Things that Women Need to Pay Attention to in the Family

“A pious woman makes her husband happy when he looks at her face; she fulfills her husband’s licit requests; and when he is away from her, she protects his property and honor.” (Ibn Maja, Nikah, 5/1857)

Q – What things do women need to pay attention to in order to protect their families’ peace and happiness?

First of all, women need to be careful about their service to Allah and to be devout. In this respect they need to pay attention to their prayers and worship in addition to being sensitive about what is lawful and what is prohibited in Islam.

A woman’s piety should manifest in her family through encouraging her husband, her children, her relatives and even her neighbors to give charity and perform good deeds. A pious woman is like a sweet-smelling flower of Paradise!

The most important task of a woman, after service to Allah, is to make her husband and her other family members happy. Making her husband happy and not shadowing the happiness of the family will grant a wife the contentment of Allah the Almighty. In fact the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says in this regard:

A pious woman makes her husband happy when he looks at her face; she fulfills her husband’s licit requests and when he is away from her, she protects his property and honor.  (Ibn Maja, Nikah, 5/1857)

Therefore a pious woman looks for ways to make her family happy and she finds them.

Q – Can we elaborate this matter a little more? To what things does a wife need to pay most attention in her daily life and in her house?

At home she must take great care of herself. She needs to be clean and well-groomed. Being untended and dirty will make her husband lose his respect for her. A wife should stay away from all appearances that her husband does not like, because if a man cannot find what he looks for in a woman in his wife, his heart may turn toward what is inappropriate and prohibited, which will destroy the happiness and peace in the family. So a wise woman offers herself like a bouquet of flowers to her grateful husband. It is in her best interests that he look forward to being at home in the evening.

A pious woman should meet her husband at the door with a smiling face and in the morning should send him off to work with kind words and prayers. Even if her own day’s work has exhausted her, she should conceal her fatigue and not make a wry face in front of him. She should share her husband’s worries and help him to relax.

She should keep the counsel of her own emotions rather than disturb the tranquility of the house.  Umm Sulaym (may Allah be pleased with her), a Companion of the Prophet, gave an extraordinary example of such behavior. Even the death of her child did not overcome her compassion toward her husband. According to the narrative, Abu Talha’s son, who had been gravely ill, died when his father was not home. Umm Sulaym washed and enshrouded the body. She commanded the other members of the household, “Do not tell Abu Talha of his son’s death before I tell do.” When Abu Talha came home, he asked, “How is my son?”

Umm Sulaym replied, “His pains are relieved and I think he is resting right now.” Then she brought her husband dinner and after that they went to bed. In the morning, when Abu Talha wanted to go out, Umm Sulaym said, “Abu Talha! What do you think of what our neighbors did? I left something in their trust and they did not give it back when I asked for it.”

Abu Talha said, “They did wrong.”

Then Umm Sulaym said, “O Abu Talha! Your son was entrusted to you by Allah the Almighty. He has reclaimed His trust.”

For a while Abu Talha was baffled and quiet. Then he said, “We belong to Allah and to Allah we are continuously returning.”

When Abu Talha went to the mosque for prayer, he told everything to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). The Prophet prayed for them, “O Allah! Bestow your blessing upon them with regard to that night of theirs.”

Less than a year later, Allah granted the couple another son. The Messenger of Allah took a date, chewed it, took some of it out of his mouth, put it into the child’s mouth and named him Abdullah – “Servant of Allah.” It is narrated that seven out of Abdullah’s nine children memorized the whole Qur’an as a result of the blessings of the aforementioned prayer.  (Bukhari, Jana’iz, 42: Aqiqa, 1; Muslim, Adab, 23: Fada’il al-Sahaba, 107)

Q – What other things does a wife need to be careful about in her relations with her husband?

She should never neglect her husband and never put him in second place among the members of the family. A normal man cannot accept to be in second place, for that is against his nature.

In order to please someone, we need to know that person well. This is why a woman should try to understand her husband and learn his values, interests and feelings. Naturally a man should treat his wife in the same way. If both of them do not pay attention to this necessary work of relationship, then “unity, sharing and things in common,” the natural requirements of a successful marriage, fade over time and spouses move away from each other emotionally. If timely precautions are not taken, the situation can become so serious that the original love and affection between spouses may give way to hatred and separation. The worst season for this danger is the time of old age. The inward isolation of spouses who did not try to get to know each other over all those years turns into a desperate loneliness, an irreversible point of regret and longing.

A wife should help her husband in all of his good and lawful deeds. She should show respect to his relatives. If she has to make a choice or sacrifice, she should show the greater attention to her husband’s family.

Life is full of surprises. There are times of crisis and grief. A wife should stay next to her husband during these times and help him with his burden. How nicely our predecessors expressed this: “Be like a rug and let forty feet walk on you, so that you become the crown on their heads.” What we understand from this and similar proverbs is that being able to conceal our pains during times of crisis is a virtue. The Prophet never forgot his wife Khadija’s strong support, patience, understanding, submission and sacrifices.

A wife enters her home in her wedding dress, fill it with joy and happiness and leaves it, when she starts her eternal life, in her white burial shroud. All people should love in order to be loved, show respect in order to be respected, make sacrifices in order to be blessed. However all these should first come from the wife in a family. An intelligent woman knows how to please her husband and build happiness in the family. In a hadith, it is stated:

When a wife whose husband is content with her dies, she enters Paradise.  (Tirmidhi, Rada, 10; See also, Ibn Maja, Nikah, 4)

This tradition expresses not only the great reward awaiting a pious wife who pleases her husband, but also the place of the husband in the family and the deep spiritual value of the manners of a wife. Husbands, on their part, are expected to be sensitive about how and where they earn their family’s livelihood and try their best to refrain from income from obscure sources that may possibly be unethical or illicit. For as the Prophetic tradition about choosing a marriage partner says, ““People’s rank is hidden in their religion; their dignity is hidden in their reason; and the beauty of their progeny is hidden in the goodness of their morality [protected by marriage].”

A pious woman not only loves her husband but also shows a reasonable level of respect to his relatives and friends. Such behavior would certainly please her husband, too. However, there is an important point involved here: we must not forget the borders of lawfulness drawn by Islam. When a woman is alone at home, she cannot invite inside men who, if she were single, she would legally be permitted to marry. This is a very sensitive issue. Nobody can protest good will while breaking the limits of Islamic law.  A woman in particular must take great care to stay away from anything that might blemish her name.  For in our society, a woman’s honor is like a white dress: even the tiniest stain offends the eyes. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) warned his followers about “grey areas”: “Stay away from doubtful places.”

One night when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was walking with one of his wives on the street, two men from Medina saw them. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) immediately informed them, “She is (my wife) Safiyya daughter of Huyyay.”

Both of them said, “O Messenger, hallowed be Allah! [We cannot conceive of anything suspicious about you even in the remotest corners of our minds.]” He replied,

Satan circulates in the human body like the blood in our veins and I was afraid lest it should instill some evil in your heart.(Bukhari, Iʽtikaf, 11; Muslim, Kitab al-Salam, 23-25)

Thus our Master’s example advises his followers not to do anything that might remotely produce doubt or suspicion in others.

A wife should always be next to her husband and support his good deeds so that he may find consolation with her and eagerly carry out his plans. It is well known that sharing increases our happiness and decreases our sorrow. Spouses should never forget that they are each other’s companions not just in the journey of this world but also in the journey of the Hereafter. Though they had separate lives before, through marriage their two lives have become one.  Therefore they should observe the principles of unity in all aspects of life. If one of them slips, the other spouse should help him (or her) to stand up.

A wife should watch her husband’s mood. When she feels that her husband is upset by some small thing, she should not exaggerate the issue and turn into a debate. Longer and more serious disputes may run the risk of damaging mutual love and respect. Even in such cases, it is better for the lady of the house to be gentle and to maintain her calm. Eventually her husband will realize his fault, come to his senses and show respect to his wife. If she presses the argument, he may grow stubborn and become unable to see his fault at all.  Then Satan will enter between them and sow the seeds of hatred and enmity in their hearts.

Another significant matter which spouses should be careful about is jealousy. One of the most disturbing issues in a relationship is distrust. Even when there is some real cause for suspicion, spouses should try to sit and talk rather than blaming each other. Otherwise small issues may easily turn into big conflicts.

Sometimes people are not able to see the results of their actions in difficult situations.  They may forget, or make mistakes. If a woman finds her husband in need of her opinion, she should sincerely and diligently make him feel that she supports him. Then she should tell him what she thinks is the best solution to the problem…for a wife should also be her husband’s most intimate friend. We should never forget that man and woman complete each other.

 From time to time the Mothers of the Believers, the wives of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), supported him with their ideas. For instance, during the negotiation of the treaty of Hudaybiyya, many Companions of the Prophet were deeply discontented with the treaty’s terms and grew restive. They could not comprehend the wisdom behind the treaty and were hoping it would be annulled. Most of them wanted to fight. This made the Prophet extremely sad. His wife Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her) counseled him not to worry, but immediately to perform the personal obligation required by the treaty. She knew that there was a possibility that the Hudaybiyya negotiations might fail unless the Prophet himself applied the treaty’s conditions. As a result of Umm Salama’s advice, the Messenger of Allah cut his hair and took off his ihram, publicly terminating his intention for Pilgrimage, which was what the treaty required. Seeing him do this, the Companions followed his lead. Thus the problem was solved before it was too late.

Another example is displayed by our mother Khadija. She consoled the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) after the first revelation, when he was frightened and worried about his mission. And she was the one who suggested that the Prophet seek out and consult the monk Waraqa b. Nawfal so that he might be reassured about his calling.

Even Caliph ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) once listened to a woman’s counsel. One day in the mosque he was complaining that women were requesting extortionate amounts of dowry, which made marriage very difficult. He declared that he intended to set a limit on dowry requests. A woman from the back rows stood up and objected. She quoted from the Qurʾan (4:20) that women could specify whatever amount of dowry they might wish. Hearing this, ‘Umar understood his fault and changed his opinion saying,

“She is right. ‘Umar has made a mistake.” (‘Ali al-Muttaqi, XVI, 536-537/45796)

However, there is a delicate point here that needs mentioning. When a wife is asked for her opinion, she should be careful not to seem arrogant, even though her opinion is correct. Whenever she is giving advice to her husband, she should avoid appearing disrespectful toward her husband.  It is a fact that men often feel uncomfortable when they are advised by women. In short, a righteous woman knows how to use her intelligence in the matter of her relations with her husband.

A woman should have the skill and mastery to enter her husband’s heart. There are many examples of this in our history. Many of the Ottoman sultans’ wives shared the power of their husbands through winning their husbands’ hearts. By doing so, they were able to leave many religious charitable foundations and good deeds behind them. Because of their services, they are still remembered with blessings and gratitude.

It is not appropriate for a wife to criticize or correct her husband in front of other people. No matter how wrong he is, she should not embarrass him by revealing his faults. The principle holds just as well for husbands’ treatment of their wives. In a verse, it is stated that

… Your wives are a garment for you and you are a garment for them …”(2; 187)

It is also wrong for a wife to praise other men above her husband. She should not complain about her husband even to her parents, as well as being careful not to put him in difficult positions in front of other people. She should look for ways to solve their problems between them.

We observe, in our experience, that at the foundation of a couple’s unhappiness one usually finds a failure to appreciate each other.  Spouses can be each other’s Paradise or each other’s Hell. When a pious woman pays attention both to serving Allah and to responding to her husband’s lawful requests, it is a sign that she is on the path to Heaven.

Q – What kinds of good news have been given by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about such righteous women?

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says:

After mindfulness of Allah, a believer gains nothing better for himself than a pious wife who obeys him when he commands her and pleases him when he looks at her. When he asks her to carry out a task, she is true to him and when he is away she protects her chastity as well as her husband’s property.”(Ibn Maja, Nikah, 5/1857)

A good wife is the one who obeys her husband and is compassionate to her children.

“The whole world is providence and the best provision of the world is a pious woman.”(Muslim, Kitab al-Rada, 64; See also: Nasa`i, Nikah, 15; Ibn Maja, Nikah, 5)

Thawban (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates:

When the verse “…and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement” (9:34) was revealed, we were with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) on an expedition. Some of the Companions said that now that we knew the ruling about gold and silver [we would no longer hoard them, but give them in charity]. We wished we knew what is good for us, so that we could accumulate that instead.  Upon hearing this, the Messenger of Allah said, “The most valuable possessions are a tongue that mentions the names of Allah, a thankful heart and a wife who strengthens the faith of her husband.” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 9/9)

Q – People experience so many financial difficulties in the contemporary world. With regard to our property, what principles might we observe in order to save the peace and tranquility of our families?

First of all, people need to learn how to control their desires so that they can prevent themselves from buying everything they see. Otherwise, constant expenditures will put them under a heavy financial burden and that will lead to unrest and crisis at home. Today many families, because of the ever-increasing credit cards, believe that they should easily be able to own whatever they want. In this way they fall into deep whirlpools of debt and interest. Many happy families have been destroyed by falling into this trap. Even if spouses are rich, they should not waste their wealth. This is an obligation for both man and woman. It is as Allah the Almighty commands in the following a verse:

And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the devils and the Devil is ever ungrateful to his Lord. (17:26-27)

If anyone owns more than he or she needs, then he or she should look for needy people to help. Helping the poor and attaining their prayers cheers up homes and increases our blessings. It should always be kept in mind that we could be in their place and they could be in our place.

Our principle in charity should be the verse “By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love; …” (3:92). When we give in charity, we should not give from the worst things that we own, but from the things that we value. In a saying of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) it is metaphorically stated that “Those who give charity first give it into the hand of Allah; and from the hand of Allah, it transfers to the hands of the poor.”

It should especially be mentioned that in families, practicing frugality is primarily the duty of the wife. She should be modest in her spending and careful about avoiding extravagance. If she does this, her home will be a prosperous one even if its people are not rich. In order to achieve this prosperity, she should begin cooking with the name of Allah, use her ingredients wisely and not push the financial limits of the family. This is the basis of domestic happiness. Today, because we do not observe these principles and because we throw tons of food into trash bins, we do not have prosperity and blessing in our homes. Meanwhile, a pious Muslim woman will prevent waste by buying just enough provisions for her home.

In times gone by, women were very skilled in patching clothes and never discarded anything until it was worn out. Today, however, many women prefer to discard their clothes and buy new ones when there are even the tiniest tears. This is a terribly extravagant practice.

The last thing that I would like to emphasize concerning the role of women in a peaceful family environment is the reality of the old saying, “A female bird makes the nest.” When wives grasp the significance of this saying and perform their duties in that spirit, our homes become gardens of Paradise.  The responsibility then falls to husbands to appreciate and protect the environment their wives have created.