Meaning of statement: Women are captives with men
Fatwa No: 346576

  • Fatwa Date:1-3-2017 - Jumaadaa Al-Aakhir 3, 1438
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum, Shaikh. In a hadith, it is told that the wife is the captive/prisoner of the husband. Even ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him, said, "Marriage is enslavement." These statements make me panic. And crying in panic is all that is left. This means that husband-wife relation is a owner-slave relation? Or is it an owner-servant relation? Or is it a boss-employee relation? And is the husband's house a prison for the wife? I need an authentic explanation so that it would be easy to understand.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

Describing women as captives (in the marriage bond) is confirmed in an authentic hadeeth reported by At-Tirmithi within the speech of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) in the Farewell Pilgrimage, in which he said, “I enjoin you to treat women well, for they are like captives with you, and you may not treat them otherwise unless they commit flagrant immorality…

As regards the statement, “Marriage is enslavement,” it was narrated both as a direct statement attributed to the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) (a Marfoo' hadeeth) and as a statement attributed to ‘Umar, ‘Aa’ishah, and Asmaa’  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  them all (a Mawqoof hadeeth). The Mawqoof hadeeth (the narration attributed to the three Companions) is the one judged as authentic, as was stated by Al-Iraaqi while quoting Al-Bayhaqi.

However, these statements and the like do not mean that women are degraded or that they are like female slaves and that their husbands are their masters; rather, they mean that by virtue of a valid marriage contract, the woman is joined to her husband with a bond that makes her obliged to obey him in what is permissible and prevents her from desiring a man other than him. So the wife is obliged to obey her husband in matters of their intimate relationship and she should fulfill his rights upon her, just as he is obliged to fulfill her rights upon him; Allah says (what means): {And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable.} [Quran 2:228]

For more benefit, please refer to fatwas 86618 and 88304.

The relationship between them is closer to the relationship that you mentioned between the employee with her superior at work. This is the meaning of Qiwaamah (guardianship/responsibility) that Allah entitled the husband to have over his wife, as Allah says (what means): {Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth..} [Quran 4:34]

It is a responsibility of management of affairs, and it is for this reason that the wise Sharia warned the husbands against exploiting this responsibility in being authoritative over the wives. This was mentioned in the continuation of the previous verse, as Allah says (what means): {But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.} [Quran 4:34]

Ibn Katheer  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “The saying of Allah {Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand} is a warning to mean that if they transgress against women without justification, then Allah, The Exalted and Grand, is their (women's) Protector, and He will exert revenge on those who transgress against women and deal with them unjustly.

The most important thing that should be known is that marriage is an integration between the husband and wife; each of them fulfills the role that the other may be unable to fulfill. Just as she may serve him by organizing the affairs of his home and taking care of his children, he serves her by going about in the land in order to earn a living.

‘Aa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her narrated that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said, “Women are but counterparts of men.” [Ahmad, Abu Dawood, At-Tirmithi] For more benefit, please refer to fatwa 84040.

In conclusion, hearing these ahaadeeth and the like should not be a reason for worry, and a Muslim must understand them within the full context of the principles of Islam which take care of women and give them their rights and order men to be kind to them and warn against harming them and so forth, because if these statements are taken out of this context, then they could be misunderstood to mean the opposite.

Allah knows best.

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