By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Among the moral titles pertaining to the marital relationship is Allah’s saying: "And treat them kindly," i.e. you ought not to complicate matters and contrive to dissolve the marriage, but rather maintain a rational way of thinking. Instead of rushing into divorce, you must examine the issue thoroughly and consider all the possible consequences: "Then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it." (19:04). Many people experiencing marital issues resort to separation, or any other malevolent ways in dealing with their wives. They act in accordance to their temperament and disposition, disregarding the future of the family and the presence of a third party, whose condition and status must be taken into consideration.
We used to say, jokingly, that some men believe themselves to be as high as skyscrapers, for Allah says: "And the men are a degree above them." (02:28). However, some interpreters believe that the word “degree” refers to divorce, and not to the worth of a man.
Allah addresses the disputes that might arise among couples, as follows: "And if you fear a breach between the two, then appoint judge from his people and a judge from her people; if they both desire agreement, Allah will affect harmony between them." (35:04). They must never promptly resort to divorce, or refer to a sheik to divorce them in absentia. I have been once told about a sheik who divorced a couple three times in absentia, even though they had thirteen children. Although it might be considered religiously permissible, we believe that it is a humanitarian and ethical crime. Before undertaking such a step, we must act in a responsible manner by examining the matter from all sides.
Allah’s saying: "then keep (them) in good fellowship," sets the tone for the marital relationship of couples, but if they chose to end this relation, then "or let (them) go with kindness." (02:229). In other words, they ought to end their marriage the way they have started it; with love, kindness, and affection. In His Holy Book, Allah discusses how some men order their wives to give up their dowry: "And if you wish to have (one) wife in place of another and you have given one of them a heap of gold, then take not from it anything; would you take it by slandering (her) and (doing her) manifest wrong? And how can you take it when one of you has already gone in to the other and they have made with you a firm covenant?" (04:20-21). Allah refers to marriage as a “covenant”, so it is unlawful for man to coerce his wife to give up her own rights.
The issue lies in the fact that some do not understand the nature of this covenant. Some men believe that marriage gives them the right to abuse their wives, by being physically violent, or by expelling them out of the house. Some Hadiths discuss such negative attitudes, one of which is the Prophet (p.)'s, who says: "Jibril advised me about woman so much that I thought one should never divorce them, unless they commit adultery," this also conveys a positive approach: divorce is absolutely lawful, but in the light of this Hadith, one feels that divorce is prohibited, unless the woman commits a lecherous act. However, in case of ordinary arguments and disputes, man must never divorce his wife.
On another level, the woman must be a good wife, as mentioned in the following Hadith: "The woman’s jihad is in being a good wife,” and she must patiently endure her husband’s harm, for she will be rewarded. Moreover, we must develop a marriage that is strong enough to be unsusceptible to pathos and agitations. It is impossible for any two parties, whether they were neighbors, siblings, or even a father and his children, to live in everlasting peace, because sensitivities resulting from different moods and frames of mind are inevitable.
The Prophet (p.) says: "Allah and His Messenger are free from he who harms his wife causing her to separate from him," as man persecutes her until she gives up her dowry and all her rights to obtain divorce. Another Hadith, which also refers to men who believe they are entitled to beat up their wives, says: "I am astonished of a man who beats his wife, whereas he himself deserves to be beaten more than his wife does." In order to treat both parties evenly, the Prophet (p.) says: "If a man has a wife who mistreats him, Allah does not accept her daily prayer, nor any other good deed she performs, even if she was to fast all her life, until and unless she relieves him and pleases him…," the Prophet (p.) continues: "and the husband will bear the same burden and punishment if he mistreats or oppresses his wife."