Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Ideal Muslim Husband part 7

This brings us to another interesting aspect of the Prophet’s (saws) relationship with his wives.....

He apparently allowed his wives to do what is called "answering back" to men who think that women, like children, should be seen and not heard. There are several recorded instances of the Prophet’s (saws) companions remonstrating with him or with his wives about this practice. Nevertheless he chose to allow his wives to speak their minds.

An incident related in Ibn Ishaq’s sirat Rasul Allah (An early biography of the Prophet*) makes an interesting reading:

One day Umar rebuked his wife for something and she sharply answered him back: and when he expostulated with her she replied that the wives of the Prophet (saws) were in the habit of answering him back so why should she not do the same? "And there is one of them," she added, meaning their daughter (Hafsah), "Who speaks her mind unabashed from morning until night." Greatly troubled by this, Umar went to Hafsah, who did not deny that what her mother said was true. "You have neither the grace of Aisha nor the beauty of Zainab," he said, hoping to shake her self confidence; and when these words seemed to have no effect, he added: "Are you so sure that if you anger the Prophet (saws), Allah will not destroy you in his anger?" Then he went to his cousin Umm Salamah (another wife of the Prophet) and said: "Is it true that you speak your minds to Allah’s messenger (saws) and answer him with no respect?". "By all that is wonderful,"said Umm Salamah, "What call have you to come between Allah’s messenger (saws) and his wives? Yes, by God, we speak our minds, and if he allows us to do so that is his affair, and if he forbids us he will find us more obedient to him then we are to you." Umar then realised he had gone too far and withdrew.

In this anecdote we can clearly hear the voices of women who respect their husband not because they are afraid of him or out of hypocrisy, but out of genuine admiration and love. The fact that he allowed them to speak their minds shows that the Prophet (saws) never regarded women as slaves or second-class citizens but as human beings to whom Allah (swt) has given reason and the ability to distinguish right from wrong as he has given them to men.

Aisha went further in a Hadith to say that when the Prophet (saws) told her something she would question him closely about it so that she could understand its justification before she was satisfied. The Prophet (saws) did not tell her she had no right to cross question him because he was a Prophet and a man, while she was only a young woman. It appears on the contrary that he appreciated her critical faculty and clear thinking.

*Retold in Muhammad- his Life based on the Earliest Source by Lings (Islamic Texts Society/George Allen & Unwin 1983)

From this we can see that the Prophet (saws) had such calm inner certainty and natural leadership qualities that he did not need to assert himself over his wives, or be on the defensive against them. Those men who behave like tyrants in the home, who assert their rule in an arbitrary or violent manner, are usually the weak ones who actually suffer from hidden inferiority complexes and are afraid of being shown up as mentally or morally inferior to their wives. To forestall this they physically frighten their wives, who are then afraid to open their mouths in their husband’s presence, let alone to disagree with him.

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