Mothers and Widows
By Haji Muhammas Yusuf Francis
The nobility of the character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) stands out unique in human history. His treatment of and consideration for mothers, widows and the weaker sex as a whole, is a glorious example of the most humane conduct, which left a remarkable impression on the minds of his people.
He showed great respect for mothers and widows, not merely by pleading for a respectable place in society for them, but by his own example, at a time when woman suffered greatly in Europe from such cruelty, oppression, and exploitation, as caused her to revolt and struggle for a status of honour and dignity.
The Arabs of the pre-Islamic days had little respect for her. Infant girls were buried alive, and as a common practice of the time, women were sold as slaves. Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.) it was who gave the world a wonderful charter on the rights of woman, her status as a mother, aunt, sister, daughter, wife, widow, and even as an orphan, and raised her to a position of honour and dignity thus giving her a rightful place in society, as a God-given right. He raised woman from the lowest depths of degradation to a position of respect and honour, to such an extent that he has been described by Pierre Crabites, an American judge, in these words:
“Muhammad was probably the greatest champion of women’s rights the world has ever seen.”
In her role as a mother, she has been given the greatest respect and honour as a teacher and builder of the nation, whose responsibility and duty are to raise the child to grow up to be a respectable citizen, and above all, a worthy Muslim. She has been made the “principal of the home university” in which she is the first teacher of morals and manners and character building, for the growth of a healthy and strong nation.
In his capacity as a teacher and reformer, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) removed all the existing prejudices against women. He gave mothers an outstanding position, exalting them to a position as creatures of great praise and honour. He proclaimed their honour in these words:
“Paradise lies at the feet of the mother,”
thus making it a duty of the highest order to obey and serve and honour mothers in order to reach Paradise. He has recommended her as the ideal person for our company in the path of goodness. Hazrat Abut Hurairah (R.A.) reported:
“A man came to the Messenger of Allaah and said: O Messenger of Allaah! Who is the most proper person I should associate with for my benefit. The Prophet replied: “Thy Mother.” Then he asked “Who comes next, “Thy Mother,” was the reply. He, again asked “Who is next” The Prophet again replied: “Thy Mother.” He put his question the fourth time, “Who is next,” The reply was, “Thy Father.”
This repetition of the same answer thrice, by the Holy Prophet, to the same question, was to strongly emphasise the importance, respect, honour and love mothers are entitled to. The Holy Prophet could not have gone further to illustrate his point. Commenting on this incident related in the Hadis, the well known translator of Hadis, Moulana Fazul Karim, M.A., B.L., writes:
“Mother’s place in Islam is next to Allaah and His Apostle regarding obedience, and then comes the father, and then the other relatives. When there is a conflict between a duty towards God and a duty towards parents, duty towards Allaah will prevail.”
The mother enjoys a most enviable position in Islam and she has the authority to prevent her son from going to the battle-field in a case of war, if she so desires.
Referring to a mother’s role in bearing children, Al-Qur’aan states:
“And we have enjoined on man the doing of good to his parents. With trouble did his mother bear him, and with trouble did she bring him up, and the bearing of him and the weaning of him was thirty months.”
And in another verse, the Holy Qur’aan states:
“And we have enjoined man in respect of his parents. His mother bears him with faintings upon faintings. Be grateful to Me and to both your parents.”
Once during the early struggle with the Meccans, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) had to battle with the tribe of Bani Sa’ad. They were defeated and many of them taken as prisoners. One of the female prisoners presented herself to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and said,
“I am the daughter of Halima, your nurse.”
After hearing her story, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) stood in tears, reflecting on the past, and in tender gratitude to his nurse Halima and her daughter, he offered her to remain with him or to depart freely with a rich present. She accepted the present and departed for her home. Here we see a shining example of kindness shown by the Holy Prophet beyond the one who nursed him as a mother, but even to her daughter. To what extent the blessed Apostle of Allaah betowed respect and honour on mothers is clearly shown by the treatment meted out to the daughter of one who nursed him during infancy. If he showed so much regard for the daughter of his nurse, one can imagine the respect and honour he gave to his nurse. It is an established fact that even when he became ruler and Emperor of all Arabia, he showed the deepest respect and honour for his nurse, Halima. He used to prepare a special seat for her to sit whenever she came to pay him a visit. Though he was bereft of the tender care and love of a mother while he was yet an infant; yet that loss did not prevent him from showing respect and honour to mothers.
His kind and generous heart displayed in the highest the attributes of human love and tenderness to mothers, parents, widows, orphans and women on the whole. By his special treatment to mothers and the weaker sex generally, he raised the dignity of womanhood, and set a new and higher standard for the treatment of women by his people. He said
“God enjoins you to treat women well, for they are your mothers, daughters and aunts.”
Once a man came to the Holy Prophet and said,
“O Messenger of God! Verily I have done a great sin, is there any act by which I may repent?” The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) asked “Have you a mother?” “No”, answered the man. “Have you an aunt?” asked the Holy Prophet. He said “Yes, I have.” The Prophet (S.A.) then said: “Go, do good to her, and your sin will be pardoned.”
To respect, honour and do goodness to mothers no doubt has been given the highest place in human social behaviour by the great Teacher of Islam. He was most generous in his treatment to widows as well, and he displayed deep concern regarding their welfare. In a country where slavery was practiced, and young slave girls could have been easily procured, widows had a poor chance in society, unless they were rich and attractive; but the blessed Apostle of Allaah carved a place of honour for them, by himself marrying poor widows, after their husbands had fallen in battle. He did this out of sympathy and generosity, so that poor widows may not be doomed to oblivion, but may also have a place of respect in society, as his example was quickly followed by his faithful followers. Extolling the maintenance of widows and the poor he said,
“A giver of maintenance to widows and the poor, is like a bestower in the way of God, an utterer of prayers all night and keeper of constant fast.”
His kindness, generosity, respect and honour for mothers and widows and womanhood as a whole, is a wonderful testimony to the nobility of his character and conduct. He showed not by mere precepts, but by shining practical example, how our behaviour and treatment to mothers and widows should be patterned. It is only when mankind can show the highest respect and honour to mothers, widows and orphan girls that the foundation can be laid for a better society.