We reviewed request no. 2125 for the year 2003 which includes the following:
Please clarify the ruling on the financial support incumbent upon a husband with respect to his wife. Is it permissible for the court to enforce spousal support if the husband has financial difficulties?
It is established in the Shari`ah that a man is obliged to support his wife, even if they have not physically consummated the marriage. This is because she has reserved herself exclusively for him. If a husband refuses to support his wife, she is entitled to resort to the courts to obligate him to provide her with the marital expenses, which include food, clothing and housing.
If the husband's insolvency is confirmed and he cannot afford the above mentioned expenses, it is permissible for her to ask the court to force the husband to support her. At the same time, the court will ask the person who would have been responsible to support her had she been unmarried, such as her father or brother, to provide for her, with the husband having to pay back these expenses if he has the means.
It is permissible for the wife to ask the court to enforce an order for spousal support, such as by requesting permission from the court to borrow money for her expenses and having the husband pay off the debt. In this case, the creditor is to collect the debt directly from the husband. If the judge refuses to grant her permission, then she is to repay the debt herself and ask her husband for reimbursement.
If the husband's financial incapacity is established—by any means whatsoever—the judge may rule that the person who would have been responsible to support her had she been unmarried, is to bear her expenses and the husband is to pay him back if he has the means. Alternatively, the court may permit the wife to borrow money for her expenses and assign that debt to her husband. In this case, the creditor may sue the husband for repayment after obtaining the court's permission.
The above answers the question and Allah the Almighty knows best.