Much ink has been spilled, and much effort has been exerted to define the role of Muslim women, their rights, duties and responsibilities. There has been a lot of talk and discussion to clear the misunderstanding of the role of women. Special emphasis has been given in lectures and books. It is, however, not fair to focus unilaterally on one side and remain silent on the other since both men and women are inter-dependent.
In this article, I intend to redress the balance, to shed light on qualities and attributes desired in men and what constitutes an ideal husband as per Islamic standard. Why it is equally important that a husband must also try to reach the standard of ideal husband as they wish for their wives to reach the standard of an ideal Muslim wife.
Marriage in Islam
The purpose of marriage in Islam is to seek tranquility of the soul and peace of the mind, so the couple can enjoy living together in an atmosphere of love, mercy, harmony and co-operation. Such a successful married couple are able to lay the foundation for raising children in a nurturing and productive environment. Islam discourages the concept of marriage being promoted in western liberal society where marriage is regarded as mere a contract which can be terminated on pity offences and where divorce and remarriage is taking place so frequently in the life of couple.
Marriage in Islam is an eternal and natural relationship between man and woman filled with tranquility, security, love, understanding and compassion. Almighty has described it in The Holy Qur’an, in the most touching and eloquent terms:
“And among His Signs is this, that Allah created for you mates from among yourselves, that you 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.” [Qur’an 30:21]
Marriage is not a mere contract. In the deepest sense, it is a union of souls. It is with the Mercy of Allah (SWT) that married couple enjoy tranquility and peace of mind in a marital home filled with sincere love, compassion, kindness and mercy.
A righteous woman is viewed in Islam as one of the greatest joys of this life, and a blessing to a man for she fills the home with joy and happiness where a man finds an incomparable peace, comfort and pleasure. The Prophet (SAW) said:
“This world is just temporary conveniences, and the best comfort in this word is a righteous woman.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i 3232]
Attributes of an Ideal Husband
The period we are living in has got wrong concept of ideal husband. When we look at the matrimonial section of magazines, it becomes evident that most Muslim men and women do not know what an ideal Muslim husband is. Men are looking for wives as doctors, engineers, and those who are financially secure. On the other hand, women appear to be on the search for an established professional or more likely a handsome MBBS & MD. It is rare that Muslim men and women even mention character, chastity, religious convictions, and morals as a priority. If it is mentioned, it might be found at a sidebar. It seems that the criteria have changed and now for many of us an ideal Muslim husband is the one who looks smart, wealthy, and comes from an influential family.
The attributes of an ideal husband in the sight of Islam is different to what is being projected in modern secular society. In Islam, the ideal is the one who is righteous, has firm conviction of religion, sincere to Allah and does not prefer this worldly life to the life of hereafter. For such a true Muslim, marriage is of greater importance and a sacred bond and rises above all the crazy materialistic urges. An ideal husband possesses good attributes and has enough courage, dignity, courteousness, patience, kindness, strength of character and knowledge which entitle him to rise above any hatred of his wife in his dealings with her.
An ideal husband is obedient and sincere to his Rabb; so, he always treats his wife well even if he dislikes her or some of her actions, because he understands the wisdom of the words of his Rabb. He understands that he may dislike something which is full of goodness and blessing. The believing man does not believe in blind love and extremes of hatred, in either case his attitude is moderate and balanced.
This is beautifully explained by the Prophet (SAW) in a narration recorded by Muslim,
” A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” [Sahih Muslim 1468 b]
The aforementioned hadith teaches us that even if a husband dislikes something in his wife, he should try to find some favorable characteristics she may have and which will please him, thus it is unwise to ignore the good side of her character and focus only on the negative aspects.
One of the desired qualities a husband must be in possession of is the good character. Great emphasis has been laid in Islam upon this attribute. In one of the hadeeths of Tirmidhi, the Prophet (SAW) has described the good character as the weightiest on the scales of good deeds on the Day of Judgement.
“”Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2003].
Oftentimes we see many husbands being praised for their outstanding character and high morals outside home, however, when it comes to show the same set of courtesy, good character and morality at home, they appear to be a different person. They fail to understand that the best judge of a person’s character and conduct is none other than his wife. Hence, the Prophet (SAW) said:
“The most perfect of believers is the one who is best in character, and the best of you is he who is best to his wives.” (Tirmizi #1162)
An ideal husband strives to adhere to the Islamic commands to treat his wife well. Islam encourages men to respect and treat women well and elevate their status which had been downgraded in other religion. The Prophet (SAW) cautions all men saying:
“Treat women kindly, for woman was created from a rib. The part of it that is most bent is the top. If you try to straighten it you will break it (and her breaking is her divorce), and if you leave it alone it will remain bent. So, treat women kindly.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 3331, Sahih Muslim 1468]
The above description given by the Prophet (SAW) powerfully describes the reality and nature of woman. A woman will not remain consistent in the way the husband may wish, so it is pertinent for a husband to understand that this is her nature, and how she is created. It is unwise to try to straighten her in the way a husband wishes but instead respecting her unique feminine nature and accepting her the way Allah (SWT) made her is the secret of strengthening the bond of marriage. If we insist on changing her putting aside her nature, the matter will ultimately end in divorce.
A true Muslim is convinced that the guidance of the Prophet (SAW) is based on a deep understanding of the psychology and nature of women, hence, he finds it easy to deal with his wife and tolerate her mistakes and ignore her faults. He recognizes that this is her nature. Thus, relations grow stronger and home becomes safe and calm, free from arguments.
His ideal is the prophet (SAW)
The Prophet is the ideal for a true believing Muslim. So, he follows the commands of Prophet in all the deeds in his life, and so in matters concerning the marriage and treating his wife. A sincere husband always tries to learn from the Prophet (SAW) behavior as a husband. And then practices it into his day-to-day relationships with his wife.
The married life of Prophet (SAW) is an example of successful marriage. It constitutes a guiding principle for a Muslim. These principles are very beautiful and time-honored. They encompass kindness, empathy, cooperation, justice and wisdom. The Qur’an tells us:
“You have in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern of conduct for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the final Day.” [Qur’an 33:21]
In regard to special relationship between a husband and his wife, the Prophet (SAW) said: “The best of you is he who is bet to his family, and I am the best of you to my family.” [Ibn Majah – 2008, ruled as sound hadith by Albani]
The Prophet (SAW) was so concerned for women that he did not forget to remind the Muslims of good treatment with women in his farewell sermon (khufbah al-wida). This is an indicative of his care and concern about women. In his last sermon, he begins his words concerning women with a warning:
“. . . Interact with women kindly, for they are prisoners and you have no other power over them than that, if they are guilty of open lewdness, then refuse to share their beds, and beat them, but not severely, but if they return to obedience, (then) seek not against them means of annoyance. You have rights over your women and they have rights over you. Your right over them is that they should not entertain at your hearth anyone (or commit adultery with), and not to allow into your home anyone whom you dislike, and their right over you is that you should feed and clothe them well.” [Sunan Ibn Majah–The Chapters on Marriage]
The aforementioned advice is so profound that every sincere Muslim husband must recognize the wisdom of the Prophet (SAW) in terms of defining the rights and duties of husband and wife. There is no room for even thinking of oppressing or hurting one’s wife. A husband is eventually bound to show mercy and compassion which leads the marital life to success.
The concern of Prophet (SAW) about women was so profound that once some women came to the family of the Prophet (SAW) complaining about their husbands. So, the Prophet (SAW) announced to the men:
” Many women have gone round Muhammad’s family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you.” [Sunan Abi Dawud 2146]
The prophet (SAW) was undoubtedly the best when it comes to behaving with women. There are numerous facets of his personality which contributed to making him an ideal husband. A sincere husband must therefore follow his footsteps and be clean and pure both in his thoughts and person, and generous as was the Prophet (SAW). In one of the narrations of Tirmidhi, he says:
“Verily, Allah is pure and loves the pure, is clean and loves the clean, is beneficent and loves the beneficent, is generous and loves the generous.”
Hence, a sincere Muslim husband does not have any choice but to follow the guidance of Prophet (SAW) and put it into practice at every moment.
The claim that the Islam is a true religion and provides the best guidance to humanity and protection to the women is significantly demonstrated through its fairness and respectful teachings towards women, and in its recommendation to husbands to treat their wives well even if they dislike them. This is unique and something which women have never enjoyed in the history of the mankind, except in the religion of Islam. Allah (SAW) says in the Qur’an:
(. . . live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.) [Qur’an 4:19]
(Note: This is part one of the series on ‘qualities of an ideal husband in Islam’.)