"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 33

Sura 33 - al-Ahzab

I gather from reading this sura that it was revealed sometime after Muhammad became a religious celebrity in the community because it's quite a collection of rules for the people concerning Muhammad's wives and family and also instructions for Muhammad's wives in regard to their conduct, keeping themselves separated from the community at large and also a prohibition from ever remarrying. While remarriage is acceptable in Islam for those who have lost spouses, an exception was given for Muhammad's family. This is not the only exception facing this household as we all know unlike other Muslim men who were limited to only marrying four women, Muhammad was allowed to marry any woman willing to become his wife. And apparently his adopted son's wife desired to marry him. This created quite a stir in the community because they had a set of societal norms that a dad didn't marry his son's wife. Conveniently a revelation was given by God to free Muhammad from any perceived wrongdoing. God declared adoption illegal, therefore, in reality Muhammad's adoption was invalid rendering adopted son as no relative. Adopted son's wife was now merely friend's wife. Therefore, she was OK to marry. Personally I have huge ethical and moral problems with this whole scenario, but who am I to question how God wanted to treat this most-favored man who ever walked the earth?

I wanted to say a few things about adoption and also fathers.

4. God has not provided two hearts in the breast of a man, nor made your wives, whom you pronounce "mothers" (in order to divorce them), your real mothers, nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons. This is only what your lips pronounce. God says what is just, and shows the right way.

5. Call them by the names of their fathers. This is the right course in the sight of God. If you do not know their fathers, they are then your brothers in religion and your friends. It will not be a sin if you make a mistake, unless you do so intentionally; for God is forgiving and kind.

First about fathers. I'd like to make the case that a "father" is not a mere man who impregnates a woman. Any fool can do this. A father is a man who loves, cares for, provides for, nurtures and guides a child. Ideally the same father who biologically-produced a child would do these wonderful things, however, this is not always the case. Men often enjoy the act of creating life, but don't love the act of caring and providing for that same life. Therefore a biological "father" isn't necessarily worthy for his "child" carrying on his name.

And about adoption which relates to the "father" thing somewhat. I have many friends who have adopted children, some from as far away as China, Vietnam, Korea and Guatemala whereas a few have adopted children domestically. I applaud them for opening their hearts and lives and making these non-blood related people their true children. It's not one of these situations where they feel these children are not their own simply because they don't share the same bloodline. One may accidentally become pregnant, but no one is accidentally adopted. Parents lovingly open their lives and hearts to children who need families. It's often a very costly, involved and time-consuming process. It's not something to lightly dismiss. I've heard a little saying about an adopted child asking her mom the difference between being adopted and being born into a family. The mother lovingly and wisely explained in little-child terms that you didn't grow in my tummy; you grew in my heart.

The Bible tells us to care for orphans and many people have taken this to heart by adopting children who have no "forever families" and caring for them as their own. Why is adoption so important to me? Besides the physical side as I've already discussed, the Bible teaches that we are adopted into God's family!

See this:

Romans 8

14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

John 1

12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

Galatians 3

26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 4

4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

I remember a few years back when I was talking to a Muslim friend who insisted that being a "slave of Allah" was better than being a "child of God." Muslim friend said being a slave was more desirable and a better and closer position than being a son or daughter. To that I replied with bemusement, "What planet do you live on?!" All in good fun of course, but in what world does a slave have more rights and privileges and more relationship and love than a child? In what world does a slave, servant, maid or even the person next door have more love and rights bestowed on him than a parent gives his own child? It's an honor and privilege for God to choose us to be not a mere slave, but a child of His whom He can love, protect, provide for and guide. Yes, we should serve God with our lives, however, the relationship is that of Father and daughter or Father and son. Not merely a relationship of Master and slave.

41. O you who believe, remember God a great deal, 42. And sing His praises morning and evening. 43. It is He who sends His blessings on you, as (do) His angels, that He may lead you out of darkness into light, for He is benevolent to the believers.

Loved this! See again singing praises to God is good so Muslims who think singing is haram aren't reading their own Quran! :)


Carmen said...

Very true, most men can create a child, not all are worthy of being called father because of how they love and nurture and care for a child.

I love the picture you painted through Scripture of adoption and how it shows us what great love comes from adoption.


Susanne said...

Thanks, Carmen. I really enjoyed writing this post. I find adoption special especially when the Bible likens it to our relationship with God. Imagine God loving us enough to make us part of His forever family! Exciting stuff! :)

I appreciate your comment as always!

Suroor said...

Well done, Susie :) Very balanced approach to this most difficult surah. Bravo!

I find the whole adoption thing very difficult to digest. There are so many abandoned children who are adopted and it is very difficult in Islam. I know a woman who had to induce lactation (very painful!) so she could feed her adopted child just so he would be mahram! Milk-kinship and adoption in Islam is very difficult to understand.

I can see benefits, many benefits of telling the child s/he is adopted although I would like to give the adopted child some part of the inheritance. We have such elaborate inheritance laws in Islam; surely a verse about a small portion for adopted children would have done no harm. And speaking of harm, even with the elaborate inheritance system everyone is not always happy so I don't think giving something to someone who lived all their life with you as your child would have been so bad; it would have been noble.

In any case, all these points about adoption could have been made without the marriage between Muhammad and Zainab. Every rule doesn't need an example through marriage.

I think some Christians do take offense being called slaves of God perhaps because of Galatians 4:8 - you are slaves of false gods and when you know God, the Truth, you are freed from slavery. So in essence perhaps, to a Christian anyone who claims to be a slave is worshiping a false god. Is that true?

Abdullah means slave of Al-Lah (the highest God) and it was NOT an Islamic name having existed for centuries before Islam. Muhammad's father's name was Abdullah and he was a pagan and died even before Muhammad was born so he died as a pagan. Just an interesting fact.

Angela said...

Just wanted to thank you for stopping by. ((hugs))

Sarah said...

You've done a good job with this post! As you know this surah was very difficult for me. It seems to give Muhammad privileges and power. I could not understand why his wives could not be allowed to remarry, I don't think there's any way of understanding that that makes it reasonable. I'll be genuinely interested to see what responses you get.

While the adoption rules might have some benefits, they are not perfect IMHO and so it was difficult to accept this was from God. Even harder was to accept God ordaining the marriage with Zainab just to make this point. How does it add to the point?? We know Muhammad was already very attracted to Zainab so as you say this irrational directive from God was just too convenient.

As Suroor said "Every rule doesn't need an example through marriage." LOOOL!

Suroor said...

@Sarah, I heard someone explaining that it was necessary that his wives never remarry so that they could teach/preach Islam and if they had remarried no one would have taken them seriously as someone else's wife! Or they would have been influenced by their new husbands to preach something different from the truth!! Or if they had children from their new husbands those would have become the children of the mothers of the Believers!!!

@Susanne, I forgot to mention that regarding 33:52, the Prophet was prohibited according to the Quran to marry again (in 5AH) but he went on to marry a few more times after this verse. It is believed that he was very happy when his wives chose to stay with him and not be divorced and hence he said this verse was revealed as a reward for them.This verse also very clearly explains that Right Hand Possessions were not wives. He was banned from taking on more wives but he could still keep as many concubines as he wanted.

I can understand how important it was at least in Muhammad's case to ensure that everyone knew that Zaid was NOT his real son. In a culture where the son became the natural inheritor of the throne, it was necessary to explain that so that later Zaid would not automatically become the next Sheikh-of-sorts. That is understandable. But did it help? We have Shiaism as the living proof that it didn't work - they traced the lineage through Fatima.

Sarah said...

@Suroor - I've heard similar things, but the verse says it would be an "enormity in the sight of Allah" for his wives to remarry, and it is connected in the passage with them having to talk to men from behind a screen and men being told not to offend Muhammad. It's hard to conclude it was about anything other than protecting Muhammad's sensitivities.

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...

haha adoption is not illegal, however in islam, unless a woman has breast fed a child, then he is not her son, and since a man cannot do this then his adopted son cannot be considered his son, these things are important and their distinctions important islamically , because as you may know if a woman and her partner have adopted a child, and the child grows up she is required to cover from him, she would not cover from her own son, so literally treating your adopted son as your real son and depriving him of what in islam is considered to be his real father, would not work, although i agree about any man making a child in islam strong emphasis is put on parents, Paradise lies under the feet of your mother is what we have been told since forever, the islamic stance on this topic is , the fact that your parents are your parents means they have more rights on you then you can imagine and you can never ever repay them, especially your mother (due to physically giving birth to you), besides god they are the whole reason for your excistence from the islamic point of view, therefore the stance on not wanting to deprive adopted sons of their real fathers name, however islam is not against the caring of orphans and promises those who care for orphans to be close to the prophet in paradise, as you continue reading the quran you will know about this, i couldnt help but feel you didnt try to see this surah from all angles
peace and love
naz :)
oo btw singing is not haram in silam when the prophet made hijra to medina they sang the nasheed dalal badru for him, however foul words etc is sinful , praising Allah is always welcome :D

Susanne said...

Suroor, I agree the milk kinship thing is hard to understand. In fact, it's just weird. Did you read Susie of Arabia's post about that re: grown men recently? I don't even think people can make up that stuff! Crazy!

I'm not against telling children they are adopted. In fact I think it's wise to let them know from the beginning. There's no shame in it. The adoption I think about is when you make a child YOUR child with full rights as YOUR child including YOUR inheritance. So the inheriting laws just factor in Mary or Jake as your CHILD not an adopted child, but a CHILD. One accepted into your house and loved with full rights and privileges.

"In any case, all these points about adoption could have been made without the marriage between Muhammad and Zainab. Every rule doesn't need an example through marriage. "

Ha! Well, we know the real reason is that Muhammad just wanted to marry the woman! Adoption had nothing to do with it except that societal norms would have made people question his prophethood if he did something so scandalous! The adoption thing was a mere casualty of Muhammad's coveting his adopted son's wife. Hey, what do you know? "Thou shalt not covet" -- part of Moses' ten commandments from God should have come into play here, huh?

"I think some Christians do take offense being called slaves of God perhaps because of Galatians 4:8 - you are slaves of false gods and when you know God, the Truth, you are freed from slavery. So in essence perhaps, to a Christian anyone who claims to be a slave is worshiping a false god. Is that true?"

I've never heard that, but it's a wonderful way to look at it! I love it! :-) By as a matter of fact Paul sometimes refers to himself as a slave or bondservant of Christ because he (Paul) was sold out to telling people about him (Christ). However, my argument is that why settle for being a slave, when God has made us children by HIS grace..not our goodness? Yes, we can serve God and others and WE SHOULD, however, can we not enjoy our positions of being children loved by God instead of mere slaves? Slaves has such a negative connotation to me. Like someone the Master tolerates for work sake. Whereas being a *child* - wow! And GOD would do this for us? INCREDIBLE! Why settle then for merely being a slave when GOD has set us free? Yes, it's true that we are freed from the bondage of sin. Jesus said, "The truth will set you free" and "when the truth sets you free, you are indeed free." So maybe truth has a name. Like maybe God. So why be slaves when God has set us free?

Yes, that was very interesting about Abdullah and it's pre-Islamic roots! Thanks much for sharing that. I always enjoy those interesting tidbits that you share. :)

Susanne said...

Angela, you're welcome. Hugs!

Susanne said...

Sarah, thanks for your comment! Yes, I knew this sura was also difficult for you. :)

"We know Muhammad was already very attracted to Zainab so as you say this irrational directive from God was just too convenient."

Exactly! There are too many revelations from God that are too convenient for my tastes -- and strongly influence my ability to believe in the Quran and thusly Muhammad. I like leaders who lead by example not exception to the rules. :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, glad you came back with more - wow!

"He was banned from taking on more wives but he could still keep as many concubines as he wanted. "

This certainly makes the news more easy for me to swallow. *ahem*

"In a culture where the son became the natural inheritor of the throne, it was necessary to explain that so that later Zaid would not automatically become the next Sheikh-of-sorts. That is understandable."

Aha! Thanks for explaining that!

Re: Muhammad's wives not being able to remarry, didn't someone say it was because they were the "mothers of the believers" and by marrying one of the followers of Islam they would in a way be marrying one of their spiritual children? You'd think that whole anti-adoption rule would have shown that wasn't the case. :)

Susanne said...

Naz, thanks for explaining what you did about mothers and fathers' roles as it relates to adoption. I suppose I am just looking at it from an American point of view in the 21st century so I fail to see things as clearly as you. So I appreciate your willingness to share some things with me.

I am just reading the suras and, yeah, I know I have my own biases and not looking at things from all angles. But that is where commenters like you can help me see something that I am blind to seeing. So thank you for your help in this matter! :)

Thanks for the clarification about singing! I have heard some Muslims talk about music being haram so I was just pointing it out that I see singing in the Quran. :) I agree that we shouldn't see about dirty things, but praising God is always good.

I appreciate your comments!

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...

Your so sweet, i am not a scholar but i will try my best to exlplain as much as i can, i honestly enjoy your points and think they are valid, i was just trying to explain , because sometimes some of the things may sound harsh etc but theres a oint behind it, and requires background knowledge of other stuff first, like me and my bible studies i am getting to know who is who first lol :)

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susanne said...

Naz, you're so cute! :) Yeah, now you know about Rachel! Ha, ha! Thanks for your help! I really appreciate you and your good attitude! :D

Durriyyah said...

We should understand the marriage of Muhammed (pbuh) to his wives within context. This was not some sexual gratification or fame that he profited from. He married women that were far older than him as they needed support. Each one of these women provide an example to us women on how to conduct our lives. Without getting into a very lengthy discussion, I just think that we should understand the marriage as no less sacred than the marriages other prophets had. These were not men who were trying to be the "big man on the block"… they had a much higher purpose, and if we look for that, we can not help but find it.

About adoption - being a foster parent within Islam is highly recommended and there is incredible blessing with it. The rule is that you can not take a child into your care and ignore the fact that they have a blood line elsewhere as well. There are a number of reasons for this. First, they need to know who is their blood brother/sister/aunt/etc so they don't marry them on accident! This would be very traumatizing and we hear stories of this in our current times, which becomes more disturbing when we find that a brother and sister have kids together. Also, they may have other family that wants to keep in contact with them.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The best house of Muslims is one where an orphan is cared for.”

When it comes to marrying his adopted family member, this is another instance showing that we do not create blood lines simply by giving someone our name. We confuse the biological order of things and it becomes a man-made line, not of something naturally occurring.

I think being called a slave of Allah/God is taken in the perspective of the one hearing it. It can be hard to understand coming from an American's point of view, but it is along the same lines of God working through us.

Allah says in the Hadith Qudsi: ‘And when I love My servant I become his hearing with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he touches and his feet with which he walks’

-This- is being God's servant. Oh how wonderful it would be to be in this state. :)

Suroor said...

Durriya, I always enjoy reading your comments to Susanne. They offer great insight and thought. I agree with you completely on the adoption thing. In a small community like early Islam’s it was essential to allow orphans to know they bloodline. I think in the end it was more like caring for orphans and loving them but also ensuring they knew they were not family. Personally (as someone who has adopted people in her extended family) I would have liked a middle path but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with the adoption rules in Islam.

Regarding – “He married women that were far older than him as they needed support” – I wouldn’t agree with that. The only two women out of his 13 wives/concubines that were older than him were Sauda and Khadeejah. Khadeejah was far older than him but Sauda was only a year older than him when they got married – she was a widow and was 50 years old so she was an old woman but he was old too. In fact, Muhammad was far older (he was 52+ years old when he began marrying more women) than most of his wives:

Aisha - 9 (virgin)
Hafsa - 22
Zainab bint Khuzaima - 30
Umm-I-Salma - 26
Zainab Bint Jahash – 33
Juwaeria - 20
Umm-I-Habiba - 33
Mary Qibtiya - 17 (virgin)
Safia - 17
Raihana - 17 (virgin)
Maimuna 36

I agree that most of his wives were widows, but they were widows because of Muslim battles. At least three of them were widows of men killed *by* Muslims, the rest were widows of Muslims killed by non-Muslims. Aisha was also not the only virgin woman. He had two virgin slaves. His oldest (in age) wife was Maimuna (36) but when she was married to him he was 59 years old so even then he was much older than her (by 23 years) than Khadeejah was older than him (by 15 years) when they got married.

"Each one of these women provide an example to us women on how to conduct our lives."

I don't know about this either. How much do we know about the lives of Maimuna or Rayhana or Mary or Ramlah for them to be used as examples on how to conduct our lives.

The only Muslim I have heard who never apologises for Muhammad’s marriages is Reza Aslan. He openly said in his book that Arabs loved women; mutah, misyar, concubinage etc (for whatever period) existed because men couldn’t live without regular sex. He writes that most marriages created bonds between Muhammad and the tribes but it can’t be denied that there was a sensual side to it *as well.* I understand that rather than the argument that his wives were old and weak women who wanted support. I don’t even know when his wives being older than him myth started because I certainly grew up hearing that.

My basic point is that no Muslim should, after 1400 years, try to apologise for the Prophet's marriages. Yes, he married many times but that has little to do with his mission.

Durriyyah said...

"My basic point is that no Muslim should, after 1400 years, try to apologise for the Prophet's marriages. Yes, he married many times but that has little to do with his mission."

I totally agree with this! Unfortunately, it is the arguments against his marriages that is the #1 factor people use to try and discredit his mission and the Message. From what I've read, it (slander and distorting things) is the same tactic used to discredit Jesus (pbuh) as well. This is oh-so-effective all throughout time.

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, I guess I just don't see Muhammad's marriages in the same light as you. I'm NOT just picking on Muhammad. I don't like ANY man who is this way really. I still can't see how anyone could try to condone what Muhammad did in lusting after his adoptive son's wife and marrying her. That's just wrong.

Thanks for your thoughts on adoption and fostering children as that makes some sense to me back then.

Susanne said...

Suroor, thanks for what you added about Muhammad's "old wives." I don't understand why Muslims wrongly keep saying he only married widows and divorced women and OLD women when this is not the case for the majority of his wives. As you said they should just admit Muhammad loved sex and God graciously let him marry and marry and marry and marry even more than all other men and stop making excuses for his lust. NO one has to prove to me of Mu's perfection. I see clearly he was a sinner just like the rest of us!

And yeah that wasn't his message...you're right. I should stop judging his message on how he lived, but i have huge problems when revelations are given so conveniently to benefit MUHAMMAD over everyone else! How nice is that? Muhammad reveals a "holy book" that just so happen to raise his stature in the community PLUS gives him privileges no one else has. Heck yeah, I have a problem with that! If I wrote my own 'holy book' that did the same, I'd want YOU to question ME *and my message* as well! How convenient!

Sorry, this sura still boils my blood apparently! I think my blood pressure just raised ten points - blah!

Suroor said...

Durriyyah and Susanne,

I think knowledge should always be a quest for truth. If the truth is that Muhammad’s wives were not old, then they were not old. But Arab psychology is that any woman who is older than 22 years is *old* and a spinster :-D The word used for a spinster actually means an old and therefore barren she-camel :-D so, maybe that is where these stories started? Or maybe the reason is that Muslims can’t accept that prophets could be selfish or wrong? However, it is not true that these women were older than Muhammad and I wouldn’t call them old either because even his eldest wife was 23 years younger than him when they got married. According to Arab standards most may have been *old* but the fact is he was older and was old too. Besides he had three virgin wife/slaves not just one as is often claimed. Plus, most of his wives were not already widowed; they lost their husbands in battles and one was divorced for him. When we twist truth it makes us doubtful and hence the criticism.

Susanne, I strongly believe his marriages have nothing to do with his *mission* but unfortunately it became part of his *message* which is where the problem lies. The Quran has several references to his marriages; I don’t understand why they had to be included in the Quran. Muslims believe that the Prophet was constantly guided by Allah; not everything is in the Quran – much became part of hadith Al-Qudsi. Even if his marriages were declared/managed/supported/maintained by the Divine, did they need to be part of the Quran? We thus move it from the realm of the social to that of the religious. When it becomes part of the religious we can’t avoid criticism and we therefore have to defend it.

My two more pence :D

Susanne said...

Suroor, thanks for your additional thoughts. I see what you are saying, but FOR ME it boils down to this:

When an unknown person all of a sudden claims to be getting messages from God, I am suspect.

When said unknown man starts getting privileges ONLY for himself from the same "divine messages," I am REALLY suspect.

If he had a mission of promoting God and NOT himself, I wouldn't have near the problems I have with him. Muhammad himself detracts from the message for me. He could have said, "God is one. Live well. Strive hard. Love others. Be just" and THAT would seem more like a godly message.

But when "divine revelations" conveniently come just when Muhammad needs to clear his name among the people PLUS they offer him privileges...then no.

Don't start bringing me a message that puts YOU ahead of me and then say you have messages from God and I'm supposed to just bow down to you and believe your nonsense that privileges you over the masses.

Nope, nada, sorry, Mu!

sarah said...

Susanne, I thought I'd take a look here after you mentioned these comments in your earlier posts. I can only add my own perspective.

1) adoption.
As i understand it adoption is allowed in Islam and is a good thing with the caveat that the child should know about its parents. The proviso is also given that 'mistakes' are not a sin (i guess where the father is not known). But the Muslim model of society is that Muslims should marry, it is not within the laws of Islam that a couple should have intercourse without marriage there should not be illegitimate children who don't know their father. Orphans are a different category and have had their rights clearly laid out in the Quran.

As for the statement about ;real' fathers this is just a matter of biology not of intent of behaviour. Prophet Muhammad actually did raise Zaid like a son and was called Abu Zaid so this verse must actually have been hard for him, going against his practices. Zaid's father actually came to 'get' him but Zaid refused to leave with him, preferring to stay with the Prophet. It is just saying that children have a right to know who their father's are. The fact that many adopted children do search for their birth parents does not diminish the good works of their adoptive parents but it does show that there is some inner desire for children to know their origins. Nowadays many countries have laws where even children from sperm donors have a right to contact their father's which confirms what is said here.

2) Marriage to Zaynab.
The Prophet Muhammad arranged and recomended the marriage between Zaynab and Zaid against her initial wishes. She was from an aristocratic family and he was a freed slave. But on the insistance of the prophet they agreed and married. However, Zaynab could not reconcile to life with Zaid or live with him in happiness. As a result she asked for a divorce. Feeling responsible for having insisted on the marriage the prophet married her himself to make ammends for this act. Why would he not have just married her before himself if he really was only consumed with lust? If their marriage was happy it would have caused him great pain to see pain on Zaid whom he always treated and regarded as a son. It makes no sense that he married her just for lust. He was trying to demonstrate that an Islamic society teaches equality for all and so he arranged the marriage between his own cousin and a freed slave. As his cousin Zaynab was well known to him and as cousin marriages were common in those days he could have married her in the first instance if he wished.

sarah said...

3) Polygamy and exceptions.
It is clear that Muhammad did not have 'more' wives than everybody else of his time. When the verse on 4 wives was revealed it is also with the caveat 'except what has already passed' meaning that men who already had more than 4 wives were not required to divorce them. The men did not stand up and welcome this verse, rather they saw it as a restriction as practice at that time it was common to have multiple wives.

Women at the time were often taken as 'booty' in wars and terretorial skirmishes. They were then given to the conquerors as their property. Islam outlawed this and said that men must marry women not take them against their will.

Several of the wives came to Islam through being prisoners or if their husbands had been killed. Prophet Muhammad, in marrying them was showing that they should be given the financial, religious and social status of a wife rather than just be a possession. This was actually an improvement on the pre-Islamic treatment of them. He was also trying to integrate the mixed society of Islam by marrying from a diverse range of women.

If he was merely a lustful man as is alleged by many then he would not have married them as he then became responsible for their welfare and upkeep. He also would have married all virgins and chosen the best for himself. This is not what he did.

Why was he allowed to marry more? Exceptions were given to the Prophet and to his wives in some cases. His marriages were meant as a demonstration of how society was supposed to function best. Perhaps this is why the exception was granted.

4) Wives not remarrying.
It is already mentioned that the wives of the prophet were 'harrassed' or 'molested' and this is why they were asked to cover their faces. If they were being harassed while living under the protection of the Prophet Muhammad imagine how much worse this would have been had they later married someone else. They would also have been going from a high status to a lower one. The prophet also said he was the best of men in the treatment of his wives. If this was so - they wouldn't have been able to find a better man to marry.

Sorry that the post is so long! These are just some of the ideas that spring to my mind.

Susanne said...

Sarah, I appreciate your thorough reply. How nice of you to read my post and offer your thoughts. :)

Yes, I understand better some of the reasons for the adoption rules of Islam. I erroneously perhaps thought of people I know who have adopted from other countries where knowing their child's biological parents was out of the question. I can see why a small Arabian community would need rules. I had more of the problem with this revelation coming about because Muhammad's action was scandalous in the community. Maybe you find it noble for him to marry the lady because she was having problems with her husband, I don't see it the same way. Maybe because I've heard different tellings of this story and it was more desire on their parts rather than noble duty. But I guess that's beside the point. What's done is done.

" The prophet also said he was the best of men in the treatment of his wives. If this was so - they wouldn't have been able to find a better man to marry."

What a boast for Muhammad to make! How did he know he was the best? I guess God gave him another convenient revelation telling him he was the best stud in the barn. I still think it's contemptible that his wives couldn't remarry after he died. Maybe they would have chosen to remain single, but maybe not. As it stands they were not given a choice. I still don't like men coming with "new revelations from God" that favor THEM over the common people. I will not accept such a person. Nope, what's good for the commoners is good for the prophets. Lead me by example not exceptions to the rules.

Thanks for your comments on this topic! Sorry I'm such a bear on this one. It is just the sura I hated the very most! I can't stand people who give themselves privileges and say they are from God while the common people have to obey the rules. :-/

sarah said...

Susanne, thanks for the reply. I enjoyed your perspective. I did a bit of reading and found that the Prophet married all his wives (except khadijah) in the early years in Medina. During this time he was engaged in fighting, etc so he really had not much 'power' or stability of authority over the people except the Muslims. After about 7 A.H. he did not marry anyone else even after he did defeat the Quraish and become ruler of Mecca. So really these women took a great risk in marrying him and standing by him throughout the trials. They were rewarded by being called 'mothers of the faithful' and given a high status amongst the Muslims.
Surah 33 also gives them the choice to leave him if they like and after they all quickly agreed they wished to remain married the prophet Muhammad and he was not allowed to divorce them or take new wives after this(v52).

On the subject of prophets having special privileges, i think this is always the case. The burden on them is greater because they are charged with standing up for truth against the current trend and for delivering a message which most people dont want to hear. It is clear that all prophets will face trials. But the privileges prophet Muhammad took were not material or worldly. Clearly the wives here are asked to chose between worldly comforts and marriage with the prophet. He took no money and riches for himself.

Also, in the case of Jesus he was given an exemption opposite from Muhammad. He was required not to marry at all. This is an interesting difference.

The quote about being the best husband is not a revelation just a hadith so it is the opinion of the prophet Muhammad. But to me it is not strange. He should have been the best in his behaviour. If al Muslims are to mirror his conduct then it should be the best. Any prophet should always be an exemplar.

Susanne said...

Sarah, thanks for putting up with me! :) You are sweet. I enjoyed your perspectives very much!

"On the subject of prophets having special privileges, i think this is always the case."

I will rack my brain to see if this rings true about the Jewish prophets of which I am familiar. I can't think of this being true, however, I never thought of Jesus not marrying being a privilege. Maybe not being stuck with a wife IS a great exemption! (evil laugh) Especially if she were a wife like me! :-D :-D

" He took no money and riches for himself. "

Well, you know better than I since you are familiar with the hadith, too, but I do recall that Muhammad was given a lot of the war booty when I read the Quran. Unless I misread it. It seems he got a lot and a lot was given to the needy (which I liked the latter).

I'm glad his wives chose to be faithful to him. I hold marriage as something lasting and sacred and feel we should not divorce over silly things.

"Any prophet should always be an exemplar. "

I agree. This is why I picked the best one for my example! :)

Thanks again for your reply! I enjoyed your thoughts greatly!

Susanne said...

Sarah, one last thing. You said

"Clearly the wives here are asked to chose between worldly comforts and marriage with the prophet. He took no money and riches for himself. "

so I'm curious how all his widowed wives survived once Muhammad died. Surely he was a very wealthy man by the time he died, no? Otherwise his wives should have married so they wouldn't be destitute. Is this not one reason Allah allowed polygyny? So the widows and orphans could be cared for?

The quran awarded him a sizable chunk of war booty, yet you say he took no riches for himself?

Just curious! Thoughts?

sarah said...

Susanne, The Prophet Muhammad used to keep 1/5 of the booty for the functioning of the state. This money was given to the poor, widows, orphans and needy, etc.

At the fall of Mecca he actually distributed money to the Meccans and they harassed and badgered him until he said that he had nothing left to give - except the 1/5 which was used for the state.

It is known that the prophet lived a very austere lifestyle. His rooms, clothes, foods, etc were simple. Even the companions commented on this but he chose to live without worldly trappings. This is what his wives were complaining about as the subject matter of surah 33. They wanted more comforts but they were given the choice to stay as it was or leave.

As for after his death, some of the wives were independently wealthy so had some resources of their own. Others had children who would have supported them or other relatives. OPther than this the mechanism of state made a provision for widows and they may have had access to this if they needed.

Interestingly, the Prophet Muhammad instructed that Muslims should not as individuals give charity to his wives after his death as it may become a trend and that the charity should first of all be for the needy. Not to be given because of status or relationship to him.

Sarah said...

Sura 33:50-52 explicitly states that marrying more wives was a privilege for Muhammad.

"...And [We have made lawful to thee] the daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and the daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who have migrated with thee [to Yathrib]; and any believing woman who offers herself freely to the Prophet and whom the Prophet might be willing to wed: [this latter being but] a privilege for thee, and not for other believers – [seeing that] We have already made known what We have enjoined upon them with regard to their wives and those whom their right hands may possess..." [Asad]

I don't know why Muslims dream up these other ideas about the marriages formal tribal alliances and setting examples. It's almost as if a privilege from God is not a good enough reason...

Re adoption, my main concern is that because of the modesty requirements, it becomes very difficult and awkward to live with adopted children once they reach puberty. They cannot be alone with the opposite-sex members of the family, no matter if they were adopted as an infant and would never be attracted to them. That just defies common sense, never mind how sad it is that an adopted child once grown up could never relax at home with family, and how much of a hindrance this is to adoption in the first place.

Susanne said...

Sarah, thanks for what you shared. I suppose I was under the wrong impression since I'd heard Muhammad's wives had their own quarters, their own servants/slaves and he owned date farms and such. That sounds wealthy to me, but maybe for back then that was simply the norm.

Also he couldn't have married so many women if he didn't have the means to afford their upkeep, right? Surely Muhammad didn't live in squalor and keep on marrying. What example would this be to the people?

As for his widows' children supporting his wives, I thought his sons died very young and the responsibility for supporting mothers is usually given to the sons, right? That's the whole reason for the sons to be given more inheritance from what I've heard others say. So I suppose Muhammad's daughters had to upkeep their own moms? Hopefully Mu's widows had agreeable sons in law. I'm guessing they did since Muhammad was such a "celebrity" among his people.

Thanks for what you shared as I've found our discussion helping in learning new things! I appreciate your taking time to share your thoughts. :)

Susanne said...

Original Sarah...ha, ha!

Maybe Muslims should just say yes, God gave Muhammad special privileges and stop telling us it was for alliance purposes or to help out some poor widow or divorcee. I guess they don't want to do this because it's very suspect for a man to come with a message from God that supports HIS every whim! I mean, how convenient is that? God-approved special privileges from a book that, well, vouches for MY prophethood.

This is why FOR ME, I stress that a good leader leads by example, not exceptions. Muhammad claims to be the leader for the Muslims and most muslims follow every thing he did even is bathroom habits! So why did he not simply restrain himself and only marry 4 wives just as every other Muslim man had to do? THIS would have been the "perfect" example more so than what he did. Plus he could have saved himself and all those wives all the stress that we read about in the Quran and much, much more I'm sure in the hadiths.

I agree about the adoption issues you mentioned. I can't imagine raising a child from say, the toddler years and him being MY son in every sense of the word with the exception of my carrying him for 9 months and pushing him out of me,suddenly become no better really than a stranger in the covering/not covering department. This means that child was never fully part of my family. I see so many adoptive families here and they love and adore the children they adopted and they are as much their TRUE children as ones they conceived, carried and birthed. And their siblings are true siblings as if they were conceived from the same parents. Suddenly become "strangers" at puberty wouldn't even cross their minds as they are fully brothers and sisters. This is the adoption I have in mind when I speak of it in my notes here.

Thanks for your added thoughts on this matter! Interesting discussion!

Sarah said...

It is suspect. And it wouldn't be a very kind God that would subject these women to the inevitable domestic drama that Muhammad's freedoms caused them, which spills over into the pages of the Quran time and again. So yeah, I guess that's why. ;o)

Suroor said...

Biblical prophets were not paupers. As a Muslim I would be offended if Muhammad died penniless. That would be an insult to someone who established Yathrib as Medina, ruled over the people as a prophet AND a sheikh (refer to the charter of Medina), wrote letters to heads of states and asked them to surrender to his power (refer to the last couple of letters he wrote especially the one he wrote to the two Brothers of Oman) and *conquered* Mecca.

Last year someone gifted me a book that has pictures of Arab leaders from the early 20th century. These men were richer than ALL the other people in their area – they had camels and horses and slaves and weapons. But you should see their homes. I have been to preserved forts and my maid sleeps on better beds. I think I’ll scan and put up photos to really create the illustration. The rooms had bare minimum stuff – one wooden bed with a base made from rope; a box for clothes and a mirror.

We are talking about 1400 years ago – do we expect the rich men to have audio-visual latest gadgets, blackberries and Malaysian wood furniture? Of course when Muhammad died he had nothing like that, but he owned gardens and farms, Arabian horses and camels; he owned all of Khaiber and Fadak. He was the sheikh of Medina. The friction between Shias and Sunnis began with Abu Bakr refusing to give Khaiber to Fatima as the Prophet’s inheritance.

When Saifya died she left 40,000 Dirhams for her Jewish nephew. How do you expect a prisoner of war whom the Prophet freed and married to have 40,000 Dirhams? Even I don’t have that much money 1400 years later!

Each of the Prophet’s wives had her own quarters; that is true. It doesn’t matter how small or big they were but that they were built for them. In fact Mary the Copt used to live in the suburbs of Medina (because the wives didn’t like her) adjacent to a date farm that belonged to Muhammad. There are ahadith that when Mary bore him a son he bought several milk-yielding sheep for the child upon which Aisha retorted that any child fed on so much fresh milk would be as fat as him.

We should also remember that when he married Zainab the celebrations ran days and the entire city of Medina was invited for valima dinner and several sheep were slaughtered for them.

There is also a hadith that once Fatima went to ask her father for a slave to help her with grinding wheat since she found out that he had just received “many” new slaves, but the Prophet refused to give one to her and instead asked her to pray to Allah. However, each of his wives had their own slaves and maids as well as cooks. When he died he left behind 12 captive slaves. The Prophet helped with housework and milked his sheep and mended his shoes too, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have several servants and slaves. A person’s greatness comes NOT from the fact that he was his own cobbler because he had no slaves, but that he had slaves and chose to mend his own shoes.

It is true that he saw very bad times when he was moving from Mecca to Medina, but he was a rich man in Mecca (because of his wife Khadeejah) and he was a prophet and the sheikh in Medina. I think him being a poor man are legends that have basis in ascetic thought of Asia. Asian people respect monks who leave everything for God; something Islam warns against severely. How can we think that the Prophet then would have denied the bounties of God? That would be so ungrateful and a wrong example. If we believe his entire life was the best example, we can’t believe that he gave up everything in charity.

Susanne said...

Sarah, Suroor, thanks for what you added.

I just finished reading the Quran the other day and these verses from Sura 93, I supposed was speaking of Muhammad.

6. Did He not find you an orphan and take care of you?
 7. Did He not find you perplexed, and show you the way?
 8. Did He not find you poor and enrich you?

So if God said He "enriched" Muhammad (vs 8), I guess Muhammad was wealthy somehow. And, Suroor, from what you shared it seems he was indeed blessed.

NOTHING at all wrong with that. Abraham was a very wealthy man! I can't even recall why we got talking about Muhammad's riches or lack. But interesting discussion, nevertheless! :)