Men and women – a lot of research has gone into analyzing and studying the differences in their physical forms, physiologies, psychological makeup, as well as functional roles in the overall scheme of things i.e. life in this world.
The topic is sensitive because it raises important questions about gender roles, and inevitably ruffles a few feathers when, during these discussions, either men or women appear to come out superior than the other in some aspects of human nature.
Prophet Muhammad: Ideal Husband
In the Quran, Allah has described Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the role model we should emulate and follow in every aspect of life.
He played many roles during his life, but the one role that he took on very early as a youth, and which stayed as a constant role in his life till his death at the age 63, was that of a husband.
Muhammad was a husband even before becoming a Prophet, father, battalion leader, judge, or leader of the Muslim ummah.
Marriage played a central role during his life. Allah decreed marriage as a means for him to gain financial stability and security (via his wife Khadjiah’s ample wealth); to raise his young children (by marrying Saudah after Khadijah’s death); to form important liaisons (e.g. by marrying Umm Habibah); to establish Islamic laws (e.g. marrying his cousin Zainab abolished an Arab custom that prohibited marrying an adopted son’s divorcee); and to spread the message of Islam far and wide (e.g. his young wife A’ishah propagated over 2000 narrations, and excelled in jurisprudence, especially that related to sexual intimacy and female impurity).
However, before Muhammad became a Prophet of Allah and the official torch-bearer of the Deen of Islam, he was married only once, to an older lady who had been widowed twice already – Khadijah.
Spent Youth Happily Married to Just One Woman, 15 Years Older
Despite living in an extremely misogynistic and patriarchal society where men did whatever they wanted and females were oppressed, exploited and killed with open abandon; where men married an unrestricted number of women according to their whims and fancies, Muhammad stayed chaste as a young man, getting married only after an older woman proposed to him through a third person, and his guardian gave him the go-ahead.
Belonging to an influential and honorable Arab clan, he could have married a multitude of women had he so wished while he was young i.e. from the age of 25-40; a period when a young man’s sexual desire peaks, but he did not. Instead, he remained married only to Khadijah until her death.
Imagine a young man belonging to a well-to-do, influential and high-class family today, taking such an option for himself, as we all know how a man desires female variety, progeny, and ‘freedom’ from responsibilities at this age! Imagine him marrying a 40 year old woman at the age of 25, and staying loyal to her until the age of 43, never cheating once with another woman.
Besides his chastity, fidelity and loyalty to the one wife he had during the first two-thirds of his life, Prophet Muhammad’s shining qualities as an older husband to all his other wives, also became apparent during the last 20 years of his life.
It is not just the love, care, and forgiveness he showed to his wives that prove his lofty character as a husband, but his decency and chivalry as a righteous man shines forth even more so through what he did not do to them, even though he had the authority to:
He Never Rebuked His Wives in Front of Others
It is common for many husbands to rebuke their wives for the slightest mistake when they are stressed out e.g. not cooking their favorite meal properly, or on time; or for spoiling their shirt while doing the laundry.
Raising his voice at his wife, telling her off with a big scowl on the face in front of others, telling her to ‘shut up’ or ‘get lost’ during a favorite sports game or TV show, or outright calling her names when she shouts at, annoys or nags him – these are things not unheard of for some, if not most, husbands nowadays.
We can imagine how a husband would react if someone sent him food that he likes, and his wife, in a fit of sudden jealousy, threw the dish on to the floor, causing the food to spill and the utensil to break.
How do you think most husbands today would react to such a situation? Don’t you think that most would immediately tell off their wife? Don’t you think they’ll immediately order her sternly to clean up the mess, in front of the men witnessing the incident?
Guess what? This actually happened with the Prophet, yet he didn’t shout at his wife, and cleaned up the mess himself. Being the just man that he was, however, he did command her to compensate for the broken utensil!
Aloofness: His Strictest Reprimand
The Prophet showed immense patience when one or more of his wives behaved emotionally in his presence, whether in public or private.
He never called them names, nor did he ever lift a finger to strike any one of them, even when they’d make him very angry.
The most severe method of ‘discipline’ or reprimand that he used when he was angry at one or more of his wives, was ignoring them (not talking to them) and not visiting them in their private quarters, for a certain period of time, which meant that he turned away from them sexually as well.
This proved to be a very effective method of correcting his wives when they angered him for reasons disliked by Allah and not endorsed by Islam.
He Was Not Controlling
Many new brides confess to receiving a clear list of “don’t’s” from their husbands as soon as the nikah ceremony is over, even before the wedding flowers have wilted.
Examples of such restrictions that husbands place on wives immediately after the wedding, citing their superior Islamic rights over them as the reason, are: You will not talk to your male colleagues and cousins. You will not go to any social gathering without me. You will never take up a job or career. You will visit your parents only once a week/month/year. You will not invite thatannoying girlfriend of yours to our home. You will delete your Facebook account. You will not gain weight etc.
Such restrictions from new husbands are a sign of an underlying insecurity that manifests itself in the form of paranoid possessiveness, irrational jealousy, and an attempt to exert an extreme level of control over their wife – thwarting and suppressing her movement, her halal hobbies and interests, and even her bubbly personality.
The reason that husbands usually provide for such strictness, is the superior rights afforded to them by Islam, as their wives’ guardians/maintainers, to put such restrictions on them for the overall good of the home.
However, the real reason is their fear of losing her love, loyalty, focus and obedience. The prime example of this is when a righteous girl, who habitually observes all the limits of Islam from even before her marriage, becomes a target of manipulation and control from her husband.
A clear test of whether a husband possesses true gheerah (praiseworthy jealousy) or is just controlling, is whether or not he obeys the rules and restrictions of Islam himself.
Since Allah has ordered us in the Quran to always take Prophet Muhammad as our role model, we should recall when he (if ever) tried to control his wives in such a way?
Advocate of Foreplay During Marital Intimacy
In some cultures, manliness is equated with certain manners, beliefs and habits that border on arrogance and uncouthness that is prohibited in Islam, e.g. overeating and belching loudly; picking unnecessary fights with other men; swearing, and regarding women with disdain and contempt.
Men who have such a mindset consider the act of showing patient gentleness towards their wives before and during sexual intimacy, as an antithesis to being manly, assertive, powerful and “in control”.
The Prophet however, made it very clear to Muslim men that they should not climb on top of their wives like animals, without arousing them first with foreplay, using loving words and kisses.
Conclusion: A Loving Family Man
While many fathers and husbands might be loving and tender behind closed doors, they hesitate to display care for their wives and daughters in public, especially in front of other men. Not so was the Prophet!
The Prophet openly showed love for his daughters. He would kiss and secretly converse with Fatimah in front of others. Contrast that to the negative reaction some modern-day Muslim men show to the good news of a daughter’s birth – a reaction similar to the one showed by pagan Arabs during the era of ignorance.
Chivalry, honesty, integrity, fairness, justice, gentleness, compassion, and empathy: the Prophet embodied all these positive qualities in his cordial and successful relationships with the women in his life; qualities that we all should try to acquire and incorporate into our own lives.
First published: December 2013