Muhammad: the Liberator of Women

At the dawn of the 7th century in Arabia, a lone voice of light emerged from an era of utter darkness. That voice taught absolute justice in interpersonal and international affairs, equality between men and women and an uncompromising zeal to establish universal freedom.

By the age of eight, that young voice from the tribe of Quraish lost both parents and his grandfather – yet, he managed to find some comfort in his uncle’s home. During the next three decades, he established himself amongst his people as a beacon of integrity, earning the names of As-Sadiq and Al-Amin.

That lone voice emerged to be none other than the Unlettered one, the Seal of the Prophets, the Prince of Peace, the Comforter, the Orphan who adopted the world, the Holy Founder of Islam, the lawyer of all – be they men, women, children of elders – none other than the altogether lovely Muhammad Mustafa saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him".

After this brief introduction about the one for which thousands of biographies have been written for yet very few has been able to comprehend the beauty of his life and work held, I will also try to humbly attempt to explore one characteristic out of the thousands that are present and associated with Huzoor saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and that is: Muhammad saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" – the liberator of women.

We all know that the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" granted women:

The right to divorce, inheritance, maintenance, education, work and a career, the right to a separate income, the right to own property and many more but my humble attempt will be to explore two topics and see how the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" handled these matters more than fourteen hundred years ago; thus truly becoming the beacon, light and liberator for women.

Dr. Micheal Hart ranks the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" as “the most influential person in history” and “a secular and religious leader”, writing about the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and his favours of women says:

“I find in his character such diverse and manifold qualities, as it would be impossible to find in any other man, whose biography has been preserved by history. His services to help mankind are also commendable; he issued rights to those at a time when those particular beings were considered worthless; hard to imagine in today’s circumstances but a magnificent achievement for those who hold knowledge about Arab history.”

The first topic, as mentioned, that I will briefly speak upon is Huzoor’s saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" behaviour in general towards women and how through this, women ultimately received the honour, dignity and respect they have.

However, to understand Huzoor’s saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" attitude towards women, we need to first understand the condition of Arabia at the time of the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him".

We all know and acknowledge that during the time of the advent of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", women were treated with disgust, sold as gambling products, sometimes buried in infancy and treated as an item on sale. The Holy Qur’an even points to this when it states:

وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُمْ بِالْأُنْثَى ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ

And:

أَيُمْسِكُهُ عَلَى هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَابِ

“And when one of them is conveyed the tidings of the birth of a female, his face darkens with inward, suppressed grief…Shall he keep it inside of disgrace or shall he bury it in the dust.”

Chapter 16 Verse 59-60

Indeed, as mentioned, at Islam’s advent, it was a practise in Arabia for men to bury their infant daughters alive to spare shame to the family. The Qur’an categorically rejected this horrific and barbaric act, ending it once and for all. Muslims who engage in any form of “honour killing” today do so in spite of Islam, never because of Islam. In short, nothing in Islam justifies or accepts any form of honour killing.

Huzoor saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", even in his final sermon emphasised that women should be treated with reverence, love and respect – and he did not only merely make this claim but proved it throughout his life.

The Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" wrote that:

“Once a Companion of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" asked him about the rights of women. The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" said ‘feed her as you feed yourself from what Allah the Exalted gives you, clothe her as you clothe yourself with what Allah the Exalted gives you. Do not slap her, do not use foul language with her, do not turn her out of the house.”

Evidently, the student learned from the master. From such a master who possessed mastership and kingdom over all of Arabia, despite that, this master would still stand up if his daughter walked in the room, would clean the place she would want to sit on, kiss her hand and would lovingly talk to her.

How can any allegations be raised that this man would have viewed women in a negative manner or taught his followers to commit any vile acts against them? In total contrast, he created an army of educated women.

He stated that knowledge is incumbent upon a woman just as it is important on a man and taught a Qur’anic verse for both men and women which will aid their knowledge to increase.

His first comforter was a woman, the person from whom half of religion can be learnt from was a woman, the first martyr in Islam was a woman , the Holy Qur’an even goes on to say:

فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ أَنِّي لَا أُضِيعُ عَمَلَ عَامِلٍ مِنْكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَى

“So their Lord answered their prayer, saying, I will soften not the work of any worker from among you, whether male or female, to be lost.”

Chapter 3 Verse 196

This vividly shows and emphasises that women, who pre-Islam had little value, now stood shoulder to shoulder in rights with men.

There is an account of a man who buried his daughter alive or threw her in a well. He gave the detailed account of this to the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". He said that he had a daughter whom he loved very much. When the daughter was old enough to understand, and could walk, his father called her over to him. She came to her father because she loved him. But, little did she know that this father who was showing hopeless love and emotions would take her to the family well and throw this innocent, poor soul inside it; without showing an iota of remorse. He said he could recall that when he pushed her in the well, he could hear her heart-rending screams. That very poor soul, even despite being treated in the most harshest way, showed expressions of love, crying: “Father, O my father!” On hearing this, tears started to flow from the eyes of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". Another person who was sitting there said to the narrator that he had saddened the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". Upon this, the narrator went quiet. However, the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" asked him to relate the incident again. It is reported that the Holy Prophet’s beard was soaked with a constant stream of tears flowing down his face.

The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" said that a person who has a baby daughter and does not bury her alive, does not demean her shall be given entry to paradise by Allah the Exalted.

In terms of love and good treatment to wives, Huzoor-e-Anwar abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" stated, that:

“The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", who was the greatest champion of women rights, said that women are servants of Allah and not your servants; therefore, do not hit them.”

Another exceptional quality is that when we study the financial establishment created by the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", we find a remarkable and unique financial philosophy heavily in favour of women. It is crucial to note that Islam gave women rights of inheritance 1400 years ago. The point worth noting is that, this is a right that women pre-Islam were not afforded. Likewise, it is a right that women in the west only recently received through civil law- not religion.

In Great Britain the right to inheritance – under Married Women’s Property Act 1884, was granted to women in ‘1884’. The difference in age is quite clear. In many countries a woman has still no share in the inheritance of either her parents or her husband.

Whereas the Holy Qur’an commands:

َيَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَرِثُوا النِّسَاءَ كَرْهًا

“Oh ye who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will.”

Chapter 4 Verse 20

In matters of divorce, in Europe and the US, it was not the Bible that gave women the right to divorce, but secular and civil law. For example, women in the United Kingdom gained the right to divorce only in 1857 – and even then only if their husbands were cruel to them. British women did not gain individual divorce rights until 1891 – 1,300 years after Islam granted such rights to women. But cruelty from their husbands did not spare American women. In a heart-breaking 1862 North Carolina case, a woman petitioned the court to grant her divorce after her husband mercilessly horsewhipped her. The North Carolina Supreme Court’s chief justice denied her, stating:

“The law gives the husband power to use such a degree of force necessary to make the wife behave and know her place.”

French women could not legally divorce until 1885. Women in Latin America – a largely Christian region of the world – could not divorce until the late nineteen or early 20th centuries – depending on the country.

Moreover, in Mark 10:12 it states:

“And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

As such, to avoid the risk of adultery, certain Christians denominations to this day have banned divorce altogether.

Islam was the first, and arguably the only ancient religion to afford women equal divorce rights.

Indeed, the West has only recently ‘caught up’ to Islam in this regard.

Several Ahadith also demonstrate that women have the equivalent power as men to divorce and can do so even if their husbands are blame-less.

In summary, some of the reforms Muhammad saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" brought in relation to the rights of women as individuals are that:

  1. Up until the late 17th century women in many parts of Europe were considered to be the property of their husband — a custom that was destroyed with the birth of Islam.
  2. Women could not inherit up until the late 19th century, a custom that was destroyed by the birth of Islam.
  3. Widows had no rights of inheritance with respect to their husband’s property- a custom that was destroyed by the birth of Islam.
  4. Up until the late 19th century women could not own any property of their own independent of their husband, a custom that was destroyed by the birth of Islam.

In fact Islam gave full rights of ownership to women.

Now, I move on to the 2nd part of this article which is: Huzoor saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" as a husband.

If we see the life of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" as a husband we find that his conception of women and the ideal matrimony and wife-hood he presented before the world was and is immaculate.

Through the Holy Qur’an, he taught:

هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَهُنَّ

“They are a sort of garment and you are a sort of garment for them.”

Chapter 2 Verse 188

And he showed how this Quranic injunction could be put to practise in every act he committed.

Christian Saints, at that VERY TIME, were going around citing disgraceful things about women, such as: “women are the gate of the devil, the road to evil, the sting of the scorpion” (St. Jerome) and “Woman has the poison of an cobra, the malice of a dragon” (St. Gregory).

The example of Huzoor saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" as a husband is very instructive. Even his detractors admit that he was an ideal husband.

He always entertained a feeling of deep love, mingled with respect, for Hazrat Khadijah raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them". During her lifetime his love was unswerving, even after her death he never recalled her memory but with the deepest emotion.

“Never was there a better wife than Khadijah” he said on one occasion to his beloved wife Aishah – “she believed in me when men despised me, she relieved my wants when I was poor and despised by the world.”

He used to help his wives in their household chores such as kneading flour for bread, fetching water, kindling the fire for cooking, patching his own clothes and cobbling his own shoes. No work was too small for him.

Hazrat Aishah raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them" narrates that the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" helped her in the daily household chores, all this over and above his duties to the whole of mankind as a Prophet of God. This aspect of his character also impressed his companions immensely.

The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" is reported to have said:

“The most perfect in faith amongst you is he who is most courteous, and the best among you is he who is best in the treatment of his wife; the more a man is good to his wife the greater shall be his value before Allah.”

Hazrat Maimona raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them" and the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" were praying together once and had the same sheet on. He helped his wife, Hazrat Sofia raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them", to get on a camel by placing her foot upon his knee.

He used to take his meals with his wives and drink water from the same glass putting his mouth just where his wife had done. He also used to make innocent jokes with his wives.

It is impossible not to feel that there was an artless simplicity, a delicate touch, an angelic grace about this remarkable man, who was the King of Arabia, and who in the course of only a few years, turned the whole current Arab life in to a different channel, and gave religion to the world!

Huzoor-e-Anwar abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" whilst addressing the Jama’at said that:

“The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" has laid so great a stress on the importance of relations between man and his wife that once he said, “If a believer puts a morsel in the mouth of his wife out of love, Allah will reward him for it, because it is an act which will please his wife who would feel that her husband loved her dearly.”

The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" attached great importance to a husband’s kind treatment of his wife. He observed that, after belief in God and in His Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and in His Faith, the deeds of a man in respect of his treatment of God’s servants shall be subject to Divine scrutiny. The kind treatment of a wife holds a place of high priority, so much so that in the eyes of God the best of Muslims is the one who is best in the treatment of his wife. The Holy Prophet’s saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" advice on this point is an excellent illustration of this fact.

He said:

“The best among you is he who is the best in his treatment of his wife and I am the best of you in the treatment of my family.”16

The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" redefined the relationship between husband and wife, one that would be based on complete compassion and friendship rather than that of master and slave. We hear how he would on occasion race with his wives, or playfully call them by a nickname or even how he would gently tease them. He never raised his hands on them either.

Hazrat Aishah raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them" testifies:

“The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" of Islam never hit anyone with his hand neither servant nor woman.”

He was so in tune with women’s sensibilities that he would take extraordinary care to never hurt those feelings.

On one occasion when he was lying down with his wife, the Holy Prophet  saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" made a very small request — it was

“Can I turn my face to the other side of the bed so that I may remember my Lord”.

She of course agreed and afterwards heard the Holy Prophet Muhammad  saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" shedding tears and sobbing away in remembrance of God.

He felt that as it was his wife’s time he should ask for her permission. This was a demonstration of the respect and care he gave to the women of the time; that they should not be treated as if they have no say in their affairs of home and family — their views, advice and even their permission must be sought if it affects their rights.

Drawing the parallel again, before the onset of Islam, women were buried alive, treated with disgust similar to a slave or gambling product. Now through, Huzoor’s saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" Islam were given a better status, respect and consideration in worldly and religious matters.

May God bless the soul of Muhammad saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", the liberator of women, the liberator of mankind, the mercy for the whole world who granted women a standard which had been unjustly taken away from them.

He truly was the liberator of women, who more than 1400 years ago set firm guidelines on the treatment of women, guidelines from such a book that the world is still reaping benefits from.

Disclaimer

This article was originally published in the Annual Printed Edition of Majallatul Jamia

Syed Adeel Shah

Syed Adeel Shah

Student Jamia Ahmadiyya UK

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