bWhy Did Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Have More Than Four Wives?


Bassam Zawadi

Some Islamic critics tend to criticize Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) because he had more than four wives. They ask, "If the Quran limited each man to have 4 wives (Surah 4:3), then how come the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was able to have more?"

Some people may see this as a privilege to the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, with privileges did come restrictions as well. 

There were several differences between the Prophet and the rest of the Muslims regarding obligations and privileges. For example, Qiyam Al Layl (prayers at two-thirds of the night) is not compulsory for Muslims; however, it was compulsory for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  

Allah told the Prophet (peace be upon him):

Surah 17:79

And during a part of the night, pray Tahajjud beyond what is incumbent on you; maybe your Lord will raise you to a position of great glory.

This verse is directly addressed to the Prophet Muhammad  (peace be upon him).  

Ibn Kathir has it in his commentary on this verse:

(And in some parts of the night (also) offer the Salah with it as an additional prayer for you.) Here Allah commands him (the Prophet ) to offer further prayers at night after the prescribed prayers. It was reported in Sahih Muslim from Abu Hurayrah that when the Messenger of Allah was asked which prayer is best after the prescribed prayers, he said,

(The Night prayer) Allah commanded His Messenger to pray the Night prayer after offering the prescribed prayers, and the term Tahajjud refers to prayer that is offered after sleeping. This was the view of `Alqamah, Al-Aswad, Ibrahim An-Nakha`i and others. It is also well-known from the Arabic language itself. A number of Hadiths report that the Messenger of Allah used to pray Tahajjud after he had slept. These include reports from Ibn `Abbas, `A'ishah and other Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. This has been discussed in detail in the appropriate place, praise be to Allah. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "This is what comes after `Isha', or it could mean what comes after sleeping.''

(an additional prayer (Nawafil)) means the Night prayer has been made an extra prayer specifically for the Prophet , because all his previous and future sins had been forgiven. But for other members of his Ummah, offering optional prayers may expiate for whatever sins they may commit. This was the view of Mujahid, and it was reported in Al-Musnad from Abu Umamah Al-Bahili.(Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Source)

So here we see an example of God making exceptions to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in certain situations. If the Prophet (peace be upon him) forged Islam and started giving himself privileges, then why did he also force himself to stay up late at night and pray? Does this sound like an individual who is trying to benefit himself?

Back to the issue of the exception of why the Prophet (peace be upon him) was allowed to keep more than four wives. Well there was wisdom behind the marriage to each of the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) (see Thus for the Prophet peace be upon him to maintain those marriages were essential. 

Dr Jamal Badawi said:

It should be noted that the special exception to the prophet concerning the maximum number of wives [Qur'an, 33: 50] includes also special restrictions on him and his wives from privileges available to all others. For example, his wives as "mothers of the believers" were not allowed to remarry after him [Qur'an 33: 53]. If the Prophet were required to divorce wives beyond the maximum of four, it would have done them injustice; to be divorced and disallowed to remarry. Furthermore, for each of the Prophet's marriages there was a specific lesson, social or legislative. By divorcing some of his wives, those lessons are effectively negated, especially the unifying function of marrying women from different clans and backgrounds. This diversity allowed close observation of his private life and teachings and communicating them to their respective folks. Also, unlike any ordinary Muslim, the Prophet was not allowed to divorce any of his wives and marrying others [33:52]. (Jamal A. Badawi, Marriages of  Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Source)

People may ask why the Prophet's wives were not allowed to remarry. Well, just think about how much fitna (corruption) would have occurred when people wanted to fight over who was going to marry the Prophet's former wives. Also, imagine the fitna that might occur when people begin to idolize children being born from the Prophet's wives, just like Shias today do with the Prophet's grandchildren.

We can try and guess the wisdom behind Allah's rulings; however, no one has any right to criticize the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for being a hypocrite in any way for having more than four wives.


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