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The Glaring Beacon

In this post I shall continue discussing Prophet Muhammad’s marital life. Links to the previous posts are included at the end of this post.

After lady Khadijah’s departure and the passage of one year, the companions sensed the prophet’s grief and sorrow for losing her, they hoped he would agree to get married again, may he find with the new wife the sympathy and compassion that would ease his sorrows. The companions chose a wise woman from among them to talk to him, her name was Khawla Bint Hakim. She paid the prophet a visit and succeeded in convincing him to marry again. She named for him two females, Lady Sawda and Lady ‘Āʾishah.

Lady Sawda bint Zam’a was among the first to embrace Islam along with her late husband. They immigrated to Abyssinia escaping the persecution of the Makkan pagans. When her husband died, she returned to Makkah. She was a poor widow with 6 children, and had no one to help her. Though she was an old lady at the time, she was known of her merry spirit and sense of humor, this was the main reason behind nominating her for the prophet. Meanwhile, she was a pious woman who needed a husband to take care of her. The prophet asked Lady Khawla to visit her and ask her if she accepts him to be her husband. Lady Sawda accepted with pleasure. The Prophet’s marriage to Lady Sawda, whose race was black, demonstrated for all Muslims at an age of slavery that there is no racism in Islam and that all people, no matter what their color is, are equal in the eyes of their Creator. The only thing that makes one person better than the other is his or her piety and deeds. It’s worth mentioning here that the marriage of Lady Sawda was the first marriage ever accomplished by the prophet after Lady Khadijah’s departure, which should raise the following question: If the prophet’s marriages were as claimed “all for sex,” then why didn’t he start by choosing a young beautiful virgin instead of a woman who was older than him and described to be large and black but well known of being a virtuous pious woman? I shall leave the answer for the reader’s intelligence.

As for the other nominee, Lady ‘Āʾishah, she was the youngest wife and only virgin ever married by the prophet. She was the daughter of his closest friend and faithful companion Abu-Bakr, who was the first man to embrace Islam. She was engaged to a pagan from Quraish who was waiting for her to be physically capable so that he can consummate the marriage according to the customs of that day. When the prophet asked her father for her hand, Abu-Bakr was honored, but meanwhile troubled. He didn’t want his daughter to marry a pagan, but according to the Arabs’ customs, he was embarrassed to break his word with her fiancé after accepting the engagement. Abu-Bakr asked the prophet to give him some time; thereafter, he paid his daughter’s fiancé a visit and asked him whether he was still willing to marry ‘Āʾishah or not. For his surprise, the guy himself expressed his dissatisfaction in marrying a Muslim’s daughter in a cold manner breaking the engagement. Abu-Bakr immediately sent for the prophet and accepted his proposal. The engagement continued for three years until Lady ‘Āʾishah’s mother decided that she was physically capable to consummate the marriage. After this she moved to the prophet’s house and lived under his care till his death. Here, two logical questions should arise in one’s mind:

  1. If the prophet was a pedophile, then why did he wait for three years after the engagement without consummating the marriage, nor even asking for it?
  2. If Lady ‘Āʾishah was still not ready, then why did her parents, specifically her mother, suddenly after three years of waiting, authorize the marriage if she saw that her daughter hadn’t reached a marriageable state yet?

Lady ‘Āʾishah moved to the prophet’s house after immigration by about one year and a half, after the battle of Badr, and according to some reports she was 9 years old at that time. The reports that matter the most are those of Bukhari. The battle of ‘Uhud took place after immigration by exactly two and a half years (30 months). Therefore she must have been 10 years old at the time of ‘Uhud.

In Bukhari itself, the famous companion Anas Ibn Malik reported the following about that day: “On the day of  ‘Uhud, people were retreating from around the prophet P.B.U.H., and I saw ‘Āʾishah, the daughter of Abu-Bakr and Umm-Saleem (i.e. his mother), tucking up their sleeves transferring skins of water on the backs of their animals, and emptying them in the mouths of the wounded, then returning to fill them up, and coming to empty them again.” [Recorded by Bukhari].

Jurisprudence books tell us that the volume of the water skins used in Hejaz during the prophet’s time was about 35 liters of water. This means that the full water skin weighs 35 Kg. According to today’s measures, try to imagine a 10 years old girl bearing the burden of filling these water skins and bringing water for the wounded and the warriors on the battle field! She must have been a fully developed able bodied maid to do that task. Consequently, this means that she was as explained earlier, in no danger of getting married and this is why her mother authorized the marriage.

Lady ‘Āʾishah was described in history books as tall, ruddy and beautiful. What’s always misunderstood by non-Muslims and a little bewildering for many Muslims is that: The wording of the original narrations about Lady ‘Āʾishah’s age upon marriage are always understood in the sense that sexual intercourse was practiced, while the exact wording in Bukhari never mentions that, for the word used in Arabic which is “بنى” pronounced as “Bana” literally means that she moved to the building her husband prepared for her, to live under his care. This is different from the word “دخل” pronounced as “Dakhala” which means attain sexual intercourse. Consequently, she could have moved to the prophet’s house to live under his care, but he didn’t have sexual intercourse with her till her puberty was complete. This is stressed further by another narration also in Bukhari in which Lady ‘Āʾishah herself said: “When the prophet married me, my mother came to me and took me in to his house and no one looked after me ever since that morning except the prophet P.B.U.H.” This is a clearer narration given by Lady ‘Āʾishah herself emphasizing and explaining what she meant by the word “Bana,” stressing that she received the prophet’s care till the moment of his death. This make it crystal clear that she was never abused or mistreated in any way, on the contrary he took care of her in a way that was obviously appreciated by her in her own wording of the event.

History also proves that through this marriage the prophet succeeded in teaching Lady ‘Āʾishah and preparing her to become the most knowledgeable woman in the history of Islam. The companions, their followers and all Muslim scholars built many of their opinions on her reports and narrations. Even the elders of the companions asked her about jurisprudence issues after the prophet’s departure. Abu-Mussa Al-Ash’ary, the famous companion said: “Never did we (i.e. the companions) doubt a tradition and went consulting ‘Āʾishah, except that we found her having some knowledge about it.” [Recorded by Tirmidhī]

If you study Lady ‘Āʾishah’s history well, you will be amazed to find approximately 2210 narrations about the prophet’s deeds and teachings reported by her. They cover a wide range of issues including the explanation of some verses in the Holy Qur’an, jurisprudence opinions, Islamic morals and manners, and the prophet’s life. The high ranked gift Lady ‘Āʾishah had in memorizing, narrating, teaching and explaining jurisprudence issues was a corner stone for Muslim scholars. Her students alone came to around 200 during her life. She was the glaring beacon of religious knowledge for a period of forty eight years after the departure of the Prophet P.B.U.H., and because of her young age, she was highly effective in carrying his mission forward.

This was the wife whom the prophet requested to be nursed in her room when he sensed the approach of his death. The wife who had the prophet’s head between her hands leaning on her lap when he passed away. The wife who lived 48 years after the prophet’s departure teaching his followers how he lived and what he taught. The wife who narrated about 2210 of the prophetic teachings and traditions, and by that, she became the one who told the maximum number of the prophetic traditions among all of his family members. When she grew old, the companions’ sons and daughters used to visit her asking about issues related to their marital lives, as she was regarded a mother for them all. Once newly wedded young husbands went to her asking if they could kiss their wives while fasting (i.e. meaning that this could arouse or stimulate their sexual lust while they should be abstaining from any sexual activities and concentrating on their worship), so she answered them saying: “The prophet used to kiss me while fasting, but who can control his lusts like the prophet did?” [Recorded by Muslim].
Now the question is: “Could this be how a raped child describes her rapist?” Read further her description of the man, the loving husband and friend whom she described to her students after his death, may you realize how unjust the accusations pointed at the prophet are.

Describing the prophet, Lady ‘Āʾishah said the following:
“The prophet P.B.U.H. had a shining face that shone like the moon, he was the most handsome among all people with the most shining cuticle, never had (I heard) anyone describing him except by comparing him to the full moon amidst the night, one would say: ‘We would look at the full moon and say he is more beautiful in our eyes.’ You can notice his anger and content on his face. When he was content or happy, his face was like a mirror reflecting light on your face, and when he was angry at something, the color of his face changed and his eyes reddened.” [Recorded by Abu-Na’eem in Dala’el Al-Nobowa]

“He had the most beautiful neck among all people, it was neither tall nor short, what appears to the sun from his neck looked like a silver jug with golden gangues sparkling with the whites of silver and the redness of gold, and what’s hidden under his clothes beneath his neck shone like the full moon.” [Recorded by Baihaqy and Ibn Asaker]

“The prophet P.B.U.H. had a broad hairless chest, like the mirror in its sternness and flatness, none of his flesh was flabby, and it was as shiny as the moon in its full night, his navel was connected to the upper part of his chest with short hairs led like a rod besides which, his belly and chest were hairless.”

“The prophet’s eyes were big and beautiful with black colored iris, his eye lashes were long and dense that they almost merged.” [Recorded by Baihaqy and Ibn Asaker]

“Whenever the Prophet was given the opportunity to choose between two affairs, he always chose the easiest and the most convenient. But if he were certain that it is sinful, he would stay as far away as he could from it. He never avenged himself, but if the sanctity of Allah was violated he would. That would be for Allah’s sake not for himself. He was the last one to get angry and the first to be satisfied. His hospitality and generosity were matchless. His gifts and endowments manifested a man who does not fear poverty.” [Recorded by Bukhari].

This was the description of the wife who reported that once when angry with the prophet, was given by him the choice of divorce or accepting to be his wife in this life and the next, she answered unhesitatingly: “But I choose you O prophet,” then she asked him not to tell his other wives of her response when he gives them the same choice, she was hoping to remain his only wife. Would the previous be the answers or deeds of a rapped child, or of a wife who loved her husband passionately? Muslims ascribe the false accusation of pedophilia to the misunderstanding of the accusers.

There is still more to say about this issue. I believe that I will write two more posts about it in the near future in order to finalize it. For complete true understanding, please read the previous two posts:
History of the age of consent          The loyal partner

Written By: Ehab Shawky
IMME, ISBN:9789779027395

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2 thoughts on “The Glaring Beacon

  1. Educated and open-minded people will be the only ones that will read and understand before making any judgments about the prophet’s life. We shouldn’t be judging, but humans are falliable and so we judge. I used to think ‘wow, he married a nine year old” BEFORE I studied the culture and mores of the times when the Prophet lived, and before I studied Islam. I think people are afraid of what they do not know or understand. One huge problem is that westerners hear or see the word “Islam” or “Muslim” and automatically close their minds to any knowledge that does not support their prejudices. Don’t however, let that stop you from posting. They are very informational, logical and interesting. if only ONE mind is opened to the beauty of Islam instead of the bigotry of misunderstanding then it is worthwhile.

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