An Important Hadith for Husband-Wife Relationship

Muslims claim to love Rasul-ullah (saws). Many prove that by keeping beards, using miswak and wearing pants above ankle. No doubt all these are sunnah and practicing any sunnah is commendable and will be rewarded.But it is equally important that one should be keen to follow the Prophet’s example in interpersonal relationships with others: wife, children, relatives and fellow Muslims. These same people beat and mistreat their wives and children and even slap on the face which in Islam is strictly forbidden even for animals.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet said, “If I were to order anyone to prostrate himself before another, I would have ordered a woman to prostrate herself before her husband.” [At-Tirmidhi] However, although some have declared it Sahih on the basis of similar ahadith, some others have declared it weak. In fact, Tirmidhi himself calls it weak after quoting it in his Sunan.

Whenever I ask in a gathering about the above hadith, everyone says he has heard it. But when I ask about the hadith concerning eleven women, not a single person would have heard of it. The hadith about sajdah and the common people’s saying: “A man should kill a cat on his wedding night so that wife should be terrorized to fear the husband,” has done great harm to the relationship of the spouses.

The following ayah from Surah Rum in the Qur’an and the hadith of Muslim emphasizes the importance of the husband and wife relationship in Islam.

And among His Signs is this that He created for you wives (spouses) from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are, indeed, signs for people who reflect.” (The Qur’an, 30: 21)

Jabir reported that Allah’s Messenger said: “Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension); the nearest to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: I did so and so. And he says: You have done nothing. Then another says: I did not spare so and so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife. The satan goes near him and says: ‘You have done well.’ [A’mash said:] He then embraces him.” (Muslim)

The Hadith of the Eleven Women

Muslim narrated the following hadith:

Narrated ‘Aisha: Eleven women sat (at a place) and promised and contracted that they would not conceal anything concerning their husbands.

The first one said: “My husband is like the meat of a lean weak camel which is kept on the top of a mountain which is neither easy to climb, nor is the meat has fat, so that one might take up the trouble of fetching it.”

The second one said: “I shall not relate my husband’s news, for I fear that I may not be able to finish his story, for if I describe him, I will mention all his defects and bad traits.”

The third one said:”My husband is a tall man; if I describe him (and he hears of that) he will divorce me, and if I keep quiet, he will neither divorce me nor treat me as a wife.”

The fourth one said:”My husband is a moderate person like the night of Tihama which is neither hot nor cold. I am neither afraid of him, nor am I discontented with him.”

The fifth one said:”My husband, when entering (the house) is a leopard, and when going out, is a lion. He does not ask about whatever is in the house.” 

The sixth one said:”If my husband eats. he eats too much (leaving the dishes empty), and if he drinks he leaves nothing, and if he sleeps he sleeps alone (away from me) covered in garments and does not stretch his hands here and there so as to know how I fare (get along).”

The seventh one said:”My husband is a wrong-doer or weak and foolish. All the defects are present in him. He may injure your head or your body or may do both.”

The eighth one said:”My husband is soft to touch like a rabbit and smells like a Zar’nab (a kind of good smelling grass).”

The ninth one said:”My husband is a tall generous man wearing a long strap for carrying his sword. His ashes are abundant and his house is near to the people who would easily consult him.”

The tenth one said: “My husband is Malik, and what is Malik? Malik is greater than whatever I say about him. (He is beyond and above all praises which can come to my mind). Most of his camels are kept at home (ready to be slaughtered for the guests) and only a few are taken to the pastures. When the camels hear the sound of the lute (or the tambourine) they realize that they are going to be slaughtered for the guests.”

The eleventh one said:”My husband is Abu Zar`ah and what is Abu Zar`ah (i.e., what should I say about him)? He has given me many ornaments and my ears are heavily loaded with them and my arms have become fat (i.e., I have become fat). He has pleased me, and I have become so happy that I feel proud of myself. He found me with my family who were mere owners of sheep and living in poverty, and brought me to a respected family having horses and camels and threshing and purifying grain. Whatever I say, he does not rebuke or insult me. When I sleep, I sleep till late in the morning, and when I drink water (or milk), I drink my fill. The mother of Abu Zar`ah and what may one say in praise of the mother of Abu Zar`ah? Her saddle bags are always full of provision and her house is spacious. As for the son of Abu Zar`ah, what may one say of the son of Abu Zar`ah? His bed is as narrow as an unsheathed sword and an arm of a kid (of four months) satisfies his hunger. As for the daughter of Abu Zar`ah, she is obedient to her father and to her mother. She has a fat well-built body and that arouses the jealousy of her husband’s other wife. As for the (maid) slave girl of Abu Zar`ah, what may one say of the (maid) slave girl of Abu Zar`ah? She does not uncover our secrets but keeps them, and does not waste our provisions and does not leave the rubbish scattered everywhere in our house.”

The eleventh lady then added, “One day it so happened that Abu Zar`ah went out at the time when the milk was being milked from the animals, and he saw a woman who had two sons like two leopards… (On seeing her) he divorced me and married her. Thereafter, I married a noble man who used to ride a fast tireless horse and keep a spear in his hand. He gave me many things, and also a pair of every kind of livestock and said, ‘Eat (of this), O Umm Zar`ah, and give provision to your relatives.” She added, “Yet, all those things which my second husband gave me could not fill the smallest utensil of Abu Zar`ah.”

‘Aisha then said: Allah’s Apostle said to me, ‘I am to you as Abu Zar`ah was to his wife, Umm Zar`ah.’”

If we contemplate on this hadith we learn the following important lessons:

  • Women do talk about their husbands more than men talk about wives
  • Some husbands are going to be very bad, and some excellent, and others in between. It describes the entire spectrum of husbands in the society.
  • Notice that the name and identity of the bad ones is not exposed, whereas the good ones are mentioned by name.
  • If someone has 5-6 daughters he should not expect that all their husbands will be excellent.
  • If husband is not good, women should be patient hoping for reward from Allah. At the same time, they should work on improving them.
  • Observe the honesty and fairness of the last woman who praises her ex-husband even after he divorced her.
  • The most important lesson for all husbands is the concluding sentence of the hadith. The Prophet has praised and endorsed the behavior and pampering of Abu Zar`ah.