Issues concerning freedom may arouse a special sense of curiosity; they always look appealing and interesting to people. Perhaps it is because freedom has been human beings’ ideal throughout history. Everyone is so interested in the freedom that they have tried to achieve it through any available means. However, freedom is a broad concept with many aspects that are related to all areas of our lives. This essay will refer to one of its effective and fruitful aspects, which is freedom in marriage.
The first step in forming a family is choosing a spouse. Now let’s see Islam's point of view toward freedom of choice in marriage:
"A marriage is not correct and valid unless through freedom of choice."
Such a condition for marriage at the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was very strange and caused fright and anger among people since it was in complete contrast with their core beliefs; at that time women were given a very low rank compared with men, and they were considered inferior to them.
To clarify the Islamic model of a free marriage, here are two stories from that time:
A frightened girl came to the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and while she could hardly breathe, said to him: “…oh, why is my father like this?”
“What has he done?” said the Prophet (PBUH&HP).
“He wants me to marry his nephew without asking my idea about him. I do not love him and how can I marry a person whom I do not love?” said the girl.
“If you do not love him forget about him and marry the one whom you love.” said the Prophet (PBUH&HP) calmly.
The girl was pleased after hearing the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) words. She said then, “actually, I love him very much and I would not choose anyone else as my future husband instead of him. But since my father did not ask my opinion, I intentionally came here to know your idea. Now that I know what you think, I will tell all the girls that their fathers do not have the right to choose their husbands.”
This woman is one of the thousands who made our history, those poor people who lived in the darkness of ignorance. The story mentioned above is a sample of the situation of women in the era of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) had one child named "Fatimah Zahra" (AS). She was so dear to the Prophet (PBUH), and everyone knew that. There were some great men who wished to marry her. One of them was Imam Ali (AS), the first successor of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and the leader (Imam) of Muslims.
When he went to the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and asked for his beloved daughter’s hand, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said that some others came to him for this reason too, and he shared their requests with his daughter, but she respectfully rejected their marriage proposals. “Now, I will deliver your proposal to her,” said our dear Prophet (PBUH&HP). Then, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) informed his beloved daughter about Ali’s (AS) proposal, but this time and unlike her reply to previous proposals, she remained silent as a sign of satisfaction. So the Prophet (PBUH&HP) went to Ali happily and congratulated him on the good news.
The last-mentioned story is a very good example of portraying Islam's approach towards marriage and the importance of freedom in it, regarding the lifestyle of our holy leaders.
When you hear this question the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the following: “Do husbands have rights too?” and "What are husband's rights in Islam?" In today’s modern societies whenever the issue of rights is discussed, particular groups are considered; mainly women and children.
However, it seems that men’s or husband's rights have been neglected or never talked about since no one thought it was necessary!
Here we want to pay our attention to MEN and specifically those men who are involved in family life, say husbands!
Since in Islam, the family is seen as an essential entity of the society, the wife-husband relations, their responsibilities and rights over one another is to be seen in the light of their status in the family.
When a man is called ‘husband,’ it means so much to him. He has to provide, has to fulfill his wife’s needs emotionally and economically. There are so many responsibilities that a man as a husband has towards his wife, and when it comes to Islamic culture and teachings, it is even more demanding.
The only provider in Islam is considered to be the husband, and wife has no responsibility whatsoever to provide for the family, unless she works and earns money only for her own pleasure (She may voluntarily, however, support the family financially. As it is the case in many Muslim families nowadays).
The Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: 'Man is the guardian of his family and every guardian has responsibilities towards those under his guardianship' .
Also, it is mentioned in the Quran that the husband is the ‘manager’:
‘Men are the managers of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth...’ (4:34)
A modern reader of this verse may wonder why men should be the managers. One of the reasons mentioned in the above verse is due to his financial role in the family: ‘and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth...’
However, one may argue that, in today’s societies, this is not always the case. Today both men and women work, both earn money, both are educated, and they both have the same virtues. Then, what feature(s) of men has made them capable of being in charge of the family?
‘Righteous women are obedient..’ (4:34)
What does it mean to be obedient? Can it be applied to today’s societies in which men and women are considered the same?
Modern thinkers have mainly focused on the similarities between men and women to defend women’s rights. They have strived to show that women have the same power as men to build the history . At the end of the day, however, they are two ‘unique’ creatures of God, each of them possessing their beauty and strengths that fit well with his or her purpose of being. This is well addressed in the following verse:
‘And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves...’ (30:21)
The word ‘mate’ in the above verse refers to the fact that man and woman are incomplete on their own, and they need each other .
In other words, men are created to be fathers, the same way that women are created to be mothers! Is it not enough to understand their different duties, rights, and responsibilities?
Islam advocates the priority of neither gender; rather it allows every person to fulfill their potentials, without any discrimination.
Alexis Carrel, the well-known French physiologist, and biologist admits the fact that men and women have been made differently according to the law of creation and he also confirms that these dissimilarities make their duties and rights dissimilar .
When Islam introduces husband as the manager, it means he is fully responsible for all family affairs. Accordingly, one of his rights is to be obeyed by family members including his wife and children.
What is primarily important here is that there should be a balance between rights and duties for each member of the family. When a family is seen as a big picture in which every member has their own role, different rights and duties of husband, wife and children can be easily explained.
Parallel to his duties and responsibilities, a husband also has some rights over his wife. Sexual satisfaction is one of them. A wife has to sexually submit herself to her husband unless during the wife’s state of menstruation:
‘They ask you concerning [intercourse during] menses. Say, ‘It is hurtful.’ So keep away from wives during the menses, and do not approach them till they are clean’ (2:222)
This is indeed one of the advantages that Islam gives to women to protect them.
One might argue why sexual availability is considered as a duty for the wife and one of the husband's rights? An examination of the philosophy of marriage in Islam will be helpful to find the answer .
In Islam wife is considered as husband’s mate towards whom husband take comfort as you can see in the following Quranic verse:
‘And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you...’ (30:21)
From the Islamic point of view, if a man is sexually and emotionally satisfied at home he will be protected against corruption outside. Same goes for women of course; hence we have many instructions for men on how to care for their wives and pay attention to their sexual needs.
We can never talk solely about husband's rights or wife’s rights. They are members of one social unit called ‘family’; a unit that is of high value and importance in Islamic teachings. Husband, like the wife, has his own rights and duties.
As for his duties, he is considered as the only provider for the family, and as the guardian, he has to take care of his wife and children. As for husband's rights, he has to be sexually and emotionally satisfied by his wife. Also, as the manager of the family, the husband is to be obeyed.
Wife and children must recognize the role of man in the family for the family to stay on the right track. However, man is to provide whatever means possible to fulfill his wife's and children’s needs emotionally and economically.
- Mustadrak, vol 2, p 550.
- Mutahhari Murtadha, The Rights of Women in Islam
- Almizan, Tafir, Vol 16. Sura Rum, verse 21
- The Importance of Marriage in Islam’,
“Your Lord has decreed that you shall not worship anyone except Him, and He has enjoined kindness to parents. Should they reach old age at your side one of them or both do not say to them," Fie!" And do not chide them, but speak to them noble words” (17:23). Sitting on the porch of her house, with a deep frown on her face, she seemed absorbed by some unending thoughts. She did not know where she was, neither the boy who was so kindly and attentively taking care of her like a kind nurse, nor the deep unknown feeling that steered within her when he helped her. The only thing she remembered, was that her beloved husband had died and she was left alone.
It had been so many years since the mirror in her room reflected the view of a white-haired, withered, old woman sitting in a wheelchair. But still, she wanted to solve the mystery of the boy’s identity. “Someone must have hired him to take care of me,” she thought. “But who? I’m sure I have no one.”
Instantly, the door of the house opened, and the mysterious young nurse appeared, wearing a big and cheerful smile and a warm, loving look on his face [i][ii] . He had brought her pills. As usual, he put the pills one by one and patiently in her mouth and gave her water to swallow them.
Then kissed her on the forehead and hugged her tightly. She remembered the days when she did not feel good. When she shouted and cursed him violently. She also remembered his patient face at those moments, when he was trying so hard to hold back his tears, taking her hands and kissing them. “What kind of a nurse is he?” she wondered. Respect was an inseparable part of his behavior toward her, always observing not to raise his voice, not to walk ahead of her, and not to act in a way that would make her feel ashamed and humiliated [iii] .
She did not remember if she had ever asked him who he was. So, she gathered her courage to ask and went inside. Entering the house, she saw a man sitting on the couch, arguing on an apparently serious matter with her nurse. “Let’s not bother them,” she thought and turned her wheelchair toward her room, but suddenly something caught her attention.
The man was shouting so she could not help hearing his words: “she does not remember you, not even your name and you are wasting your time here nursing her? What about your job? You are a successful manager for GOD’s sake!” The old woman turned to the boy to see his face. For the first time, she saw the look of rage in him: “She doesn’t, but I do. She is my mother, and I will take care of her to my last breath. “For the record, I became what you say I am, because of her.”
He suddenly felt the weight of the old woman’s look on him. Tears fell on her cheeks irresistibly. After all, the mystery had been solved: her kind and a generous nurse was her loving son, her one and only child.
The next day, when she woke up, the first thing she wanted to see was the face of her nurse, his smile, his kind look. She did not know his name or that why he was there, but she felt sure that her patient, loving and a nice nurse would never ever leave her alone.
[i]. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said: “Every righteous child who casts a look of mercy and affection upon his parents shall be granted, for every look of his, Rewards equivalent to that of an accepted Hajj.”
[ii]. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) has said: “The look of a child towards his parents out of love for them is an act of worship.”
[iii]. Imam as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said (in regards to one’s parents): “Do not cast your gaze upon them except with love and compassion; do not raise your voice above theirs; do not raise your hands above theirs; do not walk ahead of them.”
- 'Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anvar, V. 74, p. 73
- ibid, V. 74, P. 79