Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalam alaykum
There is a story about the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and Mariyah a coptic christian slave girl with whom he had relations while his wives did not want him to. Then revelation came down defending the Prophet’s actions. My other question is the significance of the part of the Qur’an related to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, getting married to Zayd’s wife.
Did the Prophet ﷺ use the Qur’an to justify his behaviour and marriages?
Answer: Assalam alaykum. Jazakum Allah khayr for your questions. May Allah Most High grant you to every good.
The questions you’ve asked are important and it is necessary for you to clear any concerns you have. However, they are questions that cannot be satisfactorily answered in a brief written answer, though we will cover the main points below.
It should also be noted that such questions usually come about from a lack of basic study and knowledge. There is no substitute to learning and I highly recommend that you study beginner courses in the sciences of the Seerah (Prophetic biography) and Tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis).
By studying these sciences in a systematic manner under a teacher, the answers to the questions you have will become clear, insha Allah, for the simple reason that you will understand the context of the events in the Prophet’s life ﷺ and the context of the verses of the Qur’an.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as the best of examples
The Prophet ﷺ is the best of creation. If we believe the Qur’an to be the Word of God, then we know that Allah Most High has said, “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” [21:107], and that, “You have a good example in God’s Messenger for whosoever hopes for God and the Last Day, and remembers God oft.” [33:21].
Following the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has been the success of every rightly guided believer, from the Companions all the way down to the present day. There is no good that a believer does except that it is because of the guidance and example of the Prophet ﷺ. A basic study of the life of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ will make it clear to the objective reader that the Prophet was ﷺ a man of the highest character, a fact attested to by even his own enemies, who we should point out, despite their hatred for the message he came with, never questioned his character, marriages and personal conduct.
While love and human bonds are to be honored and considered in our worldly affairs, our relationship with Allah always takes precedence. There is not a thing that the Prophet ﷺ said or did that was from his own desire or whim, for Allah Most High has told us “Your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred, nor does he speak from [his own] inclination.” [53:2-3].
Rather, everything that he did was done in order to guide us, and under the command of God, and he carried out the Divine Command regardless of the wishes of anyone, including wives, family members, companions or leaders. The perfection of the Prophet ﷺ lies in his absolute submission to God, not following creation.
The Prophet’s Marriages
As mentioned, the marriages and relationships of the Prophet ﷺ were never questioned during his lifetime, for the simple reason that there was nothing in them to attack. If they were problematic, as many people today like to claim, why did not anyone object to his conduct and marriages at the time? The Prophet ﷺ was verbally and physically insulted during his lifetime, yet never did the companions, women among them, nor even his enemies, in Arabia or in Rome, Persia, or Abyssinia, address these ‘issues’ with objection. Therefore, it is futile to start attacking the Prophet ﷺ on such issues in our times, more than 1400 years later.
Those who paint a picture of the Prophet ﷺ as someone driven by lust and passion are deluding themselves and others. A sincere study of the seerah would, in the very least, leave the person with the impression that Muhammad ﷺ was one of the greatest and most spiritual men to ever walk on earth, even if one ultimately rejects the message and the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ. To read the seerah and whittle down the life of the blessed Prophet ﷺ to a mere political struggle and power grab, with a lust for women on the side, is not only an abominable falsehood, but a lie to one’s own conscience.
Every marriage of the Prophet ﷺ had a reason and wisdom behind it. Some were for tribal and political rationale, other for strengthening the ties of kinship and companionship, some for other reasons. Through some of the Prophet’s marriages, large numbers of people became Muslim and pacts formed, and more importantly, like everything in the Prophet’s blessed life, each and every marriage was a form of legislation and guidance, for through it we derive the permissible and impermissible matters of the sacred law.
We should also note, that if the Prophet ﷺ really did whatever he pleased in regards to women, making up verses as he went along as an excuse, then it is valid to ask, why did he not continue to take more wives? Surely he could have claimed verses had been revealed giving permission for many other relationships?
Instead, we find the verse, “It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their beauty attracts thee … And Allah doth watch over all things.” [33:52] The answer is obvious, he ﷺ did not marry from whim nor claim permission was granted whenever it suited him, rather each marriage was permitted and ordained by God, the One who sent his Prophet, and his whole life ﷺ was under God’s Command.
A second point we should note is the fact that many of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ we’re not young or virgins, but rather, they were older women, some widowed, other’s previously married. We have to ask ourselves, if a powerful leader of a nation who possesses unquestionable authority over his followers, who can have any woman he desired (and we should remember that the Prophet ﷺ was offered any woman that he desired if only he stopped spreading the message), does it make sense that such a powerful person would marry older women, widowed women, women with children?
Did any of his other wives object to his ordained marriages as just a ‘convenient’ way to act on his personal desires? If not, then why should anyone else feel they must speak out in defence of the Prophet’s wives? The Mothers of the believers were the most intelligent, scholarly, confident, and pious women of this community, who advised, spoke their minds, and expressed their concerns without censure. They really do not need defending by anyone.
You may find the last few paragraphs of the following answer useful in this regard, The Perfection of the Prophet.
The ‘incident’ with the Prophet ﷺ and Mariyah al-Qubtiyyah, and the Prophet’s wives, has been discussed in detail in a previous answer. Please read, Has the Prophet Really Been Intimate with Maryah in Hafsa’s House?
What relevance does the Quran have to the Ummah itself other than just being for Muhammad ﷺ?
The Qur’an relates to us on many levels and is for everyone. The complete beginner and the most accomplished sage will never cease to find guidance, lessons, blessings and tranquility in it. It is a direct link between every person and God. This is why the Prophet ﷺ said, “I am leaving with you two weighty things: the first is the Book of Allah, in which there is right guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it.” [Muslim]. In this sense, the Qur’an is an ‘inheritance’ from the Prophet ﷺ to every human being, to be benefited from and adhere to. It wasn’t revealed to Muhammad for Muhammad, it was revealed to Muhammad for the benefit of mankind.
How much a person benefits and understands, and how much they are affected through the Qur’an depends on the person’s intention and openness to it. Every line has a message to ponder on. Therefore, take your time with the Qur’an and strive to read it daily and understand its meaning. Over time, the relevance and effect of the Qur’an in your life will become apparent.
It is always best that one first concentrates on one’s own faith and working on making that sound and strong. It is a mistake to try to defend the religion while harboring doubts or having less than firm conviction in the truth and veracity of the Prophet ﷺ and the Qu’ran. Therefore, I encourage you to seek out sound learning, and avoid any discussions on the religion with others. The inability to defend Islam does not mean that Islam is not perfect, it just means we have to understand it better.
May Allah guide you and us to sound knowledge and strengthen our faith until it is “so great that it becomes as a towering mountain which no doubts can shake and no illusions rock.” [The Book of Assistance]
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.