PROPHET AND HIS WIVES
Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, is the most excellent
example as father and husband. He was very kind and tolerant
towards his wives. They could not live, they could not
envisage life, without him. They could not live away from him.
married Sawda, his second wife, while in Makka. However, after
a while, he wanted to divorce her for certain reasons. When
she heard this, she was extremely upset. She ran to him and
begged, ‘O Messenger of God, I wish no worldly thing of you.
I will sacrifice the time allocated to me, if you do not wish
to stay in my room. But, please, do not deprive me of being
your wife. I wish to go to the Hereafter as your wife. I care
for nothing else.’1
Her plea was accepted by the Messenger, and Sawda remained one
of the pure wives.
was the position the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings,
held in their hearts. If he had divorced one of them, she
would have waited at his doorstep until the Last Day.
he noticed that Hafsa felt some discomfort as a result of
their financial situation. ‘If she wishes, I may set her
free’, he said, or something to that effect. This suggestion
alarmed her a great deal. Mediators insistently told him what
a good woman she was, requesting him not to divorce her. He
did not, rather, he kept his faithful friend’s daughter as
his trusted wife.
from the Messenger of God was a calamity. All his wives felt
the same. The ‘lord of the two worlds’ had established his
throne in their hearts. They were completely at one with him.
They shared in his blessed, mild and natural life. If he had
left them, they would have died of suffocation.
his death, there was much yearning and a great deal of grief.
Abu Bakr and ‘Umar found the wives of the Messenger weeping
whenever they visited them. Their weeping seemed to continue
for almost a lifetime. Muhammad, upon him be peace and
blessings, left a lasting impression on everyone. They could
not forget him. At one point, he had nine wives and dealt
equally with all of them without any serious problems. He was
a kind and gentle head of family. He never behaved harshly or
rudely. The perfect manner in which he carried out his role as
husband demonstrates that he was the Messenger of God.
days before his death, he said, A servant has been left
free to choose this world or his Lord. He chose his Lord.2
Abu Bakr, a man of great intelligence, began to cry,
recognizing that the servant referred to was the very person
speaking. Day after day, his illness got worse. His severe
headache made him writhe with pain. Even during this difficult
period, he continued to act kindly and gently towards his
wives. He asked for permission to stay in one room as he had
no strength to visit them one by one in each of their rooms.
All his wives agreed and the Messenger, upon him be peace,
spent his last days in ‘A’isha’s room.
respected and honored the rights of his wives even under the
most severe conditions. This was the Messenger of God!
his wives, because of his generosity and kindness, thought
that she was his most beloved. The idea that any man could
show equality and complete fairness in relationship with nine
women seems impossible. For this reason, the Messenger of God
asked God’s pardon for any unintentional leanings. He would
make this prayer:
may have unintentionally shown more love to one of them
than the others and this would have been injustice. So,
O Lord, I take refuge in Your grace for those things
which are beyond my power.3
gentleness and sensitivity! I wonder if anyone else could show
such kindness to his children or spouses. When people manage
to partially cover up their lower inborn tendencies, it is as
if they have done something very clever and shown a sign of
their tremendous will-power. Sometimes it even happens that in
bragging of their cleverness, they exhibit their defects
unconsciously. The Messenger, despite showing no fault, asked
gentleness must have penetrated the souls of his wives so
deeply that his departure led to what they must have felt like
an unceasing separation. They did not commit suicide as Islam
forbids it. However, life became an endless sorrow and
Messenger was kind and gentle to all women and advised
everyone else to be kind to them. His kindness was described
on the authority of Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas, who related:
said: ‘One day I went to the Prophet and saw him
smiling. “May God make you smile forever, O Messenger
of God!”, I said, and asked why he was smiling. “I
smile at those women. They were chatting in front of me
before you came. When they heard your voice, they all
vanished, he answered still smiling.” On hearing this
answer, I raised my voice and told them, ‘O enemies of
your own selves, you are scared of me, but you are not
scared of the Messenger of God, and you do not show
respect to him.’ “You are hard-hearted and strict”,
was also gentle to women. However, the most handsome of men
look ugly when compared to the beauty of Joseph. Likewise, ‘Umar’s
gentleness and sensitivity would seem like violence and
severity when compared to that of the Prophet.
women had witnessed the gentleness, sensitivity and kindness
of the Messenger. For this reason, they regarded ‘Umar’s
behaviour as strict and severe. Yet ‘Umar, may God be
pleased with him, shouldered the burden of the Caliphate
perfectly. He was to become one of the greatest examples after
the Prophet. He showed justice in his behaviour and made a
great effort to distinguish right from wrong. He had the
qualities that led him to the rank of Caliph. Some of these
qualities might seem rather severe to some of us; but, it was
precisely because of these qualities that he was able to
shoulder such demanding responsibilities.
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, discussed matters
with his wives as friends. Certainly he did not need their
advice, since he was directed by Revelation. However, he
wanted to teach his nation. Contrary to the conventions of the
time, women in Islam were to be given every consideration. He
began teaching us through his own relationship with his wives.
Prophet’s consultation with his wives
conditions of the Treaty of Hudaybiya seemed, at first sight,
very heavy to the Muslims. They felt they had no power left.
They wanted to reject the treaty and go on to Makka and face
the possible consequences. The Messenger ordered those with
him to slaughter their sacrificial animals and leave their
pilgrim attire. Some of the Companions were hesitant. They had
hoped for a change in his decision. Muhammad, upon him be
peace and blessings, repeated his order. It did not change
their reluctance. They did not oppose him, but still hoped he
might change his mind as they had set out with the intention
of pilgrimage and did not want to stop half way.
the reluctance of some of his Companions, the ‘lord of the
two worlds’ returned to his tent and asked the opinion of
his wife, Umm Salama. This great lady explained her opinion,
fully aware that the Messenger, upon him be peace and
blessings, did not need her advice. In doing this, he taught
us an important social lesson. We should learn that there is
nothing wrong with exchanging ideas with women on such
said: ‘O Messenger of God! Do not repeat your order. They
may resist and thereby perish. Slaughter your sacrificial
animal and change out of your pilgrim attire. They will obey
you, willingly or not, when they recognize the certainty of
your order.’5 Immediately he took a knife in his
hand, went out and began to slaughter his sheep. The
Companions began to do the same. Everybody understood that
there would be no change in his decision.
and consultation, like every good deed, were both practiced by
God’s Messenger first in the context of his own family and
then in the wider community. We are very far from
understanding his relationships with his wives; we are
wandering around in the backyard unaware of the vast treasure
are secondary beings in the minds of many, including those who
claim they are defending women’s rights. For us, a woman is
part of a whole, a part which renders the other half useful.
We believe that when the two halves come together, the true
unity of a human being appears. When this unity does not
exist, humanity does not exist, nor can Prophethood or
sainthood; nor, in fact, can Islam.
master encouraged us through his enlightening words to behave
kindly to women. He declared: The most perfect of believers
is the best of them in character and the best of you is the
kindest to his family.6
clear that womanhood has been honored in a meaningful sense
only once in history; it was during the period of the Prophet
Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
choice God’s Messenger gave to his wives
wives of the Messenger were given the choice of remaining with
him or leaving. This incident is referred to as al-takhyir
and is also called al-ila. It was mentioned in the Qur’an
Prophet! Say to your consorts: ‘If it be that you
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 you seek God and His
Messenger and the Home of the Hereafter, verily God has
prepared for you, the well-doers amongst you, a great
reward’. (al-Ahzab, 33:28-9)
of his wives had wished for a more prosperous life and said:
‘Couldn’t we live a little more luxuriously, like other
Muslims do? Couldn’t we have at least a bowl of soup
everyday? Could we not have some prettier garments?’ At
first sight, such wishes might be considered fair and just.
However, they were members of the family that were to be an
example for all Muslim families until the Last Day.
Messenger, upon him be peace, reacted to this situation by not
visiting them and going into retreat. The news spread and
everybody rushed to the mosque and began to cry. The smallest
grief felt by their beloved Messenger was enough to bring them
all to tears. The Muslims were so close to the Messenger that
the smallest incident would disturb them.
Bakr and ‘Umar, two of the Messenger’s closest friends,
saw the event in a different light, as their daughters were
directly involved. They also rushed to the mosque.
wanted to see him, but he would not leave his retreat.
Eventually, on their third attempt, they gained entry to the
house and began to manhandle their daughters. The Messenger
saw what was happening, but his only comment was: I cannot
afford what they want.7
Holy Qur’an declared:
wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women.
might save themselves by simply fulfilling the obligations
placed upon them, but those who were at the very center of
this religion had to devote themselves fully so that no
weakness would appear at the center. There were some
advantages in being the Prophet’s wife, but these advantages
brought responsibilities and potential risks. The Messenger
was preparing them as ‘examples’. He was especially
worried that they might enjoy here in the world the reward for
their good deeds and thereby be included in the verse:
have exhausted your share of the good things in your
life of the world and sought comfort in them. (al-Ahqaf,
life in the Prophet’s house was uncomfortable. For this
reason, they explicitly or implicitly, made some modest
demands. As their status was different from other women, they
were not expected to enjoy themselves in a worldly sense.
are some godly persons who laugh only a few times in a whole
lifetime and who do not fill their stomachs even once. An
example is Fudayl ibn ‘Iyaz, who never laughed. He smiled
only once, and on that occasion, when people asked the reason
in surprise, he said: ‘Today, they informed me of the demise
of my son, ‘Ali. I was happy to hear God had loved him, and
so I smiled.’8 If this was the state of such men,
then, the Messenger’s wives, who were even more God-fearing
and regarded as the mothers of all Muslims, would certainly be
of a higher degree.
not easy to merit being together with the Messenger in this
world and the Hereafter. Thus, these special women were put to
a great test. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings,
gave them the choice of his poor home or the luxury of the
world. If they were to choose the world, the Messenger would
give them whatever they wanted, but then set them free. If
they were to choose God and His Messenger, they had to be
content with what they had of this world. This was a
peculiarity of his family. Since this family was unique, the
members of it had to be unique, too. The head of the family
was chosen, as were the wives and children.
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, called ‘A’isha
first and said: ‘I want to discuss a matter with you. You’d
better talk to your parents before making a decision.’ Then
he recited the verses mentioned above. Her decision was
exactly as expected from a truthful daughter of a truthful
father: ‘O Messenger of God! Do I need to talk to my
parents? By God, I choose God and His Messenger.’
herself tells us what happened next: ‘The Messenger received
the same answer from all his wives. No one expressed a
different opinion. They all said what I had said.’9
said the same thing because they were all at one with the
Messenger. They could not differ. If the Messenger had told
them to fast for a lifetime without break, they would have
done that. They would have endured it with pleasure. However,
they endured hardship until their death.
the Prophet’s wives had previously enjoyed an extravagant
lifestyle. One of these was Safiyya. She had lost her father
and husband during the Battle of Khaybar, where she herself
was taken as a prisoner of war. She must have been very angry
with the Messenger, but when she saw him, her feelings changed
completely. She endured the same destiny as the other wives.
They endured it because love of the Messenger had penetrated
was of Jewish origin and on one occasion she was dismayed when
her origin was mentioned to her sarcastically. She informed
the Messenger, expressing her sadness. Our master comforted
her saying: If they repeat it, give them this response: ‘My
father is the Prophet Aaron, my uncle is the Prophet Moses and
my husband is, as you see, the Prophet Muhammad, the Chosen
One. What do you have more than me to be proud of?’10
declares that the wives of the Prophet are mothers of the
believers (al-Ahzab, 33.6). Although fourteen centuries
have passed, we still feel delight in saying ‘my mother’
when referring to his wives, Khadija, ‘A’isha, Umm Salama,
Hafsa and the others. We feel this because of him. Some feel
this more than they do for their real mothers. Certainly, this
feeling must have been deeper, warmer and stronger then.
conclusion, we can see that the Messenger was the perfect head
of family. Managing many women with ease, being a lover of
their hearts, an instructor of their minds, an educator of
their souls, he never neglected the affairs of the nation nor
compromised his duties. This is a clear proof of his
Prophethood. If this were the only proof, it would be enough.
Muslim, “Rada’,” 47.
2. Bukhari, “Salat,”
3. Tirmidhi, “Nikah,”
41. / 4. Bukhari, “Adab,” 68.
Bukhari, “Shurut,” 15.
Dawud, “Sunna,” 15; Tirmidhi, “Rada’,” 11.
Muslim, “Talaq,” 34, 35.
8. Abu Nu‘aym, Hilyat
9. Muslim, “Talaq,”
10. Tirmidhi, “Manaqib,”