[In the light of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 34]
The ayah begins, with a working rule – that man is charged with a duty-bound authority over women. The text then describes women, the good ones and the bad ones. It says:
فَالصَّـلِحَـتُ قَـنِتَـتٌ حَـفِظَـتٌ لِّلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ
It means that women who are righteous accept this rule of the precedence of men and obey them, and when they are not with them, they stand guard on their own selves, as well as on what the husband has earned for the family. It goes without saying that the protection of the personal honor and modesty of a woman, and that of everything else in the house under her charge are basic to the happiness that lies behind a successful home management. Although the duty of a woman to guard herself and to look after the home is not restricted to a situation where the husband is not at home, but is equally applicable during his presence also, yet the Qur’an has mentioned the state of his ‘absence’ only, because it in the absence of the husband that a woman is more susceptible to showing negligence; therefore, this situation has been mentioned in express terms. The message is that what has to be avoided is showing a lot of concern and alertness while men are present in the house, but neglecting to abide by these rules of conduct when they are out of sight.
It was, most probably, in explanation of this ayah that the Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam said,
“The best of women is a woman who, when you look at her, makes you pleased with her; and when you ask her to do something, she obeys you; and when you are absent, she guards herself, and her belongings.”
Since these responsibilities placed on women, that is, the guarding and protection of their modesty, and of what the husband leaves in her charge, are not that easy to take care of, therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has immediately after it, declared:
بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ
that is, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala helps women when they so protect. It is with His support known as the Taufeeq of Allah that they succeed in grappling with these heavy responsibilities. Had this not been there, the temptations of self and shaytan stand surrounding every man and woman all the time. Then, women are particularly weaker in some areas of capabilities as compared to men, yet, when it comes to carrying out these responsibilities, they tend to be much stronger than men. All this is an outcome of Allah’s taufeeq and help. This is the reason why women, as general rule, are less involved in sinful immodesties as compared to men.
The merit of women who cooperate with their husbands, as evident from this ayah, has also been widely reported in several ahadith. In one such hadith, the Prophet said that, for a woman who is dutiful to her husband, there are birds in the air and fish in the sea and angels in the skies and beasts in the forests who pray for her forgiveness by the Lord. [al-Bahr al-Muhit]
[Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]