SunniPath :A Wife's Right to Housing Separate From Her In-Laws and Others

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari


I would like to know what the husband's obligations are towards his wife regarding providing shelter for her. The husband makes his wife live with his family (in-laws) and makes her share the household facilities with other members of the family (kitchen, bathroom), and this is causing a lot of problems for the wife and she does not have her privacy either. The husband is capable of providing separate residence and facilities but does not, and the wife is having a difficult time? Please could you explain according the Hanafi School how to deal with this problem? I have been told that the Hanafi scholars have dealt with such things and a woman is entitled to a separate residence where none of in-law live? Is this true?

From the Answer ~ Points to Ponder...

  • The Shariah has given certain rights to the husband,
  • just as it has give rights to the wife.
  • Many times, failure to give the spouses their rights results in conflict and eventually breakdown of Marriage.

These rights, at times, may not go down to well with certain people and cultures. However, it is necessary for us to educate those Muslims who have been affected by cultural customs and traditions, and inform them of the injunctions of Shariah.

  • it is not necessary upon the wife to cook for or serve her parents in-law. Now, many people believe that it is the duty of the wife to look after not only the household affairs but all the family members including the nephew, niece, etc... If she is negligent in any way, then she is rebuked.
  • In the Hanafi school, the wife has a right to live (and demand to live) separately. It is the duty and responsibility of the husband to provide her with shelter (suknah). This shelter must, if she demands so, be free from the interference of any of the husband’s family. The responsibility of the husband will be fulfilled if the wife is provided with a separate area within the house, and where she is able to keep her belongings and where none of the husband’s family members are able to enter.
  • “It is necessary for the husband to provide the wife with a shelter (home) that is free from his and her family members…. taking into consideration both their economic standings. A separate quarter within the house that has a lock, separate bathroom and kitchen will be [minimally] sufficient.”
  • If the husband desired her to live with his other wife or his family members, such as: his mum, sister, daughter from another wife or relatives, and she refused, then it will incumbent upon him to provide her with a separate living quarter. The reason for this is that she may be harmed in co-sharing, and her refusal is a sign of harm.
  • It is the responsibility of the husband to provide the wife with shelter. If she demands it to be separate from the husbands family, then the husband will be obliged to provide a living quarter which is free from the interference of others and that it has a separate lock. As far as the bathroom and cooking area is concerned, this should also be separate if they are not from a poor family background (as Ibn Abidin mentions in length in his super commentary), or else the responsibility will be discharged by providing the above.

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