How many wives did the Prophet (PBUH) have? What is the wisdom of his Polygamy?

The Details of the Question

How many wives did the Prophet (PBUH) have? What is the wisdom of his Polygamy?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The wives of the Prophet were as follows:

Hazrat Khadija; Hazrat Sawda bint Zam’a; Hazrat Aisha; Hazrat Hafsa bint Umar; Hazrat Zaynab bint Huzayma; Hazrat Zaynab bint Jahsh; Hazrat Umm Salama; Hazrat Umm Habiba (Ramla bint Abi Sufyan); Hazrat Juwayriya bint Harith; Hazrat Safiyya bint Huyayy; Hazrat Mariyatu’l-Qibtiyya (Umm Ibrahim); Maymuna bint Harith.

A definite and silencing answer given by Badiuzzaman Said Nursi to the deviant people of today who are like the hypocrites of the past and who think that the marriages of the Prophet were based on his desire and lust is as follows in brief:

Marriage has two main aims: One of them is the continuation of the generation; the second one is satisfying sexual desires legitimately. Continuation of the generation is the primary goal of marriage. Satisfying sexual desires is a small gift given by the Creator in order to ensure the continuation of the generation. It is just like the flavor added to the meal for the continuation of the personal life.  

When the marriages of the Prophet are studied both from the point of view of history and human nature, the following situation is seen:

It is unanimously agreed both by his friends and enemies that he lived as a single person until he was 25, the most enthusiastic period of the youth, that he did not have any intercourse with any woman and that he remained chaste. Besides, his tribe called him “Muhammad al-Amin” a person who is trustable in all aspects. 

As a matter of fact, the community in which he lived regarded relationships with more than one woman as normal. He could have married many virgins before he was 25 and after he got married. However, he did not do so; he married a widow, who was 40 years old and 15 years older than him. This marriage lasted 25 years until his wife died. That is, he was married to one woman only until he was fifty years old.

Another evidence that his marriages were not based on sexual desires lies in the answer he gave to polytheists when they made an offer to him.

The polytheists went to Abu Talib, the Prophet’s uncle, and said to him, “If your nephew wants to be our chief, we will appoint him as our chief; or, we will give him our most beautiful girls and women, if he gives up his cause."

When his uncle conveyed him their message, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

"O my uncle, by Allah, if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left in return for my giving up this cause, I would not give it up."

That answer shows what he was trying to do, and it is enough to prove that things like women, leadership that people deemed valuable were worthless in his sight.

His second marriage after the death of Khadija was with Hazrat Sawda, another old widow.

After living with Hazrat Sawda for three years, he lived with only one woman until he was 54 years old. It is interesting that he married more than one woman only in the last ten years of his life. To claim that he married several women in order to satisfy his sexual desires despite knowing these facts can only be possible by denying human nature and historical facts. And such an approach cannot be a just and logical one. It can only be defamation.

We see that in the marriages that took place in the last years of his life, the two main aims, continuation of the generation and satisfying sexual desires, are not present. His generation continued through Hazrat Khadija. He did not have children out of his other marriages; he only had one son, Ibrahim, from Mariya of Egypt but he died when he was one and a half years old. 

As it is seen from the historical facts, the continuation of the generation, which is one of the main aims of marriage, is present only in his marriage with Khadija, not in his other marriages. The secondary aim of marriage is left; that is, satisfying sexual desires. We saw that this aim was not present in the marriages of the Prophet both from the point of view of his nature and the historical facts because a person’s sexual desires are passionate and active the most between the ages of 15 and 45.

If the Prophet had married many beautiful women in that period and then had left them and married other beautiful women, the claims about satisfying his sexual desires could have been true to some extent. However, he did not do so; on the contrary, he married widows with children like Umm Salama in the last ten years of his life (53-63). For instance, Sawda was a widow at the age of 53; Zaynab bint Huzayma was a widow at the age of 50; Umm Salama was a widow at the age of 65 with four children; Umm Habiba was a widow at the age of 55 and Maymuna was a widow with 2 children.

Another historical fact is this: he did not think of divorcing any of them; only those that died left him.

It cannot be denied that it is a natural law and fact that after the period of youth there exists a decrease in sexual desires.

When we analyze the marriages of the Prophet, we see that exemplary situation.

To sum up, sexual aims can be sought in the marriages between the ages of 15 and 45. However, our Prophet never married virgins or young women in that period. On the contrary, he married Hazrat Khadija, who was a widow at the age of 40. And his marriage with Khadija lasted until she died.

Since his marriages with more than one woman took place after the age of 53, it is necessary to look for other aims in those marriages as a necessity of rational thought. It is the necessity of not only the reason and mind but also human nature and a just evaluation to do so.

The School of Pure Wives (Azwaj at-Tahirat)

The period of Madinah was a period when Islamic judgments and decrees were sent down intensively and were taught to the ummah by the Prophet. Male Companions could see the Prophet in Masjid an-Nabawi and ask him about their questions and problems. They learnt from him what, why and how to do. However, it was not so easy for women. They also had questions to ask. Therefore, the women asked the Prophet to allocate one day of the week to them in his house. The Messenger of Allah accepted their offer. Thus, the women started to go to the house of the Prophet and ask their questions about the religion and received answers.

During such a meeting, an interesting event took place. At a moment, the women started to talk among themselves loudly. They were chatting. Meanwhile, Hazrat Umar, who was passing by, was disturbed by the women talking loudly in the presence of the Messenger of Allah and knocked on the door. When he opened the door, the women saw him and stopped talking at once. Hazrat Umar was disturbed when he saw the situation. He could not help warning them and said,

"Ladies! You are scared of me, but you are not scared of talking loudly in the presence of the Messenger of Allah!”Thereupon, the women said sincerely,

“Oh Umar! You are harsh and strict, but the Prophet is not"

Hazrat Umar, who had sacrificed all of his property for the sake of the Messenger of Allah, was not pleased that he was not like the Prophet. The Messenger of Allah noticed it and said,

"Oh Umar! If you walked on a wide street and if the devil saw you coming, he would change his way” to console him. The home of the Prophet was a kind of school for women. Especially the wives of the Prophet were regular students and in a sense teachers of this school. Prof Raşit Küçük, of Marmara University, Faculty of Theology, explains the issue as follows:

"The judgments and decrees of Islam involve both men and women. However, there are some judgments and decrees that involve only men or women. Hazrat Prophet did not have any difficulty in teaching the judgments and decrees that involved both men and women or only men because men were the same gender as him. He had to address women regarding teaching and practicing the issues that involved women and answering the questions of women. The wives of the Prophet, who were at different ages and who had different abilities, acted like teachers for the believing women. That process of teaching continued and even increased after the death of the Prophet." (1993, İzmir, Ebedî Risalet Sempozyumu Tebliği)

As a matter of fact, Allah’s Messenger’s school, which was near Masjid an-Nabawi, consisted of two parts. One of them was the School of Ashab as-Suffa, which consisted of male Companions, and the other was the School of Pure Wives, which consisted of women.

In fact, the rooms of the Pure Wives was like a school and the wives of the Prophet were both like students and teachers of that school because they learned the judgments and decrees of Islam directly from the Messenger of Allah and taught them to the ummah. That duty continued after the death of the Prophet as it was mentioned above. One of the most regular and best students of the School of Ashab as-Suffa was Abu Hurayra, who devoted his life to the preservation of the hadiths of the Prophet and who received the prayer of the Prophet for the strengthening of his memory in order to carry out this duty better; on the other hand, the best student of the School of Pure Wives was Hazrat Aisha, who had superior abilities like intelligence, memory and understanding and who was the unique wife of the Prophet. As a matter of fact, the first one of the "Mukthirun" (people who narrated the most hadiths) was Abu Hurayra, who was the best student of the School of Ashab as-Suffa who narrated 5374 hadiths; Hazrat Aisha, who was the best student of the School of Pure wives was the fourth of the Mukthirun; she narrated 2210 hadiths.

Yes, Islam has brought judgments and decrees involving all levels of life with various levels of importance as the last and perfect religion. The determination, teaching and application of those judgments and decrees was the primary and most important duty of the Era of Bliss because the style and form that Allah would consent to, that is the religion itself, was being determined in every moment and level of life.

When we look at the resources to understand this truth, we see a magnificent treasure of judgments, decrees and secrets conveyed by these mothers of believers, these “Pure Wives”. And the duty of presenting this treasure to the ummah becomes manifest as the unerring purpose of those marriages.

We can say that if we excluded those women and especially Hazrat Aisha, who had a special place among them, about half of the decrees and judgments of the religion of Islam would disappear!

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