When Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to deliver his message as God’s last messenger to mankind, all human societies ill-treated women. Arabia was no exception. Prior to Islam Arabian women had no rights, not even the right to live. Often parents killed their young daughters, burying them alive, for fear of poverty or shame. Under the Roman and Byzantine Empires, women were practically enslaved, even by the rule of law. The Persian Empire considered women to be the source of evil. Today, the Western civilization boasts of its achievement of equality between men and women. Yet, this was achieved after hard struggle. Until World War One, women did not have the right to vote in general elections in Britain or elsewhere in Europe. The suffragette movement had to fight hard for that right to be granted. By contrast, Islam, as preached by Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago, gave women a status equal to that of men. The Qur’an clearly states: “Women shall, in all fairness, enjoy rights similar to those exercised against them.” (2: 228)

Legal provisions are one thing and personal treatment is another. A member of parliament may give the best argument in a public debate for looking after women, but his behavior toward his wife and women folk may be overbearing and hurtful. Prophet Muhammad made sure that his conduct was always a practical endorsement of what he preached. As a husband, he never wavered in his love and kind treatment of Khadijah, his first and only wife for 25 years. He continued to cherish her memory to the end of his life. He married other women after her death, but none could fill her place. Yet with them he committed himself to much more than what Islam requires of all men to be kind and caring of their women. He disliked to be seen by any of them without a smile on his face. He visited each one of them in the morning and in the afternoon, enquiring after them and ensuring that they received what they needed. At night, he would be with the one whose turn it was for him to stay with.

Aishah mentions that when he was alone with his wives, he was the most amenable of people, always smiling and relaxed. Every description of the Prophet, given by his companions, highlights the fact that he inspired awe in anyone who talked to him, whether on religious matters or any other subject. Yet he did not allow that awe inspiring appearance to become a barrier between him and any of his wives. They always spoke to him in the friendliest manner that characterizes a marital relation. One of them once said to him in front of her father: “Speak out, but say nothing but the truth.”

What we see here is a normal conversation between husband and wife. The role of the Prophet, who is God’s messenger to all mankind, totally disappears. Had the woman felt that she was addressing God’s messenger, she would not have thought of speaking in this way. She was merely a woman talking to her husband and trying to prove a point in dispute between them. Muhammad, whose life was totally devoted to his mission, saw nothing wrong with the way she spoke to him. He accepted it as perfectly normal. We will have more to say on this aspect of the Prophet’s life in future.

— By Adil Salahi