Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage, secure each other’s chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body; so does the husband find comfort in his wife’s company and she in his. “The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them.”
It is for this reason that marriage was considered by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a most virtuous act. He said, “When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion.” He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying, “Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower).”
The Qur’an has given the raison d’etre of marriage in the following words, “And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (30:21)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was full of praise for virtuous and chaste women. He said, “The world and all things in the world are precious but the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman.”
He once told the future Khalif, ‘Umar, “Shall I not inform you about the best treasure a man can hoard? It is a virtuous wife, who pleases him whenever he looks towards her, and who guards herself when he is absent from her.”
On other occasions, the Prophet said, “The best possessions a man can have is a remembering tongue (about Allah), a grateful heart and a believing wife who helps him in his faith.” And again: “The world, the whole of it, is a commodity and the best of the commodities of the world is a virtuous wife.”
Before the advent of Islam, women were often treated worse than animals. The Prophet wanted to put a stop to all cruelties to women. He preached kindness towards them. He told the Muslims, “Fear Allah in respect of women.” And, “The best of you are they who behave best to their wives.” And, “A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good.” And, “The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was most emphatic in enjoining upon Muslims to be kind to their women when he delivered his famous khutba on the Mount of Mercy at Arafat in the presence of one hundred and twentyfour thousand of his Companions, who had gathered there for the Hajj al-Wada (Farewell Pilgrimage). In it, he ordered those present, and through them all those Muslims who were to come later, to be respectful and kind towards women.
In Islam, a woman is a completely independent personality. She can make any contract or bequest in her own name. She is entitled to inherit in her position as mother, as wife, as sister and as daughter. She has perfect liberty to choose her husband. The pagan society of pre-Islamic Arabia had an irrational prejudice against their female children, whom they used to bury alive. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was totally opposed to this practice. He showed them that supporting their female children would act as a screen for them against the fire of Hell.
The worst calamity for a woman is when her husband passes away and, as a widow, the responsibility of maintaining the children falls upon her. In the Eastern World, where a woman does not always go out to earn her living, the problems of widowhood are indescribable. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) upheld the cause of widows. Most of his wives were widows. In an age when widows were rarely permitted to remarry, the Prophet encouraged his followers to marry them. He was always ready to help widows and exhorted his followers to do the same.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said, “One who makes efforts (to help) the widow or a poor person is like a mujahid (warrior) in the path of Allah, or like one who stands up for prayers in the night and fasts in the day.”
Woman as mother, commands great respect in Islam. The Noble Qur’an speaks of the rights of the mother in a number of verses. It enjoins Muslims to show respect to their mothers and serve them well even if they are still unbelievers. The Prophet states emphatically that the rights of the mother are paramount.
“ISLAM DOES NOT CONSIDER WOMAN “AN INSTRUMENT OF THE DEVIL”. RATHER, THE QUR’AN CALLS HER MUHSANA – A FORTRESS AGAINST SATAN, BECAUSE A GOOD WOMAN, BY MARRYING A MAN, HELPS HIM KEEP TO THE PATH OF RECTITUDE IN HIS LIFE”
The Prophet’s followers accepted his teachings and brought about a revolution in their social attitude towards women. They no longer considered women as mere chattels, but as an integral part of society. For the first time women were given the right to have a share in inheritance. In the new social climate, women rediscovered themselves and became highly active members of society rendering useful service during the wars, which the pagan Arabs forced on the emerging Muslim umma. They carried provisions for the soldiers, nursed them, and even fought alongside them if it was necessary. It became a common sight to see women helping their husbands in the fields, carrying on trade and business independently, and going out of their homes to satisfy their needs.
The predominant idea in the teachings of Islam with regard to men and women is that a husband and wife should be full-fledged partners in making their home a happy and prosperous place; that they should be loyal and faithful to one another, and genuinely interested in each other’s welfare and the welfare of their children. A woman is expected to exercise a humanising influence over her husband and to soften the sternness inherent in his nature. A man is enjoined to educate the women in his care so that they cultivate the qualities in which they, by their very nature, excel.
These aspects were much emphasized by the Prophet (peace be upon him). He exhorted men to marry women of piety and women to be faithful to their husbands and kind to their children. He said, “Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives, and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a thousand martyrs. Among my followers, again, the best of women are those who assist their husbands in their work, and love them dearly for everything, save what is a transgression of Allah’s laws.”
Once Mu’awiyah asked the Prophet (peace be upon him), “What are the rights that a wife has over her husband?” The Prophet replied, “Feed her when you take your food, give her clothes to wear when you wear clothes, refrain from giving her a slap on the face or abusing her, and do not separate from your wife, except within the house.”
Once a woman came to the Prophet with a complaint against her husband. He told her, “There is no woman who removes something to replace it in its proper place, with a view to tidying her husband’s house, but that Allah sets it down as a virtue for her. Nor is there a man who walks with his wife hand-in-hand, but that Allah sets it down as a virtue for him; and if he puts his arm round her shoulder in love, his virtue is increased tenfold.”
However, the Shari’ah regards women as the spiritual and intellectual equals of men. The main distinction it makes between them is in the physical realm based on the equitable principle of fair division of labor. It allots the more strenuous work to the man and makes him responsible for the maintenance of the family. It allots the work of managing the home and the upbringing and training of children to the woman, work which has the greatest importance in the task of building a healthy and prosperous society.