Allah Abdul-Muhammad (“Slave of Muhammad”) Pt. 2

I continue from where I previously left off ( 

5. The Exegesis of Q. 66:1-5.

According to the Muslim sources, surah 66 was “revealed” to bail out Muhammad from another problem he caused for himself, due to his inability to control his lustful passions. Islamic tradition says that Muhammad would apportion certain days to specific wives or sex slave that he so desired. On those days Muhammad was supposed to limit himself to that particular wife, and not visit any other.

On the day Muhammad assigned to Hafsah, the daughter of Umar bin al-Khattab, Muhammad’s wife decided to visit her father. Muhammad took this as an opportunity to bring his concubine Mariyah the Copt to Hafsah’s home in order to have sex with her. When Hafsah returned she caught Muhammad with his sex slave in her home and on her bed. Suffice it to say, Hafsah was livid and caused a scene. In order to diffuse the situation, Muhammad swore an oath to never sleep with his concubine again and banish her to a house in the outskirts of Medina to be left there all alone, as long as Hafsah promised to tell no one about what had happened. He especially told her not to share this scandal with his childbride Aisha. Though she had sworn not to do so, Hafsah couldn’t help herself and ended up telling Aisha anyway. This upset Muhammad so much that he threatened to divorce all his wives and swore not to touch any of them for a whole month.

Once again, Muhammad’s god rushed to the defense of his prophet, severely reprimanding the wives, specifically Hafsah and Aisha, for annoying his prophet, and gave Muhammad the authority to dissolve the oath he took to never have sex with his concubine Mariyah.

1. Muhammad, we are told, was once found by his wife Hafsah with a Coptic slave from whom he had promised her to separate. Of this Hafsah secretly informed ‘A’ishah, another wife of his. To free Muhammad from his promise to Hafsah was the object of this chapter. Some of the references are obscure. (N.J. Dawood, The Koran [Penguin Books, 1993 paperback], p. 398)

Another conjugal matter which must be mentioned, because it caused a stir at the time and is the subject of Qor’anic verses, is the Prophet’s boycott of Mariya the Copt. One day Mariya went to see the Prophet at Hafsa’s house. Hafsa was not at home. He took Mariya into the bedroom and lay down with her. Hafsa came back. In great indignation she shouted at him, “Why are you lying with your slave-girl on my bed?” In order to placate Hafsa, the Prophet swore that he would never touch Mariya again. When the storm abated, and perhaps because he was fond of Mariya or affected by her hurt feelings and complaints about the interdict, he changed his mind. His conduct was justified by the revelation of the first verses of sura 66 (ot-Tahrim)… This [Q. 66:2] is evidently a reference to verse 91 of sura 5 (ol-Ma’eda), which authorizes expiation of ill-considered oaths through compensatory good deeds such as feeding or clothing ten poor persons, freeing a slave, or fasting for three days. According to one account, which is attributed to Moqatel b. Solayman, the Prophet expiated his oath about Mariya by manumitting a slave, but Hasan b. ‘Ali is reported to have said that the words “God is forgiving, merciful” in verse 1 mean that God forgave the Prophet… What had happened was evidently as follows. The Prophet had let Hafsa know in strict confidence that he undertook to have no more relations with Mariya, and had asked Hafsa not to tell anyone else; but Hafsa told ‘A’esha, and God informed the Prophet that she had done so. He then spoke to Hafsa, mentioning part of what he had been informed but refraining from mention of part of it. Hafsa, thinking that ‘A’esha had told the Prophet, asked him how he knew, and he answered that God had told him. (Ali Dashti, 23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad [Costa Mesa, Ca. 1994; Mazda Publishers], pp. 136-137; bold emphasis ours)

‘Umar told the whole story (about his wife). “On that the Prophet smiled.” ‘Umar further said, “I then said, ‘I went to Hafsa and said to her: Do not be tempted to imitate your companion (‘Aisha) for she is more beautiful than you and more beloved to the Prophet.’ The Prophet smiled again. When I saw him smiling, I sat down and cast a glance at the room, and by Allah, I couldn’t see anything of importance but three hides. I said (to Allah’s Apostle) “Invoke Allah to make your followers prosperous for the Persians and the Byzantines have been made prosperous and given worldly luxuries, though they do not worship Allah?’ The Prophet was leaning then (and on hearing my speech he sat straight) and said, ‘O Ibn Al-Khattab! Do you have any doubt (that the Hereafter is better than this world)? These people have been given rewards of their good deeds in this world only.’ I asked the Prophet . ‘Please ask Allah’s forgiveness for me. The Prophet did not go to his wives because of the secret which Hafsa had disclosed to ‘Aisha, and he said that he would not go to his wives for one month as he was angry with them when Allah admonished him (for his oath that he would not approach Maria). When twenty-nine days had passed, the Prophet went to Aisha first of all. She said to him, ‘You took an oath that you would not come to us for one month, and today only twenty-nine days have passed, as I have been counting them day by day.’ The Prophet said, ‘The month is also of twenty-nine days.’ That month consisted of twenty-nine days. ‘Aisha said, ‘When the Divine revelation of Choice was revealed, the Prophet started with me, saying to me, ‘I am telling you something, but you needn’t hurry to give the reply till you can consult your parents.” ‘Aisha knew that her parents would not advise her to part with the Prophet. The Prophet said that Allah had said:– (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 648

In a footnote to Q. 33:28, Hilali-Khan make the following comment regarding the above hadith:

*The Prophet was alone with Maria on the day that was devoted to ‘Aisha [sic]. When Hafsa learned that, the Prophet told her to keep that as a secret and promised that he would not come near Maria. But Hafsa disclosed the secret to ‘Aisha who got angry and then provoked the Prophet who took an oath that he would desert her for one month. (Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur’an: From Surah 29 to 37 (Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Lahore Houston, New York, First Edition: January, 2000), Part 6, p. 228)

O Prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, in terms of your Coptic handmaiden Māriya – when he lay with her in the house of Hafsa, who had been away, but who upon returning [and finding out] became upset by the fact that this had taken place in her own house and on her own bed – by saying, ‘She is unlawful for me!’, seeking, by making her unlawful [for you], to please your wives? And God is Forgiving, Merciful, having forgiven you this prohibition. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Verily God has prescribed, He has made lawful, for you [when necessary] the absolution of your oaths, to absolve them by expiation, as mentioned in the sūrat al-Mā’ida [Q. 5:89] and the forbidding of [sexual relations with] a handmaiden counts as an oath, so did the Prophet expiate? Muqātil [b. Sulaymān] said, ‘He set free a slave [in expiation] for his prohibition of Māriya’; whereas al-Hasan [al-Basrī] said, ‘He never expiated, because the Prophet has been forgiven [all errors]’. And God is your Protector, your Helper, and He is the Knower, the Wise. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and italic emphasis ours)

And, mention, when the Prophet confided to one of his wives, namely, Hafsa, a certain matter, which was his prohibition of Māriya, telling her: ‘Do not reveal it!; but when she divulged it, to ‘A’isha, reckoning there to be no blame in [doing] such a thing, and God apprised him, He informed him, of it, of what had been divulged, he announced part of it, to Hafsa, and passed over part, out of graciousness on his part. So when he told her about it, she said, ‘Who told you this?’ He said, ‘I was told by the Knower, the Aware’, namely, God. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and italic emphasis ours)

If the two of you, namely, Hafsa and ‘A’isha, repent to God … for your hearts were certainly inclined, towards the prohibition of Māriya, that is to say, your keeping this secret despite [knowing] the Prophet’s dislike of it, which is itself a sin (the response to the conditional [‘if the two of you repent to God’] has been omitted, to be understood as, ‘it will be accepted of both of you’; the use of [the plural] qulūb, ‘hearts’, instead of [the dual] qalbayn, ‘both [your] hearts’, is on account of the cumbersomeness of putting two duals together in what is effectively the same word); and if you support one another (tazzāharā: the original second tā’ [of tatazāharā] has been assimilated with the zā’; a variant reading has it without [this assimilation, tazāharā]) against him, that is, the Prophet, in what he is averse to, then [know that] God, He (huwa, [a pronoun] for separation) is indeed his Protector, His supporter, and Gabriel, and the righteous among the believers, Abū Bakr and ‘Umar (wa-Jibrīlu wa-sālihu’l-mu’minīna is a supplement to the [syntactical] locus of the subject of inna [sc. ‘God’]), who will [also] be his supporters, and the angels furthermore, further to the support of God and those mentioned, are his supporters, assistants of his, in supporting him [to prevail] over both of you. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah’s saying (O Prophet!): ‘(O Prophet!) i.e. Muhammad. (Why bannest thou that which Allah hath made lawful for thee) i.e. marrying Maria the Copt, the Mother of Ibrahim; that is because he had forbidden himself from marrying her, (seeking to please thy wives) seeking the pleasure of your wives ‘A’ishah and Hafsah by forbidding yourself from marrying Maria the Copt? (And Allah is Forgiving) He forgives you, (Merciful) about that oath. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; bold and italic emphasis ours)

(Allah hath made lawful for you (Muslims) absolution from your oaths (of such a kind)) and so the Prophet  absolved himself from his oath and married Maria the Copt, (and Allah is your Protector) and Helper. (He is the Knower) He knows that you forbade yourself Maria the Copt, (the Wise) in that which He enjoined about the expiation of oaths. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; bold and italic emphasis ours)

(When the Prophet confided a fact unto one of his wives) i.e. Hafsah (and when she afterward divulged it) Hafsah divulged to ‘A’ishah what the Prophet told her in confidence (and Allah apprised him thereof) and Allah informed him that Hafsah informed ‘A’ishah, (he made known (to her) part thereof) part of what she said to ‘A’ishah regarding the leadership of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar; and it is said: about seeing Maria the Copt on his own (and passed over part) he did not mention making forbidding Maria the Copt on himself nor what he told her concerning the leadership of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar after him, for he did not reproach him for this. (And when he told it her) when the Prophet informed Hafsah about what she said to ‘A’ishah (she said) Hafsah said: (Who hath told thee) that I informed ‘A’ishah? (He said) the Prophet said: (The Knower, the Aware hath told me) what you divulged to ‘A’ishah. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Period of Revelation

In connection with the incident of tahrim referred to in this Surah, the traditions of the Hadith mention two ladies who were among the wives of the Holy Prophet at that time Hadrat Safiyyah and Hadrat Mariyah Qibtiyyah. The former (i. e. Hadrat Safiyyah) was taken to wife by the Holy Prophet after the conquest of Khaiber, and Khaiber was conquered, as has been unanimously reported, in A. H. 7. The other lady, Hadrat Mariyah, had been presented to the Holy Prophet by Muqawqis, the ruler of Egypt, in A. H. 7 and she had borne him his son, Ibrahim, in Dhil-Hijjah, A. H. 8.These historical events almost precisely determine that this Surah was sent down some time during A.H. 7 or A. H 8. (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an

Muhammad’s personal and family life were not always smooth. His wives sometimes bickered amongst themselves and even once engaged in a petty plot against him. A’ishah, for example, disliked her Jewish co-wife, Safiyah, and insulted her periodically. Muhammad had to defend her status and honor a number of times and scold the youthful A’ishah. Hafsah became jealous of her co-wife, Maria, when she found her and Muhammad resting[sic] in her apartment one day. Sawdah gave up her allotted day with the Prophet when she realized he was not really attracted to her. As for the conspiracy, A’ishah agreed with two other co-wives to convince the Prophet that eating honey made him unpleasant to be around. When Muhammad vowed to never eat honey again, she privately repented to her co-conspirators. Though these incidents were not the norm, they demonstrate that the women in Muhammad’s life were as human as the rest of us. (Yahiya Emerick, Critical Lives: Muhammad [Alpha Books, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2002], p. 263; underline emphasis ours)

2- At one time, because of one of his wives‘ complaint, he swore that he would stay away from Mariya then Allah Most High ordered him to cancel that oath without kaffara. (This may have been confused with a revocable divorce by some; in reality it confirms that a self-pronounced tahrim of mulk al-yamin is inconsequential. Imam Malik said: “Haram is halal with regard to slavewomen.”) (Shaykh Gibril F Haddad, Was Mariya al-Qibtiyya ever a spouse?:

A more recent Muslim biographer named Muhammad Husayn Haykal believes that the Mariyah incident is what occasioned the “revelation” of Q. 66:1-5. Pay careful attention to his claims:

Their Rebellion

One day Hafsah went to her father’s house complaining about this situation. While the Prophet was in her room, Mariyah came to him and stayed with him some time. Upon Hafsah’s return she found the Prophet and Mariyah in her quarters and, as she waited for them to come out, her jealousy broke all bounds. When, finally, Mariyah left the quarters and Hafsah entered, she said to the Prophet: “I have seen who was here. By God, that was an insult to me. You would not have dared do that if I amounted to anything at all in your eyes.” At the moment Muhammad realized that such deep-lying jealousy might even move Hafsah to broadcast what she had seen among the other wives. In an attempt to please her, Muhammad promised that he would not go unto Mariyah if she would only refrain from broadcasting what she had seen. Hafsah promised to comply. However, she could not keep her promise as jealousy continued to affect her disposition. Hence, she intimated the secret to `A’ishah, who in turn reported it to the Prophet. He took it as evidence of Hafsah’s failure to keep her promise. Perhaps the affair did not stop with Hafsah and `A’ishah but spread to the other wives. Perhaps, too, all of them had noticed the high esteem in which Mariyah was held and sympathized with `A’ishah and Hafsah’s opposition to the Prophet. There is nothing unusual in the whole story, such gossip and petty jealousies being commonplace between man and his many wives. A man’s affection belongs where he puts it within his household, and the controversy which the daughters of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar had woven around the Prophet’s affection for Mariyah was utterly groundless. Previously we had seen that some disaffection had risen between the Prophet and his wives on various occasions because of the pocket money he allocated to them, or because of the honey Zaynab used to serve. Therefore, they had all the more reason to feel slighted and no little alienated when they discovered their husband’s inclination toward ‘A’ishah or his esteem for Mariyah.

An explosion was soon to come. One day, while the Prophet was staying with ‘A’ishah, his other wives delegated Zaynab, daughter of Jahsh, to go in and, in their name, to accuse him of injustice and unfairness to them, and to plead that his love for `A’ishah was a violation of the code which he himself had set down of a day and night for each of his wives. On the other hand, REALIZING that the Prophet DID NOT CARE VERY MUCH FOR HER CHARMS, and being no longer anxious to please him, Sawdah had given up her day and night to `A’ishah. But Zaynab was not satisfied with expressing the other wives’ indignation at this apparent injustice. She attacked `A’ishah personally. The latter was anxious to defend herself, but kept still in response to the Prophet’s reconciliating pleas. Seeing that `A’ishah was defenseless, Zaynab went to excess in her accusations, and the Prophet finally had to permit his favorite wife to take her defense into her own hands. `A’ishah spoke out with great eloquence in refuting Zaynab’s claims. The Prophet listened with obvious satisfaction and admired the perspicacity of Abu Bakr’s daughter.

Indeed, favoritism for some of his wives had created such controversy and antagonism among the “Mothers of the Believers” that Muhammad once thought of divorcing some of them, but they soon agreed to let him distribute his favors as he pleased. When Mariyah gave birth to Ibrahim, their jealousy was at its strongest, especially in the case of `A’ishah. Certainly, Muhammad’s leniency and gentleness encouraged rebellion, and the new status which he had conferred upon women in society fanned their vanity. Muhammad, however, was not free to spend his time dealing with household problems. The need soon came to be felt for a decisive lesson to reestablish discipline and to liberate him for teaching the message and fulfilling the mission of his prophethood. Hence, he decided to ignore his wives and, indeed, to threaten them with divorce. A lesson had to be taught to them, and the time had apparently come for a decision. Either these women were to return to reason or they would be given their freedom in a mutually convenient divorce.

The Prophet’s Separation from His Wives

Muhammad isolated himself from all his women for a full month and refused to talk about them to anyone. Nor did anyone dare talk to him concerning them. During this month, his mind was absorbed by his mission and the requirement of carrying the message of Islam beyond the Arabian Peninsula. Abu Bakr, `Umar, and his other in-laws as well, were deeply concerned over the sad fate that awaited the “Mothers of the Believers” now that they had exposed themselves to the anger of the Prophet and the consequent punishment of God. It was even said that Muhammad had divorced Hafsah, `Umar’s daughter, after she had divulged the secret she had promised to keep. The marketplace of Madinah hummed with rumors about the impending divorce of the Prophet’s wives. The wives, for their part, were repentent and apprehensive. They regretted that their jealousy of one another had carried them away, that they had abused and harmed their gentle husband who was to each one of them at all times an elder brother, a compassionate father, a nearest kin, and the best of everything that might be hoped for in this life and the next. Muhammad spent most of his time in a storeroom he owned, placing his servant Rabah at its doorstep as long as he was inside. Therein he used to sleep on a very hard bed of coarse date branches. (Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, tran. Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi [American Trust Publications, USA 1976; Malaysian edition by Islamic Book Trust], pp. 436-438; bold and capital emphasis ours)


The Judgment of Critical Historiography

In my opinion, the foregoing is the true account of the story of Muhammad’s self-imposed isolation from his wives, of the choice he gave them, of the incidents which led to his isolation as well as of its causes and consequences. This account is confirmed by all the evidence of the books of Qur’anic exegesis and of Hadith, as well as by the accounts of various biographies. The fact remains, however, that not one of these biographies has presented all these data in the proper sequence, beginning with the causes and ending with the consequences in the manner we have done here. Most of the biographers have passed by this matter too quickly and too simplistically. They give the impression that they found the material too rough to handle. Some accounts have pondered the story of the honey and maghafir at length but have omitted to point to the affair of Hafsah and Mariyah. As for the Orientalists, they regard the story of Hafsah and Mariyah and the former’s divulgence to `A’ishah of the secret she promised to keep as the cause of all that had happened. Their purpose is precisely to add to their already alienated readers further occasion to condemn the Arab Prophet by presenting him as a shameless runner after women. It is also my considered opinion that the Muslim historians are not justified in ignoring these incidents, or in omitting to examine all the data available with a view to giving them an objective interpretation. That is what we have sought to do here, though only in part. While the mistake of the Muslim historians was to underestimate the importance of these events, that of the western Orientalists is to exaggerate their importance, to violate historiographic precision, and to vent their Christian prejudice. Genuine historical criticism will not attribute to any man as great as Muhammad such a petty conduct as would be implied by referring his self-imposed exile solely to Hafsah’s divulgence of a domestic secret to `A’ishah. In fact, Muhammad had nothing to hide since the women in question were all his own legitimate wives. Indeed, whatever the nature of that domestic secret, it is too insignificant to cause Muhammad to threaten to divorce all his wives. Genuine historical criticism would also refuse to explain these events as due to the “honey” affair. A man as great, forbearing, and compassionate as Muhammad, as all historians and biographers acknowledge, would not regard such incidents as justifying a whole month’s isolation, let alone divorce. The critical attitude is satisfied only when all these incidents are arranged in such historical sequence as would not violate the causal interrelationships between them. Only such history-writing satisfies the requirements of objectivity and presents its data as elements in factual interrelationships acceptable to reason. The arrangement we have given these events seems to us to have achieved precisely this, and to accord perfectly with what is known of Muhammad’s wisdom, greatness, determination and farsightedness. (Ibid., 440-441; bold emphasis ours)

6. Summary Analysis of the Data.

The following sources candidly admit that Muhammad ended up actually divorcing Hafsa because of this incident:

884. The Prophet married her [Hafsa] in Sha‘ban 3/February 625 before the battle of Uhud. She was his fourth wife. One day, when she returned from her father’s house, she found the Messenger of God with Mariyah in her house and burst into hysterical behavior. The situation was further aggravated by ‘A’ishah’s chattering tongue. According to Ibn Ishaq (Kitab al-Mubtada’, 240) the prophet had divorced her once but then took her back. She died in Sha‘ban 45/665… (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, NY 1990], Volume IX, pp. 131; bold emphasis ours)

Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab:

The Prophet divorced Hafsah, but he took her back in marriage. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 12, Number 2276

1595. The Prophet pronounced revocable divorce. Hence he took Hafsah back in marriage. It is reported that the Prophet was asked by Divine revelation to restore Hafsah as she was devoted to prayer and fasting. (Sunan Abu Dawud, English translation with Explanatory Notes by Prof. Ahmad Hasan [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984], Volume II, p. 619)

Next, the Prophet married ‘Hafsah, daughter of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. Abu Dawood narrated that the Prophet divorced ‘Hafsah and then took her back.

[1] Shaikh Wahby said that al-Albani included this authentic ‘Hadith in his book, Sahih Sunan Abi Dawood, ‘Hadith no. 1998] (Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah, Zad-ul Ma’ad fi Hadyi Khairi-l ‘Ibad [Provisions for the Hereafter Taken From the Guidance of Allah’s Best Worshipper], translated by Jalal Abualrub, edited by Alaa Mencke & Shaheed M. Ali [Madinah Publishers & Distributors, Orlando Florida; First edition, December October 2000], Volume 1, p. 166; bold and underline emphasis ours)

I’ll have more to say about this whole issue in the concluding section of my series.

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