Home  Culture Degree of Husband's Rights

In the legal view of marriage in Islam, man and women are completely equal partners except in the following respects:
  1. Both parties make the equal responsibility to provide physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual happiness to each other, but men generally have the added responsibility to provide for the economic needs of the wife.
  2. In case the husband initiates divorce, he is obliged by religious law to pay some maintenance expenses. This prescribed alimony belongs to the wife by right. However, when the woman initiates the divorce she does not pay any compensation to the husband as requirement of religious law; she need at most return part of what she received from the husband as dower if such payment is helpful in an amicable settlement.
  3. A man can divorce his wife on his own while a woman needs to go through court or introduce into the marriage a clause giving her the right to divorce her husband.
    In regard to the above differences the Holy Quran says:
    "And (wives) shall have rights similar to those (the husbands have) over them, in accordance with justice, (except that) husbands' rights are a degree greater."

    "Husbands are guardians (qawwamun) of wives because God has favored some more than others and because they (i.e. husbands generally) spend out of their wealth." (4:34)

    The first of the above two Quranic statements occurs in a long passage dealing with divorce and should be understood in relation to that context. The degree by which husband's rights are greater should therefore be understood as the degree by which the husband is freer than the wife to break the marriage bond.
    This, however, is not a very big degree since as stated earlier the wife can get out of the marriage bond whenever she wants to, practically without giving any reason. It is only that she has to follow a more indirect procedure. The second Quranic statement refers to the greater responsibility husbands generally have as protectors and providers of women and to the greater say this gives them in making decisions.
    The fact that husbands' rights are a degree greater does not effect the claim that in Islam men and women have equal rights, since men's greater rights within the marriage relationship do not mean that men also enjoy greater rights outside that relationship and since within the marriage relationship men's greater rights are completely justified by their greater responsibility.
    We must remember here that whenever we talk about members of a society having equal rights it is never precluded that members of that society cannot freely enter into terminable arrangements in which some take greater responsibility and therefore also have greater rights. Equality of rights can only be asserted on the assumption of equality of responsibility. This principle sometimes works in favor of women. For example, as motherís women give much more to children than do men as fathers and so Islam recognizes greater rights of mothers over children than of fathers except where economic considerations demand otherwise.
    Source: Dr. Ahmad Shafaat