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Prophet Muhammad’s Multiple Marriages: Why?

21 August, 2021
Q Dear scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. Why did the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) marry more than one? Jazakum Allah khayran.

Answer

Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

1- The issue of the Prophet’s multiple marriages is one of the most debated and misunderstood questions regarding the Prophet’s life.

2- The Prophet’s marriages have their own wisdom and purpose ordained by Allah Almighty.

3- These goals were mainly related to his mission of unifying Arabs, and setting standards for reforming intractable customs that had caused so much misery and destruction for humanity.


In his answer to this question about the Wisdom of Prophet Muhammad’s Multiple Marriages, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

A Major Misconception

Prophet Muhammad’s multiple marriages have their own wisdom and purpose ordained by Allah Almighty. In this, he is no different than previous prophets such as Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Yaqub (Jacob), Dawud (David), etc., who all had more than one wife.

It is wrong to judge them by the standards of our modern secular values and ideals.

If we approach Prophet Muhammad’s multiple marriages based on his mission in light of the milieu he was called upon to fulfill, it is not hard to discover that his marriages were never primarily motivated by sexual considerations. Rather, they had much higher purposes in the divine plan.

Wisdom of Prophet Muhammad’s Multiple Marriages

These goals were mainly related to his mission of unifying Arabs. He also wanted to set standards for reforming intractable customs that had caused so much misery and destruction for humanity.

Arabs before the rise of Islam were a race who fought relentlessly for even the most trivial matters, and no one before the Prophet had ever succeeded in unifying them. Marriage proved to be one of the means of achieving this unity.

Again, marriage to a widow was a curse in Arabia as well in other major parts of the world such as India.

In most of these societies, a widow was more like a pariah or curse for the entire family. Almost all of the women that the Prophet married were widows.

A still important factor to consider: The most sexually active phase in anyone’s life is before he reaches the age of fifty. We must remember that in this phase, the Prophet had only one wife, Khadijah, who was fifteen years older than him.

The Prophet married her when he was twenty-five and she was forty years. She died at the age of sixty-five. It was only after her death and in Madinah, after he had dedicated himself to the task of building a nation, that he married a number of women belonging to different Arab clans, most of them widows.

By marrying them, he was setting a precedent to reverse the taboo of widow marriage.

Another Consideration

Secondly, he was paying back his due to some of the companions who had perished in battles leaving behind widows with children, just as he was also seeking to unify the Arab tribes. Such a function of marriage is inconceivable for us today.

Never Be Apolygetic

Having said this, I must, however, further add: We need not apologize for the Islamic teachings concerning human sexuality.

Unlike some religions that hold very negative views of sexuality, Islam celebrates sexuality within the framework of marriage and looks at it in a fairly positive light.

The Prophet of Islam best represents this ideal.

The question of Prophet Muhammad’s multiple marriage should never pose a problem for the faithful when they heed the statement of Allah in the Quran concerning his marriages:

{(Hence) no blame whatever attaches to the Prophet for (having done) what God has ordained for him. (Indeed, such was) God’s way with those that have passed away afore-time. God’s will is always destiny absolute!)} (Al-Ahzab 33:38)

Also note that during his lifetime, the Prophet’s enemies called him a liar, magician, madman, and other names, but they never spoke ill of his multiple wives.

Polygamy was a common practice at the time and remains common in many non-Christian societies today.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.