Will you mention the Prophet’s oath about Mariya?

The Details of the Question

- Did something like that happen?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The following two incidents are reported for the Prophet’s rendering something that is halal haram for himself as it is stated in the verse:

After the Treaty of Hudaybiya, the Messenger of Allah wrote letters to several kings. One of those kings was Muqawqis, the Patriarch of Alexandria.  Hatib b. Abi Balta took the letter in question to Muqawqis. He did not accept Islam but treated Hatib well, sending the following answer to the Prophet (pbuh):

"I knew that a prophet will come but I think he is going to appear in Damascus. However, I will treat your envoy with respect. I am sending you two girls who are respected among Copts." (Ibn Sa'd)

The name of one of the girls was Sirin, and the other was Mariya. (Christians call Maryam Mariya 'Mary'.) While returning from Egypt, Hatib invited them to Islam and they accepted Islam. When the girls were brought to Hz. Prophet (pbuh), he gave Sirin to Hassan b. Thabit, the poet, and he kept Mariya for himself.

In the month of Dhul-Hijjah of the 8th year of the Migration, the Prophet (pbuh) had a son from Hz. Mariya called Ibrahim. (al-Istiab, al-Isaba) Mariya was a very beautiful woman. As a matter of fact, Hafiz Ibn Hajar reports the following sentence from Hz. Aisha in al-Isaba:

"I have never been jealous of any women as much as Mariya because she was very beautiful and the Messenger of Allah liked her."

We can summarize the hadiths reported through various ways regarding the issue as follows: Once, the Prophet (pbuh) went to Hz. Hafsa's room and could not find her there. Meanwhile, Hz. Mariya arrived and she stayed in Hafsa's room for a while together with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Hz. Hafsa was offended when she found out about it and shouted at the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) said he would never have sexual intercourse again with Mariya in order to please Hafsa. In another narration, it is stated that he swore that he would not do it again. Most of these narrations were reported from Tabiun as mursal. Some narrations are reported from Hz. Umar, Ibn Abbas and Abu Hurayra.

Related to this narration, Ibn Hajar states the following in his work Fathul-Bari: "This incident should have a true aspect.However, this incident is not reported in any books of Kutub as-Sitta. It is stated only in a hadith reported from Anas in Nasai that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had a sexual intercourse with a female slave and as a result of the pressure from Hz. Hafsa and Hz. Aisha, he rendered that female slave haram for him. Thereupon, the following verse was sent down:

"O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee? Thou seekest to please thy consorts. But Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (at-Tahrim, 66/1)

The second incident is reported from Hz. Aisha in Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasai and many other hadith books as follows: In the 9th year of the Migration, the light of Islam covered the whole Arabian Peninsula with its magnificence. The Messenger of Allah had many material things. The wealth of the Islamic state increased and the financial situation of the Muslims improved. 

Despite all kinds of material opportunities, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) continued leading a plain and modest life; he did not have any luxurious or wasteful things.

However, due to the inclination to the jewels and worldly goods inherent in the nature of women, the wives of the Prophet wanted their share of clothes and jewels from the wealth of the world. Therefore, they sometimes said to the Prophet, “We also want some jewels like the other women.”

Then, every one of them wanted some things. However, the Prophet wanted his wives to lead a plain life like his life and show consent to it. Therefore, he did not give them what they wanted. He also felt disturbed by their requests like that.

The Prophet had a custom.

After the afternoon prayer, he visited all of his wives asked about their health and determined their needs. In the evening, all of his wives gathered in the room of the woman who was going to be with the Prophet that night and the Prophet talked to them there. After that, everybody went to their own rooms.

During these usual visits, the wives of the Prophet treated him to the food or drinks that they had. Once, somebody gave Zaynab bint Jahsh a leather bag full of honey. Whenever the Prophet visited Zaynab, she treated him to the sherbet she made of that honey that the Prophet liked very much. Therefore, the Prophet stayed with Zaynab longer than usual.

Aisha noticed this and wondered why the Prophet stayed with Zaynab longer than usual. She found out through her female slave that he stayed there longer due to the sherbet made of honey. 1

There was a competition between Hazrat Aisha and Hazrat Zaynab; due to this competition, the wives of the Prophet were divided into two groups. Sawda, Safiyya and Hafsa supported Aisha; Umm Salama, Umm Habiba, Maymuna and Juwayriyah supported Zaynab bint Jahsh. 2

Aisha felt grievous and jealous because the Messenger of Allah stayed in Zaynab’s room longer. She gathered the wives of the Prophet that supported her and said to them,

“When the Messenger of Allah comes to any of our rooms, we will ask him, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Have you eaten maghafir?’ The Messenger of Allah will say, ‘No’. Then, we will say, ‘What is this smell then?’ He will say, ‘Zaynab gave me honey sherbet.’ Then, we will say, ‘So, that honey was produced by bees that collected nectar from urfut tree’.” 3

Maghafir is the plural of “maghfur”. Maghfur is sticky and sweet gum from the urfut tree; it has an unpleasant smell.

The Prophet (pbuh) did not like this smell; he felt disturbed by it. Hz. Aisha knew about it. That is why, she gave them an instruction like that. 

Once the Prophet was entering Hafsa’s room; she asked,
" O Messenger of Allah! Have you eaten maghafir?" The Prophet said,
"No!" Hz. Hafsa said,
" What is this smell then?" The Prophet said,
" I drank honey sherbet in Zaynab bint Jahsh’s house." Hz. Hafsa said,
"So, that honey was produced by bees that collected nectar from urfut tree." Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,
" I will never drink it again." Then he said,
" I have vowed. Never tell about it to anyone." 4

Thus, the Prophet vowed that he would not have honey, which is halal (permissible), because he wanted to please his wives and to prevent the competition caused by jealousy among his wives from causing a negative effect on the order of his family. 5

He asked Hafsa to keep it a secret along with some other things he told her. He made her promise not to tell anyone about them.

When the Prophet vowed that he would not have honey from then on, the following verse was sent down:

“O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee?, Thou seekest to please thy consorts? But Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” 6

Hafsa did not keep those secrets very long; she told Hz. Aisha about it. Then, the other wives of the Prophet knew about it.

God Almighty informed His Messenger (pbuh) through revelation that the secret that he wanted to be kept was disclosed:

When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his consorts, and she then divulged it (to another) and Allah made it known to him, he confirmed part thereof and repudiated a part. Then when he told her thereof, she said, Who told thee this?He said, He told me who knows and is well-acquainted (with all things).’ 7

Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah reproached Hafsa. Then, some of his wives requested some things about the jewels and welfare of the worldly life. 

The Prophet felt grievous about the situation and felt disturbed by the fact that his wives were jealous of one another. 

Thereupon, he vowed that he would keep away from his wives for a month in order to show them that the worldly life was unimportant for him, to teach them a lesson, to decrease the jealousy among them and to measure their love of and loyalty to him. 8 After this vow, he started to live in the arbor called “mashraba” alone. 9

This incident is called “the Incident of I’la”. “I’la” lexically means an absolute vow; as a fiqh term, it means vow by a man that he will not approach his wife for sexual intercourse.

The Panic of the Companions

When the Companions heard that the Prophet started to live in Mashraba alone, they panicked because they thought he divorced his wives. Hazrat Umar narrates that panic as follows:

“I was living in Awali, a district of Madinah. I had a neighbor from Ansar. We visited the Prophet every other day. When I went to visit the Messenger of Allah, I informed my neighbor about the revelation that was sent down that day and any other news when I returned. When he went to visit the Prophet, he informed me about things when he returned.

It was my neighbor’s turn to visit the Prophet. It was late at night. He knocked on my door very loudly. I opened the door in panic.

I asked him, ‘What is the matter?

He said, ‘A great disaster!

I said, ‘What happened? Did Ghassanis attack Madinah?

He said, ‘No! Something worse happened. They say the Messenger of Allah has divorced all of his wives.

Thereupon, after performing the morning prayer, I got dressed and went to Madinah. I went to Hafsa. She was crying. I said, “Why are you crying? Did I not warn you against opposing him and not demanding anything from him?’ Then, I asked her, ‘Did the Messenger of Allah divorce you?

She said, ‘I do not know.

I asked, ‘Where is the Messenger of Allah now?

She said, ‘He is there, in that Mashraba; he is resting.

I stood up and approached the place where the Messenger of Allah was. Rabah, his servant, was at the door. I said, ‘O Rabah! Ask the Messenger of Allah permission for me to see him.

Rabah went in and then returned. He said, ‘I asked him but he did not say anything.

I went to the mosque. Some Companions were sitting around the pulpit sadly; some of them were weeping. I sat there for a while. I could not overcome my sorrow. I approached the room of the Messenger of Allah again.  I said to Rabah, ‘Ask the Messenger of Allah permission for Umar to see him.

The servant went in and then returned. He said, ‘I asked him but he did not say anything.

I returned to the mosque. I sat near the pulpit for a while. I could not get rid of my anxiety and sorrow no matter what I did.

I approached the room of the Messenger of Allah again. I said loudly, ‘O Rabah! I want to see the Messenger of Allah. Ask for permission. If the Messenger of Allah thinks that I will intercede for Hafsa, I swear by Allah that I will kill her if the Messenger of Allah orders me to do so.

Rabah went in. When he came out, he said, ‘I told him but he kept silent. He did not say anything.

While I was returning, I heard the servant say, ‘Come in; you were given permission.

I went in. I greeted the Messenger of Allah. He was on a mattress made of straw. There were marks of the mattress on his body. I looked around. I saw a handful of barley and a fleece hung on the wall. I started to weep. The Messenger of Allah asked, Why are you weeping?

 I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! How should I not weep? The kings and sultans of other countries lead a life of pleasure but you lead a very simple and plain life though you are the most beloved slave of Allah.

The Messenger of Allah said, O Umar, son of Khattab! Do you not consent to the hereafter for us and the world for them?

Then, I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Did you divorce your wives?

He looked up and said, No!

Upon this answer, I said, ‘Allahu akbar!

Then, I said, ‘All of the Companions are in sorrow. Did I go and tell them the truth?

The Messenger of Allah said, Alrightand he talked to me until his sorrow disappeared. Then, he became happy and started to laugh.

Thereupon, I stood near the door of mosque and shouted loudly: ‘The Messenger of Allah did not divorce his wives.’ 10

The Messenger of Allah leaves Masharaba

When one month passed, the Messenger of Allah ended the seclusion and started to see his wives. Meanwhile, the following verses were sent down:

"O Prophet! Say to thy Consorts: ‘If it be that ye desire the life of this World, and its glitter,- then come! I will provide for your enjoyment and set you free in a handsome manner. But if ye seek Allah and His Messenger, and the Home of the Hereafter, verily Allah has prepared for the well-doers amongst you a great reward.’" 11

According to the verses, the Messenger of Allah offered two options to his wives: To prefer the world and the possessions in the world or to prefer Allah and His Messenger.

When the verses were sent down, the Prophet was near Hz. Aisha. He told her about the verses; he said she could also talk to her parents regarding the issue. Hz. Aisha gave her answer at once:

Why should I talk my to parents regarding this issue? I definitely prefer Allah, His Messenger and the hereafter.” 12

The Prophet smiled when she heard Aisha’s answer.

His other wives also preferred Allah, His Messenger and the hereafter to the world and worldly possessions. Thus, they proved their love of and loyalty to the Prophet.

References:

1. Ayni, Umdatul-Qari, 20:244.
2. Bukhari, 3:132.
3. Tabaqat, 8:85; Bukhari, 6:167; Muslim, 2:1101-1110.
4. Tabaqat, 8:85; Bukhari, 6:167; Muslim, 2:1102.
5. Kâmil Miras, Tecrid-i Sarih Tercemesi, 11:209.
* What is meant by the Messenger of Allah rendering something halal haram means preventing himself from benefitting from that thing. Otherwise, it does not mean to render what Allah rendered halal haram in reality and to believe that it is haram. Nobody can render haram what Allah rendered halal and nobody can render halal what Allah rendered haram. However, a person can prevent himself from benefitting from something halal. Therefore, the Messenger of Allah prohibited himself from honey or honey sherbet, which is halal. Thus, the following question must not come to one’s mind: "How can the Messenger of Allah render haram what Allah rendered haram?"
** According to some narrations, the Prophet (pbuh) told Hz. Hafsa that Hz. Abu Bakr would become the caliph after him and then Hz. Umar after him. (Ibn Kathir, Sirah, 4:390)
6. at-Tahrim, 1.
7. at-Tahrim, 3.
8. Bukhari, 7:230; Insanul-Uyun, 3:406
9. Bukhari, 7:230; Insanul-Uyun, 3:406
10. Bukhari, 1:31-33, 6:70; Musnad, 1:33; Muslim, 2:1109-1112; Tirmidhi, 5:421; Insanul-Uyun, 3:404
11. al-Ahzab, 28-29.
12. Bukhari, 6:23; Muslim, 2:1113.

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