The best of you

To the question, “How do Muslims treat women?” you will not get a definitive answer, because it all depends on the individual, their personal circumstances, their family culture and the environment in which they exist.

Some Muslims treat women with utmost kindness, compassion and care. Others treat them horrendously, with contempt and harshness. Most, probably, are somewhere inbetween, depending on their mood at any particular moment.

We do have a saying attributed to our Prophet, peace be upon him, which goes:

“The most complete of the believers in faith is the one with the best character among them. And the best of you are those who are best to your women.”

Hadith

But, of course, how that is interpreted will still depend on the individual and the cultural milieu in which they find themselves.

In Islamic history we will encounter many female scholars, who excelled in all fields of education and research. And yet we also find today Muslim movements undermining female education even at primary level.

How can these contradictions exist? Because Muslims are just people like anyone else, with a variety of cultures and political views. Some outwardly Muslim societies impose expectations, duties and practices on women. Others give them the autonomy to behave as they please.

There can be no straight answer to this question because human societies are complex. Relationships are not simple. In a marriage, a couple often has in-laws to contend with, who can impose expectations that undermine efforts to establish peace and mercy.

Personally, I feel inspired and moved by verses like these:

“And among His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”

Quran 30:21

From this, I take it that tranquility is the natural order, not conflict and discord. From this verse, I take it that affection and mercy between man and woman is the state we must aspire to.

“O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct. Lo! God is Knowing, Aware.”

Quran 49:13

From this, I take it that we must be perpetually mindful of our conduct, striving to be the best version of ourselves. The best version of ourselves cannot include rage and abuse; it can only pertain to mercy and kindness.

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 God often and the women who do so — for them God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.

Quran 33:35

From this, I take it that the efforts, worship and good deeds of male and female are of equal worth and value. Thus one cannot be undermined by the other. The path demands of both patience, humility and kindness. The humble man will have his reward, so too the humble woman.

If you are humble, patient, truthful and charitable, can you then be an oppressor or tyrant? So these are decisions we each have to make: how are we going to live our lives? If you’re a man, be best to your female companions and relatives. If you’re a woman, likewise for the male.

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