Hadith of angels cursing the wife explained

The following Hadiths are found problematic by some:

إِذَا دَعَا الرَّجُلُ امْرَأَتَهُ إِلَى فِرَاشِهِ فَأَبَتْ، فَبَاتَ غَضْبَانَ عَلَيْهَا، لَعَنَتْهَا الْمَلاَئِكَةُ حَتَّى تُصْبِحَ

If a husband calls his wife to his bed and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning. [Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 48]

وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لاَ تُؤَدِّي الْمَرْأَةُ حَقَّ رَبِّهَا حَتَّى تُؤَدِّيَ حَقَّ زَوْجِهَا وَلَوْ سَأَلَهَا نَفْسَهَا وَهِيَ عَلَى قَتَبٍ لَمْ تَمْنَعْهُ

By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad! No woman can fulfill her duty towards Allah until she fulfills her duty towards her husband. If he asks her (for intimacy) even if she is on her camel saddle, she should not refuse. [Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1853]

إِذَا الرَّجُلُ دَعَا زَوْجَتَهُ لِحَاجَتِهِ فَلْتَأْتِهِ وَإِنْ كَانَتْ عَلَى التَّنُّورِ

When a man calls his wife for his need, then let her come, even if she is at the oven. [Jami` at-Tirmidhi, Book 12, Hadith 15]

Looking in isolation, these Hadiths tend to give the impression that a man can force his wife into intimacy. However, the bottom line behind this impression is isolation. The correct meaning of the Hadiths is that physical intimacy should not be used by women as a pressure tactic, blackmailing device, and forced negotiation among other negatives, i.e. it should not be used as a weapon against him. Is that the only meaning of these Hadiths? No. The act of intimacy should not be denied without a valid excuse (more on valid reasons below).

Is this a fat-fetched interpretation? What are the proofs for this?

There is another authentic Hadith that has slight variation of words:

إِذَا بَاتَتِ الْمَرْأَةُ مُهَاجِرَةً فِرَاشَ زَوْجِهَا لَعَنَتْهَا الْمَلاَئِكَةُ حَتَّى تَرْجِعَ

If a woman spends the night deserting her husband’s bed (does not sleep with him), then the angels send their curses on her till she comes back (to her husband). [Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 67, Hadith 128]

The word تَرْجِعَ translated above as till she comes back has more meanings; it is also used in the sense that till she returns or till she repents. Repents from what? The scholars of Islam unanimously state that having a valid reason is regarded as something acceptable. If the wife has a valid reason to not engage in intimacy, then she does nothing wrong. Now why would she refuse without a valid reason? The answer is stated above which is that physical intimacy should not be used by women as a pressure tactic, blackmailing device, and forced negotiation among other negatives, i.e. it should not be used as a weapon against him.[1]

What if she’s simply not in the mood or too lazy or doesn’t want to take a shower because she needs to wake up early the next day? Would these be valid excuses? These may be a valid excuses (and Allah (ﷻ) knows best) and to counter that, the man will have to send the good word as stated by Ibn al-Qayyim (رحمه الله) (see footnote 4) i.e. be romantic, bring her in the mood to change her decision, followed by foreplay, and then engage in physical intimacy. If she still doesn’t come in the mood, it may be natural biology, psychology, or nature and may fall under the subjective valid excuse definition. Allah (ﷻ) knows best.

The second of the two Hadiths presented above state that a woman should not refuse even if she is on her camel saddle. Below is what a camel saddle looks like and in such a situation, acts of physical intimacy are not something that are easy to perform.[2]

saddle

[Source]

Not only is physical intimacy on a camel saddle a close to an impossible task, an attempt at doing so would result in a very public display of intercourse which is something that Islam prohibits and the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

إِنَّ مِمَّا أَدْرَكَ النَّاسُ مِنْ كَلاَمِ النُّبُوَّةِ الأُولَى إِذَا لَمْ تَسْتَحِ فَافْعَلْ مَا شِئْتَ

One of the things people have learnt from the words of the earliest prophecy is: If you have no shame, do what you like. [Sunan Abi Da’ood, Book 43, Hadith 25. For commentary on the Hadith, refer here]

There are plenty of Hadiths that forbid lewdness, nakedness, and other acts of shamelessness. In fact, the Qur’an orders women to be covered up and an act of physical intimacy on a camel saddle (if taken literally) violates this order. The point behind stating this and what we learn from this is that the Prophet () used figure of speech here.

What is meant by the cursing of angels?

The first Hadith above ends with these words – لَعَنَتْهَا الْمَلاَئِكَةُ حَتَّى تُصْبِحَ i.e. the angels will curse her till morning. The Hadith does not state that she earns the curse of Allah (ﷻ). What does the curse of Allah (ﷻ) mean? Refer here. What does this cursing of angels exactly mean? Let’s look at the following Hadith:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَة أَنَّ رَجُلًا شَتَمَ أَبَا بَكْرٍ وَالنَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ جَالِسٌ فَجَعَلَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَعْجَبُ وَيَتَبَسَّمُ فَلَمَّا أَكْثَرَ رَدَّ عَلَيْهِ بَعْضَ قَوْلِهِ فَغَضِبَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَقَامَ فَلَحِقَهُ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ كَانَ يَشْتُمُنِي وَأَنْتَ جَالِسٌ فَلَمَّا رَدَدْتُ عَلَيْهِ بَعْضَ قَوْلِهِ غَضِبْتَ وَقُمْتَ قَالَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مَعَكَ مَلَكٌ يَرُدُّ عَنْكَ فَلَمَّا رَدَدْتَ عَلَيْهِ بَعْضَ قَوْلِهِ وَقَعَ الشَّيْطَانُ

Abu Huraira reported: A man reviled Abu Bakr while the Prophet (ﷺ) was sitting down. That made the Prophet impressed by Abu Bakr and he smiled. Then, Abu Bakr reviled the man with the same words as him and the Prophet became angry and he stood to leave. Abu Bakr went to the Prophet and he said, “O Messenger of Allah, the man reviled me and you were sitting, but when I responded you became angry and stood up.” The Prophet said, “Verily, there was an angel with you responding on your behalf, but Satan appeared when you responded with the same words as him and I will not sit in the presence of Satan.” [Musnad Aḥmad 9411]

The man reviled Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) and the angels responded to that man. The words of the angels were not vile. Hence, we learn that when the Angels curse the woman till the morning, it is not a vile curse and is more of a condemnation of this act.

Why do such misconceptions arise from such Hadiths?

Such misconceptions are not new and they will not stop unless people realise the overall Hadiths’ structure and have at least a basic grasp of Hadith sciences. Hadiths are not like story books and their context is also not like an ordinary book where a few lines are read before and a few after. Hadiths are scattered and the entire corpus is the context; different Hadith collections have organized the subject matter differently and identifying the grand context of all these is not an easy task for a person without knowledge even with all the search engines and software around.

Another problem that arises out of this limited context view is that the readers ordinarily see one side of the picture while ignoring or overlooking the other completely. If a collection of Hadiths state the man’s responsibility towards his wife and family, it may appear that Islam is too demanding from the man and does not give him his due rights. It has even happened that some fathers have read so much about the rights of mothers that they ask whether Islam even grants them any status! Considering the above, such misconceptions are very likely to occur. Therefore, let us look at some, out of many, further sayings of the Prophet (ﷺ) that give us a better picture instead of the partial one some people have developed:

خَيْرُكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ لأَهْلِهِ وَأَنَا خَيْرُكُمْ لأَهْلِي

The best of you is the best to his wives, and I am the best of you to my wives. [Jami` at-Tirmidhi, Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3895 – Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1977]

The message اسْتَوْصُوا بِالنِّسَاءِ act kindly towards women has been repeated a number of times in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim.

لاَ تَضْرِبْ ظَعِينَتَكَ كَضَرْبِكَ أَمَتَكَ

Do not beat your wife as you would beat your slavegirl. [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Book 9, Hadith 166][3]

Moreover, Islamic defines some etiquettes for physical intimacy:

لا ترتموا على نسائكم كالبهائم ، بل اجعلوا بينكم و بينهم رسولاً ” فقيل: و ما هو الرسول يا رسول الله؟ فاجاب: القبلة

None of you should fall upon his wife like an animal; but let there first be a messenger between you. The Companions exclaimed, What is that messenger? The Prophet (ﷺ) replied, Kisses and (romantic) words! [Reported by Al-Daylami][4]

Importantly, there is another side of the coin here as well as Allah (ﷻ) has stated in the Qur’an 4:129 [فتذروها كالمعلقة] i.e. Allah (ﷻ) tells the man to not leave her hanging. We also have explicit words from the Prophet (ﷺ) in Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 67, Hadith 133, among several others, [وَإِنَّ لِزَوْجِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا] i.e. your wife has a right over you (referring to physical intimacy). Imam Qurtubi in his commentary on Q.2:178 says she has over him the same right of sexual cohabitation he has over her. We therefore see that Islam is not biased or one-sided and we have explicit statements from our Creator (ﷻ), the Prophet (ﷺ), and the scholars in this regard.

Conclusion

In Islam, men have rights over women and women have rights over men. There are etiquettes of physical intimacy and men and women are both entitled to it. Using this act or withholding it without a valid reason is disliked in Islam and physical intimacy should not be used as a pressure tactic, blackmailing device, and forced negotiation among other negatives, i.e. it should not be used as a weapon against him.

Allah (ﷻ) says in Qur’an 2:168: ولاتتبعوا خطوات الشيطان انه لكم عدو مبين “…do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” Everything that eventually leads to shaytaan, or his ways, are {the footsteps of Satan}. Islam forbids us from treading on the path that eventually leads to shaytaan even though the area being treaded may not have shaytaan there. For example, if a person has a habit of spitting on the road and says that the sun would burn it up or it would evaporate and cause no harm to anyone, would it be taken as a valid justification for his action? Would the law find it legal and would the people find it ethical? Even though his justification may be valid, this is step one towards pollution, and other ills, even though one small spit may not directly cause it itself. The small footstep eventually leads to much greater harm and hence such footsteps of the devil are prohibited in Islam to be followed. Using the act of physical intimacy for other than what it is, leads to the path of shaytaan. Marriage is a partnership of love between the man and the woman and introducing such sketchy, mischievous, and distortionary acts and behaviour only results in harm. The Prophet (ﷺ) is reported to have said لَا ضَرَرَ وَلَا ضِرَارَ let there be no harm (giving and receiving).

Much of the confusion arises from reading and listening to one side of the story. The Prophet (ﷺ) is reported to have said:

إِذَا جَلَسَ بَيْنَ يَدَيْكَ الْخَصْمَانِ فَلاَ تَقْضِيَنَّ حَتَّى تَسْمَعَ مِنَ الآخَرِ كَمَا سَمِعْتَ مِنَ الأَوَّلِ فَإِنَّهُ أَحْرَى أَنْ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكَ الْقَضَاءُ

When two litigants sit in front of you, do not decide till you hear what the other has to say as you heard what the first had to say; for it is best that you should have a clear idea of the best decision. [Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 24, Hadith 3575]

Justice is dependent on hearing both the sides of the story and a one sided decision is not made.

Islam is the truth and it is for all. It neither overburdens and harms men nor women.

Indeed, Allah (ﷻ) knows best.

References and footnotes:

[1] Further reading [1][2]

[2] Some scholars have taken being on camel saddle on face value i.e. even if she is travelling on the camel back while some state that the words “even if she is on the camel saddle” is that even if she is in the process of delivering a baby. The expression used refers to this because it is related that Arab women used to sit on the camel backs in this situation as it was easy this say. This expression further proves that the words are figurative and not literal.

[3] Al-Khattabi states in Ma’alim al-Sunan:

  وإنما فيه النهي عن تبريح الضرب كما يضرب المماليك في عادات من يستجيز ضربهم، ويستعمل سوء الملكة فيهم. وتمثله بضرب المماليك لا يوجب إباحة ضربهم، وإنما جرى ذكره في هذا على طريق الذم لأفعالهم ونهاه عن الاقتداء بها وقد نهى صلى الله عليه وسلم عن ضرب المماليك إلاّ في الحدود وأمرنا بالإحسان إليهم.

It forbids severe beating like the beating of the slaves by the one who beats them and makes wrong use of his authority with regards to them. And the similitude of beating the slaves does not mean permissibility of beating them. The mention of it is made by the way of condemnation of their deeds and it prohibit imitating the same. Verily the Prophet (ﷺ) has prohibited the beating of the slaves except by the way of prescribed punishments (hudood) and he has ordered to be kind towards them.

Likewise as-Sindi states:

، والتشبيه ليس لإباحة ضرب المماليك، بل لأنه مما جرى به عادتهم

And the similitude is not provided in order to denote the permissibility of beating the slaves rather it was utilized because it was general practice (i.e. in seventh century Arabia) for slaved to be beaten.

The statement was spoken as a similitude and the beating of slave was mentioned as an example. If one were to say that so-and-so treats his friends like animals, this would mean that he treats them poorly and would not indicate as to how he treats animals. Perhaps this person is very nice towards animals; the statement is a figure of speech. Similarly, not treating ones wife as a slave-girl is to be understood in like manner.

Moreover, this can be confirmed by the fact that the narrator Laqit Ibn Sabirah had come to the Prophet (ﷺ) as a part of a delegation from Iraq from the tribe of Banu al-Muntafiq. For as you beat your slave-girl to be literal, the Prophet (ﷺ) would have to know Laqit Ibn Sabirah quite well from well before and would have to know how he treats his slave-girls and would even have to know if he had any slave girls or not.

Moreover, the Prophet (ﷺ) has explicitly stated as to how to treat the slaves [1][2][3][4].

[4] Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (رحمه الله) reports in “Tibb al-Nabawi” that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) forbade from engaging in sexual intercourse before foreplay. [Al-Tibb al-Nabawi, pg. 183]

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3 thoughts on “Hadith of angels cursing the wife explained

    • I think it was on Daniel Haqiqatjou’s timeline. If you remember when it took place, you would have a better chance to find out; otherwise, it’ll take a lot of time to find out.

      Alternatively, it may be in a pvt. FB group but I left that group.

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