#173: House Chores


Are house chores the responsibility of the wife or husband?


Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Islam taught the husband to treat his wife with the best care and conduct according to the customs of a place and more importantly based on Islam’s shariah. Allah SWT states:

وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

“And live with them in kindness.” [1]

Imama al-Zamaksyari explained: “And live with them (your wives) in kindness,” is generally interpreted as “Being fair in the house and sustenance and being mindful of one’s speech and words.” [2]

In building a household after marriage, the unity and cooperation between husband and wife are crucial. The first matter that should be created is fulfilling each person’s responsibilities and rights. Concurrently, a matter that is just as important but what makes a marriage as baiti jannati is sacrifice. The husband sacrifice for his wife and his wife sacrifices for her husband. Due to this, love will be born as stated in surah al-Rum. A result of marriage is to attain calmness, mahabbah (love) and rahmah (blessings) which gives birth to feelings of love and happiness.

The jumhur of scholars are of the opinion that it is obligatory for a husband to serve his wife who is incapable or it is unbefitting for her to take care of herself. The reason is it is as though some of the sustenance of a wife on the husband and scholars have agreed that if a wife is sick or debilitated that she isn’t able to manage herself, the husband should serve his wife.

However, in madhhab Maliki, the husband must help his wife in service if the husband is wealthy and his wife holds a high status and it is unbefitting for her to do such chores for by doing them, it would disgrace his wife’s stature. [3]

Whilst madhhab Hanafi stated that if the wife refuses to grind grain or knead bread, of which such tasks is beneath her or because she is sick, then the husband should prepare cooked meals. Consequently, if he is unable to do so, the wife should perform the tasks and it is no longer obligated on the husband. The argument is when Rasullullah PBUH divided the tasks of Ali and Fatimah, where Ali is responsible for the outside of the house and Fatimah manages the inside of their house. [4]

Dr Yusuf al-Qaradhawi in Fatawa Mu’asirah [5] stated, “personal service or care is included as being kind (towards one’s wife). It is not obligatory to hire more than one personal assistant for her right is an assistant for herself.”

According to numerous evidences and advice of salaf al-soleh, it is clear that it is necessary for wives to sacrifice in the scope of household and she is the manager and organizer of her household affairs. Wives are known as rabbatul bayt in Arabic which means the owner or manager of the house.

Saidina Umar RA when advising Aqil RA regarding the position of a wife with the reason that she is the one who holds numerous responsibilities such as taking care of the children, cooking and others. This is also what is done by Asma’ binti Abu Bakr in helping her husband, al-Zubair Ibn al-Awwam. This is not unusual in the tradition of all races including in the life of Fatimah al-Zahra’ who helped her husband Ali bin Abi Talib RA by grinding wheat and others. Likewise, this is what has been practised by our ancestors who sacrificed for their husbands and family.

Sayyid Siddiq Hasan Khan said in Raudhah al-Nadiyyah: “It differs according to the place, time and situation of the individual. Sustenance in times of wealth should be great and in times when the economy is bad should be reasonable with his finances.”

However, a husband who is capable should help ease the burdens of his wife such as hiring a maid or buying any appliances that could help his wife with the house chores such as washing machine, modern cooking appliances such as a rice cooker and others to help and ease the wife.

According to the above question, we state that the responsibility of doing house chores depends on the situation and custom of the place. However, this task should be a joint responsibility of both husband and wife, although it is usually the wife who assumed this responsibility, the husband should also help by the husband to ensure the harmony of marriage.

Furthermore, we state that in understanding the tasks and responsibilities and the reality of life in educating the next generation, understanding and performance of tasks as well as tolerance, cooperation between husband and wife will lead to happiness which ultimately leads to baiti jannati. The wife and children become qurratul ain of the husband. Lastly, we supplicate to Allah SWT as stated:

رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا

“Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.”

Wallahu a’lam.


[1] Surah al-Nisa’: 19

[2] See Tafsir al-Kasysyaf, 1/491

[3] See al-Syarh al-Kabir dan Hasyiah al-Dusuki, 2/510

[4] See Fath al-Bari, 9/507

[5] See Fatawa Mu’asirah (transl.), 3/144