Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah) gave the following advice to his son on his wedding day:
Dear son, you will not attain good fortune in your home except by 10 characteristics which you show to your wife, so remember them and be enthusiastic in acting upon them.
1. & 2. As for the first two; women like attention and they like to be told clearly that they are loved. So don’t be stingy in expressing your love for your wife. If you become limited in expressing your love, you will create a barrier of harshness between you and her, and there will be a decrease in affection.
3. Ladies hate a strict, overcautious man, yet they seek to use the soft vulnerable one. So use each quality appropriately. This will be more appealing for love and it will bring you peace of mind.
4. Ladies like from their husbands what their husbands like from them, i.e. kind words, good looks, clean clothes and a pleasant odour. Therefore, always remain in that state.
5. Indeed, the house is under the sovereignty of the woman. While she remains therein, she feels that she is sitting upon her throne, and that she is the chief of the house . Stay clear of destroying this kingdom of hers and do not ever attempt to dethrone her, otherwise you will be trying to snatch her sovereignty. A king gets most angry at he who tries to strip him of his authority, even if he portrays to show something else.
6. A woman wants to love her husband, but at the same time she does not want to lose her family. So do not put yourself and her family in the same scale, because then her choice will be down to either you or her family. And even if she does choose you over her family, she will remain in anxiety, which will then turn into hatred towards you in your daily life.
7. Surely woman has been created from a curved rib, and this is the secret of her beauty, and the secret of the attraction towards her. And this is no defect in her, because ‘the eyebrows look beautiful due to them being curved’. So if she errs, do not rebuke her in a manner in which there is no gentleness, attempting to straighten her; otherwise you will simply break her and her breaking, is her divorce. At the same time do not let her off upon that mistake, otherwise her crookedness will increase and she will become arrogant with her ego. Thereafter, she will never soften for you and she won’t listen to you, so stay in between the two.
8. It is in the women’s nature to be ungrateful towards their husbands and to deny favours. If you were to be nice to her for her whole life but you grieved her once, she will say, “I have never seen any good from you”. So don’t let this attitude of her make you dislike her or to run away from her. If you dislike this feature of hers, you will be pleased with some other good habits within her, so create a balance.
9. Surely there are times when a woman goes through some conditions of bodily weakness and fatigue of the mind. Such that Allah has relieved her of some of her compulsory worships during that period; Allah has totally pardoned her from praying, and has postponed the days of fasting for her within this break to a later date until she regains her health and becomes normal in her temperament once more. Thus, during these days, treat her in a godly manner. Just as Allah has relieved her of the duties, you should also lessen your demands and instructions from her during those days.
10. Last but not least, know that a woman is like a captive with you. Therefore, have mercy upon her.
Translated by Shaykh Abdul Rahim