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    506

reconsideration, in  (), -; M.J. Hovannisian and Sp. Vryonis, Jr. (eds.), Islam’s
Kister,… Illā bi-aqqihi…: a study of an early understanding of itself, Malibu , -; W.C.
adīth, in   (), -; R. Köbert, Die Smith, On understanding Islam, The Hague ,
shahādat az-zūr, in Der Islam  (), -; -; J.K. Sollfrank, Spuren altarabischer Rechts-
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M.I. Mochiri, A Pahlavi forerunner of the Arab-Byzantine and post-reform Umaiyad coins,
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in   , viii, -; S. Mowinckel, Die Miles (ed.), Archeologica orientalia in memoriam Ernst
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Geist als Fürsprecher und der johanneische Watt, The formative period of Islamic thought,
Paraklet, in Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Edinburgh , -; id., Islamic creeds. A
Wissenschaft  (), -; Z. al-Muaysin, selection, Edinburgh ; A.J. Wensinck,
Nuqūsh jadīda min janūb al-Urdunn, in Anbā The Muslim creed, London , -; id.,
mahad al-āthār wa-l-anthrūbūlūjiyā, Jāmiat Tashahhud, in   , iv, ; J. Wirsching, Allah
al-Yarmūk  (), -; T. Nagel, Die Inschriften allein ist Gott, Frankfurt ; W. al-Zuaylī, al-
im Felsendom und das islamische Mawsūa l-qurāniyya l-muyassara, Damascus .
Glaubensbekenntnis — der Koran und die
Anfänge des adīth, in Arabica  (), -;
id., Das islamische Recht. Eine Einführung, München Wives of the Prophet
, -; E. Neubauer and
V. Doubleday, Islamic religious music, in S. Sadie
(ed.),The New Grove dictionary of music and musicians,
The Prophet is usually said to have had
 vols., London , xii, -; Nöldeke, thirteen wives or concubines, of whom
 ; S. Ory, Aspects religieux des textes nine survived him. But there is some
épigraphiques du début de l’Islam, in   dispute as to the identity of the thirteen.
(), -; Th. O’Shaughnessy, Muhammad’s
thoughts on death, Leiden , f.; C.E. Padwick, Some modern Muslim biographers have
Muslim devotions. A study of prayer-manuals in common linked the large size of the Prophet’s
use, London , -; J. Pedersen, Der Eid harem to the fact that all of the
bei den Semiten, Strassburg ; id.⁄[Y. Linant
Prophet’s marriages had been con-
de Bellefonds], asam, in   , iv, -;
R. Peters, Shāhid, in   , ix, -; cluded by the time that the early
M. Radscheit, Die koranische Herausforderung, Medinan revelation of  : limited the
Berlin ; H. Rechenmacher, “Ausser mir gibt es number of wives to four (Haykal, Life of
keinen Gott!” Eine sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche
Studie zur Ausschliesslichkeitsformel, St. Ottilien Muammad, ; see  
; A. Rippin, The commerce of eschatology, ). Conversely, an Orientalist his-
in Wild, Text, -; id., Muslims. Their religious torian of the qurānic text has suggested
beliefs and practices, London , -, -;
that the Prophet had only four wives at
U. Rubin, Morning and evening prayers in early
Islam, in   (), -; R. Sayed, Die the time of the revelation of  : (Stern,
Revolte des Ibn al-Ašat und die Koranleser, Freiburg Marriage, -; see --
, -; J. Schacht, Liān, in   , v, -;     
A. Schimmel, The Sufis and the shahāda, in R.G.
).
507    

In adīth (see     ) institution of hiba, possibly a pre-Islamic
and classical qurānic exegesis (tafsīr; see form of marriage, by which a woman “of-
   ), the Prophet’s fers herself ” to a man without a guardian
right to less restricted polygamy is pre- (walī; see ) to negotiate the
sented as a prerogative that sunnat Allāh, union and without expectation of a dower.
God’s “law” for the world (see ;  Later Muslim interpreters were uncomfort-
  ), had always granted to able with the institution of hiba and some
God’s prophets and apostles (see  opined that it was not a lawful form of
 ; ). marriage for anyone with the sole excep-
Furthermore, the classical sources found tion of the Prophet himself. Consequently,
the scriptural legitimization of the they used  : primarily as an aid to
Prophet’s larger household (see   classify the Prophet’s consorts; but it also
 ) in  :, a late Medinan provided them with scriptural proof
revelation that enumerated the “categories that Muammad’s marriages — even
of females” lawful to the Prophet for mar- though more than four — were divinely
riage as follows (see   sanctioned.
;  ;  adīth reports agree overall that the
  ): wives with whom the Prophet was married to the following
Prophet contracted marriage involving women:
payment of “hires” (dowers; see
); female prisoners of war . Khadīja bt. Khuwaylid (Quraysh
(slaves) who fell to him as part of his share [q.v.] — Asad; see ī). She was mar-
of the spoils (see   ; ried to Abū Hāla Hind b. al-Nabbāsh of
; ); paternal and maternal Tamīm with whom she had two sons, Hāla
cousins who had migrated to Medina (q.v.; and Hind, and to Atīq b. Ābid of
see also   ; ; Makhzūm, with whom she had a daughter,
); and Hind. Twice widowed (see ),
Khadīja was a wealthy merchant woman
a believing woman (see   who is said to have employed Muammad
), if she gives herself to the in a business enterprise in  .. and
Prophet, if the Prophet should wish to then proposed marriage to him (see
marry her. Especially for you, exclusive of ; ). He was twenty-five
the believers. We know what we have im- years old at that time and she was forty.
posed upon them concerning their wives They had two or three sons, named
and slaves. So that there be no restriction Qāsim, Abdallāh al-āhir al-Muahhar
on you. And God is forgiving, compassion- (and ayyib?), and four daughters,
ate (see ; ;   Zaynab, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthūm, and
 ). Fāima (q.v.). All the male children died in
infancy. When the revelations began (see
The interpretation of the verse has pre-   ), Khadīja
sented difficulties because it appears to was the first person or, some say, the first
relate to a social system that had ceased to woman to accept Islam from the messen-
exist within a century after the Prophet’s ger of God. Khadīja died three years be-
death (Watt, Muhammad at Medina, ). fore the migration to Medina (see -
Especially problematic within the changing ) and was buried in Mecca (q.v.).
code of early Islamic marriage law was the . Sawda bt. Zama (Quraysh — Āmir).
    508

She was married to Sakrān b. Amr, an thirty-eight after her divorce from Zayd b.
early Muslim, and made the hijra (emigra- āritha. She was a granddaughter of Abd
tion) to Abyssinia (q.v.) with him. He died al-Mualib, and Muammad’s first cousin
after their return to Mecca and she mar- on his mother’s side. Her father was a cli-
ried the Prophet around  .. when she ent of the clan of Abd Shams of the
was about thirty. She migrated with his Quraysh tribe (see  
household to Medina where she died in ). Zaynab bt. Jash died in
/-. /-.
. Āisha bt. Abī Bakr (q.v.; . Māriya the Copt (see  
Quraysh — Taym), married in / when ) was a slave-concubine
she was nine. She was the only virgin whom the ruler of Egypt (q.v.) sent to the
Muammad married. She remained child- Prophet as a gift in or around /-. She
less and died in Medina in /-. bore Muammad a son called Ibrāhīm
. af
a bt. Umar b. al-Khaāb who died when he was less than two years
(Quraysh — Adī) was the widow of old. She remained a concubine. She died
Khumays b. udhāfa, a Muslim killed at in /.
Badr (q.v.). She married the Prophet in . Umm abība (Ramla) bt. Abī Sufyān
/ at age eighteen. She died in / (Quraysh — Abd Shams) was about
(see ). thirty-five when the Prophet married her
. Umm Salama (Hind) bt. al-Mughīra on his return from Khaybar in /. She
(Quraysh — Makhzūm) married the was the widow of Ubaydallāh b. Jash
Prophet in / at age twenty-nine. Her with whom she had made the emigration
husband Abū Salama had died of a wound to Abyssinia. She died in /.
received at Uud and had left her with . afiyya bt. uyayy (of the Jewish al-
several small children (see  Naīr tribe; see   ;  ,
 ). She died in /-.  -) was captured at Khaybar in
. Zaynab bt. al-Khuzayma (Āmir b. / and assigned to the Prophet. She
a
aa — Hilāl) was first married to al- was seventeen. Perhaps she was at first a
ufayl b. al-ārith (Quraysh — al- concubine, but later accepted Islam, was
Mualib) who divorced her. Then she set free, and became a wife. She died in
married his brother Ubayda who was /.
killed at Badr. Her marriage to the Prophet . Maymūna bt. al-ārith (Āmir b.
took place in or around /- when she a
aa — Hilāl) became Muammad’s
was about thirty. She died just a few wife at age twenty-seven in the year /
months later. during or right after the lesser pilgrimage
. Juwayriyya (al-Musaliq — Khuzāa), (q.v.). She died in /-.
daughter of the chief of the tribe, was cap- . Rayāna bt. Zayd (of the Jewish al-
tured in the attack on her tribe in /, Naīr tribe) was captured in / during
married by Muammad on her profession the attack on the Banū Quraya (q.v.) to
of Islam and set free. She was about whom her husband had belonged. With
twenty years old at the time. Some say that the Prophet, she had the status of con-
she was at first only a concubine (see cubine which she apparently retained until
) but that she had become a her death in /-.
full wife before the Prophet’s death.
Juwayriyya died in /. In addition to these thirteen women gener-
. Zaynab bt. Jash (Asad b. Khuzayma) ally acknowledged to have been either reg-
married Muammad in /- at age ular wives or concubines, there is some
509    

information on a number of others whose [other] women,” their peerlessness also


names are linked with the Prophet, but the entails those sharper rebukes for human
accounts are truncated, often contradic- frailties and more stringent codes of pri-
tory, and on the whole quite dubious. The vate and public probity, with which the
Prophet is said to have married several scripture singles out the Prophet’s consorts
women whom he divorced (or some of (see   ,  
whom divorced him?) before the marriage ). By linking dignity with ob-
was consummated; mentioned are Fāima ligation and elite status with heightened
bt. al-ahhāk b. Sufyān of the Kilāb tribe moral responsibility (q.v.; see also 
and Amra bt. Yazīd of the Kilāb tribe (of-   ), their example defines
ten assumed to be one and the same per- two aspects of sunnat Allāh, God’s “law”
son), Asmā bt. al-Numān of the Kinda for the world. On the one hand, the
tribe, Qutayla bt. Qays of the Kinda tribe, Prophet’s wives emerge in the qurānic
and Mulayka bt. Kab of the Banū Layth. context as models of the principle of
To some additional women, marriage was ethical individualism. On the other hand,
proposed but the marriage contract was the dynamic of the revelations when
not concluded (see   read in chronological order moves toward
;    increasing emphasis on the perfection of
). The identity of the women the Prophet’s household as a whole; it is
who “gave themselves to the Prophet” by this collective entity that the revelations
way of hiba is likewise quite obscure, as the ultimately mean to strengthen and elevate
list contains some additional names but to model status, even if it be at the
also the names of several of the established expense of individual ambitions and
wives. the idiosyncrasies of some of its
When the Prophet died in /, three members.
of his thirteen consorts — Khadīja bt. The Prophet’s wives figure unequally in
Khuwaylid, Zaynab bt. Khuzayma, and qurānic exegesis, which is to say that only
Rayāna bt. Zayd — were already dead. a small number of their group are con-
Māriya retained her rank of concubine. sistently presented as key figures in the
The other nine were recognized as rightful adīth accounts of contexts of specific rev-
bearers of the honorific title “Mothers of elations (asbāb al-nuzūl, “occasions of rev-
the Believers” (cf.  :, a late Medinan elation”). The following presents the
revelation; see    qurānic revelations commonly linked with
). one, or several, or all of the members of
the Prophet’s household in the traditional
The Prophet’s wives in the Qurān chronology of revelation.
The Qurān specifically addresses the
Prophet’s wives on numerous occasions; .  :-, Lawfulness of marriage with for-
many other revelations are linked with mer wife of adopted son, and  :, ,
members of their group in the adīth lit- Adopted sons are not sons
erature. They are clearly the elite women Muslim scholarship dates these revelations
of the community of the faithful whose to the fifth year after the hijra and com-
proximity to the Prophet endows them monly links them with the figure of
with special dignity. But this rank is Zaynab bt. Jash. The Prophet had
matched by more stringent obligations. arranged her marriage with Zayd b.
While the Qurān ( :) says of the āritha, a former Arabian slave of
Prophet’s wives that they “are not like any Khadīja’s whom the Prophet had freed and
    510

adopted as a son. The marriage was not ( :). The qurānic directive to the
harmonious and Zayd desired a divorce. Prophet’s wives in  : to stay in their
The Prophet is then said to have begun to houses and avoid strutting about is dated
feel an attraction for Zaynab; he concealed later than  : (cf. below; see ,
it because at that time adopted sons were   ).
regarded as the full equals of legitimate Self-protection of “the Prophet’s wives,
natural sons, which rendered their wives his daughters, and the women of the be-
unlawful for the adopting father. The rev- lievers” was thereafter enjoined in
elations of  :- commanded the  :- by way of God’s demand that
Prophet to marry Zaynab, and  :,  Muslim women cover themselves in their
abolished the inherited notion of legal “mantles” ( jalābīb) when abroad, so that
equality between real sons and adopted they would be known (as free women) and
sons. not molested. Once again, classical
exegesis has here identified Umar b. al-
.  :, The ijāb verse, and  :, Khaāb as the main spokesman in favor of
exemptions thereto a new clothing (q.v.) law. An additional
Zaynab bt. Jash’s marriage to the legislative item on female modesty, directed
Prophet, likewise said to have occurred at Muslim women in general, was revealed
during the fifth year after the hijra, is identi- at a later date in  : which prescribed
fied in the majority of adīth and tafsīr ac- use of their “kerchiefs” (khumur, sing.
counts as the occasion of God’s legislation khimār) as a means to cover up “their bo-
of the ijāb, “curtain, screen,” imposed by soms” ( juyūb) and their finery (zīna) except
God to shield the Prophet’s women from in the company of their husbands, other
the eyes of visitors to his dwellings (see males to whom marriage is taboo and fe-
; ). Many traditions maintain male friends and relatives, slaves, and the
that this revelation was vouchsafed after small children. It was on the basis of
some of the wedding guests had overstayed  : (ijāb, “curtain” or “partition”),
their welcome at the nuptial celebration in  : ( jalābīb, “mantles”),  : (khumur,
Zaynab’s house. Another strand of tradi- “kerchiefs”) and  : (“stay in your
tions mentions Umar b. al-Khaāb in the houses and avoid self-display”) that clas-
role of counselor who urged the Prophet to sical law and theology (see  
conceal and segregate his wives as a pro-  ) thereafter formulated the
tective measure. For some of the later medieval Islamic ordinance for overall
medieval exegetes, such as al-Bayāwī female veiling and segregation. Muam-
(d. prob. /-) and Ibn Kathīr mad’s wives’ domestic seclusion behind a
(d. /), Umar’s vigilance for the partition (ijāb) merged with the clothing
good of the Prophet’s wives rates greater laws to such an extent that the very gar-
consideration as an occasion of revelation ments which Muslim women were com-
of  : than do the accounts of the manded to wear in public came to be
Prophet’s annoyance at the guests who lin- called ijāb.
gered in Zaynab’s house on the wedding
eve. The ijāb verse is followed by a revela- .  :-, The qurānic injunction against
tion that establishes the classes of relatives slander
and servants with whom the Prophet’s In chronological terms, the next block of
wives were permitted to deal face-to-face qurānic legislation consistently linked in
rather than from behind a partition the adīth with a member of the Prophet’s
511    

household is  :-, the injunction  :- that instructed him to have his
against slander (see ). The verses are wives choose between “the life of this
dated into the fifth or sixth year after the world and its glitter” and “God, his
hijra and are said to have been occasioned Prophet, and the abode in the hereafter.”
by Āisha bt. Abī Bakr’s involvement in This revelation has been dated to the late
“the affair of the lie (q.v.),” al-ifk. fifth, seventh, or ninth year after the hijra.
The medieval adīth describes Āisha as The adīth sources mention several dif-
the Prophet’s favorite wife. The only virgin ferent episodes of household disagreement
among Muammad’s brides, she was be- caused by the women’s (or some of the
trothed to the Prophet three years before women’s) insubordination and backtalk
the hijra when she was six or seven years (see   ;
old, and the marriage was concluded and ), material demands that the
consummated when she was nine. The “af- Prophet was unable to fulfill (see
fair of the lie” thus occurred when she was   ), and mutual
eleven, twelve, or thirteen. Returning from jealousy (see ), that may all have fed
a military expedition on which she had into one major crisis. By all accounts, the
accompanied the Prophet, Āisha was in- domestic turmoil was of significant propor-
advertently left behind at the last camping tions and when the Prophet secluded him-
ground when the army departed for self for a month, there was fear in the
Medina in the darkness of early morning. community that he would divorce his
She was rescued and returned to Medina wives.
by a young Arab Bedouin (q.v.; see also When the Prophet returned, he repeated
; ). A scandal broke that was the newly-revealed “verses of choice” to
mainly instigated by the Prophet’s enemies each of them. Thereupon each of the
(q.v.) but also tore the Prophet’s followers women, beginning with Āisha, declared
apart (see   ). A that she chose God and his Prophet and
full month later, the revelation of the abode in the hereafter over the world
 :- was vouchsafed which estab- and its adornment. It is said that Āisha
lished Āisha’s innocence, severely rep- reached her decision swiftly and without
rimanded the believers for their consulting her father (or parents), and
unrighteous behavior, and announced that the Prophet was gladdened by her
grievous penalties for all who would per- choice.
petrate unfounded slander of chaste
women (see   ; .  :-, Double punishment and double
). Additional legislation on slan- reward for the Prophet’s women,  :,
der is found in  :-. The transgression Peerlessness of the Prophet’s women and injunction
was later classified in Islamic jurisprudence against complaisant speech,  :-, Command
as one of the udūd offenses (“canon law that they stay in their houses, avoid displaying their
cases with unalterable punishments”; see charms, and be pious, charitable, obedient, and
  ). mindful of God’s verses and wisdom recited in
their houses
.  :-, The verses of choice These verses are generally thought to have
adīth accounts do not reflect a consensus been revealed soon after the crisis that had
on the incident or incidents that led to the led to the Prophet’s seclusion from his
Prophet’s seclusion from all of his wives for wives. They acknowledge the peerlessness
a month until he received the revelation of of the Prophet’s consorts and also impose
    512

specific and far-reaching restrictions on the varied over the ages, its condemnation by
women’s accessibility, visibility, and man- the custodians of communal morality has
ner of comportment.  :- establish always included the qurānic reference that
double punishment in the case of clear it is un-Islamic, a matter of jāhiliyya and
immoral behavior, and double reward for therefore a threat to Islamic society.
obedience to God and his apostle and Tabarruj, forbidden to the Prophet’s wives
godly acts (see  ). In  :, in  :, eventually came to signify the
the Prophet’s women are then told that very antithesis of the ijāb imposed on the
they are “not like any (other) women,” and Prophet’s wives in  :, both in its
are enjoined to abstain from submissive qurānic sense of seclusion qua “partition”
speech that might be misunderstood. In and also its extended meaning of a con-
the verses immediately following, cealing garment worn outside the house.
 :-, the expression “O women of the In their totality, the three qurānic com-
Prophet” does not appear, but both verses mands to Muammad’s wives of  :
are syntactically tied to the four that pre- and : thus became the scriptural foun-
cede them. Because of the context, dations for an Islamic paradigm of wom-
qurānic exegesis has traditionally under- en’s societal role in which space, clothing
stood  :- as having been addressed and comportment were powerful factors
to the wives of the Prophet. The question (see ; ).
of context is here especially significant be-
cause the verses include important pieces .  :, The Prophet’s wives are the Mothers of
of legislation. In  :, the Prophet’s the Believers, and  :, Muslims may not
wives (or, a plurality of women?) are com- marry the Prophet’s wives “after him”
manded to stay in their houses, avoid tabar- These revelations are thought to have been
ruj, “strutting-about,” in the manner of received at a later date than the verses of
al-jāhiliyya l-ūlā, “the first age of unbelief ” choice ( :-) and the peerlessness and
(see   ; ), per- restriction verses ( :-). Muslim
form the prayer (q.v.), give alms (see qurānic interpretation has recognized a
), and obey God and his connection between the honorific title of
Prophet. In  :, they are commanded “Mothers of the Believers” in  : and
to be mindful of God’s signs (q.v.; or verses the injunction against marriage with the
[q.v.]) and the wisdom (q.v.) that is recited Prophet’s wives (or widows) in  :, be-
in their houses (see    cause, according to  :, marriage with
). the mother is forbidden. Even though
In terms of Islamic legal-theological in-  : and  : are not consecutive in
stitution building, when  : was later the established qurānic text, they are gen-
applied to Muslim women in general it erally considered to belong together.
enjoined them to stay at home and also be Qurān interpreters point out that the in-
indistinguishable from all other females junction against marriage with the
when abroad, as tabarruj came to mean a Prophet’s wives or widows was divinely
woman’s display of her physical self in all enjoined in order to glorify the Prophet,
manners of speaking that would include alive or dead. In fact, none of the
the wearing of revealing garments, the use Prophet’s established wives are known to
of cosmetics, unrestricted gait and the like. have been divorced by him and none of his
While the exact definition of tabarruj has widows remarried after he had died.
513    

.  :-, Release of the Prophet from certain wives and concubines, was discussed at the
restrictions, expiation of oaths, a wife who be- beginning of this article.  :, most
trayed the secret, warning to two women who con- probably revealed on the same occasion as
spired against the Prophet, threat of divorce and  :, grants the Prophet greater free-
enumeration of wifely virtues dom in choosing — or dealing with — his
This group of verses has been dated to the wives, by permitting him to “defer” or to
period of, or right after, a major crisis in “take in” whom of the women he willed;
the Prophet’s household that culminated in the verse continues with the words “and if
the Prophet’s month-long seclusion from you desire one whom you have sent away, it
his household. The revelation relieves the is no sin for you (see ,  
Prophet from some unspecified, apparently ). This is more appropriate that their
self-imposed, restriction. Mentioned then is eyes be gladdened and that they should not
the duty to expiate oaths (q.v.). A matter of be sad (see   ), and all be
confidence was disclosed by the Prophet to satisfied with what you have given them.
one of his wives but she divulged it. Two God knows what is in your hearts.” One
women are called to repent, are sternly school of exegesis links  : with
reprimanded, and are warned not to con-  : in order to read  : as divine
spire against the Prophet. Thereafter the permission for the Prophet to enter into
wives are threatened with the possibility new marriage arrangements and terminate
that if the Prophet divorces them, God in old ones. Another strand of interpretation
exchange will give him “better wives than stipulates that  : applies only to the
you, Muslims, believers, devout, penitent, Prophet’s relations with his existing
obedient in worship, observant of worship spouses, whence it means a release from
and contemplation, both formerly married the rigid pattern of marital equity that
and virgins.” Muammad had practiced in the past.
Clearly these verses also refer to a major  : (which appears to contradict
crisis in the Prophet’s household, which  : and  :) instructs the Prophet
adīth and exegetical literature again at- that henceforth (additional) women are not
tribute to shortcomings (insubordination, lawful for him (for marriage) nor in
greed, jealousy) on the part of the women. (ex)change for (established) wives, with the
There is a great deal of overlap in the exception of his slaves. According to some
details of the quoted asbāb al-nuzūl (occa- commentators, this revelation put an end
sions of revelation of qurānic verses) to further marriages by the Prophet.
materials, and some sources even collapse Others interpreted the verse as limitation
the occasions of revelation of  :- on the groups, or classes, or categories,
and  :-. from which the Prophet was empowered to
choose new marriage partners. A third
.  :, Classes of women lawful for mar- point of view maintained that  : was
riage with the Prophet,  :, Special privileges abrogated by  : (see );
for the Prophet within his polygamous household, the stipulation of abrogation eliminated
 :, Injunction against additional marriages? the apparent contradiction between
These verses have been dated to the late  : and  : and also served to con-
Medinan period.  :, specifying the firm the Prophet’s complete freedom with
categories of women from which the regard to his marital arrangements.
Prophet was empowered to choose his The qurānic legislation directed at the
    514

Prophet’s wives is entirely of Medinan between individual elect status and indi-
provenance and belongs to the last six or vidual virtue (q.v.; see also ). As
seven years of the Prophet’s life. posited in the “verses of choice” of
Considered in chronological sequence of  :-, double shares of divine reward
date of revelation, the duty of seclusion are compensation for the Prophet’s wives’
behind a partition in the presence of non- choice to accept obligations more stringent
relatives was the first rule imposed on the than those which the Qurān imposes upon
Prophet’s wives. It was accompanied, or Muslim women in general. According to
soon followed, by stringent codes of mod- sunnat Allāh, God’s “law” for the world, hu-
est comportment in private and public that man virtue bears rewards both individual
emphasized the women’s duty to maintain and communal, when virtuous institutions
seclusion in their houses, in addition to are maintained by the individual virtue of
piety (q.v.), charity (see ), and their members. That is to say that the
obedience to God and his Prophet. Added Qurān’s promise of everlasting elite status
thereto were strongly worded warnings for the Prophet’s consorts hinges on their
against domestic disobedience (q.v.) in the acceptance of greater and graver obliga-
form of plots or conspiracies. While the tions, since for their group the conditions
Prophet was granted unequalled rights of “obedience to God and obedience to his
concerning the number and type of mar- Prophet” are cast in more exacting terms.
riages he might wish to conclude, remar-
riage of his wives “after him” was The Prophet’s wives in the classical adīth
forbidden. In a complex mixture of history and para-
The chronological sequence of revela- digm, the Prophet’s wives appear in the
tions was clearly an important concern of classical adīth in at least three distinct sets
early Muslim adīth, tafsīr, and fiqh (Islamic of personae: as models for the righteous, as
jurisprudence), made all the more urgent elect consorts touched by the miracles (q.v.)
by the doctrine of naskh, “abrogation” of that marked the Prophet’s career, and as
an earlier revelation by a later one, that embodiments of female emotionalism, ir-
had theological as well as legal import. rationality, greed, and rebelliousness (see
While in chronological terms the qurānic ). The first of these three sym-
legislation on the Prophet’s domestic affairs bolic images of the Prophet’s wives is most
progressed toward granting him increasing pervasive in the authenticated, or “sound,”
control over his women, the time frame adīth collections that bear the imprint of
also suggests a trend toward greater re- development of the terms of Islamic law.
straint, not increasing “liberation,” of the Second, the hagiographic material in the
Prophet’s women. The Qurān itself pro- adīth is largely linked with the legacy of
vides the ratio legis for this trend in its re- the quā, popular tellers of pious lore.
peated statements of concern for the Third, the image of the Prophet’s wives as
collective wellbeing, indeed the perfection, “ordinary women” who display all the
of the Prophet’s household. The Prophet’s frailties and foibles of their sex (see 
polygamous household here becomes a  ) is mainly found in adīth
prime example of qurānic reasoning in works compiled for biographical purposes,
favor of righteous institutions over indi- such as Ibn Sad’s (d. /) Kitāb al-
vidual aspirations. At the same time, the abaqāt al-kubrā, of which the eighth vol-
qurānic legislation also signifies the prin- ume deals with the adīth by and about
ciple of ethical individualism in its linkage the women of early Islam. Ibn Sad’s col-
515    

lection includes items pertaining to all of another. In some sources, the fact that the
the normative, hagiographic and anecdotal Prophet on his return from Khaybar
adīth on Muammad’s wives, and much wrapped his war captive afiyya in his own
of the material that he assembled can later cloak from the top of her head to the bot-
be encountered in the classical tafsīr tom of her feet was taken as proof that
literature. afiyya was no longer a concubine but had
become a wife. Āisha is said to have hid-
The Prophet’s wives as models to be followed den behind the ijāb of her house even in
Their Qurān-established rank, role as the the presence of a blind man and to have
Prophet’s helpmates and supporters in his replaced her niece’s flimsy khimār with a
mission to preach and implement the true thick cloth, reminding her of the revelation
religion (q.v.; see also   of  :.
  ; ), and At the Farewell Pilgrimage (q.v.), the
their intimate involvement with the right- Prophet is said to have enjoined his wives
eous Prophet in all of the minutiae of daily to stay home at all times (and even forego
life elevated the Prophet’s wives even dur- the pilgrimage in the future), and after he
ing their lifetime to a level of prestige well had died, several of his widows did opt for
above the community’s other females. This complete confinement. The most notable
special status grew loftier with the progres- exception to such righteous immobility on
sion of time, when Muslim piety came to the part of the Mothers of the Believers
view the women of the Prophet’s house- was Āisha’s well-established active in-
hold as models for emulation. Eventually, volvement in public affairs after the
the Prophet’s wives’ behavior was recog- Prophet’s death which culminated in the
nized as sunna, an “impeccable model,” Battle of the Camel. Āisha’s behavior was
that furnished many of the criteria of what clearly outside of the norms reportedly
was lawful or forbidden for Muslims, es- observed by the Prophet’s other widows.
pecially Muslim women. These criteria The adīth overall deals with the event not
were then codified qua examples in the by way of reports of censure that others
works of early Islamic jurisprudence ( fiqh). cast against her but emphasizes the fact
The interplay between the principle of that Āisha herself regretted her involve-
the women’s righteousness and their func- ment most bitterly and passed her final
tion as categorical norm-setters is espe- days in self-recrimination.
cially clear in the traditions that deal with The Prophet’s wives coexisted with one
modesty, veiling and seclusion, where the another in mutual love (q.v.) and compas-
Prophet’s wives are depicted as both mod- sion and thus embodied the ideal spirit of
els and enforcers of the then newly im- a harmonious polygamous household.
posed qurānic norms. Their invisibility They called each other “sister” (q.v.) and
went beyond the restrictions placed upon praised each other’s uprightness, devotion,
Muslim women in general at that time. In and charity. When Zaynab bt. Jash fell ill,
addition to obligatory seclusion in their it was the Prophet’s other widows who
houses, the Prophet’s wives were shrouded nursed her and, when she died, it was they
in multiple garments when abroad, such as who washed, embalmed and shrouded her
during prayer and the pilgrimage, and they body (see    ; ).
traveled in camel (q.v.) litters so unreveal- They also lived lives of voluntary poverty
ing and undistinguishable that even the (see    ) and denied
Prophet mistook one wife’s litter for that of themselves even lawful pleasures. Of
    516

Āisha, for instance, it is said that she it is in their relationship with him that the
fasted continuously (see ) and women were granted miraculous experi-
freely gave alms at the expense of her own ences and abilities. Before her marriage to
already meager food supply and that she the Prophet and the coming of Islam,
wore threadbare clothes which she mended Muammad’s first wife Khadīja bt.
with her own hands. Of Maymūna it is Khuwaylid was participating in a popular,
reported that she picked up a pomegranate annual, pagan celebration for the women
seed from the ground to keep it from going of Mecca (see -  
to waste. Zaynab bt. Jash, nicknamed  ;  ,  
“the refuge of the poor,” gave away all her -) that centered around an idol
wealth, including the large yearly pension in the shape of a man, when the idol be-
that she received during the caliphate of gan to speak, predicting the coming of a
Umar b. al-Khaāb (see ), since prophet named Amad (see   
she regarded wealth as fitna, “temptation,” ), and advising those who could
and Āisha donated in charity the five among the women of Mecca to marry
camel loads of gold (q.v.) that the him. While the other women pelted the
Umayyad caliph had sent her for the sale idol with stones, Khadīja paid attention to
of her house located near the Medinan its words. Later, after she had hired
mosque (see   ). The Muammad to trade on her behalf in
Prophet’s wives were also profoundly Syria (q.v.), she heard about the miraculous
knowledgeable about matters of the faith events that had occurred on this journey,
(q.v.) and they were scrupulously honest in and it was because of this information that
transmitting traditions. Āisha’s knowledge she asked him to marry her (Ibn Isāq-
was such that very old men who had been Guillaume, -). Most of the Prophet’s
Companions of the Prophet (q.v.) came to other wives experienced dream visions
seek her counsel and instruction. Based on (q.v.) prior to their marriages with him (see
the criteria provided by the medieval also   ). While Sawda was
adīth, the main components of the ex- still married to her previous husband, she
emplary precedent set by the Prophet’s dreamt that Muammad approached her
wives are: segregation and quiet domestic- and placed his foot on her neck, and also
ity, modest comportment, invisibility saw a moon that hurled itself upon her
through full veiling when outside of the while she lay prostrated. When Umm
house, ascetic frugality (see ), abība and her husband lived as tempo-
profound knowledge of the faith and de- rary refugees in Abyssinia, she had a
vout obedience to God and his Prophet. dream in which she saw her husband dis-
Since the Prophet was also the husband of figured. On the following morning she
these women, special emphasis is placed on learned that he had apostatized (see
wifely obedience as an important dimen- ) and when she rebuked him, he
sion of female righteousness. took to drink and died soon afterwards.
Then she heard a dream voice that ad-
The Prophet’s wives in early adīth hagiography dressed her as Mother of the Believers,
The adīth collections contain reports of and on the following morning the ruler of
miraculous events that embellished the Abyssinia informed her that the Prophet
lives of the Prophet’s consorts. These oc- had written a letter asking for her hand in
currences always involve the Prophet, and marriage. afiyya, the woman of Jewish
517    

descent from Khaybar, saw herself in a longest arm” would arrive there soon after
dream standing by Muammad’s side him; later the women comprehended that
while an angel’s wing covered the two of what he had meant was “charity,” because
them. Later she dreamt that a moon had the first to die after him was the charitable
drawn close from the direction of Medina Zaynab bt. Jash. Traditions of this genre,
and had fallen into her lap. Her husband then, are of inspirational character. They
hit her in the face when she told him of depict the Prophet’s wives as divinely fa-
this vision, and the mark was still visible vored individuals, ranked above ordinary
when the Prophet married her after the womankind and surrounded by God’s
conquest of Khaybar. In Āisha’s case, it grace, because they are his Prophet’s cho-
was not she but the Prophet who was fa- sen consorts.
vored with a sign, as it is reported that
Muammad only asked Abū Bakr for her The Prophet’s wives as “ordinary women”
hand in marriage after the angel Gabriel Many of the accounts of life in the
(q.v.) had shown him her picture as his fu- Prophet’s household contain detailed de-
ture wife. Later it was only Āisha in whose scriptions of the jealousies and domestic
company Muammad is said to have re- quarrels of the Mothers of the Believers.
ceived revelations (see   These reports present the Prophet’s wives
); some traditions report that as a petty, greedy, backbiting and power-
Āisha could even see the angel on these hungry lot. The unseemliness of their be-
occasions and exchanged salutations with havior is more glaringly highlighted by the
him, while others say that she could not see many traditions about the Prophet’s im-
him but that she and the angel greeted partiality towards his wives. He is said to
each other through the Prophet. Zaynab have been scrupulous in treating them eq-
bt. Jash was miraculously blessed by God uitably, visiting each of them once a day.
when the meager food that the Prophet’s After a wedding night spent with a new
servant Anas b. Malik had prepared for her wife, he wished his other wives well and
wedding feast multiplied until it sufficed to asked to receive their good wishes. Each
feed a large crowd. wife had her turn of a fixed period of com-
The adīth collections establish that all of panionship and sexual contact with the
the Prophet’s terrestrial wives will be his Prophet, a prerogative that she zealously
consorts in paradise (q.v.). The angel com- guarded as her right and could give to a
manded the Prophet to take af
a bt. rival if she chose. If a new bride opted for
Umar back after he had divorced her, say- a longer period of privacy and intimacy
ing that she was a righteous woman and with the Prophet after the wedding, then
would be his wife in heaven. Sawda im- the other wives were entitled to the same.
plored the Prophet not to divorce her be- On travels and military expeditions, he
cause she yearned to be his consort in determined by lot which two of his wives
heaven. The angel showed the dying would accompany him. This equitable sys-
Prophet Āisha’s image in paradise to tem was upset time and time again when a
make his death easier with the promise of wife would think of some trick or another
their reunion in the hereafter. The first of to detain the Prophet in her house during
the wives to join the Prophet in heaven was his daily visit. An oft-quoted story tells that
Zaynab bt. Jash. He had predicted this af
a bt. Umar (or maybe Umm Salama)
when he said that the wife who had “the who knew of Muammad’s love for sweets
    518

detained him by offering a honey drink, had played a special role in an “occasion of
until the ruse was discovered and thwarted revelation,” or held a special rank with the
by a counter-ruse of Āisha, Sawda and Prophet. Some traditions assert that the
afiyya (or maybe it was Āisha and wives disliked Zaynab bt. Jash’s reminders
af
a). that her marriage to the Prophet had oc-
Many traditions state that the women curred by divine dispensation, and that the
were dissatisfied with the manner in which ijāb verse had been revealed on the oc-
food and other presents were distributed casion of her wedding. Āisha, in turn,
among them. But most of the jealousy nar- reminded the wives that she had been the
ratives have a sexual and emotional theme. only virgin bride among all of them and
New arrivals in the Prophet’s household that the Prophet often called her his fa-
are said to have evoked intense jealousies vorite wife. Some of the traditions on the
among the established wives who feared Prophet’s wives’ mutual jealousies may
that a new rival might replace them in the very well have carried some underlying
Prophet’s affection. Such jealousies could political meaning during the period of
make a new wife appear more imposing their first formulation, since the Prophet’s
and beautiful than perhaps she really was. wives hailed from different clans and even
Āisha, for example, is said to have been tribes of whom many were, or later turned
most fearful when the Prophet had mar- out to be, affiliated with opposing factions
ried the Meccan Makhzūmī aristocrat in early Islamic history (see  
Umm Salama, or brought home the beau-  ;    ).
tiful Arab war captive Juwayriyya, or the The Jewish background of two of
young Jewish war captive afiyya. Umm Muammad’s consorts, afiyya and
Salama was especially prone to jealousy Rayāna, and the Christian faith of his
and had warned the Prophet about this concubine, Māriya the Copt, may also at
fact before accepting his marriage pro- some level have influenced the shape and
posal. Some of the Prophet’s wives reviled import of the jealousy narratives. In any
each other and each other’s fathers and did case, the almost formulaic early adīth
so even in his presence; such backbiting image of the Prophet’s wives as jealous,
and bragging matches are reported be- competitive, petty and backbiting, while
tween Zaynab bt. Jash and Āisha, Umm perhaps in part historically correct, was
Salama and afiyya, and Āisha and retained and even highlighted in medieval
afiyya, while Zaynab bt. Jash is also said Islamic scholarship because it supported
to have refused to lend one of her camels ulamā opinion of women’s irrational na-
to afiyya whose mount had become defec- ture. In part, the ongoing popularity of
tive. All of the wives were intensely jealous traditions depicting the Prophet’s wives as
of the Prophet’s concubine Māriya the “ordinary women” was surely due to the
Copt, especially after she had given birth need and desire of the pious to collect
to Ibrāhīm, the Prophet’s only child after background information on the qurānic
the sons and daughters whom Khadīja had verses of rebuke and censure revealed on
borne him; their jealousy of Māriya was so their behalf. But this preference was also
intense that the Prophet had to assign her a grounded in the generally low opinion of
dwelling in a loft he owned that was at women’s nature as expressed in medieval
some distance from his established wives’ legal-theological literature as a whole,
living quarters. The women also boasted where information on the flaws of the first
among themselves (see ) about who female elite of Islam served to reinforce an
519    

emerging blueprint of gender discrimina- undermines self-serving Western claims to


tion (see    ). being “advanced,” women’s rights in Islam
verify the collective dignity of all Muslims,
The Prophet’s wives in modern Muslim indeed of the whole Islamic system, that
interpretation the West (missionaries and Orientalists)
It is symptomatic of the new age and de- had set out to defame. History itself proves
bates on women’s questions that the mod- the Prophet’s superior nature in that
ern and contemporary literature on the Muammad not only founded a legal so-
Prophet’s consorts has largely excised the ciety in which women were at long last rec-
“anecdotal” materials so copious in Ibn ognized, but he himself also treated
Sad and other medieval sources. The same women, including his own wives, better
is largely true for the hagiographic dimen- than did any other man at any time in hu-
sion. With the exception of works of popu- man history before or after his lifetime
lar piety (that often have a ūfī bent; see (Haykal, Life of Muammad, ; al-Aqqād,
   ) and some tra- Abqariyyat Muammad, f.; Bint al-Shāi,
ditionalist inspirational writings, contem- Tarājim, f.; Gharīb, Nisā, f.). In some
porary Muslim literature now of the modern literature, the medieval
deemphasizes the miraculous experiences adīth is omitted or used very sparingly
of the Prophet’s wives, just as it also de- (Haykal, Life of Muammad; al-Aqqād,
emphasizes their all-too-human frailties. It Abqariyyat Muammad ), while in other
is as fighters for the establishment of works the old texts are read in new ways
Islamic values — and there mainly by way (Bint al-Shāi, Tarājim). In both ap-
of impeccable morality and manner of proaches, the old hagiographic traditions
life — that the wives of the Prophet are are eliminated. Instead the Prophet’s wives
now depicted. As such, they embody the are depicted as helpmates and participants
model behavior that the contemporary in the Prophet’s mission, and their “jeal-
Muslim woman can recognize and which ousy,” that is, their competitive love for
she must strive to follow. him, is frequently attributed to piety, com-
Modern Muslim literature on the mitment to the cause, and their own at-
Prophet’s life and domestic affairs often tractive and lively natures. The Prophet’s
includes long passages on gender issues in harmonious household supports the argu-
general. Dignity, honor, and rights both ment in favor of polygamy when its main
spiritual and material provided for the features are legality, equity, honor, prac-
women in Islam are contrasted with wom- ticability, and necessity. The large size of
en’s chattel status in the Arabian jāhiliyya the Prophet’s harem is now interpreted as
and other past and present godless societ- a sign of his perfected humanity (see
ies, especially of the West. Criticism of the ). That the Prophet married
West focuses on pre-modern legal inequi- his many wives for reasons involving some
ties and also the ongoing exploitation of sexual interest is indication of his sound
the Western woman in the workplace and original nature (al-Aqqād, Abqariyyat
as a sexual object in the entertainment and Muammad, -; Bint al-Shāi, Tarājim,
advertising industries (Haykal, Life of ; Gharīb, Nisā, f.). That he then had
Muammad, f.; al-Aqqād, Abqariyyat the power to fulfill the demands of his mis-
Muammad, f.; Bint al-Shāi, Tarājim, sion and also his wives’ demands is proof
f., ; Gharīb, Nisā, f., f.). While of his superiority as a human. But mere
women’s exploitation in Western societies pleasure-seeking was never a motive in his
    520

choice of any of his wives, before or after relations, but their use of the theme differs
his call, in youth or old age. Muammad from the medieval adīth in both mood
was a man of seriousness and equanimity and purpose. In many instances, jealousy is
who could have lived like a king but chose equated with the power of love and also
to live like a pauper. He chose frugality other attractive human traits that distin-
even though this went against the wishes of guish full-blooded and lively women such
his wives who craved the means to beautify as the Prophet’s wives (Bint al-Shāi,
themselves for him. Clearest proof that the Tarājim, f., ). The Prophet himself
Prophet was free from base instincts such permitted his wives to fill his private world
as lust (as claimed by the Orientalists) are with warmth, emotion, and excitement,
the historical facts of his celibacy until his and barring a few instances when they
twenty-fifth year and then his monoga- went out of bounds and he had to deal
mous marriage with a woman fifteen years with them sternly, he did not mind spend-
his senior, to whom he was completely de- ing his free hours observing their small
voted until she died and he was more than battles that were kindled by their love and
fifty years old. In Khadīja, his first follower jealousy for him. Since the Prophet was the
and supporter, he also found a substitute perfect husband, all of his wives found
mother (Bint al-Shāi, Tarājim, ; honor and happiness with him such as no
Gharīb, Nisā, ). The many other mar- monogamous marriage to another man
riages that the Prophet concluded after her could have entailed (Bint al-Shāi, Tarājim,
death were either means to cement politi- f.).
cal alliances with friends and foes alike, or The large-scale replacement of the me-
they were concluded in order to provide a dieval jealousy theme with the attractive
safe haven of refuge as well as rank and modern image of the lively and loving
honor for noble women whom the Islamic spouse signifies the end of the classical
struggle had left unprotected or even des- construct of female weakness, including
titute. Even the marriage with Āisha came female powerlessness. As the Prophet’s
about at first because the Prophet wished wives once again emerge as ideal women in
to strengthen his relationship with her fa- the modern literature, the qualities now
ther, Abū Bakr; it was only later that she emphasized differ from the past.
emerged as his most beloved wife, but even Prominently featured are the women’s par-
then she could not take Khadīja’s place in ticipation in the Prophet’s struggle for the
his heart (Bint al-Shāi, Tarājim, f., cause, that is especially constituted by their
-, , f.). The marriages with active role as helpmates on the home front.
af
a bt. Umar, Umm abība bt. Abī Here, the domesticity theme involves the
Sufyān, Juwayriyya of the Banū glorification of the female in her God-
Musaliq and others were likewise primar- given roles of wife and mother. The fact
ily political unions but the compassion that of Muammad’s actual wives only
motif was never absent (al-Aqqād, Khadīja bore him children may explain
Abqariyyat Muammad, -; Bint al-Shāi, why it is she who now emerges in the de-
Tarājim, f., f., f., f., f., bate on the wives of the Prophet as the
f., f.). most prominent figure, unlike the medieval
Modern Muslim biographers do not ex- adīth which placed far greater emphasis
clude the jealousy theme from their de- on Āisha. Modern sources celebrate
scriptions of the Prophet’s domestic Khadīja as both wife and mother while she
521 

was also the Prophet’s most important sup- much criticized in adīth and most later
porter and his fellow-struggler in his great religious literature, here counts as proof
jihād that she waged as his deputy from the that the Prophet’s widows had the power to
moment of their first meeting until the day be political actors in their own right
of her death (Bint al-Shāi, Tarājim, -; (Mernissi, The veil, -). Changed in es-
al-Aqqād, Abqariyyat Muammad, -, sence but not always in form, the adīth
; Gharīb, Nisā, f.; Razwy, Khadīja, materials on the wives of the Prophet con-
-). The interrelationship of domestic tinue to play an important role as a frame-
support and shared struggle for the cause is work of religious self-understanding, a
also pursued in the examples of the normative mirror-image of contemporary
Prophet’s later wives. Bint al-Shāi defined Muslim societal realities and plans for the
the virtues of the wives of the Prophet as future.
follows: constancy in worship, charity, de-
votion to the husband, raising her children Barbara Freyer Stowasser
by herself in order to free him for a greater
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rights, mainly in the areas of inheritance Oxford ; A. Wessels, A modern Arabic biography
(q.v.), participation in warfare and booty, of Muhammad. A critical study of Muhammad Huseyn
and marital relations (Mernissi, The veil, Heykal’s Hayat Muhammad, Leiden .
f., f.). Even Āisha’s involvement in
political affairs (the Battle of the Camel) Wolf see  
after the Prophet’s death, an occurrence