By Abdullah Mohammed (2nd Year Alim Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
Throughout his life, the Prophet married several times. In total, he had eleven wives. They are referred to as the “Ummuhāt al-Muʾminīn,” which means “The Mothers of the Believers.” For every wife, there is a divine wisdom behind why he married her. Herein, I shall mention a few details regarding each of them.
The Prophet’s wives are (1) Khadījah bint Khuwaylid, (2) Sawdah bint Zamʿah, (3) ʿĀʾishah bint Abī Bakr, (4) Ḥafṣah bint ʿUmar, (5) Zaynab bint Khuzaymah, (6) Umm Salamah bint Abī Umayyah, (7) Zaynab bint Jaḥsh, (8) Juwayriyyah bint al-Ḥārith, (9) Umm Ḥabībah bint Abī Sufyān, (10) Ṣafiyyah bint Ḥuyayy, and (11) Maymūnah bint al-Ḥārith.
Khadījah bint Khuwaylid
Khadījah was the Prophet’s first wife. She came from a wealthy family. Her father was a successful businessman and a tribal leader. She was a widow who had one child with her first husband, ʿAtīq. After ʿAtīq, she married Abū Hilāl and had two children with him.
Khadījah was a wealthy businesswoman. She employed men who would conduct business on her behalf. In fact, she employed the Prophet for a business venture that sent him to the Levant. On this trip, Khadījah sent her servant, Maysarah, along with the Prophet.
Maysarah witnessed many miracles on the trip. And upon returning, he related some of them to Khadījah. He informed her regarding the Prophet’s truthfulness, nobility, and excellent character. Khadījah was amazed; she felt that her wealth was blessed after the Prophet started doing business for her. Because of this, she expressed her positive feelings towards him to her friend Nafīsah.
Nafīsah went to the Prophet and proposed on Khadījah’s behalf. But, as was his habit, the Prophet first consulted his uncles. They agreed and he accepted the proposal. Khadījah was forty at the time and the Prophet was twenty-five. They married and had six children together.
They had two boys whose names are ʿAbd Allāh and Qāsim. And as well, they had four girls whose names are Zaynab, Umm Kulthūm, Ruqayyah, and Fāṭimah. Both his sons passed away at a young age; however, his daughters grew up, married, and migrated to Madīnah.
Khadījah remained at the Prophet’s side and continuously supported him. She consoled him when he received the Prophethood and was the first woman to accept Islām.
She passed away at the age of sixty-five. Once ʿĀʾishah asked the Prophet if Khadījah had been the only woman worthy of his love. To which he replied:
“She believed in me when no one did, she accepted Islām when the people rejected me, and she helped and comforted me when there no one else was there for me.”
Abū Hurayrah related that on one occasion, when Khadījah was alive, Jibrīl came to the Prophet and said:
“O Allāh’s Messenger! Khadījah is coming with a bowl of food for you. When she comes, give her greetings of peace from her Lord and from me. Give her the glad tidings of a palace made from jewels that is awaiting her in Paradise, where there is neither clamor nor fatigue.”
Sawdah bint Zamʿah
Following Khadījah’s passing, the Prophet married Sawdah. She was the first woman to migrate to Abyssinia. She was middle-aged, stout, and had exceptional character. After Khadījah, the Prophet was sad and needed someone to help him with his daughters.
Khawlah went to him and asked if he would like to marry Sawdah. He thought about it. Then, he gave permission for Khawlah to speak on his behalf. Khawlah informed her regarding this. And she was ready to accept; however, she wanted to consult her father first. He accepted and said: “It is a noble match.”
Sawdah went to live at the Prophet’s house and immediately began to take care of his household. Their marriage was a surprise in Makkah because he had married a widow who was neither young nor beautiful. The Prophet, however, remembered the trials that she went through when she migrated to Abyssinia. She left her house and property, crossed the desert and then the sea onwards to an unknown land out of her desire to preserve her religion.
ʿĀʾishah bint Abī Bakr
ʿĀʾishah Bint Abī Bakr al-Ṣiddīq was the Prophet’s third wife. Born in Makkah, she was the daughter of the Prophet’s best friend, Abū Bakr.
The Prophet loved ʿĀʾishah because of her outstanding qualities. She had excellent character and was an intelligent woman. ʿĀʾishah loved righteousness and disliked vanities. The Prophet loved all his wives, but ʿĀʾishah was especially beloved to him. She narrated many ḥadīth from the Prophet due to the time she spent in his company.
Her marriage to him did not change her playful nature. Her friends visited her regularly. She once said:
“I would play with my friends. When the Prophet came home, they would slip out of the house and he would go out after them to bring them back. He was happy for me to have them there.”
“Once, the Prophet came home while I was playing with my dolls and said: ‘ʿĀʾishah, what game is this?’ I replied: ‘It is Solomon’s horses.’ And he began to chuckle.”
On another occasion, during the Days of Eid, two girls were with ʿĀʾishah in her room. They were singing a song about the famous Battle of Buʿāth and beating a tambourine. ʿĀʾishah said:
“The Messenger came in and laid down. Then, Abū Bakr came in scolding me, saying: ‘What is the Devil’s instrument doing in Allāh’s Messenger’s house?’ The Messenger turned to him and said: ‘Let them be. Verily, these are the Days of Eid.’”
Ḥafṣah bint ʿUmar
Ḥafṣah bint ʿUmar was the Prophet’s fourth wife. She was married to Khumays b. Ḥuẓayfah, who was martyred at the Battle of Badr. Upon becoming a widow, her father started looking for a husband for her. He initially asked ʿUthmān. ʿUthmān’s wife Ruqayyah, who was one of the Prophet’s daughters, had just died. However, ʿUthmān declined. ʿUmar then asked Abū Bakr but he declined too. Abū Bakr had heard the Prophet express his desire to marry Ḥafṣah. He then asked the Prophet, and he accepted.
Ḥafṣah was educated during her childhood. Thus, she was proficient in reading and writing. She eventually became the custodian of the Qurʾān.
Zaynab bint Khuzaymah
Zaynab bint Khuzaymah was the Prophet’s fifth wife. She was nicknamed “Umm al-Masākīn,” which means “Mother of the Poor,” because of her benevolence. Her heart overflowed with love, kindness, and compassion for the poor. Her first husband was Ṭufayl b. Ḥārith, who divorced her. And her second husband was ʿUbaydah, who passed away at the Battle of Uḥud. After ʿUbaydah’s passing, many proposed to her, but she turned them down. Then, the Prophet proposed, and she accepted. She was thirty at the time of their marriage. Sadly, she died a few months later.
Umm Salamah bint Abī Umayyah
Umm Salamah bint Abī Umayyah was the Prophet’s sixth wife. Her real name was Hind, but she was famously known as Umm Salamah. Her husband, ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Asad was known as Abū Salamah. They migrated to Abyssinia together.
Abū Salamah was well known for his courage and prowess as an equestrian. He died from injuries sustained during the Battle of Uḥud. Her father, Abū Umayyah, was a famous horseman and one of Quraysh’s tribal leaders. She was born into a wealth family and had a lavish childhood. After Abū Salamah passed, the Prophet proposed to her. She initially refused, because of her children from her previous marriage, but the Prophet consoled her and insisted. Then, she accepted the proposal.
Like ʿĀʾishah and Ḥafṣah, Umm Salamah was a learned woman. She avidly listened to the Prophet’s discourses and narrated countless ḥadīth from him. She passed in AH 63.
Zaynab bint Jaḥsh
Zaynab was the Prophet’s seventh wife. She was the daughter of the Prophet’s aunt, Umayyah. She migrated to Madīnah early on. Before they married, the Prophet wanted Zaynab to marry Zayd b. Thābit. They married, but it did not work out. So, Zayd divorced her. Following the divorce, Allāh revealed Q 33:37. Soon after, the Prophet married her. She was thirty-eight when they married.
She was close to ʿĀʾishah. ʿĀʾishah described her as a woman of excellent character, displaying the upbringing of a noble family. When the accusations against ʿĀʾishah were made, Zaynab was the first to contest them.
She was approximately thirty-eight when the Prophet passed. After his passing, ʿUmar would send money to her, but she always gave it away to the poor. She was a woman who was constantly immersed in worship. Anas b. Mālik related that once the Prophet entered the mosque and found a rope hanging down between two of the pillars. He said:
“What is this?” Someone said: “It is Zaynab’s. She prays extensively and when she loses concentration or feels tired, she holds onto it.” To this the Prophet said: “Untie it. Pray as long as you feel fresh; but when one loses concentration or becomes tired, he should stop.”
Zaynab passed away in AH 23.
Juwayriyyah bint al-Ḥārith
Juwayriyyah bint Ḥārith was the Prophet’s eighth wife. Her given name was Barrah. But when she married the Prophet, it was changed to Juwayriyyah. She was previously married to Ṣafwān, who died in a battle.
During the Battle of Khandaq, following Banū Mustaliq’s defeat, the spoils of war began to flood in, including prisoners. One of them was Juwayriyah. She came to the Prophet and said:
“O Prophet! I am the daughter of Ḥārith b. Dirār, Banū Muṣṭaliq’s chief. Our people have fallen into Qays’s share. I requested him to free me because of my status, but he refused. Please do me an act of kindness and save me the humiliation.” The Prophet was moved by this. He replied: “I am ordering your release.”
Following this, he proposed to her and she accepted. By then, she had accepted Islām. After some time, news that Juwayriyyah had married the Prophet reached the Companions. When they realized that their captives were now relatives to the Prophet, they immediately freed them.
Juwayriyyah was a saint. Her long prayers and perpetual fasts were clear proofs of her sincerity. She passionately studied the Qurʾān with ʿĀʾishah. Juwayriyyah related that early one morning the Messenger left her room while she was performing the dawn prayer. He later returned and she was still sitting in her place. The Messenger said:
“Have you been sitting in the same place since I left you?” She replied in the affirmative. Whereupon the Prophet said: “I recited four supplications thrice after I left. If these would be weighed against what you have been reciting since dawn, they would outweigh them. They are: ‘Glory be to Allāh and Praise be to Him; the number of His creation, His pleasure, the weight of His Throne, and the ink of His words.’”
She was twenty-eight when the Prophet passed. She passed away in AH 50, at the age of sixty-five.
Umm Ḥabībah bint Abī Sufyān
Umm Ḥabībah bint Abī Sufyān was the Prophet’s ninth wife. Her nickname was Ramlah, but she was called Umm Ḥabībah because she was Ḥabībah’s mother. She was previously married to ʿUbayd Allāh b. Jaḥsh. They accepted Islām together and then migrated to Abyssinia. Upon reaching Abyssinia, ʿUbayd Allāh converted to Christianity. Umm Ḥabībah continuously requested him to return to Islām, but he did not. Eventually, their marriage was annulled.
When news of this reached the Prophet, he sent an emissary to the Negus to extent his proposal. When she received it, she became overjoyed and accepted it. She even gave some jewelry as charity to the bondwoman who informed her regarding it. She passed away in AH 45, at the age of seventy-three.
Ṣafiyyah bint Ḥuyayy
Ṣafiyyah bint Ḥuyay was the Prophet’s tenth wife. Her real name was Zaynab. She was married to Sallām b. Mishkam, who divorced her. She then married Kinānah b. al-Rabīʿ, who later died. When Khaybar was conquered, Ṣafiyyah was captured along with two of her cousins. The spoils were distributed. She was given to Diḥyah al-Kalbī.
After things settled, the Prophet was walking around. He saw Ṣafiyyah and felt pity for her due to her noble position before the conquest and requested that she be released. Diḥyah al-Kalbī freed her. The Prophet then invited her to Islām. And she accepted. She married the Prophet before he left for Madīnah.
She passed away in AH 50.
Maymūnah bint al-Ḥārith
Maymūnah bint Ḥārith was the Prophet’s eleventh wife. Her first husband was Masʿūd b. ʿAmr. He divorced her. She then married again, but her husband passed away soon after.
The Prophet’s uncle ʿAbbās suggested that the Prophet marry her. He proposed, she accepted, and they married.
The Prophet called her blessed because they married at the time when the Muslims could enter Makkah. Maymūnah was pious and loved her family. She passed away in AH 61.