The Beautiful Wives of the Prophet - Commentary

Question and answer details
As-Salamu `alaykum, Dear brothers and sisters at Onislam! Before I start my question I would like to thank you for providing such a wonderful and accessible Web site for your fellow Muslims! Thank you! I find that most of the questions, fatwas and cyber counselor answers are written with such compassion and postivity that I never feel overburdened with the answers, but in fact uplifted, as things never seem as strict or frightening as they once did before I knew the truth. So, this brings me on to my question, that I'm hoping—in sha’ Allah—will bring me the same kind of happiness, understanding, and conviction that the other answers to other questioners have. Okay, my question is about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In many seerahs (biographies) of the Prophet there are details of how the marriages were arranged and many of them seem to state that beauty was the motivating factor, e.g, in his marriage to Juwairiya. Now I have read another answer to a similar question but was not satisfied by the answer. It was by Kamal Badr. I was not satisfied because I always thought that there were 10 wives only out of compassion, not outward beauty. I really appreciate Kamal Badr's answers most of the time, but this time I felt unsatisfied because there was no explanation of why or where such sources come from. And, if they were untrue, why in the Qur'an would Allah Almighty mention to Prophet Muhammad to not *{take any more wives even if their beauty should please you}*? Because this would back up those biographies that state that this was the motivating factor in the marriages, not social reasons or care for widows. This part just doesn't make sense to me, since a prophet would surely not think like this. I really think that a kind and knowledgeable brother or sister should write a book on all these controversial issues, so that wherever these questions arise from study they can be cleared up and proved false through intelligence and evidence, in sha’ Allah. I hope and pray that you can help me in this matter and that I will in turn be able to help other brothers and sisters who have asked me these questions in sha’ Allah.
Kamal Badr

Salam Laila,

I would like to thank you for your kind remarks and comments, which reflect the great concern you have for the course of
da`wah, jazaki Allah khayran!

Moving to your question, what I wanted to make clear in my previous answer was that the issue of the Prophet's marriages has been a target of objection to the message brought by this Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), revealing the hidden scheme of such people to defame his noble status, as they have done with other prophets such as David, Solomon, and Jesus (peace and blessings be upon them all). This is the fact I tried to draw the questioner's attention to, making it clear that such an attitude stands in a sharp contrast to the regard the Muslims have for all the prophets, whom they hold in high esteem.

Perhaps just only one point I didn't address in that answer, which brought up your question, of course, i.e., did beauty play any role in all of the Prophet's marriages? Was he so infatuated with women's beauty that he married nine of them?

Before delving into this point, there is something that should be borne in mind. Any man with a passion for women is normally attracted to their adornment, and that person should have enough time to spend in his pursuit of beauty because his being infatuated with carnal desire, coquetry, and flirtation will be a force that drives him in his attitude and manners. And another thing one will notice in such a person is that he will be always craving for youth, tender age, and fresh complexion throughout his life.

Coming to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) the question one will ask here is, does this apply to him?

Let’s answer this question together. Before his first marriage: he was famous for noble character and decency, to the extent that he was called The Most Trustworthy. Would it be logical for a womanizer or a lust-craving youth to be given such a beautiful and magnificent name?

His Marriage Life

Reviewing his marriage life, we notice a sharp contrast to what is mentioned of a person with passion for women’s beauty or adornment. He married Khadijah, a widow much older than him when she proposed to him, at the time that young and beautiful girls of Makkah were easily available to him. This marriage lasted for 25 years, and he did not marry anyone until after her death. In fact, the Prophet continued to revere the memory of his marriage to Khadijah for the rest of his life.

In addition, this marriage serves as a legislative basis for Muslims: it shows that it’s permissible for a man to marry a woman older than him, for a bachelor to marry a widow, and for an employee to marry his employer. So this issue goes beyond the ephemeral pleasures. Actually, his noble precedence in marrying widows stands high as a better remedy for women in today’s war-stricken societies where large numbers of them have become victims of genocide, rather than leaving them in poverty or turning them to prostitution.

Moreover, part of what shows the true nature of this man Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the unique motive behind his plural marriages is the fact that he offered his wives a choice to depart gracefully, and he would give them a provision, if their desire was life and its adornment, or to renounce the materialistic world and its embellishments if they desired Allah and His Messenger. The Qur’an says what means:

*{O Prophet! say to your wives: If you desire this world's life and its adornment, then come, I will give you a provision and allow you to depart a goodly departing. And if you desire Allah and His Messenger and the latter abode, then surely Allah has prepared for the doers of good among you a mighty reward.}* (Al-Ahzab 33: 28-29)

Any man craving for women’s beauty would never do this.

Now coming to the important point in your question, why in the Qur'an would Allah Almighty mention to Prophet Muhammad to not *{take any more wives even if their beauty should please you}*? First of all, the whole verse should be read completely in order to understand its full meaning and the rationale behind it. Allah says what means:

*{It is not allowed to you to take women afterwards, nor that you should change them for other wives, though their beauty be pleasing to you.}* (Al-Ahzab 33: 52)

According to the prominent Qur’anic exegetes, this verse was revealed for certain purposes, part of which was to secure the rights of the Prophet’s wives, especially after they had renounced the material world and chosen Allah and His Messenger. So the normal reward for them was to remain his wives and to keep the privilege of being the Mothers of the Believers. So the verse was revealed, according to Ibn `Abbas and others, to make it clear that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) should never think of divorcing them nor exchange them with other women. This brings us to another reason for the revelation of the verse: to eradicate the habit of exchanging wives, which was prevalent among the Arabs of the pre-Islamic era.

You seem to lay much focus on the phrase *{even if their beauty should please you}* taking this to mean that beauty factor must have had a role to play in the Prophet’s plural marriages. No sister, the phrase does not imply such connotation. It’s just a way of emphasizing a rule. Just as in another surah Almighty Allah addresses all Muslims with what means:

*{Do not marry unbelieving women [idolaters], until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you.}* (Al-Baqarah 2: 221)

You see, it’s just an emphatically instructive message here, i.e., you should never think of doing such- and-such even if there is an alluring factor in it; you should resist this factor because the danger beneath doing that is much greater. Allah then mentions the danger: *{Unbelievers do [but] beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His grace to the Garden [of bliss] and forgiveness}*

Thus, as “beauty” is not deemed the factor that necessitates the prohibition in the latter, it’s illogical to be deemed the sine qua non for the prohibition in the former.

I hope this answers your question. And should you have any other inquiry, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Thanks and salam.

Useful Links:

The Beautiful Wives of the Prophet

Refuting Claims Regarding the Prophet's Marriages