The Prophet's Wives in Early Hadith Hagiography
The Hadith collections that include the traditions on Muhammad's (Peace be upon him) wives' human frailties also contain reports of miraculous events that studded the women's lives. These occurrences, to be sure, always involve the Prophet, and it is in their relationships with him that the women are granted miraculous experiences or abilities.
The traditions relate such an event in connection with Muhammad's first wife, Khadija bint al-Khuwaylid, said to have occurred during her participation in a popular annual pagan celebration for the women of Mecca that centered around an idol in the shape of a man. This idol began to speak and predicted that a prophet by the name of "Ahmad" would be sent with God's message, and "whichever woman can become a wife to him should do so." While the (other) pagan women pelted the idol with stones, denounced it, and "barked at it," Khadija paid attention to the idol's words and did not treat it as the women did (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 9). Khadija was the Quraysh "merchant woman of dignity and wealth" who hired Muhammad to trade on her behalf in Syria. It is reported that she heard about the miraculous events that occurred on this journey, and that it was because of this information that she asked him to marry her.
Ibn Sa'd reports on dream visions experienced by most of Muhammad's other wives prior to their marriage to the Prophet. Sawda, while still married to her previous husband, dreamt that Muhammad approached her and "placed his foot on her neck," also that a moon hurled itself upon her from the sky while she lay prostrate (ibid., pp. 38-39). When Umm Habiba and her husband lived as temporary refugees in Abyssinia, she had a dream in which she saw her husband disfigured; on the following morning she learned that he had "left Islam" and (some say, again) embraced Christianity. When she rebuked him, he took to drink and died soon afterwards. Then she heard a dream voice addressing her as "Mother of the Believers," and on the following morning the Negus (ruler of Abyssinia) informed her that the Prophet had written a letter asking for her hand in marriage (ibid., p. 68). Similar dreams are reported of Safiyya, the woman of Jewish descent from Khaybar. She is said to have told her Jewish relatives: "I saw as if I were (sic) with him who thinks that God sent him, while an angel covered us with his wings," but then they dealt harshly with her (ibid., p. 87). She also dreamt of "a moon that drew close from Yathrib  until it fell into my lap," to which her Jewish husband replied "you want to be married to that king who is coming from Medinah" and hit her in the face; the mark was still visible when the Prophet married her after the conquest of Khaybar (ibid., p. 86).
With A'isha, it was not she but the Prophet who is said to have been favored with a sign. Reportedly, Muhammad asked Abu Bakr for A'isha's hand in marriage only after the Angel Gabriel had shown him a picture of A'isha (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 44); according to another account, Gabriel showed him the infant A'isha in her cradle as his future bride and befitting substitute for Khadija, a divine favor to lessen his grief over Khadija's death (ibid., p. 54). Among the wives, it was only A'isha in whose company Muhammad is said to have received revelations (ibid., pp. 43-44). Some traditions report that A'isha could even see the Angel on these occasions and exchanged salutations with him (ibid., pp. 44, 46), while others say that she could not see him but that she and the Angel greeted each other through the Prophet (ibid., pp. 46-47, 55). Zaynab bint Jahsh, in turn, was miraculously blessed by God when the food the Prophet's servant Anas ibn Malik had prepared for her wedding feast multiplied until it sufficed to feed seventy-one guests, possibly even seventy-two (ibid., pp. 74, 125).
The Hadith establishes that all of Muhammad's terrestrial wives will be his consorts in paradise (e.g., ibid., pp. 44-45, 58, 76). Indeed, the Angel commanded the Prophet to take Hafsa bint Umar back after he had divorced her, saying that she was a righteous woman and would be his wife in heaven (ibid., p. 58). In A'isha's case, the Angel even showed the dying Prophet her image in paradise to make his death easier with the promise of their reunion in the hereafter (ibid., p. 45). It was the desire to be resurrected at judgment day as a member of the Prophet's household that led Sawda to implore the Prophet not to divorce her; she wanted no part of men or husbands in this world, she said, but yearned to be his consort in heaven, and therefore offered to assign "her day" with him to A'isha in her stead (ibid., pp. 36-37). The first of the wives to join the Prophet in heaven was Zaynab bint Jahsh. Muhammad had predicted this when he said that the wife who had "the longest arm" would arrive there soon after him. The women later comprehended that by "longarmedness" he had meant "charity" because the first to die after him was the charitable Zaynab bint Jahsh (ibid., p. 76).
Traditions of this genre, then, are of inspirational character. In the sample narratives just quoted, the Prophet's wives are depicted as divinely favored individuals lifted high above the realm and ranks of ordinary womankind. God's grace surrounds them because they are His Prophet's chosen consorts. A close reading of the sort attempted above, however, could perhaps find in this hagiographic material a typological resemblance with the Prophet's wives as "ordinary women." The material suggests that one of its functions may have been to elevate the Prophet's wives individually but also unequally (in a sort of competition for miracles). This, in turn, would suggest that such traditions, prestige building as they undoubtedly were, may originally have had a political dimension. What remained when the latter had fallen into oblivion was the linkage between the Prophet's wives' wondrous experiences and their exemplary morality.
The Prophets Wives as Paragons of Virtue,
And Precedent-Setting Models for All Women
A large segment of the Hadith depicts the Mothers of the Believers as models of piety and righteousness, whose every act exemplifies their commitment to establish God's order on earth by personal example. Their battlefields are not the plains of war on which Muslim men fight against infidel armies but involve the struggle to implement and safeguard Islamic norms and values. Indeed, the traditions on the women's personal comportment, dress, performance of ritual and worship, and the like must largely be read as (para-) legal texts in that their intended meaning is normative, not descriptive. Each recorded detail represents a facet of Sunnah-in-the-making, while their sum reflects the proliferation of categories of acceptable, forbidden, or value-neutral behavior first debated and then promulgated in early Islamic law. This process, then, involved a dynamic spiral of mutual reinforcement of its two constituent components, that is, the principle of these women's righteousness on the one hand, and their function as categorical norm-setters on the other. This is especially clear in the traditions which deal with modesty, veiling, and seclusion. Here, the Prophet's wives are depicted both as models and enforcers of the then newly imposed Qur'anic norms. It is reported, for instance, that A'isha ripped off the thin, transparent khimar ("kerchief") her niece Hafsa wore in her presence; "she chastised her, reminded her of the modesty-verse of the 'Surah of the Light' (Surah An-Nur, 24:31), and clad her in a thick cloth" (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 49-50). A'isha is said to have worn the "veil" in public at all times, even as a little girl before she had reached puberty (but after the Prophet had asked for her hand in marriage) (ibid., pp. 40, 54). Indeed, the Hadith-in concert with the Qur'anic text-establishes that the invisibility of the Prophet's wives went beyond restrictions placed upon Muslim women in general. Thus it reports that when the Prophet returned to Medinah from the Khaybar expedition, he shared his camel with his war captive Safiyya whom he had wrapped in his rida'("cloak") from the top of her head to the bottoms of her feet; no one, so the story continues, dared to look at her when the camel stumbled and threw off its riders, until the Prophet had replaced the wrap (ibid., pp. 86-89). During prayer, A'isha was heavily clad in a dii' ("chemise"), jilbab ("mantle," "cloak"), and khimar ("kerchief"), and she performed the circumambulation (tawaf) of the Ka'ba in a niqab ("head veil") (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 49). During prayers, Maymuna is likewise said to have worn a khimar ("kerchief"), but no izar("wrap") (ibid., p. 98). 
The Prophet's wives were scrupulous in hiding behind the hijab (enjoined upon them by the revelation of Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:53) in the presence of individuals who did not belong to the "exempt groups" defined in Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:55. A'isha, for instance, is said to have secluded herself (behind the screen) from Hasan and Husayn, the Prophet's grandchildren (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 50). She also hid behind the partition in the presence of a blind man, Ishaq al-A'ma, saying that although he could not see her, she nevertheless could see him (ibid., p. 47). During travels, the Prophet's wives were secluded in camel litters so unrevealing and undistinguishable that even the Prophet mistook one woman's litter for that of another (ibid., p. 67). In A'isha's case, her litter was once moved on even though she was not inside it, as related in the "affair of the lie" (al-ifk) mentioned above.
 The origins of "miracle-relating traditions" are generally ascribed to the qussas, early Islamic story-tellers (e.g., Stern, Marriage, p. 13). Juynboll traces the beginnings of their profession into the period of the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab (634644). The edifying material they spread was, according to Juynboll, the 'proto-hadith' in that it was devoid of Shari’ah-related information on the halal (lawful) and haram (forbidden). Cf Muslim Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 11-17. On hagiographic and legal Hadith, cf above.
 Ibn Ishaq, Life, pp. 82-83. In popular legend, Khadija's miraculous experiences are more numerous. Jan Knappert quotes a Swahili poem describing Khadija's dream prior to her first meeting with Muhammad in which she saw the full moon falling into her lap whence its light shone out across all the countries of the world. The learned monk Bahira interpreted the dream as symbolizing her upcoming marriage with the future Prophet. Khadija also witnessed "the sign" of Muhammad's protection against the hot desert sun by means of a cloud that was, in reality, an angel's wings; she perceived this while sitting on the roof of her three-story house on the Northern outskirts of Mecca and watching her caravan's return. When Khadija had proposed marriage to Muhammad who was too poor to provide her with a mahr (bridegift), the angel Gabriel brought precious gems from heaven for her mahr. Khadija's kafan (burial shroud) was woven by angels and she received it from the hands of Gabriel. Before Khadija died, the Prophet told her where she would find him on judgment day, and he assured her that she would be with him in paradise (Islamic Legends, vol. 1 [Leiden: Brill, 1985], pp. 192-197).
 Wati'a 'ala 'unqiha; the verb wati'a when transitive means "to have intercourse" (with a woman).
 The old name of Medina.
 In a Swahili folk version, A'isha's picture is painted by the angels, then Gabriel gives it to the Prophet with the words: "God tells you that she shall be your future wife" (Knappert, Legends, p. 199).
 In some lengthy traditions, A'isha herself gives an account of miraculous and other special events that distinguished her life and signified her "superiority over the (other) wives of the Prophet." They were: "that the Prophet was married to no other virgin but me; that only my parents both made the hijra; that God revealed my innocence [after 'the affair of the lie,' see above]; that Gabriel brought him my picture from heaven and said: 'marry her, she is your woman;' that he and I did our ablutions in the same vessel, which he did with no other wife but me; that he used to pray while I lay stretched out in front of him, which he did with no other wife but me; that he used to receive revelations while in my company, which did not occur in the presence of another wife but me; that he died while lying between my lungs and my throat; that he died during the night in which he was wont to make his rounds to me; and that he was buried in my house" (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp 43-44).
 Muslim popular piety has continued to embrace, and embellish upon, this hagiographic mode.
 The term here used in Ibn Sa'd (Nisa', p. 40) for an article, or a manner, of clothing is hijab. As presented above, traditional exegesis has understood the term hijab [Qur'an, Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:53) as a "curtain" to ensure the segregation of the Prophet's wives from strangers. The term may also have denoted the concept of segregation and other instruments to achieve it. Its use to signify articles of women's clothing, most notably the veil, is not Qur’anic but documented in the Hadith. Cf. below.
 Obligatory seclusion/invisibility (subsumed under hijab) emerges as the primary Hadith criterion to distinguish the Prophet's wives from his concubines. To this is added "the sharing," the women's right to a share of the Prophet's time on an established and regular basis and/or their right to an established share of annual provisions, mainly dates from Khaybar. Occasionally, the criterion of "the choosing," i.e., the women's choice of God and His Prophet over the world and its adornment (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:2829) is also included (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 91-93).
 This story is noteworthy for two reasons: 1. Safiyya's "invisibility" is here clearly used as proof of her wifely status, and 2. the hijab concept of Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:53 (domestic seclusion) has been extended to include "concealment" when outside of the house. A similar legal point is made in the traditions that maintain that Hafsa bint Umar wore the jilbab ("mantle") in the presence of her maternal uncles (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 48). As indicated in Qur'an, Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:55, paternal and maternal uncles were not included among the blood relatives given the right to deal with the Prophet's consorts face-to-face rather than from behind a partition (hijab). Traditions such as these, then, are further examples of the merging of the hijab verses of 33:53 and 33:55 with clothing restrictions, here the jilbab ("mantle") verse of Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:59.
 Similar (clearly normative) traditions exist on other wives of the Prophet [cf, e.g., Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 98-99). The Hadith is here silent on whether A'isha performed her prayers with the community or in private (as Islamic law especially of the Hanbali School later "preferred" for Muslim women). A tradition indicating the Prophet's wives' participation in communal prayers is found in Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 37) where it is reported that Muhammad's wife Sawda, a tall and large woman, complained to the Prophet about the speed with which he performed the rak'as (ritual prayer movements) and said that she was afraid it would give her a nose bleed; the Prophet is reported to have been very amused.
 Abu Hanifa and Malik ibn Anas considered this seclusion supererogatory, since they reckoned a husband's grandsons among the dhawu mahram (individuals to whom marriage is forbidden, hence seclusion not necessary) (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', p. 50; cf p. 127).
 According to some other traditions, it was the Prophet who commanded his wives to remain behind the hijab in the blind man's presence (Ibn Sa'd, Nisa', pp. 8, 126, 128; also cf Stern, Marriage, pp. 118-119).
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