Summary: A wife’s religious obligation to perform housework

During the brouhaha related to my earlier post clarifying the Shafii position that husbands must inform wives they are not obligated to cook and clean, someone shared Mufti Shabbir Ahmad Patel’s article on the various opinions on the issue entitled Al-Siraj al-wahhaj fi khidmat al-azwaj (“The shining lamp on serving the spouses”). The full article is available on the nawadir.org website. Here is their summary of the article:

The treatise is divided into three sections:

1. The practice of the Muslim females in the Prophetic era in relation to serving their husbands and families and undertaking household chores. Forty ḥadīths are outlined to highlight this, supplemented with a further twelve general ḥadīths on being obedient to the husband.

2. The jurisprudential ruling on serving the husband and undertaking household chores based on the views of the four schools of thought.

3. The practice of the Muslim husbands in the Prophetic era in relation to supporting their wives and families and undertaking household chores. This is supplemented with some ḥadīths regarding the rights of a wife.

The second section ends with a really nice summary of the various opinions.

The gist is that there is a difference of opinion concerning wives serving their husbands:

1. One group consider it obligatory. It is the opinion of Ibn Abi Shaybah, Abi Thaur, some Hanafis (e.g., al-Juwzajani), Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim. Al-Tabari inclined towards it, and Muhammad bin Ali bin al-Ityuni preferred it in Qurrat al-ayn al-muhtaj (2:415).

2. The Hanafis consider it a non-compulsory religious obligation.

3. The Malikis consider it obligatory if the Husband is poor or she is not from the upper echelons of society.

4. The Shafiis, most Hanbalis, and some Malikis consider it non-obligatory. Abu Hanifah and Muhammad bin al-Hasan gave this opinion. Ibn Qudamah was certain of it, though he preceded his opinion by saying, “However, it is best that she perform whatever is customary for wives to perform because it is the custom, the situation won’t be right without it, and society won’t function without it.”

The article looks like a really useful work for anyone who is interested in the topic and sorting out the facts from the fiqhtions.

Anyone interested in other issues about the fiqh of marriage is invited to read the relevant sections from The Accessible Conspectus (available on Amazon and elsewhere) and The Evident Memorandum (available on Amazon).

p.s. This faqih isn’t driven by whether a fiqh opinion happens to align with pro-feminists or anti-feminists. What this faqih cares about is how the opinion aligns with the principles of Islamic jurisprudence.

p.p.s.: Cherry-picking opinions doesn’t align with those principles.

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