Guardianship over wife does not mean oppressive control
Fatwa No: 366796

  • Fatwa Date:3-1-2018 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1439
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum. I am at the age at which many people are asking me when I am getting married. However, I do not want to get married anymore because I do not want to give up authority over my own life. As an adult, I never have to ask my parents for permission to go somewhere or do something, whereas a wife would need permission to go on a trip or hang out with friends. My husband can tell me to quit my job or tell me that we have to move etc. If a husband is like a father to his wife, then what was the point in my parents raising me to be a responsible adult? Islamic marriage makes it seem like women are unable to handle their own affairs and need a leader to make decisions for them. Why is marriage not a partnership in Islam, where both come together to solve familial problems and neither has authority over the other? Why does Islam view women as unable to make decisions for themselves? I try not to commit sins, but I fear that I might disobey my husband if he tells me that I have to stay home when I want to go out with friends. I would rather stay single and make my own decisions than sin by disobeying my husband.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

Marriage is encouraged in Islam. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.} [Quran 24:32]

ʻAbdullaah ibn Masʻood, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, "O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective for lowering the gaze and guarding chastity, and whoever cannot do so, then he should fast, for it will be a restraint (shield) for him." [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

Some scholars stated that the ruling on marriage differs according to the person's circumstances; it may be obligatory on a person who fears for himself to succumb to Fitnah (temptation). This means that such a person bears a sin if they remain single. The author of Zaad Al-Mustaqniʻ said, "Marriage is an act of the Sunnah; if a person has a strong sexual desire, marriage takes precedence for them over voluntary worship, and it is obligatory on the person who fears committing fornication if they stayed unmarried."

Explaining why marriage is better than voluntary worship, Al-Buhooti  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, "It encompasses many benefits, such as preserving the chastity of both spouses; fulfilling their rights towards one another in this regard; and reproducing and increasing the number of Muslims, which the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said he would boast of on the Day of Judgment, in addition to other benefits." [Ar-Rawdh Al-Murbiʻ]

This means that marriage is an act of obedience to Allah by which one draws closer to Him, so whoever refrains from marriage might be denying himself great goodness.

We seek excuses for you for saying what you said, as perhaps the culture you were raised in is the reason for this attitude towards marriage. But, as a believer, your inclinations should conform with the rulings of Allah and His Shariah, as this is the wise and beneficial thing to do, even if it seems otherwise to you.

Allah, the Exalted, says (what means):

- {But no, by your Lord, they will not (truly) believe until they make you (O Muhammad) judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in (full, willing) submission.} [Quran 4:65]

- {It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should (thereafter) have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.} [Quran 33:36]

Allah, the Exalted, entrusted men with Qiwaamah (the duty of being the caretaker of one's womenfolk). Allah says (what means): {Men are in charge of women by (right of) what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend (for maintenance) from their wealth...} [Quran 4:34]

Qiwaamah does not mean oppressive control and domination; rather, it is meant to organize the affairs of the Muslim family. The family, as an institution, requires someone to manage its affairs just like any other institution. This Qiwaamah is a responsibility rather than a privilege, and the husband shall be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgment.

In his commentary on the verse: {And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them (in responsibility and authority).} [Quran 2:228], Al-Qurtubi, may Allah have mercy on him, said, "Ibn ʻAbbaas said, 'The degree (in the verse) is a reference to encouraging men to treat their wives kindly and to be generous with them in provision and manners. In other words, it is becoming of the one in a higher degree to be more altruistic than others.' Ibn ʻAtiyyah said, 'This is a clever interpretation of the verse.'"

One of the requirements of this Qiwaamah is that the woman obeys her husband in lawful and reasonable matters. Abu Hurayrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, "If I were to order anyone to prostrate to anyone, then I would have ordered the wife to prostrate to her husband." [At-Tirmithi]

The wife's obedience to her husband is, in fact, obedience to Allah, Who commanded her to obey him; it is a deed that draws her closer to Allah, and thus, it is a way to Paradise, just as she is her husband's way to Paradise if he fears Allah regarding her and lives with her in kindness. ‘Abd Ar-Rahmaan ibn ʻAwf, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, "If a woman prays her five obligatory prayers, fasts her month (Ramadan), guards her private parts (from adultery), and obeys her husband, she will enter Paradise from any gate she wishes." [Ahmad]

It should be noted that the enjoined obedience to the husband is related to the marital life only; the husband is not entitled to interfere in all of his wife's affairs. For instance, he does not have the right to interfere in her financial affairs and her lawful disposal of her wealth.

Marriage in Islam is a partnership between the spouses wherein they complement each other, because each of them has rights over the other and duties towards them. However, this does not negate the fact that the institution of marriage, like any other institution, needs a manager, as we mentioned above. The Islamic Shariah assigned this task to the husband for the sake of preserving order and organization, which does not mean, in any way, that the woman is not capable of managing her own affairs or making her own decisions.

We hope that you do not let these fears stand between you and marriage. If the woman keenly seeks a pious and well-mannered husband, they are expected to share mutual trust, understanding, and respect, which prevent the husband from denying his wife her wishes as long as those wishes do not violate the Shariah and do not undermine his sense of honor as a man. He would give her his consent, whether explicitly or implicitly, so that she would not need his permission every time she goes out as long as her outing is for a lawful reason and is not feared to cause her harm.

So be willing to get married, and look for a good man by consulting the righteous relatives and female friends and by performing Istikhaarah (guidance-seeking prayer); it will yield nothing but good, Allah willing. You should also know that life is never free of hardship and distress; however, a wise person should not give up great benefits because of a few difficulties that he may encounter. This is the norm that all people follow in their life, and marriage is a part of this life.

Allah knows best.

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