Why was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) polygamous?
Submitted by on Tue, 08/02/2011 - 15:06
Dear Brother / Sister,
Let us deal with the issue from the point of view of that spotless personality. First of all, it must be known that our Prophet (pbuh), who was at the peak of high ethics, did not marry until he was 25 years old. Given the special situation of that hot country and that he lived in chastity, which is a fact that has been accepted since the period he lived, for so many years, it will be seen that he had chastity, a powerful will and a great control over his soul. If he had made a tiny mistake regarding the issue, his enemies in the past and today would have already declared it to the world. However, all of his enemies in both the past and today never dared to say such a thing although they attributed so many impossible things to him.
Our Prophet (pbuh) married at the age of twenty-five for the first time. This marriage was with a woman who was very lofty and exceptional in the sight of Allah and His Messenger but who had married twice before. That happy marriage lasted twenty-three years and ended in the eighth year of the prophethood like a curtain that came down, leaving a bitter longing behind. The Prophet (pbuh) was left alone again as he was until he was 25. After that 23-year long happy life, the Prophet was the sole parent of their children for four or five years; he was fifty-three years old then.
When he began marrying other women, he was already past 55, when very little real interest and desire for marriage remains. It is not something that can be accepted by the conscience, mind and heart to regard marriages after the age of fifty-five in a hot country as something related to desires and lust.
Another issue that comes to the mind here is the aspect that the prophethood of the Messenger necessitated polygamy.
First of all, it should be known that those who talk like that are either those who do not accept any principles and religions or are members of other religions based on different books. The former have no right whatsoever to reproach something like that because they themselves are involved in casual relations with numerous sexual partners without obeying any laws or rules; they even have incest relationships;. The attack of the latter is also unjust, malicious and impulsive; it is something sorrowful for them. There are so many great prophets accepted by the books they have and the congregations that follow those books that married more than one woman and made so many marriages.
For instance, when Prophet Solomon and David are taken into consideration, it becomes clear that those who are members of those religions do not act justly when they oppose polygamy. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not start polygamy; besides, polygamy is not contrary to the spirit of prophethood. Furthermore, as it will be seen later, polygamy was more useful than people think in terms of the duty of prophethood.
In a sense, polygamy is necessary especially for the prophets who brought new religious decrees and shariahs because there are many issues of the religion that take place within the privacy of the family; those issues can only be learned fully by the spouse of a prophet. Therefore, there is a need for women teachers who will explain those aspects of the religion clearly without having to use hints or innuendos – that kind of narration usually makes it difficult to understand and to practice those issues.
The chaste and virtuous women of the Prophet's household were responsible for being guides and conveyors for women; therefore, they were indispensable for the Prophet, prophethood and the world of women.
B) Another aspect is related to the spouses of the Prophet (pbuh):
1) Since there were young, middle-aged, and old women among his wives, the religious judgments related to their different life stages and experiences were established. They were learned and applied first within the Prophet's household thanks to those chaste women
2) Since each wife was from a different clan or tribe, bonds of kinship were established among those tribes and then between the Prophet and those tribes, which enabled a profound love and affinity in all of the community. Each clan and tribe regarded him as one of their members and they felt a profound interest toward him both due to religion and kinship.
3) Each wife that he married from a different tribe, proved to be of great benefit and service to the cause of Islam both during and after the Prophet's life; they conveyed his implicit and explicit sunnahs and the religious decrees to their close and distant relatives. In this way, their clans, both women and men, learned about the Quran, tafsir (interpretation of the Quran) and hadith from them; and theywere able to understand the spirit of the religion.
4) Through his marriages, the Prophet established ties of kinship almost throughout Arabia, which gave him the freedom to move and be accepted as a member of each family. Thanks to this close relation, everybody could go to him in person and learn the orders of the religion directly from him. The tribes also benefited collectively from their proximity to him: they considered themselves fortunate and took pride in that relationship.
Bani Makhzum through Umm Salama, the Umayyads through Umm Habiba and the Hashimites through Zaynab bint Jahsh considered themselves close to the Prophet and regarded themselves fortunate.
C) What we have mentioned so far is general and could be true of all prophets in some respects. Now we will deal specifically with the virtues of each wife of Prophet Muhammad one by one:
We will see here that the reason and mind of man has to bow down before the blessed life of the Prophet (pbuh), who is supported by revelation; in other words, the thought of man has to prostrate before this genius, who is under the shade of revelation.
1) Hazrat Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) was the Prophet's first wife. His marriage to this precious woman, who was 15 years older than him, is the greatest example for every marriage. He was loyal to Hazrat Khadija and showed respect to her during their marriage; he never forgot her after she died and mentioned her almost at any occasion.
The Prophet (pbuh) did not marry for four or five years after the death of Hazrat Khadija. Although he had to look after several children, he put up with the difficulties and acted like both a mother and father for them. If he had had any weakness toward women, would he have acted like that?
2) His second wife, though she is not the second one chronologically, is Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her). She was the daughter of Abu Bakr, his closest friend; through this marriage, the Prophet accorded the highest honor and courtesy to a man who had shared all the good and bad times with him. Abu Bakr will have the honor of being together with the Prophet on the day when all the kinship will end with his eternal kinship. Yes, Hazrat Aisha and Abu Bakr had the honor of being close to the Prophet (pbuh) without leaving any material or spiritual gaps.
Besides, Aisha, who was an exceptionally person, had the nature to carry forward the prophetic mission. Her life after the marriage and her service after it proved that she could only be the wife of a prophet. She was one of the greatest authorities on hadith, an excellent mufassir, and a most distinguished expert on Islamic law; she truly represented the inner and outer qualities and experiences of Prophet Muhammad with her unmatched understanding.
Therefore, the Prophet was told in a dream that he would marry her; thus, when she was still innocent and knew nothing of men and worldly affairs, she was prepared and entered the Prophet's household.
Thus, she would become a source of honor for Hazrat Abu Bakr and would be prepared to become one of the most remarkable students of the Prophet (pbuh) among women and a great teacher and conveyor of the message of Islam by developing all of her talents and abilities. She entered the blessed home of the Prophet (pbuh) both as a wife and student.
3) His third wife, though she is not the third one chronologically, is Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her). Umm Salama, who was of the Makhzum clan and one of the first Muslims who had suffered great hardships in Makkah, migrated to Abyssinia and then to Madina, being among the ones in the first rank.
Her husband put up with those long and troublesome journeys together with her. He was an unmatched person in her sight. When she lost her unmatched husband, Abu Salama, with whom she suffered many hardships, in Madinah, she was left alone with her children. Abu Bakr and Umar proposed marriage to her, aware of her needs and suffering as a destitute widow with children to support, but she refused them because she believed that no one could be better than her late husband.
Some time after that, the Prophet (pbuh) proposed marriage to her. This was quite right and natural because this great woman, who had never shied from sacrifice and suffering for Islam, was alone after having lived many years in the noblest Arabian clan; she could not be neglected and left to beg her way in life. Given her piety, sincerity, and what she had suffered, she certainly deserved to be helped. By marrying her, the Master of the Universe (pbuh) helped her. He was doing what he had always done, befriending those lacking in friends and supporting the fatherless children. He did what the conditions of that day necessitated.
Umm Salama was intelligent and talented like Hazrat Aisha. She had all the abilities to become a teacher and a conveyor of the message of Islam. When the Prophet took her under his protection, a new student to whom all women would be grateful was accepted into the school of knowledge and guidance.
We cannot explain the marriage of the Prophet, who was almost 60, with a widow with many children and assuming the related expenses and responsibilities with anything else, and never with lust and extreme tendency to women.
4) Another wife of the Prophet was Ramla bint Abi Sufyan (Umm Habiba). She was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, a person who represented unbelief against prophethood for a certain period. She was one of the earliest Muslims who was in the first ranks. She was a woman who migrated to Abyssinia, where her husband later embraced Christianity; then her husband died and she underwent many troubles.
The Companions, at that time, were few in number and poor. They did not have enough money to support others. So, what were her options? She could convert to Christianity and get help that way or she could return to her father's home, now a headquarters of unbelief or she could wander from house to house as a beggar. It was impossible for a member of one of the most religious, noblest and richest women to do any of them. There was only one thing left: the intervention and help of the Prophet (pbuh)
This was in question in the marriage with Umm Habiba (may Allah be pleased with her). In the presence of Negus, the marriage of this woman, who made all kind of sacrifices for her religion, to the Prophet was performed, which was something quite natural for a woman who was away from her hometown among black people and who underwent so many misfortunes due to the exit of her husband from Islam and then his death. Let alone renouncing, it is necessary to applaud it because it is something that was realized by the Prophet because he had been sent as “a mercy to the worlds”.
Besides, this great woman had many things to bring to the education life of fellow Muslims. Thus, Umm Habiba joined the Prophet's household as a wife and student.
Through this marriage, Abu Sufyan's family had the opportunity to enter the house of the Prophet, which caused them to change their ideas and to soften. The influence of this marriage was beyond Abu Sufyan's immediate family; it influenced the whole Umayyads. It can even be said that this family, which was hostile and closed to other people, softened thanks to the marriage of Umm Habiba and was ready to do all kinds of good deeds.
5) One of the women who entered the household of the Prophet was Zaynab bint Jahsh (may Allah be pleased with her). She was a lady of noble birth and descent with a deep thought as well as a close relative of the Prophet; she grew up near him. When the Prophet made known to her parents that he wished her to marry Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him) her family hesitated a bit because the family had hoped to marry their daughter off to the Prophet. Eventually, they consented to her marriage to Zayd bin Haritha when the Prophet insisted.
Zayd was a slave who had lost his freedom once and was among the slaves; then the Master of the Universe (pbuh) saved him from slavery. The Prophet (pbuh) wanted to establish equality and balance among people by insisting on that marriage and starting to do it among his relatives. However, Zaynab, who had a lofty nature, did not seem to continue this marriage, which she agreed due to the insistence of the Prophet, for a long time. The marriage did not bring happiness to Zayd, either; it only brought him agony and longing.
In the end, Zayd divorced Zaynab; but the Prophet (pbuh) was trying to dissuade Zayd and to make the marriage continue. Meanwhile, Jibril came and brought the divine command ordering the Prophet to marry Zaynab. The test that the Prophet was undergoing was very severe; he was going to do something that had never been done before; he was going to declare war against established, deep-rooted customs. It was a tough struggle. It could only be done because it was ordered by Allah. With a deep consciousness of slavery, the Prophet did what he was ordered though it was very hard for his decent personality. As Hazrat Aisha stated, “If the Prophet had been inclined to suppress anything of what was revealed to him, he would surely have suppressed this verse.” Yes, it was so hard for the Prophet (pbuh)...
Divine wisdom wanted that lofty and chaste woman to enter the household of the Prophet (pbuh), to educate and train her, and to make her convey the message of Islam. In the end, this was realized. She acted in accordance with the rules that being a wife of the Prophet necessitated.
Besides, in the Era of Jahiliyyah, an adopted child used to be addressed and regarded as one’s biological child and the wife of an adopted son used to be regarded as the wife of one’s biological son. When this custom that belonged to the Era of Jahiliyyah wanted to be abolished, the first application was carried out through the Prophet (pbuh).” … nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths…”
6) One of the women who had the honor of entering the household of the Prophet was Juwayriya bint Harith (may Allah be pleased with her). Muslims fought against her tribe and captivated both the men and women of the tribe. When this woman, who lived in the palace of her tribe, was brought to the presence of the Prophet, she was in considerable distress and felt humiliated; she was full of grudge and hatred.
The Prophet (pbuh) settled the problem very easily. When the Prophet married Juwayriya, she was elevated to the rank of the mother of the believers and received respect from the Companions. And when the Prophet said, “The relatives of the Prophet cannot be enslaved” and set them free, the hearts of Juwayriya and all her people were won.
As it is seen, our Prophet solved this problem very easily when he was about sixty by a marriage; thus, he made peace when there existed everything to continue the war.
7) One of the fortunate women to enter the household of the Prophet was Safiyya bint Huyayy (may Allah be pleased with her), the daughter of a chieftain of Khaybar. In the famous Battle of Khaybar, she lost her father, brother, and husband, and her tribe was captured; Safiyya was flaming with vengeance. However, when she married the Prophet and was elevated to the high rank of being a wife of the Prophet, the Companions began to show respect to her and the Prophet treated her very nicely, which made Safiyya forget about all that had happened. She started to take pride in being a wife of the Prophet.
Besides, many Jews had the opportunity to know the Prophet closely through Safiyya and they changed their attitudes against Muslims. There are many wisdoms in one deed of Allah, who makes many things through one thing. He created many good deeds and abundance in this marriage as He did in the other marriages.
Furthermore, it is appropriate to say that the Prophet taught something to his ummah in that he was aware of the thoughts of his enemies. Women like Safiyya, women belonging to different nations and tribes, are very important for understanding the internal states of those nations; however, it is necessary to be careful in case they try to find out about the secrets of Muslims in the same way.
8) One of the fortunate women to enter the household of the Prophet was Sawda (may Allah be pleased with her). She was among the first to embrace Islam and she migrated to Abyssinia with her husband; Like Umm Habiba, she was left alone when her husband died.
Prophet Muhammad married her and repaired her heart; saving her from becoming miserable, he became a companion to her. Sawda, who wanted to marry the Prophet (pbuh), did not want anything else in the world.
Such were the circumstances and motives behind the Prophet's several marriages. There was no lust involved. He married either in order to connect a close relationship with his viziers, as it was the case when she married the daughters of Abu Bakr and Umar, when he saw the talents and abilities in them or due to some other reasons that we have mentioned one by one above; he undertook great burdens when he married them.
The fact that our Prophet (pbuh) provided each wife with accommodation, food, clothing equally, that he treated them meticulously equally, that he prevented possible troubles among them before they took place and that he solved the problems very easily, or as Bernard Shaw put it, “as easily as one drinks coffee”, shows that this exceptional person is a prophet.
We know how difficult it is to manage one wife and two children and we bow respectfully before the Prophet, who managed many women that had married before and that had developed various habits in the homes of their previous husbands in a very harmonious way.
There is one more issue to mention: it is the fact that the number of his wives was more than the amount that was legitimate for the men of his ummah. It was a special situation. It is a special law that contains many reasons and wisdoms that we might or might not know. The revelation restricting polygamy came after he had contracted all of these marriages. Thereafter, he also was forbidden to marry again. (2)
9) Another wife of the Prophet was Hafsa bint Umar al-Khattab, Hafsa, the daughter of Umar, was born five years before Muhammad (pbuh) became a prophet. Her mother was Zaynab, the sister of Uthman b. Maz'un, one of the great Companions.
It is not known when Hz Hafsa embraced Islam. It can be said that she became a Muslim after her father Umar embraced Islam because we know that all of Umar’s family and relatives embraced Islam then.
Hazrat Hafsa had been married to Khunays b. Huzafa, as-Sahmi. Huzafa was among the Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia. There are narrations that Hafsa also took part in this migration. After returning from Abyssinia, Huzafa migrated to Madinah together wit his wife Hafsa.
Hazrat Khunays b. Huzafa took part in the Battle of Uhud and was seriously wounded. He died as a martyr due to that wound in Madinah. Hazrat Hafsa tried to heal her husband’s wound herself. She was very said when he died and she grieved for him. Hazrat Umar wanted Hazrat Abu Bakr to marry her daughter, Hafsa. However, Abu Bakr did not answer Umar’s offer. Then, Hazrat Umar offered Hazrat Uthman, whose wife Ruqayya, the daughter of the Prophet, had died and therefore, who was alone. However, Hazrat Uthman, who hoped to marry Umm Kulthum, the other daughter of the Prophet, said, “It is not appropriate for me to marry nowadays” after thinking for a while.
Hazrat Umar, who tried to make her daughter marry a righteous believer with an act that fitted a Muslim father, went to the Prophet in a sad state when he could not do it. While talking to the Prophet, he said, “I am surprised by the behavior of Uthman. I offered him to marry Hafsa but he did not accept.” Hazrat Prophet said, “Shall I offer you a better son-in-law than Uthman and shall I offer Uthman a better father-in-law than you?” When Umar said, “Yes, o Messenger of Allah!”, Hazrat Prophet said, “Marry your daughter Hafsa off to me and I will marry my daughter Umm Kulthum off to Uthman.
Hazrat Umar was very pleased when he heard this offer. He had wanted to be relatives with the Prophet very much but he did not have the courage to offer him to marry Hafsa because Hafsa was, as Hazrat Aisha put it, “just like her father”, that is, she was a bit stern. With his offer, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) strengthened his relation with Umar and rewarded him due to his service to Islam by enabling the desire of Umar to realize.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) married Hazrat Hafsa in the middle of the third year of Hijrah. He gave Hafsa 400 dirhams, that is, 118 grams, of silver as mahr (dowry).
After the death of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), Hafsa led a very modest and religious life. About sixty hadiths were reported from her: some directly from her, others what she heard from her father. Hafsa, who could read and write, died in the fort-fifth year of Hijrah; her janazah prayer was led by Marwan, the governor of Madinah. According to another narration, she died in the forty-first year of Hijrah.
(1) see al-Ahzab, 33/4
(2) see al-Ahzab, 33/52
This article was prepared from the books “Asrın Getirdiği Tereddütler (Questions and Answers)
Questions on Islam
- Why was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) polygamous?
- How did the Prophet (pbuh) make his first marriage after the death of Hz. Khadijah to Hz. Sawda bint Zam'a? What is the wisdom behind his marriage to this quite old woman?
- Could you give information about the Prophet’s wives and his polygamy?
- Will you give information about the viwes of the prophet (PBUH) and his polygamy?
- Prophet’s (PBUH) marriage to Hazrat Khadija
- How did the Prophet (pbuh) marry Hz. Khadijah? What was their marriage ceremony like?
- New Marriages of the Prophet
- How many wives did the Prophet (PBUH) have? What is the wisdom of his Polygamy?
- Sawda bint Zam’a (r.anha)
- What was the wisdom behind the marriage of Hz Aisha with the Prophet(ﷺ)?