What Does The Hadith About “Women Are Like A Rib” Mean?

What Does The Hadith About “Women Are Like A Rib” Mean?


Salaam, I have asked this a couple of times but never received a response so I’m just trying again. What is meant by the hadith in which the Prophet (s) says to be kind to women because “they are created from a rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is the upper part, and if you try to straighten her she will break”?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

I have seen your question, and I have not answered it, because I did not know the answer. I asked one of my professors, who specialized in Hadith, and the first thing he asked me was: “Why did you cut the Hadith off?”

Now, there are several versions of this Hadith, and they are found in different Hadith collections.

The version found in Tirmidhi, for instance, is this:

“The Messenger of God said: ‘Indeed the woman is like a rib, if you try to straighten her you will break her, and if you leave her, what you enjoy from her will be with the crookedness.’”

That is pretty confusing, even though this Hadith is found in the collection regarding Divorce, it still doesn’t make much sense, right?

So, let’s look at the complete Hadith, this time, in Muslim:

“The Prophet said: ‘He who believes in God and the Hereafter, if he witnesses any matter he should talk in good terms about it or keep quiet. Act kindly towards women, for a woman is created from a rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is its top. If you attempt to straighten it, you will break it, and if you leave it, its crookedness will remain there. So act kindly towards women.’”

This Hadith has many versions, but this particular one is found in the collection on marriage, as are the majority of these Hadith. It therefore becomes quite clear that this Hadith is not directed towards women, because it is advice given to men, and as we have seen quite thoroughly throughout the history of, well, just things, it’s that men will never understand women.

That is what this Hadith is in reference to, that instead of trying to force one’s wife into communicating, acting, etc in a way that would make sense to the husband, that he should realize that it is his place to be accommodating towards his wife, he should try to understand her, and he should strive towards appreciating her characteristics and realizing that they have benefit, rather than bemoaning them.

So, to paraphrase: “your wife will make no sense to you, that is because you are a simple creature and women are far more complex than man will ever hope to be, so indulge her, be nice to her, and move on with your life.”

I realize that this will, undoubtedly, offend people, for some reason, but the simple fact of the matter is that men and women have had a tough time communicating since the dawn of time, and during the time of The Prophet that was no different.

The Prophet is simply using an analogy to help someone understand that his wife’s way will be different to his, and that he should appreciate that.

I would like to add, to those who might doubt what I have written, to please look at one of the other variations of this Hadith, again, found in Sahih Muslim, in which the end of the Hadith is as follows:

“…’And if you attempt to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her is divorcing her.’”

So, again, it becomes abundantly clear that this Hadith is simply directed towards The Prophet giving marital advice, and to make further deductions, especially ones that are directed towards saying that The Prophet looked down upon women, or what not, is very disingenuous, misleading, and flat-out inaccurate.

Insha Allah, I hope this answered your question, and that if you, or anyone else, has a question on this, or any other topic, please do not hesitate to ask me.

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