Husband's long absence from home

Q264 :I have been working in Saudi Arabia for the last five years. According to the terms of my contract, I am entitled to a one month vacation and a ticket every two years. My company stipulates that I cannot bring in my family. Therefore my wife stays home. I have been told that according to Islamic rules, one must not be absent from one's wife for more than six months, otherwise, divorce takes place. I am further told that to stay away from one's wife for more than six months is forbidden. Please comment.

A264 : According to Islam, marriage establishes certain rights to and imposes duties on both man and wife. One of the rights of a wife is marital companionship. A woman needs to be looked after by her husband for the personal, physical and social, points of view. She is also entitled to sexual fulfillment. When her husband is away from home for a long period, her sense of lack of fulfillment may weigh down heavily on her. Once Umar Ibn Al Khattab, the second caliph, was walking through the streets of Madinah to find out how the people fared, as was his habit, when he overheard a woman chanting lines of poetry which described her sense of loss as a result of her husband's absence. He went to his daughter, Hafsah, one of the Prophet's wives, and asked her how long a woman could tolerate the absence of her husband. She told him that four months were the maximum period. Since many Muslims needed to be absent from home, because they were fighting with Muslim armies against Byzantine and Persian empires, Umer sent (directive) to all his commanders that every soldier, is entitled to have a home leave every four months. On the basis of this event, scholars agree that a man may be absent from home, in connection with his work or with some other purpose, for a maximum period of four months, unless his wife freely agrees to a longer period. Many workers and employees are in the same situation as you are. They choose to travel because they get better jobs and they are able to support their families better. If any of them makes the decision to work abroad in consultation with his wife and she willingly accepts that he may stay away for long periods, then there is nothing wrong with that. If she does not agree to his prolonged absence, he may not exceed four months. However, if he does, his marriage is not dissolved automatically, as was suggested by your friends. His wife may apply to an Islamic court to grant her divorce, and the court may rule in her favour. He does not commit a sin by being absent for a long period, but he is in breach of his duties towards his wife.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )