What does it mean to be a husband?
Becoming a husband will change your life – for the better, of course! The very special relationship between spouses is a wonderful and humbling experience: your wife is the person that you have chosen to spend and share your life with, through all its ups and downs. When things go well, she is there to celebrate with you; when things go wrong, she gives comfort and support. She does not judge you on your failures and is all too often working behind the scenes to ensure that your life together runs smoothly.
The bond shared by a husband and wife is best summed up as follows:
“They are your garments and you are their garments.” [Surah Al Baqarah 2:187]
So, what does it mean to be a husband? How should a husband behave and how should he treat his wife? The Qur’an shows us the standards expected from an ideal Muslim husband, the most important of which are summarised below.
In Islamic custom, men are regarded as “guardians” of the family – Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى) has made them stronger and they are expected to expend of their means to provide for the family. This does not mean that they are superior to women; rather they are expected to act as protectors and providers:
“Men are protectors and maintainers of women.” [Qur’an 4:34]
Above all, a husband’s duty is to provide for his wife and family. This means food, clothing and shelter according to his means. A husband is also expected to bring financial security to the relationship as women have no financial duty to the family.
A husband should protect his wife from harm and provide support and comfort. She should be treated with respect and kindness.
“House women wherever you reside, according to your circumstances, and do not harass them in order to make life difficult for them.” [Qur’an 65:6]
An exemplary husband spends time with his wife and enjoys her company. He smiles and shows affection. Although there are times when intercourse is forbidden, and this includes Ramadan, do not let these times become a barrier to affection.
A husband is responsible for his wife’s Islamic education. If she comes from a family where this has been neglected, then he must find a way to ensure that she is educated about Islamic customs and to encourage her to adopt Islamic principles. He may choose to teach her himself. Of course, if your wife’s faith is on a par with yours, then undertaking further Islamic study together and escalating your faith is a wonderful thing to do as a couple.
Although the husband is regarded as the head of the family; this leadership is not in any way expected to be a form of dictatorship, resulting in the suppression of your wife. Consult your wife regarding family matters and take her advice if it is sound. Follow the Qur’an and Sunnah in ensuring that your family behave in an Islamic way.
“All of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian who is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards.” [Bukhari]
The wife is the head of household, although it shows good manners to help with household chores, especially when your wife is sick, pregnant or has recently given birth. Show appreciation for all she does for you and in the household.
The Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) as a husband
There can be no better role model than the Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) himself. There is much information and guidance laid down in the Ahadith and the Sirah (biography of the Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم)), which is of benefit to all husbands who endeavour to be the best they can be. And the Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) encourages them to be the best that they can be:
“From among the believers are those that have the kindest disposition and are the kindest to their families – such are those who show the most perfect faith.” [Aishah (Radhiallâhu anha)]
“The best among them are those that are kindest to their wives.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Aisha (Radhiallâhu anha), wife of the Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم), related that he was pure and clean in thought and deed. He helped in the home, especially when Aisha was ill, and he was not ashamed to show his love for his wife. He sought her opinion and he spent time with her, often “playing games” – Aisha recounts that they sometimes had races. The Prophet never regarded women as second-class citizens.
Naturally, there may be times when your marital relationship does not run smoothly. It is a part of life, and overcoming difficulties together is an important part of marriage life.
You should not dwell on aspects of your wife’s personality that you may not like. If they do not go against Islam, then do not try to change them. Equally, she will find traits in you that are less pleasing to her. It is important to work around these and to focus on each other’s good points.
Remember also that Islam does not give a man the authority to beat his wife. Domestic violence occurs in all societies and should not be tolerated. Some Muslims give their religion as an excuse for their actions but this is not the case. Husbands, who abuse their wives, whether physically or mentally, are merely weak and quick to anger. The Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“He is not strong who throws people down, but he is strong among us who controls himself when he is angry.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Ultimately, both husband and wife have the right to be treated with kindness and tenderness by their spouse and the right to intercourse and enjoyment of one another. For a truly successful marriage, however, you should make time to pray together and make Du’a to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى).