What is the meaning of the following hadith?
Sahih Bukhari Volume 4 Book 55 #548
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Treat women nicely, for a woman is created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion, so, if you should try to straighten it, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked. So treat women nicely”
The Bible says that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, but the Quran does not say this. Was the Prophet (sAas) saying that the Torah is correct, so that it is just that the Qur’an did not mention this part of the story? Or is this a saying that has been incorrectly attributed to the Prophet (sAas)?
And what does it mean that women will ‘remain crooked’ if left alone? Surely women are not crooked by nature!
Jazakallah khayrun for any light you can shed on this subject.
May Allah SWT bless you for your work on this website
The referred saying has been ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) in slightly varying words. It seems that the implication of the phrase “woman is created from rib” is similar to what the Qur’an has implied by the phrase: “Man is created from haste”, which is quite accurately translated by Yusuf Ali as “Man is a creature of haste”, implying that ‘man is hasty, in nature’. Similarly, it seems that the referred phrase ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) is not meant to imply the origin of a woman’s creation, but to point out one of her attributes. Thus, the particular phrase, in my opinion, implies that a woman is like a rib, in her nature. A related narrative has also been reported in Bukhari and Muslim in the words “A woman is like a rib”, rather than ‘a woman is created from rib’. It is also possible that the particular narrative may have been (unintentionally) altered in its transmission – due (maybe) to a mistake on the part of any one or more of its narrators – in such a way that the words “A woman is like a rib” may have transformed into “A woman is created from the rib”.
Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, in the referred narrative, the Prophet (pbuh), in my opinion, is reported to have advised that a person should not enforce his will upon his woman (wife). On the contrary, if the person wants to enjoy a pleasant life with his wife, he should ignore her faults and benefit from her positive qualities and should try to alter her (undesired) qualities with love and affection, rather than through force. Using force at such instances may break a woman rather than straighten her (as it would a rib).
The referred narrative should not be construed to imply that all women are, generally, unbending and uncompromising, in response to force. The statement ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) should be construed as a general statement, based upon general exposure and experience. It should not be construed as a universal law for all women.
November 24, 2000