THE PROPHETIC HOUSEHOLD
Zainab was married to her maternal cousin Abu Al-‘As bin Al-Rabi‘
and that was before Al-Hijra. Ruqaiya and Umm Kulthum were both married
to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan (May Allah be pleased with him) successively (i.e.
he married one after the death of her sister). Fatimah was married to
‘Ali bin Abi Talib; and that was in the period between Badr and Uhud
battles. The sons and daughters that Fatimah and ‘Ali had were Al-Hasan,
Al-Husain, Zainab and Umm Kulthum.
- Khadijah Bint Khuwailid: In Makkah — prior to Hijra — the Prophet’s
household comprised him (Peace be upon him) and his wife Khadijah bint
Khuwailid. He was twenty-five and she was forty when they got married.
She was the first woman he married. She was the only wife he had till
she died. He had sons and daughters with her. None of their sons lived
long. They all died. Their daughters were Zainab, Ruqaiya, Umm Kulthum
It is well-known that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was exceptionally
authorized to have more than four wives for various reasons. The wives
he married were thirteen. Nine of them outlived him. Two died in his
lifetime: Khadijah and the Mother of the poor (Umm Al-Masakeen)
— Zainab bint Khuzaima, besides two others with whom he did not consummate
“So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e., divorced
her), We gave her to you in marriage.” [33:37]
- Sawdah bint Zam‘a: He married her in Shawwal, in the tenth year of
Prophethood, a few days after the death of Khadijah. Prior to that,
she was married to a paternal cousin of hers called As-Sakran bin ‘Amr.
- ‘Aishah bint Abu Bakr: He married her in the eleventh year of Prophethood,
a year after his marriage to Sawdah, and two years and five months before
Al-Hijra. She was six years old when he married her. However, he did
not consummate the marriage with her till Shawwal seven months after
Al-Hijra, and that was in Madinah. She was nine then. She was the only
virgin he married, and the most beloved creature to him. As a woman
she was the most learnčd woman in jurisprudence.
- Hafsah bint ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: She was Aiyim (i.e. husbandless).
Her ex-husband was Khunais bin Hudhafa As-Sahmi in the period between
Badr and Uhud battles. The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) married
her in the third year of Al-Hijra.
- Zainab bint Khuzaimah: She was from Bani Hilal bin ‘Amir bin Sa‘sa‘a.
Was nicknamed Umm Al-Masakeen, because of her kindness and care
towards them. She used to be the wife of ‘Abdullah bin Jahsh, who was
martyred at Uhud, was married to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in
the fourth year of Al-Hijra, but she died two or three months after
her marriage to the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him).
- Umm Salamah Hind bint Abi Omaiyah: She used to be the wife of Abu
Salamah, who died in Jumada Al-Akhir, in the fourth year of Al-Hijra.
The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) married her in Shawwal of
the same year.
- Zainab bint Jahsh bin Riyab: She was from Bani Asad bin Khuzaimah
and was the Messenger’s paternal cousin. She was married to Zaid bin
Haritha — who was then considered son of the Prophet (Peace be upon
him) . However, Zaid divorced her. Allâh sent down some Qur’ânic verses
with this respect:
About her, Allâh has sent down some verses of Al-Ahzab Chapter
that discussed the adoption of children in detail — anyway we will
discuss this later. The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) married
her in Dhul-Qa‘dah, the fifth year of Al-Hijra.
- Juwairiyah bint Al-Harith: Al-Harith was the head of Bani Al-Mustaliq
of Khuza‘ah. Juwairiyah was among the booty that fell to the Muslims
from Bani Al-Mustaliq. She was a portion of Thabit bin Qais bin Shammas’
share. He made her a covenant to set her free at a certain time. The
Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) accomplished the covenant and
married her in Sha‘ban in the sixth year of Al-Hijra.
- Umm Habibah: Ramlah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan. She was married to
‘Ubaidullah bin Jahsh. She migrated with him to Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
When ‘Ubaidullah apostatized and became a Christian, she stoodfast to
her religion and refused to convert. However ‘Ubaidullah died there
in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him)
dispatched ‘Amr bin Omaiyah Ad-Damri with a letter to Negus, the king,
asking him for Umm Habibah’s hand — that was in Muharram, in the seventh
year of Al-Hijra. Negus agreed and sent her to the Prophet (Peace be
upon him) in the company of Sharhabeel
- her after that conquest in the seventh year of Al-Hijra.
- Maimunah bint Al-Harith: The daughter of Al-Harith, and the sister
of Umm Al-Fadl Lubabah bint Al-Harith. The Prophet (Peace be upon him)
married her after the Compensatory ‘Umrah (Lesser Pilgrimage).
That was in Dhul-Qa‘dah in the seventh year of Al-Hijra.
Those were the eleven women that the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon
him) had married and consummated marriage with them. He outlived two of
them — Khadijah and Zainab, the Umm Al-Masakeen. Whereas the other
nine wives outlived him.
The two wives that he did not consummate marriage with were, one from
Bani Kilab and the other from Kindah and this was the one called Al-Jauniyah.
Besides these, he had two concubines. The first was Mariyah, the Coptic
(an Egyptian Christian), a present gift from Al-Muqauqis, vicegerent of
Egypt — she gave birth to his son Ibrâhim, who died in Madinah while still
a little child, on the 28th or 29th of Shawwal in the year 10 A.H., i.e.
27th January, 632 A.D. The second one was Raihanah bint Zaid An-Nadriyah
or Quraziyah, a captive from Bani Quraiza. Some people say she was one
of his wives. However, Ibn Al-Qaiyim gives more weight to the first version.
Abu ‘Ubaidah spoke of two more concubines, Jameelah, a captive, and another
one, a bondwoman granted to him by Zainab bint Jahsh.
Whosoever meditates on the life of the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon
him), will conceive that his marriage to this great number of women in
the late years of his lifetime, after he had almost spent thirty years
of his best days of youth sufficing himself to one old wife — Khadijah
and later on to Sawdah, was in no way an overwhelming lustful desire to
be satisfied through such a number of wives. These marriages were in fact
motivated by aims and purposes much more glorious and greater than what
normal marriages usually aim at.
The tendency of the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) towards establishing
a relationship by marriage with both Abu Bakr and ‘Umar and his marriage
to ‘Aishah and Hafsah — and getting his daughter Fatimah married to ‘Ali
bin Abi Talib, and the marriage of his two daughters, Ruqaiyah and Umm
Kulthum to ‘Uthman — indicate clearly that he aimed at confirming the
relationship among the four men — whose sacrifices and great achievements
in the cause of Islam are well-known.
Besides this, there was that tradition of the Arabs to honour the in-law
relations. For them a son or a daughter-in-law was a means by which they
sought the consolidation of relationship and affection with various phratries.
Hostility and fights against alliances and affinities would bring an unforgettable
shame, disgrace and degradation to them.
By marrying the Mothers of believers, the Prophet (Peace be upon him)
wanted to demolish or break down the Arab tribes’ enmity to Islam and
extinguish their intense hatred. Umm Salamah was from Bani Makhzum — the
clan of Abu Jahl and Khalid bin Al-Waleed. Her marriage to the Messenger
of Allâh (Peace be upon him) produced good results. Khalid’s deliberately
undecisive attitude at Uhud — for instance — was due to the Messenger’s
marriage to Umm Salamah. Khalid went even further than that, in a short
time he willingly became a keen obedient Muslim.
After the Messenger of Allâh’s marriage to Umm Habibah, Abu Sufyan, her
father, did not encounter him with any sort of hostility. Similarly his
marriage to Juwairiyah and Safiyah made the two tribes stop all sorts
of provocation, aggression or hostility against Islam. Better still, Juwairiyah,
herself, was one of the greatest sources of blessing to her own people.
On the occasion of her marriage to the Prophet (Peace be upon him), his
Companions set a hundred families of her people free. They said: “It is
for their affinity with the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him).” No
need to say what great good impression this gratitude had on everybody’s
soul. One of the greatest motives of all is Allâh’s bidding his Prophet
to educate and purify the souls of people who had known nothing whatsoever
about courtesy, education and culture. He had to teach them to comply
with the necessities of civilization and to contribute to the solidification
and the establishment of a new Islamic society.
An essential fundamental rule of the Muslim society is to prohibit mixing
of men and women. Providing direct education for women, though highly
compelling, is impossible in the light of this Islamic norm. Therefore,
the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had to select some women of different
ages and talents, and indoctrinate them systematically in order to educate
she-bedouins and townswomen, old and young, and thus furnish them with
the instruments of propagating the true faith. The Mothers of believers
[i.e. wives of the Prophet (Peace be upon him)] were in such a convenient
position that they could convey the state of the Prophet (Peace be upon
him) and his affairs to people (men and women). Being educated and taught
the teachings and rules of Islam, his wives, especially those who outlived
him, played a very important role in conveying Prophetic traditions Ahadith
to the Muslims. ‘Aishah, for instance, related a large number of the Prophet’s
deeds and statements.
His marriage to his paternal cousin Zainab bint Jahsh was a peculiar
case which aimed at eradicating a deeply rooted pre-Islamic tradition
— i.e. the adoption of children. In Al-Jahiliyah the Arabs used
to consider an adopted person exactly like a real son or daughter as far
as rights and sanctities are concerned. That Jahiliyah tradition
had been so deeply rooted in their hearts that it was not easy to remove
or uproot it. This tradition in fact affronts the basic principles of
Islam; especially those concerned with marriage, divorce and inheritance
and some other cases, and brought about lots of corruptions and indecencies.
Naturally Islam stands against such deeds, and attempts to remove them
from the Islamic society.
For the eradication of this tradition, Allâh, the Exalted, bid His Messenger
(Peace be upon him) to marry his cousin Zainab bint Jahsh, who was an
ex-wife to Zaid. She was at variance with Zaid to an extent that he intended
to divorce her — that was at the time when the Confederates (Al-Ahzab)
were making an evil alliance against the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be
upon him) and against the Muslims. The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon
him) feared that the hypocrites, the idolaters, and the Jews would make
a propaganda out of it and try to influence some Muslims of weak hearts.
That was why he urged Zaid not to divorce her, in order not to get involved
into that trial.
Undoubtedly this hesitation and partiality were alien to the character
of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). They did not apply to the power of
determination and will with which he had been sent. Allâh, the Exalted,
blamed him for that by saying:
“And (remember) when you said to him [Zaid bin Haritha (May Allah
be pleased with him) — the freed slave of the Prophet (Peace be
upon him) ] on whom Allâh has bestowed grace (by guiding him to
Islam) and you [O Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] have done favour
(by manumitting him), ‘Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allâh.’
But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allâh has already made known
to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allâh
will make manifest, you did fear the people [i.e. Muhammad (Peace
be upon him) ] married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave]
whereas Allâh had a better right that you should fear him.” [33:37]
Finally Zaid divorced Zainab and the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon
him) married her at the time he laid siege to Bani Quraiza. That was after
she had finished her Iddat (i.e. period during which a widow or
a divorcee may not remarry). Allâh Himself had already ordained it, and
so gave him no other alternative. Allâh had even started the marriage
Himself by saying:
“So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced
her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there
may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage
of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire
to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them).” [33:37]
And that was in order to break down the tradition of child adoption in
practice after He had done it in words:
“Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers, that
is more just near Allâh.” [33:5]
“Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] is not the father of any man
among you, but he is the Messenger of Allâh, and the last (end)
of the Prophets.” [33:40]
Lots of deeply-rooted traditions cannot be uprooted or demolished or
even adjusted by mere words. They must be matched and associated with
the action of the advocate of the Message himself.
This could be perceived through the deeds practised by the Muslims at
Al-Hudaibiyah ‘Umrah (Lesser Pilgrimage) during which ‘Urwah bin
Mas‘ud Al-Thaqafi saw certain Muslims tend to pick up any expectoration
that fell down from the Prophet Őáě Çááĺ Úáíĺ ćÓáă . He also saw them
race to the water of his ablution and they almost quarrelled for it. There
were others who competed to pledge allegiance to death and some others
pledged not to flee from (the battlefield). Among those people, were eminent
Companions like ‘Umar and Abu Bak, who although dedicated all their lives
to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and to the cause of Islam, but refused
to carry out the Messenger’s ordres with respect to slaughtering sacrificial
animals after the ratification of Al-Hudaibiyah Peace Treaty, the thing
that perturbed and caused the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to feel anxious.
However, when Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) advised that
he take the initiative and sacrifice his animals, his followers raced
to follow his example; a clear evidence in support of the saying: Actions
speak louder than words, in the process of exterminating a deeply-established
Hypocrites aroused a lot of suspicions and made a broad false propaganda
against that marriage. Their acts and talks about that marriage had ill-effects
on those Muslims whose Faith was still weak, particularly that Zainab
was the fifth wife — and the Noble Qur’ân limited the number up to four
only; Zaid was traditionally his son, and so a father marrying his son’s
divorcee was a heinous sin in the eyes of the Arabians.
Al-Ahzab Surah was revealed to shed full light on the two
issues, i.e. Islam does not recognize adoption of children, and the Prophet
(Peace be upon him) is given (by Allâh) more freedom as regards the number
of wives he can hold than other Muslims in order to achieve noble and
However, the treatment of the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him)
to his wives was of honourable, noble, and superb nature. His wives were
on tops in respect of honour, satisfaction, patience, modesty, and service
(that is to say the performance of housework and marriage duties). Although
the Messenger’s house-life was hard and unbearable, none of his wives
complained. Anas said about the Prophet’s life: “According to my knowledge,
the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) has never tasted a thin flattened
loaf in all his lifetime, nor has he ever seen with his own eyes roasted
‘Aishah said: “Over two months have elapsed — during which we have seen
three crescents — and yet no fire has been kindled in the houses of the
Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) (i.e. they did not cook food).”
“What did you eat to sustain yourselves?” ‘Urwah asked. She said “The
two blacks: dates and water”. Lots of information about the hard life
of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) were told.
In spite of these hardships, straits and adversity of life in the house
of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), none of his wives uttered a word of
complaint worthy of reproach — but once. This exception was required by
human instinctive inclinations. However, it was not so important and consequently
it did not require the decree of a legislative rule. Allâh has given them
an opportunity to choose between two things, as clearly stated in the
“O Prophet [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ]! Say to your wives:
‘If you desire the life of this world, and its glitter, — then come!
I will make a provision for you and set you free in a handsome manner
(divorce). But if you desire Allâh and His Messenger, and the Home
of the Hereafter, then verily, Allâh has prepared for Al-Muhsinat
(good doers) amongst you an enormous reward.’” [33:28,29]
They were so noble and honest that none of them preferred ‘the life of
this world and its glitter’ to the abode in the Hereafter.
Although they were many in number, nothing of the dispute occurrences
that normally happen among co-wives, took place in their houses. Very
few cases could be the only exception; but they were quite normal. Allâh
reproached them for that, so they ceased to do such a thing. This incident
is mentioned in At-Tahreem Chapter:
“O Prophet! Why do you ban (for yourself) that which Allâh has
made lawful to you …” [66:1] (to the end of the fifth verse).
Discussing polygamy — in my opinion — is not a necessity; since a person
who is familiar with the Europeans, and indecent practices, sufferings,
wickedness, their sorrows and distresses, the horrible crimes they commit
in this respect as well as the trials, the disasters that they are involved
in, and which emanate directly from their disregard of the principle of
polygamy form a good reason (to justify the soundness of polygamy). The
distorted picture of life in Europe with the ill-practices featuring it,
could truthfully justify the existence and practice of polygamy. In this,
there are Divine signs for all people possessed of lucid mind.