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The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his Wives

I intend to employ Al-Qur'an alone as the basis for this article, because it contains true insight into the private life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

We may perhaps begin with the manner in which Allah SWT makes manifest HIS Will, by Revealing HIS Word and thus enabling HIS Way to be understood.

Surah 13 Ar-Ra'd, Verse 38
And, truly, WE sent forth Apostles before you, and WE Appointed for them wives and offspring: and it was not given to any Apostle to produce a miracle save at Allah's behest..

Thus does Allah SWT make clear that marriage is the natural order for human beings, and therefore the preferred state, it protecting individuals from temptation and society from corruption. The best examples are invariably the examples of the Prophets (pbut)

Surah 33 Al-Ahzaab, Verse 21
Verily, in the Apostle of Allah you have a good example for everyone who looks forward (with hope and awe) to Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah unceasingly.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was not only the Messenger of Allah SWT, he was - by Divine Decree - Imam, a statesman, politician, diplomat, general, warrior, leader, friend, companion. However, before he was appointed Prophet he was an excellent husband and father. This is important to bear in mind - because had his performance in these two exceedingly crucial roles been bad or deplorable, then quite obviously his Creator would not have chosen him as HIS Last Message-Bearer.

His first wife, as we know, was Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid. She bore him four daughters, Zaynab, Ruqqayah, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah. It was during his marriage to Khadijah (rda) that the Prophet first began to recieve the Final Revelations of Allah SWT. In all ways, she supported and encouraged him, and in every manner possible did he display his great love for and attachment to her. According to the historians, Khadijah was senior to the Prophet by about 15 yrs - some say more, Allah SWT Knows Best. The difference in age did not affect their marriage, and the Prophet did not enter into any other marital commitment whilst his beloved Khadijah was alive. That theirs was a model partnership is quite evident from the fact that Allah SWT Chose to send HIS Messages during the marriage of the Prophet to Khadijah - Allah SWT Knew well that she would help him, have faith and trust in him, and that she would be the first of the believers. Khadijah owns the unique distinction of being the only wife of the Prophet to bear him children.

After the sad demise of Khadijah (rda) the Prophet entered into several marriage. Some of these were for uniting disparate tribes, some because they were the bereaved widows of his noble Companions and one at the Command of Allah SWT. It would perhaps be true to say that it was Allah SWT HIMSELF Who gave to the Prophet the best of wives. Their names are as follows:

Sawda Bint Zam'a
A'ishah Siddiqa Bint Aby Bakr
Hafsa Bint 'Umar
Zaynab Bint Khuzayma
Umm Salama Hind Bint Abi Ummaya
Zaynab Bint Jahsh
Juwayriyyah Bint Al-Harith
Umm Habiba Ramla Bint Abi Sufyan
Saffiyah Bint Huyayy
Maymuna Bint Al-Harith
Maria Al-Qibtiyyah
May Allah SWT be Well-Pleased with them all.

These are the names the historians have recorded - Allah SWT Knows Best.

Surah 33 Al-Ahzaab, Verses 28-34
O Prophet! Say unto your wives: "If you desire (but) the life of this world and its charms - well, then, I shall provide for you and release you in a becoming manner.

but if you desire Allah and HIS Apostle, and (thus the good of) the life in the hereafter, then (know that) verily, for the doers of good among you Allah has readied a mighty reward!

O Wives of the Prophet! If any of you were to become guilty of manifestly immoral conduct, double (that of other sinners) would be her suffering (in the hereafter) for that is indeed easy for Allah.

But if any of you devoutly obeys Allah and HIS Apostle and does good deeds, on her shall WE Bestow her reward twice-over: for WE shall have readied for her a most excellent Sustenance (in the life to come)

O Wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the (other) women, provided that you remain (truly) conscious of Allah. Hence, be not over-soft in your speech, lest any in whose heart is disease should be moved to desire (you) but, withal, speak in a kindly way.

And abide quietly in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the old days of ignorance: and be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto Allah and HIS Apostle: for Allah only wants to remove from you all that might be loathsome, O you members of the (Prophet's) household, and to purify you to utmost purity.

And bear in mind all that is recited in your homes of Allah's Messages and (HIS) Wisdom: for Allah is Unfathomable (in HIS Wisdom) All Aware.

The Prophet was ever patiant and loving towards his wives, and the above Verses reveal their unique position in his life as well as in the life of the Community. They were honoured by Allah SWT with the title "Mothers of the Believers" Which is the reason why they were not permitted to marry after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) In this way, Allah SWT Sought to preserve the privacy and dignity of the Prophet and his House.

Verses 37-39 in Surah Al-Ahzaab explain the circumstances that led the Prophet to marry his cousin Zaynab Bint Jahsh. Here we witness Allah SWT revealing HIS Method by bringing into being new arrangements in the life of HIS Messenger. It also exhibits something of the nature of the Prophet himself - for he was indeed reluctant to enter into a marriage with Zaynab, insisting that she remain with Zayd, his adopted son. This of course is at odds with orientalists who cast aspersions upon the character of the Prophet. But we need not entertain their false tales here.

Verse 52 of the same Surah provides insight into how Allah SWT supported the Wives of the Prophet, HE Forbade him from entering into anymore marriages. The Wives of the Prophet had varying backgrounds and experiences, some were widowed, as alluded to above, others were divorced. Some were young, others older. Doubtless they were all beautiful - since women usually are. The Prophet was just and fair to all his wives, though he may have loved some more than others, his tenderness and respect towards them all was a great feature of his alliances with them. In Verse 51 of Surah 33, Allah SWT Grants Permission to the Prophet to spend time with whichever of his wife he wishes to, and so the time he gave to each of his wives was an outcome of a real desire to be in their company. Here there is no question of compulsion - there may have been occassions when he needed to be with one wife rather than another, for each human being is different and provides whatever they may of themselves at certain points in time.

As in all households, there are rules of behaviour and boundaries which none may overstep without causing harm and hurt. At the same time, visitors are also required to follow certain rules of conduct so that they do not breach those limits which every houeshold sets in place. Thus, in Verse 53 of Surah 33, the believers are Commanded to enter upon the dwellings of the Prophet only after they have recieved permission. At the same time, male visitors are ordered to speak to the Wives of the Prophet from behind a screen (Hijab) This Ordinance was established in order to afford the Prophet a degree of privacy from his hectic life, and also to protect the honour and dignity of his Wives.

These Ayaat Reveal the etiquettes of behaviour and manner of conduct so central to the lives of the Prophet, his Wives, Companions and Community. The Prophet being who and what he was, strived hard always to do justice to all the roles he held. There were times, however, when a certain disruption would occur - as is only natural in human relations.

So, in Surah At-Tahreem Allah SWT Reveals to HIS Messenger the doings of two of his wives, said, by the historians, to be Hafsa and A'ishah - Allah SWT Knows Best. Because the Prophet was rather displeased with them, he swore to remain aloof from his wives. But this abstinence was frowned upon by Allah SWT - that which HE Permits cannot be made Forbidden, no matter the situation or circumstances. Withdrawing from marital life deprived not only the Prophet of the companionship of his Wives, it also denied them his love and company. And though Allah SWT admonishes the two wives, HE nevertheless did not Permit the Prophet to divorce them - and nor did he ever leave, abandon, reject or divorce any of his Wives. He was faithful and loyal to them, just as they sought to do their best to please him and their Creator. He did not commit violent acts against them, that much is evident. He did not beat them nor did he betray them. As a merciful, compassionate man inspired by the love of Allah SWT, with absolute trust in HIM Alone, knowing that HIS Beloved Creator was ever Witness to all that he said and did, he conducted his personal and private life with utmost nobility and utter dignity.

As always, there often arise complications or tensions during the course of married life. It is indeed difficult for later generations to imagine how the Prophet managed so successfully to be the great husband he undoubtedly was. As Muslims are required to adopt the Prophet as their role-model, certainly in terms of his married life it is a truly splendid example to follow. Especially and in particular for Muslim men - for they represent both the head of the family and community. The manner in which they conduct themselves in their homes - how they accord their wives love, respect, how patiant, tolerant they are, and so on - really does define their character and speaks volumes about their Faith and its level.

One matter I wish to address here - the question of A'ishah's age at the time the Prophet contracted marriage with her. The historians provide various numbers ranging from 6 years old, to 9 through to 12. One thing all are agreed upon is that A'ishah was very young when she became the wife of the Prophet. I find it difficult to believe that this is indeed the truth - Allah SWT Knows Best. Marriage as we know requires maturity and an understanding of the responsibilities, obligations involved. For a believer, it means one is ever conscious of never over-stepping the limits imposed by Allah SWT - each spouse protecting, defending, guarding and preserving the honour and dignity of the other and of the entire household. No matter how mature of mind a 6 or 9 or 12 year old may be, she surely cannot be sufficiently mature in order to enter into a marriage. In this regard I direct your attention to the following passage in Al-Qur'an -

Surah 4 An-Nisaa, Verse 6
And test the orphans (in your charge) until they reach a marriageable age; then, if you find them to be mature of mind, hand over to them their possessions; and do not consume them by wasteful spending, and in haste, before they grow up. And let him who is rich abstain (from his ward's property) and let him who is poor partake thereof in a fair manner. And when you hand over to them their possessions, let there be witnesses on their behalf - although none can take count as Allah does.

In the above Ayat, Allah SWT States that orphans may only recieve their possessions until they are of "marriage-able age" Thus, when they are able to manage their own financial affairs that is the time they are to be given that which is rightfully theirs. This maturity spoken of in the Verse obviously indicates that the person is independant and intelligent - not in need of care or guidance, but well able to care for him/her self. Such a person who is well able to manage his financial matters is also in a position to marry - having attained the age of "maturity"

When we consider this Ayat in the light of the reports about A'ishah's age, we begin to question their authenticity. For, if Allah SWT Reveals that an orphan is to be given his/her possessions upon attaining the age of marriage and thus maturity, how is it possible to accept that A'ishah was little other than a child when she married the Prophet? Because the two are inextricably linked - marriage and maturity. A young child - even one of 12 - would hardly be capable of dealing with his/her own financial matters, being inexperienced and immature. I believe, though tentatively, that in fact A'ishah was much older than the reports claim she was. She must have attained a degree of maturity - being the wife of Allah SWT's Last Messenger obviously entailed huge responsibilities. Allah SWT Knows Best.

As human beings, we are known best by those closest to us - our families. The manner in which we treat our family members, especially our spouses, manifests our character and true nature. We cannot be faithful or loyal to others if we are unfaithful and disloyal to our spouses. The model of the Prophet is a refined one, beautifully elegant and pure. He perfected each of his roles, including his role as husband and head of the family. As the head of the family, he set the tone and tenor of life - and all not only followed his unique example, but were eager to do so.

As Muslims, we pray for the Prophet and his family during each of our five daily prayers - in this way we honour them, and also strive to bear their great lives in mind even as we seek to follow their beautiful examples, In Sha Allah Ta'aala.

Allahumma Salli 'Ala Muhammadin
Wa 'Ala Aali Muhummadin
Kamaa Sallaita 'Ala Ibrahima
Wa 'Ala Aali Ibrahima
Innaka Hamidun Majeed

Allahumma Baarik 'Ala Muhammadin
Wa 'Ala Aali Muhammadin
Kama Baarakta 'Ala Ibrahima
Wa 'Ala Aali Ibrahima
Innaka Hamidun Majeed.


Allahu 'Alam

 
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