Quran Facts | 66:2-6 – Wives Must be obedient, Or Men Can Seek Other Wives
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66:2-6 – Wives Must be obedient, Or Men Can Seek Other Wives


It is alleged that the Holy Quran and the Islamic tradition is oppressive to women. Verses of the Holy Quran are showcased by detractors as promoting the inferiority of women, misogyny and abuse against women.


On the contrary, the Holy Quran and the Islamic tradition have probably the greatest historical legacy of the emancipation and empowerment of women. The Holy Quran unequivocally announces the equality of men and women in several verses such as 16:98– Whoso acts righteously, whether male or female and is a believer, We will surely grant him a pure life; and  We will surely bestow on such their reward according to the best of their works.


The Holy Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) had a direct hand in this legacy. One of the first acts of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) to shift attitudes towards women was halting the practice of female infanticide. He announced that daughters were a blessing upon the household they were born into: A person who is blessed with a daughter or daughters and makes no discrimination between them and his sons and brings them up with kindness and affection, will be as close to me in Paradise as my forefinger and middle finger are to each other.” (Muslim II, Section Beneficence).


As is sometimes alleged, Muhammad (on whom be peace) was clearly not a misogynist, rather a great benefactor in the emancipation and empowerment of women. He spent his career as a trader working for a woman named Khadijah who later became his wife. Throughout his ministry he regularly consulted her in matters and decisions as the leader of the Muslim community. Islam accorded women the right to accept or refuse a proposal for marriage, and the right to inheritance and ownership of property. While acknowledging that men and women have been endowed with different roles and functions in society, the Quran exhorts on equality between men and women in the eyes of God in that both will be rewarded solely on the basis of their deeds (see section below ‘Fundamental Teachings of Islam About Women’).


The women of the family of prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) became revered figures and great examples among Muslims which aided in shifting attitudes about women. His first wife Khadijah (ra) was a business leader and his trusted advisor. His daughter Fatimah (ra), known for her piety, was a great example to the Muslim community. And his wife Ayesha (ra) came to be known as a religious and community leader.

O Prophet! why dost thou forbid thyself that which Allah has made lawful to thee, seeking the pleasure of thy wives? And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. Allah has indeed allowed to you the dissolution of your oaths, and Allah is your Friend; and He is All-Knowing, Wise. And when the Prophet confided a matter unto one of his wives and she then divulged it, and Allah informed him of it, he made known to her part thereof, and avoided mentioning part of it. And when he informed her of it, she said, ‘Who has informed thee of it?’ He said, ‘The All-Knowing, the All-Aware God has informed me.’ Now if you two turn unto Allah repentant, it will be better for you, and your hearts are already so inclined. But if you back up each other against him, surely Allah is his Helper and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers; and furthermore, all other angels too are his helpers. It may be that, if he divorce you, his Lord will give him instead wives better than you — resigned, believing, obedient, always turning to God, devout in worship, given to fasting, both widows and virgins. (66:2-6)



It is alleged that this verse sets a warning that women should be obedient or men can seek other wives who will be obedient.



These verses were revealed to the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) after his wives as a group made a demand of him that, like other Muslim women, they should also have the amenities of life and comfortable living. This was at a time when the Muslims gained a large amount of wealth after their previous period of austerity. Although, as the leader of the Muslims, the Holy Prophet (onw hom be peace) could have easily fulfilled this demand, he felt it was against the high standard of self-sacrifice and a life of simplicity that was his hallmark as a prophet of God and a model for mankind. Just as this was the example of the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace), his wives were also expected to serve as exemplars.
At the time of this demand the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) temporarily separated himself from his wives, a remedy which is prescribed by the Holy Quran when there are serious domestic disturbances. In reality this is a beautiful solution in that it allows the resolution of conflicts free from anger and passion.
The question of obedience comes in verse 6 which describes an ideal wife as “resigned, believing, obedient, always turning to God, devout in worship, (and) given to fasting”. The emphasis here is actually on a women’s duty towards God and in turn her husband. The word “resigned” is a translation of “Muslima” and refers to an individual submitted to the will of God, as any true Muslim is expected to be. Obedience here refers to obedience towards both God (which always takes precedence) and her husband. This is in line with the Islamic prescription for domestic harmony which places a heavy emphasis on the characteristics men should adopt towards their wives such as kindness, respect, and generosity, and the characteristics that women should adopt their husband, including obedience and fealty. This is a potent and simple antidote to the confusion that many couples have in this day and age that leads to marital strife and domestic disharmony and allows them to build on a solid foundation of roles and obligations.
The emphasis on one’s godly role and duty towards his or her spouse is equally applicable to men. Islam accorded women the right to a divorce. If a man does not fulfill his obligations and his function as a husband falls short, the woman has just as much right to seek another husband.

Fundamental Teachings of Islam

The Holy Quran and Islamic fundamental teachings hold one of the greatest historical legacies advocating equality between men and women and according rights to women in an era wrought with misogyny. Although men and women have fundamentally different roles in life and society, the Holy Quran clearly emphasizes equality between men and women as is clear from the following verses:

Surely, men who submit themselves to God and women who submit themselves to Him, and believing men and believing women, and obedient men and obedient women, and truthful men and truthful women, and men steadfast in their faith and steadfast women, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity and men who remember Allah much and women who remember Him – Allah has prepared for all of them forgiveness and a great reward. (33:36)


So their Lord answered their prayers saying, I will not allow the work of any worker from among you, whether male or female, to be lost. You are from one another. Those therefore, who have emigrated, and have been driven out from their homes, and have been persecuted in My cause, and have fought and been killed, I will surely remove from them their evils and will cause them to enter gardens through which streams flow – a reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best reward. (3:196)


They (your wives) are a garment to you, and you are garment to them. (2:188)


But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little hollow in the back of a date-stone. (4:125)


And think of the day when thou wilt see the believing men and the believing women, their light running before them and on their right hands, and it will be said to them, ‘Glad tidings for you this day! Gardens through which streams flow, wherein you will abide. That is the supreme triumph. (57:13)


Whoso acts righteously, whether male or female and is a believer, We will surely grant him a pure life; and We will surely bestow on such their reward according to the best of their works. (16:98)


The following verse exhorts a gender not to covet that which, as an endowment and creation of God, makes one gender excel the other. For example, men having more physical strength than women. The verse exhorts that both men and women will be ultimately rewarded per their deeds and righteousness.


And covet not that whereby Allah has made some of you excel others. Men shall have a share of that which they have earned, and women a share of that which they have earned. And ask Allah of His bounty. Surely, Allah has perfect knowledge of all things. (4:33)


These verses make the equality of men and women abundantly clear. Males and females are repeatedly mentioned on an equal footing in attaining spirituality, the ultimate success in the eyes of God Almighty.


This is further reinforced in Hadith literature which are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) such as the following examples:


‘It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge’ (Ibne Majah)


‘The best among you is he who is best in his treatment towards his wife.’ (Abu Daud)


‘Paradise lies under the feet of your mother.’ (Nisai)