AFTER marriage, the true Muslim adheres to the Islamic injunction to treat his wife well. The Islamic recommendations concerning women, and the way in which Islam encourages men to respect them, are nothing short of amazing.
Islam recommends men treat women well and give them a status that they have never enjoyed in any other religion. So we see the Prophet (peace be upon him) admonishing all men:
“Treat women kindly, for woman was created from a rib. The part of it that is most bent is the top. If you try to straighten it you will break it, and if you leave it alone it will remain bent. So treat women kindly.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
According to a report given by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Woman is like a rib: if you try to straighten it you will break it, and if you enjoy her (or your relationship with her), you will do so in spite of her crookedness.”
According to a report given by Muslim, the Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:
“Woman was created from a rib. She will never be straightforward and consistent for you in any way. If you enjoy her (or your relationship with her), you will do so in spite of her crookedness. If you try to straighten her, you will break her, and her breaking is her divorce.”
This description is given by the Prophet (peace be upon him) eloquently describes the reality and nature of women. She will not remain consistent in the way her husband may wish, but the Muslim husband must understand that this is her nature, the way she has been created. He should not try to straighten her in the way he feels is correct, but he should respect her unique feminine nature and accept her the way Allah made her, complete with the “crookedness” that means that she will not be as he wishes in some aspects. If he insists on straightening her and molding her to his wishes, it will be like trying to straighten a bent rib: it will break in his hands, and the breaking of a woman is divorce (i.e., the matter will end in divorce).
When the Muslim husband truly follows this guidance of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which is based on a deep understanding of the psychology and nature of women, he will tolerate his wife’s mistakes and turn a blind eye to her faults, recognizing that these are part of her nature. Thus the marital home will be safe and calm, free from shouting or arguments.
We may note that in the Hadith quoted above, the Prophet (peace be upon him) started with the words “Treat women kindly,” then after analyzing the nature of woman, he ended with the same words: “Treat women kindly.”
How great was the concern of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for women, and how deep was his understanding of their psychology! Does the sincere Muslim husband have any choice but to follow this guidance and put it into practice at every moment?
The Prophet’s concern for women reached such an extent that he did not forget to remind Muslims to treat them kindly, in his farewell sermon (khutbat hijjat al-wadaa) This is the khutbah in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) reiterated the essential points of Islam when he realized that this was the last time he would stand and address the Muslims during Haj. He did not omit to advise Muslims to treat women kindly, beginning his words concerning women with a warning that is indicative of his care and concern:
“…Interact with women kindly, for they are prisoners and you have no other power over them than that, if they are guilty of open lewdness, then refuse to share their beds, and beat them, but not severely, but if they return to obedience, (then) seek not against them means of annoyance. You have rights over your women and they have rights over you. Your right over them is that they should not entertain at your hearth (or commit adultery with) anyone whom you dislike, and not to allow into your home anyone whom you dislike, and their right over you is that you should feed and clothe them well.”
This is good advice, in which every sincere Muslim husband recognizes the wisdom of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in defining the rights and duties of husband and wife in a framework of mercy and compassion towards women which leaves no room for even thinking of oppressing or harming one’s wife.