Praise be to Allaah.
Qiwaamah (the role of being in charge or head of the household) is one of the things that Allaah has given to men, exclusive of women. What is meant by qiwaamah is that men are entrusted with the task of being responsible for women, to take care of them, to guide them in the best possible way, and to issue commands and prohibitions - just as a ruler takes care of the people under his control.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "...but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them [women]..." [al-Baqarah 2:228] and "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means..." [al-Nisaa’ 4:34]
Ibn Katheer said: "This means that men are in charge of women; they govern them and discipline them if they do wrong." Al-‘Allaamah Shaykh al-Shanqeeti said: "This indicates that men are better than women, because the masculine is honour and perfection, whereas the feminine naturally has something lacking physically. All people are agreed on this, because all peoples give women the best of adornments, which is only to make up for this natural lack..."
Rare cases among women are nothing to go by, because the exception does not change the rule.
Some of the reasons why men are given the role of qiwaamah include:
1. Men are more intelligent and have a better ability to distinguish right from wrong. Al-Qurtubi said: "Men have the advantage of being more wise and more capable of management; for this reason they were given the right of qiwaamah." 2. Men’s religion is more complete, because women menstruate and bleed after childbirth, and do not pray or fast at such times - unlike men. 3. Spending money in charity and on one’s family is a duty on men, but not on women.
Thus if a man refuses to spend on his wife, she has the right to seek an annulment of the marriage by going to a Qaadi (Sharee’ah judge).
In summary, qiwaamah is only for men, as is made clear in the Qur’aan. If a woman spends on her husband, herself and her children, this is an act of kindness on her part, as Allaah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "... but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it (the mahr) to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any harm (as Allaah has made it lawful)." [al-Nisaa’ 4:4] Qiwaamah is for men in all cases: one can hardly imagine a man asking his wife for permission to go out, for example. And Allaah knows best.
For more information on this matter, please refer to: Ibn al-‘Arabi, Ahkaam al-Qur’aan, 1/531; Ahkaam al-Jassaas, 2/188; Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 2/169; Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 1/491; al-Shanqeeti, Adwaa’ al-Bayaan, 1/136-137)