in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

Is it obligatory for a woman to cook for her husband?

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In brief it depends on the cultural expectations. If the woman is unable to or from a status where she does not cook, then she is not obliged. Conversely, if she is from a background where this is expected then this becomes included in the marital agreement and she is obliged to cook but a judge will avoid compelling her to do so if the matter goes to court.

The scholars generally cite the evidence of the prophet(saw) apportioning the home duties to the wife and the external duties to the husband in regards to his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali (ra).

Imam al-Kasani(rahimauallah) states in his Bada'i al-Sana'i:

"If the husband brings food that needs to be cooked, then the wife should cook it, due to the Narration that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) distributed the labour between Siyyuduna Ali and Sayyida Fatima (Allah be pleased with them). The work outside the home was the responsibility of Ali (ra), whereas the household work was the domain of Fatima (ra).

However, the wife will not be compelled or forced to cook and the husband will be obliged to bring her cooked food if she demands. If the husband wished to acquire her services for cooking in return for payment, then this is not permissible, neither is it lawful for her to take this money. If she does so, she will be taking money on something that is necessary (Wajib) on her according to the preferred opinion (Fatwa), thus it will be akin to taking a bribe.

The great Faqih (Jurist) Abu al-Laith(rahimauallah) said:

"This is when the wife is unable to cook, or she is from a dignified family. If she is able to cook or she is from those who normally carry out their own jobs, then she will be compelled to do so." (al-Kasani, Bada'i al-Sana'i, 4/24)

Imam al-Mawsili(rahimauallah) states in al-Ikhtiyar:

"The wife will not be compelled and forced to cook if she refuses to do so and the husband will be obliged to bring someone who will cook, as it is necessary (Wajib) upon the husband to provide food. They (Fuqaha) said: "This is when she is not capable of cooking or she is from an upper-class family. However, if she is able to cook or she is from a family who normally carry out their jobs themselves, she will be forced, because she is considered (in this case) an obstinate." (Abd Allah ibn Mahmud al-Mawsili, al-Ikhtiyar li Ta'lil al-Mukhtar, 3/225).

And in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

"If she (wife) says: "I will not cook", it is stated in 'al-Kitab': She will not be forced to do so and the husband will be obliged to bring her ready-made food or someone who will cook for her. Abu al-Laith said: " This (neccessity of the husband bringing her food....) is when she is from a upper-class family who normally do not perform the household jobs themselves, or she is not from a upper-class family, but she is incapable of cooking due to some illness or weakness. They (Fuqaha) said: "These (household) jobs are her religious duties, although the Qadi (judge) can not force her. This has also been mentioned in al-Bahr al-Raiq." (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1/548)

It is stated in Hashiyah of Tahtawi on the Durr of al-Haskafi:

"These acts are her necessary religious duties in a sense that a Qadi can not force her to carry them out." (3/255)

It is stated by Imam al-Haskafi(rahimauallah) in his Durr al-Mukhtar:

"If the wife refused to cook and grind, if she is from those who normally don't perform their own jobs or she is incapable, then the husband will be obliged to bring her cooked food. However, if she performs her works by her self or she is capable, it will not be necessary for the husband to do so. It is also impermissible for the wife to take any pay or salary in return for her cooking, as this is religiously necessary upon her even if she be from a respectable family, since the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) divided the labour between Ali and Fatima (Allah be pleased with them both) with the outside work being the responsibility of Ali and the household work of Fatima, even though she was the master/ leader of all the women of the world."

Imam Ibn Abidin, the great Hanafi Faqih, whilst commentating on this, says in his Radd al-Muhtar:

"Regarding al-Haskafi's statement "it will not be necessary for the husband to do so", it is said that she will be forced (to cook). Imam Sarakhsi said: "she will not be forced, but if she does not cook, then the husband will not give her any curry and this is correct.

Regarding the statement "This is her religious duty", this is the Fatwa we give, but she won't be forced if she refuses. (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 3/579). Allah knows best.

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