The wives of Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and
blessings of God be upon him, hold a special place in Islamic piety. The Quran
calls them “Mothers of the Faithful” (Quran 33:6). They were his wives
in this life and shall be in the life to come. They were young and old, widows
and virgins, poor and wealthy, aristocrats and freed slaves. Each one played
their specific role in forming the history of Islam.
Prophet Muhammad married her when he was twenty-five,
while she had reached the age of forty. She was a widow, twice married. He
was at the peak of his youth. Impressed by Muhammad’s honesty and moral
character, she send a relative to propose marriage. They were married for
twenty five years until her death. Through every persecution, Khadeejah was
his sole companion and helper. Khadeejah, along with Aisha, played a major
contribution in the establishment and spread of the Islamic civilization. Khadeejah
bore four daughters with the Prophet: Zainab, Umm Kulthoom, Ruqayya, and Fatima.
All four grew to maturity and accepted Islam. They all died in the lifetime of
their father, except Fatima who died six months after the Prophet. Khadeejah also
bore two sons, Qasim and Abdullah, both of whom died at an early age.
Months after the death of Khadeejah, the Prophet
had returned from an unsuccessful mission in Taif, helpless and persecuted. At
this time he married Sawdah, another widow, who possessed neither beauty, nor social
status, nor wealth. She had been forced to escape to Abyssinia with her
husband from the persecution of pagan Meccans to find some security. Her
husband died in exile, giving his life for the sake of his faith. He had migrated
with his wife from his home for the cause of his religion, and he left her in
utter poverty. Driven by a sense of generosity, the Prophet of Mercy married
her, raising her to the spiritual level of “Mother of the Faithful.” The
Prophet did not marry another woman for the first three years of his Marriage
to Sawdah. She died a few years after the death of Prophet Muhammad.
Aishah was the daughter of one of the closest
companions of Prophet Muhammad, Abu Bakr. An old friend of the Prophet, Abu
Bakr was one of the earliest converts to the faith and was considered to be the
most sincere, earnest, and devoted in faith. Seeing the loss of the Prophet,
one of the woman companions proposed Abu Bakr’s daughter to him and approached
Abu Bakr on behalf of the Prophet. But there were two problems. One, Aishah
was already betrothed to Jubair bin Mut’im, a pagan Meccan. Jubair, it turned
out, had lost interest because of the wide gulf between paganism and Islam. In
addition, Aishah had not yet reached puberty, and this also contributed to
Jubair’s disinterest in pursuing the betrothal. Thus, she was betrothed to the
Prophet while still in Mecca, and three years later, when both were in Medina and
she had reached puberty, he consummated his marriage. She was the only virgin
he married, though they did not have any children. Aishah was a leading
scholar of Islam and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Islamic
civilization. She taught for forty years after the death of the Prophet until her
death at the age of sixty-seven.
Hafsah was the daughter of Umar, the man closest
to Prophet Muhammad after Abu Bakr. She migrated with her husband to Medina, but was left a widow after the Battle of Badr. With a fiery temper like her
father, she had remained without a husband ever since. Umar first asked Abu
Bakr, and then Uthman, to marry her, but each refused in turn, much to his ire.
This shows the unavailability of marriageable males at the time. At last, Umar
approached Prophet Muhammad. The marriage took place in the third year after
migration. The Prophet divorced her once, but was commanded by God to take her
back. She was charged with keeping the official copy of the Quran during the
caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar. She passed away four years after the Prophet.
In the same year, the third year after
migration, the Prophet married Zainab, made a widow after the Battle of Uhud. Her
kindness to the poor had earned her the nickname of “mother of the destitute.” She
was past the prime of her life and when she was wed by him, and she died a few
months after their marriage. She is the only wife beside Khadeejah who passed
away in the Prophet’s lifetime.
A year later, the Prophet married another widow
who had suffered persecution, at one time losing the custody of her children to
her pagan in-laws. After the Battle of Uhud, she was left a widow with four
children. Abu Bakr first proposed to her, but she refused because she did not
think anyone could be patient with her children. Finally, the Prophet
proposed, assuring her the children would be taken care of; Prophet Muhammad
married Umm Salama because of this noble motivation. The faithful loved their
Prophet all the more and honored him as the Prophet of God. They saw in him a
father to the destitute, the deprived, the weak, and the poor as well as to
everyone who had lost his father in the cause of God. Umm Salama was the last
wife of the Prophet to die. She passed away forty nine years after his death at
the age of eighty-four.