Why Do We Question Desires of the Prophets?

True Honor Is in Overcoming Difficulty, Not in Never Facing It

This is one explanation for why believers will ultimately enjoy a status even higher than angels. We as humans have the option to fall short in obeying Allah; angels don’t. Thus, our obedience is more remarkable and praiseworthy in the sight of Allah.

Why then do we remove from prophets the human honor borne of struggle?

The Prophet was once asked: “O Messenger of Allah, which people are tested most severely?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “They are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man is tried according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, then his trials will be more severe, and if he is weak in religion, then he is tried according to his strength in religion. The servant will continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2398, gradedsahih by At-Tirmidhi).

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Why then do we view it as “unbecoming” or “blasphemous” for the severe trials of a prophet to include the same nearly every man and woman faces on earth? That of being attracted to the opposite sex.

Although it is undeniable that the Prophet, peace be upon him, married Zaynab only in obedience to Allah’s command, why is the mere possibility of his being attracted to her after the divorce viewed as slanderous or blasphemous?

Rather, what would be slanderous or blasphemous is to suggest that a prophet crossed any moral boundaries, married for selfish reasons, or acted purely on attraction alone.

Righteous People Don’t Have Desires?

In a hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, Today, many Muslims view physical desire as “sick”, filthy, and unbecoming of those who “truly” love Allah. This is possibly, why we can’t imagine any righteous person, let alone a prophet, having desires at all.

“Surely, you will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, in everything as one arrow resembles another (i.e. just like them), so much so that even if they entered a hole of a sand-lizard, you would enter it.” The Companions said, “O Messenger of Allah! Do you mean to say that we will follow the Jews and the Christians?” He replied, “Who else?”

And today, it seems that this lizard hole is our view of physical attraction between men and women.

In the Catholic church, the highest post for a man is the Pope. He is not able to marry or engage in any sexual intimacy. And the holy women (nuns) are those who vow celibacy for life. Also shunning any desires, even in the sanctity of marriage.

Yet, no such “honor” exists in Islam. In fact, the Sunnah considers this a form of extremism. Why then are we allowing similar beliefs to enter our minds and hearts?

Most Muslims acknowledge that the Prophet had desires after marriage. But many view it as slanderous to believe he had attraction before marriage. Including women he proposed to and wanted to marry. Yet, in the famous account of Juwairiyah bint al-Harith first meeting the Prophet, Ayesha is reported to have immediately disliked seeing Juwairiyah because she was extremely beautiful, and Ayesha spoke of the Prophet also seeing her: “I knew he would see what I saw [i.e. her beauty]” (Abu Dawud).

Aren’t prophets human?

Unfortunately, in our zeal to defend the character of the Prophet, we deny his humanity. So many of us wish to believe that his marriages were inspired “purely” by higher goals. Believing the marriages were for freeing slaves, making peace between warring tribes, and eradicating tribalism and racism. Although these higher goals certainly existed, it is odd to view them as mutually exclusive to physical attraction or desire.

When I hear claims like these, I often wonder: What woman of today would view it as praiseworthy if her husband was not the least bit attracted to her prior to marriage? Why then do we find this preferable or “honorable” for the Mothers of Believers?

Our Self-Serving Definitions of Righteousness

In truth, many of our assertions about “righteousness” and the Prophet’s alleged lack of physical desire are made for selfish reasons. Often, Muslims today simply wish to deny obvious parts of their faith. A big denial is the permissibility, and possible praiseworthiness, of a man marrying more than one wife.

And given that the life of the Prophet (pbuh) is in obvious contradiction to this view, we wriggle out of blameworthiness by claiming that the Prophet didn’t marry for the reasons other men marry (i.e. due to physical attraction). Thus, any man who is attracted to a woman (especially if he is already married) has committed a cultural “crime.” Even if it culminates in the honorable institution of marriage as sanctioned by Allah!

Honesty Is True Righteousness

Speaking the truth is something that is an important virtue in all faiths. It is undeniable that true Islamic righteousness is in being honest with ourselves and with the world.

And a good place to start is concerning the remarkable beauty and mercy in Allah allowing men and women to be physically attracted to each other such that we find immense joy and pleasure in each other after marriage.

And what better reflection of righteousness is there than being grateful for these favors?

This article is from our archive, originally published at an earlier date, and now republished for its importance.

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