The Final Sermon: The Sacred and the Rights of Women

The words of our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) are full of rich lessons. Among them is his address during the farewell Hajj. This is the eleventh in a series of articles on The Prophet’s Last Sermon, Lessons for Humanity.

“O people: postponing the inviolability of a sacred month [claiming to postpone the prohibition of killing in it to a subsequent month, so as to continue warring despite the sacred month’s having arrived] is a surfeit of unbelief, by which those who disbelieve are led astray, making it lawful one year and unlawful in another, in order to match the number [of months] Allah has made inviolable. Time has verily come full turn, to how it was the day Allah created the heavens and the earth. Four months there are which are inviolable, three in a row and fourth by itself: Dhul-Qa’da, Dhul-Hijja, and Muharram; and Rajab, which lies between Jumada and Sha‘ban. Have I given the message?—O Allah, be my witness.”

The Sacred Months

These are sacred months in which initiating fighting was prohibited. One of the wisdoms behind this is that these are the months connected with the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage would take time and there would be people heading out or preparing for pilgrimage. So you give sanctity to that month and Rajab was a special month of devotion. Rajab is a sacred month of Allah.  

Some months are connected to the pilgrimage, three of the four, or the times of greater devotion and reward as a favor from Allah. 

However, people would move things around etc. One of the aspects of mercy of the law is its consistency. It applies to all people at all times in a just yet merciful manner. It is not dependent on the whims and vagaries of people.

The Rights of Women

“O people: verily you owe your women their rights, and they owe you yours. They may not lay with another man in your beds, let anyone into your houses you do not want without your permission, or commit indecency. If they do, Allah has given you leave to debar them, send them from your beds, or [finally, only] strike them in a way that does no harm. But if they desist, and obey you, then you must provide for them and clothe them fittingly. The women who live with you are in your trust, unable to manage for themselves: you took them as a trust from Allah, and enjoyed their sex as lawful through a word [legal ruling] from Allah. So fear Allah in respect to women, and concern yourselves with their welfare. Have I given the message?—O Allah, be my witness.”

This is one of the longest parts of the sermon of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).  There are a few important lessons. 

Women are under your trust. This is a beautiful expression. The commentators on Hadith explain that it refers to one who is under your care or someone who is imprisoned by you, or captured by you. So this expression is used as if to say they are under your care and trust. They have willfully entered under your care and trust. So take care of them and fulfil your trust. Do not treat them as if they are prisoners or captives.  

This is why you have to be careful as to whose translation you take. The act of translating is an act of interpretation. The nature of Arabic is that it is an eloquent language. No language has more rhetorical power and rhetorical tools than the Arabic language.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was referred to as the most eloquent of those who pronounce the letter ض (daad). This letter is one of the distinguishing letters of the Arabic language. 

It is very easy to take something beautiful in Prophetic teachings and render it ugly through misinterpretation. An example is the Hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) urging to take good care of women because the woman was created from a bent rib.

A Bent Rib?

With a bent rib, if you try to straighten it, you will snap it. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is urging this because women have a certain nature like you have a certain nature. If you try to straighten it out completely, you will snap it.  

What is snapping? Ibn Abbas and others said it is a divorce. You will divorce them or you will wrong them as others of the early Muslims interpreted.

There is a fundamental difference between translating this as a bent rib and translating it as a crooked rib. Crooked has a sense of evil, has ill will, and is abnormal. As for something bent, this is talking about how everyone has their unique nature. 

Some scholars say this is referring to the fact that Hawa was created from one of the ribs of  Adam so you are incomplete without them. However, there is a difference on that narration. The man is only completed by the woman and the woman is only completed by the man.


Also, the issue of discipline. The context of the discipline is when there is nushuz. That is when the woman is actively wronging the husband through adultery (zina), for example, through gross wrongdoing related to his rights. It is not just that she does something he does not like.  

There are steps mentioned, the purpose of which is to facilitate reconciliation through the woman taking heed. It is only upon these that physical discipline was allowed within limits. So that is a conditional allowance with limits if upheld with limits. 

However, as the great scholars throughout history have mentioned, among them al-Izz ibn Abd al-Salam explicitly, the basis is that no one can transgress against another. So this could not be a form of wronging another, hurting another, or harming another. This is in a circumstance where if done in this manner, it does not involve harm or hurt. And it will have a positive consequence. 

Anytime where the prevalent is that it is not exercised in that manner, it would be impermissible. Ibn Ashur and others also asked the reciprocal question: “Does the woman have the right to discipline her husband?” He said, yes, by taking him to court. If he is wronging her, such as not supporting her financially, neglecting her, etc. 

She could seek redress as well. Either by raising the issue between them within the marriage, or seeking a mediator either from their families or a trusted third party. In absence of this, she could take him to court to secure her rights and for him to rectify his conduct.

There is no permission for any aggression, wrong, or harm. The context is to take good care of them.


We also see the principle of how you provide for your family. Provision is the responsibility of the man. The provision is supposed to be in a fitting manner. In a good, dignified and appropriate manner, given the financial ability and social standing of the man and the social background of the woman.

There are many Prophetic emphases related to that. “Any morsel of food you put into your spouse’s mouth is a charity,” said the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Begin in your spending upon yourself and then those you are responsible for. It is sufficient sin for a man to be neglectful of those he is responsible for providing for. 

There is also a reiteration of a key point: relations and marriage specifically are a trust and a responsibility before Allah. 

Mindfulness of Allah is something manifest in relations. It is manifest in how you relate to Allah and how you respond before the command of Allah. But it is tested in your human relations. In how you respond when your emotions are stirred in a manner that is contrary to the divine command. That is a test.