What is the role of a husband in marriage as far as Islam is concerned? Giving a full elaboration cannot be done on social media. But one aspect that needs to be highlighted is authority.
Allah has granted the husband/father authority within marriage when He says: “Men are qawwamun over women” in Surat al-Nisa. Simply put, to be qawwamun means to be in charge of and have authority over. It is also the type of authority that implies taking care of, maintaining, protecting, and managing.
The authority aspect of being qawwam has been de-emphasized or outright erased in modernist discourse because it contravenes feminist standards of “equality.” How can one sex be an authority over another? Male authority does not align with gender egalitarianism, so, some surmise, it must be a relic of more barbaric times. But this is the clear meaning of the Divine Address, the Final Message to humanity meant to apply to all humanity at all times until the Last Day.
Reformists and “progressives,” however, do not care about any of this and demand that all of the Sharia be discarded when it comes to family and marriage. They desire to mold Muslim families according to their distorted, corrupt modernist notions, which is why they have mobilized in the Muslim world through NGO’s to spread their backwards feminist conceptions of family and marriage far and wide and coerce Muslims into accepting their standards of “equality” and “justice” (orgs such as Musawah are particularly pernicious and should be opposed by all Muslims).
Based on the clear message of the Quran and Sunna, all exegetes and all jurists without exception have recognized and continue to recognize that one of the central rights of the husband is obedience. There are, of course, limits to this obedience, e.g., if husbands demand disobedience to Allah. But, overall, in marriage, both husband and wife have rights and responsibilities, and this is one of central rights of the husband that scholars have underlined because of its importance to a successful marriage.
By stripping husbands of authority, the modernist discourse renders the husband as an unappreciated servant to his family, amounting to little more than an ATM. According to this, the husband must provide income to support the family and the wife has no such responsibility. Insofar as the wife earns money, her family and certainly her husband are not entitled to a penny of it. But ALL of what a husband earns belongs to his family. And if the husband fancies that his financial contributions — that he has earned through his sweat and tears, through back-breaking labor — entitle him to some veto power or a modicum of authority, he is grossly mistaken. Nope! Gender egalitarianism means women have at least as much authority as men if not more so. In fact, women should have more authority in their marriages in order to make up for the “patriarchy” that supposedly has disenfranchised women for centuries up until the present day. It’s pay back!
Sadly, modern men including some Muslims have internalized this, shamed by feminism into relinquishing their God-given rights. Why would they casually discard what God has granted them? Do they think that they are more just than God? Or that they are more merciful than Him or more kind to women than Him?
Being an authority does not mean being a tyrant. It does not mean being a jerk either. It means being a leader, taking charge, directing with wisdom and patient fortitude. The Prophet ﷺ provides the best example of this as well as the khulafa. And women themselves are attracted to men that posses these characteristics of rajula, bravery, and leadership. If given the choice, would the average woman choose to marry a man who is weak, deferential, indecisive, unsure, non-authoritative or a man who is strong, takes charge, confident, wise, and conducts himself with firm, but carefully considered resolution?
Perhaps the value of strong leading men is not apparent in context of the modern bourgeoisie lives many are entrenched in. But find yourself in troubled times, away from the fake comforts of middle class existence, basically in any other situation without the artificial safety nets that give us a false sense of security and there, all semblance of gender equality melt away. It is said that there are no atheists in foxholes. It should also be said that there are no feminists in the wilderness. There are no feminists in war zones. There are no feminists on sinking ships. In these situations of mortal danger, men are expected to step up and put their lives on the line. There is no gender egalitarianism when it comes to taking a bullet. Or taking a hit. This is among the reasons Allah created men in this position of authority vis-a-vis the fairer sex. This is the wisdom and beauty of His creation and the forced egalitarianism of modernists looks deformed and grotesque in comparison.
Unfortunately, modernist discourse conflates male leadership with abuse and tyranny. To be a strong, decisive man means to be a brutish, ego-driven oaf infected with “toxic masculinity.” This is how even the very language of our time rails against men, husbands, and fathers. This is why many nowadays are noting the “Crisis of Masculinity.” Even feminists are bemoaning this state of affairs, where young Western men are committing suicide en masse and those who don’t end their lives, prefer a life of bachelorhood, wasting away with pointless entertainment and pornography rather than committing to a wife, starting a family, establishing a life of terrestrial flourishing. What the feminists will not admit is that it is their feminism that has made the prospect of family so unappealing and has made the very concept of being a man taboo. Of course there is a crisis of masculinity! And feminism is primarily to blame. Why would men choose a life of thankless servitude and abuse? Why would men choose a life of being a doormat to entitled women who want to eat their cake and have it too, with all of the rights and none of the responsibilities? What sane person would opt for such a life?
Islam provides the right balance between the sexes given the way that Allah has created each sex. The tafasir elaborate these points of ontology when explaining the verse cited above. As Muslims, we need to relearn what it means to be men and women in the true sense. If we want to revive Islamic civilization, first and foremost, we must revive the Muslim family and the head of the Muslim family is the Muslim man. We need our Muslim males to become such men who can lead their families with grace, wisdom, generosity of spirit and, by the same token, we need Muslim females to become such women who can support their husbands with love, obedience, and loyalty. And all of that is worship of Allah and following in the footsteps of the prophets.
May Allah bless us with righteous spouses and children who will be the coolness of our eyes. May Allah mend hearts and bring men and women together as spouses in love and mercy.