Wife"s Maintenance




Assalamu alaikum WRWB,

HADITH - 9 CLASS-Fiqh-Family Law

From Jabir (RA) that the prophet (SAW) [in the long farewell hajj hadith] said, while mentioning women, "... upon you is their maintenance (wellbeing) and clothing with moderation" (Muslim).

In Islam it is a right for the woman, that her husband provides for her maintenance. This entails, as mentioned in the above hadith, upkeep, food, shelter, etc. and clothing. A marriage where these will not be provided for by the husband, as spelt out in the contract, is generally regarded as invalid. There are other instances where the prophet has emphasized maintenance as a wife's or wives' rights upon their spouses for instances A'ishah (RA) reported that Hind bint Utbah, wife of Abu Sufyan, said to the prophet" "Oh messenger of Allah, Abu Sufyan is a mean/miserly person, he does not give me [for maintenance] what is enough for me and my children only what I take from him without his knowledge. Is there a sin upon me? He replied: "Take from his wealth what will be enough for you and your children, without extravagance". Their rights include lodgings, clothing, nourishing, general welfare and well being.

What is the basic minimum? Most Ulama feel there is no particular limit but the family should be given enough to maintain them. But Imam Shafi'i has in one narration put a limit to 1-2 Mudus of grains [or equivalent per day]. But from Hind's hadith above and the Quranic verse:

"Let the man of means spend according to his means: and the man whose resources are restricted. Let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him" (65:7)

It becomes clear that there is no set limit for the amount of food. There should be no difference from husband's and wife's meals, or between wives' maintenance in a polygamous setting for Allah (SWT) also said:

"Let the women live in the same style as 'ye live, according to your means" (65:6)

This should be the case for food, lodging and dressing. Others have also opined that maintenance should take into consideration her status and his capabilities. The food that is regarded as necessary is the already processed (cooked) food: that is acceptable. It has not been promulgated that she processes or cooks the food, only if she agrees to do that. If he has the means it is even suggested that he [the husband] employs female servants for her. Ibn Qayyim in a long narration says that "...but compulsory provision of money for the wife [in addition to her usual maintenance] has no bases from the prophet, sahaba or the four Imams, emphasizing that, only their sustenance has been advocated. Whether money could be substituted for maintenance also remains debatable.

Hakeem Ibn Muawiyat al-Qushayri reported that his father said: "Oh prophet, what are the rights of one's wife upon him?" He replied: "to feed her when you feed, to cloth her when you cloth yourself ..."

The hadith stresses that clothing is also part of maintenance, it does not however specify the type of dress, other than that it also depends on the husband's capabilities.

The women entitled to maintenance [nafaqah] are those who are in a genuine marriage contract and who their husband has consummated the marriage, or is in a position to consummate it by virtue of her willingness or maturity or both. Mere tying marriage knot, without satisfying above conditions, does not entitle a woman to maintenance. The prophet (SAW) took over two years after his marriage to Aisha (RA) to consummate his marriage and to start maintaining her. In Nigeria, people marry off their daughters
and immediately expect the groom to start sustaining her, without his (or possibility of) consummating the marriage; this is wrong. Her right to maintenance becomes invalid:

1.    When she refuses her husband in bed (or goes out without his permission particularly if he cannot command her to return, except if she is pregnant).

2.    Following Li'an (Vows of imprecation) between spouses even if she is pregnant.

3.    Following Khul'i (a special separation) between spouses, except if she is pregnant.


Her right to maintenance remains:

1.    If she has genuine reasons for refusing her husband e.g. menses, pueperal bleeding, sickness, during hajj, etc.

2.    During his absence like journey, imprisonment - even if following a quarrel with her (or her imprisonment).

Divorcees (<3) during iddah [seclusion] period should, contrary to practice in Nigeria, be cared for - food and lodging - by the estranged husband to the end of 'iddah as per the Qur'anic injunction: "Let the woman live (in 'Iddat) in the same style as ye live...and if they are pregnant, then spend (continue to maintain) on them until they deliver ..." (65:6)

On the other hand, if a husband dies, his wife, performing iddah of death, should not be cared for - food and dresses - from the dead husband's wealth, because the wealth now belongs to heirs. This is another wrong and common practice among Nigerians, where she is often times fed from the "inheritance".

It has advanced that the woman is under the care or guardianship of her husband....who prevents her from seeking for herself. It is necessary, therefore, that he cares for her. Nowadays, however, many women are not prevented from working by their husbands; One asks, "Is it right?" and would her employment and earnings in anyway shelve some responsibilities off the husband? Secondly, many single, marriageable, sometimes independent, women are found in the Ummah. This trend is thought to be partly explainable
by inability of men to afford maintenance to these women after marriage. Some of these women are actually self sufficient. An ijtihad has been evolving among some Ulama who feel a type of marriage where the wife can support herself (feeding and lodging) can be allowed. They argue, it will hopefully reduce the proportion of single women in the Ummah. These issues are unclear and remain controversial.

Allah knows best.

Finally, the prophet (SAW) cautioned: "It is enough sin for a man to deny food to the person [he is enjoined to feed] and certainly wives and women should be given their rights without extravagance or miserliness".