Fatwa: 172

Category: fatwas about marriage

Leaving women in suspense

The question:

What is the ruling regarding husbands who abandon their wives and children and let them without expenses or someone to be in charge of them, and this may last several years? And what is the ruling regarding husbands who let their wives in suspense (not divorced not married) and this could last sometimes till the death of one of the spouses.

The answer:

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing be upon whom Allah sent as a mercy to the Worlds, upon his Family, his Companions and his Brothers till the Day of Resurrection.

The scholars agree that it is obligatory for the husbands to provide for their spouses if they are mature except those who are disobedient, in accordance with Allah’s عزَّ وجلَّ saying:

﴿وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ﴾ [البقرة: 233].

The meaning of the verse:

but the father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother's food and clothing on a reasonable basis.﴿ [Al-Baqara (The Cow): 233].

And Allah’s تعالى saying:

﴿أَسْكِنُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ سَكَنْتُمْ مِنْ وُجْدِكُمْ وَلاَ تُضَارُّوهُنَّ لِتُضَيِّقُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ وَإِنْ كُنَّ أُولاَتِ حَمْلٍ فَأَنْفِقُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ حَتَّى يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ﴾ [الطلاق: 6].

Translation of the meaning of the verse:

Lodge them (the divorced women) where you dwell, according to your means, and do not treat them in such a harmful way that they be obliged to leave. And if they are pregnant, then spend on them till they deliver﴿ [At-Talâq (The Divorce): 6].

There are several hadiths on this subject. Among them, the saying of the Prophet صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم during the Farewell Hajj, “Fear Allah concerning women! Verily you have taken them under the protection of Allah, and sexual intercourse with them has been made lawful for you by words of Allah. You also have right over them, i.e. they should not allow anyone whom you do not like to enter your house. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely. Their rights upon you are that you should fairly provide them with food and clothing”(1). And in the hadith of `Âisha رضي الله عنها in the story of Hind Bint `Utba who was told by the Prophet صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم, “Take what is reasonable and sufficient for you and your children”(2).

This being said, among the conditions of deserving expenses the validity of the marriage contract, the possibility to enjoy her and that she should not refuse to accompany her husband in case he moves wherever he wants and to enjoy intercourse with her; so if one of the precedent conditions is not respected, then the expense will not be obligatory.

Consequently, it is incumbent upon the husband to either retain his wife on reasonable terms or release her with kindness, in accordance with Allah’s عزَّ وجلَّ saying:

﴿فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ﴾ [البقرة: 229].

The meaning of the verse:

…either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness﴿ [Al-Baqara (The Cow): 229].

Moreover, neglecting to supply her needs goes against retaining her on reasonable terms. In addition, the woman is harmed if no one provides for her. Allah تعالى says:

﴿وَلاَ تُمْسِكُوهُنَّ ضِرَارًا لِتَعْتَدُوا﴾ [البقرة: 231].

The meaning of the verse:

But do not take them back to hurt them﴿ [Al-Baqara (The Cow): 231].

The Prophet صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم said: “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm”(3). For this reason, it is permissible for the woman to ask the Muslim judge to remove the harm from her and put an end to the oppression as the husband does not provide for her because of his unjustified absence and which causes her harm.

Furthermore, the woman has the right to ask the Muslim judge to separate her from her husband if she hears no longer from him even if he leaves her what to expend. This is the view of Mâlik and Ahmad رحمهما الله. The woman asks separation because of her husband’s remoteness not because of his absence. And even though the scholars diverged as regards the issue of the maximal period a woman can stay without her husband without undergoing harm, feeling lonely or fearing to commit forbidden things, though the estimation of Mâlik رحمه الله is one lunar year, the minimal period in which a woman can ask for separation is after six months, and this is the maximal period a woman can endure the absence of her husband. This is the opinion adopted by `Umar Ibn Al-Khattâb and Hafsa رضي الله عنهما and Ahmad رحمه الله.

Having said this, leaving wives in suspense without giving them their rights goes against the Book and the Sunna which enjoin to live with them honorably. Allah عزَّ وجلَّ said:

﴿وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ﴾ [النساء: 19].

The meaning of the verse:

…and live with them honorably﴿ [An-Nissâ' (The Women): 19].

And the Prophet’s صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم saying, “The best one among you is the kindest towards his wife [or wives]”(4).

Moreover, living with them honorably requires to give the woman her rights which consist in expenses, enjoyment and other rights. Besides, neglecting these things leads to oppression and wronging which are prohibited. Thus, it will be incumbent upon the Muslim judge to remove the harm and the oppression at the wronged person’s request.

The perfect knowledge belongs to Allah عزَّ وجلَّ. Our last prayer is all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing be upon our Prophet, his Family, his Companions and Brothers till the Day of Resurrection.

Algiers, Al-Muharram 26th, 1426H.
Corresponding to: March 7th, 2005.



(1) Reported by Muslim, chapter of “Hajj” (hadith 3009), by Abu Dâwûd, chapter of “Rites” (hadith 1907), by Ibn Mâjah, chapter of “Rites” on the authority of Jâbir رضي الله عنه.

(2) Reported by Al-Bukhâri, chapter of “Expenses” (hadith 5364), by Muslim, chapter of “Judgments” (hadith 4574), by Abu Dâwûd, chapter of “Rent” (3534), by An-Nassâ'i, chapter of “Judgments” (hadith 4537), by Ibn Mâjah, chapter of “Commerces” (hadith 2381) and by Ahmad (hadith 248454) on the authority of `Âisha رضي الله عنه.

(3) Reported by Ibn Mâjah, chapter of “Judgments” (hadith 2430), by Ahmad (hadith 23462) on the authority of `Ubâda Ibn As-Sâmit رضي الله عنهما. This hadith is judged authentic by Al-Albâni in Irwâ' Al-Ghalîl (hadith 896).

(4) Reported by At-Tirmidhi, chapter of “Merits” (hadith 4269), by Ad-Dârimi (hadith 2315), by Al-Bayhaqi (hadith 16117) on the authority of `Âisha رضي الله عنها. It is also reported by ibn Mâjah, chapter of “Marriage” (hadith 2053) on the authority of Ibn `Abbâs رضي الله عنهما. This hadith is judged authentic by Al-Albâni in Sahîh Al-Jâmi` (hadith 3314), in As-Silsila As-Sahîha (hadith 285) and in Âdâb Az-Zifâf (p., 197).

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