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Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

Muhammad Took Many
 Wives as a Favor to Them


"Our Prophet (peace be upon him) took in many wives to look after them and see that they were taken care of."

The Truth:

Some Muslims who are more familiar with the Quran than the Hadith erroneously believe that Muhammad had only four wives (the Quran limits a man to four - verse 4:3).  However, given that nine of Muhammad’s wives outlived him, it is obvious that he must have given himself special treatment somewhere along the way.

In fact, this special treatment is detailed in the Quran ( 33:50-51) in which “Allah” lists all of the categories of women who are made available to Muhammad.  (It is unclear why this personal directive should be a part of Allah’s universal and unchanging word to all of mankind). 

There are two things of which to take note of in this verse.  First, the context is that Allah permitted Muhammad so many women as a special favor to him.  Other men are not allowed to have this many wives, no matter how much they wish (although they are permitted to have an unlimited number of sex slaves).

Secondly, the needs of the women are not mentioned as a factor for marriage.  Indeed, Muhammad married most of his wives based on their attractiveness to him.  This was obviously the case with Zainab, who was married to his adopted son at the time that he coveted her (another curiously personal directive from Allah allowed him her pleasure - Sura 33:37).

Many of the women that Muhammad captured during battle were also beautiful and would have been “married” by other Muslims.  A good example is Safiyya of Khaybar.  Not only did Muhammad personally have her husband killed (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 764), but he had already given her as booty to another Muslim before he decided that he wanted her for himself (Bukhari 14:68).

There is also proof in the Quran that Muhammad planned to abandon one of his wives for becoming unattractive to him.  Sawda bint Zam'a is described in the Hadith as being a heavy, older woman who feared divorce from Muhammad.  According to the Tafsir, she saved her place in the household by ceding her time with Muhammad to his favorite wife Aisha:
(And if a woman fears cruelty or desert ion on her husband's part , there is no sin on them both) Ibn ` Abbas said, "Whatever (legal agreement ) the spouses mutually agree to is allowed. ''. At - Tirmidhi recorded it and said, "Hasan Gharib''. In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that ` A'ishah said that when Sawdah bint Zam` ah became old, she forfeited her day to ` A'ishah, and the Prophet used to spend Sawdah's night with ` A'ishah. There is a similar narrat ion also collected by Al-Bukhari. Al-Bukhari also recorded that ` A'ishah commented;  (Ibn Kathir Tafsir, 4:128)
After Sawda gave up her "day" to give Muhammad twice as much time with his child bride, Allah stepped in with amazing timing to reveal verse 4:128.

Further Reading:

 

Myths of Muhammad Index

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