What are the conjugal rights and responsibilities in Islam?


A lady sent two ahadith to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa regarding conjugal rights and responsibilities of husband and wife and enquired whether the two ahadith also applied to a husband. 

Huzooraa, in his letter dated 22 November 2020, gave the following reply to this question: 

“The first hadith states that when a husband calls his wife to bed and she refuses out of some dissatisfaction, the angels curse her all night long. Remember that this hadith applies not only to the wife but, in the opposite scenario, also to the husband. 

“If there is one aspect that can be deduced from this hadith, it is that the Holy Prophetsa cautioned married women against refusing without any legitimate excuse on account of the men’s impatience regarding their sexual appetite. Otherwise, just as the wife is obliged to fulfil the sexual needs of the husband along with his other rights, the husband is also obliged to fulfil her sexual rights along with the other needs. Therefore, if a husband does not pay his wife’s conjugal dues upon her request, without any compelling reason, then he too will be liable before Allah, in the same way as the wife, who incurs the displeasure of Allah the Exalted by refusing to satisfy her husband’s sexual desire without any legitimate excuse. 

“It is narrated by Hazrat Abu Musa al-Ash‘arira that once, the wife of Hazrat Uthman ibn Maz‘unra came to the wives of the Holy Prophetsa. The respected wives, upon seeing her plight, asked what had happened to her, for there was no one in the Quraish wealthier than her husband. She replied, ‘I have no use for all that because my husband spends the day fasting and the night praying.’ 

“Later, when the Holy Prophetsa visited his wives, they mentioned this to the Holy Prophetsa. The narrator says that the Holy Prophetsa met with Hazrat Uthman ibn Maz‘unra and (while expressing his displeasure) said to him, ‘Am I not an example for you?’ Upon this, Hazrat Uthman ibn Maz‘unra asked, ‘May my mother and father be sacrificed for you, what is the matter?’ The Holy Prophetsa replied, ‘You spend the night praying and the day fasting, whereas your family also has a right over you and your body has a right over you. Therefore, offer prayers but also sleep and sometimes fast and sometimes do not fast.’ 

“The narrator says that after some time, when the same woman came to the wives of the Holy Prophetsa, she was wearing fragrance and was adorned like brides. The respected wives expressed their delight upon seeing her and exclaimed, ‘Excellent! How charming!’ She told them, ‘Now, I also have everything that other people have.’ (Majma‘ al-Zawa‘id, Kitab al-Nikah, Baab haqqil-mar‘ati ala al-zauj)

“Moreover, with reference to the above-mentioned hadith, it should also be kept in mind that in the case that the refusal of this act is due to a valid excuse or a compelling reason, neither party would be subject to the displeasure of Allah the Exalted. Hence, it is mentioned in a hadith that when the Holy Prophetsa went to the Battle of Tabuk, a Companion who had gone out on a journey returned to Medina after the Holy Prophetsa had already left. He turned to his wife to show affection to her, but she pushed him back, saying, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself for the Holy Prophetsa has gone out to war against the enemy in such intense heat and all you want to do is to make love to me and go in unto me?’ (Dibacha Tafsir-ul-Quran [Urdu], pp. 343-344, published 1948)

“Therefore, if a party refused due to a valid excuse or a compelling reason, they would not be liable to any punishment. However, if a husband or a wife comes close to their spouse, arouses their feelings, and then moves away from them in order to tease them, then surely the one who does so will be subject to the displeasure of Allah the Exalted.

“As far as the hadith regarding a married woman observing voluntary fasting with the consent of her husband during his presence at home is concerned, the wisdom behind it is that Islam has taken care of the rights and responsibilities of the husband and wife in every sphere. Therefore, in the division of the rights and responsibilities of the spouses, all the responsibilities related to outside the home and the provision of food and financial support for the wife and the children etc. have been entrusted to the husband by Allah the Exalted and the domestic responsibilities (including the protection of household property, providing for the needs of the husband and raising of the children etc.) is entrusted to the wife by Allah the Exalted.

“So, when the husband goes out of the house to perform his duties, the wife has total leave to perform supererogatory worship along with the performance of her household duties. However, if the wife desires a leave from fulfilling the rights of the husband during his presence at home, then she should do so by his consent since the provision of his needs is included among the duties of the wife. The wisdom behind this commandment becomes fully evident from an incident mentioned in the following hadith

“Hazrat Abu Saeedra narrates that the wife of Hazrat Safwanra ibn al-Muattal (who used to work on the fields all night and spend the day at home) complained to the Holy Prophetsa, saying, ‘My husband makes me break my fast when I am observing voluntary fasting.’ The Holy Prophetsa asked Hazrat Safwanra about it. He replied, ‘When she fasts, she keeps on fasting. Since I am a young man, I cannot restrain myself.’ 

“The narrator states that the Holy Prophetsa announced on that day that, ‘A woman should not observe (voluntary) fast except with the consent of her husband.’ (Sunan Abi Daud, Kitab al-Saum)”

In short, Islamic teachings urge husbands and wives to fulfil all of each other’s rights, including [those related to] the sexual relationship, with utmost honesty. Neither party has been allowed to usurp the rights of the other on the premise of worship. Therefore, the party who violates the rights of the other in any way will be considered guilty before Allah the Exalted.

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