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Status & Rights of a Wife in Islam by Mufti M.Taqi UsmaniStatus & Rights of a Wife in Islam by Mufti Taqi Usmani

Importance of the rights of the servants (of Allah)

Allamah Nawawi [ra] is commencing a discussion of the rights of the servants (of Allah) in the light of these verses and the traditions of the Holy Prophet I have already mentioned repeatedly that “the Rights of the servants are a very important branch of religion. Its importance lies in the fact that “the Rights of Allah” may be pardoned by repentance. If God forbid – some negligence ever occurs in the matter of Allah’s rights, it is very easy to remedy this negligence by means of repentance and seeking Allah’s pardon with a feelings of remorse and regret. The negligence can thus be remedied. As for the rights of the servants, if they are violated, they are not pardoned by repentance and feelings of remorse and regret and by seeking pardon, unless the usurped rights are restored to the right-holders or the latter willingly forgoe their rights in his favour. Therefore the matter of rights of people is a matter of serious consideration.

Negligence in the matter of the Rights

Serious indeed is the subject of the rights of the servants of Allah, yet equally serious is the negligence of people towards this subject in our society. There are only a few aspects of worship that we have taken as Deen (Faith), e.g. Prayer, Fasting, Hajj, Zakat, Remembrance, Recitation of the Holy Qur’an, the recital of some sacred names or words. We regard these items as Deen but we have excluded from Deen the Rights of the servants; similarly we have also excluded from Deen the rights concerning social living. One who is negligent in the discharge of these rights does not feel that he is committing any serious offence.

Backbiting is a violation of People’s rights

Take a simple example. If a Muslim is addicted (God forbid) to drinking wine he will be looked down upon by every Muslim who has even the least touch with the faith and the drunkard himself will feel ashamed that he is committing a sin. On the other hand a person who is addicted to backbiting is not hated in the society like the drunkard, nor does the backbiter himself feels that he is a sinner or criminal, although both the sins are equally heinous and base. But no, backbiting is more vicious sin than drinking wine: firstly, because it comes within the definition of the rights of the servants and secondly, because Almighty Allah has used for it in the Holy Qur’an a very horrid similitude the like of which He has not for any other sin. He has thus said in surah Al-Hujarat. verse no 12:

“And do not spy: nor backbite one another.
Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his
dead brother: you would then abhor that. (49.12)

Thus a backbiter has been compared to one who eats the flesh of his dead brother. So vicious is this in! Yet it has become common in the society. There is hardly an assembly where this sin is not committed. What is worse, it is not condemned at all as if the faith has nothing to do with this sin.

‘Ihsan is desirable at all times

Hazrat Dr. Muhammad Abdul Hai may Allah exalt his status. is my spiritual Guide (Shaikh or Pir). One day he related the following incident:

A man called on me and told me with a gusto of pleasure and pride that thank God, he had attained the rank of “Ihsan”. “Ihsan” is a very exalted status, as is mentioned in a tradition:

(Sahih Bukhari the book of belief-chapter Inquiry in Hadith Jibrael tradition no: 50).

This means that you should worship Almighty Allah, as you are seeing Allah and if this be not possible worship Him with the belief that He is seeing you. This is the rank of “Ihsan”. That gentleman told the respected Doctor Sahib that he had attained the rank of “Ihsan” Hazrat Doctor Sahib congratulated him on the attainment, as it was a great blessing of Allah and put to him this question: Do you realise the blessing of “Ihsan” only during the prayers or do you realise it also during your dealings with your wife and children that Almighty Allah is seeing you? He replied: What the Tradition says is that while pray one should feel that one is seeing Allah, or Allah is seeing him. I thought that “Ihsan” is related with worship only and not with other activities of life. Hazrat Doctor Sahib said to him: That is why I put this question to you, because it is generally misunderstood that “ihsan” is required during prayers, remembrance or recitation only, although it is required at all times and in all stages and walks of life. If you are sitting in a shop doing some business, “Ihsan” is required there also. You should realise in your heart that Almighty Allah is seeing you. “Ihsan” is also required when you are dealing with your subordinates. You should feel that Allah is seeing you even when you are dealing with your wife, children friends and neighbours. This is really what “Ihsan” means. It is not confined only to prayers and worship.

That woman shall enter Hell

It should be borne in mind very well that the teachings of the Holy Prophet cover every branch of life. It is narrated that once the people inquired from the Holy Prophet about a woman: O Prophet of Allah, there is a woman who remains engaged with worship all day and night. She is mostly busy with optional prayers, remembrance of Allah and recitation of the Holy Qur’an, she is always seen engaged in these acts of devotion. What do you think about the fate of this woman? The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] asked that Companion
about her dealings with the neighbours. The Companion replied that she did not behave well with the neighbours. The women of the neighbourhood are not pleased with her. The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] said: She will enter the Hell. (Bukhari p.48 tradition no: 911, chapter Does not trouble his neighbour)

That woman shall enter Paradise

At another time a question was put to the Holy Prophet about a woman who did not observe many items of optional worship and remained contented only with the obligatory and essential duties and sometimes she performed the Sunnah Muakkadah (the confirmed sunnah) prayer. She did not observe the optional prayers, rememberance, recitation, etc. more than this. Her dealings with the neighbours and others were however, amicable. The Holy Prophet replied: She will enter the Paradise.

Who is a Pauper?

The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has explained in these traditions that if anyone observes optional prayers it is very good, but if he does not do so he will not be asked in the Hereafter why he did not observe such and such optional forms of worship. This is because the very word Nafl (optional) means that if anyone performs this optional worship, he will receive reward, and if he does not do so, there is no sin on him. On the other hand the rights of the servants (of Allah) are something about which the people will be questioned on the Day of Judgement. The entry into Paradise or Hell depends on the nature of replies given to these questions.

The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has explained in a Tradition as to who is a pauper; he is reported to have said: A person will bring with him on the Day of Judgement lots of good deeds; but in the world he usurped someone’s rights, spoke ill of someone, injured someone’s feelings and hurt someone’s heart. The result of all this will be that he will have to pay to others all the good deeds he brought with him and will have to take upon himself the sins of others while he has no good deeds left with him to compensate his creditors. The matter of the rights of the servants (of Allah) is thus a very important matter in the Shari’ah. (Tirmidhi. chapter on Accounts taking and Ransom Tradition no: 2533).

The Rights of people are three-fourths of DEEN

It has already been pointed out that if the “Islamic Jurisprudence” which deals with the injunctions of the Shari’ah is divided into four equal parts, only one part will be found to deal with matters relating to worship. and the remaining three parts will be found to contain injunctions with regard to matters that are related to people and their life. You may know the name of ‘Hidayah’ which is a renowned book of Hanafi jurisprudence in four volumes. The first volume deals with forms of worship in which poblems concerning Purity (Taharat), Prayer (Salat), Fasting, Zkat and Hajj have been discussed. The remaining three volumes are concerned with the subjects dealing with people and their rights, social living and the rights of the servants (of Allah). It can be easily inferred from this that the subject of the rights of the servants represents one-fourth of Deen (Faith).

Therefore, a very important chapter is now commencing. May Almighty Allah help us, by His mercy, to read and listen to it with a firm mind, to act upon the injunctions. May He also help us to discharge the rights of the servants (of Allah) according to His pleasure and will.

The miserable condition of women before Islam

The first Chapter which Allamah Nawawi has included is the “Chapter of counsels about women”, meaning those counsels which the Holy Prophet has given about the rights of women. The reason for allotting this subject in the first chapter of the book is that the greatest shortcoming and negligence are committed in the matter of women’s rights. During the Days of Ignorance, before the advent of the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam], women were treated like cattle, devoid of humanity, deprived of all rights, whatsoever. In those days of darkness the people did not recognise any rights due to women who were tolerated in the houses no better than pet animals like goats and sheep: but the conditions totally changed after the advent of Islam and under the sacred teachings of the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam].

Amicable behaviour with women

At that time the world was unaware of heavenly guidance. It was the Holy Prophet who for the first time made the world alive to the rights due to women whereunder they should be accorded nice treatment.

At the very out set Allamah Nawawi [ra] has cited a verse of the Holy Qur’an that is very comprehensive on this subject:

“But consort with them in kindness.” (419) \

Almighty Allah has addressed all Muslims, comhanding them to behave, and consort with women in kindness; associate with them in life with goodwill and sympathy and never give them trouble. This is a general guidance. This verse is, as it were, the heading and the text of this chapter. The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has explained this verse by his words and practice. He gave such importance to the need of showing misbehaviour to women at that he is reported to have said in a Tradition:

“Meaning: The best of you are those who behave well with their women and I am best of you in behaving well with my women. (Tirmidhi – chapter on right of a women over her husband Tradition no. 1172)

The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] attached so much importance to the protection of the rights of women and ensuring good behaviour with them that he has explained this matter in many Traditions. The first Tradition on this subject is one narrated by Hazrat Abu Hurairah wherein the Holy Prophet is reported to have said:

“I advise you to wish well for the women. You should accept this advice of mine.”

The Holy Qur’an enunciates only the principles

Before proceeding ahead it is better to advise that the Holy Qur’an generally gives the basic principles, without going into the minute details of the issue. This procedure is followed even in describing the injunctions about the prayer which is such an important pillar of Deen (Faith) to the establishment of which reference has been made in the Qur’an at seventy three places. Yet the Holy Qur’an does not furnish any details about how prayer (salat) is offered. how many Rakaat should one offer and other injunctions validating or invalidating the salah. The Qur’an itself has not detailed these factors but left it for the Holy Prophet who taught the companions these details both by his words and practice. The same is the case with Zakat which has also been mentioned in the Qur’an almost at the same number of places. The Qur’an, however, does not clarify the prescribed value on which Zakat becomes due for payment, nor it speaks of possessions on which it is leviable. Like the prayer these details about Zakat were also left for the Holy Prophet to explain. Thus it becomes clear that generally the Qur’an mentions only the basic principles and does not go into minute details.

Domestic life is the Foundation of the entire civilisation

The relationship between man and woman and among the members of the family are so important that the Qur’an has described in clear terms its minutest details and has spoken in details relating to this important topic. Thereafter the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has explained fully those points. The edifice of the entire human civilisation stands on the relations between man and woman and on the domestic life of man. If the relationship between man and woman is sound, smooth and one discharges the rights of the other, then the affairs of the household shall run smoothly and the children shall be brought up on the right lines and this ensures the betterment of society on which stands the edifice of the social living as a whole. On the other hand, if the household affairs are mismanaged and there are differences and disagreements between husband and wife the children are affected adversely and you may very well imagine about the standard and character of the nation manifested by such spoilt and ill mannered children. The rules and regulations governing this aspect of the society are called family laws or household regulations. In view of their importance, the Holy Qur’an has dealt them in details:

Is the woman born of crooked Rib?

The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has set a nice example for this — an example that is unique in its effect and import. Some have explained it by saying that first of all Allah created Hazrat Adam [alayhis salaam] then He created Hazrat Hawwa (Eve) from his rib. Some learned men have said by way of explanation that the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has compared a woman to a rib which is crooked to see but its beauty and health consist in its crookedness. If anyone tries to remove its crookedness by straightening it, it will break and cease to be a rib. To restore to its previous state, it will have to be made crooked then joined together with plaster. The same idea has been beautifully expressed in a Tradition:

“That is, if you want to straighten it. you will only break it.”

“And if you want to enjoy it you may enjoy it despite its crookedness.”

The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam] has, thus set a wise example that its crookedness is its beauty and health which will be destroyed by straightening it.

It is not a defect of woman

Some people use this saying against women as being their defect in a woman. In other words, they say that since a woman has been created from a crooked rib, so is she crooked in her conduct and character, by her nature. This is, however, not the meaning of the Tradition of the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam].

The deviousness of women is natural

It needs to be borne in mind that Almighty Allah has created man and woman, each with different tendencies and attributes. On account of this difference between the nature and temperament of the two, man thinks about a woman that she is opposed to his masculine nature and sentimentality, although this natural tendency of a woman against a man’s natural bent and tendency is not a defect. It is the natural requirement of her nature that she should reflect in her character some innocent crookedness. That is why the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] said: If you find in a woman something which is against your natural tendency on account of which you think that she is crooked, do not condemn her on this account: rather ignore it by thinking that it is the natural demand of her nature. If you want to straighten her she will break: if you want to benefit by her you can do so despite her crookedness.

“Negligence” is a part of beauty in a woman

Today the times have changed; as a result the values have also changed. A defect in a man is more often looked upon as a point of virtue and beauty in a woman. If we go through the Holy Qur’an carefully we shall see what, is generally considered a defect in a man is considered a point of beauty in a woman. For example. it is a defect in man to be ignorant and negligent, on account of which he is unaware of what is happening in the world. A man has been entrusted with the affairs of the world. To discharge these he needs learning and awareness. If he is devoid of these qualities and abilities, he is faulty and defective to this extent. As for a woman, negligence has been considered by the Qur’an as an item of beauty for her. Allah has said:

“Surely, as for those who slander virtuous, negligent believing women…” (24:23)

The word “negligent’ meaning that they are unaware of what is happening around them in the world. The Qur’an has considered here “negligence” or “unawareness” as an attribute of beauty. It is obvious from this that if a woman is ignorant of the affairs of the world, duties. excepted. this is not a defect but an attribute of beauty as described by the Qur’an.

Do not try to straighten her bent by force

Thus we see a defect in man is not considered a defect in woman and what is not a defect in man is sometimes looked upon as a defect in woman. A man is, therefore, not allowed to be harsh to a woman and misbehave with her if he finds her behaving in her womanly way. The very meaning of her comparison with a rib is that, by nature, she should be different in temperament from you. So now do not try to straighten her by force.

The root cause of the entire conflict

The above is based on a Tradition of the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam]. Who can claim to know more about the nature of man and women than the Prophet of Allah? He diagnosed the root cause of all the conflicts between man and woman.Man insists that a woman should be exactly like himself in all her behaviours. This is not possible as she has been created different from him.

Be conscious of her good habits

In another tradition of this chapter Hazrat Abu Hurairah radhiallaahu anhu] has narrated:

(Sahih Muslim-Book of suckling chapter counsel about women)

In this Tradition the Holy Prophet has mentioned a wonderful principle that a believing man should not hate a believing woman altogether. In other words, the man should not condemn her totally on the false plea that she is no good. If she has some undesirable triats in her conduct she must have in her some desirable traits also.

The first principle which the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has taught is that when two persons live together, some habit of the one is pleasant and some other habit unpleasant to the other. If the woman has some unpleasant habit in her, then do not condemn her on account of that habit altogether, rather look for and remember her pleasant habits and thank Almighty Allah for them. If you follow this practice it is quite possible that the hatred in your heart for the dark side of her conduct and character may gradually lose its severity and importance.

Man, in fact, is ungrateful. If he finds any defects in her he totally changes his opinion about the person concerned and forgets about his good qualities. In view of those few faults and defects, he is always critical about him and misbehaves with him. Such attitude is unreasonable.

Everything has virtues and vices in it

There is nothing in the world which is all virtue and all vice. Almighty Allah has, by His wisdom, endowed everything of His creation with virtue and vice. You are sure to find some good qualities in every person, may he be an infidel, an idolater or even worse.

An English proverb

The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] has said: A word of wisdom is a lost property of a believer. He must pick it up wherever he finds it. So there is no harm in picking up a word of wisdom even from an English Proverb.

The proverb said that even a watch which has gone out of order speaks the truth at least twice every day. Suppose that the watch stopped at 12 hrs., 5 mts,. As the time 12-5 occurs twice during the 24 hours, the dead watch shall tell the correct time twice at 12-5 hrs, although it will remain silent at other times.

The moral we draw from this English proverb is that if one is in search of goodness with hope and sincerity one can surely find this goodness even from the most condemned and throw-away objects.

There is nothing bad in the workshop of Nature

My father Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ Sahib [ra] used to recite frequently the following Urdu couplet of the late Dr. Muhammad Iqbal:

There is nothing useless in the earth
There is nothing bad in the workshop of nature.

Whatever Almighty has created has created it with His wisdom and by His will. If you reflect on it you will surely find in Allah’s creation point of Wisdom and benefit. Instead man looks for faults and shortcomings only and ignores the good points and bright sides of things. Thus he becomes pessimistic and commits transgression and injustice.

Always look for the good qualities of women

Almighty Allah has said in His Book:

“For if you hate them, it may happen that you hate a thing wherein Allah has placed much good.” (4:19)

If for some reason you do not like those women whom you have married, yet it is just possible that Almighty Allah may have endowed them with much goodness and blessings. Hence this command that you should look only for the good qualities of women. so that you may receive solace and comfort from them and thus the doors of mistrust and misbehaviour may not be opened.

Educative story of A saint

Hazrat Maulana Shah Ashraf Ali Thanawi [ra] has related the story of a saint who had a very ill mannered and aggressive wife. She always found faults with her hushand. Whenever the saint entered his house the wife started quarrelling with him. Someone asked him why he did not get rid of those daily wrangles and squabbles by resorting to divorce. The saint replied: it is very easy for me to divorce her but there is one reason for not doing so. Despite all her defects, she has one very good quality which prevents me from parting with her; and that is the quality of loyalty with which Almighty Allah has adorned her. Supposing I am arrested and imprisoned for some crime, for a term of fifty years, she will not move even an inch from the corner to which I confine her, and she will never cast a glance at anyone else. This This quality of loyalty is invaluable.

Mirza Mazhar Jan-e-Jan’an and his over-sensitiveness

Hazrat Mirza Mazhar jan-e-Jan an [ra] was a renowned saint of the Indian sub-continent. He was so touchy and over-sensitive in his temperament that if anyone put the glass on the pitcher in a tilting position or if he saw his bedding creased he would feel headache, unfortunately he had to deal with an ill-mannered wife. She was always murmuring something against her husband. Strange are indeed the ways whereby Allah tests His servants and raises their ranks. The wife of this pious saint was an ordeal for him which he tolerated with patience throughout his lifetime and expected that Allah may pardon his sins as a recompense for this ordeal.

The women of our society are Nymphs of Paradise

Hakimul Ummat, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi [ra] used to say that the women of the Indo-Pakistan are like nymphs, because they are endowed with the qualities of faith and loyalty. Although these qualities are slowly fading under the impact of the modern Western civilisation and culture, yet the spirit of loyalty is so deep-rooted in them that they are always ready to sacrifice their lives for their husbands in all circumstances. and they can never cast their glances on anyone other than their husbands. In fact the saint, referred to above demonstrated obedience to the injunction implied in the following Tradition.

If one habit of the woman is unpleasant, there must be some pleasant habit in her which should be taken into consideration and good treatment should be meted out to the woman on account of this one pleasant habit in her.

People generally look at the dark side in the conduct and character of their women and lose sight of the bright side in them. This tendency is the root cause of the bitterness prevailing in our society.

It is immorality to beat one’s wife

The third Tradition of this chapter is as under:

(Sahih Bukhari the book of marriage – It is hateful to beat women tradition no 5204)

Once the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] delivered a sermon in which he mentioned many important topics of Islamic behaviour. The following is the point which he touched on the subject under discussion: He said: It is very bad that one of you beats his wife as a master beats his slave and on the other hand he uses the same wife to satisfy his sexual desire. Then how immoral and shameless it is that one should beat one’s wife so severely!

Three steps of reforming a wife

As I have already stated, the Holy Qur’an has taken great care to mention in detail concerning husband-wife relations:

The differences and disagreements between husband and wife start when the husband feels offended at some action or habit of the wife. The Qur’an advises that in such a situation the husband should look for some lovely and pleasant quality in the character and dealings of his wife. If the husband fails to discover in his wife any such good points and feels that correction and reform are needed, then the Holy Qur’an has prescribed the following course to reform and rectify it.

“As for those (women) from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and banish them to beds apart (from yours) and beat them.” (4:34)

First of all you should advise them in a lenient and polite manner and with love to give up their bad habits and reform themselves. This is the first step of reform. If they respond favourably to admonition and accept your advice, do not go further and treat the chapter closed. If this does not help and they insist upon their misconduct then the second step is to separate your bed and give up sleeping with them on the same bed. If they have sense, they will surely reform themselves and act upon advice. (Details of separating the bed will follow shortly).

Physical punishment to a wife

If the second step of the reform also fails then it will be necessary to resort to the third step, which is to inflict on the wife some physical punishment; but what kind of physical punishment and to what extent? The Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] answered these questions in his sermon on the occasion of his Farewell Hajj in which he said: “(beat them very lightly so as not to injure them”. To sum up, effort should be made so as to settle matters without the expedient of this punishment. If it is found unavoidable, it is permitted only with the condition that it should be very light, the intention being only to enforce discipline and not to inflict pain and injury. It is not lawful beating one’s wife in a way that should leave a mark on the body. (A Tradition on this subject follows).

The behaviour of the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] When the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] passed away from this world he left behind nine sacred wives. These wives were not angels sent down from the heaven: they were members of this world and society. Sometimes, bitterness occurred among them as is usual and natural among co-wives. Sometimes such problems also arose as usually arise between husbands and wives. Hazrat Ayesha [radhiallaahu anha] has narrated: Not only did the Holy Prophet ever raise his hands on any of his wives, but it was also his habit to enter the house with a smiling face.

The Prophet’s Sunnah (practice)

It is the Sunnah (practice) of the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam] that men should not raise their hands at women (to beat them). The permissibility of punishing physically is restricted only to abnormal and unavoidable situations. In fact beating women is not the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu alyhi wasallam]; his Sunnah is what Hazrat ‘Ayesha has narrated.

A miracle of Dr. Abdul Hai [ra]

Hazrat Dr. Abdul Hai my spiritual guide sometimes related to us, by way of a lesson, that a period of fifty-five years had passed of his marriage, he never talked to his wife during these fifty five years in an angry tone. The walking of a man on the surface of the water and his flying in the air is taken as a miracle. It is more surprising that one should not talk to his wife even in an adverse tone for as long as fifty five years. And his respectable wife says that her husband, Dr. Sahib. never asked her to bring to him a glass of water. She, however, served him as best as possible of her own sweet will and as a blessed and virtuous duty.
Tariqat is nothing but public service

Hazrat Dr. Sahib used to say: I consider myself to be a servant whom Allah has sent to this world for service. This is my belief and with this belief I want to serve others and depart from this world. I am duty bound to serve all my friends, acquaintances, associates and pupils. I was not sent to this world as a master to be served by others. He considered the position of a servant of people to be an elevated rank. He then recited the famous persian couplet:

Tariqat (spiritual way) is nothing but public service.

It does not consist in the robes and the prayer-rag
and the saintly garments (signs of godliness).

Tariqat in fact, stands for public service. Dr. Sahib used to say: When I understood that I am a

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