An-Nisa · Juz 4 · Qur'an Tafseer

Polygamy in Islam: The Wives of the Prophet

Our beloved Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam is often criticized for having more than one wife. A man having excellent virtues as himself was not sent to the world for any other purpose then to spread the call of Islam, purify people and teach the Qur’an. He, by his word and deed, made the teachings of Islam radiate all over the world. His unique style shows that he practiced what he taught.

The books of ahadith tell us in great details the things he did inside the walls of his home, how he related to his wives and how he answered questions posed by women who visited his home for this purpose. Such questions can be counted in hundreds, questions that highlight the intermediacy of his blessed wives through whom the Muslim Ummah received necessary guidance. Through the life of the Prophet we learn morals and manners of different aspects of life.

According to the limited thinking of some societies, the Prophet’s marriages (God forbid) were simply an expression of his sexual desires. However, when we glance at his life and character we immediately conclude what an awfully wrong interpretation they have made.

Right before the eyes of the Quraysh tribe of Makkah, he led a blame-free life in a way that he, when twenty five, married an aged widow with children and went on living with her for the next twenty five years. It was also during this period that he used to leave home, sometimes for as long as a month, and stay in seclusion at the cave of Hira devoting his time to the remembrance of his Lord. All his other marriages came after he was beyond fifty.

The first fifty years of his life, especially his younger years and his youth, were too visible to the people of Makkah. Nobody, not even an enemy, ever found an occasion to accuse him about his piety or purity.   They accused him of being a magician, a sorcerer, a poet, madman, liar, fabricator, but never did they dare say anything about his pious life.

Under these conditions, would it not be worth exploring as to why someone who had spent fifty years of his life in such righteousness and piety and in such peaceful abstinence from the good things of life would be compelled to marry more than once? What was the urge? Let us look at the reality of these marriages as to how they came to pass.

Age twenty five to fifty, he had only one wife Khadeejah radhiAllahu anha. When she died, the marriage with Saudah and Aishah radhiAllahu anha was solemnized. But it was Saudah who came to live with him while Aishah continued to live with her father due to her minority. In year two of Hijrah Aishah came to live with him and it is then that the plurality of marriage began.

After one year, his marriage with Hafsah radhiAllahu anha took place. After some months, Zainab bint Khuzaymah radhiAllahu anha came into his nikkah but died only eighteen months later. According to one report she lived only three months as his wife. Then, he was married to Umm Salmah radhiAllahu anha in 4 A.H. and to Zainab bint Jahsh radhiAllahu anha in 5 A.H. This is the time when he was fifty eight. He now had four wives.

Later he married Jaweria radhiAllahu anha in 6 A.H., Umm Habibah radhiAllahu anha in 7 A.H., Safiyyah radhiAllahu anha in 7 A.H. and Maymunah radhiAllahu anha later on in the same year.

To sum up, we see that he lived for twenty five years with Kahdeejah and four to five years with Saudah radhiAllahu anha. After that, when he was fifty eight, he had four wives, the rest of the blessed wives came to live with him within a period of 2 – 3 years.

It is worth mentioning here that, out of all the wives he had, there was only one who was married to him as a virgin, Aishah radhiAllahu anha. Other than her, all wives were widows (except Zainab bint Jahsh).

If he was inclined to keep more than one wife, he would have married none but virgins. In fact, there was nothing to stop him from keeping a wife for one or two months and then take new ones in their place. But, he never did this. A Prophet never follows his mundane desire; whatever he does is by the will of Allah. 

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