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Answering Common Misconceptions

22. Did the Prophet marry 18 slaves?

Question:

Thank you for your efforts in da`wah and jazakum Allah khayran. What about the allegation that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) married some 18 slaves? People say that the Qur’an states something like that in one verse.

Please tell me what is the answer to such claims?

Thank you agai
n.
 

Answer:

To me this is a brand new allegation: marriage of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to 18 slaves, and what is more, that being mentioned in the Qur’an!!! This is one more of the ridiculous lies, invented in vain to obscure the dazzling truth of Islam,  that modern science and communication media are bringing to within reach of all nations. That such a lie is shear nonsense is clarified with the following undeniable facts:

In his youth, Muhammad (peace be upon him) led a life of purity, meditation, and charity. He avoided all pleasures widely available in Mecca for youth of his age. Though in the Arab norms men and women used to marry early in their teens, he was unmarried till the age of twenty-five, and even then he was married at the invitation of the bridegroom Khadijah, a 40-year widow, fifteen years older than him. He kept her as his single wife for almost twenty-five years when she died at the age of sixty-five. At that time the Prophet was an elderly man in his fifties, carrying the pains and burdens of losing the support of his uncle Abu Talib who died in the same year, together with the diverse burdens of prophethood, teaching his followers, enduring the fierce resistance of his tribe Quraysh, as well allied tribes. Besides, Khadijah has left him with four junior daughters. He was subsequently married to Sawdah bint Zam`ah, a widow proposed to him by a Muslim lady, for the sole purpose of assisting him in keeping his household and caring for the daughters.

 None of the prophet’s marriages was motivated by personal desires or caprice, but by honorable aims and wisdom, that achieved positive benefit to the call of Islam and the Muslim community. We should also remember that polygamy without limit was prevalent and acceptable (before being limited – with conditions - to four), and also was practiced by previous prophets. The choice of `Aishah, before her puberty was to foster his the companionship of her father Abu Bakr. Further, starting her life with the prophet that early, `Aishah was in a position to recall the minute details of everyday life and teachings of the prophet. Surviving him for four decades, she taught the nation a considerable lot of his guidance. She comes only third, after Abu Hurayrah and `Abdullah ibn `Umar, in narrating the prophetic Hadith (tradition).

 After his marriage to `Aishah, he could not embarrass his close companion `Umar ibn ul-Khattab, when he proposed to him in marriage his daughter Hafsah. She was a recent widow of a senior companion wounded at the Battle of Uhud. Umar, distressed by what befell his daughter hurried to offer her in marriage to Abu Bakr then to Uthman ibn Affan, who both declined. Complaining this affair to the prophet (peace be upon him) he said: “Hafsah is to marry a man better than Uthman, and Uthman would marry a lady better than Hafsah.” So it was, the Prophet married Hafsah, and Uthman married the Prophet’s daughters Ruqayyah; then, after her death, Um Kulthum. In the same context should be viewed the marriage of Ali ibn Abu Talib to Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter. Thus all the four successor Caliphs were linked by marriage relationships to the Prophet.

 All other marriages were aimed at breaking hostilities and gaining support to the new religion, humane purposes, or in one case by Allah’s order, (his cousin Zeinab bint Jahsh, as in Surat Al-Ahzab) to establish a legal principle (breaking the habit of adoption). Juwayriyah bint ul-Harith was the daughter of the chief of the Jewish tribe of Banu Al-Mustaliq. Taken as his captive, the Prophet freed her and married her, on which all other Muslims followed his lead by freeing all other captives, the Jewish tribe all embraced Islam.

 Similarly, Safiyyah bint Huyay the Chief of the Jewish tribe of Banu An-Nadir was captivated during the Khaybar Battle. Although her father was the main provoker of the pagans and Jews against the Muslims; yet, as an honorable gesture showing the  magnanimity of Islam, the Prophet freed and married her.

Again, the Prophet’s marriage to Um Habibah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan, the most influential leader of Quraysh, was a major factor in diminishing his hostility and stubbornness, and laying the ground for his embracing Islam right before the Muslim final conquest of Mecca. This marriage was motivated by a noble humane motive. She was, with her husband, one of the early Muslim emigrants to Abyssinia fleeing from prosecution by Meccan pagans. However, her marriage was disrupted as her husband opted to convert to Christianity, so she was left lonely in exile, neither could she return to her pagan family in Mecca. So the Prophet kindly sent a messenger to propose to her in marriage and bring her back to him in Madinah.

 As for the Egyptian Mariyah, she was offered to him as a girl slave gift from Al-Muqawqis, the leader of the Copts, in return of the Prophet’s message calling them to Islam. Instead of taking her to serve in his household, he kindly settled her in a house of her own. She embraced Islam, was freed and was one of the “Mothers of the Believers”. She brought the Prophet his son Ibrahim, who died early. That marriage brings to the memory a similar one of the Prophet Ibrahim to the Egyptian Hagar, offered to him by his other wife Sarah.

 During his last ten years of his life in Madinah, he was all the time engaged incessantly in establishing the first Muslim state, bringing in concord the otherwise competing Al Ansar tribes (Aws and Khazraj) together with the Jews, fighting against the hostilities of pagan Arabs and the conspiracies of Jewish leaders, meeting and sending envoys all around the Arabian peninsula and beyond. A mere ten-years time witnessed 62 battles, 27 of which were led by the Prophet himself and the rest directed and supervised by himself. During the same period, he continued to receive the Qur’anic revelation any time of the day or night. He spent most of his nights praying, and most of the daytime in the Mosque teaching his followers, planning and running their affairs and receiving and sending envoys from and to all tribes of the Arab Peninsula, as well as all kings of the known world.

 Yet, his life was far simpler and more ascetic … than any middle class not to say the well-off or rich prestigious men of the time. Neither he nor his household eat more than the limit of sufficiency of food. According to `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her):

* “We the family of Muhammad (may peace be upon him) used to spend (the whole) month in which we (did not need to) kindle the fire as (we had nothing to cook); we had only dates and water (to fill our bellies).” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Also Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported:

* By Him in Whose Hand is my life: By One in Whose Hand is the life of Abu Hurayrah, Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) could not afford to provide adequate food to his family which could (fill their bellies) with bread and wheat for three days successively until he left the world. (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

 He used to retire to a bed made of stuffed with coarse palm fiber:

'A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated: The pillow on which Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) reclined was of leather stuffed with palm fiber. (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

 So much simple was his household life that his wives have once collaborated to protest and complain their hard life. In response, he isolated himself for almost a month, as documented in the Qur’an, meaning:

·        O you Prophet, say to your spouses, “In case you would (like) the present life and its adornment, then come, and I will allow you the (necessary) enjoyment and will release you a becoming release. And in case you would (like) Allah and His Messenger and the Last Home, then surely Allah has prepared for the fair-doers among you a magnificent reward.” (meaning of Qur’an 33: 28-29) 

Could this be the personality, background or life style of a man keeping 18 girl slaves for his own pleasures, as some non-believers painstakingly advocate?

 We hope that this would satisfy your queries regarding what you hear from some people. We strongly advise to spare some time to do a self-study of Islam, and not rely on second-hand mostly ill-intended hearsay.

 Useful links:

 What is “a captive that your right hands possess”?

 About the Marriages of the Prophet

 Abrahams Wives