The Life & Character of the Seal of the Prophets(saw) – Part 15

No Comments | February 2012

Continued serialisation of the English rendering of Hadhrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra)’s outstanding biography, Seerat Khatamun Nabiyyin, on the life and character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). This section discusses the Holy Prophet(saw)’s marriage to Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) and Hadhrat Saudah(ra).

 Translated from the Urdu by Ayyaz Mahmood Khan

Marriage of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) and Hadhrat Saudah(ra)

In Islam, marriage has been declared obligatory, and except in the case of a disability, celibacy is forbidden. Therefore, the Holy Prophet(saw) states: “To marry is part of my Sunnah [practice], and he who does not follow my Sunnah is not of me.”[1]

Marriage for a prophet, a law-bearing prophet at that, is especially necessary, not only so that he may set a model of superior domestic relations before his community, but also that his wives may facilitate the teaching of religious injunctions. The skill, by which a woman can perform the demonstration and education of affairs relevant to women, cannot be done by a man in the same way. As a matter of fact, if there is no hindrance, a prophet should, as far as possible, marry more than once, so that the task of preaching and educating can be further facilitated. Therefore, we see that a majority of the earlier prophets (on whom be peace), practised polygamy. A majority of the prophets of the Bani Isra’il were those who had more than one wife.[2] It is strange that Christians accuse the Holy Prophet(saw) and Muslims on account of this issue, but they do not stop to cast a glance at their own holy men, whom they believe to be the intimate and chosen messengers of God. Similarly, the prophets of other nations also practised polygamy.[3] Therefore, it is the custom of prophets (on whom be peace) to marry, and if possible, more than once. For this reason, after the demise of Hadhrat Khadijah(ra), considering his office of prophethood, the prompt thought of a second marriage was a natural instinct for the Holy Prophet(saw). However, in such circumstances, the selection of a wife is not an easy undertaking for a prophet, for many things must be observed, and many perspectives considered. Therefore, the Holy Prophet(saw) prayed to Allah the Exalted, that He may be a guide and leader in this matter. Thus, Allah the Exalted accepted the prayer of the Holy Prophet(saw), and informed him of His selection through a dream. Hence, it is mentioned in the Hadith that during these days, the Holy Prophet(saw) saw a dream in which Gabriel(as) came before him, presented him with a green silk handkerchief, and said, This is your wife, in this world and in the hereafter.” When the Holy Prophet(saw) looked at this handkerchief, upon it was the picture of ‘A’ishah(ra) bint Abu Bakr(ra).[4]

Grand Mosque in Makkash, vintage engraved illustration. Trousset encyclopedia (1886 - 1891)

Shortly thereafter, Khaulah bint Hakim(ra), the wife of ‘Uthman bin Maz‘un(ra) presented herself before the Holy Prophet(saw) and said, O Messenger of Allah, why do you not marry?” “Whom shall I marry?” responded the Holy Prophet(saw). She responded, “If you wish there is an unmarried girl and a widow as well.” The Holy Prophet(saw) inquired, Who?” Khaulah(ra) responded, The unmarried girl is the daughter of your friend Abu Bakr(ra) named ‘A’ishah(ra), and the widow is Saudah bint Zam‘ah(ra), who was married to your late servant Sakran bin ‘Amr(ra).” The Holy Prophet(saw) said, Alright, make a proposal to both of them.” Therefore, Khaula(ra) first took a proposal to Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) and his wife Umm Rumman(ra). At first, they were both astonished and said, How is this possible? The Holy Prophet(saw) is our brother.”[5] But when the Holy Prophet(saw) sent word that spiritual brotherhood does not affect physical relations, what objection could they have had? Rather, what greater happiness could they have received than for their daughter to be married to the Messenger of God? After this, Khaulah(ra) approached Hadhrat Saudah bint Zam‘ah(ra) and her relatives were also in consent. Consequently, in Shawwal 10 Nabawi, the Holy Prophet(saw) was married to both of them at a dowry of 400 dirhams, and along with Hadhrat Saudah’s(ra) marriage, her farewell ceremony was also held immediately thereafter. However, since at the time of her marriage, Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) was only seven years of age, her farewell ceremony was delayed until after the migration.[6]

At this point, it should be remembered that the place which was vacated in the home of the Holy Prophet(saw) by the demise of Hadhrat Khadijah(ra), was actually filled by Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra). The actual proposal of the Holy Prophet(saw) was to Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra), and she was also the one shown to him in his dream. His marriage to Hadhrat Saudah(ra) was for a special purpose and due to a specific requirement. This era was an era of severe hardship and suffering for the Muslims. The hatchets of oppression and violence were being slashed against the Muslim men, women and children by the vicious Quraish. These were days of extreme torture, especially for the weak and helpless. Therefore, in such circumstances, the Holy Prophet(saw) did not like that this hurt and grief-stricken widow be left without care and be subjected to days of torment due to Islam. Moreover, since the Holy Prophet(saw) also needed to demonstrate a practical lesson in mutual love, sympathy and support among the Muslims, when Saudah(ra) was mentioned before the Holy Prophet(saw), without any hesitation whatsoever, he decided to take her into his shadow of benevolence. This was a sacrifice by the Holy Prophet(saw) which was made as per the circumstances at hand, because, firstly, Saudah(ra) was a widow. Secondly, she was quite aged, as such, shortly after her marriage, she became incapable of intercourse. Thirdly, she possessed no distinctive qualities either, which qualified her to the spousal partnership of the Holy Prophet(saw), nor was there any special reason for attraction. Then, most of all, marrying her meant that the Holy Prophet(saw) was bringing a second wife in addition to the one, who became his wife by the divine selection of God Himself, and whom for this reason, the Holy Prophet(saw) loved dearly. Any individual can understand that no one weds another wife in addition to such a beloved one, without an extraordinary reason. Therefore, marriage to an aged woman like Hadhrat Saudah(ra) with the presence of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra), evidently indicates that this was not (God-forbid) an arrangement for pleasure and lust, which the Holy Prophet(saw) was bringing into his home. Quite the contrary, it was a sacrifice by the Holy Prophet(saw) in light of the circumstances at hand.

Hence, the actual and lasting proposal of the Holy Prophet(saw) was for Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra), with regards to whom God Almighty had Himself given a decision. Moreover, she was most suitable for the Holy Prophet(saw) because:

First: She was a young girl, and for this reason, she was fully able to learn the teachings of Islam quickly, easily, and well, so as to become a religious teacher, which was necessary for the wife of a law-bearing prophet.

Second: She was extremely sharp and intelligent, due to which she was very befitting for the learning of religious matters and for the understanding of religion.

Third: Since she was young, it was anticipated that she would live for a long time, an anticipation which was in fact fulfilled. In this way, she would receive a longer opportunity to educate, train and preach among the Muslim women.

Fourth: She was born into Islam, due to which the teachings of Islam were part of her life since childhood. From the time of her birth, she learned Islamic habits and customs and was a very fine model of Islamic teachings.

Fifth: After the Holy Prophet(saw), she was the daughter of the Awwalul Mu’minin (the first of the believers) and the Afdalul-Muslimin (the best of the Muslims), due to which her training was outstanding and absolute, and was in complete accordance with the Islamic traditions. For this reason, she was particularly suitable to become a model for the women.

Motorway to Makkah

Due to these reasons, Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) was the most suitable of all to become the wife of the Holy Prophet(saw). It is for these very reasons that Allah the Exalted selected her for the Holy Prophet(saw). Consequently, these qualities brought forth their fruits and we see that the community of Muhammad(saw) acquired extraordinary benefit from the person of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra). The portion of AHadith which directly relates to the issues of women is, for the most part, based on the sayings and narrations of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra). Not only this, she also possesses a great status in general religious matters as well. Hence, it is narrated: Even the eminent companions of the Holy Prophet(saw) would turn to the sayings of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra), and would seek religious verdicts from her.”[7]

Therefore, the actual and long-term proposal of the Holy Prophet(saw) was for Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra), and she was most worthy of this lofty position. Now remains the marriage of Hadhrat Saudah bint Zam‘ah(ra). As we have alluded above, this was a sacrifice made by the Holy Prophet(saw). This marriage was governed by a unique principle of guardianship, which is conclusive evidence of the heart-felt love, affection and true mercy of the Holy Prophet(saw), which he extended to his servants and their relatives. This is not limited to the marriage of Hadhrat Saudah(ra) alone, and we shall see as we proceed further that following the demise of Hadhrat Khadijah(ra), with the exception of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah’s(ra) marriage, which was intended in itself, the rest of the marriages of the Holy Prophet(saw) took place under special circumstances, certain requirements and particular wisdom. Moreover, the dream of the Holy Prophet(saw) also expresses the same concept, in which only the picture of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) was shown to him, and the following words were said, Now this is your wife in this world and in the hereafter.” It is for this reason that the Holy Prophet(saw) especially loved Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra). Thus, there is a narration that on one occasion someone asked the Holy Prophet(saw), O Messenger of Allah! From among the people, whom do you love most?” The Holy Prophet(saw) responded, “‘A’ishah.” He asked, O Messenger of Allah! Who is it from among the men?” The Holy Prophet(saw) responded, The father of ‘A’ishah.”[8]

The marriage of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) and Hadhrat Saudah(ra) took place in Shawwal 10 Nabawi. According to general narrations, Hadhrat Saudah’s(ra) marriage ceremony took place a few days prior to the marriage of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra). At that time, the Holy Prophet(saw) was fifty years of age.

Brief Note on Polygamy

In allusion to the marriage of Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) and Hadhrat Saudah(ra), the issue of polygamy must have rattled the hearts of our non-Muslim readers. God willing, an elaborate discussion on this issue shall be taken up in the second volume of this book. However, a brief note on this issue here shall be equally helpful. It should be understood that in their prejudice, opponents have raised allegations against many principles of Islam, but have never contemplated their reality with a cool heart, nor have they examined them in light of experience or observation. Among them, polygamy is also one issue, which is generally considered to be against nature. In this regard, first and foremost, it should be understood that ‘nature’ is no doubt a light, which Allah the Exalted has instilled into every human being for the purpose of guidance. However, at times, this light, suppressed by conflicting elements, is weakened or exhausted, and in the following case, its verdict cannot be accepted, until it is purified of prejudice. Thus, regarding the concept of divorce, the Christian nature was weakened by the suppression of conflicting elements. Consequently, to this day, the precedent verdict has been that with the exception of a wife committing adultery, it is unlawful to seek divorce. Therefore, Christians made alterations to their laws accordingly. However, now, after being jostled by observation and experience, their sleeping nature has awakened to some extent. They are beginning to realise that, not only adultery, rather, other circumstances in this world can also make it difficult for a husband and wife to live together in domestic harmony. Therefore, in accordance with Islamic teachings, Christian countries are now beginning to pass laws regarding divorce.

The fact of the matter is that there are many things which seem beneficial to the ear and the heart experiences an inclination towards them, but in actuality they are deception, because the secrets of their reality are revealed in the practical world. Among them is the issue of divorce, which has been mentioned above, and among them is the issue of polygamy, about which this brief note is being written. As a mere assertion, it seems like a very good teaching that in all events, an individual keeps only one wife, and should not have the permission to keep more than one wife in any circumstance. However, if we contemplate further, and look towards the various requirements of mankind, it must be accepted that, in certain cases, man is confronted with such circumstances as not only himself, but the prosperity and benefit of society demand that he marry more than one wife. For example:

There is a man who has one wife, but due to a physical defect, she is unable to bear children.

She does have children, but due to an ailment of the mother, the children die time and time again.

There is a man whose wife has fallen victim to a disease, due to which she is deserving of her husband’s special sympathy and attention, but is no longer capable of rightful spousal intercourse.

A man, on account of his unique circumstances, cannot maintain his level of righteousness and morality with one wife alone.

With a man’s second marriage, there is a domestic or national benefit attached.

In a particular era, if the circumstances of a country or people demand that men generally marry more than once, for the progression of progeny or for the protection of national morality.

If there are any other reasonable grounds behind a second marriage, which common sense declares permissible.

In such circumstances, the conscience of any man in his rightful mind, provided that it has not been suppressed by prejudice and died, will not only accept polygamy as lawful, but will deem it necessary. Moreover, in such circumstances, it shall be expected of both men and women that they prepare themselves to sacrifice their passions for the acquisition of higher purposes.

Islam is a practical religion and fulfils the lawful requirements of mankind. Furthermore, gratitude is due here for the fact that after centuries of stumbling, the Christian world is slowly but surely progressing towards Islamic teachings. That day is not far when the entire world shall realise that the pure and complete teaching, which remained the target of allegations for centuries on account of religious prejudice and politics, is the only one which is capable of establishing the true foundation of peace by satisfying all of the lawful requirements of mankind.

Alas! Opponents have falsely concluded, without due consideration and contemplation, that the Islamic issue of polygamy is God forbid a pathway to pleasure and lust, opened by Islam for its followers. If the conditions with which Islam has permitted polygamy are closely analysed, it becomes evidently apparent that for a true Muslim, a second marriage cannot be a means of pleasure and lust. Rather, in actuality, this is a sacrifice which must be made under special circumstances and requirements. If a Muslim breaks these conditions and marries more than once for the fulfillment of his pleasure and lust, this is his individual action, and cannot be considered Islamic conduct. He commits a deed, just as the liberal people of other religions do, who do not permit polygamy in any case, but incur dishonour upon themselves here and there through illicit intercourse, while their wives remain at home. In addition to this, it must not be forgotten that Islam has not commanded polygamy, in other words, it has not been declared obligatory that every Muslim must marry more than once. Instead, this is an exception, which has been made lawful in special circumstances. However, practically, a better part of the Muslims today limit themselves to one marriage alone.



  1. Sunan Ibni Majah, Kitabun-Nikah, Babu Ma Ja’a fi Fadlin-Nikah, Hadith No. 1846
  2. For example, study the lives of Abraham(as), Isaac(as), Jacob(as), Moses(as), David(as) and Solomon(as) (Author)
  3. For example, study the lives of Krishna(as), Ramchandar Ji(as), etc. (Author)
  4. *Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitabu Manaqibil-Ansar, Babu Tazwijin-Nabiyyisa ‘A’ishata, Hadith No. 3895
    * Usdul-Ghabah, Vol.6, p.193, Dhikru ‘A’ishata binti Abi Bakris-Siddiq(ra), Darul-Fikr, Beirut (2003)
  5. Until this time, the companions of the Holy Prophet(saw) considered their relationship with him as brotherhood, but they later realized that this relationship was not of brotherhood rather, it was of son and father. However, this spiritual relationship does not affect physical ones. (Author)
  6. * SharHul-‘Allamatiz-Zarqani ‘alal-Mawahibil-Ladunniyyah, By Muhammad bin ‘Abdul-Baqi Az- Zarqani, Vol.4, pp.382-383, Babu ‘A’ishata Ummil-Mu’minin, Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, First Edition (1996)
    * Usdul-Ghabah, Vol.6, pp.191-192, Dhikru ‘A’ishata binti Abi Bakris- Siddiq(ra), Darul-Fikr, Beirut (2003)
  7. Zadul-Ma‘ad, Al-Hafiz Ibni Qayyim Al-Jawzi ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Ali bin Muhammad, Vol.1, p. 26, Faslun Fi Azwajihisa, Egypt
  8. Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Kitabul-Manaqib, Babu Fadli ‘A’ishah, Hadith No. 3890
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