Question: What is the meaning of this verse “Men are the guardians of women”? Many men take it as an excuse to impose unjust control on their women.
The answer: In managing the affairs of marital life, there must be one decision-maker; otherwise, the family will become divided and fall into parts. It is the same with companies, banks, and government departments. They have one head, who is called manager, minister, or president, to make decisions. This does not imply the permitting of despotism. A manager, a minister, or a president, in spite of his authority, has to consult with others and has to take counselors. Even the messenger of Allah (S), who is the most perfect one among all human beings, has been ordered by Allah to consult with others by saying, (…and consult with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah).
In this verse, you see two orders: one of consulting and the other of determining. In the first order, there is a plural pronoun (consult with them) whereas in the other order there is a singular pronoun. It is understood that a final decision must be made by one person, and no more; otherwise, disagreement will not be settled by one decision. As we have said, a decision must be made after consulting with persons of common benefit and common fate. This means that guardianship should be for a decision-maker.
Here, we discuss the following question: if guardianship is to be claimed by either the husband or the wife, which one of them is preferred?
Islam prefers the husband over the wife for the following reasons:
1. Man in most cases has a greater ability of administration, control over his nerves, courage, freedom in going out of home, dealing with people, and dealing with the affairs of life than a woman.
2. If a woman works outdoors, she will be – in most cases – an easy game for hunters.
3. Because the husband is the one who initially establishes the family and the wife is a newcomer to the family, man is worthier of making a decision on what he establishes. For example, if you establish a company and invite someone qualified to assist you in administrating the company, would you not keep the conclusive decisions to yourself though you may regard the position of the one you have invited as a partner with you in administration?
4. Because the husband undertakes the financial responsibility of the family, it is natural that guardianship is his right. This is clear in the Qur’anic verse (Men are the guardians of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property).
This matter, however, does not justify the unjust control of a man over his wife. Many men exploit their authorities to achieve personal benefits. This does not mean that this authority is wrong, but rather it is wrong when the authorized men misuse this authority selfishly to achieve their personal benefits.
If a keeper of a mosque or a Husayniyyah collects some money under the pretense of doing some religious projects, but he spends this money on his personal purposes, do we condemn the mosque, the Husayniyyah, and the religious projects or do we condemn that disloyal person?
When Islam gave this guardianship to man, it ordered him to be fair, honest, and wise. If man is not so, then the wrong lies in man himself and not in the verdict of guardianship.
I do not think that there is a woman who refuses to be the wife of a man who is bound by the conditions of guardianship and its Islamic principles.
We ask: can a husband authorize his wife with this guardianship?
The answer: Yes, he has the right to convey his right to his wife. Thus, Islam does not determine the despotism of men; rather, Islam organizes the administration of a happy marital life, and thus guardianship is a positive thing as long as the husband has positive qualities.
 Holy Qur’an, 3:159.
 Holy Qur’an, 4:34.
 Husayniyyah is a place like the mosque where certain ceremonies are held on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (s) and on other religious occasions.