Why Did Muhammad (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) Keep His Nine Wives?

Question:

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

To my brother in Islam, I am in the United States, and most of all Muslims try to teach none Muslim people Islam and to prove to them that Islam is the only true religion in our daily life. And, thanks to Allah a lot of people become Muslims after we prove it to them and when Allah wants them to become Muslims. But all the time they have different questions, some of them we could answer and some we could not because we do not have enough Knowledge or we do not know how to express ourselves to them.

Therefore my High School teacher asked me a question and I would like you please to explain to her as much as you can. Why Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), married nine wives in the same time. To my knowledge that she is a Christian and she should know and believe that Prophet David (peace be upon him) married 99 wives in the same time. I suggest that in the answer you may use the Prophet David as in example to show her and to explain to her that there is a reasons behind everything that all prophets (peace be upon them) did.

Thank you so much.
Your brother.

Answer:

Amani Aboul Fadl Farag

Salam Alaikum,

Thank you so much for your question.

You directed your question to your “brother in Islam”. Do you mind if a “Sister in Islam” answers instead?

Well, your question is very important as it touches a very sensitive issue that has always been the favorite misconception, through which Orientalists propagate against Islam. They deal with this issue of the Prophets’ nine marriages as though it were his Achilles heel! They contrast him with Jesus. Because Jesus was unmarried, he was considered chaste and wise (as we Muslims also believe him to be). But they portray Muhammad as a lustful womanizer who has nothing to do except to satisfy his fleshy desires. This is the repelling image that enemies of Islam often stress.

This is why your secondary school teacher has the right to get confused. The following facts, concerning his marriages could help her have a better understanding of the personality of that great man:

1. This comparison between Jesus and Muhammad is unfair because being married is not a discredit to a prophet otherwise we are going to deny the prophet-hood of all the previous prophets of God. This is since Adam, passing through Abraham (two wives at one time), Noah, Isaac, Solomon, David (99 wives) Moses etc., and they were all wise, chaste, and reliable for delivering the divine message.

2. Prophet Muhammad married this number at a time, when the norm of the place in which he lived (Arab Peninsula in the 7th century) allowed men to marry a much larger number than that, there was no legislation to prohibit this behavior yet.

3. After that, the Divine order came to Muslims through the Qurâ€TMan, to restrict the number of their wives to a maximum of four. God said to them in the verse what means:
*{If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.}* (Al-An`am 6: 3)

On hearing this order, all who men who had more than four wives divorced them, in full submission to God’s orders. The divorced wives – who accepted this divine decree with full satisfaction, implied by their deep faith – soon found other marriages and lead normal lives. Nevertheless, the Prophet – who had nine wives at the time the order was revealed – was exempted from this order in a later verse of Qur’an which gives the meaning of:

*{O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; …}* (Al-Ahzab 33: 50)

This exemption was because there was a prohibition in the Qurâ€TMan for any Muslim to marry the Prophet’s wives once he died or divorced them:

*{…Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy God’s Apostle, or that ye should marry his widows after him at any time. Truly such a thing is in God’s sight an enormity.}* (Al-Ahzab 33: 53)

So, it was rather inhuman for his wives to be doomed to solitude and depravity all their lives. Thus he was exceptionally permitted to keep them.

4. Looking at the circumstances, in which he married each wife, one finds that all those marriages were the furthest from being motivated simply by lust. The marriage to his first wife, Khadijah, was his only wife until she died after almost 20 years of marriage. This marriage to Khadijah covered the years of his youth. Despite the fact that these years were supposed to be the peak of his sexual demand, he did not think of taking any other wife together with her.

The rest of his wives – whom he married after her death – came at a time when he was nearly 50! Exhausted in spreading the new religion, mostly chased by the infidels and where attempts at taking his life were frequent, I, personally, don’t think that this was a romantic atmosphere for anybody to go on amorous adventures!

5. Most of his wives whom he took after the death of Khadijah were old in age, devoid of beauty and were formerly married – except `A’ishah, who was the only one who was young and a virgin. This is despite the fact that he was always the target of many believing ladies, who came offering themselves to him in marriage, but then he politely apologized to them.

6. Every one of these marriages was for a reason; either political to make alliance with other tribes, or human to sustain a widow of a martyr or to honor a lady whom no body wanted to marry… etc. It was not reported that he married them out of carnal desires.

7. He was a model example of justice and kindness to them all regardless of his neutral feelings towards many of them, he would never discriminate among them or reveal the special feelings he had for `A’ishah rather than the others.

Thank you  and please pass my best regards to your respectable teacher.

Amani Aboul Fadl Farag is a lecturer of English literature, in Cairo University. She writes to many Islamic newspapers. She is a consultant to the International Islamic Committee, for woman and child, affiliated with the International Islamic Council for Da`wah and Relief. She is a wife and a mother of 4 children.

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