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Following Jews and limiting the maximum number of wives to 4

The polytheists, but democratic Romans were pioneers in ending polygamy, and their influence led to the Christians also abandoning the practice. Similarly, Jews were moving away from polygamy and attempting to restrict it to a maximum of four wives.

Shulchan Aruch by Yosef Karo (link):

"Paragraph 9 — A man may marry a number of women provided that he has the means to sustain them, and what we find is that the sages gave worthy suggestion that a man marry no more than four women so that he may fulfill his sexual obligation once a month. In a place where they are accustomed to only marry one woman they are not permitted to marry another woman."

Upon arriving in Medina, Muhammad incorporated several Jewish customs to appease the Jewish community. As a result, in the 3rd Hijri year, Muhammad implemented the restriction of having a maximum of four wives, following the revelation of verse 4:3. At that time, Muhammad himself already had four wives: Sawdah, 'Aisha, Hafsa, and Umm Salama.

However, this limitation on the number of wives posed a predicament for Muhammad when he found himself attracted to Zaynab, the wife of his adopted son, after seeing her while she was not properly dressed.

The 1st Role of Revelation about Zaynab bint Jahsh

Zayd, who was previously a slave, was adopted by Muhammad as his son. Later, Muhammad proposed to his cousin sister Zaynab that she marry Zayd. However, Zaynab expressed her disinterest in the proposal, as she came from a respected family and was considered a beautiful woman.

In response to Zaynab's refusal, Muhammad promptly claimed to receive a new revelation, which seemed to fulfill his own desire. This revelation implied that Zaynab had no further say in the matter and was compelled to abide by Muhammad's decision, despite her personal preferences.

(Quran 33:36):
It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.

Despite Muhammad's success in enforcing Zaynab's marriage to Zayd, their union was plagued by unhappiness. The circumstances deteriorated to such an extent that even Zayd himself desired to end the relationship.

Sahih Bukhari:
Zaid bin Haritha came to the Prophet complaining about his wife. The Prophet kept on saying (to him), "Be afraid of Allah and keep your wife."

The 2nd Role of Revelation when Muhammad fell in love with Zaynab

Initially, Zaynab was married to Zaid ibn Haritha, who was adopted by Muhammad as his son. One day, Muhammad went to Zaid's house seeking his counsel on a matter, but Zaid was absent. Unexpectedly, Zaynab, dressed in revealing attire, answered the door. It was at this moment that Muhammad developed a strong attraction towards her.

Using a revelation once again, Muhammad managed to marry Zaynab as his fifth wife, surpassing the earlier limit of four wives. Notably, Muhammad did not give Zaynab the option to consent to the marriage; instead, he claimed that Allah had already decreed their marriage in the heavens. This marriage occurred without Zaynab's consent, without the customary Haq-Mehr (bride price), and without any witnesses present.

Muslim historian al-Tabari recorded in his book (link):

The Messenger of God came to the house of Zayd b. Harithah. (Zayd was always called Zayd b. Muhammad.) Perhaps the Messenger of God missed him at that moment, so as to ask, “Where is Zayd?” He came to his residence to look for him but did not find him. Zaynab bt. Jash, Zayd’s wife, rose to meet him. Because she was dressed only in a shift, the Messenger of God turned away from her. She said: “He is not here, Messenger of God. Come in, you who are as dear to me as my father and mother!” The Messenger of God refused to enter. Zaynab had dressed in haste when she was told “the Messenger of God is at the door.” She jumped up in haste and excited the admiration of the Messenger of God, so that he turned away murmuring something that could scarcely be understood. However, he did say overtly: “Glory be to God the Almighty! Glory be to God, who causes the hearts to turn!” When Zayd came home, his wife told him that the Messenger of God had come to his house. Zayd said, “Why didn’t you ask him to come in?” He replied, “I asked him, but he refused.” “Did you hear him say anything?” he asked. She replied, “As he turned away, I heard him say: ‘Glory be to God the Almighty! Glory be to God, who causes hearts to turn!’”
So Zayd left, and having come to the Messenger of God, he said: “Messenger of God, I have heard that you came to my house. Why didn’t you go in, you who are as dear to me as my father and mother? Messenger of God, perhaps Zaynab has excited your admiration, and so I will separate myself from her.” Zayd could find no possible way to [approach] her after that day (i.e. to have sex with her). He would come to the Messenger of God and tell him so, but the Messenger of God would say to him, “Keep your wife.” When Zaid mentioned his intention to separate from Zainab to the prophet, the prophet told him, “Retain thou thy wife” even though the prophet desired that they separate so that he could marry her. Zayd separated from her and left her, and she became free.

Muhammad then claimed the revelation of the following verse, in which he tried to shift the blame from himself to the command of Allah. 

(Quran 33:37)
And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favor and you bestowed favor, "Keep your wife and fear Allah," while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. So, when Zayd had no longer any need for her, We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. 

Muhammad, being concerned about public perception, faced several reasons for apprehension:

  • Firstly, marrying one's daughter-in-law contradicted the moral standards of that society.
  • Secondly, Muhammad's utterance of the phrase "Glory be to God, who causes the hearts to turn!" upon leaving Zaynab was considered inappropriate and shameful, particularly towards his daughter-in-law.
  • Furthermore, Muhammad already had four wives at that time, and he had previously declared through a revelation that the maximum number of wives allowed was four, including himself.

Initially, Muhammad attempted to resolve and conceal the issue by advising Zayd not to divorce Zaynab. However, the matter eventually became public knowledge, exposing Muhammad's words.

Realizing that the issue could no longer be hidden and that his desire for Zaynab persisted, Muhammad resorted to the familiar approach of claiming a "Revelation" in order to take Zaynab as his fifth wife.

Islamic apologists present an argument that Allah intended to break the custom of prohibiting marriage with the wives of adopted sons during the era of ignorance, using this as a justification for Muhammad marrying Zaynab.

However, the Quran itself contradicts this excuse put forth by Islamic apologists. The Quran acknowledges that Muhammad's primary motivation was his personal desire for Zaynab. While the issue of marrying the wives of adopted sons was secondary, Muhammad did not need to carry it out practically. It would have been sufficient for him to communicate it orally, as he did with all other matters such as abstaining from alcohol or avoiding fornication. All of his companions (Sahaba) accepted his verbal instructions, so there was no reason why they would not have accepted his verbal instructions regarding the wives of adopted sons.

The 3rd Role of Revelation: Verse 33:38 declares that Allah commanded Muhammad to marry Zaynab

The matter of Muhammad falling in love with Zaynab raised significant doubts about his prophethood and his character. Its repercussions were so profound that Muhammad found himself resorting to repeated use of revelations to extricate himself from this uncomfortable situation.

In an effort to absolve himself of responsibility for this marriage, Muhammad went a step further and proclaimed that it was Allah who had ordained it upon him, attributing it to his predestined fate.

(Quran 33:38):
مَّا كَانَ عَلَى ٱلنَّبِىِّ مِنْ حَرَجٍ فِيمَا فَرَضَ ٱللَّهُ لَهُۥ ۖ سُنَّةَ ٱللَّهِ فِى ٱلَّذِينَ خَلَوْا۟ مِن قَبْلُ ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ ٱللَّهِ قَدَرًا مَّقْدُورًا
There is not to be upon the Prophet any discomfort concerning that which Allah has imposed upon him. [This is] the established practice of Allah with those [prophets] who have passed on before. And the commandment of Allah is certain destiny

The 4th Role of Revelation: The wedding took place directly in the heavens 

The process of marriage typically involves several steps, such as:

  1. The man proposing to the woman.
  2. The woman accepting the proposal.
  3. Agreeing upon the Haq-Mehr (bride price).
  4. Pronouncing the Nikah (marriage contract) with the consent of both parties.
  5. Having witnesses present to validate the marriage.
  6. Often followed by a wedding feast or celebration.

However, Muhammad's eagerness to marry Zaynab was such that he did not wait for the customary procedures, including obtaining proper consent, settling the Haq-Mehr, or having witnesses present. Instead, he directly entered Zaynab's room, asserting that Allah had already united them in marriage in the heavens.

Sahih Bukhari:
Zainab used to boast before the wives of the Prophet and used to say, "You were given in marriage by your families, while I was married (to the Prophet) by Allah from over seven Heavens."

Sahih Muslim:
When the 'Iddah of Zainab was over, Allah's Messenger said to Zaid to make a mention to her about him … Zaynab replied (to Zaid about the proposal): I do not do anything until I solicit the will of my Lord. So she stood at her place of worship and the (verse of) the Qur'an (pertaining to her marriage) were revealed, and Allah's Messenger came to her without permission (i.e. he entered her room without permission). 

The 5th Role of Revelation: Declaring Adopted Children are not part of the families 

More verses were then revealed to sweep away any doubt about the lawfulness of the marriage between Mohammed and his adoptive son’s wife. How did it work? That’s pretty simple: every adoption was called off and therefore Zayd’s status changed, from “adoptive son” to “former adoptive son”.

(Quran 33:40):
Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets

(Quran 33:4):
Allah has not made for a man two hearts in his interior. And He has not made your wives whom you declare unlawful your mothers. And he has not made your adopted sons your [true] sons. That is [merely] your saying by your mouths, but Allah says the truth, and He guides to the [right] way.

Ibn Kathir says in Tafsir of verse 33:4 (link):

Al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) narrated that ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said: "Zayd bin Muhammad, may Allah be pleased with him, the freed servant of the Messenger of Allah was ALWAYS CALLED Zayd bin Muhammad, UNTIL (the words of the) QUR'AN WERE REVEALED …
<Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers, that is more just with Allah.>"
This was also narrated by Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i. They used to deal with them as sons in every respect, including being alone with them as Mahrams and so on. Hence, Sahlah bint Suhaly, the wife of Abu Hudhayfah, may Allah be pleased with them both, said: "O Messenger of Allah! We used to call Salim our son, but Allah has revealed what He has revealed. He used to enter upon me, but I feel that Abu Hudhayfah does not like that." The Prophet said ...
((Breastfeed him and he will become your Mahram.))

The 6th Role of Revelation: Driving people out of his home quickly, so that he could enjoy Zaynab

Initially, Muhammad declared that Allah had already united him with Zaynab in celestial matrimony, enabling him to enter Zaynab's quarters directly, without the formalities of a marriage contract or witnesses.

Nevertheless, later on, Muhammad organized a marriage feast, known as the Walima. However, as the guests lingered in his house following the meal, Muhammad's desire to be with Zaynab again grew impatient.

When the guests overstayed their welcome, Muhammad promptly invoked a revelation once more, in order to hasten their departure from his residence.

(Quran 33:53):
O you who have believed, do not enter the houses of the Prophet except when you are permitted for a meal, without awaiting its readiness. But when you are invited, then enter; and when you have eaten, disperse without seeking to remain for conversation. Indeed, that [behavior] was troubling the Prophet, and he is shy of [dismissing] you. But Allah is not shy of the truth.

Also see this Hadith of Sahih Bukhari (link),  in which Anas recounts the aforementioned incident, including the revelation of the verse when people failed to promptly vacate the prophet's house after the meal.

The 7th Role of Revelation: Making marriage lawful for himself with women who presented themselves as a gift (Arabic: هبة)

Having already surpassed the limits of four wives in the case of Zaynab through the aid of revelation, Muhammad became aware of the immense potential these revelations held in fulfilling his desires.

Then, a captivating woman approached Muhammad and expressed her desire to offer herself as a gift (هبة). As a normal wife, one has some rights like Haq Mahr at the time of Nikah, and then Maintenance Money till she stays as a wife. And then Muhammad had to divide his time equally between them. But the women who gifted themselves to Muhammad, they didn't have any right to anything. In simpler terms, these women were solely intended for sexual services.

Muhammad found the proposition enticing.

However, a predicament arose. The restriction of having only four wives still remained, and Muhammad had not explicitly abrogated it for himself in the case of Zaynab.

Another complication emerged as well. 'Aisha and the other wives grew upset following the incident with Zaynab, and they expressed their anger towards Muhammad for taking another wife.

Nevertheless, Muhammad once again invoked revelation, disregarding the limitations of four wives, and declared all women who offered themselves as gifts permissible for him to marry. This time, Muhammad claimed that Quranic verses 33:50 and 33:52 were revealed to justify his actions.

(Quran 33:50) …  (O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you) any believing woman who presents her soul to the Prophet (as a gift), and if the Prophet also wishes to wed her;- [this is] only for you [O Muhammad], excluding the [other] believers. We certainly know what We have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and those their right hands possess, [but this is for you] in order that there will be upon you no discomfort.
(Quran 33:51) …..
(Quran 33:52) Not lawful to you, [O Muhammad], are [any additional] women after [this], nor [is it] for you to exchange them for [other] wives, even if their beauty were to please you, except the slave women.

As a result of this revelation:

  • Once again, Muhammad freed himself from the limitation of having only four wives.
  • Muhammad also cunningly ensured that other Muslim men were denied the opportunity to enjoy women who offered themselves as gifts, reserving such women exclusively for himself.
  • Another shrewd aspect of this revelation was the condition that Muhammad would only accept those women as gifts whom he found desirable. This meant that if a woman presented herself to Muhammad but did not meet his standards of beauty, he had the full right to reject such individuals.
  • Furthermore, Muhammad left the door open for engaging in sexual relations with slave women.
  • To appease his wives, including 'Aisha and the other wives, Muhammad also claimed that verse 33:52 was revealed, which prohibited him from marrying any additional women, even if their beauty pleased him, similar to how he was pleased by Zaynab's beauty and married her earlier. Through this verse, Muhammad conveyed that he would remain with his five permanent wives, along with women who presented themselves as gifts, and slave women. Nevertheless, at a later time, Muhammad abrogated verse 33:52 through the revelation of another verse, allowing him to marry women of all types without any restrictions.

In his commentary on verse 51 of Surah Al-Ahzab, according to Zamakhshari, he mentions 4 women who gave their bodies to Muhammad for sex (link):

وقيل الموهوبات أربع ميمونة بنت الحرث، وزينب بنت خزيمة أمّ المساكين الأنصارية، وأمّ شريك بنت جابر، وخولة بنت حكيم -

It is said that the four women, who gifted themselves to Muhammad, were: Maymunah bint Al-Harith, Zaynab bint Khuzayma (Umm Al-Masakin Al-Ansariyyah), Umm Sharik bint Jabir, and Khawlah bint Hakim

The revelation remained absent for an entire month during the allegations against 'Aisha, but miraculously appeared instantly when it came to fulfilling Muhammad's sexual desires.

Despite the presence of verse 33:52, Muhammad's wives, particularly 'Aisha, became enraged when he declared those women who presented themselves as gifts permissible for him.

'Aisha, in particular, expressed her strong displeasure by publicly shaming those women for their actions. Furthermore, she directly criticized Muhammad by sarcastically remarking that Allah promptly fulfills his sexual desires.

Sahih Bukhari:
Khaula bint Hakim was one of those ladies who presented themselves to the Prophet for marriage. `Aisha said, "Doesn't a lady feel ashamed for presenting herself to a man?" But when the Verse: "(O Muhammad) You may postpone (the turn of) any of them (your wives) that you please,' (33.51) was revealed, " `Aisha said, 'O Allah's Messenger! I do not see, but this, that your Lord hurries in pleasing you (by sending revelations quickly on the spot)' "

This proves that even ‘Aisha knew very well that Muhammad was making those revelations on his own. 

The 8th Role of Revelation: Muhammad made all types of women permissible for him to marry without any restrictions


  • Muhammad first limited himself to 4 wives.
  • But then he added Zaynab as his 5th wife. 
  • Then he added those women who presented themselves as a gift to him. 
  • But later he made all women lawful for him to marry and without any limits of any number (i.e. he abrogated verse 33:52 too). 

Subsequently, with Muhammad's rise to power in Medina, verse 33:52 remained an obstacle for him to pursue other women.

In response, Muhammad once again employed the familiar tactic of revelation and effectively abrogated verse 33:52 by claiming the revelation of a different verse. It is noteworthy that through this revelation, Muhammad seemingly manipulated and exerted control over his wives, coercing them to find contentment with what little he provided them.

(Quran 33:51) You, [O Muhammad], may put aside (from your wives) whom you will of them or take to yourself whom you will. And any that you desire of those [wives] from whom you had [temporarily] separated - there is no blame upon you [in returning her]. That is more suitable that your wives should be content and not grieve and that they should be satisfied with what you have given them - all of them. And Allah knows what is in your heart. And ever is Allah Knowing and Forbearing.

Please be aware that according to Muslim Quran Interpreters, verse 33:52 was originally revealed before verse 33:51, despite the current arrangement in the Quran where they appear in the opposite order.

Sunnan Tirmidhi and Sunnan Nisai:
حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ أَبِي عُمَرَ حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ بْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ عَنْ عَمْرٍو عَنْ عَطَائٍ قَالَ قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ مَا مَاتَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّی اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَتَّی أُحِلَّ لَهُ النِّسَائُ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَی هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ
It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: “The Messenger of Allah did not die until Allah permitted him to marry whatever women he wanted.”
Grade: Sahih (Authentic) Hadith

In Ibn Kathir's account, Umm Salama, another wife of Muhammad, confirms that all types of women became permissible for Muhammad to marry without any restrictions on the number. Additionally, Ibn Kathir documents that verse 33:52 was revealed prior to verse 33:51, as noted in his commentary.

Ibn Kathir writes under the commentary of verse 33:52:

قال الإمام أحمد حدثنا سفيان عن عمرو عن عطاء عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت ما مات رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم حتى أحل الله له النساء، ورواه أيضاً من حديث ابن جريج عن عطاء عن عبيد بن عمير عن عائشة، ورواه الترمذي والنسائي في سننيهما، وقال ابن أبي حاتم حدثنا أبو زرعة، حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن عبد الملك بن شيبة، حدثني عمر بن أبي بكر، حدثني المغيرة بن عبد الرحمن الحزامي عن أبي النضر مولى عمر بن عبيد الله عن عبد الله بن وهب بن زمعة عن أم سلمة أنها قالت لم يمت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم حتى أحل الله له أن يتزوج من النساء ما شاء، إلا ذات محرم، وذلك قول الله تعالى { تُرْجِى مَن تَشَآءُ مِنْهُنَّ } الآية، فجعلت هذه ناسخة للتي بعدها في التلاوة كآيتي عدة الوفاة في البقرة، الأولى ناسخة للتي بعدها، والله أعلم
‘Aisha said that Allah permitted him to marry whatever women he wanted before his death. Same is also narrated by Umm Salama. And the verse which is making women lawful to him is 33:51, which is although present earlier than verse 33:52, but it was revealed later than 33:52. This same thing happened in Surah Baqara too, where the new verse which is abrogating the older verse of Iddah (waiting period) is present earlier in order than the one which was abrogated. 

Consequently, with the revelation of verse 33:51, all restrictions were lifted, granting Muhammad the freedom to marry women in any quantity. This served as the pathway for Muhammad's journey from having four wives to eventually having nine.

Following this development, Muhammad married Juwayriyyah, Ramlah (Umm Habiba), Safiyyah, Maymunah, and various others.

The 9th Role of Revelation: Muhammad found a way to get rid of his old wife

As Muhammad grew stronger and wealthier in Medina, he began marrying multiple young and beautiful women, despite his own age ranging between 58 and 63 years. The women he married were generally between the ages of 17 and 35, making Muhammad double, triple, or even four times their age. Islamic traditions highlight that these women, such as Juwayria, Safiyyah, Rehana, Zaynab, and Umm Habiba, were not only young but also exceptionally beautiful.

However, Sawdah was the only wife of Muhammad who was older than the newlywed ladies, though still younger than Muhammad himself. In the presence of his young and attractive wives, Muhammad desired to part ways with Sawdah. Muhammad had married Sawdah in Mecca during a time of weakness and poverty when he faced opposition from the entire city.

To fulfill his wish of separating from Sawdah, Muhammad once again invoked revelation and claimed that Allah had sent the following verse:

(Quran 33:51) You, [O Muhammad], may put aside whom you will of them or take to yourself whom you will.

Therefore, after the revelation of this verse, the only wife whom Muhammad chose to divorce, was the old lady Sawdah. It was despite the fact that Sawdah was serving Muhammad from the time of Mecca, when Muhammad was poor and weak, while other wives were new, and they hardly lived with Muhammad for a few years in Medina. 

According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Verse 4:128), upon learning of Muhammad's intention to divorce her, Sawdah sought refuge in 'Aisha's house. When Muhammad arrived, Sawdah expressed her willingness to give up her turn to 'Aisha but pleaded with him not to divorce her. Muhammad readily agreed and promptly claimed the revelation of the following verse:

(Quran 4:128-129) And if a woman fears from her husband contempt or evasion, there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them (i.e. woman agrees upon leaving some of her rights) … And you will never be able to do Justice (Arabic: تَعْدِلُوْا) between wives, even if you should strive [to do so].

Furthermore, do you notice the contradiction? Previously, the author of the Quran (Muhammad) had established the condition of justice ('adl) for having multiple wives (Quran 4:3). However, in this particular verse (Quran 4:128-129), he permits a husband to manipulate his wives by threatening divorce, thus pressuring them into relinquishing their rights in the name of a settlement. This undermines the requirement of justice, as the husband retains control over the right to divorce, resulting in settlements that consistently favor him.

(Quran 4:3) If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.

Practically, the verse (Quran 4:128-129) has abrogated the verse of doing justice among multiple wives.

This verse, about usurping the rights of women by blackmailing them, is the base upon which the institution of Misyaar marriage is constructed. And women are openly abused in Misyaar marriage in Arab countries (source). 

The 10th Role of Revelation: Muhammad deprived his wives of the right to equal time and their turns

In verse 4:3, Muhammad initially established the condition that husbands must divide their time equally among their four wives, ensuring each wife had her designated turn.

However, he later invoked verse 33:51 to completely exempt himself from this condition, without seeking any consent from his wives.

In the commentary of verse  33:51, Ibn Kathir writes:

{ تُرْجِى مَن تَشَآءُ مِنْهُنَّ } الآية، أي من أزواجك، لا حرج عليك أن تترك القسم لهن، فتقدم من شئت، وتؤخر من شئت، وتجامع من شئت، وتترك من شئت، هكذا يروى عن ابن عباس ومجاهد والحسن وقتادة وأبي رزين وعبد الرحمن بن زيد بن أسلم وغيرهم
Allah’s saying in Quran (i.e. You can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them,) means, 'your wives: there is no sin on you if you stop dividing your time equally between them, and delay the turn of one of them and bring forward the turn of another as you wish, and you have intercourse with one and not another as you wish.' This was narrated from Ibn 'Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Abu Razin, 'Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam and others.

Consequently, not only Sawdah but all of Muhammad's wives lost their entitlement to equal time and turns.

The 11th Role of Revelation: Making slave-woman Mariyah again lawful for himself (for sexual intercourse) through the Revelation

Muhammad had 9 wives and 21 slave women (Source: Ibn Kathir). One of them was Maria. She was a beautiful lady, and 'Aisha was jealous of her. 

Maulana Maudodi recorded in his Tafhim under the commentary of verse 66:1:

Hafidh Ibn Hajr recorded this saying of Hadirhat 'Aisha in his book al-Asaba: "The arrival of any other wife of the prophet did not displease me as much as the arrival of Maria did, because she was beautiful and charming, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) was very fond of her."

Muhammad followed a rotational schedule to visit each of his wives. On one such occasion, it was Hafsa's turn, but she had temporarily left to visit her father. Upon her return, Hafsa discovered Muhammad engaged in sexual relations with his slave woman, Maria, in her room. This incident deeply upset Hafsa, prompting Muhammad to swear an oath to refrain from further relations with Maria in order to regain Hafsa's happiness. However, Muhammad requested that Hafsa keep this matter confidential.

Nevertheless, Hafsa shared the incident with 'Aisha, and it is possible that 'Aisha later observed Muhammad breaking his promise by continuing a discreet relationship with Maria.

Sunan Nisai, Hadith 3959:

It was narrated from Anas, that the Messenger of Allah had a female slave with whom he had intercourse, but 'Aishah and Hafsah would not leave him alone until he said that she was forbidden for him. Then Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, revealed: "O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you.' until the end of the Verse.
Grade: Sahih (authentic)

In response to that, Muhammad's anger surged, prompting him to assert the revelation of the following verses:

(Quran 66:1-4):
O Prophet, why do you forbid what Allah has made lawful for you? Is it to please your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Allah has prescribed for you a way for the absolution of your oaths (i.e. the Prophet can make Mariyah permissible again for himself through this process). And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise. And [remember] when the Prophet confided to one of his wives a statement; and when she informed [another] of it and Allah showed it to him, he made known part of it and ignored a part. And when he informed her about it, she said, "Who told you this?" He said, "I was informed by the Knowing, the Acquainted." If you two [wives] repent to Allah, [it is best], for your hearts have deviated. But if you cooperate against him - then indeed Allah is his protector, and Gabriel and the righteous of the believers and the angels, moreover, are [his] assistants. Perhaps his Lord, if he divorced you [all], would substitute for him wives better than you - submitting [to Allah], believing, devoutly obedient, repentant, worshipping, and traveling - [ones] previously married and virgins

Therefore, Muhammad achieved the following goals through this revelation:

  • He succeeded in making beautiful and young Mariyah again permissible for him. 
  • He succeeded in threatening his wives so that they feared him and never dared to criticize and put any restrictions on his sexual activities. 
  • He also taunted them that they were not VIRGINGS. Also, the threat was that Muhammad could divorce all of them and would get a lot more new wives who were better than them in every regard. 

Muhammad also had four concubines with whom he engaged in sexual relations

Ibn al-Qayyim recorded in his book Zaad al-Ma’aad (link):

قال أبو عبيدة : كان له أربع : مارية وهي أم ولده إبراهيم ، وريحانة وجارية أخرى جميلة أصابها في بعض السبي ، وجارية وهبتها له زينب بنت جحش .

Abu ‘Ubaydah said: He had four (concubines): Mariyah, who was the mother of his son Ibraaheem; Rayhaanah; another beautiful slave woman whom he acquired as a prisoner of war; and a slave woman who was given to him by Zaynab bint Jahsh. 

Please read more details here

It is important to note that Muhammad's living quarters were limited as he had a small house attached to the mosque. Due to the lack of space, there was no room for additional concubines. However, on one occasion, Muhammad engaged in sexual relations with Mariyah in Hafsa's room. Hafsa unexpectedly returned and discovered them together. This incident ignited her anger, leading her to inform Aisha as well. Consequently, both Hafsa and Aisha prevented Muhammad from being alone with Maria, prompting Muhammad to make a solemn oath not to have sexual relations with her.

Sunan Nisai, Hadith 3959:

It was narrated from Anas, that the Messenger of Allah had a female slave with whom he had intercourse, but 'Aishah and Hafsah would not leave him alone until he said that she was forbidden for him. Then Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, revealed: "O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you.' until the end of the Verse.
Grade: Sahih (authentic)


16 Special Privileges, which Muhammad reserved for himself through Revelation

Al-Qurtubi is a famous Quranic Scholar. He lists those 16 special privileges, which Muhammad reserved only for himself through revelation, including the right to take another man’s wife if he so desired:

  • First: To be fair with the spoils.
  • Second: To (forcefully) take a fifth of a fifth or just a fifth (of the spoils of war).
  • Third: "Al Wisal" (Dimitrius- the fast or fasting. This usually refers to fasting or abstaining from food.)
  • Fourth: To take more than four women.
  • Fifth: To marry, "Yas-tan-kih" (or have intercourse), with a woman who verbally pronounces her dedication (to the prophet).
  • Sixth: To marry, "Yas-tan-kih," without the presence (or permission) of a legal guardian.
  • Seventh: To marry, "Yas-tan-kih," without a dowry.
  • Eighth: To marry (and have intercourse) during a state of ritual consecration and purification.
  • Ninth: The annulment of an oath he may make to his wives.
  • Tenth: If Muhammad looks at a woman (and desires her) THEN IT IS NECESSARY FOR HER HUSBAND TO DIVORCE HER AND FOR MUHAMMAD TO MARRY HER. Ibn Al A’raby said, "This is what the servant of the two holy mosques has also said, as was clear to the scholars FROM THE STORY OF ZAID which also had this meaning."
  • Eleventh: That the prophet released Safiyyah (from her captured status) and he considered her release as her dowry.
  • Twelfth: To enter Mecca without being in a state of ritual purification.
  • Thirteenth: To fight in Mecca.
  • Fourteenth: That he is not inherited by anyone at all. This was mentioned in the oath of absolution for when a man approaches death due to illness, most of his possessions are taken away, so that he does not have more than a third left for him. But the possessions of the prophet remained for him, as is evidenced in the verse of inheritance and in Surat Mariam.
  • Fifteenth: His marriage is still considered effective after his death (i.e. his widows were not allowed to marry any other man after him).
  • Sixteenth: If he divorces a woman, she remains prohibited to everyone and may not be married, to someone else.