When I was a teenager, some thirty years ago I remember reading that Muhammad was caught in a scandal on the eve of the most dangerous battle of the prophet’s life. Most of the believers expected for themselves, total annihilation and trembled as they spiritually prepared to disappear from the world.

In this mood, and condition Muhamad’s wives were over-heard bickering with him in his tent in the evening. The men confronted him in the morning saying “what will you do about these wives of yours?”

“Nothing” was his serene reply. The Muslims were bewildered and angry. One of them said “If my wife had spoken with me in this haughty way I would not hesitate to kill her where she stood. Then how can you claim to be a prophet of God and do nothing about this outrage?” To this he answered only: “Remember the wombs from which you have come.” and turned and left them to their dismay. At this insult, half of the Muslims defected and joined their enemies at a time when they were already hopelessly outnumbered. Those who remained were terrified and desperate, but Muhammad reassured them, promising that those who remained steadfast would be strengthened and protected by the angels themselves. Muslims were now outnumbered, ten to one. But the ensuing battle the next day saw a decisive victory in favor of the Muslims. The Muslims in fact had almost no casualties.

As far as I am aware (correct me if I am wrong) Muhammad to this day is the only prophet of any of the great religions to have devoted an entire chapter of his holy book to the upliftment of women and to their legal protection, with arguments in support of their rights, their noble qualities and indispensability to the maintenance of community well-being and to life itself as mothers. In it – the Surah entitled “Alnisa” (the Women) he remarked ‘remember the wombs from which you came’ in the first paragraph just as he told the Muslims the fateful night before their most glorious battle on their perilous journey back home.