It has been mentioned previously on the Hanafi Fiqh List that the wife must obey the husband even in reasonable permitted household matters like cooking. But Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam mentioned that there is another opinion on the issue. Can you explain?

It has been mentioned previously on the Hanafi Fiqh List that the wife must obey the husband even in reasonable permitted household matters like cooking. But Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam mentioned that there is another opinion on the issue. Can you explain?

ANSWER

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

This is a very sensitive and controversial subject which affects no doubt many people. I will attempt to (Insha Allah) shed some light on it from a Hanafi school perspective.

Let us first look at and study the texts of the traditional Hanafi Fuqaha (Jurists), mentioned in their respective books.

Imam al-Kasani states in his Bada’i al-Sana’i:

“If the husband brings food that needs to be cooked, then the wife should cook it, due to the Narration that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) distributed the labour between Siyyuduna Ali and Sayyida Fatima (Allah be pleased with them). The work outside the home was the responsibility of Ali (Allah be pleased with him), whereas the household work was the domain of Fatima (Allah be pleased with her).

However, the wife will not be compelled or forced to cook, and the husband will be obliged to bring her cooked food if she demands. If the husband wished to acquire her services for cooking in return for payment, then this is not permissible, neither is it lawful for her to take this money. If she does so, she will be taking money on something that is necessary (Wajib) on her according to the preferred opinion (Fatwa), thus it will be akin to taking a bribe.

The great Faqih (Jurist) Abu al-Laith said: “This is when the wife is unable to cook, or she is from a dignified family. If she is able to cook or she is from those who normally carry out their own jobs, then she will be compelled to do so.” (al-Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i, 4/24)

Imam al-Mawsili states in al-Ikhtiyar:

“The wife will not be compelled and forced to cook if she refuses to do so, and the husband will be obliged to bring someone who will cook, as it is necessary (Wajib) upon the husband to provide food. They (Fuqaha) said: “This is when she is not capable of cooking or she is from an upper-class family. However, if she is able to cook or she is from a family who normally carry out their jobs themselves, she will be forced, because she is considered (in this case) an obstinate.” (Abd Allah ibn Mahmud al-Mawsili, al-Ikhtiyar li Ta’lil al-Mukhtar, 3/225).

And in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

“If she (wife) says: “I will not cook”, it is stated in ‘al-Kitab’: She will not be forced to do so and the husband will be obliged to bring her ready-made food or someone who will cook for her. Abu al-Laith said: “ This (neccessity of the husband bringing her food….) is when she is from a upper-class family who normally do not perform the household jobs themselves, or she is not from a upper-class family, but she is incapable of cooking due to some illness or weakness. They (Fuqaha) said: “These (household) jobs are her religious duties, although the Qadi (judge) can not force her. This has also been mentioned in al-Bahr al-Raiq.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1/548)

It is stated in Hashiyah of Tahtawi on the Durr of al-Haskafi:

“These acts are her necessary religious duties in a sense that a Qadi can not force her to carry them out.” (3/255)

And finally it is stated by Imam al-Haskafi in his Durr al-Mukhtar:

“If the wife refused to cook and grind, if she is from those who normally don’t perform their own jobs or she is incapable, then the husband will be obliged to bring her cooked food. However, if she performs her works by her self or she is capable, it will not be necessary for the husband to do so. It is also impermissible for the wife to take any pay or salary in return for her cooking, as this is religiously necessary upon her even if she be from a respectable family, since the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) divided the labour between Ali and Fatima (Allah be pleased with them both) with the outside work being the responsibility of Ali, and the household work of Fatima, even though she was the master/ leader of all the women of the world.”

Imam Ibn Abidin, the great Hanafi Faqih, whilst commentating on this, says in his Radd al-Muhtar:

“Regarding al-Haskafi’s statement “it will not be necessary for the husband to do so”, it is said that she will be forced (to cook). Imam Sarakhsi said: “she will not be forced, but if she does not cook, then the husband will not give her any curry, and this is correct.

Regarding the statement “This is her religious duty”, this is the Fatwa we give, but she won’t be forced if she refuses. (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 3/579).

From the contemporary scholars, my respected teacher Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him) says in his Contemporary Fatawa:

“It is not a legal obligation of the wife, according to Islamic teachings, to cook the meals or serve the house, and if a woman elects to refuse to undertake these works, a husband cannot compel her to do so.

It is true that from a pure legal point of view, a wife may refuse to cook meals or to do other household works, but on the other hand, the husband may refuse to give her permission to meet her relatives. If both of them are restricted to such a crude legal relationship, an atmosphere of mutual understanding cannot be developed between them.

In short, a wife is not legally bound to render the household services, however it is advisable that she performs these functions as a measure of cooperation…”(Contemporary Fatawa, P. 124 /125)

From the foregoing, one may deduce the following ruling with regards to the duty of the wife cooking or carrying out the household work:

There are three types of women:

a) Those who are from an upper-class family and are not accustomed to perform the household work themselves, rather they had servants or assistants to help and assist them,

b) Those who are incapable of cooking and performing the household work due to illness, weakness or any other reason, regardless of their family status,

c) Those who are from a middle-class background and used to conduct domestic work themselves.

As far as the first category of women is concerned, after marriage they are not obliged to cook for their husbands whatsoever, religiously, legally or morally. Rather, if the wife demands for prepared and cooked food, the husband will be responsible to bring her cooked food.

The ruling with regards to the second type of women is similar to the first category, in that she is not responsible to cook for her husband in any way.

With regards to the third category of women, it is not mandatory upon them legally to cook for their husbands, insofar as it is not something that can be enforced through the courts, although it is her religious and moral responsibility that she cooks. The husband will only be responsible to provide her with cooking material. Even in this situation, if she refuses to cook, the husband will have to bring her cooked food.

Non-fulfilment of religious rights is sinful, and the husband has the right to take disciplinary measures, within the guidelines outlined by the fuqaha, in such cases. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar).

In this third situation, some scholars have stated that what the Fuqaha mean, is that she is religiously obliged to cook for herself and not for her husband, (meaning, the husband will not be responsible to bring her ready-made food) but this, I believe, is a trivial thing, as if she cooks for her own self, she is bound to cook for her husband, unless there is some other reason of conflict between the two.

I hope this is sufficient to clear the queries we’ve had recently over the issue.

And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

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