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Muhammad's Further Attempts to Marry

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Women Muhammad proposed to but did not marry:

  1. Al-Kilabiyya: She was called Fatima Bint al-Dhahhak or Amra Bint Yazid al-Kilabiyya.(1) Narrators gave contradictory stories about the reason why Muhammad left her. In a tradition by `A´isha we read the following, "When she was brought in to him after marriage, he approached her, and she said, 'I take refuge with God from you.' The Messenger of God said, 'You have taken refuge with the Great One; go back to your family.' "(2) Some claim that Muhammad left her due to vitiligo alba (a mild leprosy),(3) and some said that she lost her mind after she refused him.(4)
  2. Asma´ Bint al-Nu`man al-Kindiyya: Ibn Abbas narrated: "The Messenger of God married Asma´ Bint al-Nu`man, and she was the most beautiful and elegant woman of her time. When the Messenger of God began to marry foreign women, `A´isha said, 'His attention is now so drawn to the foreign ones that they nearly turned his face away from us.' When the wives of the Prophet saw Asma´, they envied her and said to her, 'If you want to have favour with him, take refuge with God from him as soon as he enters upon you.' So when he entered, took away the veil, and stretched out his hand to her, she said, 'I take refuge with God from you.' He replied, 'Go back to your family.' "(5) Abu Usaid narrated: "The Messenger of God married a woman from Baljun, and ordered me to bring her. I brought her and stationed her in al-Shawt behind a blade of a henna flower in a square house. I came to the Prophet and said to him, 'I have brought your wife to you.' He went out on foot and I walked with him. When he reached her, he fell down on her to kiss her (the Messenger of God used to lean to the back and then kiss), so she said to him, 'I take refuge with God from you.'(6) Muhammad was told that she was deceived and that she was quite young, but he never took her back."(7)
  3. Qutaila Bint Qais: Ibn Abbas narrated: "When Asma´ Bint al-Nu`man took refuge with God from the Prophet, he went out and his face showed an immense anger. Al-Ash`that said to him, 'Let this not bother you, Messenger of God. Shall I give in marriage one that is more beautiful and honourable?' He asked, 'Who?' He replied, 'My sister Qutaila.' He said, 'I marry her.' So al-Ash`that left for Hadramawt and carried her. And when he had left Yemen, he learned that the Prophet died, so he took her back to his country and turned away amongst those who turned away."(8)
  4. Malika Bint Ka`b al-Laithi: The Prophet married Malika Bint Ka`b who was known for her resplendent, magnificent beauty. `A´isha entered to her and said, "Are you not ashamed of marrying the killer of your father?" So she took refuge with God from him, and the Prophet divorced her among her folk, who said to him, "O Messenger of God, she is still young and she was deceived, so please take her back." But he refused.(9)
  5. Bint Jundub: The Messenger of God married Bint Jundub. Muhammad Ibn 'Amr said, "Our friends deny that and hold that the Messenger of God never married a woman from the tribe of Kinana."(10)
  6. Sana Bint al-Salt: Muhammad married her but she died before she reached him. `Abdullah Ibn `Ubaid narrated: "A man from Banu Sulaim came to the Prophet and said, 'O Messenger of God, I have a daughter who possesses beauty and intelligence that none else possesses but you.' So the Prophet was about to marry her, but the man said, 'And another, O Messenger of God, who has never been afflicted with a disease while she was with me.' The Prophet said to him, 'We have no need of your daughter. Have you come to take away her sins? There is nothing good in a possession that cannot be humiliated, and a body that cannot be afflicted.' "(11)

Women Muhammad married but with whom he did not consummate the marriage, or women who had given themselves to Muhammad:

  1. 1. Laila Bint al-Khatim: Ibn Abbas narrated: "Laila Bint al-Khatim came to the Prophet while he had his back facing the sun, and tapped on his shoulder. He said, 'Who is this? May the lions eat him.' (He used to say this many times.) She replied, 'I am the daughter of the one who feeds the birds and competes with the wind. I am Laila Bint al-Khatim and have come to you offering myself. Marry me.' He said, 'Your request is done.' So she returned to her people and told them that the Messenger of God married her. They said, 'What a bad thing you have done! You are a jealous woman and the Prophet is a polygamist. You may feel jealous over him and he would then call upon God against you. So ask him to release you.' Thereupon she went back to him and said, 'O Messenger of God, release me.' He said, 'I release you.' Later Mas`ud Ibn Aws married her."(12) `Asim Ibn `Umar Ibn Qatada narrated: "Laila Bint al-Khatim bestowed herself upon the Messenger of God, and he accepted her. She used to ride her mule in an obscene manner, as she was also ill-mannered. She said, 'No by God! I shall not let Muhammad marry an Ansarite woman in this district. By God! I shall go to him and bestow myself upon him.' She went to the Prophet while he was standing with one of his friends, and he was not aware of her till she laid her hand on him. He said, 'Who is this? May the lion eat him!' She replied, 'I am Laila, the daughter of the master of his people; I have bestowed myself upon you.' He said, 'I have accepted you; go back until my command reaches you.' She went back to her people, who said to her, 'You are a woman who cannot bear adversaries [wives], and God has made it lawful for his Messenger to marry whomever he wills.' She returned to him and said, 'God has made women lawful for you and I am a woman of a lashing tongue and I bear no adversaries.' She asked him to release her, and he did."(13)
  2. Umm Hani´ Bint Abi Talib: Ibn Abbas narrated: "The Prophet asked Abu Talib for the hand of his daughter, Umm Hani´, in marriage in the Jahiliya. But Hubaira proposed to her and married her. The Prophet said, 'My uncle, you married Hubaira off and left me out!' He replied, 'My nephew, we have become related to you by marriage, and the dignified man rewards [or is the reward of] the dignified man.' Afterwards, she surrendered [adopted Islam] and Islam separated her from Hubaira. Then the Messenger of God proposed to her personally. She said, 'By God! If I loved you in the Jahiliya, so how much more in Islam! But I am a woman with children and I hate that they would hurt you.' The Messenger of God said, 'The best women who ride on horseback are the women of Quraish; they are tender to their little children, and take good care of their husband's possessions.' "(14) Abu Salih, the guardian of Umm Hani´, narrated: "The Messenger of God proposed to Umm Hani´, Abu Talib's daughter, who said, 'O Messenger of God, I am the mother of orphans, and my children are young.' So when her children attained puberty, she offered herself to him, but he said, 'No, not now,' because God revealed to him: 'O Prophet, We have permitted you [to deal with] your wives to whom you have given their allotments, and anyone your right hand controls whom God has given you [as captives] and your paternal uncles' and aunts' daughters, and your maternal uncles' and aunts' daughters who have migrated along with you',(15) and she was not among those who migrated. Another said, 'She bore for Hubaira Ibn Abi Wahb, Ja`da, `Umar, Yusuf, and Hani´.' "(16)
  3. Dhaba`a Bint Qirt Ibn Maslama: Ibn Abbas narrated: "Dhaba`a Bint `Amir was married to Haudsa Ibn `Ali al-Hanafi, from whom she inherited a great amount of money after his death. `Abdullah Ibn Jud`an al-Taymi was an impotent man. She asked him to divorce her, and he did. Hisham Ibn al-Mughira married her, and she gave him Salama, who was one of the best Muslims. Hisham died and she was widowed. She was one of the most beautiful and well-mannered women among the Arabs. When she sat down she would occupy a great part of the floor, and her body would be covered with her long hair. Her beauty was described to the Prophet, he asked her son, Salama Ibn Hisham Ibn al-Mughira, for her hand. He said, '[Wait] till I ask her permission.' (Meanwhile the Prophet was told that she had grown old.) Her son went to her and told her that the Prophet asked her hand from him. She asked him, 'What have you said to him?' He answered, 'I told him [to wait] till I ask your permission.' She said, 'Would someone need permission when the Prophet is the one involved? Go back and wed me to him!' So he went back and told the Prophet, but the Prophet kept silent."(17)
  4. Safiyya Bint Bashshama: Ibn Abbas narrated: "Muhammad proposed to Safiyya Bint Bashama Ibn Nadhla al-`Anbari, who was taken captive. The Messenger of God gave her the choice and said, 'Whom do you desire: me or your husband?' She said, 'Nay, my husband.' So he sent her away and Banu Tamim cursed her."(18)
  5. Umm Shuraik Bint Ghaziyya: `Ali Ibn al-Husain narrated: "The woman who bestowed herself upon the Prophet was Umm Shuraik. `Ikrima mentioned in a tradition of his that she was the one meant by the verse: 'And any believing woman who bestows herself upon the Prophet, provided the Prophet wants to marry her; such is exclusively for you and not for [other] believers.' " A tradition by Munir Ibn `Abdillah al-Dawsi says: "She is the one who bestowed herself upon the Prophet. She was from the Azd tribe. She offered herself to the Prophet, and she was beautiful but a little old. She said, 'I bestow myself upon you and give myself to you as a free gift.' The Prophet accepted her. `A´isha said, 'There is nothing good in a woman when she bestows herself upon a man.' Umm Shuraik said, 'This is I.' Then God called her "the believing" when He said, 'And any believing woman who bestows herself upon the Prophet.' When this verse was revealed, `A´isha said, 'Indeed, God hastens to do what you desire.' "(20)
  6. Khawla Bint Hakim Ibn Umaiyya: Hashim Ibn Muhammad narrated, quoting his father: "Khawla Bint Hakim was among those who bestowed themselves upon the Messenger of God, and he put her off. She used to serve the Prophet. `Uthman Ibn Maz`un married her and died while she was still alive."(21)
  7. Umama Bint Hamza Ibn `Abd al-Muttalib: Ibn Abbas narrated: "The Messenger of God was constrained to [marry] Hamza's daughter, but he said that she was his step-sister [or sister by nursing] and that this kind of relationship is forbidden. So the Messenger of God married her off to Salama Ibn Salama and the Prophet used to say, 'Have you been rewarded by Salama?' "(22)
  8. Khawla Bint al-Hudsail: al-Sharqi Ibn al-Qatami narrated that the Messenger of God married her but she died on the way before she ever reached him.(23)
  9. Shurafa Bint Khalifa: `Abd al-Rahman Ibn Sabit narrated: "The Messenger of God proposed to a woman from the tribe of Kalb and `A´isha was sent to look at her. She went and, after she came back, the Messenger of God said to her, 'What did you see?' She replied, 'I saw nothing of value.' The Messenger of God said to her, 'I have seen something of value; I have seen a mole on her cheek that causes every hair of yours to stand on end.'(24) She said, 'O Messenger of God, there is no secret hidden from you.' " Mujahid said, "The Messenger of God used not to propose again once he was refused. Once he proposed to a woman and she said, 'Ask my father's permission.' She found her father and he gave her permission. Later she met the Messenger of God and told him, but he said, 'We have found ourselves another mantle.' "(25)


The Story of Muhammad's Marriage to Zainab Bint Jahsh as the Qur´an Expositors See it

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Muhammad's marriage to Zainab Bint Jahsh has become a profound problem for the old expositors, and needs justification and explanation due to the strange incidents involved.(1) These incidents are not in harmony with the ethics and conventions that Muhammad introduced to mankind, as Muslims claim. But before we delve into the opinions and the arguments that the expositors used to justify what happened, it is worthwhile to quote here what Ibn Sa`d and al-Tabari said concerning this story:

Muhammad Ibn Yahya Ibn Hayyan narrated, "The Messenger of God came to Zaid Ibn Haritha's house seeking him. Perhaps the Messenger of God missed him at that time, that is why he said, 'Where is Zaid?' He went to his house seeking him and, when he did not find him, Zainab Bint Jahsh stood up to [meet] him in a house dress,(2) but the Messenger of God turned away from her. She said, 'He is not here, Messenger of God, so please come in; my father and mother are your ransom.' The Messenger of God refused to come in. Zainab had hurried to dress herself when she heard that the Messenger of God was at her door, so she leapt in a hurry, and the Messenger of God liked her when she did that. He went away muttering something that was hardly understandable but for this sentence: 'Praise be to God who disposes the hearts.' When Zaid came back home, she told him that the Messenger of God came. Zaid asked, 'You asked him to come in, didn't you?' She replied, 'I bade him to, but he refused.' He said, 'Have you heard [him say] anything?' She answered, 'When he had turned away, I heard him say something that I could hardly understand. I heard him say, "Praise be to God who disposes the hearts." ' Zaid went out to the Messenger of God and said, 'O Messenger of God, I learned that you came to my house. Did you come in? O Messenger of God, my father and mother are your ransom. Perhaps you liked Zainab. I can leave her.' The Messenger of God said, 'Hold on to your wife.' Zaid said, 'O Messenger of God, I will leave her.' The Messenger of God said, 'Keep your wife.' So when Zaid left her, she finished her legal period after she had isolated herself from Zaid. While the Messenger of God was sitting and talking with `A´isha, he was taken in a trance, and when it lifted, he smiled and said, 'Who will go to Zainab to tell her that God wedded her to me from heaven?' The Messenger of God recited, 'Thus you told someone whom God had favoured and whom you yourself have favoured: "Hold on to your wife." ' `A´isha said, 'I heard much about her beauty and, moreover, about how God wedded her from heaven, and I said, "For sure she will boast over this with us." ' Salama, the slave of the Messenger of God, hurried to tell her about that. She gave her some silver jewellery that she was wearing."(3)

Zainab used to boast over the wives of the Prophet and say, "Your families married you off, but it was God who married me off from above seven heavens."(4) Expositors are in unanimous agreement that this incident that took place between Muhammad and Zainab on the one hand, and between Muhammad and Zaid on the other hand was the reason why this verse was revealed: "Thus you told someone whom God favoured and whom you yourself have favoured: 'Hold on to your wife, and heed God,' while you kept to yourself what God had disclosed and you dreaded people's [opinions], although it is more correct for you to dread God. Once Zayd has accomplished his purpose with her,(5) We married her off to you so that there would be no objection for believers in respect to their adopted sons' wives once they have accomplished their purpose with them. God's command must be done!" (Sura al-Ahzab 33:37).

Muhammad's marriage to Zainab, who was the wife of his adopted son, led to many accusations against Muhammad. The dissimulators said, "Muhammad prohibits the wives of the son while he himself marries the wife of his son Zaid."(6) `Abdullah Ibn `Umar narrated: "We have always called him [namely Zaid] Zaid Ibn Muhammad."(7) So this charge that the dissimulators, among others, levelled against Muhammad necessitated the revelation of yet another verse: "Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but [he is] God's Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets. God is Aware of everything!" (Sura al-Ahzab 33:40). `Abdullah Ibn `Umar said, "We only called him Zaid Ibn Muhammad till the verse 'Muhammad is not the father of any of your men' was revealed."(8)

The interpretation of the verse by Muslim expositors:

Muslim expositors explain the verse (Sura al-Ahzab 33:37) as follows: Remember, Muhammad, when you said to Zaid,(9) "Hold on to your wife, and heed God in regard to her, and do not divorce her owing to necessity or offering her haughtiness as excuse."(10) In fact Zainab Bint Jahsh appealed to the Messenger of God when he saw her, as is told, when she was under the bond of his next of kin, so God placed in his heart aversion toward her when he knew that the heart of his Prophet was so stricken by her. So Zaid wanted to leave her and he told the Messenger of God. The Messenger of God said to him, "Hold on to your wife" even though he desired him to be finally divorced from her so that he could marry her, "and heed God" namely fear Him in the duty you owe Him for your wife.(11) A tradition by Wahb, "Ibn Zaid said, 'The Prophet had married Zaid Ibn Haritha to Zainab Bint Jahsh, his cousin, and the Messenger of God went out one day seeking him. On Zaid's door was a curtain which the wind moved to show her unveiled in her chamber. The heart of the Prophet was filled with admiration for her. When this happened, she became undesirable to the other [namely to Zaid], who came [to the Messenger of God] and said, "O Messenger of God, I want to leave my wife." He replied, "Did she do anything to arouse your suspicion?" He said, "No! She did nothing to arouse my suspicion at all, O Messenger of God, and all I have seen from her was good." Then the Messenger of God said to him, "Hold on to your wife, and heed God." This is why God said, "Thus you told someone whom God had favoured and whom you yourself have favoured: 'Hold on to your wife, and heed God,' while you kept to yourself what God has disclosed." [This means that] you hid in yourself that you would marry her if he leaves her.' "(12)

`Ali Ibn Husain narrated: "God, may He be blessed and exalted, had made known to His Prophet that Zainab will be one of the wives, so when Zaid came to him complaining of her, he said, 'Heed God, and hold on to your wife.' But God said, 'You kept to yourself what God has disclosed.' " `A´isha narrated: "Had the Messenger of God kept to himself any part of the Book of God that was inspired to him he would have kept 'You kept to yourself what God has disclosed and you dreaded people['s opinions], although it is more correct for you to dread God.' "(13)

Al-Hasan said, "None of the verses that were revealed to him was more burdensome to him than this: 'You kept to yourself what God has disclosed. And you dreaded people's [opinions], although it is more correct for you to dread God.' The Prophet of God dreaded what people would say."(14) There only remains Ibn Kathir (A.D. 1373) among the old expositors who rejects the oldest traditions about the incident that took place between Muhammad and Zainab. He does that without resorting to any modification or justification to his claim. He says, "Ibn Jarir and Ibn Hatim related many stories in this regard which we discard on the grounds of being incorrect."(15) Ibn Kathir, however, who contests the accuracy of those stories claiming that they are incorrect, finds no fault in citing a late tradition that says: " 'You kept to yourself what God had disclosed' means that God told you, Muhammad, that Zainab will be one of your wives and therefore you said to him " 'Hold on to your wife.' "(16)

The greatest problem that faces al-Razi is the "dread of the Messenger of God," since the Qur´an says, "You dreaded people's [opinions], although it is more correct for you to dread God." But this does not point out that the Prophet dreaded the people and did not dread God, it rather means: "God alone is worthy to be dreaded, and you should not dread any of the people together with him. So dread Him alone."(17) It is no secret that this interpretation of al-Razi has not been known before him, and that it was, no doubt, a product of his imagination.

Al-Zamakhshari, on the other hand, treats other aspects in his analysis of the story. `A´isha narrated:

Had the Messenger of God kept anything to himself of what has been revealed to him, he would have kept this verse hidden. If you ask, "What then did God want him to say when Zaid told him he wanted to leave her, knowing that it was improper for him to tell him to do so because he wanted to marry her?" I would answer, "It seems that God, may He be exalted, wanted him to hold his peace or to tell him, 'You know better what to do,' so his inward [intention] should not be contradictory to his outward [expression], since God requires of the Prophets that their inward [intentions] and outward [expressions] be equal, that they should be firm in [pursuing] matters, responding according to circumstances and persisting on a settled course. In the Hadith, when the Messenger of God wanted to kill `Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh, and when `Uthman interceded for him, `Umar said, "My eye was facing yours, will you make a gesture with your eye so that I should kill him?" Muhammad replied, "The prophet should not give orders through an eye-gesture; their inward [intention] and their outward [expression] is the same." If you say, "How did God reprove him for refraining to express something that he disapproved of expressing? The Prophet would not disapprove of expressing something unless it is worthy of disapproval for him and the people talk only against that which is considered loathsome to the intellects and habits. And why has He not reproved him concerning the same matter, ordering him to repress [his] lust and quell [his] soul to keep it from desiring and chasing after Zainab? Why has He not kept His Prophet free from anything that would attach fault to him and expose him to gossip?" I would say, "How often a man is cautious about something and is ashamed to let people know about it, while it is inside him allowable, appropriate, absolutely lawful, indisputable, and God finds no fault in it! And perhaps entering into that which is allowable serves as a ladder whereby one can attain duties that leave a great effect on religion for which a man is rewarded. Unless he is cautious regarding this many people spread rumours about him, except those who have favour with God, knowledge, religion and God-given insight into the true state of affairs and into their essence, not their outward appearance. Do you know that when they would feast in the houses of the Messenger of God, reclining in their seats, not [showing desire] to leave, indulging in conversations, and the Messenger of God would be hurt by their sitting feeling upset by their speech, but constrained by shyness? Had the Messenger of God revealed what was hidden in his breast, and commanded them to disperse, they would have found it difficult [to receive] and there would be some defamatory talk. This is like man's ambition for certain objects, such as a woman. It is a desire not characterised by ugliness in intellect or in religion, since it is not one of free choice. Also achieving what is allowable through legal means is nothing ugly; namely proposing to Zainab and marrying her without Zaid's suggestion that the Messenger of God marry her, or to console him for leaving her knowing firmly that Zaid's soul was not attached to her at all, but was rather indifferent to her, and at the same time the soul of the Messenger of God was so attached to her. It was not offensive among them that a man would relinquish his wife for his friend so that the latter could marry her. When the Migrants entered Medina, they were consoled by the Helpers [al-Ansar] in everything, to the extent that if a man had two wives, he would relinquish one of them to the Migrant. So then, the matter was allowable on all sides, and it was not offensive at all. It also has not hurt or demoralised Zaid or anyone else. On the contrary, it has been the source of goodness; to mention only one of them, a cousin of the Messenger of God [that is Zainab] secured herself [a marriage with] a close relative and high honour. As to the general good in his saying, "so that there would be no objection for believers in respect to their adopted sons' wives once they have accomplished their purpose with them," God should rather have reproved His Messenger when he kept it to himself by saying to him, "Hold on to your wife, and heed God." Since God approves for him only conformity of conscience and outward [expression], and standing firm in the issues of truth so that the believers would follow his example and not be ashamed of fighting for their rights, even if it is bitter [to do so].(18)

Muslim writers have added nothing to the list of apologies that al-Zamakhshari (A.D. 1144) and al-Razi (A.D. 1209) presented, as they use the same arguments trying to interpret this story, and even defend it. They believe that it involves hidden wisdom that the understanding of mankind is not yet mature enough to fathom.(19) We also observe a bizarre agreement between the rigorists, who call themselves traditionalists, and those who maintain reform and progress. Muhammad Husain Haikal, for one, in the course of "refuting" the claims of V. Vacca in the Encyclopaedia of Islam regarding Zainab, speaks about a "glorious deed" of Muhammad, which the orientalists and missionaries have turned into a romance. He says, "As to Zainab Bint Jahsh, who has been wrapped up by orientalists and missionaries in an imaginary picture of romance and infatuation, true history judges that [Muhammad's act with] her was one of the glorious deeds of Muhammad. Being the perfect example of faith, he applied to her the Hadith that says, 'Man's faith is not made perfect till he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.' It is enough to destroy the story that it was he who betrothed her to his adopted son, Zaid."(20) The scholar Haikal does not fail to add that "we could have spared him all these sayings by saying, 'Let it be true!' Why would this detract from the greatness, message, and prophethood of Muhammad? The laws that bind [ordinary] people have no power over the luminaries, so how much more the messengers and prophets! Hasn't Moses seen a dispute between two men; one was from his sect and the other from the enemy's sect, so he thrust the enemy and killed, committing an unlawful murder? So Moses broke the law, and was not subject to it. Yet this did not detract from his prophethood or message, and did not diminish his greatness. The way Jesus broke the law [of nature] was even greater than Moses, and thus with Muhammad and the rest of the prophets. For his condition is not bordered by a certain limit of power or desire, he rather went beyond the laws of nature by his birth and life!"(21)

Putting all these points aside, let us ask Muslims to find the relation between the murder that Moses committed, on the one hand, and the birth of Jesus from a virgin, on the other hand, and the relation between these two people and the story of Muhammad and Zainab! The strangeness of the matter lies in the fact that the scholar Haikal presents Muhammad's giving Zainab in marriage to Zaid as a cogent argument to refute the claims of his opponents who hold that the matter was merely romance and infatuation! It is unbelievable that Haikal has no knowledge of the fact that "the heart of the Prophet was deeply moved by her after her marriage with Zaid"(22) which is found in trustworthy Islamic reference books. Al-Sabuni, however, excludes any love affair or romance from this marriage, as he says, "How can a man give a virgin woman to [another] person, and then desire her after she is deflowered?"(23) Al-Sabuni attacks the fraudulent "orientalists" and "missionaries" who claimed that God reproved Muhammad for his hidden desire for Zainab. Yet, these "slanders" of the orientalist and missionaries have already been listed in Tabaqat Ibn Sa`d and al-Tabari's works, as they have been quoted in the books that were written after them. Ibn Sa`d and al-Tabari were neither the enemies of Islam nor "fraudulent orientalists". They did not know that Muhammad only married her to cancel and abolish the act of adoption.(24) This argument was not known at all at the time of al-Tabari!

On the other hand, there are some Muslim fundamentalists and writers whose work wins the favour of fundamentalists, who discovered a further virtue in the Prophet- his fondness for women! The Prophet has proven through this fondness that he was a man in the full meaning of the word.(25) It was `A´isha `Abd al-Rahman who was the first to express this argument.(26) Her frankness is to be considered a criticism of the writers who endeavour to rid the Messenger of all human feelings. She comments on what Haikal said in regard to the Prophet's marriage with Zainab, "Am I then right in saying that Dr Husain Haikal was wrong in his attempt to defend the Messenger? Indeed, when he denied the Messenger's fondness for Zainab and refused the fact that he was attached to her, he cast upon the matter many dark shades of suspicion that would make us believe that this attachment was forbidden for the Messenger and a flaw that we should free him from. This has nothing to do with the matter at all. It is just human nature that is subject to passions it cannot drive away. So it rises high in nobility and self-control, determining to continue refraining from what God permitted in order to escape the gossip of the people. But God insisted that His Messenger should embark on such a marriage that has been permitted by law and necessitated by the general good, which is 'that there would be no objection for believers in respect to their adopted sons' wives once they have accomplished their purpose with them.' The other private good was that Zainab should secure herself [a marriage with] a close relative, of high honour, and become one of the mothers of believers. Hence God reproved him when he kept it to himself by saying, 'Hold on to your wife, and heed God.' Since God approves only conformity of conscience and outward [expression], and standing firm when it comes to the issues of truth so that the believers would follow his example and not be ashamed of fighting for their rights, even if it is bitter [to do so]."(27)


Muhammad's Marriage with the Mothers of the Believers in the Islamic Polemics

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It is natural for a Muslim to be confused and ask himself how his prophet married eleven women while the Qur´an permits a man to marry up to four women. Each Muslim is required to take his Prophet as an example, so he should marry since the Tradition demands this: "Wedlock is my tradition."(1)

A young woman in Egypt asked Sheik Mahmud al-Ghurab in the 1960's, "What is the rationale in permitting the Prophet to marry more than four women? If we account for this by [seeking] abundant offspring, [we find] that he did not have any children from some of them, and if we account for this by saying that God wanted to give him pleasure, the answer would be that the status of a prophet is higher than that. I know why he married one who was the wife of his adopted son, as the Qur´an says, "We married her off to you so that there would be no objection for believers in respect to their adopted sons' wives....." But I do not know why he married the others or for what rationale. Yet it is hard for me to comprehend that, since this kind of research is attained only by scholars and researchers. So, will you answer me, sir, in sufficient detail. Yours respectfully."(2)

Sheik Mahmud al-Ghurab speaks at the beginning of his letter about an issue that "has been tackled by many words and has been a stumbling block for many." He says, "Every act he [Muhammad] did was for a rationale, whether we know it or not. This issue is one of his private matters. This means that after he restricted men to four wives, he himself could marry many women beyond that number. But if one follows the origin of legislation, he will find that the Prophet was more restricted in this matter than anyone else in his nation. Yet, he did not have a special legislation to limit him in this matter." Let us read first how al-Ghurab explains this:

It is common knowledge that before restricting the legal number of wives to four, every man was allowed to marry as many wives as he wanted, be he a prophet or an ordinary man. Then came the restriction of the legal number of wives and the Prophet commanded all those who had more to keep only four and leave the rest. He also instituted divorce and exchanging a wife for another. As to the wives of the Prophet himself, God gave them freedom of choice: "O Prophet, tell your wives: 'If you are wanting worldly life and its attraction, then come on! I will let you enjoy them and dismiss you in a handsome fashion. However if you are wanting [to see] God and His Messenger, as well as having a home in the Hereafter, well God has prepared splendid payment for the kindly women among you.' "(3) They chose the second option and were therefore honoured and called "the mothers of believers". He was restricted to believing women only as wives and was forbidden from divorcing them or exchanging them for others. This involves a strict restriction in relation to what has been permitted to his nation. God says concerning this, "O Prophet, We have permitted you [to deal with] your wives to whom you have given their allotments, and anyone your right hand controls from what God has given you [as captives] and your paternal uncles' and aunts' daughters, and your maternal uncles' and aunts' daughters who have migrated along with you, and any believing woman who bestows herself upon the Prophet... No [other] women will be lawful for you later on nor may you exchange them for other wives, even though their beauty may entice you, except for someone your right hand controls."(4)

Sheik Mahmud al-Ghurab confuses things that do not belong together. The verse that speaks of giving the freedom of choice to Muhammad's wives, for instance, was not exclusively addressed to Muhammad or limited to his wives, but it was a warning and an admonition to them so that they should not burden him by seeking the attraction of this life.(5) Despite the fact that Sura al-Ahzab 33:28-32 do not form any legal intervention in Muhammad's marital life, Sheik al-Ghurab is unaware of, or ignores the fact that Muhammad married his last wife in "the year of Pilgrimage", namely several years after the revelation of this verse.(6) So then, "spending the years of his youth with the widow Khadija, coupled with the fact that all his wives were matrons [previously married women], except for `A´isha, are held by modern Muslims to be the strongest proofs that Muhammad's preoccupation was not women."(7) Al-Sabuni speaks about two significant points that played the essential role in Muhammad's marriage with his wives. These two points, he says, "drive away the accusation from the honourable Prophet and throw a stone into the mouth of every mean slanderer." They are as follows:

FIRSTLY: The honourable Messenger did not marry several women except after he reached old age, namely after reaching the age of fifty.

SECOND: All his pure wives were widows or previously married, except for `A´isha, who was a virgin. From these two points we realise the insignificance of this accusation and the invalidity of that charge which the grudging orientalists have directed toward him.(8)

Despite the pride of the Muslim scholars in the true humanity of the "Messenger of God", as is evident from his marital life,(9) they submit an account of how he married his wives that is incompatible with reality and with Muhammad's human nature. If we accept what they write in this regard and believe the reasons they give in explanation of polygamy in the household of the Prophet, his marriage with Khadija was the only marriage that could have been entered into out of human motives. They claim that he wouldn't have married `A´isha unless his father offered her to him,(10) which is a distortion of the oldest traditions that reached us in this regard.(11) Others, however, believe that Muhammad sought to build a rapport between him and Abu Bakr through this marriage. "The Messenger's relationship by marriage with Abu Bakr was the greatest boon and reward for him in this life, as it has also been the best means of spreading Muhammad's pure traditions, marital virtues, and the judgments of his law; especially those pertaining to women."(12) Building a relationship by marriage has also been the reason for marrying Hafsa, the daughter of `Umar, since he wanted to reward his other minister, `Umar,(13) and he married her out of pity for her,(14) as well.

As for his marriage with Zainab Bint Khuzaima, it was a reward for her charitable services to the poor.(15) He married Umm Salama, as modern writers claim, out of appreciation for her devotion to her children and her judicious opinion at the battle Hudaibiya.(16) The secret underlying his marriage with Juwairiyya was his wish to free her people from captivity after the Muslims had conquered their fortresses. He married her so as to release her people for a dower, thus she became the greatest blessing to her people.(17) Safiyya Bint Huyay belongs to this category of women who have been married to the Messenger of God for strategic reasons.(18) Muhammad Rashid Ridha says that he married Safiyya to rescue her from being humiliated, as she was the matron of her people. "The people of good judgment among the Companions told the Messenger of God, 'O Messenger of God, she is the matron of Banu Quraiza and al-Nadhir and is not fit for anyone but you.' He favoured their opinion and refused to let her suffer the humiliation of slavery by her inferiors, so he chose her, freed her, and married her so as not to let someone of her descent and grandeur be enslaved. He also sought to build relations with the Children of Israel [through this marriage, perhaps this would alleviate their enmity with him."(19)

As to Umm Habiba, he married her to reward her faith.(20)

Muhammad Rashid Ridha admits that he could not find any basis for Muhammad's marriage with Maimuna. "I could not find any reason or basis for his marriage to Maimuna. It has been said, however, that Abbas, his uncle, interested him in her. She was the eldest sister of Lababa Ummul Fadhl. He performed the marriage contract with her by her permission."(21) Al-Sabuni did not miss the rationale of Muhammad's marriage to Maimuna. "His marriage with her obviously shows how kind he was to her and how honourable and friendly he was to her clan that backed and helped him."(22)

There remain the two slaves, Maria and Rayhana. Muslim writers did not provide us with the reasons or the rationales that led to the Messenger's marriage with them.

Al-Sabuni summarised so-called rationales or underlying reasons that modern writers connect with Muhammad's multiple marriages under four headings:

FIRST: The didactic rationale.

SECOND: The legislative rationale.

THIRD: The social rationale.

FOURTH: The political rationale.(23)

FIRST: The didactic rationale:

The chief end of the Messenger's polygamy was to produce some female teachers for women, who would teach them legal judgments. This is because women are half of society and they have been commanded to keep the same religious obligations that are imposed on men.

Many of them were too shy to ask the Prophet about certain legal matters, especially those concerning them, such as menstruation, childbirth, ritual impurity, marital affairs, among other judgments. Every woman needed to overcome her natural shyness whenever she wanted to ask the Messenger of God concerning any of these matters. So these wives [of the Prophet] became teachers and Hadith narrators who transferred the guidance of the Prophet, and were known for their intelligence.

SECOND: The legislative rationale:

This rationale is apparent and can be easily discerned- namely to abolish some detestable pre-Islamic observances, of which the heresy of adoption is an example.

Zaid was his adopted son. The Prophet wedded him to his cousin, Zainab Bint Jahsh al-Asadiyya. She lived with him for a while, but their relationship did not last long because it deteriorated. She used to speak harshly to him and look down upon him since he was a slave before the Messenger of God adopted him, while she was an honourable woman of noble descent.

Because God willed it, Zaid divorced Zainab, and God commanded His Messenger to marry her in order to abolish "the heresy of adoption," thus levelling Jahiliya to the foundations. But the Prophet dreaded that the dissimulators and godless people would say, "Muhammad married his daughter-in-law". So he delayed till he was severely reproved by God, who said to him, "...and thou wast concealing within thyself what God should reveal, fearing other men; and God has better right for thee to fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished what he would of her, then We gave her in marriage to thee, so that there should not be any fault in the believers, touching the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished what they would of them; and God's commandment must be performed" (Sura al-Ahzab 33:37).

This marriage, then, was for the sake of legislation, and was by the command of the Wise, the Aware. Praise be to Him whose wisdom is too lofty to be grasped by the [human] minds and understandings. God expressed the truth when He said, "You have been given only a smattering of knowledge."

THIRD: The social rationale:

This rationale appears very much in the Prophet's marriage with `A´isha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, who was his first minister, and with the daughter of his second minister, al-Faruq (`Umar). Later he linked himself with Quraishites by marrying many of their women, which connected these tribes and clans in a close bond, gathering all hearts around him in belief, honour, and veneration for him.

FOURTH: The political rationale:

The Prophet married some women to unite the hearts around him and bring the tribes closer to him. When a man marries a woman from a certain tribe or clan, a relationship is created by that marriage. Naturally they rush to his aid and protection. His marriage with Juwairiyya was an example of this.(24)

We may say at the conclusion of this chapter that there is no great disagreement between the Muslim fundamentalists, who were known for their antagonism and aggressiveness, and the moderate Muslims, who were known for their reformation and openness when it comes to Muhammad's marital life. They all agree that Muhammad did not marry any of his wives for human motives, except for Khadija perhaps, and that his purpose was rather to reward them, protect them from sin, or for political and legislative reasons, as al-Sabuni said. We notice that both parties were more keen on giving the affairs an ideal presentation than on abiding by the historical objectivity.(25)


Table of Contents

We tried in the previous chapters to show the status of woman in Islam, and her rights and duties toward her husband and society. In this endeavour we depended on recognised Islamic sources, namely the Qur´an, the Hadith, and the writings of the jurists. From time to time we quoted the opinions of modern Muslim scholars and authors so that the reader would be aware of their "modern" arguments, proofs, and exposition of the topics discussed.

Now that we have reached the end of the book we can say that women in Islam do not enjoy a status which the "European woman would like for herself."(1) Despite the fact that Muhammad introduced many reforms to the position of Arab women in the Arabian Peninsula and despite the fact that Islam does not deny at all that the female has a soul and a mind, she still remains half a human being in the Qur´an, the Hadith, the sources of jurisprudence, and even in the works of modern Muslims. The reason for her existence is to serve her husband and obey his commands unconditionally and unreservedly. She also has to bear him children and hide herself from the public, as though her very existence were a shame. Since Islam teaches that the Qur´an is a book revealed to Muhammad by God, and that its judgments are the best imaginable ones, which are all-inclusive both in terms of time and place, one finds it difficult to interpret the Qur´an rationally as Muhammad `Abduh tried to do. It is also next to impossible to reconcile and incorporate it into the requirements of the present time; especially since a large portion of the verses is so distinct in meaning, that there is no room for reinterpretation. So the believing Muslim, who feels obliged to deliver his honourable book to the modern society, has no other choice than to justify and account for the Qur´anic judgments and statements when they conflict with the actual reality. The same goes for the Qur´anic verses that devalue woman, compared to modern understanding, and compel the Muslim scholar or writer to check if there is a hidden rationale underlying these statements. The greatest of these rationales is "God wants only good for woman." So when it comes to the fact that the testimony of the woman is half the testimony of man, they say that God knew that she would have no experience in the fields of life and that He wanted to spare her the temptations and dangers. As to beating the rebellious wife, it is not a directly lawful act, otherwise God would not have listed it as the last means of reclaiming her. Polygamy, however, was instituted in Islam by the foreknowledge of God, who knew that the West would establish polygamy as a legal act, which is actually supposed to have happened in Germany!(2) The writings of both fundamentalist and open Muslims at the present time are full of these various arguments and examples.

At the end one needs to add that there is no expected harmony between the texts and judgments of the Sharia that deal with women, and reality in the Islamic countries. In other words, it is unfair to claim that every Muslim treats his wife, daughters, or the whole female sex according to what the jurists determined, and are still determining! Even if the woman still lives under the shadow of the Sharia and under the control of men, yet we see at the same time how the influence of Sharia is languishing, even disappearing in some places, in the fury of a relentless war between it and atheism and the liberation movements. Rigoristic Islam is not alone in trying to mould society according to its concepts and ideals, leaving its stamp on all different societies. The other extreme can be observed as well. The Islamic fundamentalists' refusal to let go of obsolete social norms and values causes anti-religious and even atheistic attitudes to develop, and their contempt for women is causing an anti-male feminist movement to develop.

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