Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "A thankful tongue, a soft-hearted wife is a friend of yours in religion.'' These are the qualities that Islam desires in a woman who shall nurture the future generations of mankind towards an Islamic society.
Sociologists all over the world are laying more and more stress on the importance of family life, as opposed to what goes on in the West, where 5 out of 10 marriages end in divorce, where 60% of divorced women are prone to suicide, and almost every separated family has a history of a delinquent child.
As a maintainer of woman, the man has been deemed responsible for managing the day-to-day affairs outside the house, striving to earn, a livelihood. Woman has been given complete charge of the house, responsible for rearing the children and managing the home. This division of management is not in any way derogatory to the honor of woman; she is not the man's slave, but his equal. In all its wisdom, Islam has allotted different sets of duties to men and women because of their different physical and mental attributes. Man is physically better suited to rough it out in the harsh world, and, due to her physical and emotional make up, woman is more suitable to manage the house.
A woman is more self-sufficient in household affairs and better shoulders the responsibility of rearing the children. This arrangement guarantees the continuation and the formation of a society complementing religion. This is a great trial and test for man and woman. Very rarely do we find a family like that of Imam Ali (A.S.), which contains a Fatima Zahra (S.A.), Imam Hassan (A.S.), Imam Hussain (A.S.), Zainab (S.A.) and Kulsum (S.A.).
Holy Qur'an states: "They (wives) are an apparel for you, and you are an apparel for them." (2:187)
What the Holy Qur'an is stating is clear - besides covering the body, apparel protects the body from the vagaries of nature, enhancing one's personal beauty. Man and wife should complement each other, and as Imam Ali (A.S.) has said, "Like a dress, a worthy wife will conceal one's fault."
Whether a man or a woman has an ideological or moral weakness, they will hide one another's faults.
Almighty Allah (SWT) has compared man and wife with apparel, because by their unity they cover up their natural shortcomings, and their union protects them from the miseries of living alone.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (A.S.) said, "Be careful of the woman you choose, the woman you will make a partner in your property, religion and secrets. Find a woman who is well behaved and good tempered."
Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "The honored woman before Allah (SWT) are those who are obedient to their husbands and remain within the boundaries of their homes."
Although Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is stressing one of the most important rights a man has over his wife, the present day Muslim wife has been given other rights besides the right to raise her voice against tyranny and cruelty. The garb of hijab, or modest dress, grants the woman her independence, the right to educate herself and to participate in social activity.
The divine psychologist, Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw), told his daughter Bibi Fatima (S.A.), "O Fatima! If a woman worshipped Allah 70,000 years and died disobeying her husband, she would be among the people of Hell."
There are similar sayings, which remind husbands to fulfill their duties towards their wives.
A woman is not a man's slave; she is his equal. In order that the family union be a peaceful and Islamic one, the man's authority is not based on tyranny or fear, but love and mercy, as the Holy Qur'an says: "And made him her spouse, so that he may rest in her."
If there is a family which has its foundations on hatred, tyranny and fear, the family would come crashing down, but in an Islamic family, peace, tranquility and love prevail. After a hard day's toil and labor, a man wants to come home to a cheerful wife who fills his home and life with peace and happiness; not to a house filled with hatred, bickering and nagging.
Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "There are five things which bring salvation: (1) a worthy wife; (2) a well-behaved son; (3) a well-behaved daughter; (4) a good companion to help for one's daily bread; and (5) friendship with the descendants of Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw).
Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) has equated a worthy wife with the friendship of the Aal-e-Rasul (Ahlul Bayt). In this we see that if she is homely and cheerful, the wife is a perfect partner for a man who is committed to build an Islamic family.
According to Imam Musa Kazim (A.S.), the wife is instrumental in the training of children - therefore she is a means of strengthening faith.
Imam Ali (A.S.) said, "[In marriage] the best attributes in women are the worst attributes in men - such as pride, fear, and jealousy. If a woman is proud, she will never yield to anyone other than her husband. If she lacks courage, she will be frightened by any kind of accident. If she is jealous, she will safeguard her husband's property."
A truly Islamic wife is one who considers her husband's income as the best in the whole world, and runs the house within her budget and limits.
Allah, the All-Knowing, has promised many eternal rewards to the wife for her domestic chores. And Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said. "If, while cooking food, tears come out of her eyes due to smoke, Allah will write a reward for her such as the reward of those warriors (in the way of Allah) whose eyes shed tears from the fear of Allah (SWT)."