What Is the Meaning of Obedience within Love Marriages?

Question and answer details
Lately, I gained genuine interest in Islam. I know something is “true” about it… but…I am scared to fail in establishing a nice warm family if I take any step further… So many things seem to be contradicting…Why do I have to beat my child when he is 7? I don’t believe in beating in the first place… what about a 7 years old child?! How can a mother do that… or even a father?? Why do I have to “OBEY” my husband, while he wouldn’t obey me? And how come marital relation, which should be based on love, be depending on “obedience”?! What if I am not convinced with what he wants me to do? How come he has the right to – again – beat me??!! How can someone love me, but orders me around and even beats me when he wishes?! Is it true angels would curse me if I refuse to make love with him? What if I am not feeling well? What about him? What if he refuses to make love with me… don’t I have the same rights?? Is it true that my prayers would not be accepted if I fail to satisfy my husband’s desires? What if his desires are unpleasant? Why is that big fuss about husband’s rights? What about rights of a wife?!
Ælfwine Mischler

Salam Dear Diane,

Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.

I’d like to know what you’ve been reading about Islam, because it does seem to me that you have some distorted ideas and I am concerned about the source. I hope they are not from books by Muslims!

First of all, I do not know of any source in Islam that says you “have to beat a child when he is seven”. The only
hadith I know of is one that says to begin teaching the child to pray at seven, and if he/she doesn’t pray at ten, to hit him/her. The Arabic word daraba is better understood as “hit” than “beat” (repeated hard hitting, usually with something).

Early Muslim jurists told us that such hitting was to be so light as to not leave a mark.
Also, we should follow the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was reported to have always corrected children with gentle words and to never have hit a child.

Allah orders us to live in peace and harmony with our spouses. In Surah 30, verse 21 He says:

{And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts]: verily in that are signs for those who reflect.}

Also, He says in Surah 2, verse 187:

{Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments…}

Commentators on the Qur’an understand this to mean that husbands and wives are for mutual support, mutual comfort, and mutual protection.

You ask about obedience to the husband and his “right” to beat you. The answer is that he does
not have the right to beat you! In fact, the one verse in the Qur’an that mentions this - Surah 4, verse 34 - has to be read in its entirety and understood in Arabic.

Islam prohibits men from hitting women, except in one very limited case when the wife is rebellious and disobedient - not when she disobeys one request or order -
and only as a last resort. The husband should first admonish her, then abandon her bed if she continues to be rebellious, and only if those steps have failed “may be” hit, not beat, her. The earliest commentators understood that the hitting was to be light enough, not to leave a mark and should be done with nothing bigger than a miswak (tooth stick).

We also know from the
hadiths and sirah (biography) of the prophet (peace be upon him) that he has always urged men not to abuse or hit their wives. In fact, he is known to have never hit his wives, servants, an animal, or “a thing”. And, he is the model we should emulate. For more about the issue of beating wives, please read the following:

Bonds of Love and Mercy

As for obedience, keep in mind, first of all, that you cannot look at one point in Islam without looking at other related points. Islam is a whole system.

While men and women have equal rights, those rights are not always identical.
In marriage, the woman has the right to be financially supported and maintained. The husband has no right to any of her money. In return, the wife should obey her husband in things regarding the marriage - including whether she can work outside the house and who can visit in the house - but he has no say in how she invests or spends her own money as long as it is in a halal (Islamically legal) manner.

But, at the same time that she is to obey her husband, we are all told to conduct our affairs by mutual consultation, as the Qur’an states in Surah 42, verse 38:

{And those who respond to their Lord and keep up prayer, and their rule is to take counsel among themselves, and who spend out of what We have given them.}

So the husband should consult his wife on major decisions and take her opinion into consideration, but the ultimate decision is his, because finally there must be a decision-maker and head to this vital institution – the family.

There is a
hadith that states that the prayers of three people will not be accepted [or raised to Heaven], one of whom is the woman whose husband is angry with, until he is satisfied. But, if we are in a loving marriage - which is what we should all strive for - a woman would rarely do something to anger her husband, and he would rarely retain his anger. Yet, if he really is unjust to her, another hadith tells us that the prayers of three people are always heard, one of whom is the person who has been dealt with unjustly.

So, you cannot take just one point without examining others. Husbands and wives should consult each other and try to compromise when they disagree.

If a woman has to give in to her husband, sometimes because the final decision is his, she should do it willingly for the sake of Allah and to maintain peace in the family. It is also to be noted that if it turns out to be a bad decision, the responsibility is his!

This situation does not mean that the wife would be weak if she gives in. She has a different kind of strength, a “tensile” strength to bend rather than snap. And, if she does it for the sake of Allah, He will definitely make things easier for her. For more on these topics, please see:

Equal Rights for Women

Wife Beating: An Islamic Perspective

As for the man and woman’s sexual rights, first of all remember that one of the main reasons for marriage is to give a halal (legal) outlet for our natural sexual urges.

If a man or woman were to repeatedly refuse to fulfill the sexual needs of the spouse, this would tempt the spouse to seek satisfaction outside the marriage.

There is a
hadith reported by Bukhari, which says that if a man asks his wife to bed and she refuses, the angels curse her till morning.

However, the early commentators understood this to be only if he is upset with her for refusing. If she has a legitimate excuse of being tired or ill, he should be forgiving.

Also, the prophet (peace be upon him) advised his followers to approach their wives with gentle words, caresses, etc. so that they would accept their advances, and also not to leave them until they [the wives] were also satisfied. For more on this, also read:

Marital Rape In Islam

I hope that I have answered your questions satisfactorily. Loving marriages and warm families are certainly possible in Islam!
In fact, they are the goal… This is because family is the basic unit of society and strong families make for a strong society.

Remember to look at Islam as a whole and not to focus on just one verse or
hadith without seeing others related to the subject. Also, don’t judge Islam by what you see Muslims do, but by what the Quran and sunnah say they should do.

May Allah guide you and us all to the truth!

I hope this helps answer your questions.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Useful Links:

My Husband Is All What I Care For in My Life

Hitting and Verbally Abusing Children