The Disciplinary Rights of the Husband

The Disciplinary Rights of the Husband

Although a husband and wife, who form a joint family life, share and cooperate in running the affairs of their house, they may have different opinions over certain matters. A man might feel that it should be he who should decide about family affairs, with his wife's indisputable agreement. At the same time his wife may object to her role as the obedient party. Arguments and rows may then start because both parties attempt to establish their authority over the other. The best solution to such a problem is that both should try to refrain from acting as superior to the other, and try to resolve their problems through dialogue and deep understanding. This would only be feasible if both of them stop being stubborn.

Some men order their wives to do many things and if are confronted with resistance, they think it right to become annoyed, to punish or even to physically hurt their wives. This approach is not correct at all. The men of the 'Age of Ignorance', who lacked humanity, used to hurt and beat their wives.

"The revered Prophet (SA) banned the beating of women, unless in special circumstances when punishment becomes wajib (obligatory)."[195]

"The Prophet (SA) also stated: 'I am astonished at a man who beats his wife, whereas it is he himself, more than his wife, who deserves a beating. O people, do not beat your women with sticks because such an act has Qisas (reprisal)."[196]

Oppressing a woman who has wishfully married her husband, who seeks comfort and tranquility with him, and who expects her husband to share with her problems, is not right. In fact Allah entrusts a woman to her husband through marriage and a man's mistreatment with his wife would be unfaithfulness towards Allah's trust in him.

"Imam Ali (AS) stated: 'Women are entrusted to men, and as such are not owners of their fortunes and misfortunes. They are with you like a trust of Allah; so do not hurt them and do not make (the life) difficult for them'."[197]

A man who hits his wife, inflicts such damage on her soul that she might suffer from a complex; and the family love and warmth would almost definitely fade away. How can a man maintain a sound marital relationship with his battered and degraded wife? This is really shameful.

"The Prophet (SA) of Allah stated: 'O you (men)! How can any of you beat his wife and there- after embrace her'?" [198]

A man, unless having a particular right over his wife, similar to those to be mentioned in this chapter is not lawfully permitted to force his wife into doing anything or to resort to physical punishment upon her disobedience. For instance a woman, lawfully is not duty-bound to carry out housework such as cleaning, cooking, washing up, childcare, knitting, sewing, etc. Although the majority of women do carry out these works of a housewife on their own, these are not mandatory. Men should be grateful to their wives for their work in the house. Therefore, no man has the right to question or punish his wife when faced with her refusal to carry out the house- keeping chores.

Islam recommends physical punishment of one's wife only in two cases where his rights are violated:

 

Case 1: A man is Islamically and lawfully allowed to seek sexual satisfaction and pleasure from his wife and to derive all sorts of enjoyment from this relationship. His wife is lawfully duty-bound to yield to her husband's sexual desires. If a woman refuses to satisfy her husband, the husband should initially persuade her in an orderly manner. However, if a man feels that his wife is trying to be malicious to him, and if he cannot tolerate the situation, then by observing the prescribed stages can punish her.

Allah states in the Holy Qur'an: "...And (as to} those on whose part you fear desertion admonish them. and leave them alone in the sleeping places and beat them; then if they obey you do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High Great (4:34)."

Therefore, the Quran allows beating one's wife as the final stage of punishment, in the event of unreasonable behaviour of a woman with regard to the sexual desires of her husband.

The first stage is giving advice. Secondly, the man should avoid sharing her bed or turn his back towards her, and in this way he should show his anger. If nothing positive happens at the end of the second stage and still the woman continues to refuse her husband, he is permitted to beat her (lightly).

A man, however, is not permitted to surpass the prescribed limit and resort to oppression. Men are reminded of the following:

(a) The aim of physical punishment of one's wife should be a way of education and not that of taking revenge.

(b) Hitting should be done by hand or by using a thin and light wooden stick.

(c) Hitting to the extent that results in changing the color of the skin (to blue or red) is not permitted and is punishable by the payment of a Diyah (fine).

(d) Hitting of sensitive parts of the body such as the eyes. head, stomach, etc is not permitted.

 

(e) Physical punishment should not be so hard as to create hatred and ill-feeling between the couple, or to drive the wife towards more disobedience.

(f) A man (who intends to punish his wife in this manner) should remember that he is to live with his wife and that the family love should not be destroyed.

(g) A man is not allowed to hit his wife if there are legitimate reasons for her non-compliance with his wishes. For instance, if she is in the state of menstruation, fasting in the month of Ramadan being in ihram (garb for Hajj pilgrimage), or if she is sick. These are acceptable reasons and a man cannot punish his wife for not complying with his wishes on these occasions.

Case 2: A woman can go out of the house only after obtaining her husband's permission. Going out without permission is lawfully not allowed and committing it is a sin.

A tradition has been reported that the Prophet (SA) did not allow any woman to go out of her house without her husband's permission. "He stated: 'Any woman who goes out of her house without her husband's permission, would be subjected to the curse of all the angels in the heavens and all those who see her, be they jinn or human, until the time she returns (to her home)'."[199]

This is the right of any husband which must be observed by their wives.

But men should not be too strict with their wives on this account. It is better for them to allow their wives to go out whenever possible.

This right of men is not meant to be a show of strength or an attempt at putting pressure on their wives, but a means of preventing women from going to undesirable and unsuitable places.

Being too strict, not only is not useful, but may affect the family relationship, or even drive a woman towards disobedience and corruption.

A man must stop his wife from going to corrupt and unsuitable places and gatherings. It is a religious obligation for women to obey their husbands. A disobedient woman can be punished by her husband. Here again the punishment should be carried out in stages.

A woman, however, can go out of the house on specific occasions without her husband's  permission and men are not permitted to hurt their wives in such cases:

(a) Going out of the house for learning the necessary commandments of religion.

(b) Going out of the house for Hajj when she possesses the necessary financial means and ability to perform Hajj.

(c) Going out of the house to repay a debt provided it is not possible to repay without going out of the house.


[195] Mustadrak, vol 2, p 550.
[196] Bihar al-Anwar, vol 103, p 249.
[197] Mustadrak, vol 2, p 551.
[198] Wasa.il al-Shi'ah, vol 14, p 119.
[199] Ibid, p 154.