On Obedient Wives

By Nadirah Angail

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard” (4:34).

It was bound to come up, guys. We couldn’t just keep glossing over it like we didn’t see it. Somebody had to address this “obedience” issue. So, here I am. Yes, we are Muslim women, but we’ve also been raised in a country that doesn’t take too kindly to the “O” word. In general, American culture looks down on obedience when it comes to a wife’s obligation to her husband. It’s been branded with an alternate meaning: oppression. Have we not been affected?

The command of obedience can be hard to swallow, even for Muslim women. It has a connotation we don’t always want to associate ourselves with. To some of us, an obedient wife is a voiceless woman that cowers in her husband’s shadow. It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way.

The problem is that we’ve gotten away from the real meaning. Obedience doesn’t mean the woman, all of a sudden, loses her right to be heard, and the man is free to behave in any way he chooses. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set a wonderful example for husbands to follow. He wasn’t harsh and insensitive toward his wives. He didn’t make obedience a chore for them. He was kind and allowed them to speak their minds, even when they didn’t agree with him. There is a hadith about how the best of men is he who is kindest to his wife (paraphrased). The husband does not have free reign. He has rules too.

With this in mind, obedience takes on a different light. It doesn’t seem hard and oppressive. It seems fair. Let’s consider a different scenario: the workplace. When you get a new job, you understand that you will have to obey your boss. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean she’s mean. The two of you are just doing your jobs; and, if you have a good boss, it will be enjoyable. You won’t mind being obedient because your boss respects you and doesn’t abuse her power. It is only when you have a jerk of a boss that obedience becomes a problem.

Marriage is no different. If you’ve married the right person— a kind, caring, considerate man— obedience shouldn’t be a problem. If you’ve married an overbearing, “Me Tarzan, you Jane” kind of brother, you may have some trouble. These are the kinds of brothers that can make obedience depressing. (If you are a brother taking offense to this, you are probably a Tarzan type.)

Sometimes, though, it’s not the husband. Sometimes it’s us. No matter how sweet and kind some husbands are, some brainwashed women are convinced to do what they want, when they want. Because so many of us want desperately to be “independent women,” we defy our husbands just to make a point that we will not be controlled. Of course, these same women still expect their husbands to “control” their responsibilities of providing for her and the children. They just don’t want him to do anything that would prevent them from having their way. This is a shame, because society has convinced some of us that being independent means disregarding our husbands’ feelings. This isn’t independence. It’s selfishness, and there is no room for that in a healthy marriage. No matter how independent you want to be, you’ve got to be dependent on someone.

We depend on our jobs for paychecks.

We depend on parents for love, comfort, etc. We depend on friends for companionship, entertainment and advice. We depend on schools to teach us. We depend on daycares to watch our children. This list could go on.

No one is truly independent. We’re just not that strong. Allah (swt) didn’t make us that way. We all need people to depend on, and if don’t want you husband to be one those people, you’ve got yourself a problem.

Nadirah Angail; “Empowering women- through knowledge, recognition & guidance”: www.nadirahangail.com.


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