Dear scholars, As-salamu `alaykum. "Only two things are obligatory upon the woman; keeping herself ready and prepared [sexually] for her husband and staying in his house" (Commentary on the Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi by Jamaal al Din Zarabozo, p. 18). My question is, does she have to be ready at any cost? Does she have any excuse and if so what are the excuses? What’s obligatory on us from their side? Jazakum Allah khayran.
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear sister in Islam, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake. May Allah reward you abundantly for your interest in knowing the teachings of your religion, Islam.
Islam cares for establishing a loving relation between a man and his wife. It calls upon both parties to have mutual love, respect, and care. This applies to all aspects of their life: social, intellectual, intimate, and so on.
Moreover, Islam pays great attention to the intimate aspect of the husband-wife relationship. Sexual fulfillment can never be detached or separated from an attitude of mutual respect, love, and emotional attachment.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
To look at husband-wife relations in this way is at best crude and unfair, if not totally incorrect. According to the Qur’an, the purpose of marriage is to attain sukun (tranquility and peace; see for instance verses 30:21; 7:189), which can never be achieved through impulsive sexual fulfillment unless it is accompanied by mutual love, affection, caring, and sharing, which are all part and parcel of a fulfilling and productive marriage relationship. Islam, as we know it holistically from the sources, is a balanced way of looking at things. Sexual fulfillment can never be detached or separated from an attitude of mutual respect, love, and emotional attachment, otherwise it can hardly be distinguished from the behavior of brutes. Mind you, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned couples against hopping into beds like birds without proper foreplay and preparation, which includes showing affection and tender care.
Now coming to mutual obligations of spouses, it is lucidly and beautifully expressed in the following verses: (And cohabit with them on terms of utmost decency and fairness) (An-Nisa’ 4: 19); (And they (women) have rights similar to those of men in fairness) (Al-Baqarah 2: 228). In light of these, it is only reasonable to assume that a husband must set an example of fairness and compassion in dealing with his wife. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was especially known for his compassionate treatment of his family. He was extremely caring and gentle with them; he enjoyed their company, and he said that it was one of the best things that he cherished in this world. He also told the faithful that the best thing for a believer to reckon in this world was the companionship of a righteous wife. In keeping with the spirit of such teachings, it is wrong for anyone to reduce woman to the position of an object for sexual gratifications.
In Islam, man and woman in general, as well as husband and wife in particular, are equal partners; just as a husband has needs to which a wife is expected to be responsive, a wife also has needs to which a husband should be responsive. To be successful, marriage must be based on mutual reciprocity and consensual relationship. We know that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was in the habit of drinking from the same cup with his wife, thus placing his lips in the same spot where she placed hers. He would take a bite of food and then she would take another bite. It is this Prophetic attitude of mutual respect, affection, and companionship that should serve as a role model for all the married couples in Islam. If, on the other hand, we were to approach marriage purely in literalistic, legal terms, detached as it is from the holistic perspective of Islamic ethics and morality, we end up pitting husband and wife against one another; this will ultimately end up creating discord and disharmony rather than harmony and love which, according to the Qur’an, is the spirit and soul pervading a healthy marriage relationship.