The Dissatisfaction of Muhammad’s Wives Revisited

Addressing One Polemicist’s Rebuttal

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi has responded (*) to my answer (*) to his challenge regarding the dissatisfaction of Muhammad’s wives with their marriage situation. Let us see how well he did.

Muhammad as the Cause of His Wives’ Jealousy and Anguish

I had said that Zawadi would resort to discrediting Muhammad’s wives in order to justify his prophet’s failure as a husband. Sure enough, Zawadi didn’t disappoint me since this is precisely what he does in his recent "rebuttal":

Shamoun in his article shows instances in which the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were jealous and sometimes disappointed with the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, this is no way meets my challenge. Shamoun hastened to try to understand what I was asking for. My challenge was for him to show that they were displeased in their marriage in the sense that they wanted it to end and not displeased at certain times. Spouses always have ups and downs and quarrel with each other but that does not mean that they are displeased in their marriage. For conflicts do arise in marriages and any one who is married will most likely tell you that this is so. 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was no different. That is the reason why he is such a good example for us to follow. He was a human being that went through the same troubles in life that others go through and we can learn from him how he dealt with it unlike taking a "godman" as an example to follow and you can't relate to him because he is nothing like you.

In the first place, Zawadi’s challenge wasn’t for me to ONLY show that the wives wanted to leave their husband; this is something he just made up in order to avoid admitting that his challenge has been met. Rather, this is what he challenged me to prove:

If I were to do so, I could write over a dozen pages showing narrations in which the Prophet's wives were pleased in their marriage and were happy with Islam even after the Prophet's death. I challenge Shamoun to show otherwise. I challenge Shamoun to show evidence that the wives wished that they had divorced the Prophet OR WERE DISPLEASED IN THEIR MARRIAGE TO HIM. It is all assumptions and mind games by Shamoun. That's all. Means absolutely nothing. (Emphasis ours)

The readers can see that Zawadi asked me to present evidence to either prove that Muhammad’s spouses wanted to divorce him OR were not happy with their marital situation. As any fair and open-minded reader can attest, I did meet the challenge by providing plenty of documentation from primary Islamic sources proving that Muhammad’s women were not at all pleased with their marital conditions.

Secondly, Muhammad’s marriage life is one of the strongest proofs that polygamy is not the ideal situation for anyone, but rather monogamy is. Polygamous relations only add to pain, strife and heartache, just as Muhammad’s marriages amply prove. Hence, Muhammad is a great example of why a person should pursue monogamy over against polygamy.

Zawadi claims that the jealousy of Muhammad’s wives was absolutely normal and appeals to Sarah’s jealousy of Hagar to justify it!? He further says:

So as we see, it is perfectly understandable for women to be jealous as long as it does not cross any illegal boundaries set by God...

He then proceeds to quote Muslims who say that women’s jealousy should be overlooked since it isn’t a sin! He also mentions that Aisha’s jealousy didn’t stop her from talking kindly of her husband.

By raising the issue of jealousy not being a sin Zawadi is doing nothing more than to attack a straw man since we were not discussing whether it was right or wrong for Muhammad’s wives to be jealous. The challenge was to show whether Muhammad’s wives were dissatisfied with their marital situation, and the data we presented clearly shows that they were. It is rather apparent that by shifting the blame Zawadi is trying to make light of a serious moral defect in Muhammad and his failure as a husband.

Yet Zawadi is doing nothing more than placing the cart before the horse, so to speak, since there would have been no reason for any of Muhammad’s wives to be jealous had Muhammad simply followed the pattern for marriage which God set from the beginning of creation, namely, monogamy.

Zawadi needs to face the music and come to grips with the fact that Muhammad was the cause of his wives’ jealousy and therefore the one to blame. As even one of Zawadi’s own sources admits:

Anyway, we should learn from the above-mentioned hadith that a Muslim woman should be moderate in her jealousy on her husband in all her affairs as well. Moderation is a token of perfection of religion and mind. If jealousy exceeds the limits of moderation, IT WILL BE AN ACCUSATION AGAINST HER HUSBAND. It may kindle fire within the heart of the wife, and ignite the fire of discord and dissension between spouses. (Muhammad Fathi Mus'ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, pp. 47)

Verily, jealousy comes as a result of a woman's imagination THAT HER HUSBAND LOVES ANOTHER WOMAN MORE THAN HER. this is a natural behavior that is usually committed by high virtuous women, not to mention the ordinary ones. As we have mentioned before, when talking about Aisha' that a wife's jealousy is of no harm so long as its reason is loving the husband and it does not exceed the limits of moderation. (ibid. pp. 85) (Capital emphasis our own)

To provide a further illustration of Muhammad being the cause of his wives’ anguish and jealousy, take the example of his love for his concubine Mariyah. It is no secret that Muhammad’s spouses resented Mariyah both for her beauty and for giving birth to Muhammad’s son in his old age. The jealousy was such that Aisha told her husband that she saw no resemblance between father and son:

The Birth of Ibrahim, Muhammad's Son

Soon, Muhammad's loss was to be compensated. Mariyah, his Coptic wife, gave birth to a son whom Muhammad called Ibrahim after the ancestor father of the Arabs as well as of hanifism and Islam. Until that day, and since the Archbishop of Alexandria had presented her to the Prophet, Mariyah had the status of a slave. She did not enjoy the benefits of a living quarter by the mosque as did the other wives of the Prophet, "the Mothers of Believers." Muhammad had provided Mariyah with a second-story residence in one of the outskirts of Madinah, called today Mashrabat Umm Ibrahim. Her house, which was surrounded with vineyards, was where Muhammad used to visit her every now and then. He had chosen her for himself and gave her sister Sirin to Hassan ibn Thabit. Muhammad did not expect to have any more children as none of his wives except the late Khadijah had ever conceived, though some of them were quite young and capable of bearing children. When Mariyah gave birth to Ibrahim, the event brought to Muhammad, a man past sixty years of age, great joy and filled his heart with reassurance and jubilation. By giving birth to a child, the status of Mariyah was raised in the Prophet's esteem; he now looked upon her as a free wife, indeed, as one enjoying a most favored position.

Jealousy of the Prophet's Wives

It was natural that this change would incite no little jealousy among his other wives who continued to be barren. It was also natural that the Prophet's esteem and affection for the newborn child and his mother increased that jealousy. Moreover, Muhammad had liberally, rewarded Salma, the wife of Abu Rafi`, for her role as midwife. He celebrated the birth by giving away a measure of grain to all the destitute of Madinah. He assigned the newborn to the care of Umm Sayf, a wet nurse, who owned seven goats whose milk she was to put at the disposal of the newborn. Every day Muhammad would visit the house of Mariyah in order to take another look at his son's radiant face and to reassure himself of the newborn's continued health and growth. All this incited the strongest jealousy among the barren wives. The question was, how far would these wives be able to bear the constant challenge?

One day, with the pride characteristic of new parents, the Prophet carried his son on his arm and walked into `A'ishah's quarters in order to show him to her. He pointed out to her his great resemblance to his offspring. `A'ishah looked at the baby and said that she saw no resemblance at all. When the Prophet observed how much the child was growing, `A'ishah responded waspishly that any child given the amount of milk which Ibrahim was getting would grow just as big and strong as he. Indeed, the birth of Ibrahim brought such disaffection to the wives of the Prophet as would go beyond these and similar unfriendly answers. It reached such proportions that revelation itself voiced a special condemnation. Undoubtedly, the whole affair had left its imprint on the life of Muhammad as well as on the history of Islam. (pp. 432-435; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Aisha’s comments that the child did not resemble the father are rather ironic since Mariyah was accused of committing adultery with the eunuch who had accompanied her to Medina. It is therefore possible that the wives themselves spread this rumor in order to separate Muhammad from Mariyah. As one modern Muslim author noted in relation to the wives’ reaction at the news of Mariyah’s pregnancy:

Soon the good news spread through Madina that the Prophet of God was expecting a child from the Egyptian Maria. There is no need for us to explain to the reader here the painful impact of this news upon the wives of the Prophet. Why should this stranger bear a child whilst she had been but a year in Madina, when some of them had been in the house of the Prophet for many years without bearing a child? Why should God favour her with this great blessing while the Mothers of the Faithful, among them the daughters of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, bint Zad al-Rakab and the grand daughter of Abu Talib, were denied this favour? They were consumed with jealousy, not knowing what to do or say, and a whisper spread accusing Maria of the same thing which was charged against ‘A’isha. But ‘A’isha was justified by Heaven. Would then Maria aspire to justification by Heaven too? God did not forsake her in her predicament, but gave her a decisive proof against the false accusations… One day he carried the child in his arms to ‘A’isha and asked her tenderly to see what signs of the father appeared in this infant. She was about to cry, but held back her tears, saying, "I see no similarity between you and him." Instantly he perceived her torment and left with the boy, feeling pity for her… (Bint al-Shati', The Wives of the Prophet, Translated from Arabic with introduction by Matti Moosa in collaboration with D. Nicholas Ranson [Gorgias Press, First Gorgias Press Edition 2006], pp. 210, 212; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Again, it is Muhammad who is to be blamed for the jealousy and hatred the spouses felt towards Mariyah due to his preferential and partial treatment, seen in the fact that he spent considerably more time with his concubine. His attitude didn’t solve the problem but greatly contributed to the strife and pain of the harem:

Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Zuhri related the following from Anas ibn Malik, who said that Maria, the bonds-woman of the Prophet, was in her quarters and a Coptic man used to bring her water and firewood. When the people saw this, they said knowingly, "A foreigner goes to see a foreigner." The Prophet heard this and sent our Lord ‘Ali ibn Abu-Talib there, who saw the Copt resting in a palm tree. When our Lord ‘Ali pulled his sword the man was frightened and threw off his robe in fright to reveal his nakedness; and ‘Ali saw that his member was cut off. ‘Ali returned to the Prophet and related what he saw. Then Gabriel, the entrusted Angel of Revelation, followed and said, "Peace be unto you, O Father of Ibrahim." When the Prophet heard this greeting, his mind became at peace.

The Prophet, anxious for Maria, removed her to al-‘Alia’ in the suburbs of Madina, for her safety and comfort and to take care of her health and her burden. ‘A’ishah said, "I have never felt so jealous of a woman as I did of Maria, because she was beautiful with curled hair. The Prophet admired her and accommodated her at the beginning in the house of Harith ibn al-Nu‘man and she became our neighbour. He was with her most of the day and night. She became unhappy, so he moved her to al-‘Alia’, but he saw her continuously there which became EVEN HARDER for us to bear. Then God blessed him with a son from her while denying us this blessing." (Ibid., pp. 210-211; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

And this is the fact that Zawadi has to contend with: Muhammad failed as a husband and was the chief source of his wives’ pain and suffering. His preference for some women and willful neglect of certain others were the reasons why his spouses were unhappy and miserable, leading to tension and strife between them.

As we said earlier, Muhammad could have prevented his wives from experiencing such anguish by choosing to do what was better. He could have shown them mercy by exercising restraint, by refraining himself from having more than one wife. After all, didn’t he himself say that it is better to have only one wife in cases where a person fears that he can’t deal justly with several spouses?

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. S. 4:3 Y. Ali

Didn’t he further claim that a person is not capable of treating multiple wives fairly?

Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practise self-restraint, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. S. 4:129 Y. Ali

And since Muhammad failed to treat his women fairly wouldn’t it have been better for him to follow his own counsel and limit himself to only one wife? At the very least, being monogamous would have insured that there wouldn’t be more than one woman competing for Muhammad’s love and attention, and therefore no jealousy for anyone to contend with.

Sadly, Muhammad didn’t take the high road by doing what was better but chose to act upon and carry out his sexual urges and desires.

Zawadi claims that Q. 4:3 and 129 are not commanding Muslims to love their wives equally since:

You cannot EQUALLY love two people. You cannot control your heart.

Zawadi says that these texts are exhorting Muslims to provide for and spend time with all the wives equally. He then quotes some commentators to substantiate this egregious eisegesis.

In the first place, note Zawadi’s question begging. He assumes that these citations cannot be commanding Muslims to love the wives equally on the grounds that this is not possible. But this is precisely the problem! If we interpret Q. 4:3 in light of 4:129 then the plain meaning is that a person should limit himself to only one spouse since he is incapable of loving more than one woman equally and will fail to be fair and just with all of them.

And this is the real reason why Zawadi and the others must limit the interpretation of fair and just treatment to monetary spending and time… they realize that it is not possible to carry out the plain meaning of these verses since a person is not capable of loving all his wives equally. They, therefore, have to come up with some convenient reply to make sense out of these commands. In fact, it is partly because Muhammad failed to love all his wives equally that Muslims were led to explain these texts in this manner, obviously to avoid having to admit that their prophet sinned and broke the commands of his god!

Furthermore, even if we were to accept Zawadi’s proposed interpretation Muhammad would still be considered a failure since he doesn’t measure up even to this explanation. Muhammad failed to adequately provide the material needs of his wives, forcing them to live in less than ideal conditions even though he had amassed a ton of wealth:

'A'isha reported: We the family of Muhammad (may peace be upon him) used to spend (the whole) month in which we (did not need to) kindle the fire as (we had nothing to cook); we had only dates and water (to fill our bellies). (Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Number 7089)

'A'isha reported that Allah's Messenger (way peace be upon him) died (in such a state) that there had been nothing in my wooden tub which a living being could afford to eat but a handful of barley therein. I had been eating out of that for a fairly long duration when I thought of measuring it and it was almost finished. (Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Number 7091)

'A'isha used to say to 'Urwa: Son of my sister, by Allah, I used to see the new moon, then the new moon, then the new moon, i. e. three moons to two months, and fire was not kindled in the house of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). I ('Urwa) said: Auntie, then what were your means of sustenance? She said: Dates and water. But it (so happened) that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) had some Ansar as his neighbours and they had milch animals and they used to send to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) some milk of their (animals) and he served that to us. (Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Number 7092)

Abu Hazim reported: I saw Abu Huraira point with his finger many a time and saying: By One in Whose Hand is the life of Abu Huraira, Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) could not eat to his fill and provide his family bread of wheat beyond three days successively until he left the world. (Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Number 7098)

What kind of prophet is this that would allow his family to go on living in such a manner? What kind of prophet would deprive his family of nutritious food or of cooked meals for years when he had plenty of money to provide their basic necessities? And didn’t the wives have a right to complain about such living conditions?

It will not do to say that he was poor, as some of the hadiths claim, since the Islamic source material also expressly says that he was anything but that since, as we noted earlier, he had amassed great amounts of wealth and property. We will have more to say about Muhammad’s great wealth in the next section.

Muhammad further failed to spend equal time with all of his wives, which means that no matter how a Muslim interprets these specific texts Muhammad still doesn’t measure up to his own standards which he imposed on others.

Moreover, after quoting Q. 33:51 to prove that Muhammad could ignore any of his wives Zawadi presents Ibn Kathir’s exegesis which basically admits that Muhammad didn’t have to spend equal time with his spouses. And this is the gentleman that Zawadi says served as a role model for how other Muslims are to treat their wives!

If this isn’t confusing enough, Zawadi asserts that Muhammad did divide his time fairly with his wives even though he has to ignore or brush aside the statements of other exegetes as well as specific hadiths which teach the exact opposite.

Narrated 'Urwa from 'Aisha:
The wives of Allah's Apostle were in two groups. One group consisted of 'Aisha, Hafsa, Safiyya and Sauda; and the other group consisted of Um Salama and the other wives of Allah's Apostle. The Muslims knew that Allah's Apostle loved 'Aisha, so if any of them had a gift and wished to give to Allah's Apostle, he would delay it, till Allah's Apostle had come to 'Aisha's home and then he would send his gift to Allah's Apostle in her home. The group of Um Salama discussed the matter together and decided that Um Salama should request Allah's Apostle to tell the people to send their gifts to him in whatever wife's house he was. Um Salama told Allah's Apostle of what they had said, but he did not reply. Then they (those wives) asked Um Salama about it. She said, "He did not say anything to me." They asked her to talk to him again. She talked to him again when she met him on her day, but he gave no reply. When they asked her, she replied that he had given no reply. They said to her, "Talk to him till he gives you a reply." When it was her turn, she talked to him again. He then said to her, "Do not hurt me regarding Aisha, AS THE DIVINE INSPIRATIONS DO NOT COME TO ME ON ANY OF THE BEDS EXCEPT THAT OF AISHA." On that Um Salama said, "I repent to Allah for hurting you." Then the group of Um Salama called Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle and sent her to Allah's Apostle to say to him, "Your wives request to treat them and the daughter of Abu Bakr ON EQUAL TERMS." Then Fatima conveyed the message to him. The Prophet said, "O my daughter! Don't you love whom I love?" She replied in the affirmative and returned and told them of the situation. They requested her to go to him again but she refused. They then sent Zainab bint Jahsh who went to him and used harsh words saying, "Your wives request you to treat them and the daughter of Ibn Abu Quhafa ON EQUAL TERMS." On that she raised her voice AND ABUSED 'Aisha to her face so much so that Allah's Apostle looked at 'Aisha to see whether she would retort. 'Aisha started replying to Zainab till she silenced her. The Prophet then looked at 'Aisha and said, "She is really the daughter of Abu Bakr." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 755)

Note, once again, that it was Muhammad’s preferential treatment of certain wives and willful neglect of others that caused these women to abuse and insult each other.

And here is what the renowned Muslim exegete and linguist al-Zamakhshari wrote:

It is related that the Prophet (refrained from sexual intercourse and) put off temporarily the following wives: Sauda, Juwairiya. Safiyya, Maimuna, and Umm Habiba. In so doing he used to grant them a share (of sexual intercourse) according TO HIS WISH. Among the wives whom the Prophet preferred to take to himself belong ‘A’isha, Hafsa, Umm Salama, and Zainab (bint Jash). Thus, he used to put five off temporarily in order to take four to himself. (On the other hand) it is related that, disregarding divorce and the selection concerned with it, the Prophet treated (all his wives) the same, with the exception of Sauda, who relinquished the night belonging to her to ‘A’isha and said (to the Prophet): ‘Do not divorce me but let me remain in the company of your wives!’ ... (Helmut Gtje, The Qur'an and Its Exegesis, translated and edited by Alford T. Welch [Oneworld Publications, Oxford England], pp. 90-91; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The above sources make it patently obvious that Muhammad did anything but spend equal time with his women.

To further justify Muhammad’s actions Zawadi argues that even most parents love one child a little more than the rest. The reader should see why this is a false analogy which does absolutely nothing to justify Muhammad’s neglect of certain wives. In the first place how does Zawadi know for certain that most parents love one child more than the others? Has he personally observed this to be the case in most situations? Has he visited every family in the world to see whether most of the parents love one child more than the rest? Does he know for certain that this has always been the case, even in the past? Isn’t it possible that most parents love all their children equally?

Second, even if it were true that most parents that have more than one child are incapable of loving all of them equally yet this is not their intention. The desire of any healthy parent is to have the same love for all his/her children. But this fails as an analogy with Muhammad’s situation since, unlike a parent who intends to love all the children completely, Muhammad knew full well that he wouldn’t be able to love all his wives equally since he himself said so in Q. 4:129!

In light of his own admission, Muhammad could have spared himself the embarrassment and prevented his community from experiencing similar problems by exercising a little self-control and contented himself with monogamy.


Muhammad’s Wealth

Zawadi says:

Shamoun then goes on to quote Surah 4:2-5 to show that the Prophet did not treat his wives fairly when it came to materialistic provisions, however I failed to see where he showed that the Prophet (peace be upon him) didn't.

If Zawadi failed to see it then he needs to reread my article as well as to take the time to carefully read over this current one.

Zawadi links to an article that discusses Muhammad’s share of the booty and also quotes a commentary to explain the meaning of Q. 93:8

However, this verse was referring to a certain period...

And he also said: (Did He not find thee) O Muhammad (destitute) poor (and enrich (thee)) with the wealth of Khadijah; and it is also said this means: and made you content with that which He gave you? The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Yes, O Gabriel!" (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ?Abbs, Commentary on Surah 93:8, Source)

So this was way before the Prophet's migration to Medina. So this verse can't be used to show that he was rich in Medina. 

Or it could simply mean.

And did He not find you needy, poor, and enrich you?, [and] made you content with the spoils and other things which He gave you - in a hadith [it is stated], 'Wealth comes not from the proliferation of transient [worldly] goods, but wealth comes from the contentedness of the soul'. (Jalal ud-Din Siyuti, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Commentary on Surah 93:8, Source:

So its possible that God made the Prophet rich with the guidance He has bestowed upon him.

Let us highlight the parts he obviously wanted to pass over:

And did He not find you needy, poor, and enrich you?, [and] made you content WITH THE SPOILS and other things which He gave you - in a hadith [it is stated], 'Wealth comes not from the proliferation of transient [worldly] goods, but wealth comes from the contentedness of the soul'. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

And here is what the exegetes and biographers say in regards to Muhammad being in control of the booty:

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas who said concerning the saying of Allah, exalted is He, ((They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war): 'He says: your Companions ask you about the spoils of war on the Day of Badr and also about the officers for weapons and horses. (Say) O Muhammad: (The spoils of war belong to Allah and the messenger) THE SPOILS OF WAR at Badr belong to Allah and His Messenger, and none of it is yours; it is also said: they all belong to Allah and the command of the Messenger regarding what is allowed, (so keep your duty to Allah) fear Allah concerning taking the spoils of war, (and adjust the matter of your difference) solve the differences among you: let the rich give to the poor and the strong to the weak and the young to the elderly, (and obey Allah and His messenger) in the matter of reconciliation, (if ye are (true) believers) in Allah and His Messenger. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

(2) Just as the Battle of Badr was the Muslims’ first experience with sacrifice and fighting for the sake of God, weak and few in number as they were, it was also their first experience of being tempted by the sight of the spoils of war in the aftermath of battle… some of the Muslims began trying to beat one another to the spoils. Some of them got into such a disagreement over who most deserved them that they nearly came to blows over the matter. At this time, the ruling concerning the distribution of spoils among the fighters had not yet been revealed; hence, they brought their dispute before the Prophet. It was at this time that the following words [Q. 8:1-2] from God were revealed… As you can see, these two verses contain no reply to their question; on the contrary, they direct the Muslims’ attention away from their dispute entirely saying: The spoils belong to none of you; rather, they belong to God and His Messenger… Thereafter, when these Muslims had heeded the guidance contained in these verses and turned their attention away from the matter over which they had disputed, God – in a brilliant didactic tour de force – revealed other verses which specified how the spoils were to be divided among the various Muslim fighters. (Dr. M. Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti, The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography & A Brief History of the Orthodox Caliphate, translated by Nancy Roberts, revised by Anas al-Rifa’i [Dar al Fikr in Damascus, Reprinted 2006], pp. 330-331; comments within brackets and underline emphasis ours)

Muhammad also received some sizeable real estate out of his military expeditions:

Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab:
Malik ibn Aws al-Hadthan said: One of the arguments put forward by Umar was that he said that the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) received three things exclusively to himself: Banu an-Nadir, Khaybar and Fadak. The Banu an-Nadir property was kept wholly for his emergent needs, Fadak for travellers, and Khaybar was divided by the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) into three sections: two for Muslims, and one as a contribution for his family. If anything remained after making the contribution of his family, he divided it among the poor Emigrants. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 19, Number 2961)

Zawadi accuses me of not knowing Arabic and claims that I cited a faulty translation of al-Bukhari:

Shamoun then quotes the following hadith...

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Whenever a dead man in debt was brought to Allah's Apostle he would ask, "Has he left anything to repay his debt?" If he was informed that he had left something to repay his debts, he would offer his funeral prayer, otherwise he would tell the Muslims to offer their friend's funeral prayer. When Allah made the Prophet wealthy through conquests, he said, "I am more rightful than other believers to be the guardian of the believers, so if a Muslim dies while in debt, I am responsible for the repayment of his debt, and whoever leaves wealth (after his death) it will belong to his heirs." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 37, Number 495

I will not lay any criticism on Shamoun for he is ignorant of the Arabic language and therefore he would not have been able to verify if this was a correct translation or not.

The hadith in Arabic is here  and it does not say that the Prophet became wealthy through conquests. It says that God made the Prophet victorious in his conquests. Sam Shamoun could verify this with his translator Dimitrius if he wishes to do so.

It is apparent from his comments that Zawadi takes great pride in the fact that he knows Arabic. The Bible warns against being prideful:

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Proverbs 11:2

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

"Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor." Proverbs 18:12

We will now show that the translation is correct and thereby expose Zawadi’s ignorance and inability to understand that words are defined by and within their respective contexts:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Whenever a dead man IN DEBT was brought to Allah's Apostle he would ask, "Has he left anything to repay his debt?" If he was informed that he had left something to repay his debts, he would offer his funeral prayer, otherwise he would tell the Muslims to offer their friend's funeral prayer. When Allah made the Prophet wealthy through conquests, he said, "I am more rightful than other believers to be the guardian of the believers, so if a Muslim dies while IN DEBT, I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE REPAYMENT OF HIS DEBT, and whoever leaves wealth (after his death) it will belong to his heirs." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 37, Number 495)

The context is dealing with Muhammad being a guarantor for anyone who was unable to pay off his/her debt. Muhammad’s point is that since Allah granted him victory in battles, where he amassed a large sum of booty for himself, he had the financial means to pay a person’s debt off. Thus, Hilali-Khan CORRECTLY translated the meaning of the Arabic since they could see from the context that the point being made is that Muhammad had become wealthy enough through conquest to help pay off any unpaid debt incurred by a Muslim.

This is simply another example where Zawadi shows that he cannot understand the sources he reads, whether these sources happen to be his own religious texts or God’s true Word, the Holy Bible.

Zawadi claims that Muhammad didn’t live a luxurious life in order to justify his failure to provide for his wives. He then cites a hadith which says Muhammad borrowed money in order to prove that he wasn’t rich! This is despite the statements of the hadiths which say that Muhammad was given a fifth of the plunder, had amassed several pieces of lands, and received gold and silver from individuals:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:
The Prophet fought with the people of Khaybar, and captured their palm-trees and land, and forced them to remain confined to their fortresses. So they concluded a treaty of peace providing that gold, silver and weapons would go to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), and whatever they took away on their camels would belong to them, on condition that they would not hide and carry away anything. If they did (so), there would be no protection for them and no treaty (with Muslims) … (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 19, Number 3000)

Interestingly, Muhammad’s great wealth led to a fight between Abu Bakr and Ali and Fatima his wife, who happened to be Muhammad’s daughter:

Abu Salih al-Dirari – ‘Abd al-Razzaq b. Hammam – Ma‘mar – al-Zuhri – ‘Urwah – ‘A’ishah: Fatimah and al-‘Abbas came to Abu Bakr demanding their [share of] inheritance of the Messenger of God. They were demanding the Messenger of God’s land in Fadak and his share of Khaybar[‘s tribute]. Abu Bakr replied, "I have heard the Messenger of God say: ‘Our [i.e., the prophets’ property] cannot be inherited and whatever we leave behind is alms [i.e., to be given in charity]. The family of Muhammad will eat from it.’ By God I will not abandon a course which I saw the Messenger of God practicing, but will continue doing it accordingly." Fatimah shunned him and did not speak to him up until she died. ‘Ali buried her at night and did not permit Abu Bakr to attend [her burial]. While Fatimah was alive, ‘Ali had respect among the people. After she died, their attention turned away from him. Fatimah continued to live for six months after the Messenger of God’s [death] and then died.

Ma‘mar: A man asked al-Zuhri, "Did ‘Ali not give his oath of allegiance for six months?" "No, nor did anyone of the Banu Hashim until ‘Ali rendered his," he replied. When ‘Ali saw that the people’s attention had turned away from him, he begged for reconciliation with Abu Bakr. He sent the latter, [asking him] to visit him, and [requesting] that nobody should accompany him. ‘Ali disliked that ‘Umar should come with Abu Bakr, for he knew ‘Umar’s RUDENESS. ‘Umar said [to Abu Bakr], "Don’t go alone." Abu Bakr replied, "By God, I will go alone. It is not possible that [the Banu Hashim] might do anything to me," and he went. He entered ‘Ali’s presence while the Banu Hashim had gathered with him. ‘Ali stood up, praised God and extolled Him with what is due to Him. Then he said, "It is neither the denial of your good qualities nor the rivalry of good, which God has given you, but the fact that we considered that we have a right in this authority which you have MONOPOLIZIED." ‘Ali then mentioned his relationship with the Messenger of God and the rights of the Banu Hashim. He continued speaking until Abu Bakr wept. After ‘Ali stopped, Abu Bakr pronounced shahadah, praised God, extolled Him with what is due to Him, then said, "By God, the relationship of the Messenger of God is dearer to me [too]. I reach [him] through my relationship [to him]. By God, I did not fall short of doing what was requisite with regard to this property [i.e., the Prophet’s inheritance] which became [a dispute] between you and me except for good. I had heard the Messenger of God saying: ‘Our [i.e., the prophets’ property] cannot be inherited and whatever we leave behind is alms [i.e., to be given in charity]. The family of Muhammad will eat from it.’ God forbid that I should recall a thing which the Messenger of God did without doing it, God willing!" ‘Ali said that he would render the oath of allegiance that evening. After Abu Bakr had prayed the noon prayers, he approached the people and excused ‘Ali with his apology. ‘Ali stood up, lauded the right of Abu Bakr by mentioning his fine qualities and his precedence and went to him, giving the oath of allegiance. The people came to ‘Ali saying that he had done the right thing. ‘A’isha said: The people got close to ‘Ali when he came close to what was right [i.e., in rendering his oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr]. (The History of Al-Tabari: The Last Years of the Prophet, translated and annotated by Ismail K. Poonawala [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1990], Volume IX, pp. 196-198; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

The translator has a rather interesting note:

1356. Tabrizi, Mishkat, III, 209; Mishkat (trans. Robson), II, 1310; transmitted by both Bukhari and Muslim. The Shi‘is refute this tradition, saying that it contradicts the Qur’anic teachings on family inheritance.

It was the first and most important step taken by Abu Bakr and ‘Umar in their attempts to displace the Banu Hashim, and especially ‘Ali, from their prerogatives in the leadership of the Muslim polity. Acceptance of this claim of inheritance based on family ties would have opened the door widely to ‘Ali’s rights to the succession. Moreover, the income from both these sources was considerable, and it would have given some leverage to ‘Ali. Ibn Shabbah, Ta’rikh, I, 176-218, Jafri, Origins, 14-16, 63. For Fatimah’s reply and refutation, see Tabarsi, Ihtijaj, I, 119-40. (Ibid., p. 196)

The Muslims even accused each other of treachery and lying over this issue:

It is reported by Zuhri that this tradition was narrated to him by Malik b. Aus who said: Umar b. al-Khattab sent for me and I came to him when the day had advanced. I found him in his house sitting on his bare bed-stead, reclining on a leather pillow. He said (to me): Malik, some people of your tribe have hastened to me (with a request for help). I have ordered a little money for them. Take it and distribute it among them. I said: I wish you had ordered somebody else to do this job. He said: Malik, take it (and do what you have been told). At this moment (his man-servant) Yarfa' came in and said: Commander of the Faithful, what do you say about Uthman, Abd al-Rahman b. 'Auf, Zubair and Sa'd (who have come to seek an audience with you)? He said: Yes, and permitted them. So they entered. Then he (Yarfa') came again and said: What do you say about 'Ali and Abbas (who are present at the door)? He said: Yes, and permitted them to enter. Abbas said: Commander of the Faithful, decide (the dispute) between me AND THIS SINFUL, TREACHEROUS, DISHONEST LIAR. The people (who were present) also said: Yes. Commander of the Faithful, do decide (the dispute) and have mercy on them. Malik b. Aus said: I could well imagine that they had sent them in advance for this purpose (by 'Ali and Abbas). 'Umar said: Wait and be patient. I adjure you by Allah by Whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained, don't you know that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: "We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity"? They said: Yes. Then he turned to Abbas and 'Ali and said: I adjure you both by Allah by Whose order the heavens and earth are sustained, don't you know that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: "We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity"? They (too) said: Yes. (Then) Umar said: Allah, the Glorious and Exalted, had done to His Messenger (may peace be upon him) a special favour that He has not done to anyone else except him. He quoted the Qur'anic verse: "What Allah has bestowed upon His Apostle from (the properties) of the people of township is for Allah and His Messenger". The narrator said: I do not know whether he also recited the previous verse or not. Umar continued: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) distributed among you the properties abandoned by Banu Nadir. By Allah, he never preferred himself over you and never appropriated anything to your exclusion. (After a fair distribution in this way) this property was left over.

The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) would meet from its income his annual expenditure, and what remained would be deposited in the Bait-ul-Mal. (Continuing further) he said: I adjure you by Allah by Whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained. Do you know this? They said: Yes. Then he adjured Abbas and 'Ali as he had adjured the other persons and asked: Do you both know this? They said: Yes. He said: When the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) passed away, Abu Bakr said: "I am the successor of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)." Both of you came to demand your shares from the property (left behind by the Messenger of Allah). (Referring to Hadrat 'Abbas), he said: You demanded your share from the property of your nephew, and he (referring to 'Ali) demanded a share on behalf of his wife from the property of her father. Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) had said: "We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity." SO BOTH OF YOU THOUGHT HIM TO BE A LIAR, SINFUL, TREACHEROUS AND DISHONEST. And Allah knows that he was true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. When Abu Bakr passed away and (I have become) the successor of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him), YOU THOUGHT ME TO BE A LIAR, SINFUL, TREACHEROUS AND DISHONEST. And Allah knows that I am true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. I became the guardian of this property. Then you as well as he came to me. Both of you have come and your purpose is identical. You said: Entrust the property to us. I said: If you wish that I should entrust it to you, it will be on the condition that both of you will undertake to abide by a pledge made with Allah that you will use it in the same way as the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used it. SO BOTH OF YOU GOT IT. He said: Wasn't it like this? They said: Yes. He said: Then you have (again) come to me with the request that I should adjudge between you. No, by Allah. I will not give any other judgment except this until the arrival of the Doomsday. If you are unable to hold the property on this condition, return it to me. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4349)

It has been narrated by 'Urwa b Zubair on the authority of 'A'isha, wife of the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him), that Fatima, daughter of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him), requested Abu Bakr, after the death of the Messenger of Allah (may peace he upon him), that he should set apart her share from what the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) had left from the properties that God had bestowed upon him. Abu Bakr said to her: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: "We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is Sadaqa (charity)." The narrator said: She (Fatima) lived six months after the death of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and she used to demand from Abu Bakr her share from the legacy of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) from Khaibar, Fadak and his charitable endowments at Medina. Abu Bakr refused to give her this, and said: I am not going to give up doing anything which the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used to do. I am afraid that it I go against his instructions in any matter I shall deviate from the right course. So far as the charitable endowments at Medina were concerned, 'UMAR HANDED THEM OVER TO 'ALI AND ABBAS, BUT ALI GOT THE BETTER OF HIM (AND KEPT THE PROPERTY UNDER HIS EXCLUSIVE POSSESSION). And as far as Khaibar and Fadak were concerned 'Umar kept them with him, and said: These are the endowments of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) (to the Umma). Their income was spent on the discharge of the responsibilities that devolved upon him on the emergencies he had to meet. And their management was to be in the hands of one who managed the affairs (of the Islamic State). The narrator said: They have been managed as such up to this day. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4354)

If this is being poor than we don’t ever want to be rich!

For more on the issue of Muhammad’s riches and wills please read the following articles:

The foregoing reports show that Zawadi’s narration merely proves that the hadith literature is filled with contradictions.

More importantly, if Muhammad was that poor where he needed to borrow money then he had no business having more than one wife. After all, didn’t Zawadi claim that Q. 4:3 and 129 commands Muslims to be financially capable of providing for all of one’s spouses? If so, wouldn’t this mean that Muhammad again violated the injunctions of his own scriptures by taking more than one wife when he was incapable of financially meeting all their needs?

Zawadi also claimed that:

The reason why the Prophet (peace be upon him) got irritated when extra money was being asked from his side was his fear that his wives were beginning to become materialistic, especially since he already got used to the fact of living simple. The Prophet gave Aisha a simple dowry...

He quotes a hadith from Aisha where she says:

Aisha narrated that the Prophet said: "The most blessed woman is the easiest in her expenditure." (An Nasa'i, Ishrat an'Nisa', vol. 5, p.402, cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus'ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, pp. 44)

Note, once again, how Zawadi has to assault the character of Muhammad’s wives by accusing them of being materialistic. Instead of blaming Muhammad for withholding money from his wives, or for not providing enough money or food to meet their daily needs, Zawadi has to slander the "mothers of the faithful". The problem with Zawadi’s argument is that even though Muhammad may have wanted to live frugally or to pursue a simple lifestyle this didn’t give him the right to not adequately meet the basic needs of his wives. If anything, this should have been all the more reason not to have more than one spouse.

It seems that Muhammad wanted to have his cake and eat it too; he wanted to have as many wives as he could get without having to spend money on them, but forcing them to live under less than ideal circumstances.

Zawadi concludes his "rebuttal" with a false analogy:

I also wanted to clarify the difference between treating one's wives EQUALLY and FAIRLY. Treating people equally does not necessarily mean that you are treating them fairly.

For example, I can't give the marketing manager of a company the same equal salary that I give to the executive. Its not fair, because one works more than the other.

Similarly, you might have one wife who has 3 kids and another wife with no kids. Its not fair that you give both of them a one bedroom apartment for the wife who has 3 kids needs a larger house while the one with no kids does not.

So just because someone might not treat his wives EQUALLY, that does not meant that he is not treating them FAIRLY. He might be treating them differently according to specific situations and contexts that deem it suitable.

The problem with Zawadi’s analogy is that Muhammad neither treated his wives fairly nor equally. He neglected to spend equal time with all of his wives (even threatening to divorce one wife Sauda because he was no longer attracted to her), failed to adequately provide for all of them financially, threatened them with divorce and judgment when they complained about his unfair and preferential treatment of them etc.

Moreover, Zawadi again puts the cart before the horse since there would be no need to worry about treating the wives fairly, as opposed to equally, if Muhammad had upheld monogamy as the standard for marriage instead of polygamy.

Lord Jesus willing, we will address the other issues raised by Zawadi in a future post.

Further Reading

Rebuttals to Answering-Christianity
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page