Before the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) was appointed as a prophet, Arab society generally considered women to be worthless and did not hold them in any great esteem. In addition, Arab society was negligent in relation to fulfilling women's personal and societal rights. However, from its very onset, Islam gave importance to all of mankind and considered the lives of both men and women to be precious.
The Noble Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) commanded others to fulfill women's rights and to honor their individuality and he showed a particular form of respect towards women himself while implementing these principles. The entirety of his life is a display of this truth.
Imam as Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said, "The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) would say “Salamun 'alaykum” to women and they would reply to his salutation. The Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) would also greet women but he disliked greeting young women for he would say, 'I fear that her voice will be pleasing to me and more than I desired in reward (by giving salutation) will be given to me (in terms of harm, for hearing her pleasing voice)'."1
This action of greeting women by the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) conveys a reality; by doing this, he wanted to convey to his followers the value of women and their due respect.
Another example of his respect towards women is his being helpful to his wives. "The Most Noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) would sew his own clothes, open the door and milk sheep and camels himself. Whenever his servant would grow weary, he would mill wheat or barley himself. Before going to bed, he would prepare water for his ritual ablution (wudhu’) himself. He would cut up meat himself and when his family members were burdened with many things to do, he would provide them with help."2
With regards to showing respect towards women the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) has said, "Beware, the best of you is he who is the best towards his women, and I am the best among all of you toward my women."3