I am still bothered by this Hadith (Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301).
I can’t imagine that a requirement of God (i.e. not praying during menstruation) can be interpreted as a deficiency in faith by the ProphetÂ (pbuh) himself. Many women very well could pray during menses but do not because it is not allowed and they are good Muslims who follow their religion — and this makes them deficient??? You said in your previous answer that it really means that women have reduced responsibility in matters of “practical wisdom and religion”. Somehow I am not convinced that a woman can take the responsibility of being a good Muslim more casually than a man can (this may be a separate issue but let us assume you are correct in this case). What does this have to do with women being ungrateful wives? I don’t think most women are ungrateful at all (do you?), and I especially don’t think that not praying during menses/needing two witnesses is a factor in leading men astray from their righteous path. Why would the Prophet (pbuh) say that? Especially when you can blame no one but yourself for straying from religion (how can you say it is the wife’s fault that the husband went bad?). I am sorry, but I am confused and extremely saddened by how this Hadith is currently interpreted by me and others. I know Islam is perfect and Allah sees man and woman as equal in religion.
Please help me understand.
Let us first try to understand the narrative.
According to the referred narrative, the Prophet (pbuh), in one his sermons addressed to women, is reported to have said that they should give a lot of charity to balance the mistakes that they (intentionally or unintentionally) commit. This is basically the central theme of the address. In this address the Prophet (pbuh) is also reported to have expressed his surprise over the influence that a wife naturally has over her husband in the following words:
I have not seen any one who has more influence on an intelligent and sensible man than you, although you are deficient in [responsibilities of] intellect and [those of] religion. A cautious, sensible man can easily be led astray by you.
The point that has been made in the above statement does not imply that when a woman entices a man to do something wrong, the responsibility of the wrong, if ultimately committed by the man, is solely upon the woman. It only means that because, in such a case, the man has committed a wrong after being lured by the woman into it, the burden is therefore shared by both, even though the wrong is actually committed by the man. Nevertheless, it is actually in this context of the expression of surprise, that the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said the referred words.
I can’t imagine that a requirement of God (i.e. not praying during menstruation) can be interpreted as a deficiency in faith by the Prophet (pbuh) himself.
The Prophet (pbuh) has not interpreted it as a ‘deficiency in faith’, on the contrary, it has been termed as a deficiency in the responsibility imposed on women in matters relating to religion. The two, as you can see, are not synonymous. The referred deficiency, because it is due to a natural phenomenon, is not condemned. It has only been referred to in the context of the expression of surprise, as explained earlier. Moreover, such a reduction in responsibilities due to natural or uncontrollable reasons, whether it relates to a woman, or a man has no effect on the rewards of the hereafter. Thus, the words ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), if seen in their right context, imply: “It is surprising that a creature, who has been given lower responsibility due to its nature, has such a tremendous effect on a man”.
I don’t think most women are ungrateful at all (do you?), and I especially don’t think that not praying during menses/needing two witnesses is a factor in leading men astray from their righteous path. Why would the Prophet (pbuh) say that?
I have already answered the latter part of your statement above. As far as the first part is concerned, it does not refer to ungratefulness in its ordinary connotation. It actually refers to the grievances that a wife may have from her husband, on account, generally, of the non-provision of worldly comforts. These grievances, as is generally the case, when they become vocal, are a major cause of domestic disturbances. In fact, it is the diplomatic and effective expression of these grievances which can influence and entice the man into doing wrong.
It should also be stressed that the statement ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) does not imply the universality of the problem or that every woman, without exception, possesses this feature. On the contrary, it is only a statement of admonition. The problem may actually have been present in only a few of the women who were present at the time. However, the Prophet (pbuh), very wisely, admonished all those who were present at the time, to increase the effectiveness of the admonition. This was the general style of the Prophet (pbuh) while admonishing others. He would normally avoid naming or singling out the particular person who was specifically being admonished. One of the biggest advantages of this style of general, rather than specific, admonition is that the particular person gets the message without becoming defensive or egotistic about it.
All your subsequent questions may be answered in the light of the preceding explanation.
Nevertheless, I would like to add here that all the above explanation is given with the presumption that the words of the referred narrative have been correctly ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). It is, however, possible that there may have been a mistake in the ascription of these words to the Prophet (pbuh). If we look closely at the different versions of the referred narrative, we see that the chance of a mistake by one or more of the narratives cannot be ruled out. For instance, in the narrative reported in Bukhari (Kitaab al-Haydh), the Prophet (pbuh) delivered the complete sermon in a gathering of women1. In Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, however, the narrative has been reported in a slightly different manner2. According Musnad‘s reporting, the clarification of the statement ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) regarding women being deficient in responsibilities relating to religion and intellect was not sought by the women in the gathering. On the contrary, it was only the wife of Abd Allah ibn Masood (ra), who sought this clarification, sometime after the gathering had dispersed. In yet another reporting, as it appears in Daarmiy3, the words relating to the deficiency in the two responsibilities were not even spoken by the Prophet (pbuh). They were spoken later, by Abd Allah ibn Masood (ra), without ascribing these words to the Prophet (pbuh). Thus, it seems quite possible, keeping the narrative of Daarmiy in perspective, that some of the later narrators may have ascribed the words actually spoken by Abdullah ibn Masood (ra) to the Prophet (pbuh) by mistake. If this be the case, then the Prophet (pbuh) did not even mention any reduction in the responsibilities of women.
30th June 2000
- Including the part of the explanation of the “deficiency in intelligence and religion”. That is, according to this narrative, when the Prophet (pbuh) said that ‘women are deficient in matters relating to the responsibilities in religious as well as worldly matters’, women asked for its clarification and the Prophet (pbuh) in response gave them the example of missing prayers in menstruation and that of the lower responsibility in the case of witness. [↩]
- Volume 2, Page 373. [↩]
- Kitaab al-Tahaarah. [↩]