The Wife's Submission to Her Husband According to the New Testament


Bassam Zawadi

The Bible teaches that a husband should have authority over his wife:

Colossians 3:18

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

1 Peter 3:1

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,

However, what kind of submission are we talking about here?...

1 Peter 3:5-6

5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

So, aren't the pious Christian women of today also supposed to follow this example and call their husbands their masters?

It is good that the New Testament teaches that a wife should obey her husband, but you can get the impression that it takes it a little bit too far:

Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

The wife should submit to their husbands in EVERYTHING. Isn't that a little bit too extreme? Paul says the wife should submit to the husband as the Church does to Christ. Now, since Christians believe that Christ is God, does that mean that the wife should obey her husband as if she is obeying God and give him the same rights? The verse clearly states that the wife's submission to her husband should be one's submission to God, and we all know that this is unconditional submission. 

Christians might argue back that a wife doesn't have to obey her husband if he orders her to sin against God, for God would never order such a thing. Fine, but what if the husband orders his wife to do something that might be injurious to her health? If God ordered it, she would have to do it, for God has given the woman her body, and she has to submit to Him. This also means that she would have to obey her husband since she must submit herself to her husband's orders as if God Himself were issuing them. 

You can see a similar problem here

In Islam, there are limits when it comes to obedience to people:

Surah 4:135

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well- acquainted with all that ye do.

Also, it comes in several hadith:

Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 9, Book 89, Number 258:

Narrated 'Abdullah:

The Prophet said, "A Muslim has to listen to and obey (the order of his ruler) whether he likes it or not, as long as his orders involve not one in disobedience (to Allah), but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed one should not listen to it or obey it. (See Hadith No. 203, Vol. 4)

Volume 9, Book 91, Number 363:

Narrated Ali:

The Prophet , sent an army and appointed some man their commander The man made a fire and then said (to the soldiers), "Enter it." Some of them intended to enter it while some others said, 'We have run away from it (i.e., embraced Islam to save ourselves from the 'fire')." They mentioned that to the Prophet, and he said about people who had intended to enter the fire. ''If they had entered it, they would have remained In it till the Day of Resurrection.'' Then he said to others, "No obedience for evil deeds, obedience is required only in what is good ."

Saheeh Muslim

 Book 020, Number 4535:

It has been narrated on the authority of Abu 'Abd al-Rahman from 'Ali that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a force (on a mission) and appointed over them a man. He kindled a fire and said: Enter it. Some people made up their minds to enter it (the fire), (carrying out the order of their commander), but the others said: We fled from the fire (that's why we have come into the fold of Islam). The matter was reported to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). He said to those who Contemplated entering (the fire at the order of their commander): If you had entered it, you would have remained there until the Day of Judgment. He commanded the act of the latter group and said: There is no submission in matters involving God's disobedience or displeasure. Submission is obligatory only in what is good (and reasonable).

So, in Islam, if a husband orders his wife to do something wrong, she must not listen to him and obey him in EVERYTHING, just like the New Testament says. She also doesn't have to obey unreasonable requests.

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