First of all, the hadith goes thus; “It is not lawful for a woman to observe (voluntary) fasting without the permission of her husband when he is at home; and she should not allow anyone to enter his house without his permission”.
It is obviously remarked that the hadith deals with particular etiquettes that a Muslim wife has to observe in her marital life. These etiquettes are meant to enhance intimacy, honesty, respect, faithfulness and cordiality in the Muslim family.
In the first statement of the hadith the wife is forbidden to observe any voluntary fasting- as the obligatory fasting of Ramadan is absolutely not included in this forbiddance- in the presence of her husband except with his permission. The reason, as pointed out by the scholars, is that when the woman’s husband is present, i.e., not traveling or absent for any other reason, he has certain rights including the right to make love with her. If he finds her fasting, he will usually abstain from approaching her; and this may make him angry or cause him to suffer sexual frustration. Therefore, his permission for wife’s optional fast is obligatory. From the Islamic perspective a voluntary act of worship to Allah should be avoided for the sake of the superior benefit of maintaining cordial marital relationship.
In the second injunction, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) preserves the husband’s right for admitting any person into his house. This is by no means a restriction on the wife’s right or empowering the husband to be arbitrary. Rather, it is a way of setting boundaries in case of conflict. One’s house is his kingdom in which he exercises his authority. As the husband is the maintainer and the guardian partner in the marital relationship, he is the one who has this authority. On the other hand the husband is commanded in other prophetic hadiths to be God-fearing and to treat his wife kindheartedly. Unfortunately, the majority of people search for their rights, demand them, and try to find out supporting evidences for them; but they neglect and never think about, or at best have little concern for, the responsibilities and duties they have to assume.
It should be pointed out that the Malikite jurists hold the opinion that the generality of this hadith is specified by the commands to keep ties with parents and kindred and, therefore, they allow the wife to admit her parents and close relatives to the house without her husband’s permission. But they can be argued by the fact that keeping ties with close relatives is recommended as long as one does not infringe others’ rights.
Naturally, if the wife knows her husband’s consent to admit someone, whether a relative or non-relative, this tacit consent will be enough and she will not have to seek his direct permission.
It is noteworthy here that this hadith is also narrated by Bukhari in his Sahih without the phrase “while he is present” in the second injunction, which is found in the Muslim’s narration. Concerning the meaning of this phrase, the prominent scholar Ibn Hajar argues that this is not a modification of the injunction. It was just mentioned according to the general cases and usual circumstances, that is, the husband is usually present. Consequently, it cannot be inferred that the wife does not have to seek her husband’s permission in his absence.
In the third statement, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) promises both of the spouses of sharing the reward if the wife spends charitably from the earnings of her husband without his specific direct permission. This logically means that there has to be a previously general permission, either explicit or implicit, regarding charitable spending. Otherwise, her spending becomes forbidden. The family budget is the husband’s responsibility. In Islam you can always see this relation between rights and responsibilities. However, from another angle the hadith exhorts husbands to seek such a reward by showing their wives their interest in good deeds and charitable spending.