Q) My husband always makes fun of me and mocks me, and I have put up with a lot and been patient. But one day he insulted me in all kinds of ways and made me cry and get angry. So I said to him, “You are to me like my brother, you are to me like my brother’s back.”
Is this considered to be zihaar [a jaahili form of divorce in which the husband says to his wife, “You are to me like my mother’s back”]? What is the kafaarah (expiation) that I have to offer?
A) Praise be to Allaah.
It is not permissible for a Muslim to make fun of his brother. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it to insult one’s brother after having Faith [i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: ‘O sinner’, or ‘O wicked’]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zaalimoon (wrongdoers).”
The husband is obliged to treat his wife kindly. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“and live with them honourably”
And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The best of you are those who are best to their wives, and I am the best of you to my wives.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 3895.
Our advice to you is to continue to be patient and put up with your husband’s mistreatment, and pray for him to be guided, and keep reminding him of his duties.
With regard to your telling him, “You are haraam to me like my brother” etc., this is not zihaar, rather it is a yameen mukaffarah (an expiable oath). Zihaar is done by a man to his wife, not vice versa. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Those among you who make their wives unlawful to them by Zihaar (i.e., by saying to them ‘You are like my mother’s back’)…”
Shaykh Muhammad al-Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen was asked:
My wife always says to me, “You are my husband, you are my brother, you are my father, you are everything to me in this world.” Do these words make me haraam to him or not?
These words do not make her haraam for you, because what she means by saying “You are my father and brother” etc is that you are like her father and brother in love and care. She does not intend to make you a mahram like her father and brother.
Even if we were to assume that she does mean that, you are not haraam for her, because zihaar cannot be given by women to their husbands, rather it is something given by men to their wives. Hence if a woman tries to give her husband zihaar by saying to him, “You are to me like my father’s back” or “my brother’s back” etc, this is not zihaar, but it comes under the ruling of oaths, in the sense that it is not permissible for her to allow him to be intimate with her unless she offers kafaarat al-yameen (expiation for breaking a vow). If she wishes, she can offer the expiation before she allows him to be intimate with her, or if she wishes she may do that afterwards.
Kafaarat yameen (the expiation for breaking a vow) is to feed or clothe ten poor persons, or to free a slave. If the person cannot do any of these things, then he or she must fast for three days.
Fataawa al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 2/803.
And Allaah knows best.