Why was the Prophet(PBUH)allowed to have more than four wives?

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As-Salaamu Alaykum

question

Why was the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) allowed to marry more than four women and could you also provide evidence which can be established as proof.

Wa Alaykum Salaam Wa Rahmatullaahi Wa Barakatuhu.

.Concise answer

The topic of the prophet of Islam’s (P.B.U.H.) marriages and number of spouses is a subject which has been questioned very much. In reference to this issue, we should mention first of all that before the ruling for the impermissibility of having more than four wives was revealed, Hazrat Muhammad was already married to all of his spouses. Secondly, the marriages of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) entailed prominent goals such as:

Saving certain women (Soudeh and Umm Habibeh – the daughter of Abu Sufiyan) from falling into the midst of blasphemous and polytheist tribes.

Strengthening rapport with key Arab tribes and gaining their support (Aisha and Hafseh)

Maintaining the prestige and dignity of certain distinguished women (Zainab the daughter of Jahsh)

Assisting with their plight, easing their troubles, and taking on the guardianship of their orphans (Umm Salameh)

Doing away with the ignorant custom of not marrying the divorced spouse of a god-son (Zainab the daughter of Jahsh)

Freeing the captures of war and reinforcing Islamic principles in Non-Muslim tribes (Juvairiyeh and Safiyeh)

 

The proof in this is that all of the spouses of the Prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H.), with the exception of Aisha were all elderly widows.

 

From what has been mentioned here we can gather that if Allah gave permission to his prophet to marry more than four women then it was for the sake of significant common good. Furthermore, this law has given permission to someone who would not abuse it, and the evidence of that is the life and character of the prophet Muhammad himself (P.B.U.H.). And although he had the capability to marry attractive young women, he was content with his older spouses. Therefore, with respect to the high-ranking position of the prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H.) and the common good entailed, some laws and rules have become specific to that Prophet (P.B.U.H.), such as the lawfulness of him having more than four spouses

Detailed Answer

The topic of the prophet of Islam’s (P.B.U.H.) marriages and number of spouses is a subject which has been much under question. In order to shed light on the veracity of this topic, we must pay attention to several points:

1. The Number of Wives of the Prophet (Peace be upon him).

Some people have exaggerated such as Hakem in the book, ‘Mustadrak’, who stated that there were a total of 18 spouses, while Masoudi, in ‘Murujul Zahab’ counts a total of fifteen spouses. From these 15 the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), four were only concluded marriage contracts without any intimate (sexual) interaction, whereas for the others marriage ceremonies were held.[1]

Ibn Ishaq tallied the wives of the Prophet as being thirteen persons, of which two where concluded in a marriage contract only, and two which died during the lifetime of the Prophet and nine which were alive after the passing away of the Prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H.). Their names are as follows: Aisha, Hafseh, Umm Habibeh, Umm Salameh, Soudeh, Zainab the daughter of Jahsh, Safiyeh and Juvairiyeh.[2]

2. A Few Points Regarding the Marriages and Spouses of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.)

· Until the prophet had reached the age of fifty or fifty-three years of age, he had chosen no other spouse other than Khadijeh.[3]

· All of the wives of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), with the exception of Aisha had all previously been married, before getting married to the Prophet.

· The Prophet did not marry any woman from the Christian tribes.[4]

· All of the wives of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him) were already married to him[5] prior to the revelation of the verse regarding the impermissibility of having more than four wives; which was revealed during the end of the 8th year of Hijra in Medina.[6]

· The prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H.), on one hand had certain qualities which were unique to him only, and on the other hand he was bestowed with the high-ranking position of prophethood and being the manifestation of an intermediary between the Exalted Creator and mankind. There were particular rulings and statutes which were specific to him alone, such as; being the last of all Prophets, Salatul Lail (the night prayer) being obligatory upon him (although it is not obligatory for others), and the permission to have more than four spouses. Allah, the All-Wise, due to eminent objectives and benefits, legislated these laws for the Prophet, and divine volition was given to the dear Messenger of Islam (Peace be upon him) in his multiple marriages.

3. The Motives and Wisdoms of the Marriages of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him):

· Considering what we have mentioned so far, it is clear that the marriages of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) were not for frivolous purposes. If Hazrat Muhammad was seeking pleasure and fun then he would have done so during his youth, yet we see that he chose no spouse and did not marry until he had reached the age of twenty-five. And when he did marry, he selected Khadijeh, a woman who was twice married before with two children and fifteen years older than he was, and he remained loyal to her until her last breath of life (when the Prophet had reached the age of 55), and he had no other spouse until that time. After the passing away of Hazrat Khadijeh, all of the spouses, with the exception of Aisha were widows. Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him) married Umm Salameh while she was an elderly woman with a child from her deceased husband, and no longer yielded inclination towards marriage. Similarly Zainab the daughter of Jahsh at age fifty and Maymuneh at age fifty-one got married to the Prophet. Two of the wives of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him) where captures whom he first freed and then married. If the aim of the Prophet from marriage was pleasure then he could have done so without freeing and marrying his captures.

Thus it is clear that the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) had higher goals in marriage, some of which we will mention here:

A: Political and Social Goals:

The noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) married the following women in order to maintain unity and alliance amongst certain tribes and to lessen their enmity and hostility towards the Muslims and Islam: Aisha the daughter of Abu Bakr from the Taim tribe, Hafseh the daughter of Umar from the Adi tribe, Umm Habibeh the daughter of Abu Sufiyan from the tribe of Bani Umayyah, Umm Salameh from Bani Makhzum, Soudeh from Bani Asad, Maymuneh from Bani Helal and Safiyeh form Bani Israel.

These various marriages of the Messenger of God (Peace be upon him) came during a time of difficulty and hardship (especially after the war of Uhud which was not won by the Muslims), and after the shining victory of the Muslims when they conquered Mecca the Prophet did not marry again. At the same time because the Muslim and Christian tribes of Medina did not discontinue their support of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), he did not marry into their tribes. In order to provide for underprivileged women and to help them to maintain their life especially during the difficult era when Islam was first being established, the Noble Messenger (Peace be upon him) would encourage Muslim men to preserve the dignity of these women who had been married several times before, or who had no guardian and had orphan children. He would encourage Muslim men to marry these women and take them out of the state of poverty, tormenting loneliness, psychological complex and being without a guardian. He took the initiative and showed in example how to carry out this important task by marrying several women who were widows, without guardian and with orphan children.

B: Freeing Captures:

The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used many methods in freeing captures, of which included matrimony with them. Juvairiyeh and Safiyeh were both captures that were freed and then married by the Prophet. He did this in order to teach and show Muslims that you can marry a capture, and this is why in the marriage of the Prophet with Juvairiyeh many captures were freed.

C: Freeing Muslim Women from the Shackles of Kafir (blasphemous) and Mushrik (Polytheist) Relatives:

Some Muslim women, due to death, martyrdom or apostasy would be left without any guardian, making their lives extremely difficult, in a state of neglect and abandonment, similar to Umm Habibeh, the daughter of Abu Sufiyan. When the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) became aware of her situation; by means of the Habashi king, Najashi, he married her. Although the dowry of the other wives of the Prophet was four hundred Dirhams, Umm Habibeh’s dowry was four hundred Dinars; ten times more than the other wives which in itself is a sign that with this marriage the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) wanted to save her from being affected by Kafir and Mushrik relatives, and to lighten her load of grief and worry from the tragedies which had already occurred.

D: Renouncing Invalid and Ignorant Traditions:

In Islam a godson does not follow the same rulings as an actual son, and the wife of a godson is not mahram[7] to the godfather. During the era of ignorance the ruling of a godson was the same as that of an actual son, and the spouse of a godson would be recognized as mahram to the godfather, until Islam came and invalidated this custom.[8] The Messenger of God (Peace be upon him), in accordance with the instruction of the Almighty, married Zainab the daughter of Jahsh, the divorcee of Zaid Ibn Haretheh (his godson), in order to renounce this invalid custom. Had this marriage not taken place it is possible that after the passing away of the Prophet, Zaid Ibn Haretheh would have been introduced as the son of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), and the course of inheritance, Imamat, and the family of the prophet would have been altered. It is possible that they would have said to Zaid, that you are the progeny of the Messenger of Allah and you must be the caliph of the Muslims or that you have the right to delegate the caliphate, to whomsoever you choose. The other benefit of this marriage was that two customs of the era of ignorance were renounced: one, the impermissibility to marry the divorced spouse of your godson and the other the fact that it was deemed disgraceful to marry the divorced wife of a freed servant. In addition to the goals mentioned here, there are many other significant goals which can be considered from the Prophet’s marriages.

Considering the dignified position and eminent goals of the dear Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him), there is no place of doubt that the marriages of the prophet are by no means comparable to the marriages of the rest of mankind, and God, the Most High gave him such authorities with respect to his persona and the momentous obligations upon his shoulders. And it is possible that other individuals could be found with these qualities and responsibilities and they could be given the same authority and decision.

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[1] Murujul Zahab: Masoudi – Volume 2, Page 290

[2] The Way of The Messenger of God (P.B.U.H.):Translated by Seereh Ibn Ishaq, Rafiyul Deen Ishaq Ibn Muhammad Hemedani – Page 549

[3] The Prophet (Peace be upon him), at twenty-five years of age married Hazrat Khadijeh who was fourty years old and who had previously been married twice, and became a widow after her husband’s death. For a period of 25 or 28 years he was married to her and he had no other wife.

[4] Tabaqat: Volume 8, Page 133 onward; Al A’alam Zirkely: Volume 7, Page 342; The Prophet (Peace be upon him) chose spouses from the tribes of Taim, Adi, Bani Umayyah, and even from the Jews of Medina (Juvairiyeh the daughter of Hareth Ibn Abi Zerar from the tribe of Bani Mustalaq), but he chose no spouse from the Christian tribes.

[5] The last marriage of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) during the incident of “Umratul Qaza”, in the seventh year of Hijra.

[6] Sura Nisa – Verse 3

[7] (A congenial person; who it is lawful for a women to uncover her Hijab in front of, i.e. a brother is mahram to his sister, or a wife mahram to her husband, etc.)

[8] Sura Ahzab – Verse 37

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