Nafaqah is to provide for whomever one supports, Islam states that a wife is entitled to full nafaqah by her husband but with certain conditions such as validity of marriage and fulfilling marital deities by the wife.
In Islamic usage, the Arabic term nafaqah, which is translated as ‘maintenance’ means to provide for whoever one supports in food, clothes, residence and other needs.
It is an incumbent duty on the husband to look after his wife, providing her with what she needs of food, residence, service and healthcare. He must provide all this even though his wife may be rich and have an income. This duty is made clear in the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the unanimity of scholars.
‘Let them dwell wherever you dwell, according to your means, and do not harass them so as to make their lives a misery’
‘A companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him: ‘To what is a man’s wife entitled as her right?’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said‘You feed her as you feed yourself, give her clothes as you have. Do not hit her face, and do not abuse her verbally. You may not boycott her except at home ’
Scholars are unanimous that a wife is entitled to full maintenance by her husband, but they state certain conditions, such as that the marriage should be valid and that the woman must fulfil her marital duties, helping her husband maintain his chastity. However, the Zahiriyyah scholars say that a wife is entitled to full maintenance for merely being married, and once a woman is married to a man she is entitled to being fully looked after.
Ibn Hazm said: ‘A man must support his wife once the marriage contract is made, whether he asks for the consummation of the marriage or not, and even if she is still very young, rebellious or not, rich or poor, has a father or is an orphan, virgin or not, free or slave. He supports her according to his means.’
There is no specified level of the amount of maintenance; it depends on the husband’s circumstances and whether he is rich, poor or of adequate means. If the husband refuses to pay his wife’s maintenance it becomes a debt owed by him, and this debt cannot be written off. It must be repaid unless the wife willingly forgoes it.
A woman observing a waiting period after a revocable divorce, and one observing a waiting period while she is pregnant, is entitled to full maintenance throughout her waiting period. Scholars have different views on the maintenance entitlement of a divorced woman whose divorce cannot be revoked.
Maintenance of parents who are poor is a duty incumbent on their son when he has the means to support them. Parents may take a portion of their son’s money, whether the son gives them leave to do so or not. Al-Shafi'i, Malik and Abu Hanifah agree that parents may only take what they need of their son’s money. Imam Ahmad says that parents may take whatever they want of their son’s money, whether they are in need or not.
Just as support for a poor parent is obligatory to a son who has adequate means, it is incumbent on a parent who has the means to support his son who is poor. Imam Ahmad says that if a son is of age and has no income, he is entitled to be supported by his father.
Support for poor relatives by their richer relations is a subject of much controversy between scholars. Some say that it is only due as a matter of kindness to relatives. The al-Shafi'i school of Fiqh say that such support is incumbent on a rich person to his father and ancestors of any level, and to children and offspring of any level, but it is not a duty beyond these. The Maliki school of Fiqh say that maintenance is due to father, mother, son and daughter only. It is not a duty to support grandparents or grandchildren. If parents or children are of a different religion, it is still due. The Hanbali school of Fiqh consider maintenance a duty incumbent on a relative who is in means to his poor relatives whom he would be entitled to inherit, if they are in means. They thus attach it to the rights of inheritance. Where a person may inherit, he is also duty bound to give support. Thus they make gain commensurate with liability. Such rights are counterbalanced by similar duties.
It is also a duty to look after one’s animals, giving them enough food and drink to live comfortably. If he refrains to do so, the ruler compels him to either maintain or sell or slaughter them. If he continues to refuse to fulfil his responsibility, the ruler takes the necessary action. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: ‘A woman was punished on account of imprisoning a cat until she died. As a result, she enters hell. Having restricted the cat, she did not give her food, nor did she let her loose to eat of what the earth offers.’ He also says: ‘A man was walking along his way when he was extremely thirsty. He came up to a well and he went down to drink. When he came up, he found a dog panting. The dog appeared very thirsty, licking the sand. The man thought: “This dog is as thirsty as I was a short while ago.” He therefore went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, held it in his mouth, went back up and gave the water to the dog to drink. Allah was pleased with him and He forgave him his sins.’
The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companions said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, will we be rewarded for what we do to our animals?’ He said: ‘You have a reward for everything you do for a living creature.
- Ibn 'Abidin, Al-Durr al-Mukhtar, vol. 2, p. 886; al-Khatib al-Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtaj, vol. 3, p. 425.
- Ibn Hazm, Al-Muhalla, vol. 10.
- Sabiq, Fiqh al-Sunnah, vol. 2, pp. 169–80.