One of the most common misconceptions about the Prophet Muhammad is his treatment towards the opposite gender. The status of women as identified by the Prophet Muhammad and by God himself in the Quran is very different from what is usually perceived by the non-Muslims and practiced by Muslims in various parts of the world. A few of the countless accusations made against the Prophet include calling him a womanizer, accusing him of having more than eleven wives, encouraging beating of women, depriving women of educational rights and accusing him of marrying a 6 year old. All of these accusations can be easily refuted with proof from the Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and Seerah.
The Prophet demonstrated heights of kindness when dealing with women. He treated them with utmost respect and advised his followers and companions to behave with them in a considerate and gentle manner. ‘The Prophet is reported to have said “Treat women well. Woman was created from a rib. The most crooked part of the rib is the top part. If you try to straighten it, you will break it. If you leave it, it remains crooked. So treat women well.”’
The Prophets just and thoughtful attitude towards women is demonstrated in his behavior towards his wives. Being born and brought up in a society where it was not uncommon for men to take more than one wife, Prophet Muhammad married Khadija who was a widow and was 15 years older than him. The marriage lasted for 25 years and during the time He was married to Khadija, Prophet Muhammad never took any other wife. The very fact that he married a woman who was 25 years older than him and had been widowed twice breaks cultural and social barriers which people are hesitant to talk about even in the present ‘modern’ times. Only once Khadija had passed away did the Prophet get married again. His wives always spoke highly of him. If he found any of his wives in a state of distress he would supplicate to God for them. He never behaved harshly with them and was never rude towards them. He helped them in the household chores which in those days was considered to be menial tasks that were meant for women. One of his wives, Aisha, is reported to have said "He always joined in household work and would at times mend his clothes, repair his shoes, and sweep the floor." The Prophet Muhammad also advised his followers to treat their wives in the best way possible. He is recorded to have said, “The best among you is the one who is best toward his wife”
The Prophet also treated his daughter with special care. His youngest and most pampered daughter Fatima held a special place in his heart. ‘Whenever she would come to visit him, he would stand to greet her, kiss her, and seat her in his place.’ Living in an era when daughters were considered to be a burden and buried alive, the Prophet of Islam cherished his daughters, liberated them and gave them rights identical to those given to men. The Prophet stressed the importance of taking special care of daughters. He is recorded to have said, ‘”Whosoever sees the rearing and educating of his two daughters to their maturity, on the Day of Judgment, he and I shall be by each other’s side like this”, joining his two fingers together in illustration.’ In another narration the Prophet is recorded to have said “Whoever takes under his wings his three daughters or sisters, beautifully rears and educates them, gets them married and continues his blessings and aids towards them, is destined for Paradise.” Prophet Muhammad left behind a legacy by ending female infanticide and establishing explicit rights for women.
The Prophet raised the status of mothers to the highest rank and made it an obligation on every Muslim to treat their mother with the utmost of dignity and respect. Being brought up as an orphan who lost his mother at the age of six, it is recorded that Prophet Muhammad cried when he returned to his mothers’ grave. It is narrated that he kept crying until all his companions started crying looking at him! The Prophet has said, “Paradise lies beneath the feet of mothers”. Once a man came to Prophet Muhammad and asked, “O Messenger of God, which person of all the people is best entitled to kind treatment and good companionship from me?” He answered, “Your mother.” The man asked, “And then?” He said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “And after her?” He said, “Your mother.” The man asked for a fourth time, “And after her?” The Prophet said, “Your father”.
The Prophet liberated women in a time when they were treated like lowly creatures and used as a tool for enjoyment by men. They were not given any educational, inheritance or political rights. The Prophet broke all these cultural barriers and stated that women are the twin halves of men. He never raised his hand on any woman during life. At the time of his death, which is considered to be the most painful and difficult time for a human being, he advised his followers to treat women kindly and is recorded to have addressed women as ‘glass’ on another occasion. While delivering his farewell sermon, he is recorded to have said regarding women that they have right over their spouses, and a man must treat his women well and with kindness. On another occasion the Prophet is recorded to have said “Women are your mothers, daughters, aunts”
All the evidence presented above proves the Prophets attitude towards women and clearly refutes the argument of Him being unjust towards them.
Imam Abu Zakaruya Yahya Bin Sharaf An-Nawawi ,Riyad as Saliheen, Chapter 34, ‘treating women well’, Hadith number. 273.
Sh. Ibrahim H. Malabari, Mercy Prophet: Muhammad’s Legacy to all Creation, Toronto, Canada, Compass Books, 2008, page 234
(Muslim, Birr, 149; Tirmidhi, Birr, 13/1914)
Abu Dawud, Adab, 120-121/5147; Tirmidhi, Birr, 13/1912; Ahmad, III, 97