Did you know that a good number of husbands in many households are predictable and that their routine is like a script replicated and played out in many homes irrespective of religion? Picture this. After being accorded the usual welcoming ceremony

after another day of hustling to provide for the family, a husband will take up his favourite seating position either in front of a TV or put up his feet and get engrossed in a newspaper. In fact, housewives can attest that some unreasonable husbands demand food the moment they set foot in the house; when the pot is on the stove and the baby is screaming to be fed; they do not pick up the child or wait a little while for the food.  Such a scenario begs the question, would a Muslim husband assist their wife (s) with household chores or is it a neglected sunna? If comments and opinions gathered by Marhaba Life and Style is anything to
go by, household chores are considered a no-go-zone and husbands will front all sorts of excuses not to assist. At some point, it emerged that this contentious topic seemed to rub husband’s (read men) egos the wrong way and even prick it.

Hassan Wafula who hails from Western Kenya is categorical that performing household chores is taboo for men in his community. He was given several ‘hard slaps’ by his father for this point to literally sink in. “This reality dawned on me one day after I went to fetch water for my wife,” Hassan says. Ever since, he swears that women are supposed to take care of the household chores and he cannot remove his plate from the table after eating-as a matter of courtesy. In Maasailand, the age group would unleash severe caning on any husband found performing house chores. Alternatively, he is summoned to a kangaroo court explain why the ‘reverse’ in gender roles. Ali Rahim from Nairobi seems puzzled by our question and poses, “Me! Bend down and do the dishes or even wash clothes with all this beard on my face? Why is my wife here for?” Others like Musa Ali say that his job description in marriage is well spelt out. “Sire children, provide for them and my wife…period!” Salim Masud from Nakuru on his part says that assuming any house hold duty is tantamount to being ‘sat on’ hence will lower his stature among friends and relatives.

It is understandable and worth appreciating that many of us still cling dearly on to our traditional African beliefs and customs but should they be an excuse not to help in house chores? Severally in topics featured in Marhaba Life and Style, we have tackled issues that are more of traditions than
that what Islamic teaching say. The issue of husbands assisting in house hold chores is no exception. Well, here is the news! Are you aware that Islamic scholars in line with the example set by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are of the opinion that your wife (s) are not your househelps? That the services they give you, that is, washing, cooking and generally serving you is part of the ihsan (good treatment) which should be exchanged between husband and wife? That if a husband is able to hire someone to  assist his wife (s), then he should? That’s not all, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also raised the bar higher and it is reported that He even engaged in sewing sandles and patched torn garments.

Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), was asked, “What did the Prophet use to do in his house?” She replied, “He used to keep himself
busy serving his family and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it.” (Bukhari) Thus the notion that it is somehow degrading for men to help and work with the wife around the house is foreign to Islam. Interestingly, in this day and age there are Muslim men who have no qualms whatsoever about wearing an apron and assisting in house chores. Abdallah Swaleh who works in a bank, is one such man. “Men have a misplaced notion that when they marry; then your wife becomes a maid to serve you. This is very bad; she is your companion and not slave.” Yusuf Onyango also lends a hand but sparingly lest he ‘encourages laziness’ in his wife. And what do house-wife (s) have to say about this topic? Rukia Abdallah-a mother of three from Kayole in Nairobi acknowledges being a house wife is not a walk in the park. “There is a lot to be done because at the end of the day, your husband expects to find a tidy house and good food besides taking care of his children.”

“Women are very strong individuals because whatever we do in the house is not as easy as people think, you always strive to meet your spouse and family expectations,” she concludes. Salma Salim a business lady in Kibra throws a spanner into works and says if men assist their wife (s) with chores, then they will have enough energy to accord them their conjugal rights. “I will be more than willing to have sex when he is helpful; not that I deny him but because I will have energy for that activity,” Salma says. Incidentally, research findings claim that men who perform housechores are less sexy. In an article in The Daily Mail newspaper-UK of 2014, says a research from the Juan March Institute in Madrid suggests that gender stereotypes linger in the home and that  women may see men doing ‘feminine’ jobs as less sexually attractive. Yet in another research done by University of Western Ontario-Canada shows that couples who shared their housework at (close to) 50% were the happiest and reported the highest levels of fulfillment! The same research shows that couples where only one of the couples did all the housework (usually the wife), BOTH the husband and the wife reported high levels of dissatisfaction and depression! The research also found out that actions of the parents affect the children in the sense that parents who share housework chores, they (children) have more friends and have better grades at school.

The above findings seem to collaborate Ustadh Muhammad Abdallah’s, the Mudir (Principal) of Madrasatul Hudah in Nairobi’s California estate; point of view that a helpful husband is always appreciated by the wife (s) and the couple will never complain or nag because the other is not performing his/her duties well. “When a husband is not helpful, it means he does not sympathise with the wife (s). This is one of the reasons that, makes  women ponder divorce because they are never settled; instead they tend to desire other husbands/men who treat their wives with respect,” he  says. That aside, what happens in case the wife (s) fall ill or in post delivery period? A hadith narrated by Husain ibn Muhsin says that the Prophet (SAW) asked his aunt if she was married. When she answered in the affirmative, he said: “How are you with respect to him?” She answered: ‘I do not fail in obeying him save in those things that I am incapable of doing.’ The Prophet (SAW) told her: “Look to how you are with respect to him for he is your paradise and your hell-fire.” This hadith is proof that a woman must serve her husband according to her ability, the first of such obligations is the bringing up of the children. Further, among the duties of a husband to wife includes, that the husband treats her generously at all times. The Prophet (SAW) said that the best gift or charity is that spent on one’s wife. If she works outside the house, it is praiseworthy for the husband to hire house help to relieve her from too heavy a burden.

The wife’s duties do not require her to feed her child, nor even to nurse it, nor to clean nor cook. It is the husband’s duty to provide a nursemaid, food for older children, and servants to clean and cook. However, if the wife does those things out of mercy and love, it is a gift to the husband on her part. Similarly, among other duties of a wife to her husband is to serve and run the house in a reasonable fashion. This does not mean physical work on the part of the woman; if a woman of her standing does not generally engage in physical work. It also does not mean physical work if her health does not permit it. What of scenarios where both couples are working? Mwanahamisi Said who works in a travel agency suggest that both spouses need to put it down in writing through an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) when it comes to the chores. “It is all about dialoguing. That way couples enjoy the marriage without any complaints,” she says. According to Riziki Ahmed, a counsellor at Family Resource Centre in Jamia Mosque, Nairobi, if husbands were to assist their wife (s) several things would be achieved: Firstly, they would be following the example and sunna of the Prophet (SAW). Secondly, husbands would make their wife(s) feel loved and appreciated and in return strengthen marriage ties. At the end of the day and going by the example set by Prophet Muhammad (SAW); He did not find assisting in house chores too ‘womanish’ for him to do. It is no wonder that he said, “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” (Tirmidhi; Ibn Majah)

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