Juwayriyya was the daughter of al-Harith, the chief of the Mustaliq tribe. The tribe attacked the Muslims, but were defeated, and Juwayriyya was among the booty. She was allocated initially to al Thabit ibn Qays. As the daughter of a chief, she did not wish to be the property of an ordinary soldier, and requested release on payment of ransom. When Juwayriyya was brought to A'isha, A'isha said that her heart sank when she saw her, because she was so pretty. ‘By Allah, I had scarcely seen her in the doorway of my room before I disliked her!' She recalled later: ‘I knew he would see her as I did.'
Sure enough, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked to marry her, and Juwayriyya accepted Islam; thus the enemy tribe became an ally. But A'isha is said to have always nurtured a certain jealousy towards her. The Prophet's marriage to Umm Habiba was very different. She was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, and hence the sister of the future caliph Mu'awiya, and the widow of the Prophet's cousin Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, Zaynab's brother. Her mother Safiyya bint Abu'l-As was the sister of the father of the Blessed Prophet's dear friend and son-in-law Uthman. Ubaydullah had migrated to Abyssinia with her, but there had apostasized and became a drunkard. When he died, the Negus of Abyssinia was distressed for her, and contacted the Prophet, who agreed to marry her himself. The wedding was performed by proxy. There was also a tradition that the people of Medina requested the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to marry her for she was a staunch Muslim, one of the earliest converts. They wished to spareher returning to the care of her then unbelieving father Abu Sufyan. Little is known about Raihana of the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir.
She was a prisoner of war seen by the Prophet, who offered to marry her if she accepted Islam. Some traditions claim that she never gave up her Jewish faith, and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) kept her as a maidservant. One day she did accept Islam, but by that time the verse limiting the number of wives had been revealed, and so he did not marry her. On the other hand, the historian Ibn Sa' d claims that he did marry her after liberating her. Ibn Ishaq states that she died ten years before the Prophet (Peace be upon him), so one can only say about her life story that Allah knows best. Zaynab bint Huyayy, to whom the Prophet (Peace be upon him) gave the name Safiyya, was another Jewess, the seventeen-year-old daughter of an enemy of the Muslims. Huyayy, the chief of the Banu Nadir tribe traced his ancestry from the prophet Harun (Aaron). Her husband Kinana had earned notoriety for burying alive the brother of Muhammad ibn Maslama, who subsequently killed him in reprisal. She was chosen as a maid from the war booty by Dihya al-Kalbi, but as a chief's daughter she also requested a more honourable fate. The Blessed Prophet released her, and married her himself. She is said to have been beautiful, and A'isha was again beset by a degree of jealousy. At first A'isha and the other wives made life difficult for her, agitating her with jibes. But the Blessed Prophet always took her side. When A'isha once said that she did not know what all the fuss was about since `one Jewess is much like another', the Prophet rebuked her by saying: ‘Do not speak thus, for she has entered Islam and made good her Islam.' When they taunted her about her father, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) taught her to reply: ‘My father is Harun and my uncle is Musa.' Once, Zaynab refused to lend ‘that Jewess' a camel, and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) defended the ‘Jewess' by separating himself from Zaynab for several months. Safiyya became a close friend of the Prophet's daughter Fatima, and in due course she and A'isha did become friends. In fact, A'isha, Hafsa and Safiyya formed a kind of ‘trio'. She never gave up all of her links with her Jewish relatives, however; and when she died she willed a third of her estate to her sister's son. Although this was criticised, A'isha insisted that the bequest be upheld. The Prophet's final wife was the elderly widow Barra, the sister of the his uncle al-Abbas's wife, who wished to mitigate her sufferings, and see her well placed. The Prophet changed her name to Maymuna. Her nephew was the famous warrior Khalid ibn al-Walid, who became a convert after the marriage. When the Blessed Prophet was sixty years of age, Allah sent a revelation limiting the number of a man's wives to four (Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa’, 4:3); but as his existing wives had by now been declared Mothers of the Believers, he did not put them aside. The Blessed Prophet was a human man, and his wives were human women. While their life together was focused on prayer, fasting, and spiritual advancement, their house was not a silent monastery. They knew many of the hurts and grief of married life as well as its joys. On two occasions there were major crises in his household: when A'isha was accused of adultery, and when he took Marya the Copt into his household. The ‘event of the necklace', which caused the Blessed Prophet so much grief, took place when A'isha, who had been accompanying the Prophet on a journey, got left behind by the caravan and was brought back by a young tribesman. This created consternation: those who disliked her influence with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) instantly accused her of adultery, and did not believe her when she explained that she had been searching for her favourite necklace when the caravan moved on. Outraged and heartbroken, A'isha left the Prophet's house and went to her parents, where she wept for two days. Her mother, Umm Ruman, tried to comfort her by pointing out that all beautiful women had to expect this kind of trouble. Her father, Abu Bakr, advised her to go back to the Prophet and be penitent. When the Prophet (Peace be upon him) saw her, he asked her to confess any sin, saying that even if she was guilty, God would forgive her. With great dignity, she looked steadily at him and said she would never admit to something she had not done. Her duty was to show patience, and ask God for help. By the time she had finished speaking, the Revelation came and the Blessed Prophet was communing with God. Abu Bakr covered him with a mantle, while her mother waited fearfully for the result. When God confirmed her innocence, all three adults were overjoyed and relieved. Although she was still only fourteen years old, she had become a proud and dignified Muslim woman, who represented the kind of wife who owed her allegiance to Allah Alone. The Blessed Prophet did not resent this nor complain of it - for such was the teaching of Islam, and A'isha understood it well.
Any man who embarks on the adventure of polygamy knows that there will be tensions and stresses caused by the inescapable friction of more than one woman in the household. When the Muqawqis of Egypt sent the Prophet (Peace be upon him) two attractive Coptic Christian girls, the strain on the wives' selfless acceptance of their husband's wishes was considerable. Of course, taking a concubine was not regarded as in any way abnormal or wrong at the time; but any woman who loves her husband would feel disappointed if she felt that she had not been able to fill his loving thoughts entirely. Tradition states that one of these girls, Shirin, was given to the Prophet's friend Hassan ibn Thabit, while the second, Marya, was taken by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to Umm Sulaym. As with the case of Raihana, it is not certain whether or not the Prophet married her. Some argue that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not take concubines but only wives; but many books number the Prophet's wives as nine when he died, which would mean that Marya and Raihana were only concubines. Allah knows best. Ibn Abbas states that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) gave Marya a home with the Nafir tribe where he had some property, and she used to spend the summer there, where the Blessed Prophet would visit her. Other traditions suggest that he visited Marya every day, and she soon became pregnant. None of the wives apart from Khadija had ever given the Blessed Prophet a child, although there is a tradition that A'isha once miscarried; and inevitably this caused stress. Tempers were strained, and about this time rows broke out in the household concerning the sharing out of the meager items of war spoils that they were allowed to have.
Umar heard the racket coming from the women's quarters, recognised the voices of A'isha and his daughter Hafsa, and was horrified. He was already worried that Hafsa was getting out of hand, and had told her to control her jealousy and accept the fact that she was not as beautiful as A'isha, and that if she provoked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) too much, he would cast her aside. The women became so vociferous about Marya that the Prophet wearily promised not to go to her again. But things did not improve, and finally the atmosphere became so strained that the Prophet withdrew completely from all his wives, and went into seclusion. The Muslim community was appalled, for this was no mere domestic crisis. Many political and tribal alliances would have been jeopardised if he divorced them. At first the Prophet (Peace be upon him) refused to see even Umar, and when he finally admitted him to his room, Umar found him lying on a rush mat which had left marks imprinted on his cheek. In the end, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) received a revelation stating that he should give all his wives a free choice. The Verse of the Option (see Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:28-29) stipulated that they should either accept his terms and live the kind of Islamic life he required, giving him the time he needed for worship and the administration of the community, or, if they felt they could not do this, to take an amicable and blameless divorce. The Blessed Prophet stayed away from his wives for a month. At the end of twenty-nine days, he ended his seclusion and went first to the house of A'isha, who greeted him with the words: ‘O Allah's Messenger, you said you would not come back for a month, but there is still a day to go. Only twenty-nine days have passed. I have been counting them one by one.' The Prophet (Peace be upon him) pointed out that this month had only twenty-nine days. Then A'isha added: ‘Then Allah revealed the Verse of the Option. And out of all his wives, he asked me first; and I chose him.' He gave this option to all his wives. Part of the ‘choice' involved abandoning sexual relations with several of the wives for whom there was no physical attraction. Although the Blessed Prophet was a vigorous man, he was over sixty; yet he also realised that he needed to be just to all his wives in his marital relationship. Far from accepting that this was perfectly all right, and that they should just put up with things and be grateful that he had at least given them a home, he took their physical needs into account and did something about it.
The wives for whom he had never felt any physical attraction were given the opportunity to be released from marriage with him if they wished. But so much did they respect and love him that they all chose to re-establish their non-sexual marriages with him rather than leave him. Their words were given, and peace was restored. The Verse of the Option did not mention Marya at all, but concentrated on the attitude of the wives to luxury and worldly goods. The ‘apostle women' agreed to sacrifice their material self-interest, and earned their titles of ‘Mothers of the Believers’. Marya gave birth to a son, who was given the name of the great Ibrahim, perhaps in recollection of that Patriarch who had founded the Arab tribes through his son Ismail. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) and all the Muslims rejoiced, for his only previous sons, who had been children of Khadija, had died in infancy. Tragically, the same fate was to befall little Ibrahim. All this must have been particularly painful for A'isha, for of all the Prophet's wives, she seems to have been the only one who was childless. The others had all had children by their previous marriages. It seems that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) well understood her sense of ‘emptiness', and the need to compensate, for he gave her the kunya - name Umm Abdallah, named after one of her sister's sons. At the time of the Option the Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked her to reflect very carefully before she agreed to stay with him, and he advised her to consult her father for his opinion. She proudly refused to do so. She did not even have to think: she chose Allah and His Messenger. There is no doubt but that A'isha was the Prophet's beloved, and that she genuinely loved him in the fullest sense. She used to stroke his hair with his favourite perfume, wash from the same bowl as him, drink from the same cup, and sleep wrapped in the same garment. His favourite position for relaxation was to lie with his head in her lap.
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