In a previous article by Al-Azhar Observatory, the status of women as shown in the Quran was discussed and the tremendous honor they were given was clearly highlighted. By the same token, this article will investigate woman’s position in the Prophetic Sunnah, which is held by Muslims as the second source of legislation in Islam.
Before Islam, women experienced very miserable conditions; they were viewed as part of men’s properties to which their heirs had all the right to keep. Female infanticide was commonly practiced and women were denied their due rights, even the basic ones. With the advent of Islam, all of these acts of injustice were totally eradicated.
Prophet (PBUH) has been sent as a mercy to the worlds (Quran, 21:107). His mercy and compassion encompassed all creatures. Woman is not an exception. In many occasions, the Prophet (PBUH) stressed that women must be treated well and kindly and their rights must be preserved; he (PBUH) said, “Act kindly towards women.” (Sahih al-Bukhari) This prophetic advice was reiterated, emphasized and further linked to the elements of belief and other acts of kindness and righteousness; a point which is crystal clear in his (PBUH) saying: "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt his neighbor. And I advise you to take care of the women.” (Sahih al-Bukhari) He (PBUH) is also reported to have said: “He who believes in Allah and the Hereafter, if he witnesses any matter he should talk in good about it or keep silent. And you should act kindly towards woman.” (Sahih Muslim)
Even in the most important sermon the Prophet (PBUH) has ever given – the Farewell Sermon, he singled women out and dedicated a special statement on them indicating the lofty position they assume and the honor and respect they command in Islam.
The Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) honored women not only as wives, but also as daughters, mothers, neighbors, etc. As wives, the Prophet (PBUH) announced: “Fear Allah in regards to women for you have taken them by the oath of Allah, and made intimate relations with them legal by the sacred word of Allah.” (Sahih Muslim)
He (PBUH) described those husbands who act honorably and kindly with their wives as the true believers who attain the complete and perfect faith: “The believers who attain the most perfect Faith are those who show the best behavior, and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.” (Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah)
Furthermore, the Sunnah made it crystal clear that women share responsibilities with men as they are “counterpart of them” (Sunan Abi Dawud); they also are enjoined to organize the affairs of their houses and take care of their children, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “A wife is a guardian of her husband's house and she is responsible (for it).” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
In short, the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) is ample with statements of honor to women, as wives, and, similarly, as daughters and mothers. This article gives glimpses of care, respect and kindness that Islam gives to women in general and wives in particular.