- First of all, do you see how this hadith started and ended with the advice “act kindly towards women”? Does this sound like an insult or a manifestation of mercy in your opinion?
- Secondly, this hadith was addressed to men; from beginning to end it is instructing them to be kind with women, and doing so means that men should not try to shape women as they please. Rather, they should accept their unique nature and remain kind to them in all cases.
- Thirdly, mentioning that women were created from crooked rib is not an insult in any way, shape or form because the perfect rib IS IN FACT crooked.
Salam alaykum (peace be upon you) dear reader,
Thank you so much for this question. We’re very happy to clarify such a common misconception that some people have and to show the real beauty in the message of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).
The hadith you’re referring to is one of the hadiths that often gets taken out of context to reflect a faulty negative idea, when in fact it is a very beautiful, merciful and wise message delivered by the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him).
Read the Full Hadith Carefully & Understand the Message
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Take my advice with regard to women: Act kindly towards women, for they were created from a rib, and the most crooked part of a rib is its uppermost. If you attempt to straighten it; you will break it, and if you leave it alone it will remain crooked; so act kindly toward women.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
First of all, do you see how this hadith started and ended with the advice “act kindly towards women”? Does this sound like an insult or a manifestation of mercy in your opinion?
Secondly, this hadith was addressed to men; from beginning to end it is instructing them to be kind with women, and doing so means that men should not try to shape women as they please. Rather, they should accept their unique nature and remain kind to them in all cases.
Thirdly, mentioning that women were created from crooked rib is not an insult in any way, shape or form because the perfect rib IS IN FACT crooked.
This does not mean that the rib is deformed. Any rib in the rib cage is crooked, if you straighten it, it will break, so being crooked is its perfect natural state.
Mind you, the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) did not say “women are crooked. Period.” Rather, he gave a wise example to make the meaning clearer to people.
The example of a rib is perfect because if you try to straighten or shape it, you’ll break and deform its natural state.
Instruction to Respect, Accept & Show Mercy to Women’s Nature
Accordingly, clearly from this hadith we can see that the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is educating men about women’s different nature.
The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is not saying women are inferior nor have inferior nature. Mind you, this is the same Prophet who said:
“Indeed women are the counterparts of men.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
The example he gave has a purpose. Men are, by and large, straightforward, while women can be more emotional or sometimes not very straightforward.
According to research, ” men are more likely to have a fact- and logic-based leadership style, while women are more likely to see the big-picture, have stronger emotions, and rely on their intuition for decision-making,” [Different brains, Different behaviors].
This doesn’t mean women are any less than men. It means they’re different.
The Prophet has taught men, over 1400 years ago, to accept and remain kind with women and not try to change them lest they harm them.
In another narration, he says:
“Be gentle with the glass vessels” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
Thus, he shows how women are fragile and delicate and repeatedly advises men to be gentle with them.
Protect & Nurture
As a matter of fact, the rib hadith is a beautiful example also as the rib’s role is to protect what’s inside it, and the woman’s role is to protect, nurture her family with her unique nature and qualities that Allah honored her with.
The relationship between women and men is based on complementing and completing one another.
Women nurture and men are the maintainers and protectors of women, as Allah said. This is how you build a healthy society. It is through mercy, understanding and respect of each other’s unique roles and nature, not through competition or meaningless desire for superiority over the other.
Again, Allah and His Messenger show us the balanced straight path and merciful teachings that help people grow and function decently in their own skin and in their societies.
May the peace and blessings of Almighty Allah be upon the beautiful, merciful, and wise Messenger.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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