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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men

 

7.  Muhammad’s Marriages

 

from the Qur’an and major hadith collections

 

 

Muhammad’s Marriages

     From the Qur’an

 

Some passages of the Qur’an specifically address the marriages of Muhammad.[1]

 

The Qur’an (33:28-29) admonishes Muhammad to tell his wives that if they desire the life of this world and its adornments then he will release them from marriage with ample provisions.[2] But If Muhammad’s wives seek Allah and his messenger (Muhammad) and the hereafter, then Allah has prepared a great reward for them.[3]

 

According to the Qur’an, a wife of Muhammad who acts with flagrant indecency will incur punishment twice that of other women.[4] A wife of Muhammad who submits to the will of Allah will be rewarded doubly.[5]

 

According to the Qur’an (66:3-5), when one of Muhammad’s wives revealed a secret he had confided in her, he did not divorce her. The Qur’an text says that Allah could have given him a replacement wife who was more obedient and devout than her if he had done so.[6]

 

The Qur’an tells Muhammad’s wives that they are not like other women. They should not to speak in a soft voice, lest one who is impure at heart should lust after them.[7] They should remain in their houses and refrain from making dazzling displays of themselves, as the polytheists of earlier times did. They should pray and pay the zakat and obey Allah and Muhammad. Allah wishes only to remove any abomination from those in Muhammad’s house and to purify them.[8]

 

Muhammad is given special permission in the Qur’an (33:51) to deviate from the regular rotation of wives for sexual intercourse and follow his desires instead.[9] At one point, Muhammad is forbidden from taking any additional women beyond those he has at that time, except for female slaves.[10]

 

The Qur’an says that visitors to Muhammad’s home were to speak to his wives from behind a curtain in order to ensure purity of heart both of the visitor and Muhammad’s wife and also so that Muhammad would not get annoyed.[11] Muhammad’s wives could, however, reveal themselves to their fathers, their sons, their brothers, their nephews and their slaves or women.[12]

 

The Qur’an forbids any man from marrying one of Muhammad’s widows.[13]

 

 

Muhammad’s Marriages

From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim

 

Contents

 

Muhammad and his wives and children (hadith)

 

Muhammad favored one wife over others (hadith)

 

Order of sexual intercourse with Muhammad’s wives (hadith)

 

Muhammad left his wives for 29 days (hadith)

 

Muhammad and his menstruating wives (hadith)

 

 

Muhammad and his wives and children (hadith). A hadith says that the fact that Muhammad, the best person among the Muslims, had more wives than any other Muslim leads to the conclusion that marriage is a good thing and a man should marry.[14]

 

Muhammad never beat a woman or a servant or anyone else except when he was fighting in a battle.[15]

 

Muhammad would kiss his wives even when fasting.[16] In this context, his wife Aisha said that he was able to control his sexual desire more than any other man.[17] It was suggested that Muhammad’s kissing his wives during the Ramadan fast might not mean that others can do so since Allah pardoned Muhammad for all his sins. Muhammad replied that he was the person most conscious of and fearing Allah (implying that it is not unlawful for any man to kiss his wife during the fast).[18] Jabir, a close companion of Muhammad, said that if a man ejaculated when looking at his wife during a fast, he should still complete the fast.[19]

 

Muhammad would kiss his son, Ibrahim,[20] and his grandson, al-Hasan.[21] He was critical of those who did not kiss their children, saying those who do not show mercy will themselves be denied mercy.[22]

 

When two of Muhammad’s wives, Aisha and Zainab, were arguing loudly with each other, Aisha’s father, Abu Bakr, became angry with them and called upon Muhammad to stop them. But Muhammad just went out as it was time for prayer.[23]

 

A woman who asked Muhammad if he was interested in marrying her was praised by Anas, one of Muhammad’s close Companions, because it was Muhammad that she asked; the daughter of Anas criticized the woman as being shameless.[24]

 

 

Muhammad favored one wife over others (hadith). Muhammad himself declared that Aisha was superior to all other women.[25] Muhammad told Aisha that she was shown to him in a dream in which an angel brought her to him.[26] Aisha said that she was the only one of Muhammad’s wives who was a virgin when she married him[27] and that she was dearer to him than any of his other wives.[28]

 

The Muslims would send presents to Muhammad specifically when it was Aisha’s day to be with him in order to obtain his favor. When his other wives complained about this he rejected their complaints saying that the only wife in whose presence he received Divine Inspiration was Aisha.[29]

 

Muhammad’s other wives were unhappy that Aisha was his favored wife. They sent his daughter, Fatima, to demand equity among the wives, but he rebuffed her plea. They then sent Zainab bint Jahsh, one of Muhammad’s wives, to make the same plea for equity of the wives. Muhammad was lying with Aisha at the time and, with Muhammad’s assent, Aisha argued vehemently with Zainab until she became silent.[30]

 

When two of Muhammad’s wives, Aisha and Hafsa, switched camels during a journey, Muhammad rode alongside Aisha’s camel, apparently thinking that Aisha was on it, and thus Hafsa got to spend that time with him. Aisha was upset that she had lost the opportunity to be with him because she accepted Hafsa’s suggestion that they switch camels.[31]

 

Umar (a close Companion of Muhammad’s who became the second successor to him as leader of the Muslims) told his daughter, Hafsa, not to make her husband, Muhammad, angry, as Aisha did. Umar said that Hafsa should not behave like Aisha in this way because Aisha is more beautiful and charming and is more beloved by Muhammad.[32] Umar told Hafsa that Muhammad would have divorced her already if she had not been Umar’s daughter.[33]

 

Aisha said that Zainab, another wife of Muhammad, was trying to get the same favor as Aisha got in Muhammad’s eyes.[34]

 

The wife of Abu Zar said that he took her from poverty and gave her great riches, fed her so she became fat, never criticized her, and had a wonderful family. But one day Abu Zar saw another woman whose two sons were playing with her breasts, so he divorced his wife and married this woman he had seen. The woman telling the story remarried but she said that her new husband was not nearly as good a husband as Abu Zar had been. Muhammad had told his wife, Aisha, that he was to her as Abu Zar was to this wife of his who told the story.[35]

 

When Muhammad was in his final days of life, he wanted very much for Aisha’s turn with him to come rather than be with any of his other wives. When he died, he was at Aisha’s house[36] with his head on her bosom[37] or her thigh.[38]

 

Even so, Aisha herself had feelings of jealousy over having to share Muhammad with his other wives.[39] But Aisha’s greatest jealousy was of Khadija, Muhammad’s first wife,[40] who died before he married any other women.

 

Aisha said that Muhammad would talk about Khadija very often.[41] Aisha’s jealousy was partly because Allah had ordered Muhammad to assure Khadija that she would have a special place in a palace in Paradise.[42] Muhammad did say that Khadija was the best among the women of her time.[43] Aisha said that whenever Muhammad slaughtered a sheep he would send much of it to the women who had been friends with Khadija.[44]

 

Aisha complained to Muhammad that he acted as if Khadija was the only woman on earth.  He would reply with a description of Khadija and say that she had borne his children;[45] he said that Allah himself nurtured the love in his heart for Khadija.[46] Aisha said that Muhammad would not marry another woman while Khadija lived[47] (but he married many women at the same time as his subsequent wives).

 

Aisha asked Muhammad why he continues in his memory of an old woman, Khadisha, who was now dead when Allah had given him somebody much better, namely, Aisha.[48] (Khadisha was considerably older than Muhammad and Aisha was much younger than he was.)

 

Muhammad told his wives that the one with the longest hands would be the first to meet him (in Paradise).  When the wives compared their hands, it was Zainab who had the longest one.[49]

 

Muhammad was reported to have routinely skipped the turn of one of his nine wives,[50] that one wife being Safiyya.[51]

 

Sauda, another one of Muhammad’s wives, gave her allocated night to Aisha, so Aisha had two nights with him.[52] Sauda was getting old at that time[53] and by giving her turn to Aisha, Sauda hoped to please Muhammad.[54]

 

 

Order of sexual intercourse with Muhammad’s wives (hadith). Muhammad would spend one day and night with each of his wives, in rotation.[55] It is also reported that Muhammad had sexual intercourse with all nine[56] (or eleven[57]) of his wives each night, causing some to say that he had the strength of thirty men.[58]

 

When the Qur’an verse (33:51, cited above) that permitted Muhammad to skip the regular turn of any of his wives or have sexual intercourse with whichever wife he pleased[59] was revealed, Muhammad’s wife Aisha came to understand that Allah hurries to satisfy Muhammad’s desires.[60] Aisha, herself, would have chosen to deny Muhammad permission to spend her night with a different wife if she had been able to.[61] The understanding that Allah was eager to please Muhammad enabled Aisha to accept the fact that some women had flagrantly offered themselves to Muhammad for marriage rather than leaving it up to him to take that initiative.[62] 

 

Muhammad was reported to have routinely skipped the turn of one of his nine wives,[63] that one wife being Safiyya.[64]

 

Sauda, another one of Muhammad’s wives, gave her allocated night to Aisha, so Aisha had two nights with him.[65] Sauda was getting old at that time[66] and by giving her turn to Aisha, Sauda hoped to please Muhammad.[67]

 

 

Muhammad left his wives for 29 days (hadith). Hadiths tell of a time when Muhammad was treated badly by his wives. Muhammad said he would leave them for a month. He returned to them after 29 days. Muhammad’s anger at his wives caused him neither to divorce them nor to strike them nor to take any action other than to keep away from them for several weeks. Rather than exercising the right to divorce his wives, Muhammad asked Aisha if she wanted to divorce him. She said that rather than divorce him, she would choose to stay with him, the Messenger of Allah, and achieve her reward in Paradise as the Qur’an promises for wives who stay with Muhammad. Muhammad never beat any woman or servant with his hand.

 

 

Details of this story: Muhammad left his wives for 29 days

 

 

Muhammad and his menstruating wives (hadith). While the Qur’an says to keep away from a woman who is menstruating,[68] hadiths report that Muhammad did not take a strict view of this matter. He would drink from the same cup as his menstruating wife and eat meat from a bone she had eaten from, even putting his mouth in the same place where hers had been.[69] In fact, he stated that the only interaction that is prohibited with menstruating women is sexual intercourse.[70] (Rules and restrictions concerning menstruating women from the Qu’ran and the hadith collections are described in detail on the section of this website on Ritual Purity .)

 

Hadiths record the report of Muhammad’s wife Aisha that there were many instances of close contact with her husband when she was having her menstrual periods. She said that she would comb his hair[71] and wash his head[72] while she was menstruating, even when he was in the mosque.[73] Muhammad sent Aisha to retrieve something from the mosque. When she indicated that she thought that this would not be appropriate because she was menstruating, he replied that her menstruation is not in her hand so she could proceed to the mosque to do what he had asked her to do.[74]

 

Hadiths say that when Aisha was menstruating, Muhammad would lean with his head in her lap and recite the Qur’an.[75]  He would lie under the same sheet with his menstruating wives Aisha,[76] Umm Salama,[77] or Maimuna; Maimuna said that there would be a cloth between the two of them.[78] Muhammad would drink from a cup or bite meat from a bone putting his mouth on the same spot where Aisha had done the same, even though she was menstruating at the time.[79]

 

Muhammad would embrace his wife Aisha when she was menstruating.[80] Aisha said that Muhammad would have her clothe herself below her waist (in a waist-wrapper called an izar) when she was menstruating and then he would embrace and fondle her;[81] she noted in recounting this that he was superior at controlling his sexual urges.[82] He would similarly embrace and fondle his other wives, izar-clad, when they were menstruating.[83]

 

Hadiths say that when Muhammad prayed, he was sometimes so close to his menstruating wife Maimuna that his clothing would touch her when he prostrated himself.[84] Aisha also reported that she was by Muhammad’s side when he prayed, even though she was menstruating, and that part of the sheet that was covering her was over on his side.[85]

 

________________

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 12, 2016

 

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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.



[1] QR 33:28-33:34, QR 33:50-33:55

[2] QR 33:28

[3] QR 33:29

[4] QR 33:30

[5] QR 33:31

[6] QR 66:3-5

[7] QR 33:32

[8] QR 33:33

[9] QR 33:51

[10] QR 33:52

[11] QR 33:53

[12] QR 33:54-33:55

[13] QR 33:53

[14] BK 7:62:7

[15] ML 30:5756-5757

[16] BK 1:6:319, BK 3:31:149, BK 3:31:150, BK 3:31:151, ML 6:2436, ML 6:2438, ML 6:2439, ML 6:2440, ML 6:2441-2 BK 3:31:149442, ML 6:2443-2444, ML 6:2445, ML 6:2446, ML 6:2447, ML 6:2448-2449

[17] BK 3:31:149, ML 6:2438, ML 6:2439, ML 6:2440, ML 6:2442

[18] ML 6:2450

[19] BK 3:31:149

[20] BK 2:23:390, ML 30:5734

[21] BK 3:34:333, ML 30:5736-5737-5738

[22] BK 8:73:26, BK 8:73:27, ML 30:5735, ML 30:5736-5737-5738

[23] ML 8:3450

[24] BK 7:62:53, BK 8:73:144

[25] BK 4:55:623, BK 4:55:643, BK 5:57:113, BK 5:57:114, BK 7:65:329, BK 7:65:330, ML 31:5966, ML 31-5992-5993

[26] BK 7:62:57, ML 31:5977-5978

[27] BK 7:62:14

[28] ML 8:3312-3313

[29] BK 5:57:119, ML 31:5983

[30] ML 31:5984

[31] ML 31:5991

[32] BK 3:43:648, BK 7:62:119, BK 7:62:145, ML 9:3508-3509, ML 9:3511

[33] ML 9:3507

[34] BK 3:48:829, BK 6:60:274

[35] BK 7:62:117, ML 31:5998

[36] BK 5:57:118, BK 7:62:144, ML 31:5985

[37] ML 31:5985, ML 31:5986-5987

[38] ML 31:5990

[39] ML 39:6759

[40] BK 5:58:164, BK 5:58:165, BK 5:58:166, BK 7:62:156, BK 8:73:33, BK 9:93:576, ML 31:5971, ML 31:5972-5973, ML 31:5974, ML 31:5976

[41] BK 5:58:165, BK 5:58:166, BK 7:62:156, BK 8:73:33, ML 31:5971

[42] BK 5:58:164, BK 5:58:165, BK 5:58:167, BK 7:62:156, BK 8:73:33, BK 9:93:576, ML 31:5970, ML 31:5971

[43] BK 4:55:642, BK 5:58:162-163, ML 31:5965

[44] BK 5:58:164, BK 8:73:33, ML 31:5971, ML 31:5972-5973

[45] BK 5:58:166

[46] ML 31:5972-5973

[47] ML 31:5975

[48] BK 5:58:168, ML 31:5976

[49] ML 31:6007

[50] BK 7:62:5, ML 8:3455-3456

[51] ML 8:3455-3456

[52] BK 3:48:853, BK 7:62:139, ML 8:3451-3452

[53] ML 8:3451-3452

[54] BK 3:48:853

[55] BK 3:48:853, ML 8:3450

[56] BK 1:5:268, BK 1:5:270, BK 7:62:142

[57] BK 1:5:268

[58] BK 1:5:268

[59] QR 33:51

[60] BK 6:60:311, BK 7:62:48, ML 8:3453, ML 8:3454

[61] BK 6:60:312, ML 9:3499

[62] BK 6:60:311

[63] BK 7:62:5, ML 8:3455-3456

[64] ML 8:3455-3456

[65] BK 3:48:853, BK 7:62:139, ML 8:3451-3452

[66] ML 8:3451-3452

[67] BK 3:48:853

[68] QR 2:222

[69] ML 3:590

[70] ML 3:592

[71] BK 1:6:294, BK 1:6:295, BK 3:33:245, BK 3:33:262, BK 7:72:808-809, ML 3:585

[72] BK 1:6:298, BK 3:33:247, ML 3:584, ML 3:586

[73] BK 1:6:295, BK 1:6:298, BK 3:33:245, BK 3:33:247, BK 3:33:262, ML 3:584, ML 3:585

[74] ML 3:587, ML 3:588, ML 3:589

[75] BK 1:6:296, BK 9:93:639, ML 3:591

[76] BK 1:6:297, BK 1:6:319, BK 1:6:320

[77] ML 3:581

[78] ML 3:580

[79] ML 3:590

[80] BK 3:33:247

[81] BK 1:6:298, BK 1:6:299, ML 3:577, ML 3:578

[82] BK 1:6:299, ML 3:578

[83] BK 1:6:300, ML 3:579

[84] BK 1:6:329, BK 1:8:376, BK 1:9:497, ML 4:1041

[85] ML 4:1042