He also clarified the rights and duties of husband and wife towards each other, saying: “And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” (Al-Baqarah 2:228)
Allah informs us that men and women are equal in this life and the afterlife with regard to the reward for their good deeds. He says: “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily, to him will We give a new life, a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions” (An-Nahl 16:97).
Islam also ordered men to be gentle towards women and to care for their feelings. The Prophet (PBUH) says: “There is nothing that you spend for Allah's sake but you will be rewarded for it, even the food that you raise up to your wife's mouth”. Agreed upon, Sahih Al Bukhari, hadith 2591,3/1006, Sahih Muslim, Hadith#1628, 3/1251.
As the Arabs, in the days of pre-Islamic ignorance, used to feel sad when informed of the birth of a female child, the Prophet (PBUH) promised those who have daughters of great reward from Allah.He (PBUH) says: “Whoever had daughters and was patient with raising them, the daughters would be a protection for him from the Hell fire”. Sunan Al Termiddi 4/319, Abu Issa described it as a ‘good’ hadith, Sunan Ibn Maja 2/1210.
The Prophet (PBUH) respected women and dealt with them in a very unique way, so that when women complained to him that they couldn’t listen to his lessons as much as men, he dedicated a day per week for teaching them and informing them of their duties and rights. Abu Said Al-Khudri narrated: “Some women requested the Prophet (PBUH) to fix a day for them, as the men were taking all his time. With that, he promised them one day for religious lessons and commandments. Once, during such a lesson, the Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘A woman whose three children die will be shielded by them from the Hell fire.’ At that, a woman asked, ‘If only two die?’ He replied, ‘Even two (will shield her from the Hellfire)’”. Sahih Al Bukhari, hadith 101, 1/50, Sahih Muslim, hadith2633, 4/2028.
Though the Prophet (PBUH) was burdened by his missionary duties and always engaged by the affairs of the new born nation, he noticed the absence of the woman who used to clean the mosque, although she was one of the common people who was never noticed or missed. However, the Prophet (PBUH) noticed her absence, and that indicates his fairness and his keenness to give everyone his due rights. Abu Huraira narrated: “A black man, or a black woman, used to sweep the mosque and he, or she, died. The Prophet (PBUH) asked about her (or him). He was told that she (or he) had died. He said, ‘Why did you not inform me? Show me his grave (or her grave).’ So he went to her (his) grave and offered her (or his) funeral prayer”. Sahih Muslim, hadith 956, 2/659, Sahih Al Bukhari, hadith 448, 1/176.
The Prophet (PBUH) told us also about the great reward and the honorable status of the woman who dedicated herself to raising her children, which clearly indicates the appreciation Islam has for the woman who sacrifices herself for her kids. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “I and a woman with dark brown cheeks will be like these (i.e. together) on the Resurrection Day (and he joined his forefinger and middle finger together): a widow, although beautiful and noble, devoted herself for her orphans upon her husband’s death until they became strong enough or died.” Musnad of Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal 6/29, approved as “good hadith from narrators other than Ahmad” by the New Encyclopedia authenticators, Sunan Abu Dawood 4/338, and Al-Albani has weakened it in his commentary on Al-Sunan.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘A woman whose three children die will be shielded by them from the Hell fire.’ At that, a woman asked, ‘If only two die?’ He replied, ‘Even two (will shield her from the Hellfire)’”. Sahih Al Bukhari, hadith 101, 1/50, Sahih Muslim, hadith2633, 4/2028.
Ibn Hagar (a Muslim scholar) said: “It possibly means that the woman who did so will be in a place close to the Prophet (PBUH) when entering Paradise.” Abu Ya’la narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “I’ll be the first one to open Paradise’s door. When I do so, a woman will come closer, and I will ask her: ‘Who are you?’ She will say: ‘I’m a widow who sacrificed my life to raise my orphan kids.’” What is meant by “will come closer" is that she will come to enter the Paradise with the Prophet (PBUH) which indicates an honorable status. It may also mean that she will enter the Paradise just after the Prophet (PBUH), or both the two meanings were possibly intended”. Fath al-Bari 10/436, review Tuhfat Al Ahwazi 6/39.
As any fair-minded person can see, Islam gives women a great honorable status which has never been given to women in any former religion or subsequent civilization. Islam equates between men and women in this life and in the Hereafter in terms of the reward for their deeds. Islam also urges men to protect women and take care of them, whether as a mother or a wife, and Islam also highlights the great reward she will be granted for raising her children, if she was a widow, as I previously mentioned.
Source: Cultural values in the message of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by
Prof. Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Alsoheem
King Saud University- Faculty of Education
Islamic Studies department