(n.b. The answer addresses a specific question with a narrow scope: whether there is agreement on what women must do. The question asks whether an agreement exists. Two Shafii legal texts are referenced to present a contrary opinion. This contrary opinion is sufficient to negate the initial claim that there is agreement. The question does not ask what women must or ought to do and the answer doesn’t attempt to address this – though it does suggest where readers turn for additional information. Readers should not expect an article that addresses a very specific and narrow question related to marriage to serve as a comprehensive guide to marriage.
NOTICE. On 21 Mar 2019, I changed the title from “Husbands must inform wives they are not obligated to cook and clean” to “Husbands must inform wives that wives are not obligated to cook and clean” to assist readers resolving the anaphora.)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Q. Is it true that there is agreement amongst the scholars that a woman must cook and clean?
A. Not only is this false, but a husband is required to inform his wife that this is not the case. Furthermore, she is entitled to wages for doing so – if she decides not to do so as an act of charity. Her refusal to do so is not an act of disobedience and he cannot withhold her support if she refuses.
Imam Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi mentioned Al-Muhaddhab:
“A woman is not required obliged to serve her husband by baking, grinding flour, cooking, washing, or any other kind of service, because the marriage contract entails, for her part, only that she let him enjoy her sexually, and she is not obligated to do other than that.”
Note: This is included in Reliance of the Traveller, w45.1.
فصل: ولا يجب عليها خدمته في الخبز والطحن والطبخ والغسل وغيرها من الخدم لأن المعقود عليها من جهتها هو الاستمتاع فلا يلزمها ما سواه.
The Shafii scholar Ali al-Shabramulsi mentions that in a lesson it was asked whether a husband must inform his wife that she is not obligated to serve him by cooking and doing housework as is customarily done.
The gist of the reply is that he must inform her since if she did not know this, she might think that she is required to do so and that she would not still deserve her support if she failed to do so – so she would thus do so under unlawful compulsion.
The aforementioned is included in many of the late hawashi that are used for fatwa, including al-Dumyati’s I’yanat al-Talibin which, today, is standard reading for virtually every Shafii at some point in their studies.
وقع السؤال في الدرس هل يجب على الرجل إعلام زوجته بأنها لا تجب عليها خدمته بما جرت به العادة من الطبخ والكنس ونحوهما مما جرت به عادتهم أم لا؟ وأجبنا عنه بأن الظاهر الاول لانها إذا لم تعلم بعدم وجوب ذلك ظنت أنه واجب وأنها لا تستحق نفقة ولا كسوة إن لم تفعله فصارت كأنها مكرهة على الفعل
And Allah knows best.