society, then this is mere exhibition and show and therefore it is prohibited. Hazrat Thanawi has therefore drawn a clear line of demarcation between the two extremes. If money is spent on something for the sake of meeting a necessity, providing comfort or for decoration for his own pleasure and satisfaction, it is not extravagance.

This is not Extravagance
Once it so happened that I was coming back to Karachi from some other city, and it was the hot summer season. I requested someone to have my seat booked in an air-conditioned coach and I gave him the required amount of money. Another man who was sitting nearby at once objected to this because in his opinion I was committing extravagance by sitting in an air-conditioned coach. Many people are under the wrong impression that to travel in a higher class is extrava-eance. Bear in mind that if traveling in an upper class is for comfort, e.g.. to save oneself from heat in the summer season, and the man can afford it. It is neither extravagance nor a sin. If one travels in an upper class simply to show that he is rich, then it is extravagance and it is unlawful.

The husband should therefore, keep in mind these degrees in meeting the cost of living of his wife with generosity and liberality. Capacity differs from man to man, Maulana Maseehullah Khan Sahib once observed: There is a man who is all alone in this world, without relatives, without friends and without acquaintances. For such a man a bed, a dish and a jug are sufficient to pass his life. If he collects more articles, it will mean a show and will be reckoned as extravagance in his case. There is a man who receives guests, has a large circle of acquaintances and friends, and has many relatives. The standard of his needs and extent of requirements will be quite different. If such a man has in his house at limes even one hundred sets of pots and beddings, not a single piece of this will be counted as extravagance, because all these are necessities of life. The standard of life differs from man to man.

Where to search Allah
Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham (rah) was once a great Ruler but he renounced the world in search of Allah. There are some people who seek from his life arguments to prove their stand. The story runs as follows: One night Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adahm saw a man walking about on the roof of the palace. Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham caught him and asked him what he was doing on the roof of the palace. The man replied: I have come here to search my lost camel. Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham said: Stupid fellow! Are you searching your camel on the roof at this hour of night? How can you find the camel here? The man asked with some surprise: Can I not find the camel here? 
Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham answered: certainly not! How can you find the camel on the roof of the palace? The man then retorted: If the camel cannot be found in this palace and the man who is searching the camel in this palace is a fool, how can you find Allah while staying in this palace? If I am a fool you are a greater fool than me. This answer of the stranger shocked the heart of Hazrat Adham J. He at once relinquished his kingdom and took his way to the jungle. He took with him only a bowl and a pillow, so that he might eat food and drink water from the bowl and use the pillow while lying down on the ground. After walking some distance he saw a man drinking water from the river with his palms cupped together. He saw that he could also drink water in that way, so he threw away the bowl and resumed his journey. After walking some distance he saw that a man was sleeping on the ground with his hand placed under the head to serve for a pillow. He felt that he could very well do without the pillow so he threw it away, too.

Emotions should not be followed
After listening to this story some people may misunderstand that keeping a bowl and a pillow is also extravagance. May Allah exalt the rank of Hazrat Thanawi who has at his credit of separating right from wrong and wheat from chaff. He has advised that none should compare himself with those of Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adahm. Firstly, because the change that had come over him was due to an ecstatic state of rapture. A man in this condition should not be followed, because the man so overwhelmed goes out of himself and loses his normal consistency of thought and feeling. We are not, therefore, to follow in the footsteps of Hazrat Ibrahim bin Adham because he was not at his normal when he decided to leave the palace. Besides such renunciation of worldly relation is not permissible in Islam generally. It would mean that Allah cannot be found in palaces.

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