The Glorious Qur’aan is the only Scripture on the face of this earth that places an upper limit of the number of wives that a Muslim man is allowed to marry. No other scripture, of whatever religion -be it the Bible (O.T & N.T), Hindu scriptures- has this divine injunction limiting the number of wives a man can marry. In Surah Nisa, chap 4, the  Qur’aan states that a Muslim male is allowed to marry a maximum of upto four wives. However, at the same time there are certain stringent criteria that have to be followed if he wishes to do so. The following verse in the Qur’aan makes Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) an exception to this rule.
“It is not lawful for thee (Muhammed to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess (as hand maidens) and Allah doth watch over all things. “ (A-Qur'an Chap 33.v. 52)

Reasons for making prophet Mohammad(pbuh) an exemption to the rule of keeping only 4 wives
This verse certainly grants Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) permission to keep all his wives who are “Ummul-Mumineen(the mothers of the believers)”, but prohibits him to marry any more except those that his right hand possessed. Since Prophet's wives were the  "Mothers of the Believers" so nobody could marry them and that is why Qur'an exempted the Prophet from this law. It should also be noted that any Muslim keeping 4 wives could divorce his wives and marry another if he liked, but the Prophet could NOT.

Answering the Allegation of Hyper-Sexuality Against Prophet Mohammad
People falsely accuse the Prophet of being hyper-sexual because he had eleven wives. If one studies the life history of the Prophet, only two of his marriages, one with Khadija (r.a), and the other, with Ayesha (r.a)
were marriages in the normal course. All his other marriages were contracted as a necessity and were based on various considerations. The 1st marriage of the Prophet took place when he was 25 years of age to Lady Khadija (r.a) who was twice widowed and was 40 years old. If the Prophet were hypersexual, why would he marry (his first marriage) a woman who was 15 years older than him and already twice widowed? It was the custom for the Arabs to marry virgins. Widows were not suitable spouses in their culture, yet he married her.
As long as his first wife, Lady Khadija (r.a) was alive; he never took a second wife. Lady Khadija (r.a) passed away when the Prophet was approximately 50/51 years of age, and only after her demise did he
remarry. If he married eleven wives for sexual reasons, he should have had multiple wives during his youth.
Contrary to this, history records that all his remaining ten marriages took place when he was between the age of 51/52 and 59 years. Nine of his wives were between the ages of 36 to 82 years. Would a man, aged 52 years marry a woman of 82 years if he was hyper-sexual?
The Prophet passed away at the age of 63 years. May Allah bless him and rest his soul.

Reasons for the 11 marriages:
His importance in becoming known as a Messenger of Allah had spread in the whole of Arabia and also into
the neighboring countries. The rulers of those countries and the chieftains of the different tribes asked the Prophet’s hand in marriage for their daughters or sisters.The prophet’s hand was sort in marriage, not the other way around. So out of necessity to foster closer ties with the other countries and tribes the Prophet accepted the proposals. If these malicious charges were true, then he would have easily got younger and lovelier girls to marry. He was the ruler of the whole of the Arabian Peninsula yet his life was so plain and simple that when the emissaries of the foreign kings and emperors came to pay him reverence and loyalty they were astonished at the austere living conditions and that of all of his wives (pbut). For weeks on end
there was no fire lit to cook food, and many times the Prophet tied stones onto his belly to ease the suffering of hunger pangs.

During that period of time in Arabia, nobody could carry out the work of reform and upliftment unless he belonged to, or was related to some specific tribe. Thus in the interest of his mission, the Prophet needed good inter-tribal relationships, and he had to weld the quarreling tribal and clannish factions into one Muslim ummah, as brethren in faith by accepting the proposals from those quarters.

Prophet Mohammad's Marriage with Juwayriyya
For instance, his wife Juwayriyya (r.a) belonged to the Banu Mustaliq clan that was very powerful. The entire clan was a bitter enemy of Islam from the beginning until they were defeated in a military campaign. But when the Prophet married Juwayriyya (r.a), the Muslims released all their prisoners, as they could not keep the
Prophet’s relatives in bondage. It was due to this marriage that the whole clan of Banu Mustaliq accepted Islam and obedient to the laws of the new Islamic state.

Prophet Mohammad's Marriage with Maymunah
Maymunah (r.a) also came from a very powerful and recalcitrant clan from Najd and was the sister of the wife of the chief of the clan. It was this clan that had brutally murdered seventy members of an Islamic missionary deputation. The Prophet’s marriage with Maymunah (r.a) changed the whole atmosphere and Najd accepted Madinah Munawwarah’s authority under the leadership of the Prophet.

Prophet Mohammad's Marriage with Umm Habibah
Umm Habibah (r.a) was the daughter of the Quraysh chief, Abu Sufyan. It was after the Prophet’s marriage to Umm Habibah that Abu Sufyan never fought against the Prophet. This marriage was largely responsible for the conquest of Makkah. Furthermore, Umm Habibah was first married to a certain Ubaydullah and immigrated
with him to Abyssinia, where Ubaydullah became a Christian and a drunkard, and excessive consumption of wine killed him. It was a double shock to her that her husband had become a Christian and a drunkard and later died. Yet the Prophet married her for the sake of bringing peace between the clans.

Prophet Mohammad's Marriage with Safiyyah
Safiyyah (r.a) was the daughter of a very prominent Jewish chief, Huyyah ibn Aktab. In consideration of her family status, she could not be merged into an ordinary household. So the Prophet himself married her. After this marriage, the Jews did not revive their opposition to the Prophet and his mission.

Prophet Mohammad's marriage with Aisha
Prophet's marriage with Aisha is discussed in great detail in the post Why did Prophet Mohammad marry Aisha? The post also refutes the allegation of pedophilia against Prophet Mohammad(pbuh). Click here to read the post on prophet's marriage to Aisha.

Marriages of the Prophet’s daughters and the Prophet marrying the daughter of Umar
The prophet married one of his daughters to Uthman and another daughter to Ali. Umar could not be kept outside this wide circle of relationship; so by marrying Umar’s daughter, Hafsah, the Prophet forged a strong bond of relationship within the Islamic movement thus strengthening the ummah.

Prophet Mohammad's Marriage with Zainab
The Prophet had arranged a marriage between Zaynab, his first cousin and Zaid ibn Haritha (his freed slave) whom he had adopted as his son. This marriage of Zainab with Zayd was intended to break the family and social barriers but the marriage did not prove to be successful and ended in divorce. When the Prophet realized that Zaynab was left alone, he felt his responsibility in the matter. He also had to break another pre-Islamic convention according to which an adopted son became a real son. This difficult problem was solved by the Prophet’s marriage to Zaynab as mentioned in the Qur’aan, in Surah Ahzab, chap no: 33 verse 37. This Qur’aanic verse annulled the pre-Islamic conception and promulgated an Islamic law instead.

Prophet Mohammad's Marriage with Zaynab daughter of Khuzayma
Another lady, also with the name Zaynab was the daughter of Khuzayma ibn Al-Haith, who belonged to the Hawazin clan. Her husband was killed in the battle of Uhud, and to rescue her from her dismal situation, the Prophet took her as his wife.

Prophet Mohammad's Marriage with Mary, the copt
After the revelation of the verse in Surah Ahzab, chap 33, v, 52, the Prophet married only Mary (pbuh) the Copt, who was sent as a handmaiden (slave) by the Emperor Muqauqas of Egypt to the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). He could not refuse this gift, as a refusal would have disturbed the political alliance. He could not keep her as a slave girl either since he preached that slaves should be freed. The only option left open to him was to marry her as the Qur’aan gave him permission to do so, and to set a practical example for all time that Islam prohibits slavery.

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Student of BA in Islamic Studies at the Islamic Online University. Can be reached at @LiaqatQazi
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