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The Prophet's wives

The Prophet's wives

While Khad¢jah was alive, the Holy Prophet did not marry any lady.[1] After her death, he married several women all of whom, except for `ª’ishah, were widows. The first was Sawdah. Her husband was Sakr¡n ibn `Amr; one of the emigrants to Abyssinia who had died there leaving his wife without sponsor.

Orientalists have used the Holy Prophet's marriages as an excuse to level inhuman accusations against him. They have referred to his marriages as indulgence in pleasure and lusts.[2] A careful and impartial judgment, however, will reveal the fact that behind these marriages, there lay some political and social motives and some gains and common good for Islam; some of those women lost any sponsor or protector; therefore, the Holy Prophet wanted to guide and protect them under the cover of marriage. Some others belonged to great households and the Holy Prophet wanted to have their protections. At some other time, the purpose was to fight against some wrong customs of the Ignorance Era. Here are some evidences:

(1) The Holy Prophet married Khad¢jah when he was twenty-five years old and at the zenith of youthful zeal and passion whereas she had lost the passion of youth when she married him. She lived with him for twenty-five years.

(2) The Holy Prophet did not marry any other woman as long as Khad¢jah was alive, while polygamy was prevalent in Arabia at that time.

(3) The other marriages of the Holy Prophet took place after the age of fifty, before or after Hegira, when he was in the center of political, social and military turmoil. Could a person get into pleasure seeking activities under such circumstances? Could the Holy Prophet, while living in Medina, find a chance to be involved in lust and whims?

(4) Was life easy and smooth with different wives, each of whom had a special set of likes and dislikes and a series of womanly jealousies; wives who had hurt the Holy Prophet on various occasions?[3] Is such a life compatible with pleasure-seeking?

(5) Each one of the Holy Prophet's wives belonged to a different tribe; they were not relatives. Was such a marriage accidental and haphazard?

(6) After the Holy Prophet's emigration to Yathrib and the expansion of Islam and an increase in his spiritual influence, his social and political power had greatly risen and the Arab leaders would take pride in having their daughters married to the Holy Prophet. However, most of the women that he married were widows or elderly women lacking any protector, while he encouraged men to marry young girls.

Let us introduce some of the Holy Prophet's wives:

(1) Ummu-°ab¢bah

The daughter of Ab£-Sufy¡n, the bitter enemy of Islam, Ummu-°ab¢bah emigrated with her husband, `Ubaydull¡h ibn Ja¦sh, the Holy Prophet’s cousin. When `Ubaydull¡h reached that land, he apostatized Islam. Due to excessive wine drinking, he died there.[4] When the Holy Prophet knew about this, he sent `Amr ibn Umayyah al-®amar¢[5] to al-Naj¡sh¢ asking him to give Ummu-°ab¢bah in marriage to him. That was in the sixth year after the Hegira, and al-Naj¡sh¢ did. She stayed in Abyssinia for one more year and then returned to Medina with the last group.[6] She was between thirty and forty years old.[7]

It is clear that this marriage took place to pacify this Muslim woman not to be carried away through worries and grief. This is because she had cut relations with her unbelieving relatives, including her parents, and had gone to Abyssinia with her husband. Now, in a foreign land, she had lost her husband. What other action could be better than having the privilege of getting married to the Holy Prophet?


Ummu-Salamah (Hind) was the daughter of Ab¢-Umayyah Makhz£m¢; her ex-husband was Ab£-Salamah (`Abdull¡h) Makhz£m¢,[8] one of the Holy Prophet’s cousins.[9] They had four children one of whom was Salamah.[10]

Ab£-Salamah was wounded in the Battle of U¦ud and then passed away in Jum¡d¡ II, in the third year of Hegira.[11] Most probably, there was no relative of Ummu-Salamah in Medina, because she is reported to have said, “When Ab£-Salamah died, I became very depressed; I said to myself, ‘Now that I am lonely, I will weep so much that I become well-known as a great weeper!’”[12] The Holy Prophet married her in the 4th year of Hegira.[13] At that time, she had become old.[14]

It is clear that the purpose of this marriage was to sponsor her orphan children. Was it not a hard job for the Holy Prophet to sponsor four orphan children?

After Khad¢jah, Ummu-Salamah ranked high in sincerity, virtue and spirituality. She was second to Khad¢jah in these human traits.[15] She had a special bond with the Household of the Holy Prophet. Most of the time, she kept the secrets of the Divinely leadership of the Holy Prophet’s Household.[16]

Zaynab bint Ja¦sh

A close relative of the Holy Prophet, Zaynab was married to Zayd ibn °¡rithah, the Holy Prophet's stepchild.[17] She married the Holy Prophet after her separation from Zayd.

Zayd had been the slave of Khad¢jah before he was freed and adopted by the Holy Prophet. From then on, he was called Zayd son of Mu¦ammad.[18]

After the prophethood, God made the adoption of sons illegal:

Allah has not made for any man two hearts within him; nor has He made your wives whose backs you liken to the backs of your mothers as your mothers, nor has He made those whom you assert to be your sons your real sons; these are the words of your mouths; And Allah speaks the truth and He guides to the way. Assert their relationship to their fathers; this is more equitable with Allah, but if you do not know their fathers, then they are your brethren in faith and your friends; and there is no blame on you concerning that in which you made a mistake, but concerning that which your hearts do purposely blame may rest on you, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (33:4-5)

Upon receiving these revelations, the Holy Prophet said to Zayd, “You are Zayd son of °¡rithah.” From then on, he was nicknamed freed by the Holy Prophet.[19]

The Holy Prophet proposed Zaynab for himself. However, since she was one of the granddaughters of `Abd al-Mu§§alib and she belonged to a well-known tribe, she refused to accept such a proposal in the beginning, because Zayd was not from a Quraysh family; rather, he was freed slave. However, the Holy Prophet insisted; and Zaynab agreed. This marriage was the annihilation of racial and class privileges, which were so emphatically approved of. The Prophet's insistence on such a marriage was aimed at removing such unfounded principles.

Due to some ethical maladjustment, the marriage of Zaynab and Zayd became vulnerable; it was on the threshold of being cut. Several times, Zayd decided to divorce her, but the Holy Prophet called them for more perseverance by saying, “Keep your spouse.”[20] Finally, Zayd divorced her. After their divorce, the Holy Prophet received direction from God to marry Zaynab so that the marriage of an adopted son's divorcee would not create a problem for Muslims. In this way, a wrong custom was broken, because an adopted son was considered real son. For this reason, marrying the wife of such a person was not allowed. The Holy Qur'¡n describes the aim of this marriage in the following manner:

And when you said to him to whom Allah had shown favor and to whom you had shown a favor: Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of your duty to Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zayd had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah's command shall be performed. (33:37)

The unbelievers found an excuse in this marriage to level some accusations against the Holy Prophet: they accused him of marrying the wife of his son![21] Then God revealed to the Holy Prophet:

Mu¦ammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the last of the Holy Prophets; and Allah is Cognizant of all things. (33:40)

Some Christian Orientalists have changed this event into a romance and have added unfounded details to it,[22] but this accusation does not comply with the Holy Prophet’s traits. Besides, we have seen that the issue was something else and this is vividly explained in the Holy Qur'¡n.

The aforementioned accounts of the Holy Prophet’s wives are enough for an explanation of the real motives behind his polygamy. The other wives of the Holy Prophet had more or less similar traits.

[1] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Is¢`¡b 4:282; ¯a¦¢¦ Muslim 15:201.

[2] Mu¦ammad °asanayn Haykal, °ay¡t Mu¦ammad, pp. 315-316, 325.

[3] For further information, see commentaries on S£rah al-Ta¦r¢m, verses 1-5.

[4] Mu¦ammad Ibn Sa`d, Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 7:97, Shaykh `Abb¡s al-Qumm¢, Saf¢nat al-Bi¦¡r 1:204.

[5] Ibn al-Ath¢r, Usd al-Gh¡bah 5:458; Mas`£d¢, Mur£j al-Dhahab 2:289; °amdull¡h Mu¥§afaw¢, T¡r¢kh Goz¢deh, pp. 161.

[6] Ibn Kath¢r, al-Bid¡yah wa’l-Nih¡yah 4:144; °amdull¡h Mu¥§afaw¢, T¡r¢kh Goz¢deh, pp. 161.

[7] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, pp. 99; `Abb¡s al-Qumm¢, op cit, pp. 204.

[8] `Asqal¡n¢, al-I¥¡bah 4:458; Ibn al-Ath¢r, Usd al-Gh¡bah 5:588.

[9] Ibn al-Ath¢r, op cit, pp. 218.

[10] op cit, pp. 588; Ibn Hush¡m, Al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 4:294, Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 8:87.

[11] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Is¢`¡b 4:82.

[12] Al-Khayy¡m¢, Zawj¡t al-Nab¢ wa-Awl¡duh£, pp. 199.

[13] Ibn °ajar, op cit, pp. 458; Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 8:87.

[14] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, pp. 90-91; Mu¦ammad Ibn °ab¢b, al-Mu¦abbar, pp. 84.

[15] M¡muq¡n¢, Tanq¢¦ al-Maq¡l 3:72.

[16] M¡muq¡n¢, op cit, Al-Tustar¢, Q¡m£s al-Rij¡l 10:396.

[17] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 8:101; Ibn al-Ath¢r, Usd al-Gh¡bah 2:226; Ibn °ajar, al-I¥¡bah 4:564.

[18] Ibn Sa`d, op cit; Ibn al-Ath¢r, op cit, 2:224; Ibn °ajar, op cit, pp. 563.

[19] al-ªl£s¢, Tafs¢r R£¦ al-Ma`¡n¢ 21:147.

[20] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 8:103.

[21] Ibn al-Ath¢r, op cit, 7:494; ±abars¢, Majma` al-Bay¡n 8:337; Qas§al¡ni, al-Maw¡hib al-Ludaniyyah 2:87.

[22] Islamic Encyclopedia; Mu¦ammad °asanayn Haykal, °ay¡t Mu¦ammad, pp. 316, 323.

According to Orientalists, Mu¦ammad passed by Zayd's house and accidentally saw his wife, Zaynab. He fell in love with her!! When Zayd noticed this, he divorced Zaynab who was one of the Prophet's relatives and was not unknown to the Prophet since, in those days, women’s veil was not yet common!!

To refute this fable, members of a family must know who is beautiful and who is not among them. We should add here that these Orientalists have got this fable from some baseless narrations recorded in some reference books, such as T¡r¢kh ±abar¢ 3:42; Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 8:101. Some other writers, too, have unknowingly adopted these sources. However, the Holy Qur’¡n has vividly revealed the truth. Of course, some Muslim scholars have proved the forgery of this story. One of these is Sayyid Murta¤¡ `Alam al-Hud¡, a well-known Sh¢`ite scholar (436 AH). He has described such reports as dirty and ugly. See Tanz¢h al-Anbiy¡', pp. 114. Al-ªl£s¢ considers the issue as a myth uttered by story-tellers. He says, “We should acquit the Prophet from such accusations.” See Tafs¢r R£¦ al-Ma`¡n¢ 22:24-25.

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