Bridegroom staying in the house of bride

Q77 :An ancient social custom in my part of the world differs from what prevails in most other places, in the sense that after marriage, it is the bridegroom who stays in the house of the bride. Some religious preachers from outside the city are now saying that this practice is contrary to the Qur'anic rulings. I heard a preacher saying in his Friday sermon that the Qur'an instructs a Muslim man who divorces his wife to keep her in his home during her waiting period. How can a man abide by this instruction if he stays in her house? Please comment.

A77 : I admit to my surprise that it is the social custom in your part of the world that after marriage the man stays in the woman's home. As you say, this is contrary to what prevails in most parts of the world. However, social traditions differ from one place to another and what is traditionally valued in one place may be horrifying to the population of another. Take for example the simple requirement of a dower made by the man to his prospective wife, as a requirement of the marriage contract. In some places, within the Muslim world, this is reversed because it is the wife's family who pays a dowry to the prospective husband. The larger the amount of the dowry, the better the husband they may be able to secure. In the situation you describe as prevailing in your city, it is the wife's family who is responsible to provide a home for the prospective married couple. My surprise, however, is much greater at those preachers you have described claiming that this is forbidden in Islam and giving the hollow argument of what happens in case of divorce. I am here judging by your statement. What I would have expected preachers who have had a sound Islamic education to do is to emphasize the rights and duties of each of the two marriage partners. To do so, they would need to emphasize that every Muslim must support his wife, even if she is better off than him. He should provide her with accommodation, food, clothing and medical care according to his means. If he fails to do so, he is in breach of his duties and she may claim these by right. The best division of responsibilities in the family is that which the Prophet advised to his cousin, Ali and his daughter, Fatima. The Prophet was the fairest of human beings. He treated all people on the basis of justice. Never did he favour any person if that meant being unfair to another. Indeed he could pay or incur a liability or responsibility which he need not have incurred, if that meant that everyone would get his fair share. He would not be unjust to his own daughter, nor would he be unjust to his cousin who was married to her, for anything in the world. The advice he gave them was that the man was responsible for what is done outside the house and the woman was responsible for what is inside. This means that she takes care of the family home and the upbringing of children, while he works and earns the living of the family. Having said that, I add that it is permissible for Muslims, regardless of what relationship they may have, to give each other by way of gift whatever they wish. It is not wrong of anyone to accept a gift except where it means bribery. The Prophet himself accepted gifts, although he never accepted charity. If a woman makes a gift to her husband, he is free to accept it. This applies to her dower and to anything else she may have. She may give him a house to live in, or she may gift him with the usage of the house, retaining its possession herself. What is most important to realize in this regard is that the gift should be given freely, without pressure or coercion. If a husband insists on his wife to give him a gift, large or small, then he is doing something forbidden. But if she gives him the same thing or an ever better one freely, he incurs no blame for accepting it. In your situation, perhaps it is best to look at the tradition in your part of the world as a gift being given by the bride's family to the bridegroom. As such, he is free to accept it. It is not uncommon in parts of the world, where accommodation is scarce, for a rich father to give his daughter a flat or a house as a gift. He may have a variety of reasons for doing so, including securing his daughter's future after his death. He may think that should problems arise in her marriage and she gets divorced, she will have something to fall back on and she will not be abandoned. If the daughter gets married, she is free to make her house the family home, in which case, the husband moves into her house. Let us now turn to the situation which those preachers have mentioned and determine what are the responsibilities of the couple in case of divorce. When a man divorces his wife, by saying to her that he divorces her, she starts her waiting period which lasts until she has completed three menstrual periods or three periods of cleanliness from menstruation. If she does not menstruate, her term is three months. If she is pregnant, her waiting period lasts until she gives birth to her baby. During this time, she remains in the family home and her husband is not allowed to turn her out except in a case when she commits gross indecency. During her waiting period, the married couple may resume their marital relationship, which means the cancellation of the divorce and the reinstatement of the marriage. This does not require a new marriage contract or a fresh dower. It only requires the agreement of both parties to the new arrangement. This system serves multiple purposes. One purpose is to allow the separating man and wife, a chance to reconsider after tempers have cooled down. They will be facing the prospects of going their separate ways and the closer the time draws for their separation, they will be thinking hard about their future. They may reflect on what has happened and determine that it may be in their best interest or in the best interest of their children to be reunited. If the man is living in the woman's home, this obviously cannot be done because it is he who will have to leave the house. In most cases, it will be determined that practicalities require that the man should leave. This does not abrogate the waiting period, when the woman is not allowed to get married to someone else. It would only mean that they reflect on their situation when they are apart. The gift which was given to the man in the first place is no longer applicable. The man should still pay maintenance to his divorcee during her waiting period but it does not follow that he should take her to his own home. Perhaps we should mention here that another purpose of the waiting period is that the woman will have time to do her arrangements. She does not suddenly find herself in the street, if she has no close relatives to whom she may go. But if she is in her own home, this does not apply. In short, if the preachers have nothing more to say about the situation, I find their argument hollow and unacceptable.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )