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I remember reading a story about Muhammad in which one of his followers felt that Muhammad was too indulgent with his wives, or too kind, or didn't require the proper formal respect from them. So this follower mentioned it to Muhammad, but I can't remember what Muhammad's response was.

In all my big stack of books, I can't seem to find the story any more. Has anyone heard of this, and does anyone know where I might find it again?

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The only hadith I can think of in this context is the one about 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb asking the Prophet ﷺ to request his wives to be veiled prior to the revelation of the verses related to hijab:

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْمَلِكِ بْنُ شُعَيْبِ بْنِ اللَّيْثِ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي، عَنْ جَدِّي، حَدَّثَنِي عُقَيْلُ بْنُ، خَالِدٍ عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ عُرْوَةَ بْنِ الزُّبَيْرِ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، أَنَّ أَزْوَاجَ، رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم كُنَّ يَخْرُجْنَ بِاللَّيْلِ إِذَا تَبَرَّزْنَ إِلَى الْمَنَاصِعِ وَهُوَ صَعِيدٌ أَفْيَحُ وَكَانَ عُمَرُ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ يَقُولُ لِرَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم احْجُبْ نِسَاءَكَ ‏.‏ فَلَمْ يَكُنْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَفْعَلُ فَخَرَجَتْ سَوْدَةُ بِنْتُ زَمْعَةَ زَوْجُ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَيْلَةً مِنَ اللَّيَالِي عِشَاءً وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَةً طَوِيلَةً فَنَادَاهَا عُمَرُ أَلاَ قَدْ عَرَفْنَاكِ يَا سَوْدَةُ ‏.‏ حِرْصًا عَلَى أَنْ يُنْزِلَ الْحِجَابَ ‏.‏ قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ الْحِجَابَ

'A'isha reported that the wives of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) used to go out in the cover of night when they went to open fields (in the outskirts of Medina) for easing themselves. 'Umar b Khattab used to say: Allah's Messenger, ask your ladies to observe veil, but Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) did not do that. So there went out Sauda, daughter of Zarn'a, the wife of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), during one of the nights when it was dark. She was a tall statured lady. 'Umar called her saying: Sauda, we recognise you. (He did this with the hope that the verses pertaining to veil would be revealed.) 'A'isha said: Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, then revealed the verses pertaining to veil.

— Sahih Muslim, Book 39, Hadith 25

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Regarding:

they were not afraid to talk back to him

The lengthy hadith of Umar ibn Khatab may be relevant:

وكنا معشر قريش نغلب النساء فلما قدمنا على الأنصار إذا قوم تغلبهم نساؤهم فطفق نساؤنا يأخذن من أدب نساء الأنصار فصخبت على امرأتي فراجعتني فأنكرت أن تراجعني قالت ولم تنكر أن أراجعك فوالله إن أزواج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ليراجعنه وإن إحداهن لتهجره اليوم حتى الليل

فأفزعني ذلك وقلت لها قد خاب من فعل ذلك منهن ثم جمعت علي ثيابي فنزلت فدخلت على حفصة فقلت لها أي حفصة أتغاضب إحداكن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم اليوم حتى الليل قالت نعم فقلت قد خبت وخسرت أفتأمنين أن يغضب الله لغضب رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم فتهلكي

...

ثم قلت وأنا قائم أستأنس يا رسول الله لو رأيتني وكنا معشر قريش نغلب النساء فلما قدمنا المدينة إذا قوم تغلبهم نساؤهم فتبسم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم

We, the people of Quraish used to have the upper hand over our wives, but when we came to the Ansar, we found that their women had the upper hand over their men, so our women also started learning the ways of the Ansari women. I shouted at my wife and she retorted against me and I disliked that she should answer me back.

She said to me, 'Why are you so surprised at my answering you back? By Allah, the wives of the Prophet answer him back and some of them may leave (does not speak to) him throughout the day till the night.'

The (talk) scared me and I said to her, 'Whoever has done so will be ruined!' Then I proceeded after dressing myself, and entered upon Hafsa and said to her, 'Does anyone of you keep the Prophet (ﷺ) angry till night?' She said, 'Yes.' I said, 'You are a ruined losing person! Don't you fear that Allah may get angry for the anger of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) and thus you will be ruined?

...

I said chatting, 'Will you heed what I say, O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)? We, the people of Quraish used to have power over our women, but when we arrived at Medina we found that the men (here) were overpowered by their women.' The Prophet (ﷺ) smiled ...

Bukhari

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  • This was the story I had in mind when reading the post first, but somehow I now believe it is not what OP actually is looking for. – Medi1Saif May 4 '18 at 8:02

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