Questions Regarding a Wife’s Obligations in Sharī‘ah

Question

Are wives responsible for housework?

Answer

The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “Each of you is responsible and will be asked about his responsibility…The man is responsible for [maintaining] his household and the woman is responsible for [the upkeep of] the house and children of her husband.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 5200) Imām al-Khaṭṭābī explains: “As for a man’s responsibility over his family, it [means] supervising them, managing their affair and fulfilling their right of maintenance and [good] companionship. As for the woman’s responsibility over the house of her husband, it [means] good management in the upkeep of his house and minding those under her care like [his] dependents, guests and servants.” (A‘lām al-Ḥadīth, 1:580)[1]

It is reported that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) determined that Fāṭimah (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā), his daughter, is responsible for the work inside the house, while Alī (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), her husband, is responsible for the work outside the house. (Muṣannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 29677)[2] ‘Ᾱbid al-Sindī explains that work “outside the house” refers to things like “collecting firewood and water, and acquiring maintenance”, while work “inside the house” refers to activities like “grinding, baking and kneading”. (Ṭawāli‘ al-Anwār, 6:410)[3] The work was so difficult for Fāṭimah (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā) that she complained to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) of marks on her hands, and asked for a maidservant. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), however, told her that better than a maidservant is to recite tasbīḥ before going to sleep. (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 5361) The author of al-Hidāyah, Imām al-Marghīnānī, thus explains: “When a woman is from those who serve themselves, she must cook and bake [and do housework], because the Prophet (upon him peace) allocated the chores inside the house to Fātimah (Allāh be pleased with her).” (Mukhtārāt al-Nawāzil, 2:194)[4] Continue Reading