Are Medical Bills A Husband’s Responsibility?

Q. In the Maliki madhaab, is a husband required to pay his wife’s medical bill?

A. In the Maliki madhaab, is a husband required to pay his wife’s medical bill? There are two answers to this question. The first answer is no. And the other answer is yes.

In saying that a man is required to pay for his wife’s medical bills this implies that by law medical expenses are included in the husband’s obligation of providing maintenance to his wife. In light of this understanding, no explicit evidence can be found to support this claim in the books of the fuqaha. In spite of this, we find that countries in the Muslim world – like Morocco – today include medical expenses as being part of the husband’s obligation of maintenance. One of the commentators on the Moroccan Mudawwanah -Dr. Muhammad bin Ma’jooz says, “This is contrary to what is amongst the fuqaha. That is, I haven’t found any of the fuqaha making it binding on the husband to provide medical treatment for his wife.
Rather, I found in Al-Mughni what contradicts what the Mudawwah (of Morocco) has adopted whereas he said: “And it is not binding upon him (i.e. the husband) to purchase medicine or (to pay) the doctor’s wage.” {Al-Mughni 9/236} And it is mentioned in Al-’Amal Al-Faasee:
And she doesn’t have a right to medicine. Yet, she has a right to the wage of the midwife.” {Al-’Amal Al-Faasee: 1/94}” {Ahkaam al-Usrah fee ash-Shariah Al-Islaameeyah: 2/114}

So we can see from this passage that none of the fuqaha stipulated medical expenses as being part of the maintenance owed to the wife from her husband. So when I say “no”, this is what I mean.

Part of the reason that this judgment exists is that when you say that medical expenses are a wife’s right and a husband’s obligation, this means that when the husband happens to not be able to afford them, it remains a debt in his custody which can be exacted from his property upon his demise before his inheritance is divided among his natural heirs. It also can be used as grounds for divorce if it happens that he fails to pay the medical bills. This would definitely open up a wide door for divorce as some women may attempt to use it as a way to get out of a relationship that they haven’t given time to work yet for petty reasons. Guardians might also use it as an excuse to deny the proposals of good men who may not be able to provide their wives with medical coverage, etc., etc.

On the other hand, the reason that I say “yes” in that a husband is required to bear his wife’s medical expenses is that it may happen -as often does in Muslim countries – that the wife may not have any form of income. In such a case, a husband who does have the capacity to pay his wife’s medical expenses would be obliged to do so, since she is poor and one of his dependents, just as he would be obliged to provide for his parents, children, or other poor family members if it happens that they are indigent and he is well-to-do.

This is all from a fiqh point of view.
As for from the standpoint that marriage is a sacred contract made between both the husband and wife to tend to one another’s needs and desires in an atmosphere of mutual compassion, respect, and love, it would undoubtedly behoove the husband who is well-off to pay for his wife’s medical expenses who is not well-to-do when she is sick, just as she would pay for his medical expenses if he was sick and she was well-off while he was not.

Even when we look at the most fundamental components of maintenance -viz. food, clothing, shelter – we can see that the aim of obliging the husband to provide these needs is to ensure the survival and security of his wife and his family. Since without food, proper dress attire for the seasons, and shelter from the cold in the cold months would expose the woman to the lost of the most precious thing that every human being has…life. So how could we surmise – with this aim in mind – that a man who has the capacity to pay his wife’s medical expenses while she cannot would choose not to and allow his wife’s health to deteriorate! If he were to allow this…he now plays a hand in her demise. In such a case, he bears a large portion of the guilt and the sin of the crime!

The only difference is that we can’t say that medical expenses are included in a husband’s maintenance of his wife due to the reasons we already mentioned.

Then we must remember that unless the relationship is founded upon compassion and respect from the outset – rather than being founded on delineating each person’s rights and responsibilities plus physical attraction – it is doomed to run into problems like this one. Since no one will be willing to give anymore than what the law requires for the other party with the objective of creating a more lasting and permanent bond between the spouses. Taking recourse to the law should be the last thing that a couple has to do in settling disputes like this. All of this clearly reflects the times that we’re living in and the danger of literalist and free interpretations of the Islamic sources.

And Allah knows best

Abdullah

Was Salaam

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