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What Does the Command ‘…Refuse to Share Their Beds’ (al-Nisāʾ, 4:34) Mean?

A discussion about whether it is permissible for a husband to avoid his wife. He is allowed to ignore a disobedient wife as a form of discipline. If however, a he has demanded for something unreasonable or weaponized this act against her, he has sinned.

[Q]: One of the brothers who lives in Riyadh says, “It is well known that boycotting one’s Muslim brother for more than three days is impermissible. Hence, what is the ruling regarding what occurs between the husband and his wife as far as boycotting is concerned whether or not he intends to discipline her or otherwise?”

[A]: The husband boycotting his wife is legislated for specified circumstances, and that is when he fears her disobedience (nushūz). This is the case he admonishes her and if that does not work then he boycotts her in the bed. This does not mean that he sleeps in another bed other than the one they both sleep in, rather what is meant is that whenever he sleep in his bed, he should turn his back towards her.

Hence, he sleeps with his back towards her as an indication of his anger towards her and his reprimanding of her. However, he should not boycott her as far as speaking is concerned. Thus, the children should not get a sense of cold-heartedness or a lack of communication between their father and their mother. That should only occur in the bed with the intent of rectifying her incorrect behaviour.

However, that does not mean that if the wife does not respond to the request of the husband for the things that are not obligatory on her he boycotts her. Because sometimes the shortcoming stems from the husband himself when he wants his wife to do things she is either incapable of doing, or is very difficult for her, or it is an act that is impermissible to do. If she does not do these things he boycotts her. No. Boycotting is only legislated if he sees nushūz, disobedience from her, or an act that is clearly incorrect. As for making that a weapon that he uses to get at her or humiliate her, then this is impermissible. Some people understand the issue of boycotting – even in bed – with an incorrect understanding.

Source: Shaykh ʿAbdullāh ar-Rukbān – A member of the permanent committee of senior scholars: Nūr ‘Ala Darb: (06/25/1430)

Translated by Ibn Zayd

Published: July 5, 2009
Edited: April 8, 2023

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