Go and ask the deserted bride, how she passes her night.
– Guru Granth Sahib 1379:9
From the completeness and absolute all-encompassing ethos of the Islamic way of life is, among other things, the fulfilment of rights between the husband and the wife as established by the all-Wise Creator. The Muslim spouse is required to understand that in order to live a wholesome, satisfying, tranquil, fully balanced and workable relationship, these respective rights must be implemented.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) delivered an epoch-making final sermon to over 100,000 of his followers before the great setting of the Prophetic Seal, cessation of revelation, and his subsequent departure from this earth, in which he reminded:
As a man, he was sensitive, kind-hearted, but never sentimental. He was fair and correct. Love of his parents, his sister, his wife, or his children did not prevent him from undertaking long travels, at times lasting several years.
These rights have been given to safeguard the honour and dignity of women, a part of which is the right to physical and financial maintenance and protection.
In this article, we will, God-Willing, provide the perspicuous Islamic edicts to show the type of role-model Prophet Muhammad was (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). In doing so, we will forward what the ideal character and correct behaviour and conduct of a husband should be like.
We will then compare this to an example set by Guru Nanak during his married life; based upon this examination, we will ask some very serious questions related to the inculcation of these questionable religious values and examples.
Guru Nanak’s Years of Neglect
O People, it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also have rights over you. … Treat your women well and be kind to them – Prophet Muhammad
For Sikhs, Guru Nanak was Satguru – the true guru, i.e. the one who provided the truth and who was imbued with the alleged divine light of God. Hence, Nanak was, it is claimed, totally one with God – the embodiment of truth – where Satguru and God are apparently inseparable.
Be that as it may, the point is that Guru Nanak is the role-model for a Gursikh – a Sikh devoted to the Guru, whose role it was to dispel the darkness of ignorance (‘gu’) while proclaiming the knowledge of enlightenment (‘ru’).
Sikhs are in agreement that Guru Nanak set out on long proselytising journeys called udhasis. According to Patwant Singh, these journeys were necessary in order for Nanak to “crystallize his own ideas and give sharper definition to the contours” of his developing religious ideology:
The hardship of separation from those who depended upon him and those whom he loved was, it seems, not enough:
No small feet indeed, and the question we ask is:
And they (women) have rights (over their husbands) similar (to their husband’s) over them. (Qur’an 2:228)
But, before we answer this important question, let us firstly understand the circumstances of his life, i.e. his marital status, before going forth on this ‘grande voyage‘.
Prior to this decision, it should be appreciated that Nanak was not a man with no responsibilities. On the contrary, he was married to Sulakhni and was the father of two sons – Srichand and Lakshmidas. Hence, his decision to take to these long journeys would have been at the expense of his duty as a father and husband. This would not be significant if the separation between a man and his family was necessary and for a short duration. However, it would be absolutely criminal if a man neglected his duties as a husband and/ or father for extended durations of time.
The latter is, in fact, what Nanak is guilty of not just once, but several times. Take for instance his very first stint of travels in which he was absent from his family’s life wondering the wilderness for a inexcusable twelve long years:
Incredibly, it was not Nanak who missed his family, but his companion Mardana, which prompted Nanak’s return. G.S. Grewal records that “Guru Nanak returned from his first udasi, and lived at home for four months”  (bold ours) before getting itchy feet and deciding to set off on his second journey:
As for the third, then “he trekked towards the North. Penetrating the Himalayas, he went up to Tibet. He was accompanied by Mardana”. 
Neither did Nanak spare the Middle East. According to Prof Devinder Singh Chahal, although “there is no record of definit dates of travels of Guru Nanak towards Middle East [sic]”, he concludes:
All in all:
In other words, his family, and especially his wife, were without his physical and emotional support and assistance for a large portion of those long and lonesome 28-years.
Be kind to women! – Prophet Muhammad
Allah has given answers to all of the necessary aspects of living a truthful, content and God-conscious life:
(This is) a Book which We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) in order that you might lead mankind out of darkness into the light by their Lord’s Permission to the path of the All-Mighty, the Owner of all praise. (Qur’an 14:1)
Part of this completion is the plethora of rights afforded to women in Islam. Hence, we ask the sincere reader to ponder over the completeness of this revelation and how it guards against, and closes the doors to, all actions that will lead to evil and corruption.
Our Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) commanded the Muslims:
Only an honourable man treats women with honour and integrity. And only a mean, deceitful and dishonest man humiliates and insults women. (Ibn ‘Asaakir)
O Allah! I declare it a great sin to harm, do injustice, hurt or waste the rights of the two vulnerable persons, the orphan and the woman. (Sunan an-Nisaa’ee)
The most perfect of the believers in faith are those who are the best in attitude, and the best of you are those who are best to their women. (At-Tirmidhee, 1/217; Ahmad, 2/250; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 284)
Part of this behaviour encompasses how a Muslim husband is to behave towards his wife, to know what her rights are over him, and to fulfil them.
The husband in Islam has been given the responsibility of maintaining his family’s sustenance and protecting them, as Allah commands in the Qur’an:
But, another important aspect of Islam is the recognition of satisfying, in the permissible and prescribed way, one of the most important of physical needs – the sexual appetite.
The Messenger of Allah said:
Sexual relations are among the important matters of life which Islam came to explain, and to prescribe the proper rulings of conduct. In doing so, it elevated this action from the level of mere bestial pleasures to one of obedience and worship of God. In this respect, the great scholars of Islam, Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751 AH), elucidated:
The preservation and propagation of the human race, until they reach the number of souls that Allah has decreed should be created in this world.
Expulsion of the water (semen), which may cause harm to the body if it is retained.
Fulfilling physical desires and enjoying physical pleasure. This alone is the feature that will be present in Paradise, because there will be no producing of offspring there, and no retention which needs to be relieved by ejaculation. (Zaad al-Ma’aad)
Reward for Permissible Sexual Intercourse
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said in this regard:
Wife Must Be Sexually Satisfied
Likewise, of equal importance in Islam is the wife’s right to her husband’s companionship and the fulfilment of her sexual needs.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
In a long hadeeth reported by Salman al-Farsi, one learns the following:
The Prophet told ‘Abdullaah ibn Amr ibnul-‘Aas (who spent all day fasting and all night in prayer) to fast intermittently, and not to neglect his sleep on account of his nocturnal prayers by reminding him to remain balanced in all his affairs including those of worship: “Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, and your wife has a right over you.” (Al-Bukhari)
Time Limit of Four Months
Nanak’s travels lasted twenty-eight years!
However, from Allah’s absolute Mercy and Wisdom, He also prescribed a maximum time limit of precisely four months for the neglection of one’s wife without a legitimate legislative reason. Once this time limit is up, the man is obliged then obliged to return to his wife to fulfil her rights, or suffer the consequences, which includes the wife’s right of seeking legal action.
The proof of this legislation is the following verse in the Qur’an:
Allah here has ensured the protection of the rights of women. Today, we find men holding back from their women for long periods of time, thereby placing her at risk of committing adultery. And since this is a sensitive subject, many women do not bring this out into the open for fear of embarrassment.
According to the scholars of Islam, the above verse indicates that the man is sinning for taking this type of evil oath and depriving his wife of her sexual rights.
In his well known commentary of the Qur’an, the exegete, Ibn Katheer (d.774 AH), said:
While Shaykhul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 AH) stated:
Maximum Time Away From the Wife
From the balance of Islam is also the fact that Allah, out of his mercy, has prescribed a limit for the period of time a woman can bear to be away from her husband. This temporary separation, however, can only be undertaken for Islamically acceptable reasons.
This ruling is based on ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab’s seeking of guidance from his daughter Hafsah:
Based on her proclamation, ‘Umar, who was the leader of the Muslims at that time, set a time limit for campaigns to last for six months during which they would march for a month, stay for four months, but ensure on leaving a month for the return journey.
From this, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen said:
Women are the twin halves of men. (Ibn ‘Asaakir)
It is boasted by many Sikhs that Sikhism does not encourage a monastic way of life, but rather a life of commitment towards siring children and living amicably with one’s spouse.
We dispute this empty claim by asking:
Nanak’s wife was a woman who would have had the same desires and needs as any other woman.
If Sikhism is against monasticism, then who was Sulakhni turning to for companionship and intimacy? These are important questions when dealing with a man who, despite having committed to a relationship with a woman, decides to wander off for 12-years, especially since such behaviour amounts to a type of oppression that places the woman at risk of committing illegal sexual actions.
And what of Nanak’s wife?
Was she engaging in what Islam calls “the secret act”, masturbation, which incidentally Islam has forbidden in no uncertain terms, but which Sikhism is silent over.
Or will the Sikhs argue that Sulakhni too was a Gursikhni who had managed to elevate herself above these sexual needs by conquering her inherent carnal desires?!
Even if this absurd explanation were forwarded, surely the same explanation cannot be given to explain away the isolation and loneliness she must have felt over the extended periods of absence of her other half.
Furthermore, and more significantly, these actions from the so-called paragon of virtue – Nanak – also gives an open licence for his adherents to pursue similar religious activities at the expense of their duties towards their family.
If Nanak left his family to gallivant around the world, it stands to reason that not only would this justify, but might also encourage his followers to do the same.
Nevertheless, we are told by some:
Your wife is one of those for whom you are responsible – Prophet Muhammad
But, how is it fair for the breadwinner to leave his family as a burden for others to look after?
How it it from love to leave your wife behind, to presumably fend for herself and her children, for years on end?
Moreover, the question must be asked of the children:
In the Islamic world view, the understanding is that Allah will hold everyone accountable for what they had responsibility over. Anas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
Abu Hurayrah said:
According to a report narrated by Ahmad (2/524), it was said: “For whom am I responsible, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Your wife is one of those for whom you are responsible.”
Narrated by Jabir ibn Samurah, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
Subhan’Allah (Glorified is Allah above all imperfections); how far away is this conduct and teaching of ‘truth living’ from the example of Guru Nanak?
The Prophet warned that the responsibility of looking after the family should be given to no one but the husband.
The Guru Granth Sahib states:
When I see the Perfect True Guru, then deep within, my mind is comforted and consoled. (SGGS 310)
How is it, then, possible for a conscientious man to be comforted and consoled by the reality of choosing to forsake his family for over a decade, knowing there’s no one to tend to the needs of his family in the manner in which only he as a husband and father could satisfy?
It is patently obvious which example is better!
Sa’d ibn Maalik reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to him:
In order to lift that morsel of food to the wife’s mouth, one must firstly be present in her company!
 The great companion Ibn ‘Abbaas stood in front of a looking glass to straighten his appearance and arrange his ornamentation. When he was asked about it, he said, “I adorn myself for my wife as she does for me.” Then he recited the noble verse: “And they (women) have rights (over their husbands) similar (to those of their husbands) over them.” (Qur’an 2:228)
 Prophet Muhammad’s Last Sermon. Date delivered: 632 CE. This sermon was delivered on the Ninth day of Dhul al Hijjah 10 A.H. in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat.
 P. Singh (2001), The Sikhs, (The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group), pp. 22-3.
 K.S. Duggal (1987), Sikh Gurus: Their Lives and Teachings, (Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A), p. 21.
 G.S. Grewal (2011), History, Literature, and Identity: Four Centuries of Sikh Tradition, (Oxford University Press, New Delhi), p. 230.
 K.S. Duggal, op. cit., p. 23.
 Ibid., p. 24.
 D.S. Chahal (20087), ‘How Long was Guru Nanak’s Travel Towards Middle East?‘, (PhD, Institute for Understanding Sikhism), p. 36.
 P. Singh, op. cit, pp. 24-5.
 In Islam it is impermissible for the fasting person to partake in certain designated actions since these would break the fast.
 Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Fataawa al-Kubra, vol. 4, p. 562; Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmooh al-Fataawa, Vol. 32, p. 40.
 Al-Mughni, 7/232, 416.
 Fataawa al-‘Ulama fi ‘Ushratin-Nisaa, p. 106.
 K.S. Duggal, op. cit., p. 34.
I guess the verse you quoted is actually a hadith so I think you should clarify this.
Sikhism does encourage that a husband should stay with & look after his wife & children, both in emotional & materialistic commodes. But the journeys which Guru Nanak Dev Ji made, I believe personally; they were a divine & spiritual calling unto Guru Nanak Dev Ji, which he cld not ignore. Even in the modern era, husband’s leave their wives & children to go & work abroad. . A soldier will have to leave his wife to go & fight a war. He does this for the benefit of the nation. His wife is understanding, & so pays a small sacrifice.
Life is not always that simple. I’m sure that Guru Nanak did not desert his immediate family/children. He wld have organised with close relatives & friends to take care of his family whilst he was away on his spiritual journey. His wife Solakni, wld have understood that her husband was a remarkable man; whom God had endowed an important task upon. This is proven, by way of the attention given to Nanak Ji by folk in both high & low positions. The masses of mortal ppl who listened to his teachings.
Also, yes it is true, that his wife Solakni, would also have been assisted by God, to become insensitive to the pain of the separation. She would have understood, that to abstain from ‘normal’ relations with her husband, is a small price to pay, in the search of universally benefitting spirituality, guidance & belief.
Ek On Kar – God is One
Respects to my fellow brothers & sisters, whatever your religion or creed may be.
Husbands leaving wives is one thing, but a leader who was meant to set the most perfect example for a people, is quite another. I’m sure you see the obvious difference between the two parties.
What you should ask yourself is: Why would God send His emissary to far flung corners of the earth before rectifying those closest to him? Who ought to take priority? Little wonder we have stories of Nanak’s wife weeping after being told he’s off. No amount of organising with others in looking after her could have assuaged her obvious feelings of abandonment, which you appear to indirectly accept. If this truly was spiritual, as you claim, she wouldn’t be required to quash her instincts and adopt such an unnatural way of life. That should tell you that her husband’s timing, at least for her if not him, was ill-conceived.
So while I respect your opinion that life is not always that simple, it can also be made unnecessarily complicated, especially by those claiming to be emissaries of God, when in realit they aren’t. Their lives are seldom simple; and it’s easy to spot the tell-tale signs of the pretenders to the throne.