Prophet Muhammad married 12 wives in his life. When he died he had 9 wives. They have a very special status in the hearts of Muslims as the “Mothers of the Believers,” as the Quran instructs, and they are the source of a great amount of wisdom which they learned while living close to such a great man.
They are: Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Sawdah bint Zam’ah, `A’ishah bint Abi Bakr, Hafsah bint `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, Zaynab bint Khuzaymah, Umm Salama, Zaynab bint Jahsh, Juwayriah bint Al-Harith, Umm Habibah, Safiyah bint Huyay ibn Akhtab, Maymunah bint Al-Harith, Maria the Copt.
Can We Consider His Marriage to A’ishah a Case of Child Molestation?
Obviously, when traveling back in time 1400 years to examine a lifestyle we never witnessed, it is unfair to apply our present day standards, so let’s listen to the experts.
Authentic historical records prove that the social traditions of the time and place—regardless of religion—considered Arab females as women as soon as their menstrual cycles began. The custom was to give daughters in marriage at that age. This was practiced by all dwellers in Arabia before Islam: pagans, disbelievers, Jews, and others. It’s a fact that female menstruation in hot climates starts much earlier than in cold climates, so females in Arabia matured as early as 8 or 9; they also aged earlier than other women.
It’s a neglected fact that before she was married to Muhammad, `A’ishah had been engaged to an infidel, Jubair ibn Mus’ab ibn Ady. Her fiancé broke the engagement on the basis of religious difference. So her father, Abu Bakr, agreed to give her hand in marriage to the Prophet.
The Great Wisdom in Selecting `A’ishah in Particular as a Young Wife
A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) came from a house famous for learning and memorizing great quantities of knowledge; her father was a live encyclopedia of Arab tribal pedigrees and poetry. She inherited his ability, and in her young, intelligent, receptive mind, she preserved a precious portion of Islam she learned during seven years of marriage, for 47 years after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and she taught thousands of men worldwide their religion as she had learned it firsthand from the Prophet.
To our present day, she is considered among the most prominent Islamic scholars, and she holds extremely high esteem in the hearts of all Muslims as such and as “the beloved of the Prophet,” who often mentioned her as the human he loved the most on the face of this earth. With her, he built a model Muslim home for Muslims to strive to imitate forever.
Was Maria the Copt a Slave, a Concubine, or a Wife of the Prophet?
Slavery already existed long before Islam. It was a system whereby a human captured in wars or kidnapped could be sold as a “possession.” That term applied to both sexes, not to women only. In some cultures slaves were considered subhuman and treated brutally. In Europe, for example, Romans threw Christian slaves to the lions while the public cheered; female slaves were thought to have no souls and were tortured mercilessly; slaves lived in degrading conditions; both sexes were forced to offer sexual favors to their masters; and as “possessions” they had no choice, no will, and no rights.
Islam recognized the human rights of slaves and encouraged Muslims to set slaves free. Islam prohibited adultery and homosexuality, and prevented forcing female slaves into sexual acts against their will. Islam encouraged educating them, setting them free, then legally marrying them and giving them their moral and financial rights. The reward for this—as mentioned in Prophetic Hadith—is eternal residence in Paradise.
Maria was not a concubine; she was a slave owned by Egypt’s Christian governor, who offered her and her sister Serine—among other presents—as a “gift of good will” to the Prophet in reply to his envoys inviting him to Islam. On her way from Egypt to Madinah, she was curious to learn about “her new master” and listened to his Companions talk about him. As a result, she became Muslim before meeting Muhammad. Scholars’ opinions vary of her status afterwards; here is the opinion I support:
One of the prominent Al-Azhar scholars, Sheikh Abdul Majid Subh, states:
“Prophet Muhammad, instead of taking concubines, entered into lawful marriages based on reason and wisdom. Maria the Copt was given to him as a present, but rather than taking her as a concubine, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) married her, thus elevating her status by marriage.”
Women’s Rights in Islam Surpass Modern Systems
If women in the Muslim World today don’t have their rights, it is not because Islam didn’t give them rights. Alien traditions have overshadowed the teachings of Islam, either through ignorance or the impact of colonialism. Most of the so-called modern reforms in the status of women appeared after the West abandoned religion for secularism. Those in the West who claim to follow the Judeo-Christian tradition really follow the values of Western liberalism.
In England and America less than fifty years ago, a woman could not buy a house or car without the co-signature of a male “guardian”! In Contrast, Islamic Law guaranteed rights to women over 1400 years ago that were unheard of in the West until the 1900s.
Numerous verses of the Qur’an state that men and women are equal in the site of Allah; the only thing that distinguishes people in His site is their level of God-consciousness.
Islam teaches that a woman is a full person under the law, and is the spiritual equal of a male. Women have the right to own property, to operate a business, and to receive equal pay for equal work.
Women are allowed total control of their wealth. They cannot be married against their will, and they are allowed to keep their own name when married. They have the right to inherit property and to have their marriage dissolved in the case of neglect or mistreatment. Islam does not consider woman an “evil temptress,” and thus does not blame woman for Original Sin (a doctrine that Islam rejects). Women in Islam participate in all forms of worship that men participate in.
Prophet Muhammad’s mission stopped many of the horrible practices against women that were present in the society of his time. He actually harnessed the unrestricted polygamy of the Arabs of the time, and put many laws in place to protect the well-being of women. In his Farewell Sermon just weeks before his death, he summarized the teachings of Islam to the believers in a final farewell. His last words were:
“Be kind to women!”