Woman: Supporting husband

Q705 :Both my husband and I were students when we got married. Neither of us had a job and shortly after our marriage, my husband lost his allowance from his parents because of a change in their circumstances. My father supported us and our child was born when I was still a student. Afterwards, I was the only one continuing with my studies, while my husband stayed at home looking after our child. After graduation, I worked abroad and supported my husband until he graduated. He is still without a job and he continues to ask me for money to look after our child. I am fed up with this situation. Can I ask my husband for a divorce? What if he refuses? Who gets custody of our child? If we get divorced, can we remain friends? Will I be allowed to see my child?

A705 : An important factor in the life of every married couple has, to all appearances, gone wrong with your marriage. It is the demarcation of responsibility which seems to have been lost when the roles of your husband and yourself were reversed. It is the duty of every husband to provide his wife with a decent standard of living, according to his means. It is well known that in Islam, a wife who is rich need not spend any part of her money in order to pay for the expenses of her children or herself, let alone those of her husband. That responsibility belongs totally to her husband. Although a Muslim woman enjoys these privileges, it is permissible for her to go out to work and to invest her money and conduct any business transaction she likes. A guiding principle must be observed by all Muslims, men and women. That principle requires us to observe Islamic values and fulfill Islamic instructions wherever we are and in whatever work we engage. Therefore, if a Muslim woman wants to attend to her business, or run a shop, or manage a company, or discharge the duties of her employment, she must not neglect her family duties. It may happen that a woman finds it difficult to meet both sets of obligations and she may need the help of her husband, or she may need to employ a home helper or a nanny, etc. Such matters are decided in consultation between her and her husband. Whatever they agree is permissible, as long as they break no Islamic teachings. Moreover, if a woman decides to help her husband with some of her earnings, she is perfectly entitled to do so. He commits no sin by accepting it, provided that he does not pressure or coerce her into making such a gift to him. If she is under pressure to make such a payment, it is not lawful for him to take it. Her gifts must come out of her own free will. I should perhaps clarify that the foregoing is a statement of general broad lines. Within their framework, every married couple can decide how to divide the responsibility between them and what each of them should do and the privileges they can enjoy. Therefore, when you and your husband faced an initial problem with a suspension of his allowance as a result of the moving of his parents, it was perfectly appropriate for you to make use of your parents' generosity and finish your studies. Your subsequent action of looking after the family while your husband completed his studies was a thoughtful action for which you earned a reward from Allah and the admiration of people. You were obviously looking forward to a day when both yourself and your husband cooperated to improve your family situation and lay the foundation for a bright future. Therefore, your disappointment at the lack of cooperation shown by your husband is understandable. You ask whether your husband has committed a sin by not providing you and your son with a home and not looking after you. I would not describe his as a sinful action, but a failure to meet a duty. If such a failure is the result of complacency or negligence or laziness, then he will have to account for it on the Day of Judgment. On the other hand, if he has tried to find a job and spared no effort to get some sort of employment, but his efforts have not been successful due to circumstances beyond his control, then he has nothing to answer for. You are better able to judge whether he has been negligent or complacent. Any woman may seek a divorce if she feels that her life with her husband is an unhappy one. We have the case of a companion of the Prophet who made it clear to the Prophet that she wanted a divorce. She explained that she had nothing against her husband with regard to his religious and moral values and practices or to his manners. She was simply not satisfied with her life with him. The Prophet arranged that the husband divorce his wife, after she returned to him the dower he had paid her. This shows that it is permissible for a married woman to seek to be divorced if she is unhappy with her husband. She may be required to refund any dower her husband might have paid her. I should perhaps add here that a divorce is effected in this way: the husband divorces his wife only once, not three times as many people imagine. [Refer to questions on divorce for guidance on this important point.) The case of your child is rather a difficult one. It is certain that you are entitled to the custody of the child, if the child is below nine years of age. Thereafter, the child may be offered a choice between his parents. The father remains responsible to provide him with his need of food, clothes and housing. From your line of questioning I feel that you are troubled by your husband's repeated requests for financial support for himself and for your child. Your worry is not unreasonable, since you have not chosen to be in the situation you are in. Judging by your account, it appears to me that your husband seems to have gotten used to being supported by you and does not feel the urge to find work in order to spare you the need of working abroad. Thus, you have a split in the family in which you have assumed the role of the breadwinner. To put your mind at ease, I tell you that you commit no sin if you refuse to make any transfers to your husband. Perhaps it is wiser if you write to him saying that he should do his best to relieve you of the responsibility of earning the living of your family. It is time that he assumes this responsibility and finds work for himself, either in his home country or abroad. You should make it clear to him that if he finds a suitable job, which gives him enough to support his family, you are prepared to join him. Alternatively, he should join you and find some employment where you are working. Again, if you refuse to transfer any money to your son, you neglect no duty of yours. You are not responsible for supporting your child. That is your husband's responsibility. It may be wise to try to get your husband to see the urgency of finding work, by refusing to make any transfers to him for a few months. You will be able to judge his reaction to that. If it works and he finds employment, then you can gradually readjust your life so that your husband is the breadwinner who looks after his family. You ask about the rights of divorced parents in respect of being with their children. If you are divorced and the child is with you, the father is entitled to visit the child or have the child visit him. The same applies to you. In Islam there is no denial of access to the child to either parent, unless there is a valid reason determined by the court. You ask whether you can remain friends with your husband after divorce. This is perfectly appropriate. In Islam, divorce does not mean hostility. It simply signifies that two people have found it difficult to live together. Therefore, they have decided to have their separate ways. It does not mean that they have to become enemies for the rest of their lives. [ A former husband is just like any other man and since they have to discuss certain matters which relate to the upbringing of their children, they may meet in the presence of some of her immediate relatives. She should wear the same type of clothes she wears when she goes out.]

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )