the Wife is Unhappy With the Husband
4:34 (Surah Nisa,
ayah 4) gives some guidance as to how to deal with
marriage difficulties when husbands feel that their wives are
being deliberately nasty to them. The Holy Qur'an also gives
guidance for cases when it is the wife who thinks that she is
being mistreated and feels unhappy about it.
this connection it must, first of all, be clearly understood
by all Muslims that the
Holy Qur'an unequivocally prohibits keeping women in wedlock
against their will. In Surah al-Baqarah,
verse 231, it is said:
do not retain them (i.e. women) in wedlock against
their will in order to hurt them. He who does such a thing
indeed sins against himself. And do not take the signs of
in Surah an-Nisa verse 19 we read:
YOU who have attained to faith! It is not lawful for you
to [try to] become heirs of your wives [by holding onto
them] against their will."
verses appear in some particular contexts but they clearly
contain the principle (also found in Hadith) that women
can be brought into the marriage relationship and kept in that
relationship only if they want to do so.
some cultures, including parts of the Muslim world, women are
sometimes beaten by their relatives into marrying men of the
relatives' own choice or beaten to stay in the marriage bond.
Those who do that commit a sin and unless forgiven by the
women concerned will be punished by hell-fire in the
is true, as we have seen in another article, that husbands can
lightly beat their wives when they show prolonged and
deliberately nasty behaviour but such beating can be done only
when the intention to stay in the marriage bond is intact on
the part of both the husband and the wife. The moment the wife
makes up her mind that she does not wish to remain in the
marriage bond and she clearly expresses this decision on her
part, the husband ceases to have any justification in the
sight of God to beat her.
is not only by physical force that women are sometimes kept in
marriage against their will. More often it is social or
economic pressures that are used, consciously or
unconsciously, to keep them tied in the unwanted relationship.
In Surah an-Nisa' the Book of God combats such social and
a woman fears ill-treatment (mushuz) or
indifference (i'radh) from her husband, it is
not wrong if (at her initiative) the two set things
peacefully to right between themselves; for, peace is
best, and selfishness is ever present in human souls. But
if you do good and are conscious of Him, behold, God is
aware of all that you do... If the two break up, God
provides everyone out of His abundance, for God is
resourceful, wise." (4:128-130)
many cultures, including the Muslim culture, it is considered
taboo on the part of a woman, especially if she is of
"noble" (sharif) descent, to express
unhappiness with marriage and to try to do something about it
(except in cases of extreme cruelty on the part of the
husband). This type of attitude is part of the social pressure
which is used to keep women suppressed. The Qur'an says that
if a woman feels that her husband is too indifferent to her,
i.e. does not give enough love to her or mistreats her and she
is therefore unhappy, there is nothing wrong if she initiates
steps to change the situation.
should be noted that whenever the Qur'an says "there
is nothing wrong" or "it is not wrong" (la
junaha), it means to fight certain social taboos and
established psychological attitudes. In the above passage it
is fighting the attitude which expects women to continue in
the marriage bond as the husbands keep them regardless of
whether the wife is reasonably happy or not.
first step that a woman should take to change her marriage
situation, if she is unhappy with it, is, of course, to
"talk it out" with her husband. This may lead to one
of two things: a greater understanding between the two
resulting in a satisfactory change in the husband's attitude
or a mutual decision to dissolve the marriage bond (with the
wife possibly returning par of the dowry (2:229)). Such
peaceful settling of matters is beautifully encouraged in the
is best, and selfishness is ever present in human soul.
But if you do good and are conscious of God, behold, God
is aware of all that you do."
is accepted here as an inevitable condition of the human soul,
so we are not expected to altogether get rid of it. What we
are expected to do is to balance our selfishness with God
consciousness and consideration for others. This means that we
should pursue our self-interests within the limits set by God
for our own good and also do something for others instead of
being all the time concerned with ourselves.
is in such a spirit that the husband and wife should discuss
their marriage difficulties. Both have the right to expect
happiness from the marriage relationship but each of them
should seek happiness with consciousness of God and some
concern for the happiness of the other partner in marriage. If
the husband is not inclined to discuss things in this spirit
and continues to mistreat the wife, then the wife can go to an
Islamic court which must then impose a settlement on the
husband on just terms. This is because it is the duty of
Islamic courts to enforce the law of God and deal with all
forms of zulm (injustice).
Holy Qur'an wishes to make it socially acceptable for a wife
to seek a change in her marriage situation if she feels that
her husband mistreats her or is indifferent to her. But social
acceptability alone is not enough; for, as noted earlier, tied
with social taboos are economic considerations that often
pressure the woman to accept her unhappy marriage situation.
The Qur'an says that this should not be the case. It reminds
all the concerned persons - the wife, the husband and
provides everyone out of His abundance, for God is
resourceful, wise" (4:130)
all attempts on the part of the wife to establish a reasonably
happy and dignified relationship with her husband fail and
breakup of the marriage is the only option, then this option
should not be rejected only for economic reasons. Let
the wife and her relatives trust in God who is the real
provider of all. Marriage
should be viewed primarily as a love relationship
(30:21) and not as an economic relationship.
reminder that God is the provider of all is also meant for the
husband. It tells him that he should not be too stingily and
try to get back every penny that he might have spent on the
wife but rather settle on equitable, if not generous, terms.
God, who provided him all that he spent on his wife, may
provide him yet more out of His infinite abundance.
is instructive to note a couple of differences between the
passage considered above and verse 34 of the same Surah an-Nisa'
dealing with the case when it is the husband who is unhappy
with the wife. In the latter case it is simply said: "If
you (i.e. husbands) part" whereas in the above
passage it is said "If a woman fears nushuz or i'radh
on her husbands part." The addition of i'radh
meaning turning away or becoming indifferent in case of a
husband and its omission in the case of a wife is significant.
This is a recognition that in love and sex relationship man's
role is a more active one in the sense that he
is the one who makes most of the first moves
and therefore as a rule he alone can do i'radh:
she can, as a rule, only refuse to respond (which if done
willfully and too often would come under nushuz and
would be dealt with as such).
difference between the two cases is that when the husband
fears nushuz on the part of the wife he can, after due
admonition and talking, separate the wife in bed and then
lightly beat her while such measures are not suggested to the
wife if she is the one who fears nushuz or i'drah from
the husband. This is, of course, not because the Qur'an sees
anything wrong in principle with the wife separating herself
in bed from the ill-treating husband or even beating him. The
reason rather is that the Qur'an recognizes the well-observed
fact that as a rule women are physically weaker than men and
therefore it would be difficult for her to implement such
measures against the husband. Unlike the sentimental
feminists, the Qur'an is wise enough and realistic enough to
first admit that in general women are indeed physically weaker
than men and then to realize that it would be totally
unhelpful to ask a weaker partner to use forceful methods
against a stronger one, especially if that stronger partner is
already mistreating her.
this does not mean that Islam leaves women at the mercy of
their husbands. If despite being a Muslim a husband fails to
respect the principles outlined in the Qur'an and instead of
peacefully settling matters with the wife shows neither the
inclination to treat her as a husband should treat a wife nor
lets her go in a maruf (just and public) way, then it
is the collective duty of the Muslim society to step in and,
through a suitable legal system, enforce the law of God by
imposing a settlement on the husband on terms judged equitable
by an impartial court. It is regrettable that Muslim societies
have not yet evolved such a suitable legal system to give
women adequate protection against their stronger marriage
partners should these stronger partners abandon love and
tenderness and turn nasty.
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat. This article may be reproduced for da'wa
purpose with proper courtesy and credit.