Many will agree that the decision to marry is not an easy one. What kind of spouse to look for? How should the wedding be conducted? How to nurture the bond of marriage? – All of these are weighty considerations, especially for those, who seek Allah’s (swt) blessings for a successful and joyous marriage life. As in all instances, we can find the answers to true marital success from our Prophet’s (sa) life.
Our Prophet (sa) was married eleven times. The number itself makes many critics (including Muslims) to shy away from studying the example he sought to uphold through his marriages. His wives were bestowed the title of Ummul-Momineen (mothers of the believers) and truly played the role of the first ladies of the Muslim Ummah, supporting and advising their husband, bringing to him the grievances of people and educating the masses about the Deen.
Additionally, they lived with each other comfortably. They did have their differences but managed to avoid the types of soap operas created by lesser numbers of women living together, let alone sharing a single husband. Each of them gave their consent to marry him, and none of them sought to leave him – even when Allah (swt) promised to provide them with the bounties of this world, if they would divorce him.
Our Prophet’s (sa) first wife was Kadijah Bint Khawaylid (rta). She was a forty year old noblewoman and a respected entrepreneur, who had been a widowed mother and later a divorcee prior to her marriage to the Prophet (sa).Though fifteen years his senior, Khadijah (rta) was the Prophet’s (sa) most beloved wife and the mother of his six children. She witnessed the early days of the Prophet’s (sa) mission and was ‘the woman behind the man’- the first to accept Allah’s Messenger (sa) and support him through initial difficulties. After her death, the Prophet (sa) continued to make Dua for her and remembered her throughout his life.
Kadijah’s (rta) death left the Prophet’s two younger daughters in need of a woman’s motherly love. The widowed Saudah (rta) was requested to fill that void. Being a humored person, she soon created a comfortable and light atmosphere in the Prophet’s (sa) home and eventually was considered a mother figure by her co-wives.
Aisha’s (rta) history as the youngest of the Prophet’s wives is often under harsh scrutiny. Her marriage was a direct order by Allah (swt), which the Prophet (sa) received in his dreams. Dreams were a form of revelation also for other prophets, including Ibrahim (as), who was ordered to sacrifice his only son through a dream. Aisha (rta) was six years old, when her marriage was arranged – a feature allowed only to Allah’s Prophet (sa), but a blessing for his entire Ummah, as she became Islam’s foremost female scholar. Aisha (rta) was blessed with an inquisitive mind and incredible memory. Through her close relationship with the Prophet (sa), she would question him about all matters and would then memorize his every word. After the Prophet’s (sa) death, her home became the school, from which many future scholars emerged.
Through marriage with Aisha’s (rta) the Prophet (sa) formed strong family ties with her father Abu Bakr Siddiq (rta) (the first Caliph). Similarly his marriage to Hafsa (rta) did the same with her father Umar (rta) (the second Caliph). Interestingly, even the third and the fourth Caliphs (Usman (rta) and Ali (rta)) shared ties through marriage with the Prophet (sa), as his daughters were their wives.
We see the example of bringing families together by means of marriage also through the Prophet’s (sa) marriages to the war captives Safiyyah (rta) (a daughter of a prominent Jewish leader) and Jawayriyah (rta) from the tribe of Banu Mustaliq.
Zainab Bin Khazeemah (rta), also known as ‘mother of the needy’ for her generosity, and Umm Salamah (rta), an elderly wise woman and a renowned narrator of Ahadeeth, eventually joined the ranks of these blessed women. Their husbands were martyrs and Prophet’s (sa) marriages with them brought them and their children under his protection, thus encouraging the Ummah to help the widows.
Umm Habibah (rta) was Prophet’s (sa) cousin, and their marriage was a long distance one. She was in Abbassinyah, a widowed and destitute mother, when the Prophet (sa) heard of her situation and sent his proposal through a messenger to the King Negus. On her consent, Negus arranged the wedding and a wedding feast, gave her Mehr on the Prophet’s (sa) behalf and even had her transported to her husband. This wedding refutes the belief that the consummation of marriage is a prerequisite for Valima. It also refuted the once prevalent custom of not marrying one’s first cousin.
The story of the Prophet’s (sa) marriage to Zainab Bint Jahash (rta) is outlined within the Quran (Al-Ahzab) itself – as Allah (swt) Himself had the Nikah preformed in Jannah. She was a divorcee of the Prophet’s (sa) ‘adopted’ son, so this marriage broke down the custom of adoption. This marriage made many a tongue wag and, hence, helped to identify the hypocrites among the true followers of the Prophet (sa).
Since the prophets must face harder trials than their followers and observe more demanding religious rites, they have also been given some privileges for them alone. Such was the case of the Prophet’s (sa) marriage to Maimoona (rta), as stated by Allah (swt) in (Ahzab 33:50-52). She was very pious woman, who had been once divorced and later married and widowed. It was her ardent desire to be amongst the Um-ul-Momineen, even though she knew well the difficult lives they had. Allah (swt) accepted her earnest plea, and the Prophet (sa) accepted her proposal.
The Prophet (sa) treated his wives equally, spending one day with each of them, beginning with Umm Salama (rta) (the eldest) and ending with Aisha (rta) (the youngest). Each was allotted a night with him and lots were drawn to choose, who would accompany him on a journey. Though Aisha (rta) was his favourite, he treated them equally in all matters
Further study of the lives and personalities of the mothers of believers would reveal, why they were selected by Allah (swt) to uphold this special title. A question that ought to be considered by the ‘Muslim’ critics of the Prophet’s (sa) marriages should be: “If we accept him as the Prophet chosen by Allah (swt), may we question his actions and refuse to seek the wisdom within them?”