We are truly living in a time of financial uncertainty and it is affecting people all over the world. This is validated by the high unemployment rates in the US and the continued struggles of those living in the EU to keep their financial institutions stable and afloat. People living in “third world nations” are no strangers to these struggles! For many the solution to this problem is to move to a place where they can find work. This is honorable because we have to take care of ourselves. It is the duty of the husband in Islam to maintain his family. Alhamdulillah, many of our men have left their homes and their families to try to become gainfully employed in order to support them. No one leaves their families with the intention of not coming back; most of the men that leave their families make the intention and have a plan of returning to them! Not every plan is the same, but most of them will include one or a combination of the following;
- Find work abroad and to earn enough money to return home and survive for a year or more with the family.
- Work and find a place to live and send for the family later.
- Find work and visit home 3-4 times a year.
- Find work and sends for his family to visit him 3-4 times a year.
- Combine 3 and 4.
- Finally, just to play it by ear and pray that they are able to deal with their family when they can.
Each and every one of these intentions or plans if executed properly has the ability to hold a family together. The problem that most people have is that they aren’t able to execute these plans and their families suffer because of it. I know that there are some extenuating circumstances that prohibit people from obtaining their goals and if we look at Muslim men leaving their families to find work to support them we can list many of those circumstances. Just as an example, here are a few.
- The man isn’t educated and is limited to low wage employment.
- The man finds work but doesn’t make enough money to support himself.
- The man finds work and can support himself but he doesn’t make enough money to support himself and to send money home.
- The man finds work and sends money home but can’t afford to send for his family or to visit them.
- Finally the man has the means to fulfill all of the intentions but doesn’t.
Most men that leave their families do so full of optimism, and believe they will go to a place, find work and reunite with their families within a year. Unfortunately this rarely happens and they normally find themselves away from their families for very long periods of time. I have to apologize that I gave you all of the information that preceded this last sentence, but I had to present a background for this all important subject that we are about to discuss. “Men that leave their families and don’t return.”
It is becoming commonplace to hear Muslim women complain about their husbands leaving them and their children to provide a better situation for them and the husbands not coming back home. The hijra (migration) that these men embark on is pure and honorable but in time it becomes a drawn out hardship. Some people would say that the women shouldn’t complain especially if their husbands are sending money back home and they are supporting their family. What these people don’t see is the stress that the families are enduring because of the husband being absent. They don’t understand that a marriage is more than just taking care of financial obligations; it is about companionship and parenting among many other things that are being neglected while the husband isn’t home. Somewhere down the line we have to ask ourselves this question, are the rights of the wife and children being observed?
In most situations they aren’t. Women, when their husbands leave them for long periods of time are left alone with out companionship. In Islam, a man is allowed to marry up to four wives, a provision that was granted to him through the Quran. It is not the intention of this article to discuss any conditions that have to be met so that a man can take on the other wives, but just to mention that men do have this as an option. Our women don’t have the same options; they can only be married to one man at a time. This in no way shows a deficiency in Islam nor does it normally present a problem for the believers. However, it does show that men can satisfy their needs while they are away and their wives can’t. Men in Islam must take the rights that their wives have on them into consideration while contemplating leaving home to make life better for his family. The world that we live in is not perfect and every story doesn’t have a happy ending. However, we can try our best to make sure that we are following the mandates of Islam so that people’s rights are being observed. We don’t like to think about women having the same needs as men and just because we don’t, it doesn’t negate the fact that they do. If a man is away from his family for more than a year without physically seeing them it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the wife, the children and the marriage in general. This problem is compounded when it escalates to two, three or who knows how many years! This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. Men have to make a decision to either be with their families or to set them free if their families have grievances with him being away for unusually long periods of time.
This is a great place to talk about the rights of a wife and family in Islam. We won’t discuss all of them, but we will discuss the ones that deal directly with this subject. Allah says in the Glorious Quran,
And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect. (H.Q. 30:21)
The love between man and woman (husband and wife) is the grace of Allah. This forms the fundamental base of alliance between couples of the same species. Love and compassion provides the cohesive force of this union. To most non-Muslims the mention of this word love comes as a surprise to them because they don’t see Islam as a loving religion. But as mentioned it is the glue that holds marriages together. It should also be the force that prohibits any hardship in a marriage. Our Prophet tells us,
The most complete believers in terms of faith are those who possess the best morals. The best of you are those best to their wives.
The ones that are best to their wives are the ones that will maintain the rights of the wives. Inshallah we will enumerate some of those rights.
1. The right of sexual relations, according to the majority of the Ulema (Islamic Jurist) a man is not to stay away from his wife for more than four months. Again, sometimes men don’t like to think about women having the same urges and needs that they have and it may make some men feel uncomfortable but they do. In regards to this article, the rights of the women are being usurped if the man stays away past that time without the consent of his wife. Many people will argue the point that it may be necessary for a man to be away for that long to maintain his family, but that is only financially and it may not be enough to cover the other rights.
2. The right of protection. Allah tells us,
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because of what Allah has preferred one with over the other and because of what they spend to support them from their wealth.” [Surah an-Nisa 4: 34]
To feel safe and secure is the right of every human being on earth! In Islam the primary role of protection is placed on men in general and on the husband specifically when referencing the family. It is extremely difficult for a man to provide protection for his family if he is not physically there. Many women and families are abused when the husbands are not on the scene. Many of them are taken advantage of and find themselves doing things out of fear because there is no one to protect them.
Another form of protection is the educating of the children. It is the responsibility of the father to teach the children Islam, love of Allah (swt), the Prophet (sawas) and the Quran. We know that the women also play a role but the men are responsible for this. It is important that the children see good relations between their mothers and fathers so that they can emulate them when they get married which is another form of protection.
3. The right of a wife not to be dealt with kindly. Allah (swt) says; “and treat them kindly. (H.Q. 4:19)” The best way to treat your wife kindly is to be attentive, caring and sharing with her. We all want to be loved and being present is the best way to show love. As mentioned before men have ways of fulfilling their desires when they are away from home, while our women don’t. How long can men expect women to wait patiently while they are trying to provide for them financially and in many cases are failing to support them financially and are also failing to love and protect them? This is oppressive and should not be tolerated.
These words are mainly for the men that have left their families to provide a better life for them and that have the ability to go home and be with their family or that have the means to have them come to visit and or live with him and they just don’t do it. Remember our Prophet (sawas) said, “The best of you is the one who is best to his family.”
4. The last right that I will mention is the right of divorce. Divorce is hated by Allah (swt). The Prophet tells us, “Of all the things permitted, divorce is the most hated in the sight of Allah.” Because of this it should be avoided whenever possible. However Allah has allowed it because sometimes people shouldn’t be together. It is a myth that a woman can’t ask for a divorce in Islam. Marriage appears under transactions in Islamic law because it is a contract. A woman can stipulate some of the conditions of her marriage and having the power to divorce is one of them if the husband approves it in the marital contract. Moreover, women can divorce their husbands if they abuse them by using foul and insulting language or beat them. She can also divorce him if he becomes impotent, or cannot perform his marital duties or refuses to have sex with her. She can request a divorce if her husband becomes ill or contracts a sexually transmitted disease. Or put plainly, if the contract is broken i.e. he is not maintaining and protecting his family or observing the rights of his wife.
It was never the desire of Allah (swt) to put humanity in an unbearable situation. He tells us, “”Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what he can bear. After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief.” Quran (at-Talaaq, 65:7) If a man has to leave home and he is gone for years he has in many cases placed his family in a hardship that could lead to resentment and in the worst of circumstances to sin. Again, I know that there are some extenuating circumstances that occur that can’t be helped. However, if a man can’t bring his family together where he is at then he may need to think about going back to his family and trying to make a way for them where they are. The choice is a difficult one but the family has rights that must be fulfilled.
Divorce is not the end of the situation if that is what has to happen. We Muslims must understand that it is Islam that insured the maintenance of women after divorce. In conjunction with maintaining our women we as men are 100% responsible for our children. Life is a struggle, how we approach that struggle has been placed in our hands. When men and women get married they have decided to face that struggle together as a team. The decision for a man to seek work away from his family is normally reached mutually and a man returning home should be reached in the same manner. At the end of the day we are held accountable for our decisions and actions by Allah, and He has admonished us not to oppress anyone and to observe the rights of everyone. Men be kind to your families, observe their rights and if you can’t do that, set them free!