What Lies Beneath... The Prophet's Marriages
Some critics of Islam, either
because they are unaware of the facts or are biased, revile the Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him), as a self-indulgent libertine.
They accuse him of character failings that are hardly compatible with a person
of an average virtue, let alone with the Prophet, whom Muslims believe to be
God's last Messenger, and the best model for humanity to emulate.
A simple account of these marriages, which are openly discussed in many
biographies and well-authenticated accounts of his sayings and actions, shows
that they were part of a most strictly disciplined life, and another burden
that he bore as God's last Messenger.
The Prophet entered into these marriages due to his role as the Muslims' leader
and guide toward Islamic norms and values. We will explain some of the reasons
behind his marriages and demonstrate that the charges are baseless and false.
The Prophet married his first wife, Khadijah, when he was 25 and had not yet
been called to his future mission. Given the surrounding cultural environment,
not to mention the climate, his youth, and other considerations, it is
remarkable that he enjoyed a reputation for perfect chastity, integrity, and
As soon as he was called to prophet-hood, he acquired enemies who slandered
him. However, none dared to invent something unbelievable. It is important to
realize that his life was founded upon chastity and self-discipline from the
outset, and remained so.
When he was 25 and in his prime, Prophet Muhammad, married Khadijah, a woman 15
years his senior. For 23 years, the couple lived a life of uninterrupted
contentment in perfect fidelity.
In the eighth year of his prophet-hood, however, Khadijah died and the Prophet
had to face raising his children by himself. Even his enemies had to admit that
during all these years they could find no flaw in his moral character.
The Prophet took no other wife while Khadijah was alive, although polygamy was
socially acceptable. He remarried only after he was 55, an age by which very
little real interest and desire for marriage remains. The allegation that these
marriages were due to licentiousness or self-indulgence is thus groundless and
People often ask how a Prophet can be polygamous. There are three points to be
made here. But first, let's recognize that those who continually raise such
questions are atheists, Christians, or Jews who do not have accurate knowledge
of either Islam and religion in general, and so, either deliberately or
mistakenly, confuse right with wrong to deceive others and spread doubt.
Jews and Christians who attack the Prophet forget that the great patriarchs of
the Hebrew race, named as prophets in the Bible and the Quran and revered by
followers of all three faiths as exemplars of moral excellence, all practiced
polygamy — and on a far greater scale than Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon
Here we remember the words of Isaac Taylor, who
spoke at the Church Congress of England, on how
Islam changes the people who accept it:
The virtues which Islam inculcates are temperance, cleanliness, chastity,
justice, fortitude, courage, benevolence, hospitality, veracity and
resignation. ... Islam preaches a practical brotherhood, the social equality of
all Muslims. Slavery is not part of the creed of Islam. Polygamy is a more
difficult question. Moses did not prohibit it. It was practiced by David and it
is not directly forbidden in the New Testament.
Muhammad limited the unbounded license of polygamy. It is the exception rather
than the rule.
Polygamy did not originate with the Muslims. Furthermore, in the case of the
Prophet, from the viewpoint of its function within the mission of prophethood,
polygamy (or, more strictly, polygyny) had far more significance than people
In a sense, polygamy was a necessity for the Prophet for through it he
established the statutes and norms of Muslim family law.
Religion cannot be excluded from private spousal relations or from matters
known only by one's spouse.
Therefore, there must be women who can give clear instruction and advice,
rather than hints and innuendoes, so that everything is understood. These
chaste and virtuous women conveyed and explained the norms and rules governing
Muslim private life.
Since these women were of all ages, the Islamic requirements and norms could be
portrayed in relation to their different life stages and experiences. These
provisions were learned and applied within the Prophet's household first, and
then passed on to other Muslims by his wives.
Each wife was from a different clan or tribe. This allowed the Prophet, to
establish bonds of kinship and affinity throughout the community. As a result,
a profound attachment to him spread among many diverse people, thereby creating
and securing equality, brotherhood, and sisterhood in a most practical way and
on the basis of religion.
Each wife, both during the Prophet's life and after his death, was of great
benefit and service to Islam. Each one conveyed and interpreted his message to
her clan: all of the outer and inner experiences, qualities, manners, and faith
of the man whose life, in all its public and intimate details, embodied the Quran.
In this way, all clan members learned about the Quran, Hadith,
tafsir (interpretation and commentary on the Qur'an),
and fiqh (understanding of the Islamic law), and so became fully aware of
Islam's essence and spirit.
Polygamy also allowed Prophet Muhammad to establish ties of kinship
throughoutArabia. As a result, he was free to move and be accepted as a member
in each family, for their members regarded him as one of their own.
Given such a relationship, they were not shy to ask him directly about the
affairs of this life and the Hereafter. The tribes also benefited collectively
from this proximity, considered themselves fortunate, and took pride in that
relationship. Some of these tribes were the Umayyads
(through Umm Habibah), the Hashimites (through Zainab bint Jahsh), and the Banu Makhzum (through Umm Salama).
What we have said so far is general and could, in some respects, be true of all
Prophets. In the second part we will discuss the lives of the Prophet's wives,
known to Muslims as the mothers of the believers, not in the order of the marriages
but in a different perspective.
عليكم و رحمة
الله و بركاته
With Kind Regards
The sayings of our beloved
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ‘Acquiring (religious) knowledge in
company for an hour in the night is better than spending the whole night in
< Al-Tirmidhi; Narrated: Abdullah ibn Abbas ® >