How was the prophets treatment to women? What did the prophet muhammad say about taking care of women?
“O Allah! I sternly warn everybody about violating two weak persons’ rights: women’s and orphans’’” (Ibn Majah, Adab, 6)
Even though some women of the noble families had certain rights in Arab society, the situation of women was usually very bad before the emergence of Islam. Women, who were considered the war booty in the endless wars among the Arab tribes, were treated badly. For instance, they were sold as concubines or they were forced into prostitution. When her husband died, a woman had no security. If her desceased husband’s brother caught her before she could take shelter at her parents’ house, she would be his brother-in-law’s property. Men could marry as many wives as they desired and women had no rights in inheritence.
In such a society, having female children was regarded as an unbearable burden. This was why sometimes new born girls who were seen as a shame for the family were buried alive by their own families.
In short, in the Arab society prior to Islam women were more prone to being sexually abused and being deprived of their financial and social rights.
With the emergence of Islam, the condition of women has significantly changed. In addition to the precautions taken to prevent adultery and prostitution, Islam has proclaimed the honor and immunity of women’s lives, property and chastity. Thus, it has taken women under its protection. Women can no longer be forced to act in such a way that will damage their life, mind and propertyand Islamic law prevents false accusations being levied against her (al-Nur 24; 23, 33).
Despising female children and burying them alive is strongly prohibited. (al-An’am 6; 151, al-Nahl 16; 59, al-Takwir 81; 8) According to the rules of the new religion, there was no difference between men and women in terms of humanity and in being subject to certain rights and responsibilities. People can achieve superiority only through the degree of his/her consciousness of servitude towards Allah. Some of the verses related to this issue are as follows:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (He Who is) the most righteous of you…” (al-Hujurat 49; 13)
“…That I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female…” (Al-i Imran 3; 195)
“Whoever does good whether male or female and he is a believer, We will most certainly make him live a happy life, and We will most certainly give them their reward for the best of what they did.” (al-Nahl 16; 97)
Even though women and men are equal with regards to being the servants of Allah, they have different physiological and psychological characteristics. This is a requirement of life and nature and it does notregard one being superior to the other; for it is expressed in a verse:
“And do not covet that by which Allah has made some of you excel others; men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn; and ask Allah of His grace; surely Allah knows all things.” (al-Nisa 4; 32)
Therefore it should not be forgotten that men and women are not rivals but the supporters of each other throughout the journey of life. In fact, the Holy Qur’an, on the one hand, notes that “…they are your garments and you are their garments…” (al-Baqara 2; 187) on the other hand, this situation is stated among the proofs of the existence of Allah:
“And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; …” (al-Rum 30; 21)
The Holy Qur’an approaches women as mothers, treating parents with kindness after the command about serving Allah, and prohibited everything hurtful, even to say them “fie,” which would hurt them. (al-Isra 17; 23)
The Qur’an’s approach to women and the Prophet’s sayings and actions are naturally consistent with each other. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) complemented women when saying:
“The Paradise is under mothers’ feet.” (Suyuti, al-Jami al-Saghir, I, 125)
Women found a friend and a shelter in the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who showed mercy and compassion towards them; became an arbiter in their disputes with their husbands; protected their rights and advised their husbands to treat them with kindness; who became a living example for them by his actions.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) regarded women, who were despised and sometimes even beaten, like orphans and said:
“O Allah! I sternly warn everybody about violating two weak persons’ rights: women’s and orphans’” (Ibn Majah, Adab, 6)
Those who believe in Islam and are adorned with its morals must behave towards women in a just manner, especially towards their wives. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) gave the male members of his ummah the following advice:
“The best of the believers with regards to faith is the one who has the best morals. And the best of you are the ones who manifest the best treatment towards their women.” (Tirmidhi, Rada’, 11)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) noted this measure in another tradition as follows:
“The best of you are the ones who show the best treatment towards their family members. And I am the one who shows the best treatment towards his family.” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 63; Ibn Majah, Nikah, 50)
On various occasions the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) warned those who beat their wives and always stated his disapproval of such people. One time, women who had been beaten by their husbands came to the Prophet (pbuh) to complain about them. Upon hearing this, Allah’s Apostle said:
“Those who beat their wives are not the best among you.” (Abu Dawud, Nikah, 42; Ibn Majah, Nikah, 51)
On another occasion, when the Prophet (pbuh) was giving a sermon, he addressed men saying:
“There is amongst you he who beats his woman like he beats his slave-girl and then will probably comfort his bed with her help at the end of the day.” (Muslim, Jannah, 49)
In another tradition Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he should be pleased with another.” (Muslim, Rada’, 61)
Both men and women have some things which they are good at and others which they are not so good at. Sometimes they may make mistakes. This is an unavoidable fact of human nature. For that reason is necessary to evaluate people based on their qualities and abilities. One should gently try to solve the problems. This is the method of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). In fact in one of his sayings he addressed those who maintained their customs from the era of ignorance:
“…Treat women nicely, for women are created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion, so, if you should try to straighten it, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked. So treat women nicely.” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 1; Muslim, Rada’, 60)
In a similar tradition it was noted that:
“When you attempt to straighten it, you will break it. And if you leave her alone you would benefit from her, and the crookedness will remain in her.” (Bukhari, Nikah, 79; Muslim, Rada’, 65)
These prophetic sayings do not intend to give us biological information, but they metaphorically depict how one should deal with women.
Some scholars interpreted the part of the hadith “the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion” as being the most problematic part of women, which is their tongue. (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, IX, 253) The following prophetic saying, which notes that women will suffer in Hell because of their tongues, seems to support this interpretation:
“You curse a lot and are ungrateful to your husbands.” (Bukhari, Hayd, 6)
The tool for cursing and saying unkind words is the tongue. A woman who talks behind people’s backs and a woman who wants everything her neighbors’ possess without considering her husband’s financial means uses her tongue in doing so.
On the other hand, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) noted that a qualified woman who has internalized Islamic morals would be a heaven-sent blessing:
“The whole world is a provision, and the world’s best object of benefit is the pious woman.” (Muslim, Rada’, 64)
This is expressed in another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:
“There are three things that make a human being happy: a pious woman, a good abode, and a nice mount. And the three things that make a person unhappy are: an evil woman, a bad abode, and a bad mount.” (Ibn Hanbal, I, 168)
Amr b. al-Ahwas (r.a.) narrated that he heard the Prophet (pbuh) say in his farewell address on the eve of his Last Pilgrimage, after he had glorified and praised Allah, he cautioned his followers:
“Listen! O my Companions! I advise you to treat women kindly. Hold on to my will. They are placed under your management and protection. Unless they commit apparent immorality that you know of, you have no right to punish them. Should they be guilty of flagrant misbehavior, you may remove them from your beds, and beat them but do not inflict upon them any severe punishment. Then if they obey you, you do not have recourse to anything else against them.
Listen! You should know that you have rights upon your wives and they have rights upon you.
Your rights upon them are that they shall not allow anyone you dislike, to trample your bed and shall not permit those whom you dislike to enter your home.
Their rights upon you are that you should provide them well as regards food and clothing.” (Tirmidhi, Rada’, 11; Ibn Majah, Nikah, Nikah, 3)
Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) draws our attention to the necessity of punishing women without exceeding the limits when they manifest immoral behavior which risks destroy the family unit. This command is also stated similarly in the Holy Qur’an. (al-Nisa 4; 34) However, one should not forget that this could be the last resort. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) beat neither his servants nor his wives during his entire life. This fact is narrated by his wife of fifteen years, Aisha (r. anha) (Ibn Majah, Nikah, 51)
However, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sometimes sternly reproached his wives because of their misbehaviors.
Jabir (r.a.) narrated:
“I performed prayer with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) on the festival day. He commenced with the prayer before the sermon without Adhan and Iqama. He then stood up by leaning on Bilal, commanded the audience to fear Allah, and exhorted (them) to obey Him, and he preached to the people (and reminded them about death, the Hereafter, Hell and Paradise). Then he walked on until he came to the section for women. He preached to them likewise and admonished them, and ordered them to:
“Give in charity for the sake of Allah, because most of you are the fuel for Hell.” One of the respected women whose cheeks were reddened stood up and said:
“Why is it so, O Messenger of Allah?” He said:
“For you complain often and show ingratitude to your spouse.” After which they began to give alms out of their ornaments such as their earrings and rings …” (Muslim, I’dain, 4)
We also need to mention the effects of the Prophet’s compassionate treatment towards women upon his Companions. Abdullah b. Omar (r.a.) said that:
“During the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh) we used to avoid chatting leisurely and freely with our wives lest some Divine revelation might be sent concerning us. But after the Prophet had passed away, we started chatting leisurely and freely (with them).” (Bukhari, Nikah, 80)
Ordered to convey the message of Islam to the whole of humanity, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) did not make any discrimination and tried to teach Islamic principles to everybody, men and women, who embraced Islam. In addition to his general sermons, he also had private sermons for women. The above mentioned tradition is an example of such private sermons. We also see in the records that women requested from the Prophet (pbuh) such private sermons arguing that only men were benefiting from his sermons. According to a report narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (r.a.) a woman came to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and said:
“O Messenger of Allah, only men receive and benefit from your instructions.Would you kindly allocate at your convenience a day for us, too, on which we can come to you and you can teach us what Allah has taught you.” The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Okay then! You assemble on such and such a day.” They assembled and Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) came to them and taught them what Allah had taught him …” (Bukhari, I’tisam, 9; Muslim, Birr, 152)
Female Companions, on the one hand, learned the principles of Islam by means of the sermons and speeches of the Prophet (pbuh) and on the other hand they had the chance to ask their question to him. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) always regarded their questions as important and was concerned with their problems. (Muslim, Fadail, 76; Abu Dawud, Adab, 12)
Some women Companions would not feel shy to ask the Prophet (pbuh) questions about their most private problems. The mother of Anas b. Malik Umm Sulaim (r. anhuma), for instance, asked whether it was necessary for a woman to take a bath after she had a wet dream (sexual discharge while sleeping). (Bukhari, ‘Ilm, 50) Another female Companion named Asma bint Shakal asked the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) about washing after menstruation. Aisha (r.a.), who was astonished by Asma’s courage, said:
“How good the women of Ansar (helpers) are that their modesty does not prevent them from learning religion!” (Muslim, Haid, 61)
Umm Umara (r. anha) once told the Prophet (pbuh):
“O Messenger of Allah! I see everything is for men. I observe that nothing addresses women.” Thereupon, the following verse was revealed:
“Lo! men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember – Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.” (Ahzab 33; 35) (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 33/14)
Beginning with the mother of the believers, many female Companions excelled in narrating the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh). Aisha (r. anha) was even accepted as one of the seven muksirun or those who narrated the most traditions from the Prophet (pbuh). (Iraqi, p. 350) She was also an expert in Islamic law, poetry, genealogy, and medicine. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, IV, 360)
Even though the number of literate people was very low during the age of ignorance, it can be observed that some female Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) knew how to read and write. For instance it is reported that Shifa bint Abdullah, who was a literate person, had taught the Prophet’s wife Hafsa (r. anha) reading, writing, and some other things. (Abu Dawud, Tib, 18; Kattani, I, 49, 50)
Mosques occupied a very important place in women’s educational and religious lives during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh). In fact, with the order of the Prophet (pbuh) one of the gates in his mosque was reserved for women (Abu Dawud, Salat, 17, 53) and men were ordered not to prevent women from going to the mosque day and night. Some of the relevant prophetic sayings are as follows:
“When your women seek your permission for going to the mosque, grant them (permission).” (Muslim, Salat, 134, 135)
“Do not prevent women from going to the mosque at night.” (Muslim, Salat, 138)
“Do not prevent the maid-servants of Allah from going to the mosque.” (Muslim, Salat, 136)
Even though, in principle, women were allowed to come to the mosque during the time of the Prophet (pbuh), they were also warned not to do anything that attracted attention and created mischief when they went to the mosque. This is why Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked that women going to the mosque not use perfume. (Muslim, Salat, 141-145) Aisha (r. anha), who observed the misbehavior of women going to the mosques after the time of Prophet’s death, said that:
“If the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had seen what new things women have introduced (in their way of life) he would have definitely prevented them from going to the mosque, as the women of the sons of Israel had been prevented.” (Muslim, Salat, 144)
When the above mentioned traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) which permited women to go to the mosques and some other of his sayings such as “Women’s best prayer is the one they observe at their homes” (Ibn Hanbal, VI, 301) are considered together, we can conclude that the latter supports the requirement of being careful about their behavior on the way to the mosques.
Takine into consideration the physical and psychological differences between men and women, Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) also advised women to take care of their homes. For instance, in one of his sayings, he stated that:
“I recommend you your homes because your jihad (struggle) is in your homes.” (Ibn Hanbal, VI, 68). Once again the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) drew attention to a woman’s responsibility in her home as follows: “…and a lady is a guardian in the house of her husband and is responsible for her charge…” (Bukhari, Wasaya, 9; Muslim, Imarah, 20)
When sharing the jobs, we see that the Prophet (pbuh) advised his daughter Fatima (r. anha) to take care of housekeeping and his son-in-law Ali (r.a.) to fulfill the tasks outside the house. (Kasani, Badai, IV, 24)
Even though housework was deemed more appropriate for women, some women in the early days of Islam were engaged in business outside of their homes. A female Companion named Qayla bint Umm Anmar (r. anha) narrated:
“During a minor pilgrimage I told the Prophet (pbuh) at Marwa:
“O Messenger of Allah! I am a woman who does transactions in the market. When I want to buy something, I make her an offer lower than I planned. And then I increase it to its regular price. When I want to sell something, I ask more and then I reduce it to the regular price.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger told me:
“O Qayla! Do not do this. When you want to buy something, offer its regular price. You might be able to buy it or not. When you want to sell something, again ask its normal price. You might be able to sell it or not.” (Ibn Majah, Tijarah, 29)
Hawla bint Tuwait (r. anha), who had become famous as Hawla bint Attarah during the time of the Prophet, was known as a woman selling perfumes. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, IV, 278)
Another example is that Abu Bakr’s daughter Asma looked after her husband’s horse and helped to carry the harvest along with doing the housework. (Bukhari, Nikah, 107)
It is reported that a female companion named Samra bint Nuhaik was walking around the market and commanding right and forbidding wrong with a whip in her hand. In a way she was working as a city policewoman. (Haythami, IX, 264) It is reported that Shifa bint Abdullah (r.a.), who knew how to write and read, was appointed with a similar job in one of the markets of Medina during the caliphate of Omar (r.a.). (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, IV, 341)
As regards, the battles of the early years of Islam, men were the fighting force in them. In other words, joining the army was not among the essential tasks of women. In fact, Aisha once asked permission to join a battle and the Prophet (pbuh) told her:
“Your (women’s) jihad is pilgrimage” (Bukhari, Jihad, 62) and thus he refused her request.
We see however, that women took responsibilities in serving the army and sometimes even in the actual fighting during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh). According to Anas b. Malik’s report, when Umm Sulaim (r. anha) asked to join the army, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told her that fight was not obligatory upon women. She said that she could treat the injured, make eye medicine, and carry water for the fighters. Upon this the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Then how nice it is for you to join the army.” (Haythami, V, 324)
Based on Prophet’s permission, some women Companions treated the injured, mended the clothes, carried water, cooked, and even fought in the battlefield. (Bukhari, Jihad, 65-68; Ibn Sa’d, VIII, 425; Ibn Majah, Jihad, 37; Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, IV, 396) Umm Umarah is one of the women who attended the battle of Uhud and fought with her arrow and bow. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh), who had returned to Medina after the battle, said that:
“When I turned and looked at my right and left, I saw Umm Umara fighting.” (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, IV, 479)
All these reports prove that the Prophet (pbuh) raised women, who had little value in the age of ignorance, to their rightful state in the society. Muslim women even had arguments with the prominent members of the Muslim state. The following incident which took place right after the Prophet’s death clearly manifests this point.
“Omar b. Khattab (r.a.) once went up the pulpit and said:
“I do not know anytime when a dowry exceeded 400 silver pieces.” And then he went down the pulpit. A woman from Quraish objected:
“O commander of the believers! Have you banned people to accept dowry more than 400 silver pieces?” Omar (r.a.) replied:
“Yes, I have.” In answer the woman said:
“Have you not heard the verse:
“…And ye have given unto one of them a sum of money (however great), take nothing from it…” (al-Nisa 4; 20) Omar said that
“O Allah! Forgive me. Everybody is more knowledgeable than Omar” and then went up the pulpit again:
“O people! I had banned for you to give and accept dowry more than 400 silver pieces. You may give and accept as much dowry as you like.” (Ibn Hajar, Matalib, II, 4, 5)
Even though women were allowed to go out for their necessities, there are certain rules about how they should act and what they should wear in public. In one of his sayings Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“On Judgment Day the similitude of a woman who adorns herself and walks seductively among foreign people (people outside her family) is the darkness. There is no light for her.” (Tirmidhi, Rada’, 13) Thus, the Prophet (pbuh) stated his disapproval of women adorning themselves and drawing foreign (non-mahram) men’s attention to themselves outside of their homes.
 Another similar tradition is as follows: “A Companion named Jahima came to the Messenger of Allah and said:
“O Messenger of Allah! I would like to join the army and I have come to consult you. The Prophet (pbuh) asked:
“Is your mother alive?” He said:
“Yes, she is.” Then the Prophet (pbuh) told him:
“Then serve your mother for Paradise is under the feet of mothers.” (Nasai, Jihad, 6; Ahmad, III, 429)
 In addition to Aisha (r. anha) some of the women Companions who are famous by hadith narration are: Fatima, Umm Salama, Umm Habiba, Asma bint Abi Bakr, Sawda bint Zam’a, Zainab bint Jahsh, Umm Haram, Fatima bint Qais, Umm Farwa, Safiyya bint Abdilmuttalib (r. anhum). (Okiç, Tayyib, İslamiyette Kadın Öğretimi, p. 24)