The Prophets Wives as "Ordinary Women"
Many of the accounts on life in the Prophet's household contain detailed descriptions of the jealousies and domestic political maneuvers of the Mothers of the Believers. These reports present the Prophet's wives as a petty, greedy, backbiting, and power-hungry group. The unseemliness of their behavior is shown up all the more by the many traditions on the Prophet's impartiality toward his wives. Indeed, the Prophet is said to have been scrupulous in treating his wives equitably. He visited each of them once a day when he made his daily rounds of their houses, usually after the afternoon prayer (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 59); he would lay his hand on each and kiss her (ibid., p. 122). After a wedding night spent with a new wife he is said to have wished his other wives well and asked to receive their good wishes (ibid., p. 75). In addition, each wife had her turn of a fixed period of companionship and sexual contact with the Prophet. This was a prerogative she guarded zealously as her right (ibid., p. 67) and which she could give to a rival if she so chose. If a new bride opted for a longer period of privacy and intimacy with the Prophet after the wedding, then the other wives were entitled to the same (ibid., pp. 64-66). During his visits to his wives, the Prophet would stand, but when he arrived at the house of the woman whose "day" it was, he would sit (ibid., p. 122). When the Prophet went on travels and military expeditions, he determined by lot which two of his wives would accompany him (ibid., pp. 72, 121-122). The Hadith reports, however, that this equitable system was upset when a wife would think of some trick or other in the attempt to detain the Prophet in her house during his daily visit. An oft-quoted story has it that Hafsa bint Umar, who was aware of Muhammad's love for sweets, detained him by offering a honey drink, until the ruse was discovered and thwarted by a counterruse of A'isha, Sawda, and Safiyya (ibid., p. 59). Or it may have been Umm Salama who detained him, and A'isha and Hafsa who plotted to terminate that stratagem (ibid., pp. 122-123).
New arrivals in the Prophet's household are said to have evoked intense jealousies in the already established wives, who feared that a new rival might replace them in the Prophet's affection. Such jealousies could make a new wife appear more beautiful than she was, as fear of competition played havoc with objective observation. For example, such fears are related of A'isha when the Prophet had married Umm Salama (ibid., p. 66), or when she saw the beauty and sweetness of the Arab war captive Juwayriyya (ibid., p. 83).
A sizeable number of traditions state that the women were dissatisfied with the manner in which food and other presents were distributed among them. The faithful reportedly offered their freewill gifts (sadaqa) most frequently on the day the Prophet spent in A'isha's house (ibid., p. 117). The other wives are said to have sent his daughter Fatima to request their fair share, but the Prophet requested that Fatima "love A'isha for the sake of his own love for A'isha", Fatima, in turn, is said to have been so embarrassed that she vowed she would "never talk to him about her again." (This tradition is given on the authority of A'isha, ibid., pp. 123-124). Thereafter, the wives sent Zaynab bint Jahsh who began to revile A'isha, the latter describes how she looked at the Prophet until she was sure of his permission to avenge herself Defaming Zaynab, she then silenced her, and "the Prophet smiled and said: verily, she is Abu Bakr's daughter" (ibid., pp. 123-124). The women also competed among themselves by way of boasting how one or the other had played a special role in an "occasion for revelation," or held a special rank with the Prophet. Some traditions, for instance, assert that the wives disliked Zaynab bint Jahsh's reminders that her marriage to the Prophet had occurred by specific divine dispensation (Qur'an Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:37-38, also Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:4 and 40) and the hijab verse (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:53) had been revealed on the occasion of her wedding (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 75) A'isha's status claims involved the fact that of all the Prophet's wives she had been the only virgin bride, "an un-grazed slope as compared to all the others that were grazed over," (ibid., p. 55) and that she was the dearest companion of the Prophet who was always aware of her moods, (ibid., pp. 47, 55) calling her "dearer [to him] than butter with dates," (ibid., p. 55) "as superior to all women as bread soup is to all foods." (ibid., p. 55).
It may be useful to associate traditions of this genre with the fact that the Prophet's wives hailed from different clans and even tribes. by way of family relationships (a factor of considerable import during the formative years of Islam), these women were thus naturally allied with what were, or later turned out to be, opposing political factions in early Islamic history.
To give a few examples: A'isha was the daughter of the first caliph, Abu Bakr of the family of Amir ibn Amr of the Taym clan of the Quraysh tribe. A'isha, who was childless, derived her kunya (honorific title) "Mother of Abdallah" from her sister's son Abdallah ibn al-Zubayr, whom she is said to have "adopted" and loved like a son. Abdallah's father al-Zubayr (i.e., A'isha's brother-in-law) was a rival political candidate at the time of the election of the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan (644 A.D.); after the latter's assassination in 656 A.D., he became a declared enemy of Ali, Uthman's successor and fourth caliph of Islam. In the opposition movement against Ali-who was also first cousin to the Prophet and the husband of his daughter Fatima-A'isha played a leading role. Here, she is said to have galvanized the energies of two important allies, the Companions al-Zubayr and Talha (the former her brother-in-law and the latter her cousin who also, reportedly, thought of marrying her after the Prophet's death, until the Qur'anic revelation of Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:53 made this impossible). Hafsa was the daughter of the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab of the Adi clan of the Quraysh tribe; her father is said to have been "the power behind the throne" during the caliphate of his predecessor, Abu Bakr. Umm Salama was of the family of al-Mughira of the wealthy and influential Makhzum clan of the Quraysh in Mecca, a clan that fought against the Prophet for many years in close alliance with the equally wealthy and aristocratic Meccan clan of Umayya. It is reported that Umm Salama at first supported Ali and Fatima (i.e., she declared in favor of the political aspirations of the Prophet's blood relatives), but that she later became a supporter of the Umayyads. (Umm Salama was also the aunt of the Prophet's general Khalid ibn al-Walid, hero of the ridda wars and the early wars of Islamic expansion; at the end of his military career, the latter served as governor of Syria which after him became the crown colony of the Umayyads). Umm Habiba was an Umayyad. She was Ramla, daughter of Abu Sufyan and a half-sister of Mu'awiya, the latter fought Ali ibn Abi Talib for control of the Islamic state in 657 A.D. and then, after Ali's assassination in 661, went on to found the Umayyad dynasty while ruler ("caliph',) of Islam. While some of the "jealousy" traditions quoted here may be political statements linked to intercommunal power struggles, later pious understanding took these traditions at face value after the political events in question had long passed. And, indeed, these traditions may very well signify both, their apparent meaning (actual jealousy) and their hidden meaning (support for a group or party against one or a number of other groups and parties).
Not all traditions of this genre relate to the Arabian power struggles of early Islamic history. Some suggest a functionality of a different kind. At least one of the Prophet's wives, the Makhzumite aristocrat Umm Salama, is said to have hesitated in accepting the Prophet's proposal of marriage because she knew herself to be very jealous, "while you, oh Prophet of God, accumulate women" (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 63). He persuaded her to the marriage by replying that God would take care of such feelings. Nevertheless, Umm Salama's jealousy is said to have erupted on numerous occasions, one of which occurred during her travels with the Prophet when he mistook his wives' litters and by mistake approached Safiyya's litter on Umm Salama's "day." The latter flew into a rage both at the Prophet and also her new rival (ibid., 67). What distinguishes this tradition is that Safiyya was a young Jewish captive whom the Prophet had received as part of his share of booty after the conquest of Khaybar, and that Umm Salama's anger at being neglected led her to say that "you are talking with the daughter of the Jews on my day, when you are God's Apostle!” Many other traditions contain similar elements of prejudice of the Prophet's wives toward his Jewish consorts, which may indicate a common sub textual meaning in these traditions. It is reported, for instance, that when the Prophet brought Safiyya home to Medinah, she was riding behind him on his mount, fully concealed by a wrap. The camel stumbled and threw off both riders in sight of Muhammad's watching wives who said: "May God banish the Jewess, and do 'that and that' to her" (ibid.. pp. 87-88). A'isha is said to have left her house "disguised by a head veil" in order to mingle unrecognized among the throngs of women who welcomed, and inspected, Safiyya; the Prophet reportedly recognized A'isha in spite of her veil, but when he asked her opinion of the new arrival, he received an insolent answer [ibid., p. 90).
All of the Prophet's Arab wives are said to have looked askance at the beautiful Jewish woman taken prisoner of war [ibid., p. 90). Backbiting and bragging matches involving a wife of Arab and another of Jewish descent are also recorded. For example, A'isha and Safiyya are said to have reviled each other's father (ibid., p. 56) until the Prophet reportedly suggested to Safiyya that she should have stood her ground by saying that "her father was Aaron, and Moses was her uncle" (ibid., p. 91). Muhammad's (other) wives are also said to have mocked Safiyya when she expressed the wish that God inflict the Prophet's illness upon herself in his stead; the Prophet is said to have censured them (ibid., p. 91). Such unseemly behavior is said to have included unwillingness to help a co-wife in need. Zaynab bint Jahsh, for instance, is said to have refused to lend one of her camels to Safiyya, whose mount had become defective. When the Prophet suggested this loan, she answered: "Should I give anything to this Jewess?" The Prophet is reported to have shown his displeasure by avoiding her for two or three months, until she had given up all hope of reconciliation, but he forgave her in the end (ibid., pp. 90-91). These and many other similar traditions, then, hinge on prejudice shown by the Prophet's Arab wives toward his Jewish consorts, but one may well understand their meaning and purpose in relation to larger and also later sociopolitical developments. Several of the reports indicate that the Prophet censured such behavior on the part of his wives of Quraysh descent. The traditions, then, may have some anti-tribal and also anti-Arab signification.
The theme of jealousy of the Prophet's wives appears in a set of curious traditions on marriages that the Prophet intended to conclude, or did conclude, with Arabian tribal women but which were dissolved before consummation. In all cases, the women under consideration were "strangers" (ghara'ib), that is, not of the Quraysh tribe or other tribes located in the area of Mecca and Medinah. A'isha is reported to have lamented the Prophet's desire to marry such strangers: "he has placed his hands on strangers, they are about to turn away his face from us" (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 104). It is related that the Prophet sent A'isha on a mission to "look over" a woman of the Kalb tribe to whom he had proposed marriage. A'isha declared her to be "nothing worthwhile," but the Prophet answered: "What you saw was, indeed, worthwhile; you saw a beauty spot on her cheek, and every hair of yours trembled (in apprehension)." A'isha then knew that nothing was concealed from the Prophet (ibid., p. 115). The explanation of the failure of this union by reason of A'isha's jealousy, however, is formulaic and does not make much sense. Ibn Sa'd furthermore reports on three instances in which a marriage of the Prophet with a tribal woman was dissolved before consummation by a repudiation formula, a'udhu billahi minka, "I seek refuge with God from you," pronounced by the woman. According to some of these traditions, the woman repeated the formula three times while the Prophet covered his head with his sleeve. In all cases, he released the woman and sent her back to her tribe. Fatima Mernissi sees in these traditions remnants of the Arab woman's pre-Islamic customary right to repudiate the man, a counterpart to her right to "bestow herself' (hiba). The Islamic Hadith, however, ascribes the dissolution of these marriages to the jealousies of Muhammad's established wives. It is A'isha and Hafsa who are said to have suggested use of the "formula of refuge" so that the new bride would "win the Prophet's favor".
Reportedly they used this ruse while preparing the beautiful Asma' bint al-Ma'mun of the Kinda tribe for her wedding night, "while one applied henna dye to her hands and the other combed her hair." Thereafter, "the Prophet walked on foot into (the new bride's) presence, then he dropped down on his knees, then reached for her to kiss her, as he used to do when he unveiled women, and she said: 'I take refuge with God from you;' he turned away from her with the words: 'you have certainly sought refuge,' and he jumped away from her, then gave orders ... to return her to her tribe."
Thereafter, when the Prophet was informed who had suggested that she utter these words, he said: "They are surely Joseph's companions [cf Qur'an, 12:28] and their cunning is enormous," while his anger showed in his face (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 103, 106).
Finally, the jealousy of the Prophet's wives emerges as the dominant theme in all reports on domestic and communal events involving the Prophet's concubine Marya the Copt, mother of his son Ibrahim. Her figure looms large in the interpretations of Qur'an, Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:28-29 ("the choice") and 66:1-5 ("censure of the woman who betrayed the secret"), which Qur'anic exegesis has consistently linked with disturbances in the Prophet's household brought on by intense sexual jealousy of the Prophet's wives toward this concubine. It appears that these reports, however, can likewise be read on several levels. Marya whose kunya (honorific title) was, of course, "Umm Ibrahim," is said to have pleased the Prophet because she was "white and beautiful, and her hair was curly." He lodged her in a piece of property later called "the loft of Umm Ibrahim" where he visited her frequently. Reportedly he imposed on her the hijab (segregation in the presence of strangers as imposed on the Prophet's wives by Qur'an, Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:53), surely to signal special status, even though she remained his concubine. Marya gave birth to Ibrahim in this loft. Salma, the Prophet's "client" woman, acted as midwife, and it was her husband Abu Rafi' who gave the Prophet the glad tidings of the birth of a son. Abu Rafi' was rewarded with the gift of a household slave. This is said to have occurred in the eighth year after the hijra (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 153).
As an afterthought to a long and detailed description of her feelings of intense sexual jealousy of Marya, a tradition from A'isha states: "then God gave the child from her, while He had deprived us of a child from him (the Prophet)" (ibid., p. 153). This phrase may give a clue to some otherwise unintelligible information on Marya found at the end of her "chapter" in Ibn Sa'd's Tabaqat. The traditions in question (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 154-155) appear to echo rumors that Ibrahim was not the Prophet's son but the progeny of a Copt who had taken refuge with Marya in her loft. The Hadith refutes this accusation without clearly stating it. Reportedly the Copt did household chores for Marya and the people gossiped that there was "an infidel man who has access to an infidel woman." The Prophet sent Ali ibn Abi Talib to investigate the matter. When Ali, sword in hand, approached the Copt, the man was either sitting on a date palm and threw his clothes away, or he climbed up on a date palm and his garment slipped off In either case, Ali saw him to be without genitals, "without a penis or testicles." Ali sheathed the sword and returned to the Prophet but he was worried (the implication being that he had not carried out an order to kill the man). He inquired whether "it was right to check with you first if one be commanded to do a thing but finds that things are different," and the Prophet said "yes." Another tradition indicates that the angel Gabriel came to the Prophet when Ibrahim was born and greeted him with the words: "Peace be upon you, father of Ibrahim; and the Prophet found reassurance in that." Thereafter, he is said to have given Marya her freedom with the words "her child has given her freedom," that is, he liberated her as his umm walad (ibid., pp. 154-155).
These reports may simply echo "hypocrite" manipulation of Medinan public opinion to the detriment of the Prophet. It is more likely that they hint at communal fears, shared by the Prophet's wives, that the birth of a male child of the Prophet by a foreign woman of Christian faith would have political consequences in the form of dynasty building or possible future Coptic influence in the Muslim community. The latter is suggested by another (although probably much later) tradition reported by Ibn Sa'd in Marya's "chapter" according to which the Prophet said: "Treat the Copts well. They have a covenant (dhimma) and also kinship. Their kinship is that the mother of Ishmael son of Abraham (i.e., Hagar) was one of them, and that the mother of Ibrahim son of the Prophet (i.e., Marya) was one of them" (ibid., p. 154). A historical political crisis as well as later Muslim-Coptic relations, then, may be part of the import of copious Hadith materials on the Prophet's wives' intense jealousy of this Coptic slave.
In the preceding examples the theme of wifely jealousy can be linked to a number of political, social, and legal developments that had occupied the early Muslim community. The image of the jealous wife, as transmitted and maintained by the traditionists, thereafter also served another purpose in that the Hadith in question promulgated (formulaic) character traits of the Mothers of the Believers that were consonant with medieval scholarly opinion of women's irrational/lower nature. The image remained in existence long after any "encoded" earlier information had been forgotten, and even though it was in contradiction to the symbolic themes of moral virtue and saintliness.
 Several traditions report that God favored His Prophet with sexual potency "the power of forty men" by sending Gabriel with a cooking pot that contained meat. The food enabled the Prophet to have sexual intercourse with his nine wives in a single night. He is said to have performed the ablution after each sexual act (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 140).
 The latter is reported of Sawda, an early wife whom the Prophet later wished to divorce until she begged him to retain her and gave her share of his time to A'isha (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 36-37, 43-44, 121-122). The Prophet is said to have prayed to God that He might accept such equitable sharing "regarding things over which I have control," and forgive partiality "in things which are under your control, not mine [i.e., the love of the heart)" (ibid, p. 121).
 On the women's family affiliations, cf the Qur'anic chapter of this segment, above.
 Ibn Hisham's notes to Ibn Ishaq (Ibn Ishaq, Lift) pp. 792-794. Cf Abbott, Aishah, pp. 82-176, 219. Safiyya, Muhammad's wife of Jewish descent, is also said to have been involved in early Islamic politics, but she is said to have been on the side of (the third caliph) Uthman whom she reportedly supplied with food and water during the siege of his house (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 91; cf Abbott, A'ishah, p. 122).
 Intercommunal tensions were largely contained by the Prophet during his lifetime, but erupted in three civil wars after his death. The main protagonists in the first military confrontation following the Prophet's death were A'isha (in alliance with Talha and al-Zubayr) against Ali ibn Abi Talib (husband of Fatima). The second, larger, civil war was a confrontation between Ali and the Umayyads. The third war involved the attempt of Abdallah ibn al-Zubayr [A'isha's "adopted son") to wrest the caliphate away from the Umayyads. His "counter caliphate" occurred after A'isha's death.
 Stern, quoting Well-hausen, points out that the term ghayra, "jealousy," denotes "feelings of the woman's male relatives toward her intended husband" and other manifestations of pride and jealousy of one's honor and position; simultaneously, of course, ghayra can also mean sexual jealousy between a man and a woman (Marriage, pp. 76-77), or jealousy of a woman toward another. Though not always clear in these texts, Arabic differentiates between ghayra min ("jealousy of a rival") and ghayra 'ala ("jealousy of/toward a loved one") (Marsot's comment on this manuscript).
 It is reported that she later repented and asked the Prophet to forgive this remark of hers which had been brought on by jealousy (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 67).
 The Prophet said: "Little blond one, what did you think of her?" She said: "I saw an ordinary Jewess." In another, similar tradition, the Prophet answers: "Do not say this, because she has become a good Muslim" (ibid., p. 90).
 Conversely, Ibn Sa'd reports two curious traditions according to which Safiyya, after declaring her long-standing love and desire for Islam, converted with the words: "You (Muhammad) have made me choose between kufr ["unbelief," here used to indicate Judaism] and Islam; God and His Apostle are more beloved to me than freedom (from slavery), or that I should return to my people" (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 88). These traditions reflect a strongly negative attitude toward Judaism which contradicts both the Qur'an and also the Shari'ah.
 Kalb, Kilab, Kinda, and Layth.
 Stern points out that marriages to women from distant tribes were not the norm in the Prophet's time. In his own case such betrothals, whether proposed by himself or the women's relatives or the women in question (hiba), motivated though they may have been by the desire for political alliances, reportedly did not lead to marriages (Marriage, pp. 151-152)
 Nisa', pp. 100-104, 106.
 One tradition reports that he also ordered "that she be given compensation" (wa-matti'ha) (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 104). (On this term in the Qur'an, cf. 2:236 and 33:28). The term mut'a is used in medieval Qur'anic exegesis in the meaning of a "severance fee" paid to a wife with whom marriage had not been consummated. Payable in money or in kind, it should not exceed one half of the woman's dower, "but not be less than five dirhams, because the smallest (permissible) dower is ten dirhams" (Zamakhshari, Kashshaf vol. 3, p. 423). Stern likewise argues against inferring from this term that this and similar marriages were of the mut'a (i.e., "temporary") type (Marriage, pp. 155-156).
 Beyond the Veil (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman, 1975) pp. 19-20.
 Mernissi is undoubtedly right when she says (ibid., pp. 19-20) that these episodes do not mean what they appear to mean on the surface. Later Muslim inability to imagine that the Prophet was "repudiated" and also, one would assume, the fact that the practice itself was no longer known demanded a different explanation of the events that was then found in the formulaic jealousy theme of Muhammad's wives.
 Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 104.
 Ibid, p. 104; this is said to have occurred in the ninth year after the hijra.
 Ibid., p. 103; Ibn Hisham in his notes to Ibn Ishaq (Ibn Ishaq, Life, p. 794) says that the Prophet "married (Asma' bint al-Nu'man al-Kindiyya) and found (her) to be suffering from leprosy and so returned her to her people with a suitable gift."
 The material on Marya is taken from Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 153-156; on Marya also cf. above.
 It was Islamic practice to manumit a female slave who had given birth to her master's child, especially if the child was a son.
 Cf. above.
 The Prophet's two sons by Khadija, al-Qasim and Abdallah, had both died in early childhood, so he was without a male heir until Ibrahim's birth. As it was, Ibrahim also died in infancy.
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