The Husband – Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller


A man should be his wife’s friend, pleasant and courteous in speech, show her love and affection, and be relaxed and informal when they are alone. He should overlook occasional missteps, forgive mistakes, defend her honor, seldom argue with her, honor her family, continually promise her the best, and have the manly jealousy to keep matters between her and other men from exceeding permissible limits.

He should be calm and chivalrous with his wife, well-mannered, patient, and tender, and know how to dispel tensions and arguments with jokes, ridiculous asides, and amorous liberties. He doesn’t have to prove he is tough, but should always mean what he says and not humor his wife’s whims or be so soft-hearted or indulgent that he worsens her character and turns her a domineering tyrant. If she has no adab or respect for him, he should send her back to her family until she wants to be a wife. Whenever he sees something ethically wrong, he should be grave and critical. He should be moderate and fair, buying her gifts and flowers, paying admiring compliments, and spending ungrudgingly on her necessities. He is neither stingy, nor wastefully lavish in buying things of little enjoyment or benefit. He should leave the house to work during the day, even if wealthy, because it is difficult for a wife to respect a husband who hangs around the house.

If a man has two wives, he should be strictly equitable in time, attention, and advantages to both, and not let one bully or enamor him into being unfair to the other. With Imam Shafi’i and all of our sheikhs I regard such equity as so difficult for most people to manage that marriage to more than one wife is religiously “superior not to do” (khilaf al-awla) under ordinary circumstances. Shafi’i's position is borne out by the word of Allah “You shall never be able to be completely fair between wives, however much you want to; So do not incline so wholly towards one that you leave the other one hanging; And if you set matters right, and prevent unfairness, verily Allah is oft-forgiving, all-compassionate” (Qur’an 4:129).

As a Muslim man, a husband should be clean in dress, make frequent use of the breath-freshening tooth-stick (siwak), and wear clothes neither intended to draw attention nor yet mean and sordid. He does not keep his hem low out of pride or high to appear ascetic. He attends the Friday prayer, always prays in a group, and does much dhikr and worship. He does not gawk around him while walking, look at other women than his wife, sit on the doorstep of his house with neighbors, or talk much with his friends about his wife and what takes place in his home.

- Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller


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