Why did Muhammad -pbuh- marry several women? Part II

Why did Muhammad -pbuh- marry several women? Part II



He married another widow, Umm Salama.

Her previous husband, Abu Salama, was martyred

in the Battle of Uhud, leaving behind four orphans.

Umm Salama was pregnant at that time and was

extremely distressed and very sad. Needless to say,

she needed much support. After her delivery,

Umar proposed that the Prophet marry her.


The Prophet accepted the proposal and married her.

What purpose can there be for a person of 54 to

marry a widow with four orphans except love,

mercy and compassion? There was another crucial

factor in this marriage: Umm Salama was from the

Bani Makhzum tribe, which was the tribe of

Islam’s arch enemies at that time, Abu Jahl and

Khalid bin Waleed. Though Abu Jahl never

changed, Khalid later accepted Islam and became a

brilliant military general. Once again, bringing

influential and powerful tribes closer to Islam was

one of the noble objectives of the Prophet’s




He married a divorced woman, Zaynab, the

daughter of Jahsh. She was married to Zayd bin

Haritha, the freed slave of the Prophet. She was

the cousin of the Prophet, being the daughter of

his paternal aunt. Zayd divorced her and the

Prophet married her when she was 38 years old.

His marriage to Zaynab was aimed at emphasizing

the invalidity of the age-old Arab practice of taking

adopted sons as real sons. The marriage was

divinely sanctioned, as stated in the Qur’an,


“When Zayd had come to the end of his union with her,

We gave her to you in marriage …’’(33:37)


Umm Habiba was another widow whom the

Prophet married. She was a daughter of Abu

Sufyan who was a bitter enemy of Islam until his

conversion later. She was initially married to

Ubaydallah, who was a companion of the Prophet.

Both immigrated to Ethiopia, fleeing the

persecution of the Meccans. Ubaydallah became a

Christian and later died there. Considering her very

difficult situation, her father being an enemy of

Islam and her husband a deserter, the Prophet sent

an envoy to Negus, king of Ethiopia requesting to

arrange a marriage with her. The king arranged the

marriage and she was married to him when she was

36 or 37 years old. Like many of his marriages, his

marriage to Umm Habiba resulted in bringing a

major tribe of the Quraysh, Banu Abd al-Shams,

towards Islam.



He married another widow, Juwayria. Both

her father and husband were bitter enemies of

Islam; the former had planned to attack Medina at

the instigation of the Meccans. This led the Muslim

army to march against the clan of her father. The

result was their defeat at the hands of the Prophet

and the death of Juwayria’s husband. After the

conflict, the Muslims captured many prisoners, one

of whom was Juwayria. Juwayria’s father offered a

ransom for her freedom. She requested to stay in

the service of the Prophet and he married her at

her request. Her marriage resulted in the freeing of

all the prisoners of war of her tribe. Again, this

marriage led to the establishment of peace and

friendly relations.



He also married a woman named Safiyya, a

widow as well. Her second husband was killed in

the Battle of Khaybar. Her father was the chief of

the famous Jewish tribe, Banu Nazir. He was killed

in the Battle of Khaybar, and so Safiyya was taken

prisoner. She was eventually freed and the Prophet

married her. Some complained that she was

sympathetic to the Jews. Her answer was that they

were her relatives, and the Prophet defended her

position. He told her to respond in the following

way: “My father is Aaron (Haroon) and my uncle is

Moses (Musa).” This marriage had led to a closer

relationship between the Muslims and the Jews of




His final marriage was to another divorced

woman, Maymuna. She was married twice and was

very old. She married the Prophet when he was 57.

The reason for her marriage was that the Prophet’s

uncle, Abbas, suggested it in order to bring her

tribe – Halaliyyeen – to the fold of Islam. That

was actually what happened; after his marriage to

her, they entered Islam in hosts.


From the above, we see that it was not the

Prophet’s whims and desires that initiated his

marriages, but rather it was that God had planned

his marriages. He commanded His Messenger

after the last marriage (with Maymuna) not to

marry any more (Qur’an 33:52), because by that

time the objectives of his marriages were achieved

as the Prophetic mission was near to completion.

All of this does not mean that the Prophet

was not interested in sex. He was surely attracted

by sex and beauty, and was not a prude in

expressing it. He said, “perfume and women are

made dear to me. However, the joy of my eye is in

prayer.” He also said: “I am in full control of

myself.” In fact, a look at his life would suggest

that he approached the various aspects of human

life with moderation - be it eating, drinking, or

enjoying time with his wives – never indulging in

any one thing excessively. The portrayal of him by

many Western writers as promiscuous and

licentious, mostly due to the fact that he had

numerous wives, is far from the truth and historical

facts as shown above. Indeed, his marriages had a

social motive and a higher goal than mere sexual




It would be relevant here to quote a female,

Western scholar, Karen Armstrong, the author of

Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, in relation to the

issue of Prophets marriages and polygamy in Islam:


“The Qur’anic institution of polygamy was a piece

of social legislation. It was designed not to gratify

the male sexual appetite, but to correct the

injustices done to widows, orphans, and other

female dependents, who were especially vulnerable.

All too often, unscrupulous people seized

everything and left the weaker members of the

family with nothing… Polygamy was designed to

ensure that unprotected women would be decently

married, and to abolish the old loose, irresponsible

liaisons; men could have only four wives and must

treat them equitably; it was an unjustifiably wicked

act to devour their property… The Qur’an was

attempting to give women a legal status that most

Western women would not enjoy until the

nineteenth century. The emancipation of women

was a project dear to the Prophet’s heart…”






Ten Questions and Answers

about the Prophet Muhammad

May the Blessings and Peace of Allah be upon Him

By Ibrahim H. Malabari



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