Best among you are those best to their families – The Hadith: “The best among you are those best to their families (wife and children), and I am the best of you to my family,” underlines the importance of kind treatment toward women.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) elevated women to a dignified level unheard of in the world nearly 1.5 millennium ago. The Prophet wiped off all stigma attached to women by virtue of her gender and willed in his last sermon that women be treated with respect and kindness.
That was the Muslim society in its pristine form. The yawning gap between the time of the Prophet and the present time is sadly reflected in a report on the status of women in the present world prepared by the World Economic Forum in 2008. The report showed that mainly Muslim countries took the last positions in a list of 130 countries in terms of humanitarian treatment of women. While Yemen and Chad had the dubious distinction of coming at the end of the list, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan took positions right before them.
The merciless sense of male honor has also spread to the Muslim societies on the Indian subcontinent including Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, the men there do not wait for the baby’s birth. The sex of a woman’s fetus is identified with the help of a scanning device, and if it is a girl the pregnancy is terminated immediately so that the honor of the family is never compromised by one more woman member!
The entire Muslim society will be answerable before the Almighty Allah for bringing a considerable section of His creation to a state of perpetual indignity and mistreatment. It is sadly noted that even some pious Muslims believe that women are the source of all evil and hence should be treated harshly or at least kept aloof.
In fact, the Holy Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet, the rightly guided caliphs or early Muslim thinkers never suggested that women deserved an inferior treatment.
On the other hand, it was Quintus Tertullianus — or Tertullian in English — a prominent religious leader of the third century of the Christian era, who spawned venomous attributes to women. “You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree, you are the first deserters of the divine law, you are she who persuades him, whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image: man,” Tertullian said of women. While modern Christians reject Tertullian’s ideas as barbaric, the Muslim societies of later centuries seem to have adopted the old Christian views on women. As a result, Islam is wrongfully viewed as a religion that keeps women as slaves for sexual gratification and begetting male babies.
It is the duty of the Muslims to go back to the real teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet, and change the wrong mindset they have developed over the centuries. The first image a Muslim should form in his or her mind about a woman should be that of Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, the first Mother of Believers, may Allah be pleased with her. All Muslims should remember Khadijah with reverence and gratitude for the pivotal role she played in the early stage of the Prophet’s mission. With extraordinary insight and tenderness, that woman gave the Prophet courage and confidence to carry on with the task of lifting human beings from ignorance and oppression to the road of faith and justice.
A God-fearing woman can be superior to a pious man if she excels in her good deeds. No other religious book has given a spiritual position to women as high as the Holy Qur’an did.
“… I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other…” (Holy Qur’an, Chapter Al-Imran: Verse 195). Then how can we, Muslims, treat women as second-grade citizens?
“And whoever does some good deeds, be it a man or woman, and is a Muslim, will be admitted to Paradise and they will not be wronged (even as much as) the speck on a date seed.” (Holy Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 124)
“Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers,” the Prophet said in his last sermon.
Many incidents reported these days from various parts of the Muslim world give us the impression that we, at least in terms of the treatment of women, are going back to a time identical to the Jahiliyya period, the age before the emergence of Muhammad.
The Qur’an says about this era, “When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (baby), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and contempt), or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on? (Chapter Al-Nahl: 58-59). – ( arabnews )