Friday, February 1, 2013

Prophet Muhammad (sa) and His Marriages

Both anti-Islam elements and mindlessly ignorant critics have long called attention to the multiple marriages of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa), in an effort to tarnish the sublime spiritual life of the father of Muslims and to decry that Islam has no space for women’s dignity and rights. Nothing can be further from the truth. For history and traditions of the Muslims testify that the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa) elevated the status of women in society through his precepts and practices. If one cares to examine the historical record in its entirety and the material circumstances of the events of the Prophet’s marriages and the times in which such marriages happened, one could come to an intelligent conclusion-that Islam and the Holy Prophet (sa) upheld the dignity and rights and status of women in society. 

In his Friday Sermon of 25 January 2013, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius continued his exposition on some important aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa), a theme he began in the previous week. The Sermon especially provides profound insights on the attitude of the Holy Prophet (sa) towards women and the circumstances of his many marriages. In a fractured and divided tribal society, where women’s lives were considered cheap and disposable, the Prophet’s marriages brought dignity to vulnerable, widowed women and protection to their young children, mend the faultiness of tribal discord, raised the status of slave women, provided unique opportunities for the training of the Ummah on religious values and norms, points out the Messenger of Allah of our times.

Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

Islam has over the centuries been both commended and criticised concerning the rights of women in society. The modern westerners flaunt the so-called liberty of their women folk before the world, and in their ignorance falsely allege that Islam reserves an inferior place to woman and that she is more of a slave than a person of equal status to man. Whilst the world before Islam casted women as a lowly thing, with the advent of Islam the woman regain her true identity as excellent servant of God, and man’s great treasure, help and equal. 

The Quran states: “And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable.” (2: 229)The Holy Quran, therefore, awards legal equality to the fair sex and the Prophet invests her with further honour and dignity, for says he: “The woman is the guardian of her (husband’s) house.” (Bukhari)God Almighty further states in the Holy Quran: “He created for you helpmates from among yourselves that you might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy.” (30: 22).

And the Prophet tells us in his own words about the regard he had for his wives. He says: “He amongst you is the best who has the greatest regard for his wife and I am better than all of you for my wives.”

But the Non-Muslim world perpetually insists on slandering the person of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (pbuh). The most notorious slander is the one that specifies his “insatiable desire” for women. The label of seducer is stuck to his back, while all his marriages were solemnly celebrated according to the laws of God. Insha-Allah, I hope to exonerate him from this blame with the help of God Almighty through some arguments which may open the eyes of the ignorant, and truth seekers.

The pre-prophetic life of the Prophet was a life lived with the greatest respect to married life. Although at the time fornication and adultery governed all of a barbarous Arabia, but despite this, the prophet took no part in this disgusting activity. He firmly believed in the institution of marriage. It is only when he was 25 years old that he consented to marry Lady Khadija (ra), for whom he worked, in the aftermath of her marriage proposal.

Hazrat Khadija (ra) was a lady of noble descent and high rank and was twice widowed. She was roughly 40 years old at the time of her wedding with the Prophet of Allah (pbuh). At that time, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) did not yet received the divine call. He was instead working for Hazrat Khadija (ra) as the latter heard how a great and honest young man Muhammad (pbuh) was. She proposed him to act as manager and supervisor of her trade caravans, which Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) humbly accepted.

At that period in time, women did not have a high status in society except the ladies of noble ranks. Whilst common women did not have rights to proper upbringing, education and rights to inheritance, the noble and rich families brought up their daughters in such luxuries. Hazrat Khadija (ra) was one of them. Despite hailing from a wealthy family of the Quraish, yet she conserved a pure heart and was helper to many distressed women and young girls of her time. Whilst other rich women enjoyed their freedom and high rank, she on the other hand was most humble and helped others. After the death of her husbands, she was free to conduct by herself the affairs of her life and she shouldered her huge responsibilities all by herself. She was a wealthy woman who had wide commercial holdings. This is in addition to her being beautiful, very famous and pure-mannered, a quality that won her the accolade: ‘The pure woman’ (Tahira).

Hazrat Khadija (ra) recognized in Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) the representation of kindness, honesty, politeness, justice and divine favours. It is Hazrat Khadija (ra) herself – through another person – who asked him in marriage. Hazrat Khadija was then already twice widowed and she was about 40 years old, that is to say, she was 15 years his senior. In spite of the great difference in age, the young Muhammad (pbuh) accepted the marriage proposal and married her.

To her, he was a model husband, taking care of both households’ matters and taking care of the needs of his wife. When her husband was blessed with the divine call to prophethood, she got the extraordinary favour and blessing to become his first disciple, supporter and firm believer in the unicity of Allah. Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) remained married to her till her death after 25 years of married life. He was compassionate, understandable, and devoted husband to his wife.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) got from his marriage to Khadija six children, two boys and four girls. Following the decree of Allah, his two sons died in infancy. Later on, after the death of Lady Khadija, the Prophet (pbuh) married other women, and to all of them he showed the same attitude of respect, love and compassion and they in returned loved him completely.

Let us now analyse the marriages which the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) contracted and why he involved himself in plural marriages.

During the time of his marriage to Hazrat Khadija (ra) he took no other wife. It was only after the death of Hazrat Khadija (ra), that he proposed to marry Sawda bint Zama (ra), a woman in her fifties.

So, after the death of Khadija, a woman named Khawla suggested two names for the marriage: (1) Sawda bint Zama, and (2) Aisha, the daughter of his best friend Abu Bakr. Khawla had thought that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) needed a woman to care for his children. That is why she suggested the name of Sawda, who was widowed and had returned to live in the family home. After much thought and prayer, the Prophet agreed to allow Khawla to ask for the hand of Hazrat Sawda (ra) in marriage. Hazrat Sawda was pleased with the proposal and agreed to marry the Holy Prophet (pbuh). As for Aisha, there are many reasons for marriage that would be a comfort to the Prophet (pbuh).

In the first place, long before Khawla does offer her name before the Prophet, the latter saw twice in his dreams that an angel (Gabriel) come to him to give him a handkerchief, and ordered him to uncover the handkerchief. Thus, after removing the wrapping, the Prophet (pbuh) saw the image of Aisha, the second time the angel said to him when he saw the image of Aisha in the handkerchief she was his wife in this life here and in the life to come (that is, the hereafter) also. Thus, the Prophet (pbuh) knew that this was a divine command dictating him to marry the maiden.

In addition, Aisha was the daughter of his best friend, Abu Bakr. By marrying Aisha, he sealed the friendship by forming part of the family of his best friend, and Abu Bakr was also privileged to become the stepfather of the Prophet (pbuh). Hazrat Aisha (ra) was previously betrothed to another man. The latter broke the commitment to marriage with Aisha, because he was afraid that he may become a Muslim if he married Aisha. Thus, Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) could marry off his daughter to the Prophet (pbuh).

Thus the tender age of Arab girls at the time was not an obstacle for marriage, because they were quite precocious for their age. Therefore, Aisha was married (the Nikah performed) to the Prophet, in the same period of the Prophet’s marriage to Sawda. But Aisha did not go live with him immediately. It was only after three years that the marriage was consummated (in Medina). Aisha was also a very intelligent girl. By marrying her, the Prophet took into his home the educator par excellence of the Muslim Ummah. Hazrat Aisha learned all Islamic teachings directly from her beloved husband. She had the faculty of retaining all the lessons to later teach the Ummah when the people shall seek the guidance to righteousness and how to live their lives.

Moreover, when he married a maiden at the ripe age of 54, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) demonstrated that she was not merely a wife in name, but a darling of the beloved of God and this made Hazrat Aisha (ra) realise that she had not only a husband in his person, but one whom she could love and honour wholeheartedly. 

Thus, at the time of his marriage with Aisha, the Prophet had already past fifty years of age. After his marriage with Aisha and Sawda, the Prophet (pbuh) contracted other marriages, especially in times of war, when many women became widows, and others taken as captives. By marrying widows, the Prophet could give them a roof over their heads and their children as well. By marrying captives, especially the daughters of tribal leaders, the Prophet could give the dignity of these women back, those women who were respected in their communities. By offering marriage, and the invitation to Islam, he could strengthen ties with the tribes concerned and by the grace of Allah lead them towards the acceptance of Islam, a religion without any constraint. God (Allah) says in the Quran: “There is no compulsion in religion ...” (2: 257). This means that, when the invitation to embrace Islam was given to the women captives, they accepted on their own will to embrace Islam and become the wives of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh).

By marrying a slave, in this case, Maria the Copt, the Prophet was able to restore the dignity of women slaves. This woman even gave him a little boy named Ibrahim who died a few months after his birth. By marrying these women, the Prophet did justice to the Muslim woman, who had a right in society, a dignity of her own. At this time the enemies of Islam did not point their finger on the Prophet’s marriage with several women, as this was the custom, and all these marriages were according to the teachings of Islam, and after formal instructions given to the Prophet, especially regarding multiple marriages – more than four wives at a time (to the Prophet). A favour and instruction of Allah, the Almighty! Allah says in the Holy Quran:

“O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her – specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers; We know what We have ordained for them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess in order that no blame may attach to you; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (33: 51)

The prophets before his advent also had several wives. An example of this was Abraham (Ibrahim) – upon him be peace – who married Sara and then Hajra (by divine instruction). All these prophets were they thirsty lustful creatures? Or the fact is that they have contracted marriage only to give shelter to lonely women and their children, and also that these women become aids for them to train women in their respective eras – especially concerning the religion of God? The truth has surfaced through the teachings of the Holy Quran which has repeatedly wash away the blames which people have thrown on the Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), especially concerning his marriage to the young Aisha and Zainab, the divorced wife of his adopted son Zaid, and whom Allah has directly married to the Prophet (pbuh) after Zaid divorced her, because of inconsistency in their marriage. The incompatibility was caused because Zaid was a freed slave and Zainab bint Jahsh was a free woman. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And when you said to him (Zaid) to whom Allah had shown favour and to whom you had shown a favor: Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah's command shall be performed.” (33: 38)

“There is no harm in the Prophet doing that which Allah has ordained for him; such has been the course of Allah with respect to those who have gone before; and the command of Allah is a decree that is made absolute.” (33: 39)

Therefore, it is clear that the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) contracted marriage with several women, either because of divine instruction or mercy for these women, to give them a status of honour in society. All women of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) were referred in the Quran as the Mothers of the Believers – the highest rank in the Muslim’s esteem!

“The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers...” (33: 7)

The enemies of Islam, either out of spite or basing their judgments on their own perverted natures, may impute motives of sensuality to him for having more than one wife and marrying a maiden girl at an advanced age. But, I put it to you that, God forbid, if there had been even an iota of truth in this disgustingly false allegation, could he pass his nights on the hard prayer-mat, seeking communion with his Lord, instead of sleeping in the company of his wives on the soft bed? – A fact established by history beyond the shadow of a doubt.

I stop here for now. Insha-Allah, I shall continue to talk about some aspects of the life of our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tonight in our special “Sirat-un-Nabi” programme. Insha-Allah. May peace and blessings of Allah be upon the noblest Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) light among lights, among the fortunate servants and messengers of God. Ameen!