Islamists among orientalists have been critical of the Prophet’s private life on three accounts:
1.That his marriages were quite numerous.
2.That he married Aishah when she was only ten or eleven years old.
3.That he married Zaynab bint jahsh, a divorcee of his adopted son, Zayd Ibn Harithah.
The bonds of marriage helped to consolidate the Prophets social and political position in Madinah. And again, some of his marriages were the means the Prophet used to accommodate and provide for families, which had lost their providers because of either Hijrah(s) or of Jihad wars. The argument that self-indulgence was the motive behind these marriages is plainly (aside from being false and disgraceful) absurd and preposterous.
As to the several marriages of the Prophet, polygamy was customary among the Arabs, and the Semitic peoples in general in those times. Among many prophets and Apostles of ancient tribes of Israelites and Hebrews, polygamous marriages were widespread. Some of those Prophets of the Old Testaments were reported to have married tens of wives. However, an examination of the circumstances and manner in which the Prophet practiced polygamy shows that sexual appetite was never the dominant factor.
1. With the exception of Aishah, all the women whom he married were widows or divorcees.
2. A number of those women were quite advanced in age.
3. A number of Prophet’s marriages were obviously prompted by motives of compassion.
1. Sawdah bint Zam’ah:
She migrated twice to Abyssinia. Her husband was one of the pioneering Muslims who, after his return from Abyssinia, died in Makkah. Marrying her was a way of honoring her sacrifice, and early Hijrah to Abyssinia. It was also a way of consoling and providing for her.
She was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, the archenemy of the Prophet and the leader of the Quraysh opposition. Ramlah became a Muslim, despite the attitude of her father consequence. Then her husband, who was a Christian before he converted to Islam, reverted to Christianity, divorced her and deserted her with his little baby in her arms. Thus she was indeed in a very difficult situation living out these moments in a strange land, thousands of miles from her hometown, Makkah.
She gave herself to the Prophet and whished to be his wife. He honored her wish, accepting her as a wife, and she was devoted to him.
The Prophet married her out of sympathy for her plight, her Jewish father having been killed in the Khaybar battle. She had no one to care for her.
The Prophet married her out of regard for her father, who was his aide and minister and enjoyed his love and appreciation for services rendered to the cause of Islam, Hafsah was not particularly young or attractive. But she was deeply religious, steadfast in prayer and fasting. When she became a widow, her father Umar, tried unsuccessfully to persuade some of his close friends and brothers in Islam to marry her. The noble hearted Prophet was moved by the anguish of his close aide and friend ‘Umar and offered to marry her himself.
6. Umm Salamah:
Her husband was seriously wounded in the Battle of Uhud, and died as a martyr a month afterwards. The Prophet married her, in his fatherly compassion for her numerous children and to honour her as well. Initially she politely declined his marriage offer, apologizing that she would be too senior to him, being so advanced in age, and with so many children. As, however, the Prophet insisted, the marriage did take place.
The Prophet married Zaynab, who had been married to Zayd, his adopted son. Critics have dramatized the Prophet’s marriage to Zaynab in the most obnoxious way. When the life became untenable between Zayad and Zaynab, they were divorced. The Prophet was then commanded by the Qur’an to marry her, so as to abrogate an outmoded custom that fathers of adopted sons many not marry the divorcees of their adopted sons.
From the Muslim point of view, the whole affair was divinely ordained. The Holy Qur’an itself supports this view. In a noble revelation, directly referring to the episodes of Zaynab, God Almightly said:
“When you say to him, upon whom Allah has bestowed His favours, and you have also favoured, keep your wife to yourself; and fear Allah. And you conceal in you heart what Allah is to make public, and you fear that people but Allah is more worthy to be feared by you. And after Zayd had ceased (relations) with her (by divorcing her) we gave her to you in marriage, so that there may be no sin for the believers, in respect of (marrying the former) wives of their adopted sons, after the latter have ceased (relations) with them.” The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 33, Verse 37
In summing up, it may be said that the only ‘ordinary’ marriage the Prophet ever enjoyed was that with Khadijah. She was 15 years his senior. She died after remaining with him for more than 20 years. The Prophet cherished her memory all his life. All his other marriages were urged by some or other necessities.
His marriage to Aishah was motivated by dreams, which were shown to him in two or three nights. In those dreams, he saw the Archangel Gabriel descending with her picture and saying: “ This is you wife, in this life and in the world to come. Marry her, because she has some qualities of Khadijah. Since Aishah was but a little girl, the Prophet said to himself, “ If those dreams were from God, this marriage would take place”.
Had it been the case that he was sexually overactive, this would have become more apparent in his early manhood, not after he had passed the age of fifty. Marriage bonds were used by the Prophet to improve and strengthen his relationships with his people. By using this means, which was familiar to them, it was possible for that message to be heard by every clan and tribe in the vast Arabian Peninsula. The bonds of marriage helped also to consolidate his social and political position in Madinah. And again, some of his marriages were the means the Prophet used to accommodate and provide for families, which had lost their providers because of either Hijrah(s) or of Jihad wars. The argument that self-indulgence was the motive behind these marriages is plainly (aside from being false and disgraceful) absurd and preposterous.
"Sunshine at Madinah"