Prophetic Guidance in Dealing with Muslim
and Non-Muslim Women
Received: 9/11/2008 Accepted: 2/4/2009
Mohammed A. Al-Khateeb* & Mohammed M.Al-Zoubi**
يهدف هذا البحث إلى إبراز عناية الإسلام بالمرأة، وكيفية التعامل معها من خلال الهدي النبوي في التعامل مع المرأة المسلمة وغير المسلمة ، وقد تعرض الباحثان لبيان واقع المرأة قبل الإسلام وبعده، وكيف تعامل النبي مع المرأة أماً، وبنتاً، وزوجة، وخلصت الدراسة إلى أن الهدي النبوي في التعامل مع النساء نموذجٌ فريدٌ لم يسبق إليه، وأن الإسلام هو الدين الوحيد الذي أعطى المرأة كامل حقوقها، وساوى بينها وبين الرجل، ووضع القواعد الأساسية لبناء الأسرة المسلمة التي تشكل اللبنة الأولى في بناء المجتمع.
Islam is the only religion which gives women a high status in society. Critics claim that Islam hinders women by not giving them their due rights and throws doubts on matters related to women, such as polygamy, divorce and inheritance.
The research investigates the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and his dealings with women. These guidelines illustrate how his followers should deal with women, whether mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, maternal aunties, paternal aunties, Muslim or non-Muslim. It discusses how the Prophet treats women in various situations and circumstances and demonstrates the importance of women as she compliments a man and is half of the community.
The research concludes with some important findings in dealing with women.
Assistant Prof., Faculty of Islmic Jurisprudence and Law, Al Al-Bayt University.
Assistant Prof., Faculty of Islmic Jurisprudence and Law, Al Al-Bayt University.
Allah sent His Messenger (peace be upon him) with a final religion for all mankind which is the religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religions as He says in the Quran: ‘It is He Who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it).’ [Surah 9, Verse 33].
Among the advantages of this religion is that it is a religion of nature, as Allah says: ‘So set your face steadily and truly to the Faith: (establish) Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah. That is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not.’ [Surah 30, Verse 30], and differentiates between human beings on the basis of piety, as He said Blessed and exalted is He: ‘O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).’
[Surah 49, Verse 13].
Islam gives women a high status which did not exist in previous legislatures, but critics unjustly accuse Islam of oppressing and degrading women, claiming that Islam may be biased in favour of men. For instance, they claim a man’s testimony is equal to the testimony of two women(1); if a woman is murdered her compensation is half that of a man(2); they attain half the share of the inheritance of men(3); it allows the man to marry a second, third and fourth wife; it permits the beating of the wife; and the abandoning and locking up of women at home and prevents them from working, etc.
Nowadays there are many people who complain about the state
of women in Islam and hold conferences and discussions calling for fairness and granting women more rights.
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the real state of women in Islam and how Islam honours women, through examples of the Prophet’s dealings with women. This research is titled: ‘Prophetic Guidance in Dealing with Muslim and Non-Muslim Women’. We have translated our research in English for the benefit of non-Arabic speakers to acquaint them with the greatness of Islam and illustrate that the Prophet was a leading figure in honouring the status women.
This research has been divided into an introduction, four sections and a conclusion in which we mention some of our major findings.
1) The Honouring of Women in Islam:
The Status of Women Prior to Islam:
If we would like to know how much honor Islam holds for women, we must know their status before the coming of Islam.
Before Islam, women were deprived of basic rights. They were denied rights, had no right to inheritance and were instead part of the inheritance.
When a father dies, his eldest son inherits his wives with the exception of his mother. In the event of the father's wife being beautiful, the eldest son puts a gown over
her and subsequently becomes her husband. If the wife was ugly, she was locked within the house until she died(4).
When a woman gave birth to female offspring, people were pessimistic of her birth so they buried her alive for fear of poverty and shame. They did this out of fear their dignity would be tainted(5).
Allah highlights this issue in the Holy Quran: ‘When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief!’ [Surah 16, Verse 58]. In the same Surah He says: ‘With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on? [Surah 16, Verse 59].
In another Surah He says: ‘When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned.’ [Surah 81, Verse 8]. He continues: ‘For what crime she was killed.’ [Surah 81, Verse 9].
before Islam women in most societies including Arabs have very bad states; Hinduism women do not have the right to life after the death of her husband, and she should be burned together with her husband , and she is worse than evil, death, hell, snakes, and fire(6).
The Romanians women were the most denied of their rights, women were sold like any other items, and if her father died, the mandate passed to the guardian of the girl, can not get rid of this guardian, unless she sell herself to another man, and if the woman got married ,she got married by contract, so-called the "sovereignty" of the husband, or the husband has to buy his wife(7).
The state of Greek women is worse than in the other societies , as Demustin said: "We take the pleasure of the prostitutes, mistresses to take care of our health, and take wives to give birth to legitimate children"(8).
Even the law of Hammurabi did not do justice to women, as they were like cattle. If a man killed a girl, it was recognized that his daughter had to be killed, or possessed(9).
The People of the Book did not apply the law of Allah regarding the right of women; Jews look to women as a mere servant, and not have the right to inheritance, and the father haves the right to sell her, It does not inherit anything as long as the father haves some boys; they look at women as the curse; she caused Adam to be removed from Paradise(10).
Christians consider women the reason of the moral decay because of their contact with the men as they want. They consider marriage impurity and must stay away from it, and the single is batter than the married in the sight of Allah. at the peak of their civilization and because of the free mixing of men and women everywhere, adultery haves become non-denier, religion does not accept the wrong relationship between men and women, and has become an example of the holy gods to commit sin, , all of which led to the fall of their civilization. It is interesting to note that the English law until 1805 had allowed the man to sell his wife, and set the price of six pence; or 6% of the Pound(11).
The above analysis clearly demonstrates that before the coming of the Prophet, women did not have rights or dignity but were in fact traded as a commodity.
1.2 The Status of Women During the Lifetime of the Prophet
Islam honours women because they are seen as the foundation of society. They are mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, and they raise heroes in societies. In Islam, a woman is the core of society and brings either righteousness or corruption.
Therefore, Islam elevates women to the highest levels of pride and human dignity after being depressed by men before the time of Prophet Mohammed. The Prophet describes a woman as being ‘the other half that completes a man’(12).
Islam gives both men and women rights and duties assigned to each party equal to the duties of the other party, but with some differences due to physiological and psychological variations, in order that they may complement each other. As Allah says in the Quran: ‘The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.’ [Surah 9, Verse 71].
In another verse, Allah equalises the reward for men and women, as He says: ‘For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.’ [Surah 33, Verse 35].
Similarly, they are equal in punishment, as He said: ‘As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.’ [Surah 5, Verse 38].
He goes on further to say: ‘The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment.’ [Surah 24, Verse 2].
In other verses, there are no disparities between the commands for men and women except in certain circumstances such as: leadership at home; testimony; and inheritance. In the case of leadership Allah says: ‘Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).’ [Surah 4, Verse 34].
The reason leadership is allocated to men is because a man is best suited to resolving problems; he pays to establish the family including the dowry and maintenance of the family, amongst other things; and because women are blessed with sensitive emotions and these may overcome the ability to reason logically as they may be overwhelmed by emotion.
As for the issue of testimony, Allah requires two women instead of one man in financial circumstances. He said: ‘...and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her.’ [Surah 2, Verse 282].
Al Baydhawi said: ‘This is only to do with financial matters (two woman instead of one man)’, as confirmed by Shaafa’i and Abu Hanifa. The reason why there must be two women instead of one man is that she might forget and the other will remind her, Financial matters always used to happen in the market and the woman is not always present there, as she was bringing up the family. That is why Allah requires two women instead of one man(13).
Regarding inheritance, Allah has ordained for women half the share of men, as He outlines in the Holy Quran: ‘Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children's (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females’. [Surah 4, Verse 11]. This is because men have the responsibility of paying the dowry and maintenance for women, while women do not have any financial responsibilities to the family.
However, the share of inheritance will in certain situations be equal to that of men, for instance, brothers from the mother’s side. Allah says in the Quran: ‘If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third.’ [Surah 4, Verse 12]. It is clear that each one of them inherits a sixth irrespective of whether male or female, demonstrating that women are equal to men in the amount of inheritance received.
In some cases, the share of women can be more than that of men. For example, if a man dies and leaves a wife and one daughter, the daughter inherits half of the estate; the wife inherits one eighth; and the rest in distributed between the relatives even if there are one hundred men. As Allah says in the Quran: ‘They ask you for a legal decision. Say: Allah directs (thus) about those who leave no descendants or ascendants as heirs. If it is a man that dies, leaving a sister but no child, she shall have half the inheritance: If (such a deceased was) a woman, who left no child, Her brother takes her inheritance: If there are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance (between them): if there are brothers and sisters, (they share), the male having twice the share of the female. Thus does Allah make clear to you (His law), lest you err. And Allah has knowledge of all things.’ [Surah 4, Verse 176] (14).
Islam did not stop granting women their rights, but recommended their good treatment and did not force her to do anything she did not want to do. As Allah says in the Quran: ‘O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dower ye have given them, except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.’ [Surah 4, Verse 19]. Here, kindness means every word and act a man could use with a woman which has a pleasant implication and meaning. It must be mentioned here that this was not recommended pre-Islam.
The Prophet recommended dealing with women in a righteous manner, as he said: ‘Be kind to women as they were created from a rib which is crooked, and if you try to put it straight you will break it. So leave it crooked and do treat women with kindness’(15). The Prophet always used to deal kindly with his wives. He was permanently smiling and was always joking with good humour. He is a supreme example for his followers in dealing with women. Regarding this, Allah says in the Holy Quran: ‘You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.’ [Surah 33, Verse 21].
2) Prophetic Guidance in Dealing with Mothers
Mothers in Islam have an unparalleled superior status. There are many verses in the Quran highlighting respect to parents, including looking after them, being kind to them and praying for them. Allah says in the Quran: ‘Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: "My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood."’ [Surah 17, Verses 23-24].
Allah focuses on the mother and reminds offspring about their mothers’ suffering and orders them to be kind in return. He says in the Quran: ‘And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (the final) Goal.’ [Surah 31, Verse 14].
In another place in the Quran, Allah commands children to be kind to their parents and reminds them about a mother’s hardship, including her periods of pregnancy, labour delivery and breast-feeding. He says in the Quran: ‘We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months. At length, when he reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he says, "O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for your favor which you have bestowed upon me, and upon both my parents, and that I may work righteousness of which you will approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to you and truly do I bow (to you) in Islam."’ [Surah 46, Verse 15].
The Prophet also instructs muslims to be kind to parents even if they are non-Muslims, especially the mother. We are advised to be kind to her, take care of her and not cause any
physical or mental harm to them.
Abdullah bin Masood said: I asked the Prophet of the good deeds most beloved to Allah. The Prophet replied, "Observing prayers on time". I then asked, what next O Messenger of Allah? He said, "Respecting parents". What next I asked? He responded, "Jihad in the name of Allah" (16).
The Prophet said a mother has higher priority to be looked after than the father. Al-Bukhari and Muslim said on the authority of Abu Hurayrah: A man came to Allah's Messenger and said, ‘O Allah's Messenger! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?’ The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man said. ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man further said, ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man asked for the fourth time, ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet said, "Your father" (17).
Being kind to and treating parents with kindness has a higher priority in Islam than Jihad for the sake of Allah, as mentioned in the above Hadith(18).
In another saying, Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas narrated: A man said to the Prophet, ‘Shall I participate in Hijrah and Jihad, seeking the reward of Allah?’ The Prophet said, "Are your parents alive?" The man said, ‘Yes, both of them are.’ The Prophet replied, "Do you want to seek the reward from Allah?" The man answered, ‘Yes’. Then the Prophet advised, "Go back and be kind to your parents" (19).
Al Hakim narrated, on the authority of Aisha, that she asked the Prophet, ‘Which people have more rights than a woman?’ He said, "Her husband" (20).
A mother’s rights do not terminate at the time of death but in fact continues after it. Al Hakim reported, on the authority of Abu Usaid Malik ibn Rabia Sa’idi: We were sitting with the Prophet and a man came from the tribe of Salama and he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah is there any kind deed I can do for my parents after their death?’ The Prophet replied, "Yes, to pray for them and ask Allah for forgiveness for them; to fulfill their oath; to keep their kinship ties; and to honour their friends" (21).
Thus, we see that Islam has elevated parents and increased the honour of a mother over a father due to the hardships she faces, including pregnancy, birth, breast-feeding and raising the children in collaboration with the father, ultimately giving women a high and respectable status in Islam.
Nowadays, in our globalisation age we see some children neglecting their parents, not respecting them, not honouring their rights, placing them in a nursing home when they become old ,and do not see them except on special occasions such as mother’s and father’s day.
2.2 Grandmothers and the Elderly:
Grandmother also has a high status in Islam due to her relation to the father and mother as Islam considers her as a mother too. Consequently, the Prophet dedicates a portion from the inheritance to her. If either the mother or father has passed away, the grandmother is allocated their portion.
A grandmother came to Abu Bakr to ask for her share of inheritance. He told her he could not find any evidence of a grandmother’s rights to inheritance from either the Holy Quran or the Sunnah but he would make enquiries. He then asked Al Muqheera ibn Shu’uba who said, ‘The prophet has allocated for her one sixth’.
Another grandmother came to Umar
ibn Al Khattab asking for her inheritance. He told her he could not find inheritance laws for a grandmother in the Holy Quran but he would implement the one sixth as advised by the Prophet(22).
When the Prophet entered the city of Medina, the inhabitants came to meet him. The first thing he asked them was, ‘Which is the nearest home of our relatives?’ Abu Ayyub said, ‘Me, O Messenger of Allah. This is my home and this is my door’. The Prophet then said, ‘Let us go and rest at your home’(23).
In enquiring about the nearest home of his relatives, the Prophet was referring to his maternal family of Bani Najjar. Al Hafiz(24) ibn Hajar commented on this Hadith and explains that the Prophet referred to them as relatives because the mother of the Prophet’s grandfather, Abdel Mutelab, was called Salma bint Auf, and was from the tribe of Bani Najjar(25). In another version, when the inhabitants of Medina came forward to host him he said, ‘I will be the guest of my (maternal) uncles from Bani Najjar’(26).
The Prophet used to respect and honour elderly females. On the authority of Aisha: An old lady came to the Prophet whilst the Prophet was sitting with her. The Prophet asked her, ‘Who are you?’ She replied,
‘I am Juthama Al Mazniya’. He replied, ‘Indeed you are Hussanah. [The Prophet used to change names which had a bad meaning. In this case, Juthama meant ‘corpse’ and so the Prophet changed it to Hussanah meaning ‘nice’.] How are you? How have you been since we left you?’ She answered, ‘Very well’. She then left. Aisha asked the Prophet why he received her in such a way, i.e. in happiness even though she was an old woman. The Prophet replied, ‘As she used to visit us whilst I was with Khadijah, and part of faith is to keep relationship ties’(27).
The Prophet used to joke with elderly women in order to amuse them. Al-Tirmidhi reported on the authority of Al Hassan that he said: An old lady came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, pray to Allah to make me amongst your companions in Paradise’. The Prophet replied, ‘No old lady will enter paradise’. She went whilst weeping. Then the Prophet told his companions to tell her that she will enter paradise as a young woman as there are no elderly people there. In this sense, the Prophet was joking with her.
Thereafter, the Prophet quoted the Holy Quran: ‘We have created (their Companions) of special creation.
And made them virgin - pure (and undefiled). Beloved (by nature), equal in age.’ [Surah 56, Verses 35-37] (28).