Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and the most honorable prayer and peace be upon the master of the first and the last, our master, Muhammad, the chosen, the trustworthy, and upon his pious and pure family, his faithful companions, and those who followed them in goodness until the Day of Judgment, may Allah Almighty be pleased with them all.
Allah created the universe and utilized it to serve humankind to build the earth. He sent Messengers to show people the right path. He set forth a good example in the Messengers and their followers for people to follow in their life. Allah said in the Qur’an: “In those there is a good example for whosoever hopes for Allah and the Last Day. Whosoever turns away, indeed, Allah is the Rich and the Praised” (Surah 60, ayah 6). And in reference to Prophet Muhammed specifically He said: “In the Messenger of Allah you have a fine example for he who hopes for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah abundantly” (Surah 33, ayah 21). Some people, especially nowadays, are accusing Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, of being lustful as he married nine women and no other Muslim was allowed to marry more than four. With those type of accusations comes the legitimate question of is Muhammed, peace be upon him, a good example for people to follow?
This is a modern suspicion and accusation but in the past there were also many different accusations made against the Prophet, peace be upon him. His enemies accused Muhammed, peace be upon him, of being a liar, a magician, a soothsayer, even mad. But no one in those times accused him of being lustful, and there is a reason for that. First of all, Muhammed, peace be upon him, was known for being pure and chaste since he was young, even by his enemies. His honesty extended even when he was forced to leave Mecca, and he left his cousin, Ali Bin Abi Talib, in Mecca to return the deposits to their owners, who were mostly non-believers. Secondly, Muhammed did not marry until he was 25-years-old. A lustful man would marry many years earlier, or at least have some affairs with women. When he was married for the first time he married Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her, who was 15 years older. He stayed with her for 25 years, and never married other woman until she died. That means that she was 65 years of old and he was 50. After the death of Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her, he stayed for a whole three years unmarried. After three years he married Sawdah bint Zam’ah. She was the same age of Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with both of them. Where is the lustfulness in that, bearing in mind that Arab men traditionally prefer young virgins?
Actually as Muslims, we assert that Muhammed is the perfect example in every deed or attitude, including his marriages. At that time, the Arabs, as I mentioned earlier, were fond of marrying virgins. The widows and divorced luck was not good because of that. Muhammed, peace be upon him, ordered by Allah, married the widow and the divorced to make an example for the believers and to solve this social problem. All his marriages were by orders of Allah. He never married a virgin except for one, A’ishah, the daughter of his great companion Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with both of them. Each marriage has to be understood within its correct context. He married a widow, who had no one to take care of her. He married to spare bloodbath among tribes, as the wars at that time were waged for trivial reasons and lasted thirty to forty years with hundreds of people be killed. But when a man from tribe married to another tribal woman, those two tribes would never wage war against each other. That was the reason of some marriages of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as he utilized this tribal norm to spare bloodbaths. He married Juwairiyah Bint al-Harith from a tribe called ‘Bani al-Mustalik’, and there is an interesting story behind it. Bani al-Mustalik tribe was at war with the Prophet, peace be upon him, and they lost the battle and all of them were captured. This tribe used to enslave its prisoners, so the Islamic code was to treat them the same, so they were all enslaved. It was a catastrophe, as every single man and woman, old and young, became a slave, and all their belongings were gone. Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, did not like to enslave people, but in the same time he was constrained to avoid breaking the law. To resolve this issue, he married Juwairiyah Bint al-Harith, the daughter of the tribal leader. When his companions saw the drastic development of this event, they became ashamed. How can they enslave the people of their mother? As every wife of Prophet Muhammed is considered the mother of every believer! So the companions, as a marriage gift to the Prophet peace be upon him, freed all the slaves and returned their belongings to them. A’ishah, the daughter of Abu Bakr, and the wife of the Prophet peace be upon him said: “I did not see any woman greater than Juwairiyah who brought blessings to her people. One hundred families of Bani al-Mustaliq were set free on account of her” (Sunan Abi Dawud, 3931).
The Prophet, peace be upon him, married Um Habibah, the daughter of Abu Sufian, one of the big masters of Quraish, the tribe of Prophet Muhammmed. She was a Muslim who migrated to Abyssinia in the first migration. Her husband converted to Christianity, and she divorced him. Imagine a woman with her siblings in a land far away from their home. She did not convert to stay with her husband, nor did she go back to Mecca to her father, who was a non-believer and one of the strongest enemies of Islam. Instead she held fast to her faith in Islam, even though it was a new revelation at the time. Prophet Muhammed married this honorable woman as a gratitude to her steadfastness. The Prophet, peace be upon him, sent to Najashi, the king of Abyssinia, to authorize him to write the marriage contract with Um Habibah, and the Najashi sent her back in a caravan of gifts to Medina.
Moreover, he married a divorced woman in order to establish a type of marriage, which the Arabs were not doing out of pride. I will explain this marriage in some details.
Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, adopted a little boy called Zaid Bin Harithah. Then when Zaid wanted to marry, Allah ordered his Prophet to marry him to his cousin Zainab Bint Jahsh. Their marriage was not perfect, as there were problems pertaining the social levels between Zaid, who was a slave in the past, and Zainab, who was from a prominent house of Quraish. Zaid came a few times to the Prophet complaining about his marriage, and he told the Prophet that he wanted to divorce her. The Prophet was advising him not to do so, as the Angel Gabriel told the Prophet that Zainab is going to be the Prophet’s wife. The Qur’an says: “And when you said to he whom Allah had favored and yourself have favored: ‘Keep your wife and fear Allah, ‘ and you sought to hide in yourself what Allah was to reveal, fearing people; although Allah has a better right for you to fear Him. And when Zaid had accomplished what he would of her (divorce), we gave her to you (Prophet Muhammad) in marriage, so that there is no fault in believers concerning (marriage to) the former spouse of their foster children if they divorced them. The decree of Allah must be done” (Surah 33, ayah 37).
Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him was embarrassed from this issue, as it was a shame for a man to marry the wife of his adopted son or slave, but Allah revealed to him this ayah: “No fault shall be attached to the Prophet for doing what Allah has obligated for him. Such was the way of Allah with those who passed away before the decree of Allah is a decree determined” (Surah 33, ayah 38). So, the sharia law used Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, to establish this principle, acknowledging that the slave or the adopted child is not a real child and to prove that Islam allowed the man to marry his adopted son’s wife.
One last thing, Islam allowed any Muslim to marry one, two, three or four women at a time. It is forbidden to exceed four wives. But the Prophet, peace be upon him, was allowed nine women. Isn’t that breaking the law?
Islam considered the wives of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as mothers of all believers: “The Prophet has a greater right on the believers than their own selves, his wives are their mothers” (Surah 33, ayah 6). Marrying any of them is forbidden: “You must not hurt the Messenger of Allah, nor shall you ever wed his wives after him, surely, this would be a monstrous thing with Allah” (Surah 33, ayah 53). Allah forbade marrying more than four women: “If you fear that you cannot act justly towards the orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you; two, three, four of them. But if you fear that you cannot do justice, then one only, or, those you possess. It is likelier then that you will not be partial” (Surah 4, ayah 3). As for “those you possess” the ayah is dealing with a situation which was available at that time, so it should not be misunderstood that it allows slavery. So, when this ayah was revealed, the Prophet, peace be upon him, already had nine wives. Divorcing five of them would be unjust, for it is forbidden to marry any of them. Thus, Allah made a special law for him: “It shall be unlawful for you to take more wives or to exchange your present wives for other women, though their beauty pleases you, except those whom your right hand possesses. Allah is watchful over everything” (Surah 33, ayah 52).
When Islam first appeared men used to marry more than four wives. Some had ten wives. So Islam minimized the number to four with a condition of justice among them, otherwise one wife would be enough. So, Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, is indeed a perfect example, not only for Muslims, but to mankind in general.