One of the most persistent stereotypes about Islam is that it is oppressive towards women. While it is true that there are many instances of abuse and oppression of Muslim women and problematic interpretations of religious texts, there is no justification for that behavior in the faith. In fact, it is clear from the Qur’an and the hadith that the relationship between men and women should be based on respect, kindness, and love. In this post, I would like to focus on a few examples of hadith that underscore these core values and illustrate that the Prophet Muhammad himself displayed these characteristics in his interactions with the women in his life.
There were many women who played pivotal roles in the Prophet’s life. For example, Khadijah, his first wife, was the one that he ran to and confided in when he received the first revelations. Her support was so important to him that the Prophet would speak highly of her and with deep love after her death. Also, Ayesha, another wife, supported the Prophet and became a significant contributor to the knowledge that we have of his life.
As the best example for Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad should be emulated, especially when it comes to his instructions on character and treatment of others. For Muslim women, the Prophet is their greatest supporter. There are many hadith that address how women should be treated. Here are two examples:
Abu Hurayra stated, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘The most perfect of believers in belief is the best of them in character. The best of you are those who are the best to their women.'”
Anas narrated: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was once traveling (in a caravan and women were riding the camels) and a boy named Anjashah was chanting for the camels. The Messenger of Allah said: “O Anjashah, drive the camels slowly as they are carrying “Qawareer” (Crystals).
In the first hadith, the Prophet connects individuals’ belief and character to how they deal with their wives. In other words, a man cannot have good character if he mistreats his wife. Moreover, if he is trying to emulate the Prophet, who is the best to his family, then he must strive to treat his wife with the utmost respect and kindness.
In the second hadith, the Prophet Muhammad describes women as crystals, meaning that they should not be dealt with harshly and should be treated the way someone handles something that is precious. By describing women as qawareer, the Prophet underscores how they should be engaged with and in theory prevents displaying any harshness towards them.
It has been documented that the Prophet Muhammad displayed these characteristics. He always treated the women around him with the utmost respect and kindness. He never struck a woman or raised his voice. He also made sure that women were active members of the community. In other words, for Muslim women, the Prophet Muhammad exemplifies how Islam dictates women should be treated.
What do you think about the two hadith? What other hadith demonstrate how women should be treated? Are there similar texts that address the treatment of women in other faith traditions? Do you think these kinds of religious texts can prevent or stop the mistreatment of women? Please share your comments below.