The Status of Women in Light of the Sīrah
By Shaykh-ul-Hadīth, Hadrat Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh
The life of Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam is an open book inviting every human being to study and benefit from it. His every word calls towards guidance, moderation and justice; his behaviour and the way he interacted with people provides an easy to imitate blueprint for a wholesome and happy social life. No segment of society has been ignored and the rights and duties of each have been demonstrated. The status and honour Allāh ta‘ālā has given to women, an often misunderstood subject, is one such area that is immediately clarified when the life of Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam is studied.
Throughout her life, a woman has a number of roles, one of which is within the family circle. By taking the examples of daughter, sister, wife and mother, we can learn from the practice and teachings of our Beloved Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam, how the female servants of Allāh ta‘ālā should conduct themselves.
First and foremost, a woman is a daughter. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam treated his daughters with respect and love. The books of Sīrah note how, when returning from journeys, Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam would first stop at the masjid and then, before going to his abode, he would visit his daughter Sayyidah Fātimah radhiyallāhu ‘anhā. Before the Battle of Badr, his daughter Sayyidah Ruqayyah radhiyallāhu ‘anhā was very ill. His concern for her prompted him to order his son-in-law, Sayyidunā ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān radhiyallāhu ‘anhu, to stay behind in Madīnah and care for her. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam gave glad tidings of his companionship and proximity in Paradise to the one who nurtured two daughters to maturity. The teachings of Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam led to an environment being created wherein people longed to have daughters they could love and cherish, banishing the old custom of burying new-born girls alive out of shame.
Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam did not have a biological sister. However, once when a group from the Banū Sa‘d came to Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam, a woman came forward and declared that she was the sister of Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam. It was Sayyidah Shaymā radhiyallāhu ‘anhā, the daughter of the wet-nurse of Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam, Sayyidah Halīmah radhiyallāhu ‘anhā, and his childhood companion. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam received his foster sister with the utmost honour; he removed his cloak and spread it on the floor for her to sit on whilst tears rolled down his cheeks and he humbly suggested to her that if she wished to remain with him, she would be treated with honour and love. And if she desired to return to her people he would still look after her. She chose to return but accepted Islām. When she returned, Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam gifted her three servants, a maid, some cattle and some goats.
As a wife, a woman’s esteem increases even further. She now has the status of friend, associate, comforter and adviser to her husband. The occasion of receiving the first revelation through the angel Sayyidunā Jibra’īl ‘alayhis salām was a very testing time for Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam. Despite having the option of going to his lifelong friend Sayyidunā Abū Bakr radhiyallāhu ‘anhu, his uncle (Abū Tālib) or other elders of the tribe, Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam sought the company of his wife Sayyidah Khadījah radhiyallāhu ‘anhā. She in turn did not fail him and proved to be a source of immense support and comfort. Similarly, after the Truce of Hudaybiyyah was struck and the Muslims had to return to Madīnah Munawwarah without performing ‘umrah, it was the wife of Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam, Sayyidah Ummu Salamah radhiyallāhu ‘anhā, whose advice and counsel helped to diffuse a difficult situation. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam would spend quality time with his wives, talk with them and narrate stories. He taught the believers:
The best of you are the ones who are best to their wives. (At- Tirmidhī)
Motherhood brings with it even more respect and honour. Although Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam was an orphan, his teachings regarding the status and rights of the mother are explicit. Paradise lies under the feet of mothers. One’s success in the Hereafter is conditional upon honouring and fulfilling the rights of one’s mother. A person once asked Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam,
‘Who out of all the people is most deserving of my kindness and companionship?’ He (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) replied, ‘Your mother.’ ‘Then who?’ asked the man. ‘Your mother,’ he (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) replied. ‘Then who?’ asked the man. ‘Your mother,’ he (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) replied. ‘Then who?’ asked the man. ‘Your father,’ he (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) replied. (Al- Bukhārī)
These examples go some way to demonstrate the respect which Islām grants to women and also serve to expose the falsehood of allegations that Islām despises women or treats them as inferior. Men and women are equal before Allāh ta‘ālā; both have rights and responsibilities and both must be treated with honour and respect.
Taken from ‘Inspirations’ (Volume 1) published by Islāmic Da’wah Academy
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