Another misunderstood hadith (saying of the prophet, peace and blessings be upon him) is the following hadith found in The Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 55: Prophets, Number 548:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah 's Apostle said, "Treat women nicely, for a women 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."
Also in the Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 62: Wedlock, Marriage (Nikaah), Number 113 we have the following hadith: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The woman is like a rib; if you try to straighten her, she will break. So if you want to get benefit from her, do so while she still has some crookedness."
This concept of woman being created from man is empathized in the following verses in the Holy Quran
“And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” (Al-Rum : 21)
“He it is Who created you from a single being, and of the same (kind) did He make his mate, that he might incline to her; so when he covers her she bears a light burden, then moves about with it; but when it grows heavy, they both call upon Allah, their Lord: If Thou givest us a good one, we shall certainly be of the grateful ones”. (Al-Araaf : 189)
There are scientific facts that enforce the idea of Eve being created from Adam’s rib which are:
1. The system of the genetic code in the cells of man is identical to that of a woman which indicates that they came from one origin
2. It is a fact that some living bodies can create other living bodies without losing anything. This happens in case of reproduction by division as in unicellular organisms and some multicellular organisms like Hydra.
Some people understood from this hadith that it refers to woman’s creation as being crooked in nature while man’s creation was straight and complete. This is, of course, a misunderstanding because in Quran Allah Almighty says :“Certainly We created man in the best make.” (Alteen :4)
“Who made good everything that He has created, and He began the creation of man from dust.” (Alsajda : 7)
In fact this kind of understanding neglected the scientific miracle in this hadith as well as gave a wrong impression about how Islam regards women.
To understand this hadith we have to understand first that both men and women are created in (the best make). None of them is created better than the other.
So what does this hadith speak about..?
This hadith is one of the hadiths that explain the difference in the nature of men and women. When you say that a rib is bent, it does not mean that this is a defect in its manufacture, you are actually explaining how it looks like. So women are in fact different than men but no body said that their creation is less perfect than that of men. It says that her characteristics are different than that of a man (not identical). So Allah’s messenger is advising men not to try to change the characteristics of a woman to be like that of a man or he would not enjoy her presence beside him.
So why did Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him chose this simile (The woman is like a rib)..?
To understand that we have to first understand how our ribs look like. Ribs are curved on both sides of our bodies to create a cage to protect the heart, the major arteries and veins as well as the lungs which are all essential for life continuity. So the curved nature of the rib is one of the signs of God’s perfection in creation of human and if they were straight they would not give the maximum security for the heart and lungs as the cage shape that the rib’s curvature produce.
Consequently, saying that a woman is created from a crooked rib is to explain that she has all the characteristics she require to perform her function perfectly which is protection for her family and children as well as her mercy. So if one tries to change a woman’s characteristics to be like his then she would not be able to perform her function on earth which is mercy and protection of her loved ones. Honoring this nature in women and not trying to change it is what makes life enjoyable.