Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) was born in a society where women had been subjected to much violence, which often took the form of female infanticide.
Daughters were considered a burden; and getting rid of them was sometimes considered a necessity, which they did in a most violent manner: by burying them alive!
It is reported that a Sahaabi (Companion) of the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam), prior to his accepting Islam buried one of his daughters alive. Later whilst was in the fold of Islam, he was often seen wiping tears while reminiscing about this dark chapter in his life! As he recalled: “I was digging a grave to bury her and she was wiping the dust off my cheeks!”
Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) was very kind and polite towards women. At a time when they were treated very badly, the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) gave women honor and dignity equal to men.
Since men were usually gathered around the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam), and because free mixing was not allowed, women were not getting enough chance to listen to him or ask about matters of their concern.
Therefore, they requested him to appoint one day a week when they could have free access to him, a proposal to which he agreed. He took special care of them and always treated them with kindness so that they would feel free to ask him about anything.
As result of the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam)’s good temperament and kindness, women used to ask him questions. Although the Sahaabah (Companions) were often surprised at their boldness, he never showed any dislike or intolerance for their questions.
Hadhrat Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri reported that the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) said:
لَا يَكُونُ لِأَحَدٍ ثَلَاثُ بَنَاتٍ أَوْ ثَلَاثُ أَخَوَاتٍ أَوْ ابْنَتَانِ أَوْ أُخْتَانِ فَيَتَّقِي اللَّهَ فِيهِنَّ وَيُحْسِنُ إِلَيْهِنَّ إِلَّا دَخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ
”There is not one of you with three daughters or three sisters, or two daughters or two sisters, fearing Allah regarding them and treating them in the best manner, but that he will enter Paradise.” (Ahmad)
These stories are reflective of the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam)’s mercy and kindness towards women. But he went even farther. He tried to liberate women from all kinds of injustice, maltreatment and oppression.
The Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) can genuinely be viewed as a liberator of women. He gave women such rights and privileges that even Western women did not enjoy until centuries later, like the right to own and use property independently of her husband and family.
The Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) was most emphatic in enjoining upon Muslims to be kind to their women when he delivered his famous Khutbah (Sermon) in the presence of about one hundred and twenty-four thousand of his Sahaabah who had gathered there for the Hajj, the last one before his departure from this mortal world. During this Khutbah, he ordered those present, and through them all those Muslims who were to come later, to be respectful and kind towards women. He said:
فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ فِي النِّسَاءِ فَإِنَّكُمْ أَخَذْتُمُوهُنَّ بِأَمَانِ اللَّهِ وَاسْتَحْلَلْتُمْ فُرُوجَهُنَّ بِكَلِمَةِ اللَّهِ وَلَكُمْ عَلَيْهِنَّ أَنْ لاَ يُوطِئْنَ فُرُشَكُمْ أَحَدًا تَكْرَهُونَهُ . فَإِنْ فَعَلْنَ ذَلِكَ فَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ وَلَهُنَّ عَلَيْكُمْ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ
“Fear Allah concerning women! Verily you have married them with the trust of Allah, and made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You too have right over them, and that they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed whom you do not like. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely. Their rights upon you are that you should provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner.”
Hadhrat Anas reported that the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) said: “Whoever supports two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Day of Resurrection (close to each other) like this.”
While saying this , Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe Wasallam) joined his fingers to illustrate closeness. (Muslim)
Women in Islam are given a high status. A prevailing principle we find in the Quraan is one of egalitarianism. All human life has value, and every human being has inalienable rights regardless of gender. Therefore, if we hear of women’s rights being taken away and women being oppressed or denigrated, we can know that it is not from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), or from the Prophet of Islam (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam).