Women’s rights. Those two words aren’t often associated with Prophet Muhammad or Islam, but they should be. Here’s why…
Anyone who wants to learn about Prophet Muhammad must learn about the women in his life. The Prophet led a community filled with active, independent and strong women. Khadijah, his first wife, was also his boss. Imagine that. Muhammad actually worked for her very successful caravan trading company. Khadijah even proposed to Muhammad and he accepted despite a significant age difference.
Khadijah was also an essential partner in Prophet Muhammad’s religious life. After receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel, Muhammad ran home to Khadijah in a panic. He was scared that he was losing his mind. Khadijah protected the Prophet during that difficult time. Eventually, she became the first person to recognize Muhammad’s prophecy. Without Khadijah, a woman, Islam wouldn’t even exist!
Karen Armstrong, one of my favorite scholars, writes that Prophet Muhammad loved and admired women. His wife Aisha is said to have transmitted more than 2,000 hadiths. She went on to educate the young Islamic community on the Quran and on the example the Prophet set for Muslims. Muhammad encouraged women of the early Muslim community to take part in politics and governance. Aisha’s achievements are a testament to that.
I will finish on a great story. The women in Prophet Muhammad’s midst once asked him questions about the Quran that resulted in direct revelations. The Muslim women were annoyed that the Quran had too many references to male pronouns, as if the only “believers” were men. Soon after this exchange, the Prophet received a revelation that placed women on equal footing with men. Here is the verse resulting from the revelation:
Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward (Quran 33:35).
So no, Prophet Muhammad didn’t disrespect women. Quite the opposite. The Prophet’s radical revolutionary ideas gave women their due right and status in the days of oppression.