english articles

The rights of a wife in Islam

The issue is highlighted by Iman Khanum, Master of Islamic Sciences, Islamic Law Advisor, President of the Union of Muslim Women of the Baltic Countries, Editor-in-chief of the Baltic Muslim News site As-Salam.


We are the creations of Allah (Subh’anaHu Wa Ta-A’la). Only He knows what is good for us. Allah created us in pairs. Allah Almighty said:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”

(Surah Ar-Rum/21)

It means that the family model is perfect for our fitra (naturality), and love (almawwadda), and mercy (ar-rahma) should be an essential part of the relationship between spouses. Mercy (ar-rahma) in many ways is searching for compromises, forgiving mistakes so that each of the spouses does something bigger than just obligations. Relations based on “you must – I must”, cannot last for a long time.

Recently, unfortunately, people often ask me: do a spouse have to do this or do a spouse have to do that? As we see from the previous ayat and from examples from the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),

married life cannot be judged only by the measures of rights and obligations.

Of course, rights must be respected. It is a foundation of the house called “family”. If the rights are not respected, it would be unjust, and considered to be zulm; Allah does not like the unjust ones. Because “Zulm (injustice) is zulumat (darkness) on the Day of Resurrection”. (Al-Buhari).

After laying the foundation, you need to build a house based on love and mercy.
But let’s turn back to the rights and obligations. As it is a foundation, we should approach this issue very carefully. 

So let’s begin with our favorite topic, the rights of a wife:


  • The right to mahr/sadak, that is a wedding gift. 

Allah (Subh’anaHu Wa Ta-A’la) said:

«And give the women [upon marriage] their [bridal] gifts graciously…»

(Surah An-Nisa/4)

Ibn Kathir (rahimahuLlah) said in his tafsir: «Muqatil, Qatadah and Ibn Jurayj said, `النحلة ‘ means `obligatory’ Ibn Jurayj added: `specified.’ Ibn Zayd said, “In Arabic, Nihlah, refers to what is necessary. So Allah is commanding: Do not marry unless you give your wife something that is her right…»

It is better to name it during the wedding ceremony (‘akd annikah). If it was named and agreed, then the husband is obliged to pay such a mahr that he had agreed to. If mahr wasn’t mentioned during the wedding ceremony, a woman still has the right to it. However, this time it would be a ‘mahr almisl’, which means a wedding gift of the same social status as a woman has: beauty, education, etc. 

None, but the bride herself has the right to insist on exact mahr.

The bride may authorize someone (wali or any other reputable person) to negotiate and make agreements on this issue on her behalf, and then she has to agree with the results of the negotiations if she hadn’t indicated her preferences in this issue.  

A wedding gift can be anything that has value, from the point of view of sharia. It can be both tangible – money, finery, movable and immovable property, and intangible, but having value, e.g. useful knowledge, skill…

It is necessary to take into account the financial possibilities of the groom in this issue.

It is not reasonable to demand something he cannot provide now and will not be able to provide in the near future.

This can lead to frustration and hatred. Also one should not completely abandon the mahr, since Allah Himself established this right for the woman.

A woman has the right to receive her marriage gift in full, immediately after the first intimacy, or after privacy (halwa) with her husband or his death (even without sexual relation with him).

As for the intimacy and death of the husband, this is the unanimous opinion of all the madhhabs.
Allah (Subh’anaHu Wa Ta-A’la) said:

«And how could you take it while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a solemn covenant?»

(Surah An-Nisa/21)

It was narrated from Ibn Mas’ud, that he was asked about a man who married a woman but did not name a Mahr or consummate the marriage before he died. Ibn Mas’ud said: “She should have a Mahr like that of women like her, no less and no more; she has to observe the ‘Iddah, and she is entitled to inherit.” Ma’qil bin Sinan Al-Ashja’i stood up and said: “The Messenger of Allah passed a similar judgment among us concerning Birwa’ bint Washiq.” And Ibn Masud rejoiced at that. (Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi).

Regarding privacy (halwa), there are some disagreements: for example, Imam Abu Hanifa obliged a man who divorced his wife to pay full mahr only because of halwa (privacy) with her. Imam Ahmad holds the same opinion. The last opinion of Imam Al-Shafi’i (in his new madhhab) is different since he does not consider halwa to be the reason for getting mahr.

If a husband divorced his wife without having intimacy with her and without staying private with her, she deserves a half of the agreed mahr and she doesn’t have to stay in the idda (which duration is 3 menstruation period after divorce during which a woman stays in the care of her husband and doesn’t have the right to marry). A woman can forgive half of the mahr that belongs to her. But if a man gives her all the agreed mahr, it will be better.

Allah (Subh’anaHu Wa Ta-A’la) said:

«And if you divorce them before you have touched (had a sexual relation with) them, and you have appointed for them their due (dowry), then pay half of that, unless they (the women) agree to remit it, or he (the husband), in whose hands is the marriage tie, agrees to remit it. And to remit is nearer to At-Taqwa (piety, righteousness). And do not forget liberality between yourselves. Truly, Allah is All-Seer of what you do.»

(Surah Al-Baqarah/237)

If mahr was not set during the wedding ceremony (‘akd annikah) and a husband divorced his wife before sexual relation or privacy with her, then she has the right for mut’a.

Mut’a is a kind of “compensation” for moral damage. (Do not confuse it with forbidden mut’a marriage!!!). The amount of the mut’a is not fixed. It is set by both sides according to the financial possibilities of the ex-husband. If the sides cannot reach an agreement, then a sharia judge sets its amount.

Allah (Subh’anaHu Wa Ta-A’la) said:

There is no sin on you, if you divorce women while yet you have not touched them, nor appointed for them their due (dowry). But give them a Mut`ah (a suitable gift, the rich according to his means, and the poor according to his means, a gift of reasonable amount is a duty on the doers of good.)

(Surah Al-Baqarah /236)

The term “mut’a” is taken from the words of Almighty Allah in this verse: “wa mati’uhunna,” that means “give them gifts”.

Allah (Subh’anaHu Wa Ta-A’la) said:

«O you who believe! When you marry believing women, and then divorce them before you have sexual intercourse with them, no `Iddah have you to count in respect of them. So, give them a present, and set them free in a handsome manner.»

(Surah Al-Ahzaab/49)

Mut’a is obligatory according to the opinion of all the madhhabs, except for Imam Malik who considers it eligible.

  • The right to material maintenance (nafaka). Nafaka includes food, clothing, and housing.

Allah (Subh’anaHu Wa Ta-A’la) said:

«…the father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother’s food and clothing on a reasonable basis. No person shall have a burden laid on him greater than he can bear…»

(Surah Al-Baqarah /233)

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: «You must feed and dress them bil-ma’ruf» (narrated by Muslim). In the hadith, the word “bil-ma’ruf” means “kindly” from the word “ma’ruf” – kindness; it also means generally accepted, common at this place and at this time standards, customs and traditions, from the word “’urf ”- a custom, a generally accepted norm.

The amount of maintenance is not clearly defined, the imams of different madhhabs set a minimum of nafaka in their books, but it depends on the traditions of their time and place of living. Sharia is flexible, it is suitable for any time and any place.

The word “bil-ma’ruf” mentioned in the verse and hadith indicates that the husband should take good care of his wife, spend his money on her kindly, without reproaching her, without humiliating her dignity. Spending money, he should proceed from common standards, taking into account his social and financial level.

Also, among other obligatory spendings for the wife, scientists obliged the husband to spend on cosmetics with which a woman decorates herself for her husband, in the within ‘urfa (common in the society).

When is a husband obliged to provide for his wife?

Providing for a wife becomes obligatory for a husband after marriage and after it has become possible for a husband to have sexual relations with her. 

If the spouses got agreed that for some reason after marriage they will live apart for some time and will not have sexual relations, then a husband is not obliged to provide for his wife during this time. But if the obstacle came from the husband, but not from the wife, then even if they did not have sexual relations, he is obliged to provide for his wife. 

For example: when a woman wants to be with her husband and is ready to move to his place, and he says: “wait, I cannot do it now, I am still studying, working”, but it was not agreed before marriage, in this case, he is obliged to provide for his wife.

If a woman violates the rights of her husband, then she is called disobedient (nashiz). It usually implies the main right of the husband – the right to sexual relations with his wife. If this happens in a family, then a woman that does not fulfill her marital duties for no reason does not have the right to material maintenance.


  • The right of a wife to a good and kind attitude.

Surah Al-Baqarah/228

A husband must treat his wife kindly, improve his temper, show patience, restrain anger, control his tongue…  

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

«Fear Allah with regard to women, for you have taken them as a trust from Allah, and intimacy with them has become permissible to you through Allah’s Word…»


«The whole of the Muslim is sacred to his fellow Muslim, his blood, his wealth and his honor.»

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

«The believers who show the most perfect Faith are those who have the best behaviour, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives»

«The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.» (At-Tirmidhi)

  • The right to justice in the sharing of nights and the same treatment, if a man has more than one wife.

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

«When a man has two wives and he is not just between them, he will come on the Day of Judgment with one side drooping.»

(Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi)


The above items are the basic rights of the wife. A woman has them even if they were not agreed upon during marriage. What other rights can a woman have? 

A bride can put forward all additional rights before marriage (‘akd annikah), and if a groom agreed to them, he is obliged to perform them.

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

«Muslims must remain adhered to the terms.»

(Al-Bukhari, Muslim)

Examples of such “bonus” rights: the opportunity to see your parents (especially if they live far away from you), with relatives, visit them at least once a year, finish your studying, work/conduct your own business, have the opportunity to lead an active social life, to teach, to make dawaat.

We should mention that the terms that are put forward by the bride are considered invalid and respectively are not required to be performed if they contradict the sharia!

For example, I will marry you only if you divorce your first wife.


Think about your plans for the future. Maybe you have some cherished dreams. Discuss them with your future husband. Make sure you have the same view on the fundamentals of family life, for example, family education, housekeeping, expenses for the family and children, etc. The words “I thought he was such … and so …” will be inappropriate later.

Even if you do not want to study or work right now, you’d better put these terms forward just in case, unless your future husband is categorical in this matter and you agree with it.

A woman marries a man with the intention to spend the whole life with him by Allah’s will. To spend it in the contentment of Allah and in worship. Therefore it is so important to take this issue seriously and in the right way. May Allah bless you, dear sisters.

To be continued inshaAllah.

top marriage and family