The Role of Aishah in the History of Islam (volume 1)
Economic Combat of Quraysh With the Prophet
In the days when the Prophet was newly ordained, the Quraysh rose up to check the propagation and spread of this new religion, and tried to find the means of vanquishing him through the exigencies of those times. They proposed to his sons-in-law to divorce his daughters and send them back to their father's house in order to deter the Prophet from engaging in spiritual and religious mission of prophethood, and thus compelling him to attend to material duties of providing livelihood for his family.
This story has been mentioned in "Sirah of Ibn Hisham": The Quraysh said to each other: "You have freed Muhammad from the worry of supporting his family, send back his daughters to him to keep him occupied with the task of getting subsistence for them." Then to carry out their plan, they got in touch with the Prophet's sons-in-law, namely Abu al-'As the nephew of Khadijah, and 'Utbah, son of Abu Lahab who was the Prophet's nephew26, and proposed to them that, in return for divorcing Muhammad's daughter, they would let them marry any of the girls of the Quraysh (who were the nobles of Mecca) that they desired. Abu al-'As, who felt a deep affection for his wife (daughter of the Prophet), refused the proposal, but 'Utbah answered that he would agree on the condition that they let him marry the daughter of Sa'id ibn al-'As or his granddaughter, that is, daughter of Aban ibn Sa'id ibn al-'As. The Quraysh fulfilled his wish and jet him marry the daughter of Sa'id ibn al--'As, and thus he divorced Ruqayyah, daughter of the Prophet.
In view of this historical happening, it can easily be seen to what extent a woman was burden for a man of family, so that the Quraysh adopted this method as the most decisive way of fighting the Prophet.
Economic support for the Prophet and winning over the enemy
On the one hand, at a time when the hostility of the Quraysh with the Prophet and his friends reached its height, some of his friends, both men and women, on equality, and this era unchivalrously blemishes the true worth and personality of this repose-producing angel of life with pretended respect. Look at sexual films and the manner of their propaganda and marketing as well as soliciting of customers in cafe's, and discotheques through women and their beauty, and trace the reason for the increase of divorce to find the cause of the misery and misfortunes of our present society.
- Some have introduced him as 'Utaybah, the other son of Abu Lahab.
his advice, departed for Abyssinia and then emigrated to Medina, thus abandoning all their property and belonging for the consent of God. They only succeeded in saving their lives from the Quraysh, and eventually the Prophet himself joined them in Medina and chose that city as the center of his activities. Some of these homeless people were so indigent that they did not even have any clothes, and the Prophet let them settle on a roofed platform in the mosque of Medina for days and nights, and that is why they were given the name of Ashab as-suffah (companions of the platform).
Among these wanderers there were guardian-less widows and lonely girls whom the honour of Islam could not allow to stay on that platform with the men, or permit them to stay in the houses of Ansar (those who helped the Prophet) without any logical and legitimate reason.
On the other hand, with the occurrence of battles and death of Muslim fighters in the field, the number of unprotected women and girls regularly increased. But on the recommendation of the Prophet, these females did not remain without a guardian, and by being made the legal consort of the Prophet, they shared the life of his other companions, and could enter their houses and prevents shattering of life.
Marriage as a means of preventing conflict and bloodshed
There had been long-standing customs in various Arab tribes, some of which still prevail. For instance, if a combat occurred between two tribes or blood was shed, the best way to prevent further bloodshed and loss of life and plunder, was to arrange inter-marriage between the two hostile groups, so that with the creation of this kinship, massacre and plunder would be stopped, and also loyal allies acquiesce to fight other enemies.
Now let us return to the main subject and continue the topic on exploring the reason for the plurality of the Prophet's wives.
1-Khadijah, daughter of Khuwaylad al-Asadiyah al-Qurayshiyah
Khadijah was the first lady to become the consort of the Prophet, and also the first woman to embrace this faith. She had married twice before him and had some children by them. Her marriage with the Prophet took place fifteen years before his ordainment when she was forty years of age, while the Prophet was twenty-five. Khadijah died in the tenth year after ordainment when she was sixty-five. She was the only wife of the Prophet for twenty- five years, and during this period, she spared no effort in offering her wealth and devotion to him to promote the divine mission of her husband.
The Prophet's children, with the exception of Ibrahim, came from Khadijah, and so long as she lived, he did not marry another, and to the end of his life, he remembered Khadijah as the first lady of Islam. With the abundant alms she offered, he kept alive and respected her memory. The year Khadijah died, the Prophet had gone through fiftieth year of his very active life.
2-Sudah, daughter of Zam'ah
At first, Sudah had married her cousin, as-Sakran, and accompanied the second group of Muslim emigrants to Abyssinia. as-Sakran died after his return from Abyssinia in Mecca and left Sudah without a guardian. After the death of Khadijah, the Prophet married Sudah who was then of an advanced age and had no one to take care of her. She died at the time of caliphate of Mu'awiyah in Medina in the year 54 AH.
3-'A'ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr
The Prophet proposed marriage with 'A'ishah in the same year as with Sudah, but he took the former to his house in Medina after the battle of Badr upon the insistence of her father, Abu Bakr.
4-Hafsah, daughter of 'Umar
Hafsah, daughter of the second caliph, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, was born five years before the ordainment of the Prophet of Islam. At first she wedded Khunays, son of Hudhafah, and immigrated with him to Medina. In the battle of Badr, he died after being wounded, leaving Hafsah a widow. Her father, 'Umar, was looking for a husband for her among the Prophet's friends, and at first made a proposal to 'Uthman who was rich and of the Umayyads, and though his wife Ruqayyah who was the Prophet's daughter, had died, 'Uthman did not agree to this proposal of marriage and gave a negative answer. 'Umar asked Abu Bakr to marry Hafsah, but Abu Bakr, too, refused. So 'Umar who was offended with the refusal of two distinguished friends of the Prophet, complained to the Prophet against them, and the Prophet settled the matter by himself marrying Hafsah. Hafsah died in the lunar month of Sha'ban in the year 45 AH in the caliphate of Mu'awiyah. Marwan, governor of Medina, performed her burial prayer, and she was buried in al-Baqi'.27
5-Zaynab, daughter of Khuzaymah
Zaynab had married twice before being wedded to the Prophet. Her second husband was killed in the battle of Uhud. The Prophet proposed to marry her, and she left the decision to himself. The Prophet married her in the lunar month of Ramadan in the third year after Hijrah. Zaynab died eight months after this marriage in the lunar month of Rabi' al-Awwal (Rabi' I) in the fourth year after 27. Refer to the translation of Hafsah in al-Isti'ab, Usd al-ghabah, al-Isabah and Tabaqat. Hijrah.28
6-Umm Salamah, daughter of Abu Umayyah
Her name was Hind, and she was the daughter of Abu Umayyah al-Makhzumi, and her mother was 'Atikah, daughter of 'Amir al-Makhzumi. At first she was the wife of Abu Salamah 'Abd Allah, son of 'Abd al-Asad al-Makhzumi, both of whom embraced Islam in Mecca. When the misconduct of the Quraysh towards the Muslims in Mecca became intolerable, the Prophet ordered them to emigrate to Abyssinia, where Umm Salamah gave birth to her children. Then the family returned to Mecca, and when the Prophet emigrated to Medina, Abu Salamah mounted his wife and a child on a camel, took the halter and proceeded towards Medina.
Umm Salamah narrates the story as follows: "When my relatives realized our intention to depart, they said to Abu Salamah: 'You yourself fled from us to become a Muslim. But we swear to God that we will not let you carry a woman of our family from one city to another,' and they pulled the halter out of his hand. When the relatives of Abu Salamah saw this, they protested angrily to them, and said: 'If you separate Umm al-Salamah from her husband, we will not let you take her child with you since he is our child.' In this dispute the child's arm was dislocated, but finally Abu Salamah took away the child with him and my relatives kept me with them, and Abu Salamah departed for Medina."
She then adds: "They separated me from my husband. Every day I went to the valley of al-Abtah in Mecca, and sat there weeping till evening. This went on for seven days until one of my cousins, while passing by, saw me. He went to our relatives asking them why they did not leave the poor woman alone and why they separated her from her husband. This protest had a positive effect, and they told me I could join my husband if I wished. When the relatives of my husband saw this, they brought back my child to me. I took him in my arms, mounted a camel and proceeded towards Medina, without any companion until I reached the land of at-Tan'im. 'Uthman, son of Talhah 'Abd ad-Dari al- Qurayshi, saw me and shouted: 'O daughter of Umayyah, where are you going to?' I said: 'I am going to my husband in Medina.' He asked: 'Is anyone accompanying you?' I said: 'No, by God, except God and this son of mine.' He said: 'By God, I cannot let you go alone.' Then he took the camel's halter and walked ahead. I swear to God I have never seen a man more chivalrous than him on this journey. Whenever we reached a halting place, he caused the camel to kneel down, and himself stayed some distance away to rest under a tree, and when it was time to move, he came and tied the saddle on the camel's back and stood aside telling me to mount. After I did so, he took the halter and pulled the 28. al-Isabah 4/309.
camel behind him. This continued till we came close to Medina. He showed me the village of Quba' and said: 'This is where your husband is staying.' Then he went away and I joined my husband there."
When Umm Salamah reached Medina, it was said that she was the first lady to emigrate to Medina. The family stayed there until the battle of Uhud took place. Abu Salamah joined the Prophet to participate in that battle when he was wounded and eventually succumbed to the same wound in Medina and Umm Salamah was left without a guardian. The Prophet married Umm Salamah who was now old and sterile, and thus he took her and her children under his protection and support.
Umm Salamah died during the caliphate of Yazid ibn Mu'awiyah and after the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn.29
7-Juwayriyah, daughter of al-Harith The story of the marriage of the Prophet with Juwayriyah is a long one, but briefly speaking, al-Harith was the chief of the tribe of Banu al-Mustalaq that lived about thirty kilometers away from Medina. It was in the fifth or sixth year after Hijrah that al-Harith, with the aid of other tribes, collected a large force intending to carry out a surprise ride upon Medina and annihilate the Muslims. The Prophet, who was aware of this plan, sent one of his companions to keep a watch on the tribe of al-Harith in order to find out the position and number of the enemy and report it. His envoy carried out the mission successfully and brought the Prophet useful information about the enemy's military position.
Meanwhile, a spy too came from the army of al-Harith among the Muslims to collect information, but he was captured before he could render any service. The Muslims invited him to embrace Islam but he refused, and thus they were forced to kill him. After this incident, the Prophet made the first move and attacked the tribe of Banu al-Mustalaq.
When the men from other tribes in the army of al-Harith saw themselves confronted with an unexpected attack, they fled and left al-Harith's army alone to engage in battle. The crier of Islam proposed the acceptance of this faith to al-Harith's troops but they did not only refuse the invitation but also killed the crier with arrows.
When the Muslims saw this, they rushed at once upon the enemy and in a hard battle, which ensued, the tribe of al-Harith surrendered after defeat. Of the Muslim army only one soldier was killed, while al-Harith's army lost ten men. The Muslims captured much spoil and many men as prisoners. Juwayriyah whose husband had been killed in this battle, was one of the captives, and she was given to one of the Ansar (Prophet's helpers) as his share.
When they returned to Medina, she went to the Prophet begging him for
- Refer for a full account to the books al-Isti'ab, Usd al-ghabah and Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd. freedom. The Prophet said the ransom, freed and then married her. When the Prophet's companions heard this news, as a sign of respect to this marriage, they set free all the captives in their possession. al-Harith, on hearing this report came to Medina and embraced Islam, and on his return to his tribe, made them all embrace Islam.
8-Umm Habibah, daughter of Abu Sufyan
Umm Habibah's father, Abu Sufyan was the archenemy of the Prophet of Islam and instigator and ringleader of the Quraysh battles against the Prophet. Unlike her father, Umm Habibah embraced Islam and emigrated to Abyssinia with her husband and he died there, leaving her without a caretaker. When the Prophet heard of this he sent someone to her in Abyssinia, asking her hand in marriage and eventually he married her in the seventh year after Hijrah.
The news of his daughter's marriage with the Prophet deeply enraged Abu Sufyan who was enemy of God and His prophet, and uttered such words which showed his defeat in the face of the greatness and exalted moral and spiritual position of the Prophet. He said: "One cannot punch this male in the nose."30 One year after this marriage, the peace treaty of al-Hudaybiyah took place in the 8th year AH and the Quraysh, despite all of their obstinacy, were vanquished by the greatness and power of Islam, thus actually and formally recognizing this divine faith.
Do you suppose this marriage has been devoid of effect in securing such a great advantage? 9-Safiyah, daughter of Huyay Safiyah was the daughter of Huyay ibn Akhtab from the progeny of Aaron, brother of Moses, and her mother was Barrah, daughter of Samuel, from the Banu Qurayzah tribe.
Her first husband was Salam, son of Mushkim, and after being divorced, she was wedded to Kinanah, son of ar-Rabi', from Banu an-Nadir tribe. But ar- Rabi' was killed by the Muslims in the battle of Khaybar, and the infidels in Khaybar were taken captive by the Muslims after the battle. The Prophet took her to himself as a war prisoner and when he noticed a blue mark on he face he asked how it had come about. She answered: "One night I dreamt that a moon rose from Medina and settled on my lap. I related my dream to my husband, Rabi', and he felt very uneasy and shouted at me: 'Do you hope to become a king's consort who has risen in Medina?' and he slapped me so hard on the face that it went blue, and this is the effect of that blow." After hearing the story, the Prophet said to Safiyah: "If you embrace Islam, I will marry you, and if you remain a Jew, I will set you free to return to your
- Refer to Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd 8/80-86 and al-Isti'ab, Usd al-ghabah and al-Isabah.
people and tribe." She said: "Prior to invitation to Islam, I had already embraced it. Moreover, I have no parents and have nothing to do with the Jews for you to give me the choice between faith and infidelity. God and His prophet are much more important to me than freedom and return to my kins." The Prophet told her to observe the period of waiting related to her husband's death, and then wedded her and settled her in the al-'Aliyah locality of Medina in the house of one of the members of Banu Harithah tribe. 'A'ishah, while veiled, secretly visited Safiyah. The Prophet asked her:
"How did you find Safiyah?" She answered: "I found her a Jewess." He said: "Don't call her a Jewess since she has embraced Islam and is a good Muslim." Safiyah loved the Prophet deeply and did not abstain from expressing affection. One example of this love emerged when the Prophet had fallen ill and his consorts had gathered around him, Safiyah said anxiously to the Prophet: "I swear to God that I long to have your pain transferred to my body." On hearing the words of Safiyah, other wives of the Prophet winked at each other and raised their eyebrows, considering her words to be ostentatious. But this unfair conduct of the ladies was duly observed by the Prophet. So he addressed them, saying: "Go and cleanse yourself of wrong thoughts." They asked the reason, and he said: "Your gestures and hints. I swear to God that she is truthful sincere in her words."
Safiyah died in the year 52 AH in Medina during the caliphate of Mu'awiyah and was buried in al-Baqi' cemetery.31
10-Maymunah, daughter of al-Harith
Maymunah, daughter of al-Harith al-Hilaliyah, was at first the wife of Mas'ud ath-Thaqafi, and after being divorced she married Abu Rahm ibn 'Abd al- 'Uzza and lived with him until his death. In the year 7 AH when the Prophet was on a pilgrimage to Mecca, she wedded him. The sermon was read by his son-in-law Abbas (husband of his sister) and the Prophet's uncle. She accompanied him to Medina.
Maymunah was the last lady to marry the Prophet. There is no agreement about the date of her death, but the most accepted view is that she died in the year 51 AH on her return from pilgrimage at a halting place called Sarf. 11-Zaynab, daughter of Jahsh The stories of the Prophet's marriages were so far similar to each other, having a clear reason. But there was another reason for his marriage with Zaynab, which requires an introduction.
As we know, reformers in the world usually took the first step themselves in
- Refer to Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd 8/120.
carrying out their plan of reform for society, and began with themselves and their family. They spared no effort and self-sacrifice necessary for attaining their sacred goal and then went on to invite their kith and kin, and afterwards other human beings to act upon the plan.
The Prophet of Islam, as a unique reformer of humanity, was no exception to this law, and he began with himself to reform society and do away with the hated customs of pagan times upon the order of God. For this reason in his last Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca he said: "Usury of any type is null and void, and the first usury I abolish is the usury of my uncle al-'Abbas.32 Every blood that is shed in pagan times is lost, and the first blood I waste is the blood of Rabi'ah son, grandson of 'Abd al-Muttalib."33
In the biography of the Prophet, there is much evidence about this episode. His marriage with Zaynab, daughter of Jahsh, is one of those cases where the Prophet sought it to break up the system of ignorance and ugly customs of pagan times.
The Prophet by this marriage pursued the following two fundamental objectives:
1-To remove class distinction. 2-To abolish the verdicts related to adopt sons.34
Zayd ibn Harithah, the Prophet's adopted son, was in his childhood attacked by a group of Arabs and kidnapped, and then put up for sale in Mecca. The Prophet was present at the sale, and upon feeling an attachment for him bought him for his wife, Khadijah, and she offered the child to the Prophet. Zayd's parents, who were afflicted at the disappearance of their endeared child, knew nothing of his fate. One day some members of Zayd's tribe happened to see him in Mecca and they recognized each other, and Zayd sent a poem through them for his parents, saying: "Be not worried. I live in the family of the noblest of Arab tribes and I am well-looked after."
Zayd's father and uncle who were informed of his situation and residence took some money with them and left for Mecca, hoping to buy him back. When they met the Prophet and explained their purpose, he said: "If Zayd wishes to leave me, I have no objection." He summoned Zayd, and when he saw his father and uncle, he admitted his kinship. Then the Prophet explained to him their purpose and gave him the option to stay or to leave. Zayd answered: "I shall never prefer anyone to you." His father said: "My boy, do you prefer slavery to the freedom of living with your father?" He answered, pointing to the Prophet: "Yes, with such a person."
al-'Abbas, uncle of the Prophet, was a well-known usurer of Mecca in the pagan times. 33. This grandson was a baby in the Banu Layth tribe who was wrongly killed by the people of the Hudhayl tribe. Banu Hashim continued till the time when the Prophet uttered the above words, to demand revenge upon the said tribe for the blood of that child. Sirah Ibn Hisham 4/375.
In pagan times there was a custom that in adopting a son with the child's agreement, he was regarded as a real son of that person in whose case all the laws of one's own son were applicable.
Then the Prophet took Zayd's hand and brought him to the rock of Isma'il (in the Ka'bah) and said in a loud voice: "Be witness that Zayd is my son; he inherits from me and I inherit from him." When Zayd's father and uncle heard this, they were overjoyed and returned home. After Zayd's freedom, the people called him "Zayd ibn Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah." Zaynab, daughter of Jahsh, who was a niece of the Prophet, was his ward, and a marriage proposal for her came from some of the Quraysh tribe. She asked the Prophet what to do. He proposed her marriage with Zayd. Zaynab protested and said: "Would you give me, your niece, to a freed slave of yours?" Zaynab's brother and sister did not approve of this marriage either, on account of the existing class difference until a divine revelation descended about this matter, saying:
"And it behoves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Apostle have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Apostle, he surely strays off a manifest straying." 35
This verse silenced all three of them and they expressed their agreement, with Zaynab declaring her readiness to marry Zayd. The Prophet solemnized the ceremony with the same lofty goal of removing class differences and aristocratic pride.
Zaynab went to Zayd's house and lived along with the other wife of Zayd, called Umm Ayman, who had also been freed by the Prophet, and with her child Usamah. Such a life made Zaynab uneasy and she began to maltreat Zayd. This misbehavior continued until Zayd complained of her to the Prophet and asked his permission to divorce her. But the Prophet said:
"Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of your duty to Allah" 36 However, her misconduct made Zayd so weary that upon his insistence, the Prophet agreed to their separation and she was eventually divorced. When her legal period of separation was over, the Prophet was ordered by God to break another custom of pagan times by marrying Zaynab, so as to show that the laws related to one's own son do not apply to an adopted son, and one can marry the divorced wife of one's adopted son.
It was hard for the Prophet to carry out this matter, and he was worried about the people's attitude and their idle talk, until the following verse descended showing his intense anxiety:
"Do you fear people, while it is worthier for you to fear God? Now that Zayd has freed that woman, We allow you to wed her so that believers would not be 35. The Holy Qur'an, Chapter al-Ahzab, Verse 36.
- The Holy Qur'an, Chapter al-Ahzab, Verse 37.
blamed for marrying the divorced wives of their adopted sons."37 On the basis of this verse and its explicit comment the Prophet married Zaynab to break by divine order, the despised and illogical customs of pagan times.
What has been said shows that most of the Prophet's marriages were based on the advisability, policy and interest of the society, execution of divine laws, as well as breaking the wrong customs of pagan times, not for the sake of satisfying carnal desires or animal instincts.
The ladies who offered themselves to the Prophet without a dowry
There were other women who offered themselves to the Prophet without demanding a dowry. What is meant by the word "offer" according to the Qur'an is proposal of marriage. Books of biography and history mention several such women, one of whom is Khulah, daughter of Hakim.
12-Khulah, daughter of Hakim al-Hilaliyah
She was a woman who proposed marriage to the Prophet, but he postponed giving an answer. She served in his house until the Prophet wedded her to 'Uthman ibn Maz'un and she lived in the latter's house till his death.38 13-Another lady
Sahl ibn Sa'd narrates: A woman came to the Prophet and offered herself in marriage. The Prophet remained silent. A Muslim man, who was present, said: "O Prophet! If you have no need of this woman, wed her to me." The Prophet said: "What have you to give her as dowry?" He answered: "Only the shirt I am wearing." The Prophet said: "If you give it to her, you will go naked. Try to find something else." He said: "I have nothing." The Prophet said: "Not an iron ring?" He said: "Not even that." The Prophet said: "Do you remember any verses of the Qur'an?" He said "yes" and recited several of them. The Prophet said: "Then I; offer you this woman in marriage, her dowry being those very verses of the Qur'an."
In the Prophet's biography there are mentioned the names of several other ladies who proposed marriage to the Prophet such as Umm Sharik and Umm Layla. Some of them had spent a heart-rending life in the way of Islam before going to the Prophet, but it is explicitly stated that the Prophet married none of them.39
The Holy Qur'an, Chapter al-Ahzab, Verse 37. Hilyat of Abu Nu'aym 2/53, translated by Zaynab and commentary of the verse. Refer to Majma' al-bayan.
Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd 8/158.
Commentary of as-Suyuti 5/209.
A special verdict for a particular person
We have already spoken of the distress and homelessness of Muslim women of that time in the city of Medina, and saw how necessary it was in the sublime interests of Islam for the Prophet to get married with women of some unruly Arab tribes. As every Muslim is allowed to take four wives, we see that an exception was made in the case of the Prophet. This exception is mentioned in verses 50-52 of Chapter al-Ahzab, as follows: "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 of whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a behaving 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 hand possess in order that no blame may attach to you; and Allah is Forgiving Merciful.
You may put off whom you please of them, and you may take to you whom you please, and whom you desire of those whom you had separated provisionally; no blame attaches to you; this is most proper; so that their eye may be cool and they may not grieve, and that they should be pleased, all of them, with what you have given them, and Allah knows what is in your hearts; and Allah is Knowing Forbearing.
It is not allowed to you to take women after wards, nor that you should change them for other wives, though their beauty be pleasing to you, except what your right hand possesses; and Allah is Watchful over all things." These were God's commands given explicitly in the above verses, leaving it to the Prophet to take steps about what he thinks advisable. Thus, the number of his wives reached nine by the end of his life. This number was allowed only to the Prophet, while other men were allowed no more than four wives. In the above verses, the limit of the Prophet's freedom is fixed at minus women's beauty, and this is a well-devised matter, and for this reason he is not allowed, unlike other men, to change by means of divorce any of his wives for new wives. The Prophet made use of this option for safeguarding the sublime interests of Islam and spiritual and political leadership in order to meet the human needs of the society's honorable women.
But when after the capture of Mecca the Muslims found a sound position, the Prophet did not marry again since he had no further need of the above verdict.
Conclusion of the survey
It is clear now concerning the Prophet's marriages that he lives with a lady who was fifteen years his senior, down to the age of fifty which is the height of a man's natural growth; a lady who died at the age of 65, and during that period he married no one else, and after Khadijah he married another woman advanced in years. Such was the Prophet's married life in Mecca until he emigrated to Medina and took charge of the grave responsibility of managing the Muslim society. At that time, the number of indigent and exiled believers who came to him every day reached eighty.
They settled on the platform of the Prophet's mosque and some of them were inadequately dressed. At such a time, there were Muslim women who had lost their guardians in the battles of Muslims with infidels or in other happenings, and they could not return to their relatives since the latter were regarded as infidels and enemies of God and His prophet, and were thus looked upon as untouchables. All this happened in a community where women were anyhow regarded as a burden, and many fathers buried them alive for fear of falling short of subsistence for them. In the battles against the Prophet, too, they proposed to divorce his daughters in order to defeat him. The situation became so difficult in Medina for believing women that if a widow had a father, he insisted that one of his friends should marry her.
In such a case, was the Prophet's marriage with Hafsah not aimed at compensating her mental affliction and removal of her vexation with his two companions, Abu Bakr and 'Uthman? At such a time, what could another old lady, Umm Salamah who had lost her husband in the battle of Uhud, do with so many children in a strange city? Could she possibly return to Mecca to the same family whose tyranny had forced her to flee to Abyssinia in Africa? Or how could the other lady, Zaynab daughter of Khuzaymah, who had already married twice before getting married to the Prophet and whose second husband was killed in the battle of Uhud, continue her life?
Similarly, what remedy was there but for the Prophet's protection for Umm Habibah daughter of Abu Sufyan, who due to molestation by her family was compelled to run away with her husband to Abyssinia where she lost him? Umm Habibah is the daughter of the same Abu Sufyan who spared no crime for the annihilation of Islam and humbling the Prophet. He was the man behind all rebellions against the Prophet, who tried to preserve the honour of the same Abu Sufyan to an unimaginable degree. Indeed, if the Quraysh led by Abu Sufyan often had tried to send the Prophet's daughters back to his house, the same Prophet wedded Abu Sufyan's daughter in Abyssinia and brought her with all respect and dignity to Medina. He made her the wife of the noblest Arab, the grandson of 'Abd al-Muttalib - an action which so overjoyed Abu Sufyan that he uttered his famous proverbial remark.
What reaction was produced in the other men of the Umayyad household by such noble acts? There is nothing at hand that could have quoted them, but concerning the marriage with Juwayriyah, of the Banu al-Mustalaq tribe, we hear of an extensive reaction.
This tribe which was a branch of Khuza'ah tribes lived about thirty kilometers from Medina. Their chief, al-Harith, gathered a large army of Arab tribes to fight the Prophet, but the Prophet made a surprise raid against him that led to the flight of other tribes who had come to help al-Harith. The Prophet proposed that they embrace Islam, but they refused. In the ensuing battle, al- Harith's tribe was defeated, and its combatants surrendered. Among the prisoners was the daughter of al-Harith, chief of the tribe. The Prophet bought her from the man who had taken her prisoner, and after freeing and marrying her, put her on an equal footing with the other ladies of his house, whereas he could use her as a slave-concubine. To show respect to the Prophet's action, the Muslims freed all the prisoners of this tribe. When al-Harith heard of this matter, he came to Medina and embraced Islam, and then his whole tribe followed his example.
In the peace of al-Hudaybiyah this tribe and Khuza'ah tribe joined the Prophet against the Quraysh and their allies. Now we can see the reason for the custom prevalent among the war-stricken Arab tribes. When they desired peace and reconciliation, the victorious tribe offered girls in marriage to the oppressed tribe, thus creating a political tie between them. Obviously, the Prophet's marriages with females from the defeated tribes were no exception to this rule, such as his marriage with Safiyah of the Khaybar Jews, and marrying Rayhanah of the Banu an-Nadir Jews with a Jew of the Banu Qurayzah.
The purpose of the Prophet was clear in such marriages: to join together unruly Arab tribes. And this point becomes more evident when we see that none of his marriages took place with his Ansar tribes, since the widows of this group lived with their families and had no need of financial support.
It was the Ansar themselves who at the beginning of the Muslims' emigration to Medina always helped such women with dwelling, food and clothes. The Prophet's wisdom is evident in all his marriages. Only in two cases there is a need for inquiry. The marriage with 'A'ishah is the first case, since he wedded her at the age of nine and this is contrary to prevalent custom especially of the urban people. In answer to this, we have already said that it is not right to compare the custom of that time and place with one of our own time and place. The Prophet was not the only person who married a girl of that age. He gave his own daughter Fatimah az-Zahra' in marriage at the same age, and this is a prophet's action from the viewpoint of Islamic law. Moreover, in hot regions, Human beings reach the stage of natural puberty sooner and also get old sooner. This is often seen in India today and many a time a girl reaches puberty and becomes pregnant even before the age of nine and also gets old and infirm sooner, whereas in the mountains of Tibet the reverse is true, to the extent that it is said a man may reach the age of two hundred there, and the age of one hundred is considered young for him.
The second case is the Prophet's marriage with Zaynab, divorcee of Usamah, the adopted son of the Prophet, the reason for which has been explained by us earlier.
After these explanations about the reason for the plurality of the Prophet's wives, there arises the question as to why there has come about a misapprehension and cynicism about his marriages. The answer is that our study of biographies and traditions shows that such pessimism and misunderstanding is due to the annals narrated about this issue from 'A'ishah Umm al-Mu'minin, in which the Prophet has been presented as a women- loving man, and this is the motive for writing this book. In the next chapter, we will discuss some of these narrations.