Muhammad the last Prophet and Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is the exemplary character that all Muslims must emulate. His way is the straight path that a Muslim has to follow in order to succeed in this world and in the hereafter.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) despite being the Messenger of Allah, was a human being, and therefore he did and said things which even ordinary people can easily understand and follow. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had exemplary patience, a capacity to bear hardship and ability to forgive the erring people, especially the ones who ever ‘wronged’ him in one way or the other.

He also had the ability to be steadfast and resolute in the face of persecution. He kept his promises, fought bravely when attacked, was generous in giving, content with what he had, honest, clean-hearted, kind and compassionate. He always worshiped Allah in sincerity, behaved with people in a humane manner, loved children and respected the womenfolk. In sum, in him was Uswa Hasana, the exemplary character: The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the finest human being.

Men are judged in many ways. But the best scale to judge the character of a man is to see how good he is to the members of his family, especially to his wife. Because husband and wife know each other in a way that others, even parents cannot. A wife knows even those aspects of man’s personality that he can hide from others. This is the reason that a wife’s testimony about her husband’s character is regarded as the most authentic.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) received the first revelation in the Cave of Hira, he naturally became a bit apprehensive. In such a state of mind he went to no one but to his wife. And what Khadijah told him enumerating his good qualities is remarkable indeed. Imam Bukhari has narrated this story in the beginning of his magnum opus, Sahih, because it contains Khadijah’s testimony about the character and personality of the Prophet (peace be upon him). And this testimony has come from a woman who was witness to even those aspects of the Prophet’s life that others were not in a position to know.

It would, therefore, be rewarding to know as to how the Prophet (peace be upon him) behaved with his wives? It just so happens that people forget the real message or miss the spirit of the message and take their cultural habits as real things, even give them precedence and superiority over matters which are more essential. This is truer about our attitude towards women than anything else. Over the centuries, we have developed an attitude which deprives women even of the rights that the Holy Qur’an had given them. Women have all the rights to get educated and contribute to the welfare of the Ummah in befitting manners.

But we, the Muslims, have confined them within the four walls of their homes and do not do enough for their proper education. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had made it compulsory for both Muslim men and women to acquire knowledge. The Ummah must introspect and think what it has done so far for educating half of its population.

When we study the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) we discover to our amazement that he was as much eager to teach women as he was about his male companions. Women were free to approach the Prophet (peace be upon him) and seek guidance from him. He never thought of them as a source of evil as some people think so today, and consequently deprive them of the opportunities that they deserve to have as a matter of right.

Some Muslims are harsh even toward their wives despite clear Islamic injunctions against such a treatment of women. Some think that being lenient to one’s children and wife is tantamount to spoiling them, and hence they never have fun or play with them. It would be advisable here to recount how the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived and behaved with his wives.

Hasan has narrated on the authority of his father, Ali Bin Abu Talib that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to visit or enter his house for fulfilling personal needs (food, sleep, etc.), for which he had permission from Allah. So, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was at his home, he used to divide his time in three parts; one part was devoted to worshiping Allah, another part was (reserved) for fulfilling the rights of his family members (such as spending time with them, talking and sharing joys with them) and the third part was for the “well-being” of his self. Of the third part of time reserved for himself, a considerable portion used to be spent on those who came to him seeking guidance and instructions about various matters.

These were men of letters, people who knew more about religion than others. They had the standing instruction from the Prophet (peace be upon him) to preach to others what they used to hear from him (peace be upon him).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to go home at a pre-decided time. He would enter the house saying Salaam to the inmates. He would talk to his wives, inquire about their health and needs and eat whatever was brought before him. He used to share the joys and sorrows of his family members, he would also do such small chores as milking the goat, stitching or mending his shoes, cleaning the house, attending to the animals and helping the servants in their work, etc. He never liked to live in the house as the one whom everyone must serve and respect; rather he preferred to be one of them. He was specially very kind to his servants, never chided or dealt harshly with them, and forgave them when they erred. He had made it a point to be good to everybody or keep everyone happy in his home.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was specially very good to his wives. He had many wives and divided his time among them justly. He was a caring husband indeed and knew the rights of his wives and fulfilled them. He treated them equitably and never discriminated against anyone. When the time cam to meet Allah, he sought permission from his other wives to live in the room of Ayesha.

In sum, his married life was exemplary. He loved his wives, played with them, made fun with them and enjoyed their company. It has been reported that he used to put his head in the lap of Ayesha and sometimes even recited the Holy Qur’an in that condition. He is reported to have kissed Ayesha while he was fasting. He is also reported to have said: “The best among you is the one who behaves well with his family members…” It was his practice that after saying the Asr, or afternoon prayer, he used to meet all his wives.

He would sit with them, talk to them and inquire about their conditions and then in the night would go to the wife to whom he had to go as per the rotation rule. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was very particular in following the rotation rule, and would never break this rule on his own.

Once he became unhappy with Safiyyah who pleaded with Ayesha to do her a favor. And offered to forego her turn in Ayesha’s favor if she secured the Prophet’s pleasure for her. Ayesha agreed and met the Prophet in the night which was reserved for Safiyyah.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) reminded Ayesha of the mistake and asked her to go back. But Ayesha narrated the whole story and said that it is God’s favor which He gives to whom He likes. Thereafter the Prophet (peace be upon him) again became happy with Safiyyah.

THE Prophet’s (peace be upon him) was not a killjoy personality. At home he used to play with his wives. He allowed Ayesha to watch the games of men from behind the curtain. He let the daughters of Ansar enter his house and play with Ayesha; sometimes he also joined in those games. Once he ran a race with Ayesha in which he lost to her.

In a similar race later on he, however, defeated Ayesha and said that it was in reply to her previous victory. Often the respected wives would indulge in pastime conversation and narrate to him the events of the past, personal as well as historical.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) never discouraged such practices, rather sometimes he himself told them about his past life. Once Ayesha remarked that the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived, talked and laughed among his wives in a way as if he was not a great prophet, far removed from ordinary men and women. However, he used to become very serious when religious matters were discussed.

The respected wives had all the freedom to prepare and eat whatever they liked. The Prophet’s household was not rich and hence rich dishes were usually not available. However the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to take care of their needs and make provisions for good food and clothing.

He did not like the golden or silver jewelry but asked his wives to wear jewelry made of the ivory. This kind of jewelry was common among women in those days. He wanted his wives to be clean and well-dressed; he would never chide them, instead he would speak with them in a gentle voice, even if they were wrong. If he ever felt some displeasure, he would pay a bit less attention to the concerned wife in order to make her realize her fault. And when the respected wives mended their behavior, he would enter the house smiling suggesting that the phase of his displeasure was over.

This way the Prophet (peace be upon him) indeed intended to develop a healthy and all-round personality of the womenfolk. Today the situation is quite reverse of it. Our women hardly pay any attention to their health and there is hardly any provision for them to play within or outside their homes. The Muslim society needs to learn a lesson from the practices of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The Prophet’s love for his wives is well-recorded. In fact, he was a loving and caring husband. He did not like and, therefore, did not provide too much worldly comforts to his family members. However, he tried to compensate that by giving them abundance of love.

Ayesha is reported to have said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would lovingly put his lips on the portion of the cup from where she had taken water or would eat meat of the bone from which she had already eaten. Such small but loving gestures go a long way to create a healthy atmosphere at home which is highly congenial for mutual understanding and living together.

Ayesha has narrated a good number of events, which show that the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived happily at home. He joked with his wives and enjoyed their company. A happy home where understanding and cooperation prevail is essential for accomplishing major tasks, worldly or religious. It is, therefore, necessary for people to behave in such ways that can help them lead a happy family life.

A disturbed family is like a hell whereas a happy and peaceful family life is like living in the Paradise. Usually people say that it is the woman who makes or breaks the family life.

But from the Seerah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) we learn that man’s contribution is equally important in this regard. We also learn that a happy family life is based on love and care that the spouses have for each other.

In our present times some people do not behave with their wives properly. There is a misconception that men should appear tough towards their wives and children in order to maintain discipline at home. Such people believe that love spoils both wives and children. But this is a misconception as mentioned above. The truth is that there should be a balance between love and discipline. One should not only be a hard taskmaster, nor a doting and excessively indulgent husband.

But all Muslims must keep in mind that love for one’s wife is as necessary as obedience to one’s parents. The Prophet (peace be upon him), as elaborated above, was a caring and loving husband. It has been reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) breathed his last with his head in the lap of Ayesha. Is it not enough to suggest as to what kind of relationship between a husband and a wife is required in Islam?

– By Ishtiyaque Danish / Courtesy: Radiance Viewsweekly, New Delhi, India