AUTHORITY, CONSULTATION and OBEDIENCE


 

In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

AUTHORITY, CONSULTATION and OBEDIENCE

The family is a group of people closely related by blood or marriage who usually live together. In every human group there is a leader and a hierarchy of authority so that the members act in co-operation for the common good.

Husband and wife - relation of coordination

The head of the family in an Islamic marriage is the husband, by virtue of his role as the maintainer of the family:

﴿الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَآءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَآ أَنفَقُواْ مِنْ أَمْوَلِهِمْ فَالصَّـلِحَـتُ قَـنِتَـتٌ حَـفِظَـتٌ لِّلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ وَاللَّـتِى تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِى الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلاَ تَبْغُواْ عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلاً إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيّاً كَبِيراً ﴾

 “Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which Allah has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which Allah has (ordained to be) guarded … ” (Qur’an 4:34)

(وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكُيمٌ)

“And women have rights equal to the rights incumbent on them according to what is equitable; and men have a degree above them.” (Qur’an 2:228)

This “degree” of difference in legal rights in marriage and divorce is a reflection of the husband’s leadership role, and in no way implies that the woman is inferior as a moral and spiritual being. This point is stated in several Qur’an verses and Hadith.

(فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ أَنِّى لاَ أُضِيعُ عَمَلَ عَامِلٍ مِّنْكُمْ مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَى بَعْضُكُم)

“And their Lord answered them: Verily I will never cause to be lost the labour of any of you. Be you a male or a female the one of you is as the other.“(Qur’an 3:195)

﴿إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَـتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَـتِ وَالْقَـنِتِينَ وَالْقَـنِتَـتِ وَالصَّـدِقِينَ وَالصَّـدِقَـتِ وَالصَّـبِرِينَ وَالصَّـبِرَتِ وَالْخَـشِعِينَ وَالْخَـشِعَـتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَـتِوالصَّـئِمِينَ والصَّـئِمَـتِ وَالْحَـفِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَـفِـظَـتِ وَالذَكِـرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيراً وَالذَكِرَتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْراً عَظِيماً﴾

(Verily, the Muslims: men and women, the believers: men and women, the Qanit: men and the women, the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the Khashi`: men and the women, the men and the women who give Sadaqat, the men and the women who fast, the men and the women who guard their chastity and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward.) (Qur’an 33:35)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“All people are equal, as equal as the teeth of a comb. There is no claim of merit of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a white over a black person or of a male over a female. Only God-fearing people merit a preference with Allah.” (Ahmad)

A wife should therefore acknowledge her husband’s administrative leadership and not dispute it or set herself up as a rival in taking ultimate decisions that affect the whole family. A ship with two captains will never reach its destination.

However, leadership in Islam also has its obligations. The leader at all levels is to be motivated by love and concern for those under his care, who will naturally respond by loving their leader.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

“The best of your leaders are those whom you love and who love you, for whom you pray and who pray for you, and the worst of your leaders are those whom you hate, and who hate you, whom you curse and who curse you. “(Muslim)

All forms of tyranny, oppression and exploitation of the weak are condemned, and the tyrant is warned:

“Fear the prayer of the wronged, for truly there is no veil between him and Allah.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Abu Dawud,)

“The tyrant shall not enter into Paradise.” (Abu Dawud and Ahmad)

The leader is moreover obliged to consult his followers. A chapter of the Qur’an is entitled “Shura” (meaning Consultation) and it contains a description of the believers as those

(وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُواْ لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلوةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَى بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَـهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ)

“Whose rule (in all matters of common concern) is consultation among themselves…” (Qur’an 42:38)

Leadership in Islam is identified as a responsibility. It exists at various levels both in pub1ic affairs and in the family.

According to a saying of the Prophet:

“Take care: each of you is a shepherd and each of you shall be asked concerning his flock. A leader is shepherd over (his) people, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a man is a shepherd over the people of his house, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a woman is a shepherd over the house of her husband and over his children, and she shall be asked concerning them; and the servant of a man is a shepherd over the property of his master, and he shall be asked concerning it. Take care, then, each of you is a shepherd and each of you shall be asked concerning his flock.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi.)

As can be seen from this Hadith the wife is given responsibility within the family for the smooth day-to­day running of the household and the upbringing of the young. We shall return to this aspect of her role in another section. Here we are concerned only with the aspect of leadership and authority in the home.

This brings us to the use of the words “ordering” and “obeying” which are used in translating some Qur’an verses or Hadith about husband/wife relationship, for example “when he orders her, she obeys”. The Arabic word “amr” used in the original text certainly has the general meaning of “to order” or “to ordain”. However, in the context of family life it obviously does not have the same connotation as it would have in, for example, the army! The family is not a military unit, and for a husband to give out orders to his wife like a sergeant-major on the parade would be most out of place, and indeed probably counter-productive. The relationship of husband and wife is quite different. They are not described as matter and servant in the Qur’an but as “garments to each other” -loving, sympathetic and protective. The records of the Prophet’s relationship with his wives are an example of this.

"Husband and wife are garments to each other" -loving, sympathetic and protective

Basically women (even strong-willed ones) still feel that it is natural for a husband to lead, provided he does so in the manner mentioned above, with wisdom. It is one of the comforts of marriage for a woman that she does not have to take sole responsibility for all major decisions in the family.

Allah has created men and women as complementary to one another in co-operation and not in competition.

Source:  The Ideal Muslim Wife by Aisha Lemu,Islamic Education Trust

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