In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In Islam the marriage of a man and a woman is not just a financial and physical arrangement of living together but a sacred contract, a gift of Allah, to lead a happy, enjoyable life and continue the lineage. The main goal of marriage in Islam is the realization of tranquility and compassions between the spouses. For the attainment of this supreme goal, Islam defined certain duties and rights for the husband and wife.
Piety is the basis of choosing the life partner. Many are the statements of the Qur'an and the Sunnah that prescribe kindness and equity, compassion and love, sympathy and consideration, patience and good will. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says, "The best Muslim is the one who is best to his family." Also, he says, "… and the most blessed joy in life is a good, righteous wife." [Reported by At-Tirmidzi]
The role of the husband revolves around the moral principle that it is his solemn duty to Allah to treat his wife with kindness, honor, and patience; to keep her honorably or free her from the marital bond honorably; and to cause her no harm or grief. Allah Almighty says: "…consort with them in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hath placed much good." [An-Nisa', 4: 19]
The role of the wife is summarized in the verse that women have rights even as they have duties, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree over them. Allah Almighty says, "And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them. Allah is Mighty, Wise." [Al-Baqarah, 2: 228]
This degree is usually interpreted by Muslim scholars in conjunction with another passage which states, among other things, that men are trustees, guardians, and protectors of women because Allah has made some of them excel others and because men expend of their means. Allah Almighty says: "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath men the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great." [An-Nisa', 4: 34]
A-The Wife's Rights; The Husband's Obligations:
The Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w, have commanded kindness to women, it is the husband's duty to:
1- Consort with his wife in an equitable and kind manner. Allah Almighty says, "… and consort with them in kindness." [An-Nisa', 4: 19]
2- Have responsibility for the full maintenance of the wife, a duty which he must discharge cheerfully, without reproach, injury, or condescendence. Allah Almighty says: "Let him who hath abundance spend of his abundance, and he whose provision is measured, let him spend of that which Allah hath given him. Allah asketh naught of any soul save that which He hath given it. Allah will vouchsafe, after hardship, ease." [At-Talaq, 65: 7]
Components of Maintenance:
Maintenance entails the wife's incontestable right to lodging, clothing, nourishing, and general care and well-being.
1-The wife's residence must be adequate so as to provide her with the reasonable level of privacy, comfort, and independence. The welfare of the wife and the stability of the marriage should be the ultimate goal.
2-What is true of the residence is true of clothing, food, and general care. The wife has the right to be clothed, fed, and cared for by the husband, in accordance with his means and her style of life. These rights are to be exercised without extravagance or miserliness.
A husband is commanded by the law of Allah to:
1- Treat his wife with equity.
2- Respect her feelings, and to show her kindness and consideration.
3- Not to show his wife any aversion or to subject her to suspense or uncertainty.
4- Not to keep his wife with the intention of inflicting harm on her or hindering her freedom.
5- Let her demand freedom from the marital bond, if he has no love or sympathy for her.
B. The Wife's Obligations; The Husband's Rights:
The main obligation of the wife as a partner in a marital relationship is to contribute to the success and blissfulness of the marriage as much as possible. She must be attentive to the comfort and well-being of her mate. She may neither offend him nor hurt his feelings. Perhaps nothing can illustrate the point better than the Qur'anic statement which describes the righteous people as those who pray saying: "Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the joy and the comfort of our eyes, and guide us to be models of righteousness.” [Al-Furqan, 25: 74]
This is the basis on which all the wife's obligations rest and from which they flow. To fulfill this basic obligation:
1- The wife must be faithful, trustworthy, and honest.
2- She must not deceive her mate by deliberately avoiding conception lest it deprive him of legitimate progeny.
3- She must not allow any other person to have access to that which is exclusively the husband's right, i.e. sexual intimacy.
4-She must not receive anyone in his home whom the husband does not like.
5-She may not accept their gifts without his approval. This is probably meant to avoid jealousy, suspicion, gossip, etc., and also to maintain the integrity of all parties concerned.
6- The husband's possessions are her trust. If she has access to any portion thereof, or if she is entrusted with any fund, she must discharge her duty wisely and thriftily. She may not lend or dispose of any of his belongings without his permission.
7- With respect to intimacy, the wife is to make herself desirable; to be attractive, responsive, and cooperative.
8- A wife may not deny herself to her husband, for the Qur'an speaks of them as a comfort to each other. Due consideration is, of course, given to health and decency.
9- Moreover, the wife is not permitted to do anything that may render her companionship less desirable or less gratifying. If she neglects herself, the husband has the right to interfere with her freedom to rectify the situation and insure maximum self-fulfillment for both partners. She is not permitted to do anything on his part that may impede her gratification.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Source: Excerpted with some modifications from Islam in Focus by Hammudah `Abd al-`Ati’s republished in Islam online