The advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was a blessing to the whole world, especially to Arabia, which was at the bottom of the heap, so to speak, in terms of moral degradation. The Holy Prophet’s (sa) mission was to transform a lowly and morally corrupt people into the most civilized and God-fearing nation that could lead the rest of the world to the right path.
At that time, Arab society was fully immersed in the pool of every known vice. Women were considered the lowest faction of society. Women were not given any rights. A woman could not make decisions for herself. She could not possess any property or anything valuable. She was denied the inheritance of her family members. It was a custom to kill girls at birth, or at a very young age, in some tribes. As a daughter, wife, and mother, she had no life of her own. She did not have the right to choose her husband., or to initiate a divorce. She was not allowed to participate in national, communal, or domestic events. She was treated as a commodity and could be traded by the men of her family.
The rest of the world maintained the same, or similar, sentiments. A study of different religions, civilizations, and cultures shows that women had no rights. In this situation, the Holy Prophet (sa) came as a mercy for women. He helped and led society’s weaker factions, including women, to a more clear and secure path. As Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul-Masih II (ra), wrote,
“Such was the teaching which the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, brought with him at a time when the ideals of the world were opposed to it. With these injunctions, he reclaimed women from the enslavement they had endured in the world for thousands of years, and also from the shackles with which previous religions had bound them. One man cut the chains of a long-standing servitude at a stroke in a single moment. He gave freedom to mothers and at the same time saved their progeny from servile inclinations. In this way, he sowed the seed of great ambition and high resolve” (1).
The Holy Prophet (sa) completely changed the lives of women. Their rights were defined, and roles were described. Equality of status was fully promulgated. A woman was able to think and decide for herself.
“Islam gave women rights that the non-Islamic world has given to women only within the past 200 years: the right to inherit property (from their husbands, their parents, next of kin), the right to own, keep and manage their property, the right to ask and get a divorce in case of ill-treatment or abandonment from the husband, the right to re-marry, the right to obtain an education. The responsibility for the maintenance of the wife and children was placed on the husband (only recently have child support laws been made and enforced in this country). Remember that Islam was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) by God 1500 years ago. In the United Kingdom, it was only in late 1882 that Parliament passed the first Married Women’s Property Act. Before that, a woman could not hold property on her own, independently of her husband, and in Italy as late as 1919. Misconduct was accepted in English law as a cause for divorce only in 1923. Abandonment was accepted as a cause for divorce in New Zealand only in 1912. In Tasmania, 1919, in Victoria, 1923, in Cuba, 1918, in Mexico, 1917, in Portugal, 1915, in Norway, 1909, in Sweden, 1920, in Switzerland, 1912, divorce was allowed for various forms of mistreatment. But Islam had proclaimed and enforced the rights of women since approximately the year 600, only through revelation from God, not as a result of women having to fight for their rights” (2).
This is not all. Good treatment of women, and by women, in all her roles came to be defined as one of the paths to paradise. As a mother, paradise lies under her feet; as a daughter, her good upbringing grants paradise to parents; as a wife, a small bite of food given to her by her husband becomes a deed worthy of Allah’s pleasure.
The life of the Holy Prophet (sa) is the true reflection of all these teachings. He was kind and benevolent to all women. In the words of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as), “The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is the perfect example for us in every aspect of life. Study his life and see how he conducted himself concerning women. In my esteem, a man who stands up against a woman is a coward and not a man. If you study the life of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), you will find that he was so gracious that, despite his station of dignity, he would stop even for an old woman and would not move on until she permitted him to do so” (3).
He completely transformed the meek and weak women of his time into vital, learned, and confident ones. He embodied the best example for others through his impeccable behavior.
The Holy Prophet (sa) treated his wives with love, affection, and care. He would talk with them and would tell stories to them. Sometimes he would race with Hazrat Aishah (ra). “On another ‘Eid day, the people of Abyssinia were displaying acts of war in the vast courtyard of the Prophet’s Mosque. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) asked Aishah (ra) if she wanted to see this display. Then he made her stand behind him. Hazrat Aishah (ra) relates,
“I stood behind him for a long time, with my chin on his shoulder, my cheek touching his cheek and enjoyed the display. He stood there supporting me until I got tired. The Holy Prophet (sa) told me that it was enough entertainment, and I could go home” (4).
The wives of the Holy Prophet (sa) were able to express their opinion in front of the Holy Prophet (sa). He valued their opinion and would consult them in different matters. On the occasion of the Treaty of Hudaibia, the Holy Prophet (sa) asked his companions to slaughter goats and shave their heads; the companions were so grief-stricken that they did not follow the command. At that time, his wife, Hazrat Umme Salamah (ra) recommended that he slaughter his animal and shave his head; companions will follow. The Holy Prophet (sa) liked her advice and slaughtered the animal. When the companions saw the Holy Prophet doing so, they rushed to carry out the religious rites as well (5).
The Holy Prophet (sa) made the treatment of wives and family a criterion of virtue. Hazrat Abu Hurairah (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (sa) said, “The most perfect of believers in the matters of faith is he whose behavior is the best, and the best of you are those who behave best towards their wives” (6).
The Holy Prophet (sa) loved his daughters. Whenever his youngest daughter, Hazrat Fatimah (ra), would come to see him, he would get up and greet her with love, kiss her forehead, and seat her next to him. Girls, who were formerly considered a mark of shame and humiliation, became a source of salvation for their parents. Hazrat Anas (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (sa) said,
“He who brings up two girls through their childhood will appear on the Day of Judgement attached to me like two fingers of a hand” (7).
In the role of mother, women are called a source of attaining paradise. The Holy Qur’an and various sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa) emphasize that mothers are foremost deserving of good conduct.
The Holy Prophet (sa) believed in the full participation of women in daily life. They would accompany men to battles, nurse the wounded, and help men as much as possible. They would seek out the Holy Prophet (sa) for guidance in various matters and would not hesitate to voice their concerns. The Holy Prophet (sa) deemed it obligatory for every Muslim man and woman to seek knowledge. He trained and educated his wives as well. Hazrat Muhammad (sa) is reported to have told his companions to seek half their knowledge from Aishah (ra). After the death of the Holy Prophet (sa), his companions would consult Hazrat Aishah (ra) for guidance in different matters.
The Holy Prophet (sa) was the true savior of women. He broke centuries-old taboos and gave women the same status in society as men.
- Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), Muhammad the Liberator of Women, pp.10 (Edition 2015) UK
- Maryam Chaudhry, The Role of Women in Islamic Society https://www.alislam.org/articles/role-of-women-in-an-islamic-society/
- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat, vol. 4, pp.44
- Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad, Muhammad (sa) The Perfect Man, pp.686
- Sahih Bukhari, The Book of Conditions, Chapter: The conditions of Jihad and peace treaties.
- Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Garden of the Righteous, pp. 68 (Edition 2006) UK
- Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Garden of the Righteous, pp. 66 (Edition 2006) UK
Last modified: March 2022