Book Review: The Fragile Vessels – Rights and Obligations Between the Spouses in Islam

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The author laments that many Muslim marriages today are influenced by non-Islamic cultures and practices, thus his reason for writing four books that comprise the series The Muslim Family. His goal is “to promote true Islam that derives from Allah’s SWT Book, His Messenger’s SAW Sunnah, and the sahabah’s understanding… Our mission, then, is to present purified Islamic teachings and practical guidelines for implementing them.”


The happy couple is married, insha Allah, according to the regulations for marriage and wedding in Islam (please refer to the The Quest for Love & Mercy). Now they are living together as husband and wife, and it is beneficial for them to know their rights and obligations to ensure a loving and everlasting union, which is the focus of this book, the third in the series.


A marriage is a partnership in which both spouses play active roles, the man as the leader of the household and the woman as his supportive helper. According to the author, a marriage in which the woman wants to take on the leadership role would only result in chaos, misery and failure. He points out, “Both the husband and wife have certain rights and duties. A happy and successful marriage is assured if both of them fulfil their duties and preserve each other’s rights.”


In Chapter 1, the book highlights some rights and obligations that are the same for husband and wife:


  • Responsibility and accountability
  • Good manners, covering also truthfulness, humbleness, mercy and kindness, as well as forgiveness, and avoidance of oppression, foul language, arguing and quarrelling with a view to resolving problems amicably
  • Good communication
  • Aiding one another
  • Safeguarding the family
  • Enjoining the good and forbidding the wrong
  • Fulfilling each other’s desires.

  • It then goes on to describe the husband’s obligations in Chapter 2, with clear mention of the wife’s rights in Islam. The husband must protect his wife, avoid unnecessary suspicion and safeguard his wife’s secrets. A major responsibility is providing financial support to his wife and family according to his capability and having them reasonably housed. The chapter also delves into multiple wives, reminding men that “if a man cannot be fair with multiple wives, he is not allowed to marry more than one”, fairness meaning “material justice, which includes giving them equal turns, being equitable with them in regard to food, clothing, and dwelling, etc.”

    A husband may hit a disobedient or rebellious wife but it should be light, “it should not be painful, should not leave marks on the body, and should avoid the face, head and abdomen.”


    The wife’s obligations are covered in Chapter 3, whereby she should recognise and respect her husband’s place as head of the family. But this is not to be one of homage because “the man earns it by being truly worthy of the trust that Allah SWT conferred on him, and loses it by neglecting this trust.” The author points out that the woman’s treatment of her husband could be her passport to Jannah and the best of women is she who is good and kind to her husband, who obeys and serves him within her capacity. However, “the husband should only be obeyed in matters that do not involve disobeying Allah SWT.” It is to be noted that, with regard to her own money, a wife may not spend it without her husband’s permission or implicit consent so as to maintain harmony within the family.


    The book goes on to give an overview of the Mothers of the Believers, i.e. the wives of the Prophet SAW, in Chapter 4 while in the following chapter, it describes a number of incidents that took place between the Prophet SAW and his wives. Chapter 6, the final chapter, presents the hadith about Umm Zar.


    All the books in The Muslim Family series are written in clear language, backed by relevant verses from the Holy Quran and hadiths. There is a logical progression of the areas discussed from one chapter to the next. Thus the books are easy to read and understand, making them excellent references on the subject of marriage and family in Islam.


    This reviewer highly recommends presenting these books as a gift to a man and woman who are about to be married. Those who are already married, no matter for how many years, should also get a set so that they may purify their sources of knowledge, beliefs and actions.


    Author: Zuraidah Omar

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