Fatma: What is Islam’s position regarding the division of matrimonial assets?
Sayyid: Generally, each person reclaims whatever he or she brought into the marriage. The division of assets, therefore, should be done according to what each partner contributed to the relationship. For instance, in some
Eastern countries, the wife traditionally furnishes the home. If she divorces, she has rights to all the furnishings she supplied.
Fatma: Could the wife claim remuneration in exchange for the years of service she provided for her husband, such as housecleaning, cooking, and rearing the children?
Sayyid: During the marriage the wife, at any time, may request to be compensated for the work she provides domestically, including rearing the children. However, to claim remuneration without prior agreement in the marital contract, and then to attempt to claim recompense during divorce would be difficult. However, Islam recommends
that the husband bestow a gift to the ex-wife in order to ease her living conditions after the divorce, even if he had paid her the full mahr. Upon divorce, Islam advises the husband to compensate the former wife in some manner.
Fatma: What transpires in instances when a wife, in a standard marriage, for years had completely sacrificed her life, had saved and been conservative in expenditures, assisted and toiled in domestic duties, all for the sake of freeing her husband from the allotted task so that he may pursue his career and become financially successful? Does not Islam recognize or acknowledge that the wife played an important role in supporting her husband’s success? In addition, would Islam not pay an indemnity for such sacrifices?
Sayyid: It would be premature to give one direct response to the scenario you described. Such cases require an extensive investigation into exactly what was brought, accomplished, or sacrificed from the start of the marriage until its dissolution. The Islamic judge would have to investigate a variety of issues, for instance who worked and for how long, what did each partner contribute or sacrifice, who physically labored, or how were the finances handled. It all varies and it is a case-by-case ruling.
Sometimes there are cases in which the wife assists her husband as an assistant or secretary at his office or business. The wife may request payment for such services either during or after the dissolution of the marriage.
If the wife has claimed compensation for the years she was his secretary or assistant, then she will be entitled to reimbursement according to what the husband would have paid for a hired secretary or assistant. However, if it is proven that the wife was a complete partner in the business, then, without a doubt, she will be entitled to her share of the company.