Aspects of Wisdom in Prophet Muhammad’s Multiple Marriages


Waqar Akbar Cheema


1. Introduction

Non-Muslims often ask as to why the Prophet Muhammad had more wives than allowed for other Muslim men.[1] Some of them use this to allege that it was his sensual passion that made the Prophet of Islam not merely polygamous it also got him to break the laws he gave to his own people. A lot has been written in response to this incredulous allegation by Muslims over the past century and a half. In the instant write-up whereas principle Muslim response is recounted, an effort is made to substantiate the points using the statements of some of the better read orientalists wherein they acknowledged facts on the issue. This is done not under the impression that orientalist camp has more solid approach or their research means more to this author rather this is done to help a) non-Muslims overcome the suggestion that these are only followers of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, who can read these facts in his life, and b) and the Muslims who tend to be awed by the ‘grey-beards’ of the West.

2. Fact sheet on the marital life of the Prophet

Before proceeding to examine the allegations levied against the Prophet with regard to his marital life and to highlight aspects of wisdom in his marriages it is important to have a look at related facts:

Basic Facts on the Prophet’s Marriages


3. Prophet was no libertine

Unable to grasp the reality of the Prophet’s polygamous marital life many of the Westerners and others besides allege or fall for the impression that the Prophet gave into physical sensations and therefore, married a number of women. A careful reading of the Prophet’s life proves quite the contrary.

3.1 His chaste youth

Before he first married at the age of twenty-five the Prophet lived a chaste youth. There was nothing even an enemy could take exception to. It was his noble and unblemished character that made Khadija make marriage proposal to the Prophet (ﷺ). It is reported that addressing the Prophet (ﷺ) she said: “O son of my uncle I like you because of our relationship and your high reputation among your people, your trustworthiness and good character and truthfulness.[2]

3.2 His austere lifestyle

Though the Prophet (ﷺ) had all the authority over his people and their resources he lead a simple austere life. His contented and ascetic way of life[3] in itself is a strong argument against any suggestion of sensualist inclinations.

Stanely Lane-Poole (d. 1931) wrote;

… to say that Mohammad was a voluptuary is false. The simple austerity of his daily life, to the very last, his hard mat for sleeping on, his plain food, his self-imposed menial work, point him out as an ascetic rather than a voluptuary.[4]

3.2 He turned down offer to marry ten women of his choice

When the Quraish offered him to marry ten women of his choice he did not even give it a thought and plainly asked if they were over with their attempted bargain and relayed to them a befitting response though Qur’an. As a representative of Quraish ‘Utbah bin Rabi‘ah approached the Prophet and said:

إن كان إنما بك الباءة ، فاختر أي نساء قريش فلنزوجك عشرا ، وإن كان إنما بك الحاجة ، جمعنا لك حتى تكون أغنى قريش رجلا واحدا ، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : أفرغت ؟ قال : نعم ، فقرأ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم{حم تنزيل من الرحمن الرحيم} حتى بلغ : {فإن أعرضوا فقل أنذرتكم صاعقة مثل صاعقة عاد وثمود } ، فقال له عتبة : حسبك حسبك ، ما عندك غير هذا ؟ قال : لا

If you wish to marry select any of the women of Quraish. We will marry you to ten women. If you have material needs we will gather the wealth for you until you are the single most wealthy person among the Quraish, The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Are you done with your talk?” He said, “Yes.” Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) then recited (verses from Qur’an – Chapter 41): “In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful. Ha-Mim, This is a revelation from the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful” upto “So, if they turn away, then say, I have warned you of a calamity like the calamity of Ad and Thamud. (v. 13)” At this ‘Utbah said to him, ‘Stop! Stop! Have you something other to say?” The Prophet replied, “No!”[5]

3.3 He spent his youth with one wife fifteen-years older

As reflected in the fact-sheet above the Prophet married Khadija when he was twenty-five and she was forty,[6] and he did not marry any other woman till her death twenty-five years later. Grief stricken with her demise he did not consummate marriage with Sawda, another mature lady older to him, for a couple of years. He, we thus see, spent his entire youth with a woman who had been widowed twice and was considerably older to him. This fact is enough to dump all the trash-talk about his polygamous status towards the end of his life.

John Davenport (d. 1877) put this in strong rhetoric;

… and it may then be asked, is it likely that a very sensual man, of a country where polygamy was a common practice, should be contented for five-and-twenty years with one wife, she being fifteen years older than himself;[?][7]

Another European, Thomas Carlyle (d. 1881), commented:

Mahomet [sic] himself, after all that can be said about him, was not a sensual man. We shall err widely if we consider this man as a common voluptuary, intent mainly on base enjoyments, — nay on enjoyments of any kind.[8]

Further he said:

In Medina, Mahomet [sic] had less and less leisure time and must often have been mentally and physically exhausted, especially as he was in his fifties and latterly over sixty. These are not the circumstances under which men are interested in the indulgence of extreme sexuality.

The assumption that he was a sensualist because he had eleven wives when he died at the age of sixty-two is therefore not absolutely a foregone conclusion, as many have assumed. This is particularly so in view of the fact that he had only one wife until he was fifty.[9]

John Bagot Glubb (d. 1986) admitted this fact in the following words;

It is, however, worthy to note that of all his wives, only Aisha was a virgin when he married her. Zainab bint Jahash was a divorced wife and all the rest were widows, some of them, it would seem, not particularly attractive. Moreover the Apostle had married Khadija when he was twenty-five and she was a widow considerably older than he was. He had remained completely faithful to her for twenty-four years until her death.[10]

That Prophet’s (ﷺ) love for Khadija was genuine and persistent to the point that her memory evoked jealousy of his other wives even years after her passing away.

عن عائشة رضي الله عنها، قالت: ما غرت على أحد من نساء النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، ما غرت على خديجة، وما رأيتها، ولكن كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يكثر ذكرها، وربما ذبح الشاة ثم يقطعها أعضاء، ثم يبعثها في صدائق خديجة، فربما قلت له: كأنه لم يكن في الدنيا امرأة إلا خديجة، فيقول «إنها كانت، وكانت، وكان لي منها ولد»

Narrated ‘Aisha: I did not feel jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) as much as I did of Khadija though I did not see her, but the Prophet (ﷺ) used to mention her very often, and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadija. When I sometimes said to him, “(You remember Khadija in such a way) as if there had been no woman on earth except Khadija,” he would say, “Khadija was such-and-such, and with her I had children.”[10a]

Stanely Lane Poole, who had by no means been sympathetic to the Prophet of Islam, captured this fact eloquently:

An attempt has been made to explain away Mohammad’s fidelity to Khadija, by adducing the motive of pecuniary prudence. Mohammad, they say, was a poor man, Khadija rich and powerfully connected; any affaire de coeur on the husband’s part would have been followed by a divorce and the simultaneous loss of property and position. It is hardly necessary to point out that the fear of poverty — a matter of little consequence in Arabia and at that time — would not restrain a really sensual man for five-and- twenty years; especially when it is by no means certain that Khadija, who loved him with all her heart in a motherly sort of way, would have sought a divorce for any cause soever. And this explanation leaves Mohammad’s loving remembrance of his old wife unaccounted for. If her money alone had curbed him for twenty-five years, one would expect him at her death to throw off the cloak, thank Heaven for the deliverance, and enter at once upon the rake’s progress. He does none of those things.[11]

Following her death he married ‘Aisha and Sawda; the former to cement his relation with his life-long companion Abu Bakr and the later to have someone mature to look after his family who herself needed support after having been widowed. [12]

4. Wisdom in Prophet’s () polygamous life

Carefully studying and analyzing the life details of the Prophet (ﷺ) we get to know many factors showing how wise it was to marry the women he did especially considering the timing of each marriage.

4.1 Political and strategic aspects

A number of Prophet’s marriages had political benefits as they brought the tribes of his wives closer to him and thus with a significant positive impact for the cause of Islam during his lifetime.[13] Five of his marriages were solemnized within a span of only two years between Sha‘ban 5/January 627 and Dhu al-Qa‘da 7/March 629. All but one of these marriages had immediate political significance.

An important observation in this regard is that the Prophet (ﷺ) married a number of Quraishi women. Eight of his wives were from Quraish and he married them all before the Conquest of Makkah.

The marriages also further bolstered the Prophet’s (ﷺ) relations to his closest companions. While he married the daughters of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, he married his own daughters to ‘Uthman and ‘Ali.[14]

Karen Armstrong writes:

In Medina, Muhammad became a great sayyid (chief), and was expected to have a large harem, but most of these marriages were politically motivated. As he formed his new supertribe, he was eager to forge marriage ties with some of his closest companions, to bind them closer together. His favourite new wife was Aisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, and he also married Hafsah, the daughter of Umar ibn al-Khattab. He married two of his daughters to Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib. Many of his other wives were older women, who were without protectors or were related to the chiefs of those tribes who became the allies of the ummah.[15]

Sawdah was a cousin and sister-in-law of the influential Quraish leader Suhail b. ‘Amr,[16] which has led some to surmise that in marrying her;

Muhammad may also have hoped to win over Suhayl, who was still undecided about the revelations.[17]

Marriage with Juwairiya, the daughter of chief of Banu Mustaliq was an extraordinary strategic feat. While Mustaliq were seeking to join the confederates against Muslim Madina the Prophet (ﷺ) made a preemptive strike and took Mustaliq by surprise in Sha‘ban 5/January 627. The Bedouins were quickly overcome and their troops along with their families were captured. Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah (d. 2002) cogently explained the significance of marriage in this backdrop:

A few hours later, we see that the enemy becomes one of Prophet Muhammad’s most devoted friends. The reason is the following: the Prophet wanted to win their co-operation at the critical hour, without however displeasing his companions. After the distribution of the booty, (cattle, women, etc.), the Prophet bought the daughter of the defeated chief, set her free and wedded her. To keep as slaves the near relatives of the Prophet seemed abominable to the Muslims; and none hesitated to renounce his booty. Because of this unexpected liberation of two hundred families, the Mustaliqites quickly forgot their ten men who had been killed, and embraced Islam.[18]

John Bagot Glubb writes;

this was a purely political marriage, for it won over Beni Mustaliq to Islam more successfully than a battle.[19]

Lesley Hazleton observes:

Muhammad had married Juwayriya not for her beauty but in an overture to her conquered tribe. It was a gesture of alliance, a declaration that enmity between them was a thing of the past, and if it was not the one the Mustaliq might have chosen, it was certainly one they now willingly accepted.[20]

The Prophet’s (ﷺ) marriage with Umm Habiba helped in bringing her father Abu Sufyan closer to Islam. As the leader of Quraish he never adopted a hostile posture towards Islam after the Prophet (ﷺ) married her daughter who had become a Muslim very early. When he learnt of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) marriage with his daughter Abu Sufyan remarked:

ذلك الفحل لا يقرع أنفه

He is a match not to be rejected.[21]

William Muir acknowledged this motive;

[The Prophet] perhaps farther hoped to make Abu Sofian, the father of Omm Habiba, more favourible to his cause.[22]

John Bagot Glubb likewise noted;

He took the trouble to write to the Emperor of Abyssinia to send him Umm Habeeba to be his bride. If his object had been merely to acquire another woman, there must have been hundreds of more attractive brides available in Arabia. Possibly he sent for Umm Habeeba as a bridge to establish relations with Abu Sofian who, he had noticed, was now adopting a more conciliatory attitude.[23]

Hazleton too notes:

[S]hortly after his return to Medina, Muhammad married his ninth wife, the widowed Umm Habiba, who was the daughter of none other than the leader of the Meccan council, abu-Sufyan. She had defied her father by accepting islam [sic] early on, but the time for defiance was long past. This was about rapprochement. However quietly given, abu-Sufyan’s consent to his daughter’s marriage now bound him to Muhammad.[24]

A similar outcome has been suggested for the marriage of Zainab bt. Khuzaima as well.[25]

Whereas, his marriage to Umm Salama from the Makhzum clan of Quraish had the immediate yet equally factual and likewise great impression of helping a widow with children eventually it even helped Banu Makhzum, militarily the most significant clan of Qurasih, to overcome their vehemence against Islam.

Khalid b. Walid was from Makhzum. Besides Umm Salama of his own tribe the Prophet’s (ﷺ) marriage with Maimuna who happened to be his maternal aunt[26] has been considered one of the factors in his melting down in favour of Islam. Note that Khalid accepted Islam a few months after Prophet’s marriage with Maimuna.[27] Mentioning of Prophet’s marriage with Maimuna, Washington Irving (d. 1859) wrote:

This was doubtless another marriage of policy, for Maimuna was fifty-one years of age[28], and a widow, but the connexion gained him two powerful proselytes. One was Khaled Ibn al Waled, a nephew of the widow, an intrepid warrior … The other proselyte was Khaled’s friend Amrul Ibn al Aass;[29]

In a way marriage Safiyya and proposal for Raihana also helped woo the Jews in some degree. Both were from the tribe of Nadir and these unions proved a great success in containing a considerable faction of the Jews in Northern Arabia as they did not pose any real threat after the Battle of Khyber.
Montgomery Watt wrote;

There may have been political motives in the unions with the Jewesses Safiyah and Rayhana.[30]

Lesley Hazleton, likewise, notes after mentioning the fate of Quraiza that unlike other women of the tribe,

Raihana received very different treatment. Born into the Nadir tribe, she had married into the Qureyz, and this double affiliation may have been why Muhammad singled her out.[31]

About Safiya she remarks:

Considering what they might have faced, the Khaybar tribes willing agreed: they accepted Muhammad’s political authority and his protection, pledged their support, and surrendered half their annual income in taxes to Medina. Once again the deal was sealed with marriage. Safiya, a beautiful seventeen-year-old whose father, was the leading chief of Khaybar, became not only Muhammad’s eighth wife, but his second Jewish one.[32]

In fact the Prophet (ﷺ) also meant to convey that he was looking to move on and forget the bloodshed that had taken place. In the words of Karen Armstrong, “The marriage expressed the attitude of reconciliation and forgiveness that he was trying to promote; it was time to lay aside the hatred and bloodshed of the past.[33]

Towards the end of his life the Prophet (ﷺ) solemnized marriages with women of other tribes. Verifiable reports confirm that he solemnized or proposed marriages with important Arab tribes such as Kinda, Sulaim, and Kilab.[34]

4.2 Transmission of knowledge

The Prophet’s multiple marriages had a huge educational significance for the Muslim community as the Prophet’s (ﷺ) wives remembered and related a lot of information about his deeds and words.[35] Both during and after the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) his wives were the only way the Muslims especially the women could learn of the Prophet’s model in family and private life. During the life of the Prophet there were times when the Prophet (ﷺ) was asked questions about purification and personal hygiene that he could not answer due to their very nature. Following narration mentions such an instance showing how ‘Aisha explained a matter to the questioner when the Prophet (ﷺ) could not.

عن عائشة، أن امرأة من الأنصار قالت للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: كيف أغتسل من المحيض؟ قال: «خذي فرصة ممسكة، فتوضئي ثلاثا» ثم إن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم استحيا، فأعرض بوجهه، أو قال: «توضئي بها» فأخذتها فجذبتها، فأخبرتها بما يريد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم

Narrated ‘Aisha: An Ansari woman asked the Prophet (ﷺ) how to take a bath after finishing from the menses. He replied, “Take a piece a cloth perfumed with musk and clean with it thrice.” The Prophet (ﷺ) felt shy and turned his face. So I pulled her to me and told her what the Prophet (ﷺ) meant.[36]

Similarly, other wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) were asked about rulings related to intimate matters between spouses and about menstruation etc.[37]

Likewise, the details of Prophet’s (ﷺ) conduct in sleep,[38] about matters related to ritual purity, and his conduct about late night prayers[39] and morning prayers[40] would not have come down to us were it not for the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) to relay them to us.

In this connection it is important to highlight that many a times the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) corrected misconceptions of the other companions with regards to Prophet’s (ﷺ) role model on private affairs especially with their connection to ritual purity, prayers, and other acts of worship. Abu Huraira, for instance, is reported to have related that one who woke up in the state of ritual impurity could not fast if he were not to have a bath before morning. However, when asked both Umm Salama and ‘Aisha testified that at times the Prophet (ﷺ) would wake up in the state of ritual impurity and start his fast. When this fact was mentioned to Abu Huraira he conceded, “They know better.”[41]

In a similar incident when companions differed as to what obligates taking bath after intimacy Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari came to ask ‘Aisha and when she informed him he remarked, “I shall never ask anyone about this after you.[42]

When ‘Aisha learnt that ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr opined that women must untie their hair while taking bath for ritual purity she made the rejoinder, “How strange it is for Ibn ‘Amr that he orders the women to undo the braids of their head while taking a bath; why does he not order them to shave their heads?”[43] Umm Salama had also put this question to the Prophet (ﷺ) who had allowed her to simply put water on her head thrice without having to undo the braids.[44]

Some information bearing on rulings related to essential ritual acts of worship could not have come except through the Prophet’s wives like the fact that he kissed his wives while in the state of fasting signifying that it did not invalidate the fast. This was related by ‘Aisha,[45] Hafsa,[46] Umm Salama,[47] and Umm Habiba,[48] all confirming each other’s account and thereby highlighting the significance of multiple testimonies on issues personal in nature but of general concern.

Here one must remember that none of the Prophet’s male children lived to maturity and only one of his daughters, Fatimah lived after his death and that too barely for six months. In such a situation it would have been virtually a calamity for the Muslim community if the Prophet (ﷺ) did not have multiple wives, as many teachings would have remained veiled from us in that case.

4.3 Social motives and role model

A number of Prophet’s (ﷺ) marriages had social motives along with the purpose of setting a role model on social conduct for the believing community.

The Prophet (ﷺ) married five widows whose husbands had died in the early struggle of Islam.

Sawdah’s husband Sukran b. ‘Amr was an early convert who had migrated to Abyssinia and died on return to Makkah.[49]

Hafsa was the widow of Khunais b. Hudhafa, another early convert who had migrated to Abyssinia as well. He participated in the Battle of Badr and was fatally wounded.[50] Subsequently, Hafsa’s father ‘Umar b. Khattab offered her hand to ‘Uthman but he turned down the proposal. It was at this eve that the Prophet (ﷺ) married Hafsa when she needed support. [51]

Zainab bt. Khuzaima was also a widow. She was married to ‘Ubaida b. al-Harith who was among the martyrs of Badr.[52] The Prophet (ﷺ) eventually married her.

Umm Salama and her husband Abu Salama were among early converts and had migrated to Abyssinia twice before migrating to Madina.[53] The family had together suffered a lot for the cause of Islam. In Jumada-II 4/November 625 Abu Salama died of injuries he had sustained in a campaign.[54] Umm Salama loved Abu Salama a lot and grieved[55] as to how she would find someone like him much less someone better. When the Prophet (ﷺ) sent her the proposal she got the answer.[56] Thus, we see, the Prophet (ﷺ) helped the widow of his late foster brother[57] when she considered herself desolate.[58]

Similarly, Umm Habiba had become a widow in faraway Abyssinia when the Prophet (ﷺ) married her in absentia.[59]

We thus see the Prophet (ﷺ) marrying widows and that too in such a quick succession at an age one would not generally be in need of it.[60]

The Prophet’s (ﷺ) marriage with Zainab bt. Jahsh was specifically ordered by Allah to uproot the baseless Arab custom of equating adopted sons to biological sons whose divorcee could not be married.[61] Montgomery Watt notes, “.. a social motive may have outweighed the political one in her case – to show that Muhammad had broken with old taboos.[62]

Whereas, the Prophet (ﷺ) had married a woman older than himself in his youth and even later he wedded widows and divorcees mature if not always advanced in age, he married young ‘Aisha as well in order to provide a role model for the posterity for conduct with spouses from different age groups. Thus, we see that on one hand even when Sawda had become too old to the point that she felt no need for intimacy and had given up her night turn the Prophet (ﷺ) showed her affection,[63] and on the other hand he catered for the youthful passions of ‘Aisha to the point that he used to call her friends to play with her who would escape when the Prophet (ﷺ) came to her house,[64] and as she would relate:

والله لقد رأيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقوم على باب حجرتي، والحبشة يلعبون بحرابهم، في مسجد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، يسترني بردائه، لكي أنظر إلى لعبهم، ثم يقوم من أجلي، حتى أكون أنا التي أنصرف، فاقدروا قدر الجارية الحديثة السن، حريصة على اللهو

By Allah, I remember the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) standing on the door of my apartment screening me with his mantle enabling me to see the sport of the Abyssinians as they played with their daggers in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). He kept standing for my sake till I was satiated and then I went back; and thus you can well imagine how long a girl tender of age who is fond of sports (could have watched it).[65]

Likewise, the Prophet (ﷺ) married Juwairiya and Safiyya who were daughters of the chiefs of their respective tribes. Though taken as prisoners accordingly to the de facto law of that era, the Prophet (ﷺ) instead of leaving them as slaves with ordinary Muslims offered them to be married to him which they readily accepted. Besides other factors the Prophet (ﷺ) sought to compensate for their loss and got them to an even more prestigious status among the community they had thus joined. This was in accordance with his own general instruction, “Treat the people according to their ranks.[66]

5. Polygamy among Biblical Prophets

In practicing polygamy Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was no different than the previous prophets mentioned in the Bible like Abraham,[67] Jacob,[68] David,[69] Solomon,[70] etc.

In fact Christian theologians have also argued that Biblical piety practiced polygamy for prudential reasons. Martin Luther (d. 1546), for instances, wrote:

The polygamy of the patriarchs, Gideon, David, Solomon & c., was a matter of necessity, not of libertinism.[71]

If such a claim is tenable while we have hardly any idea about the circumstances of the marriages of these great men, there is no fathomable reason why a just person would not see and appreciate the aspects of wisdom evident in the marriages of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).

6. Conclusion

All the above details prove that his marriages were not out of his physical desires but for other motives undoubtedly both expeditious and noble from the perspective of the Muslim community as evident from their outcomes.


Notes & References:

[1] For details see our article, Marriage Related Privileges of the Prophet: A Study in Chronology

[2] Ibn Hisham, ‘Abd al-Malik, Sirah al-Nabawiyya, Edited Mustafa Saqa, (Cairo: Mustafa Babi, 1955) Vol.1, 82; translated in Guillaume, Alfred, The Life of Muhammad – Translation of [Ibn] Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) 82

[3] ‘Umar b. Khattab recounted how he saw the Prophet (ﷺ) well after the Conquest of Makkah: ‘Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) smiled while he was lying on a mat made of palm tree leaves with nothing between him and the mat. Underneath his head there was a leather pillow stuffed with palm fibres, and leaves of a saut tree were piled at his feet, and above his head hung a few water skins. On seeing the marks of the mat imprinted on his side, I wept. He said.’ ‘Why are you weeping?’ I replied, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Caesar and Khosrow are leading the life (i.e. luxurious life) while you, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) though you are, are living in destitute.” The Prophet (ﷺ) then replied. ‘Won’t you be satisfied that they enjoy this world and we the Hereafter?’” See, Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Sahih, (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 2007) Hadith 4913

[4] Lane-Poole, Stanley, Studies in a Mosque, (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1883) 77

[5] Ibn Abi Shaibah, al-Musannaf, Edited by Muhammad ‘Awwamah (Beirut: Dar Qurtaba, 2006) Hadith 37715; ‘Abd b. Humaid, al-Muntakhab min Musnad ‘Abd b. Humaid, (Riyadh: Dar Bilnisia, 2002) Vol.2, 187; see also al-Albani, Sahih al-Sirah al-Nabawiyya, (Amman: Maktaba al-Islamiya, 1421 AH) 159-162

[6] For details see our article, The Age of Khadija at the Time of her Marriage with the Prophet

[7] Davenport, John, An Apology for Muhammed and the Koran, (London: J. Davy & Sons, n.d.) 26

[8] Carlyle, Thomas, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, (London, Champan and Hall, 1840) 65

[9] Ibid., 239

[10] Glubb, John Bagot, The Life and Times of Muhammad, (New York: Stein And Day, 1971) 237

[10a]  Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 3818

[11] Lane Poole, Stanley, Studies in a Mosque, 79

[12] Lesley Lazleton refers to her as a “hefty middle aged matron.” See, Hazleton, Lesley, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, (London: Atlantic Books, 2013) 222-223. See also, Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007) 93

[13] Margoliouth, D.S., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Article: Muhammad (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1915) Vol.8, 879

[14] Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, 213-214, 273

[15] Armstrong, Karen, Islam: A Short History, (New York: Modern Library, 2000) 15

[16] Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad, Kitab al-Siyar wa al-Maghazi, Edited by Suhail Zakar (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 1978) 254

[17] Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, 93

[18] Hamidullah, Dr. Muhammad, The Life and Work of the Prophet of Islam, Translated by Dr. Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi, (New Delhi: Adam Publishers, 2007) 183

[19] Glubb, The Life and Times of Muhammad, 263

[20] Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, 223; see also Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, 159

[21] Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, (Beirut: DKI, 1990) Vol.8, 79; whereas Ibn Sa‘d brings it as a statement of al-Zuhri’s student ‘Abdul Wahid b. Abi ‘Awn (d. 144/761-762) al-Maqrizi (d. 845/1441) assures us that it comes through al-Zuhri on the authority of ‘Urwah b. Zubair (d. 94/712-713). See al-Maqrizi, Ahmad bin ‘Ali, Imta’ al-Asma’, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiya, 1999) Vol.6, 66; see also Al-Jazari, Ibn al-Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 1989) Vol.6, 116

 The actual Arabic expression used here literally means, “That stallion’s nose is not to be restrained.” It has been thus explained, “One would bring a thoroughbred camel mare to someone who had a stallion and ask him to have his stallion service the mare, but if he led out a stallion with no pedigree, one would strike it on the nose to signify that one did not want it.” See, al-Afriqi, Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-‘Arab, (Beirut: Dar al-Sader, 1414 AH) Vol.8, 264; translated in Fishbein, Michael, The History of al-Tabari – Volume VIII – The Victory of Islam, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997) 110 (note 467)

[22] Muir, William, The Life of Mahomet, (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1861) Vol.4, 59; see also, Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, 180-181

[23] Glubb, The Life and Times of Muhammad, 304

[24] Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, 249

[25] Martin Ling after mentioning the marriage noted, “it was doubtless in connection with this new alliance that the Prophet now received a visit from Abu Bara’, the ageing chief of Zaynab’s tribe.” Lings, Martin, Muhammad: His Life based on the Earliest Sources, (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 2009) 201; Karen Armstrong also noted the link but fell under the wrong impression that Abu Bara’ was Zainab’s father. See, Armstrong, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, 136-137, 211

[26] Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 5391

[27] The Prophet (ﷺ) married Maimuna in Dhu al-Qa‘da 7/March 629 and Khalid b. al-Walid, according to his own statement, reached Madina on Safar 1, 8/May 31, 629 (Ibn Sa‘d, Vol.4. 190; Vol.7, 277)

[28] She was not fifty-one at the time of marriage, rather she died in the year 51 AH i.e. 671. At the time of her marriage she was 36. See our article, Basic Facts on the Prophet’s Marriages

[29] Irving, Washington, The Life of Mahomet, (Leipzig: Bernhard Tachnitz, 1850) 183;

Lesley Hazleton also noted this connection: “Maymuna was the aunt of one of Mecca’s top military commanders, Khalid, and when Muhammad and his followers departed at the end of the third day, Khalid and another senior commander, joined them” See, Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, 248

[30] Watt, Montgomery, Muhammad at Medina, (London: Oxford University Press, 1956) 288

[31] Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, 235

[32] Ibid., 246-247

[33] Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, 180

[34] For details see our article, Prophet’s Marital Life: Unconsummated Marriages, Unmaterialized Proposals

[35] One of the youngest companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) Mahmud b. Labid (d. 97/715) said: “Prophet’s wives remembered a large number of hadith reports.” See, Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.2, 286

[36] Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Sahih, Hadith 315

[37] Safiyya, for instance, was asked such questions by women from Kufa on her return from Hajj; see Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2001) Hadith 26855; Ibn Abi Shaibah, al-Musannaf, Hadith 24291

[38] Umm Habiba: The Prophet (ﷺ) would pray in the same dress in which he slept with his wives as long as there was no impurity on it. Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 26760

Aisha: The Prophet (ﷺ) used to recite Surah al-Zumr and Surah al-Asra/Bani Isra’il before sleeping. Al-Tirmidhi, al-Jami‘ al-Kabir, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2009) Hadith 3405

‘Aisha: When the Prophet (ﷺ) sought to sleep in the state of ritual impurity he would make wudu’. Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 2007) Hadith 305-21

[39] The Prophet (ﷺ) would pray at night while his wives would be asleep between him and the qibla or by his side. Related by ‘Aisha (al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 515/ Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 514-274) and Maimuna (al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 518)

[40] That he would habitually take some rest after praying the two rak‘ah sunnah of fajr and before moving to the mosque for congregational prayers; Related by ‘Aisha (al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 1160/ Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 743-133) and that these two rak‘ahs would be short. Related by Hafsa (al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 618) and ‘Aisha (al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 619)

[41] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 26630, 26661-2; classified as sahih by Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut

[42] Malik b. Anas, al-Muwatta, (Abu Dhabi, Moassasah Zayd bin Nahyan, 2005) Hadith 145

[43] Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 331-59

[44] Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 330-58

[45] Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 1928

[46] Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 1107-73; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 26445-48

[47] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 26498, 26500

[48] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 26762

[49] Ibn Hisham, ‘Abd al-Malik, Sirah al-Nabawiyya, Edited Mustafa Saqa, (Cairo: Mustafa Babi, 1955) Vol.1, 368; Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 42

[50] Ibn Hisham, Sirah al-Nabawiyya, Vol.1, 256, 328, 684; Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.3, 300;

[51] Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 4005

[52] Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 91; al-Zuhri says after ‘Ubaida she was married to ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh who fell in Uhud; One report says she was then married to ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh who fell in the Battle of Uhud (Al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, (Beirut: DKI, 1990) Hadith 6804), but it is not tenable for it was reported by al-Zuhri (d. 124/742) and no other authority corroborated his account, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Isti‘ab fi Ma‘rifat al-Ashab, (Beirut: Dar al-Jil, 1992) Vol.4, 1853.

 The problem with this report is that while ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh died in Battle of Uhud how could the Prophet (ﷺ) marry his widow before his death as authorities including al-Zuhri agree that the Battle of Uhud happened in Shawwal 3/March 625. See, al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, Dala’il al-Nubuwwah, (Beirut: DKI, 1405 AH) Vol.3, 206

Assuming al-Zuhri’s report that Zainab had been married to ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh to be true the Prophet (ﷺ) could not have married Zainab until the passing of her waiting period (‘iddah) i.e. late Muharram 4/July 625. Al-Zurqani observing this anomaly suggests that perhaps Zainab was pregnant when ‘Abdullah died and had miscarriage soon afterwards and the Prophet (ﷺ) married her then, al-Zurqani, Sharh ‘ala Mawahib al-Laduniya, (Beirut: DKI, 1996) Vol.4, 416. Al-Zurqani’s reconciliation, therefore, works with the assumption that the Prophet (ﷺ) married her towards the very end of year 3 AH. But as other authorities such as al-Muttalib b. Hantab (d.  after 120/738) and Qudama [b. Musa] (d. 153/770) agree that the marriage took place in Ramadan 3 AH/Feb. 625  i.e. before the Battle of Uhud, it is safe to discard al-Zuhri’s report, who in any case was no eye-witness either. Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 91; Zubair b. al-Bakkar, al-Muntakhab min Kitab Azwaj al-Nabi, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 1403 AH) 42; see also, Khalifa bin Khayyat, at-Tarikh, (Beirut: Resalah publications, 1397 AH) 66; al-Mas‘udi, Abu al-Hussan, al-Tanbih wa al-Ashraf, (Cairo: Dar al-Sawi, n.d.) 210-211; Bali, Wahid b. ‘Abdul Salam, al-Khulasa al-Bahiyya fi Tartib al-Ahdath al-Sirah al-Nabawiyya, (Cairo: Dar Ibn Rajab, 2003) 37

[53] Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.3, 181; Vol.8, 69

[54] Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.3, 182

[55] Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 992-10

[56] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 16344; Hazleton, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, 222

[57] Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 5101, 5107

[58] Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, 141

[59] Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 76-77

For more on her struggle and steadfastness on Islam and a related discussion see, Prohibiting ‘Ali from a Legal Marriage: Alleged Inconsistency of the Prophet

[60] Marriage with Zainab bt. Khuzaima happened only twenty days after marriage with Hafsa. See, Al-Dainawari, Ibn Qutaiba, al-Ma‘arif, (Cairo: General Egyptian Book Org., 1992) 158

[61] For a critical analysis of reports about the context of this marriage see our article, Background to Prophet’s Marriage with Zainab

[62] Watt, Montgomery, Muhammad at Medina, 288

[63] For details see our article, The Prophet’s conduct with his wife Sawdah: The issue of divorce (Section 6)

[64] Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 6130

For more on this marriage see our forthcoming articles, Summing Up the Issue of Prophet’s Marriage with ‘Aisha & Dealing with Revisionists’ Contentions on the Age of ‘Aisha

[65] Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 892-18

[66] Al-Sijistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, Edited by Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut (Beirut: Al-Resalah Publishers, 2009) Hadith 4842; classified as hasan by Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut. A number of scholars following Abu Dawud held that there is a break in its chain of narrators between ‘Aisha and Maimun b. Abi Shabib but others do not consider it a valid objection. See, Ibn Salah, Siyanah Sahih Muslim, (Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 1408 AH) 84. Moreover, there are corroborating isnad for this report mentioned by al-Arna’ut.

[67] According to Bible he had three wives; Hagar (Gen. 16:4), Sarah (Gen. 11:29) and Ketura (Gen. 25:1

[68] He had four wives as mentioned in the Bible; Leah (Gen. 29:23), Rachel (Gen. 29:28), Zilpah (Gen. 30:9) and Bilhah (Gen. 30:3)

[69] The Bible, 2Samuel 5:13; 1Chronicles 3:1-9

[70] He was said to have more than seven hundred (700) wives and three hundred (300) concubines. See The Bible, 1Kings 11:3; for a discussion on a related hadith see our article, Hadith on Prophet Sulayman Visiting Multiple Wives in a Single Night

[71] Luther, Martin, Table Talk, (DCCXLII) Translated by William Hazlitt, (London: Bell & Daldy, 1872) 304

About the author

Waqar Akbar Cheema


  • If Prophet Mohammed was so pious why did Swada get the doubt he may divorce her and she give up her night to Aisha. Is the need of wife only sexual. If Swada proposed to sacrifice her day to Aisha , couldn’t prophet Mohammed say not to worry about it and still be with her. She wad one of the first few converts . Was it acting fair to all his wives. Just because Swada was old Prophet was ready to let go of her. She is the one who managed his house hold when Khadija diedWhat if one of the wife was not satisfied with her husband , is it ok to leave him just because he is old and find new husband.