A newlywed couple in our midst had a tiff about their summer travel plans. Making it all in the family, the rest of us jumped in with advice on how to resolve such conflicts. When somebody suggested letting the man of the house have the final say, just about everybody was up in arms in protest, including the husband!
God, who created us and designed our bonds with fellow humans, has given us clear instructions on how to build strong and lasting spousal relationships.
Marriage is considered a means for both individuals to draw closer to God. It is to be based on love, mercy and mutual respect with certain duties and rights to be fulfilled on both ends to ensure peace, harmony and success.
God encourages couples to make decisions through mutual consultation while keeping in mind the ultimate goal of pleasing Him. However, as the one entrusted with the leadership and guardianship of the family, the husband's opinion holds sway should a disagreement erupt.*
"The good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as God has guarded." (4:34)
"It doesn't mean he's a caveman dragging his wife around by her hair," says scholar Usama Abdul-Ghani, who adds men are encouraged to lead by example. "At the same time it does mean his word is the final word."
Fatima (one of the four perfect women) was the best partner in life to her husband Ali, who once said, "We lived like two pigeons in a cocoon."
Here is an excerpt from their final exchange before her death:
Fatima: "You have not known me to be a liar or a traitor, and have I ever disobeyed you since we were together?"
Ali: "God forbid! You are more knowing of God, more devoted, more pious, more honorable and more fearing of God than (to give me a reason) to reprimand you for disobeying me. Surely it is very painful for me to be separated from you and to lose you, but it is an inevitable destination."
Like any other institution, a family is the basic unit of society and can only progress materially and spiritually under well-respected leadership. If husbands and wives are forever duking it out over this, that or the other in the living room, they won't be able to fight the horrific oppression out on the streets.
No doubt, giving in isn't always easy (especially when we think we're right!), but it's supposed to be worth it at the end.
"Men normally want to please their wives," Abdul-Ghani says. "If she will allow him to lead and run affairs in this soft way, she will bring out the best in him."
Hmmm, I wonder how long it takes for that effect to kick in....
*For sure, a husband must also fulfill his duties towards his wife, including providing adequately for her, demonstrating good manners and affection towards her and not inviting her to violate any of God's laws. Prophet Muhammad (S) said: "The best among you is the one who observes the rights of his wife in the best possible way, and I am the best among you to observe the rights of my wives."