By: Ibrahim H. Malabari
The Qur’an was attempting to give women such legal status that most Western women would not enjoy until the nineteenth century.
Whenever Prophet Muhammad’s name emerges, the image in many people’s minds is a man with many wives. For Muslims, his multiple marriages had a meaning and immense implications for Islam, and by extension, the history of the world. Needless to say, the issue remains controversial, and as such, any study of the matter requires an objective approach. Therefore, we will endeavor to tackle this topic by being as objective as possible.
Prophet Muhammad was driven by the goal to ensure that his mission as the Messenger of God was fulfilled and to establish a society based on God’s commands, and not his own. In order to achieve this goal, he did everything that was humanly possible: he forged relations with the various tribes of Arabia, concluded peace treaties with his sworn enemies and kept relations with the heads of various tribes, nations and religions.
Taken together, his marriages were one way by which he fostered relationships with various influential tribes. If one were to view the marriages of the Prophet from this context, the motivating factors behind his marriages become clear. It would be very simplistic and incorrect to view his marriages as being merely for lustful ends. Let us now briefly examine the context of each of his marriages to see whether this was the case.
From the outset, it is of ultimate importance to note that, except for only one of his wives, all of his eleven wives were widowed or divorced. Most were in fact widowed.
His first marriage was to a widow named Khadijah, who had been married twice and whom he married when she was forty years old and he was twenty five. She was the first woman to embrace Islam. She provided great consolation to him throughout his life and he continued to remember her in his later years as his most beloved wife. He stayed with her faithfully for 25 years until her death, at which time he was 50 years old, and she was 65 years old.
If he was driven by lustful desires as accused by his opponents, he could have married several, beautiful young women in a society where having numerous wives was a norm – there would be no reason to faithfully remain with an older woman until the age of 50. This single fact would be sufficient to totally refute the charges against him in this regard. However, an examination of all of his marriages, as we shall see, should put this question to rest.
After Khadija’s death, he married another widow, Sawda, who was 65 years old. She and her previous husband, Sakran, were among those who had immigrated to Ethiopia, fleeing from the oppression and persecution of the Meccans. It was during their return to Mecca that her husband had died. Seeing her difficult condition, the Prophet (peace be upon him) married her.
Then, he married `A’ishah, daughter of his lifelong friend and companion Abu Bakr. `A’ishah had first been betrothed to Jabir bin Mut`im at the age of 5. Child marriages were evidently the norm at that time. She was the only virgin among the Prophet’s wives and the only one who was born into a Muslim family. One of the Prophet’s goals in this marriage was to strengthen the bond of his brotherhood with Abu Bakr, who was his main defender against the Meccans. Second, `A’ishah was of a lineage known for honor and intelligence. The Prophet knew that she would tremendously benefit his nation (ummah) by transmitting crucial knowledge from his life, especially family and personal matters that others were not privy to.
Indeed, the Prophet advised his community to learn half of the knowledge of the religion from `A’ishah. The foresight of the Prophet proved itself, for she would live for 45 years after his death, and thus became one of the main sources of Prophetic wisdom and knowledge.
He also married another widow, Hafsa, who was the daughter of `Umar Bin Khattab, his next closest companion. Her husband, Khunays, had been martyred in the Battle of Badr. He felt a duty towards `Umar, whose acceptance of Islam provided a major boost for the Muslims in Mecca against their foes.
Zaynab, daughter of Khuzaima, was another widow that the Prophet married. She was married to `Ubayda bin Al-Haris, who was martyred in the Battle of Badr. She was sixty when the Prophet married her. She was known as the “Mother of the Downtrodden”. She, however, passed away after two or three months of marriage.
He married another widow, Umm Salama. Her previous husband, Abu Salama, was martyred in the Battle of Uhud, leaving behind four orphans. Umm Salama was pregnant at that time and was extremely distressed and very sad. Needless to say, she needed much support. After her delivery, `Umar proposed that the Prophet marry her. The Prophet accepted the proposal and married her.
What purpose can there be for a person of 54 to marry a widow with four orphans except love, mercy and compassion? There was another crucial factor in this marriage: Umm Salama was from the Bani Makhzum tribe, which was the tribe of Islam’s arch enemies at that time, Abu Jahl and Khalid bin Walid. Though Abu Jahl never changed, Khalid later accepted Islam and became a brilliant military general. Once again, bringing influential and powerful tribes closer to Islam was one of the noble objectives of the Prophet’s marriages.
He married a divorced woman, Zaynab, the daughter of Jahsh. She was married to Zayd bin Haritha, the freed slave of the Prophet. She was the cousin of the Prophet, being the daughter of his paternal aunt. Zayd divorced her and the Prophet married her when she was 38 years old. His marriage to Zaynab was aimed at emphasizing the invalidity of the age-old Arab practice of taking adopted sons as real sons. The marriage was divinely sanctioned, as stated in the Qur’an,
So when Zayd had no longer any need for her, We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. (Al-Ahzab 33:37)
Umm Habiba was another widow whom the Prophet married. She was a daughter of Abu Sufyan who was a bitter enemy of Islam until his conversion later. She was initially married to `Ubaydullah, who was a companion of the Prophet. Both immigrated to Ethiopia, fleeing the persecution of the Meccans. `Ubaydullah became a Christian and later died there. Considering her very difficult situation, her father being an enemy of Islam and her husband a deserter, the Prophet sent an envoy to Negus, king of Ethiopia requesting to arrange a marriage with her. The king arranged the marriage and she was married to him when she was 36 or 37 years old. Like many of his marriages, his marriage to Umm Habiba resulted in bringing a major tribe of the Quraysh, Banu Abd al-Shams, towards Islam.
He married another widow, Juwayria. Both her father and husband were bitter enemies of Islam; the former had planned to attack Medina at the instigation of the Meccans. This led the Muslim army to march against the clan of her father. The result was their defeat at the hands of the Prophet and the death of Juwayria’s husband. After the conflict, the Muslims captured many prisoners, one of whom was Juwayria. Juwayria’s father offered a ransom for her freedom. She requested to stay in the service of the Prophet and he married her at her request. Her marriage resulted in the freeing of all the prisoners of war of her tribe. Again, this marriage led to the establishment of peace and friendly relations.
He also married a woman named Safiyya, a widow as well. Her second husband was killed in the Battle of Khaybar. Her father was the chief of the famous Jewish tribe, Banu Nazir. He was killed in the Battle of Khaybar, and so Safiyya was taken prisoner. She was eventually freed and the Prophet married her. Some complained that she was sympathetic to the Jews. Her answer was that they were her relatives, and the Prophet defended her position. He told her to respond in the following way: “My father is Aaron (Haron) and my uncle is Moses (Musa).” This marriage had led to a closer relationship between the Muslims and the Jews of Medina.
His final marriage was to another divorced woman, Maymuna. She was married twice and was very old. She married the Prophet when he was 57. The reason for her marriage was that the Prophet’s uncle, `Abbas, suggested it in order to bring her tribe –Hilaliyyin– to the fold of Islam. That was actually what happened; after his marriage to her, they entered Islam in hosts.
From the above, we see that it was not the Prophet’s whims and desires that initiated his marriages, but rather it was that God had planned his marriages. He commanded His Messenger after the last marriage (with Maymuna) not to marry any more (Qur’an 33:52), because by that time the objectives of his marriages were achieved as the Prophetic mission was near to completion.
All of this does not mean that the Prophet was not interested in sex. He was surely attracted by sex and beauty, and was not a prude in expressing it. He said, “Perfume and women are made dear to me. However, the joy of my eye is in prayer.” He also said: “I am in full control of myself.” In fact, a look at his life would suggest that he approached the various aspects of human life with moderation – be it eating, drinking, or enjoying time with his wives – never indulging in any one thing excessively. The portrayal of him by many Western writers as promiscuous and licentious, mostly due to the fact that he had numerous wives, is far from the truth and historical facts as shown above. Indeed, his marriages had a social motive and a higher goal than mere sexual gratification.
It would be relevant here to quote a female, Western scholar, Karen Armstrong, the author of Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, in relation to the issue of Prophet’s marriages and polygamy in Islam:
“The Qur’anic institution of polygamy was a piece of social legislation. It was designed not to gratify the male sexual appetite, but to correct the injustices done to widows, orphans, and other female dependents, who were especially vulnerable. All too often, unscrupulous people seized everything and left the weaker members of the family with nothing… Polygamy was designed to ensure that unprotected women would be decently married, and to abolish the old loose, irresponsible liaisons; men could have only four wives and must treat them equitably; it was an unjustifiably wicked act to devour their property… The Qur’an was attempting to give women a legal status that most Western women would not enjoy until the nineteenth century. The emancipation of women was a project dear to the Prophet’s heart…”
Source: Taken from the book “Ten Questions and Answers about Prophet Muhammad” by Ibrahim H. Malabari
God performed more than 300 miracles at Prophet Muhammad’s hands which prove his prophethood just as God performed other miracles at the hands of the other prophets and messengers, including Moses and Jesus.
Prophet Muhammad’s major miracles included the split of the moon, Al-Isra’ wa Al-Mi`raj (Night Journey & Ascension to Heaven), the split of his chest, and the fulfillment of all of his prophecies both in his lifetime and after his demise.
However, God favored Prophet Muhammad with an eternal miracle which differs from the rest of his miracles and those of the other prophets and messengers. It is such a miracle which will remain as evidence of his prophethood until the end of the world.
As a matter of fact, Prophet Moses’ miracles included crossing the Red Sea and striking the rock for water to gush out thereof. Prophet Jesus’ miracles included making water into wine, causing two thousand pigs to be killed and causing the fig tree to dry up.
Nevertheless, those miracles were limited to the times and places of those two prophets, and they became a history found only in books, for which there is no existing evidence. They may seem as fairy tales for some people.
Still, the Qur’an is Prophet Muhammad’s visual, live and eternal miracle. It will remain as reliable evidence of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood until the Day of Judgment.
Nowadays, in the twenty first century, you can verify the Qur’an as a miracle testifying for the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad, whereas we do not find any evidence of the prophethood of Moses or Jesus or the miracles God performed at their hands.
Watch this video to know Prophet Muhammad’s major miracles and the difference between them and those of the rest of the prophets and messengers, including Moses and Jesus.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught his companions that “women are exactly like men.”
By: Ibrahim H. Malabari
It is sometimes argued that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advocated the oppression of women as shown in his actions and the principles that he taught his followers. Some ask: how can one dismiss the oppression of women as wrongful acts perpetrated by some misguided Muslims, when it was endorsed by the very Prophet of Islam? Further, since the Prophet Muhammad prescribed laws for women from the perspective of a man and the patriarchal, tribal society in which he lived, this would naturally lead to diminishing the status of women. Therefore, the argument goes, Islamic attitudes and laws should be viewed as outdated and in need of revision.
But is it really the case that the Prophet’s teachings and practices endorse an oppressive way of life for women? Moreover, were his teachings based on his personal knowledge, experience or the conditions of the society in which he lived? Are Islamic attitudes toward women related to personal, social and historical conditions? As stated in the Qur’an:
It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her. (Al-A`raf 7:189)
This important verse expresses equality in the essence of both men and women. It is a principle that is grounded in an overarching view of humankind in Islam: that men and women are at the most fundamental level equal in the pursuit of ultimate happiness. While Islamic law takes for granted certain biological and social differences between men and women, this overarching view of gender equality is never sacrificed. At the same time, the rules and regulations that apply to women that seem discriminatory from a modern perspective were not based on the Prophet’s personal opinion or historical contingencies. Rather, Muslims believe that the Prophet was the conveyer of divine speech which carries far-reaching wisdom. Grasping aspects of God’s wisdom requires learning, spiritual insight and experience. Thus, for a Muslim, it is not to be refuted simply because they run contrary to some modern sentiments.
It should be added that although there are biological and social differences between the genders, the Prophet’s ethics connect man and woman in a very significant way: in their pursuit of good works. The two are meant to be agents of good and help one another in doing what is ultimately virtuous. The Qur’an not only endows women with the lofty ideals of attaining virtue and knowledge but also inextricably links the function of men with that of women; thus one gender is not privileged over another. In describing the relationship of a husband to his wife, the Qur’an says
You are a garment to her and she is a garment to you. (Al-Baqarah 2:187)
Both are to be mutually supportive in the pursuit of good. The Prophet not only treated women fairly and equally but also raised her status in a society that treated women as a curse and as inferior. This was a society that buried alive newly born girls to protect a skewed view of honor.
Two critical instances demonstrate the care and rank he assigned to women. First, at the time of his death, when one would be concerned with the most significant of matters, the Prophet strongly advised his companions to treat women gently and compassionately.
Another occasion was his farewell speech on his only Pilgrimage which was reportedly attended by one hundred and twenty thousand people. He purposely used that unique and rare occasion to instruct his companions to treat women fairly and compassionately, lest people go back to their old and unjust practices.
Hundreds of examples can be cited from his own life that show how he treated women compassionately and with utmost dignity and respect. He showed respect and dignity not only towards Muslim women but also non-Muslim women as well. Women from various backgrounds, race and colors found in him a refuge and a merciful protector. This claim can be substantiated by many incidents which are beyond the scope of this article.
He taught them that “women are exactly like men.” This is an explicit statement from the Prophet proclaiming the equality of women and men in status and rank. Once a person came to the Prophet and asked, “Who deserves my best rapport?” The Prophet replied, “Your mother”. The person repeated the question three times and the Prophet repeated the same answer. On the fourth time he said: “Your father.” (Al-Bukhari) To those unfamiliar with Arabic expression, the Prophet’s answering “your father” on the fourth occasion indicates the lofty status of motherhood over fatherhood, and the highly regarded status of women in Islam.
On another occasion he said “A believer must not hate a believing woman. If he does not like an aspect of her character, he should like another.’’ (Muslim) Whenever his daughter Fatimah would come to his home, he would stand to greet her, kiss her, and seat her in his place. Whenever he visited her she would do the same: stand up to greet him, kiss him and seat him in her place. Old women, slave girls, and women who many would consider unimportant were able to take his hand and go around the streets of Medina to fulfill some of their needs. In the Prophet they would always find a helping hand; such was his humbleness, tenderness and mercy towards women.
Hundreds of examples can be cited from his own life that show how he treated women compassionately and with the utmost dignity and respect. He showed respect and dignity not only towards Muslim women and women of his community, but also to non-Muslim women and outsiders alike. Women from various backgrounds, races and ages, found in him refuge and mercy.
Source: Taken from the author’s book “Ten Questions and Answers about the Prophet Muhammad.”
Is it reasonable that Islam discriminates against the rich, the merchants or womankind?
It is widely circulated that Prophet Muhammad proclaimed the inferiority of women. In fact, there is a certain statement of Prophet Muhammad which is used as evidence that women are inferior in Islam.
Here is the controversial hadith:
Abu Said Al-Khudri narrated that the Messenger of Allah once went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) on `Id-al-Adha (Greater Bairam) or `Id-al-Fitr (Lesser Bairam). Then he passed by women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone who is deficient in intelligence and religion but able to cause a cautious, sensible man to lose his reason more than one of you.” The women asked, “O Messenger of Allah! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the witness of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” (Al-Bukhari)
The above hadith involves some conceptions which are misunderstood nowadays and so used to propagate the following misconceptions: (1) women will be thrown away into the Hell-fire, (2) women are evil seducers, and (3) women are deficient in intelligence and religion.
Will Women be Thrown away into the Hell-fire?
Unfortunately, the above hadith is used as evidence that according to Islam women will be thrown away into the Hell-fire. This hadith is used as a basis for the false claim that Islam views womankind as inferior for they are evil beings and as a result they should be tortured.
This is an attempt to give Islam such a negative image which Judaism and Christianity have when it comes to women. Some critics of Islam endeavor to cause the above hadith to look like the following verses in the bible:
“To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” (Genesis 3:16)
The enemies of Islam try to portray Islam as such a religion which promotes the hate of woman and encourages their persecution as may be understood from the bible.
However, the tradition of Prophet Muhammad abounds in many hadiths in the same manner. For example, Prophet Muhammad said: “I looked into Paradise and I noticed that most of its dwellers are the poor, and I looked into Hell-fire and I noticed that most of its dwellers are the rich and women.” (Ibn Hajar)
He also said: “The poor Immigrants will enter Paradise five hundred years ahead of the rich Immigrants.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
He further said: “I stood at the gate of Paradise and I saw that most of those who entered were the poor and the destitute. The people of means were held back, whilst the people of Hell had been ordered into the Fire. I stood by the gate of Hell, and saw that most of those who entered it were women.” (Imam Ahmad)
Isma’il bin `Ubaid bin Rifa`ah narrated from his father, from his grandfather, that he went with the Messenger of Allah to the Musalla, and he saw people doing business, so he said: “O people of trade!” and they replied to the Messenger of Allah turning their necks and their gazes towards him, and he said: “Indeed the merchants will be resurrected on the Day of judgment as wicked people, except the one who has fear of Allah, behaves charitably and is truthful.”
Now, is it reasonable that Islam discriminates against the rich, the merchants or womankind? Does it sound rational that Islam does not like those groups of people?
It is apparent enough that such classes of people commit common sins which Islam warns them against. So if the members of such classes pay heed to such a warning and desist from committing such sins, they will survive the Hell-fire. Otherwise, they will be thrown into it.
For example, Prophet Muhammad explained why women will be the majority of the dwellers of the Hell-fire. He remarked that they curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. He warns women that frequent cursing and ingratitude to husbands will lead them to the Hell-fire. Thus, the women who refrain from such cursing and ingratitude will not be among the dwellers of the Hell-fire.
However, Allah foreknew that most women, rich people and traders will continue to commit the stated sins prohibited above. Therefore, He told Prophet Muhammad that they will account for the majority of the inmates of the Hell-fire.
Are Women Evil Seducers?
To tell the truth, I myself don’t see anything wrong with the following statement of Prophet Muhammad: “I have not seen anyone who is deficient in intelligence and religion but able to cause a cautious sensible man to lose his reason than one of you.”
Prophet Muhammad made the above statement for two purposes: (1) as a reason why women will constitute the majority of the dwellers of the Hell-fire, (2) express his personal wonder at some women’s mighty influence over even a cautious, sensible man.
Prophet Muhammad did not say: “than you” (meaning all women). He rather said: “than one of you”. He wanted to say that there are some women who can capture the heart of even a cautious, sensible man to the extent that he may, as a result, lose all sense and reason. Thus, such a sort of man may be impelled to do something wrong. There is no doubt that such cunning women deserve to be thrown into the Hell-fire.
Are Women Deficient in Intelligence and Religion?
By saying that “women are deficient in intelligence and religion”, Prophet Muhammad did not intend to degrade women. He just expressed wonder at some women’s exceptional ability to influence even cautious, sensible men though they are deficient in intelligence and religion. He seems as if he wanted to wonder: “How come a woman, such a weak creature who is deficient in both intelligence and religion, can wield such extraordinary power over even cautious, sensible men?”
As a matter of course, having considerable influence over people requires either devout religiousness or acute intelligence, which are both lacked by most women. However, a woman can still dominate even a cautious, sensible man despite having no devout religiousness or acute intelligence. That is why Prophet Muhammad made the above statement.
As evidence that Prophet Muhammad did not mean to underestimate women, the reasons he cited for women’s deficiency are beyond their control. Islam does not blame a human being for something which is beyond his/her control. Allah says in the Qur’an:
Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)
Are Women Inferior for They are Deficient in Intelligence and Religion?
Definitely, it is a big mistake to conclude that women are inferior to men based on the fact that they have some deficiency in intelligence and religion. Though women have the stated deficiency in intelligence and religion, they have superiority and even advantage over men also in terms of intelligence and religion but in other aspects.
As for deficiency in intelligence which is represented in viewing man’s testimony as double the woman’s and rejecting woman’s testimony in certain situations, this is attributable to the fact that women are by nature too emotional and sentimental. This is not something bad, but this is good when put in its relevant context. A woman is supposed to be a wife, mother and/or sister. It will be very good for her to be emotional towards her husband, children or kindred for those people are in dire need of her emotions. She is the source of emotion in their lives. They may have no source of emotion other than her.
Yet, a witness should not be emotional. We need him to be quite neutral and objective. He is just to tell us what he knows about the case in hand without additions, omissions, personal sentiments or subjective impressions. This job is better done by a man.
A woman intrinsically tends to share her own sentiments and impressions about any given incident or occurrence. She may give such subjective accounts of the event which are open to addition or omission according to the woman’s personal tendency. If she is sympathetic towards some party, she will, either voluntary or involuntary, try to side with him/her, and vice versa. This is not acceptable when it comes to testimony in the court of law. That is why a woman’s testimony sometimes needs to be corroborated by a man’s, and is sometimes rejected in the highly sensitive cases.
However, this does not mean that woman is absolutely deficient in intelligence. This just means that her involvement in matters of testimony in the court of law is relatively limited for she does not have all the required faculties and man is better qualified for this job.
Nevertheless, as reflected by Prophet Muhammad’s wonder expressed in the above hadith, woman is superior in intelligence in some situations. In the Qur’an, we read the following verse:
So when her husband saw his shirt torn from the back, he said, ‘Indeed, it is of the women’s plan. Indeed, your plan is great.’ (Yusuf 12:28)
By nature, man has some qualities which qualify him to be a reliable witness such as objectivity, wisdom, neutrality, sobriety etc.
Though woman is much weaker, she managed to develop her own strength which is not necessarily a physical one. She is characterized by cunning, slyness, craftiness, wiliness, artfulness, and care about details etc. Woman has soft, intangible power which, in many situations, is far more considerable than man’s hard, tangible power.
She is able to easily defeat man in any battle where she has the chance to wield her own destructive weapons. It is ironical that woman can first strip man of his hard power before using her own soft power. More astonishingly, man is defeated in many battles quite willingly if woman is foxy enough to persuade him to get defeated without much effort.
As man knows that woman is much weaker than him, he does not take the necessary precautions, and she exploits that by launching such a sudden attack which is met with no or little resistance. This is always the case in all battles ending in woman’s victory.
Woman’s physical weakness is compensated for by such exclusive, superior intellectual faculties which man does not have, nor can he confront. Thus, Allah is not unfair towards women by creating them as such human beings which are weaker in physique. He gives them soft power instead to be used when necessary. Such soft power becomes much more enormous than man’s hard power if it is properly employed.
Hence, intelligence is not a single mental ability only. Intelligence involves many mental abilities. Woman is admittedly deficient in such mental abilities which are required for acceptable testimony. However, she is still superior to man in many other mental abilities.
As for deficiency in religion, firm belief is usually brought about by doing as many good works as possible. Sometimes, as Prophet Muhammad indicated, a woman cannot do acts of worship. She sometimes cannot offer prayer or observe fasting. This is something which affects her religiousness and derogates from her faith.
However, as I have just pointed out, a woman’s inability to do acts of worship at some times is beyond her human capacity. Why are women stigmatized as deficient in religion for something beyond their capability?
In reality, the amount of good works which are necessary for somebody to enter Paradise is not the same for all people. Rather, they differ from somebody to another and from a group of people to another according to their natural abilities and capabilities.
For example, the good works which should be done by men for them to enter Paradise are much more than women’s. Men have much more duties and obligations. They are responsible for themselves as well as women. They have commitments both inside and outside home. They are obliged to engage in more forms of Jihad including the armed one. They shoulder more responsibilities as the leaders of families and communities.
On the other hand, women have fewer duties and obligations. They are bound to do fewer good deeds to enter Paradise. Most of their responsibilities are confined to home. They don’t have considerable obligations outside. They are not held responsible for anybody even themselves. In Islam, they are always kept in the custody of some man, be he a father, brother, husband, son or any other kinsman.
Prophet Muhammad said: “If a woman offers her five daily prayers, fasts during her month (Ramadan), guards her chastity, and obeys her husband, then it will be said to her ‘Enter Paradise from whichever gate you wish.’” (Ibn Hibban)
We observe that the good deeds deemed necessary for a woman to be admitted to Paradise are much fewer than a man’s. There is no similar hadith which states that if a man offers the five daily prayers, observes fast, guards his chastity and, for example, respects his wife, he will be admitted to Paradise.
A man has much more duties and so the above good deeds in a woman’s case are not sufficient for him to enter Paradise.
Therefore, a woman in Islam is not discriminated against in terms of the religious status or the otherworldly reward. On the contrary, she is granted such privileges which are not granted under any other religion. Under Islam, her weakness and fewer abilities mean lighter and few duties and obligations and more facilitation in terms of the otherworldly reward.
Still, somebody may argue that if Islam really gives women special status and exceptional privileges, why did Prophet Muhammad stigmatize women as “deficient in intelligence and religion” in such a seemingly degrading manner?
To understand why Prophet Muhammad made the above statement, two considerations should be taken into account: the conduct of women in general and the context in which Prophet Muhammad made the above statement.
Prophet Muhammad did not say that all women curse frequently, are ungrateful to their husbands or cause a cautious sensible man to lose his reason. He wanted to say that many women either curse frequently, are ungrateful to their husbands or cause a cautious sensible man to lose his reason. Some of them may do all of that altogether. If many members of some group do something wrong, it is quite reasonable that the whole group will be criticized in collective terms.
Prophet Muhammad wanted to warn Muslim women against the misdeeds which are more likely to cause them to be thrown away in the Hell-fire. He wanted to stress that many women in the other communities will not be admitted to Paradise for the given reasons. If Muslim women follow suit, they will be also denied Paradise. Thus, the Muslim women who avoid the reasons for getting thrown into the Hell-fire will be certainly admitted to Paradise.
Finally, womankind is not described as “deficient in intelligence and religion” for they are naturally deficient. Islam is too fair to blame somebody or some people for something beyond their capacity. Men themselves also have their own deficiency. However, women are so described for many women relish and persist in such deficiency though they are granted what compensates them for such deficiency.
For example, it is unfair to blame a person for belonging to a family of which many members are evil persons for he has nothing to do with his origins. It is such evil members rather than he who may be blamed for that. However, if he proves a wicked wrongdoer, it is justifiable to dismiss him as one of evil origins.
In a word, the above words of Prophet Muhammad are not intended for degradation. If they are intended for degradation, such degradation applies to the women who commit the stated misdeeds. It does not apply to the good women who do not commit such sins.
Prophet Muhammad said such words as an admonition and warning against the stated sins given that the hadith was begun with orders for giving alms and seeking Allah’s forgiveness.
1- The Glorious Qur’an (Sahih International Translation)
2- Sahih Al-Bukhari
3- Sunan Al-Tirmidhi
4- Musnad Al-Imam Ahmad
5- Fatah Al-Bary by Ibn Hajar
6- Sahih Ibn Hibban
7- The Holy Bible (Visit biblegateway.com)