One of the things that many people wonder about is the issue of the wives of the Prophet. They wonder why the Prophet had so many wives. Some do research on the most favorite wife of the Prophet.
In this article on Islam4u, we will get at the root of the issue by discussing the following topics:
The Number of Wives of the Prophet, Their Names, and Ages
The Noble Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, married thirteen, 1 fifteen, 2 or more wives 3 throughout his life. However, he did not have all of them at the same time. For example, when Lady Khadijah (خديجة) was the Prophet’s wife, she was his only wife and the Prophet loved her so much that he did not marry any other wife as long as she lived. This shows the high status of the first wife of the Prophet, Lady Khadijah. Allah named the wives of the Prophet “Mothers of the Believers ” (امّهات المؤمنين).4
The Prophet only had children from Khadijah and Maria (ماریة). Lady Fatima (فاطمة) was the daughter of Lady Khadijah, peace be upon them both and she was the only child of her who survived during and after the life of the Prophet. When Khadijah was giving birth, no one among the women of Quraish came to her help. Thus, narrations say that four heavenly women from paradise descended to earth and helped her deliver her baby. Those four women were:
- Sarah (سارة) wife of Ibrahim
- Asiyah (آسية) daughter of Muzahim (مُزاحِم)
- Mary (مريم) the daughter of ‘Imran (عِمران)
- Kulthum (کلثوم) the sister of Moses (موسی)
Wives of the Prophet: The Age of Lady Khadijah
There is a difference of opinion about the exact age of Lady Khadijah (خَديجَة) when she married the Noble Prophet. Some say she was a lot older as in somewhere around 40 years of age while some say she was about the same age as the Prophet meaning around 25 years. 5 However, it can be proven that she was about the same age through historical evidence. It is well-known that the Prophet lived with Khadijah for 25 years. Therefore, she must have been 65 or 50 years of age when she died.
Moreover, her son Qasim was born after the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (i.e. 15 years after their marriage) and if she was 40 years old when she got married, she must have been about 55 years old when Qasim was born, which is very unlikely, because at that age, women are unable to bear children. Therefore, Lady Khadijah was most probably 25 years old when she married Prophet Muhammad. She passed away three years before Hijra at the age of 50. 6
Names of the Wives of the Prophet
Other than Khadijah, Aisha (عایشة), and Maria, the other wives of the Prophet were all widows. Here is a list of the names of twelve of them in order of their marriage with the Prophet:
- Khadija daughter of Khuwaylid (خُوَيلِد)
- Sawdah (سَودة) daughter of Zam‘ah ibn Qays (زمعة ابن قيس)
- Aisha daughter of Abu Bakr (ابو بکر)
- Hafsa (حفصة) daughter of Umar ibn al-Khattab (عمر ابن الخطاب)
- Zainab (زَينَب) daughter of Khuzaymah (خُزَيمَة)
- Umm Salamah (امّ سلمة) daughter of Umayyah ibn al-Mughayrah (امية ابن المغيرة)
- Zainab (زينب) daughter of Jahsh (جحش)
- Juwayriyyah (جويرية) daughter of al-Harith (الحارث)
- Umm Habibah (ام حبيبة) daughter of Abu Sufyan (ابوسفيان)
- Maria (مارية) daughter of Sham‘un (شمعون)
- Safiyyah (صفية) daughter of Huyayy (حُيَيّ)
- Maimunah (مَيمونة) daughter of Harith al-Hilaliyyah (حارث الهلالية)
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Famous Wives of the Prophet
Out of the list that we gave, for the sake of brevity, we will only talk about the famous wives of the Prophet, that is, Aisha, Hafsa, Umm Salamah, Zainab daughter of Jahsh, and Maria daughter of Sham‘un.
Aisha, the Third Wife of the Prophet
Aisha was the third wife of the Prophet after Khadijah and Sawdah. As for how old she was when she got married, there is a difference of opinion among historians. Some say she was only nine years old 7 while some based on some calculations of when she became a Muslim, the age of her sister Asma’ (اسماء) who was ten years older than her, and when the migration (Hijra) took place, say she was 17 or 18 when she got married to the Prophet.
What made Aisha different from the other wives of the Prophet was how she was sometimes jealous of her co-wives, such that a whole surah was revealed about her and Hafsa’s (another wife of the prophet) plot. 8 However, in many instances, she praised the Prophet for his kindness towards her. She once said that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) is a walking Quran.
She was supportive of her father Abu Bakr for the caliphate after the demise of the Prophet and supported the coming to power of the second and third caliphs. However, during the caliphate of Imam Ali, she was drawn into dispute and even waged a war against him while riding a camel. The Battle of Jamal (جَمَل), which means camel, was called so because of this. Aisha died in the year 58 AH and was buried in the cemetery of Baqi‘ (بَقيع).
Wives of the Prophet: Hafsa
Hafsa was born five years before the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad in Medina. She was the daughter of Umar ibn al-Khattab. She first got married to Khunays ibn Hudhayfah (خُنَيس ابن حُذافة), who died shortly after the Battle of Badr. She got married to the Prophet two or three months before the Battle of Uhud.
She, like Aisha, sometimes used to have feelings of jealousy, which caused difficulty for the Prophet. We read in Sahih Muslim (صحیح مسلم) that Umar went to Aisha and said: O daughter of Abu Bakr! Have you taken things so far as to bother the Messenger of Allah?! She said: O son of Khattab! What is your business with me? Think about the problems of your own daughter! Then Umar went to Hafsa and said: Why do you bother the Prophet of Allah? I swear by Allah that you know that the Prophet does not like you and would have divorced you if it was not for me. 9
Surah Tahrim is Revealed Reproaching the Two Wives of the Prophet, Hafsa and Aisha
Surah Tahrim was also revealed concerning Hafsa and Aisha, wherein the Prophet told Hafsa not to disclose something to anyone. However, Hafsa went and told Aisha about it. Then the following verse was revealed:
وَإِذْ أَسَرَّ النَّبِيُّ إِلَىٰ بَعْضِ أَزْوَاجِهِ حَدِيثًا فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَتْ بِهِ وَأَظْهَرَهُ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِ عَرَّفَ بَعْضَهُ وَأَعْرَضَ عَن بَعْضٍ ۖ فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَهَا بِهِ قَالَتْ مَنْ أَنبَأَكَ هَـٰذَا ۖ قَالَ نَبَّأَنِيَ الْعَلِيمُ الْخَبِيرُ ﴿3﴾
When the Prophet confided a matter to one of his wives, but when she divulged it [instead of guarding the secret] and Allah apprised him about it, he acquainted [her] with part of the matter and ignored part of it. So when he told her about it, she said, ‘Who informed you about it?’ He said, ‘The All-knowing and the All-aware has informed me.’ 10
Then Allah asked them to repent, for their hearts had swerved. Hafsa passed away most likely in the year 45 AH.
Wives of the Prophet: Zainab Daughter of Jahsh
Zainab was first married to the Prophet’s adopted son Zaid ibn Harithah (زید ابن حارثة). In fact, the Prophet himself made the preparations for their marriage. However, Zaid and Zainab did not get along and eventually the Prophet had them divorced. Then, in order to shatter a pagan belief of the Arabs who believed one’s adopted child is like one’s own child, Allah ordered the Prophet to marry Zainab. 11 The hypocrites and disbelievers taunted the Prophet that he is getting married to his once daughter-in-law. However, this belief must have been shattered.
When the Prophet got married to Zainab, she was 35 years old. Zainab was a righteous woman who was very generous. The Prophet had said: That wife of mine who is most generous will join me the soonest after I die. Zainab gave away all her wealth to charity before she died, and was the first wife of the Prophet to die after the Prophet passed away in the year 20 AH. 12
Wives of the Prophet: Umm Salamah
Umm Salamah was perhaps the most virtuous wife of the Prophet, after Khadijah who supported him and his Ahlul Bait throughout her life. She had been married to Abu Salamah Abdullah ibn Abd al-Assad (عبدالله ابن عبدالاسد). Abdullah died due to a wound he suffered from at the Battle of Uhud in the year 4 AH. After Umm Salamah’s waiting period (‘iddah عِدَّة) was over, she had many suitors but rejected all of them, until the Prophet proposed to marry her. That is when she accepted the Prophet’s proposal and they got married.
She was around 33 years old when she got married to the Prophet. After the Prophet’s demise, Umm Salamah defended the Ahlul Bait and their rights. It is said that she died after the event of Ashura, the day Imam Hussain was martyred.
Wives of the Prophet: Maria the Copt Daughter of Sham‘un
Maria daughter of Sham‘un, better known as Maria the Copt was originally from Egypt. When the Prophet sent a letter to the ruler of Egypt, Muqawqis (مقوقس), inviting him to Islam. He sent the Prophet some gifts including two female slaves – Maria and her sister Sirin (سیرین). When she came to Arabia, she accepted Islam and married the Prophet in Medina, in the year 7 AH. Other than Khadijah, she is the only wife of the Prophet who bore a child for him, whose name was Ibrahim. However, Ibrahim passed away while he was only 18 months old.
Maria was a righteous woman who was obedient to the Prophet and did not go against the Prophet’s will. She passed away five years after the demise of the Prophet in Muharram 16 AH and was buried in the cemetery of Baqi‘.
Who Was the Youngest and Oldest Wife of the Prophet?
The youngest wives of the Prophet at the time of marriage were Aishah who some say was nine while others say was 17, and Safiyyah who was 17 years old. The oldest wives of the Prophet at the time of marriage were Zainab daughter of Jahsh and Maimunah who were both about 35 years old.
Who was the Prophet’s favorite wife?
Undoubtedly, the Prophet’s favorite wife was his first wife Khadijah. He loved her so much that he did not marry other wives as long as she lived. Moreover, Fatima, the Prophet’s beloved daughter was born from Khadijah. It was through Fatima that the Prophet’s line of descent continued. The Prophet had named Khadijah as one of the four heavenly and most virtuous women of all time. The four women the Prophet named were:
- Khadijah daughter of Khuwaylid
- Fatima daughter of Muhammad
- Asiyah wife of Pharaoh
- Mary daughter of ‘Imran
The Prophet used to say about Khadijah, “Allah never replaced for me a wife better than Khadijah. She confirmed my words when no one confirmed me. She supported me when no one supported me. And, she provided me with her wealth when everyone denied me their wealth.” 13 Khadijah and the Prophet’s guardian Abu Talib passed away in the same year. The Prophet named that year, “the Year of Sorrow” (عام الحزن).
Verses of the Quran Defining Specific Laws Regarding the Wives of the Prophet
There are certain verses in the Quran where Allah addresses the wives of the Prophet. For example:
يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ مَن يَأْتِ مِنكُنَّ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُّبَيِّنَةٍ يُضَاعَفْ لَهَا الْعَذَابُ ضِعْفَيْنِ ۚ وَكَانَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ يَسِيرًا ﴿30﴾
O wives of the Prophet! Whoever of you commits a gross indecency, her punishment shall be doubled, and that is easy for Allah.
وَمَن يَقْنُتْ مِنكُنَّ لِلَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا نُّؤْتِهَا أَجْرَهَا مَرَّتَيْنِ وَأَعْتَدْنَا لَهَا رِزْقًا كَرِيمًا ﴿31﴾
But whoever of you is obedient to Allah and His Apostle and acts righteously, We shall give her a twofold reward, and We will have in store for her a noble provision. 14
Therefore, we come to realize that due to the status of the wives of the Prophet, Allah rewards and punishes differently. This is because they are role models for other women. If they are good and righteous, they will be rewarded twice as much, while if they commit indecency, their punishment will be doubled compared to those women who are not wives of the Prophet.
Another verse of the Quran that has to do with the wives of the Prophet is about their marriage. The verse reads:
وَامْرَأَةً مُّؤْمِنَةً إِن وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَهَا لِلنَّبِيِّ إِنْ أَرَادَ النَّبِيُّ أَن يَسْتَنكِحَهَا خَالِصَةً لَّكَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
And a faithful woman if she offers herself to the Prophet and the Prophet desires to take her in marriage (a privilege exclusively for you, not for [the rest of] the faithful. 15
If a Muslim woman desired to get married to the Prophet and the Prophet too wished to get married to her, she could have simply offered herself to the Prophet without dowry. Some of the wives of the Prophet got married to the Prophet in this way such as Maimunah. Such a ruling was exclusive to the Prophet and no other believer.
Perhaps one of the most important rulings regarding the wives of the Prophet was that no one is allowed to marry the wives of the Prophet after the Prophet’s demise:
وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَن تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّـهِ وَلَا أَن تَنكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ عِندَ اللَّـهِ عَظِيمًا ﴿53﴾
You should not offend the Apostle of Allah, nor may you ever marry his wives after him. Indeed that would be a grave [sin] with Allah. 16
Unfortunately, we read in the history, that people like Mu’awiyah disrespected this ruling and proposed to marry ‘Aisha after the demise of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family).
Reasons for the Different Marriages of the Prophet
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny did not marry women out of lust like some ignorant analysts have claimed, in order that they can defame the Prophet. All of his marriages after Khadijah were spiritually, politically, or socially motivated. In fact, he wanted to win the support of all of the tribes and so they would all become rightly guided Muslims. By getting married to each woman from each tribe, all the people of those tribes would become the followers of the Prophet because the Prophet would become their son-in-law or brother-in-law.
In fact, these marriages helped the tribes to become united and helped spread Islam all over Arabia. Even when the Muslims went to conquer Egypt, the Prophet said: Treat them gently as I am their brother-in-law. 17 Of course, we also talked about how his marriage to Zainab daughter of Jahsh was to break an age-old Arab pagan taboo where they considered one’s adopted son as their real son. Zainab, who used to be the wife of Zaid, meaning the Prophet’s adopted son, got married to the Prophet and this tradition was broken.
Prophet Muhammad had married many wives in his life and Allah had set no limit to the number of wives he could have at the same time. Nevertheless, as long as he was married to his first and most virtuous wife, Khadijah, he did not marry any other woman. After she passed away, he married several wives. However, most of these wives were widows and there was a religious and political objective behind the marriage with them. That is, he wanted all the Arab tribes to accept Islam because they viewed whoever married their daughter as their son.
This made them more inclined to accepting Islam. Not all the wives of the prophet were righteous. In fact, some of them bothered him at times. For example, Allah revealed surah Tahrim reproaching two of the wives of the Prophet for irritating the Prophet. Overall, Prophet Muhammad did not marry numerous wives out of lust, but rather it was a strategy to spread Islam, the ideal way of life, across the entire Arab lands and beyond.
- al-Sirat al-Nabawiyyah (السيرة النبوية), vol. 4, p. 293.
- Murawwij al-Dhahab (مروج الذهب), vol. 3, p. 23.
- al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn (المستدرك علی الصحيحين), vol. 4, p. 34.
- Cf. Quran 33:6.
- Dalā’il al-Nubuwwah (دلائل النّبوّة), 1405 AH, vol. 2, p. 72; al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah (البدایة و النهایة), vol. 2, p.294.
- Dalā’il al-Nubuwwah (دلائل النّبوّة), 1405 AH, vol. 2, p. 72.
- al-Tabari (الطبري), 1987, p. 7.
- Cf. Quran 66:1.
- Sahih Muslim, vol. 2, p. 1105, hadith 1479.
- Quran 66:3 (Qara’i).
- Cf. Quran 33:37.
- Ibn Sa‘d, vol. 8, p. 108.
- al-Istī‘āb (الاستيعاب), 1412 AH, vol. 4, p. 1824.
- Quran 33:30-31 (Qara’i).
- Quran 33:50 (Qara’i).
- Quran 33:53 (Qara’i).
- Mu‘jam al-Buldan (مُعجَمُ البُلدان), 1995, vol. 5, p. 138.