Christians often use a Hadith to malign Islam that women are not given equal rights and are condemn to remain in the hell fire. While they lie they try to make some issue out of the following Hadith.
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The Prophet said: “I was shown the Hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful.” It was asked, “Do they disbelieve in Allah?” (or are they ungrateful to Allah?) He replied, “They are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good (charitable deeds) done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, ‘I have never received any good from you.” (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 28)
Context of the Hadith:
The very first thing that is a must to be kept in mind when going through the Islamic Sources is that you cannot pick up a verse or a Hadith, take it in isolation from the rest of Islamic rubric and run to races with it. This is criminal only. Indeed one has to consider all the various Ahadith pertaining to an issue one way or the other, consider the context of each of them and then draw some conclusion. Unfortunately most of the Christian readers of Quran and Hadith fail on this account.
Now clearly we see that at the time this was said, Holy Prophet (pbuh) was not actually dwelling on the point if men or women will form the majority in the Hell and Paradise, he was only asking women to mend their ways and was pointing to a common problem in the attitude of the women. This was his duty being Al-Nazeer (the Warner).
They do not go to hell for being women:
The Hadith does not say they go to hell for being women, it actually points out to a wrong behavior on women’s part. The real misunderstanding comes with the notion that women outnumber men in hell because of their womanhood. This is indeed wrong, there is nothing like that in the Hadith, not even in the least.
Secondly, most probably either men or women will be more in the hell. It’s very difficult that they number exactly the same. Whoever will do more wrong deeds will be punished for that. It’s about deeds not gender and that’s where people take a wrong turn and are lead astray.
Women will outnumber men in Paradise:
Infact there is another Hadith which tells us that there will be more women in the Paradise then the men. It is recorded in Sahih Muslim.
عَنْ مُحَمَّدٍ قَالَ إِمَّا تَفَاخَرُوا وَإِمَّا تَذَاكَرُوا الرِّجَالُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ أَكْثَرُ أَمْ النِّسَاءُ فَقَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ أَوَ لَمْ يَقُلْ أَبُو الْقَاسِمِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ أَوَّلَ زُمْرَةٍ تَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ عَلَى صُورَةِ الْقَمَرِ لَيْلَةَ الْبَدْرِ وَالَّتِي تَلِيهَا عَلَى أَضْوَإِ كَوْكَبٍ دُرِّيٍّ فِي السَّمَاءِ لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِنْهُمْ زَوْجَتَانِ اثْنَتَانِ يُرَى مُخُّ سُوقِهِمَا مِنْ وَرَاءِ اللَّحْمِ وَمَا فِي الْجَنَّةِ أَعْزَبُ
Muhammad reported that some (persons) stated with a sense of pride and some discussed whether there would be more men in Paradise or more women. It was upon this that Abu Huraira reported that Abul Qasim (the Holy Prophet) (may peace be upon him) said: The (members) of the first group to get into Paradise would have their faces as bright as full moon during the night, and the next to this group would have their faces as bright as the shining stars in the sky, and every person would have two wives and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise. (Muslim, Hadith 5062)
The context of Abu Huraira narrating this Hadith clearly shows that he meant to convey that according to Prophet’s sayings, women will outnumber men in the Paradise.
Ibn Kathir (d. 774 A.H.) commenting on this Hadith said:
فالمراد من هذا ان هاتين من بنات آدم ومعهما من الحور العين ما شاء الله عز وجل
“The meaning hereby is, these two are from the daughters of Adam (i.e. women of this world) and with them are wide-eyed maidens as Allah the Almighty wishes.” (Siffah al-Jannah p.132 pub. Mo’assas al-Kutab al-Thaqafiyyah, Beirut 1993)
The same is mentioned by Hafiz Zainuddin al-Iraqi (d. 806 A.H.) in his Tarah al-Tathrib fi Sharah al-Taqrib 8/270. Hafiz al-Ayni (d. 855 A.H.) has also mentioned that it refers to the women of this world. See ‘Umdatul Qari 15/155
Ibn Hajr (d. 852 A.H.) while discussing the issue says:
وَاسْتَدَلَّ أَبُو هُرَيْرَة بِهَذَا الْحَدِيث عَلَى أَنَّ النِّسَاء فِي الْجَنَّة أَكْثَر مِنْ الرِّجَال ... وَهُوَ وَاضِح
‘Abu Huraira used this Hadith as a proof to maintain that women will outnumber men in Jannah (paradise) … and this is much clear.’ (Fath Al-Bari 10/30)
Ahadith about majority in hell do not tell the present or permanent state:
Lest one would say there is some contradiction in the both the Ahadith lets clarify another thing about the Ahadith that say women were in majority in the Hell.
There are Ahadith that contain the words ‘I was shown the Hell-fire’ and we know from other Ahadith that Holy Prophet (pbuh) was shown the Hell-Fire on his journey during the miraculous Night of Ascension. So we can easily conclude that Ahadith indicating women being in majority in the hell refer to the time when the Holy Prophet actually saw it and they do not mention if same is the case even now. (Fayd al-Bari 1/192)
An apparently contradicting narration:
There is a narration that seemingly contradicts the above. Imran bin Husain –may Allah be pleased with him- reported:
أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، قَالَ: إِنَّ أَقَلَّ سَاكِنِي الْجَنَّةِ النِّسَاءُ
Allah's Messenger –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said: Amongst the inmates of Paradise the women would form a minority. (Sahih Muslim Kitab al-Riqaq)
But this narration does not mean women will always form the majority in the hell.
Zainuddin Muhammad al-Manawi (d. 1031 A.H.) explained this Hadith saying;
أي في أول الأمر قبل خروج عصاتهن من النار فلا دلالة فيه على أن نساء الدنيا أقل من الرجال في الجنة
“means, initially before the sinful among them coming out of Hellfire. And there is no evidence in this (report) that women of the world are fewer than men in the paradise.” (Fayd al-Qadir Sharah Jami’ al-Saghir 2/428 Hadith 2215)
Hafiz Ibn Hajr in Fath al-Bari (10/30) and Hafiz al-‘Ayni in ‘Umdatul Qari (15/155) have explained it the same way.
Some statistical facts:
Also we ought to keep in mind that women today outnumber men. Even if more males are born, their mortality rate is higher then female babies and we learn in Hadith that near the End of Times women will outnumber men greatly so if equal ratio of men and women goes to hell and the paradise even then it is quite possible that women remain in majority in both.
Women can complain against husbands for genuine reasons:
Let me make clear another point that the Hadith does not ask woman to bear with her husband even when he is wrong and refrain from complaining. No, this is not the case as we know that there is complete Surah (chapter) in the Quran i.e. Surah Mujadila (No. 58) which is about a woman who came to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to complain against her husband and the Prophet (pbuh) did not say that she was going to hell for complaining and infact he listened to her and Allah also revealed verses addressing the issue and condemning the unacceptable behavior of the husband.
Thus the conclusion is that Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- stated only what he had seen during his Miraculous Journey which is not bound to remain the same for ever. And that women will be fewer in the Paradise only initially and eventually women will form the majority in the Paradise as more and more of the people are taken out of Hell and admitted into Paradise. Other traditions plainly establish that in the Paradise women will be much larger in number compared to men. And the particular tradition that Christians dwell upon only asks women not to complain and be ungrateful to their husbands without reason.
Indeed Allah knows the best!
* The article was last updated on November 16th, 2011