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Question text

Why was a Quranic verse sent down addressing the Prophet that it was not necessary for him to observe his wives' turns? You can draw one of them close to yourself and push back the other one as and when you wish. It is not clear as to why God grants such permission to His Prophet who must be the model of observance of complete justice in the treatment of all of his wives whereas other men are allowed to marry up to four wives only on the condition that they should maintain justice. I wonder how ordinary men can be better than the Messenger of God who has not been able to treat his wives with justice and equity.


Visits 224 categorization: Interpreting Qur’anic Verses
Answer

Based on what is inferred from religious sources, the marriages of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) have been on account of certain cultural, emotional, political, social and religious expediencies. Considering that the Prophet was faced with many government-related problems and some of his wives were creating hurdles and difficulties for him inside his house, God, the Exalted, lifted the necessity of respecting turns between his wives so as to solace him and to lessen his problems. Hence it became permissible for him not to respect turns due to governmental problems, if he wanted. In addition, his wives also consented to this divine command. Despite that, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) took turns amongst his wives' even when he was extremely sick. And when he intended to go on a journey, he used to draw lots among his wives and would take with him the one on whom the lot fell. He would not take the one whom he was more inclined to. This shows that the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) treated his wives with justice and if some of his wives were disgruntled, it was not because the Prophet did not respect turns, rather it was because of their own moral problem. That was why, they hatched a conspiracy against the Prophet and they regretted when their conspiracy did not work. It should be noted that the obligation of doing justice between one's wives does not relate to equal distribution of love between them because one does not have much control on the inclinations of the heart. In fact, what the Quran and the traditions explain relates to sharing the bed, food and clothing.

Detailed Answer
Before we may deal with the answer to the question, it is necessary that we should clarify the meaning of 'justice'. Literally, al- 'Adalah (justice) is moderation and middle position between two modes of high and low, and two sides of exaggeration and short­fall [1] and it implies equity. [2]
'Adalah in the technical sense has a wide range of meanings because one often finds different definitions and diverse explanations of this word, depending on diversity of the scholars and their ways. For example, the scholars of ethics have said that 'adalah is the psychological aspect or deep-rooted trait of character which prevents a person from committing major sins irrespective of whether people see it or do not see it but the faculty of 'adalah in Fiqh is other than what is called 'adalah in Ethics. The 'adalah of Fiqh is not to pretend committing a sin in public, although he may be committing a sin in secret. In other words, one may be considered as 'adil (just) in Fiqh but he may not be considered as 'adil in Ethics. [3]
Now what is the meaning of doing justice between wives? Does it relate to living matters such sharing the bed, means of living, tranquility and comfort or does it have anything to do with one's human sentiments and love which is a matter of the heart?
Without doubt, justice in the sense of love is out of one's control. Who can control the inclinations of his heart that is affected by factors external to it? Since the inclinations are uncontrollable, God has not made this kind of justice mandatory. The Holy Quran says in Sura Nisa verse 129: "And you have it not in your power to do justice between wives, even though you may wish (it)." [4] According to exegetes of the Quran, not having it in one's power to do justice relates to dividing one's inner love. Therefore, Allah explains here that justice between the wives in its true sense - to stand exactly in the middle of the extremes - is beyond human power even if one may wish it. What a man is obliged to do is that he should not be totally inclined to one of them, leaving the other one as it were in suspense; that is, she does not feel as if she has a husband because she gets no attention from him, nor is she free of marriage so that she may marry someone else and go her own way. It is wajib (necessary) on the husband to do justice between his wives, that is, he should treat all of them in equal manner and should fulfill their rights without excessiveness. And it is recommended for him to do good to all of them without showing any dislike to any of them and without subjecting any of them to ill-treatment.
When it comes to the behavior of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) with his wives, it is necessary to make mention of the following points:
1 - The first marriage of the Prophet (pbuh) was with Khadijatul Kubra (a.s.) whom he lived with for more than twenty years (about one third of his life). Thirteen years of this time period in which Khadija was the only wife of the Prophet (pbuh) was before Hijra (migration from Makkah to Medina). Khadija died in Makkah when the Prophet had not yet migrated to Medina. When he had no wife, he migrated to Medina and started preaching and propagating the religion of Islam. He was fifty years old when he married women some of whom were young and virgin and some aged and widowed. All of these marriages took place within a time period of about ten years. After these marriages all women were forbidden to him except those who were in matrimonial contract with him. Obviously, such an action with these features can never be justified with the motivation of love for women because associating with women during the last period of his life, a time when one does not have the desire and thirst for such things, could not have been with that motive. [5]
2 - The Messenger of God (pbuh) married some of his wives to gain power and the support of their relatives and tribesmen. He married some others to placate and appease their relatives so as to protect himself against their actions. He married some others to provide them with their needs and means of livelihood and to teach a lesson to others to take care of poor, old and helpless women. He wanted to tell others to follow suit by doing what he had done. The Prophet married some others to fight and invalidate the traditions of the period of ignorance. His marriage with Zaynab daughter of Jahsh was with the same purpose. [6]
3 - It has been mentioned in the narrations that even when the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) was extremely sick, he would ask as to which of his wife's turn was it so that he would go to her room. [7] Also, there are reports which say that when the Prophet (pbuh) intended to travel out of Medina, he would draw lots among his wives and would take with him the one on whom the lot fell. [8]
4 - There are many narrations concerning the reasons behind the revelation of Sura Tahrim. These narrations have been related in Tafsir, Hadith and history books of both Shiites and Sunnis. Here is an instance:
When the Holy Prophet (pbuh) visited Zaynab bint Jahsh (one of his wives), Zaynab would keep the Prophet with her and she would bring him some honey which she had provided. The news reached Aisha and it was a bit too difficult for her to tolerate. She herself relates the story as such: Hafsa (another wife of the Prophet) and I decided that whenever the Prophet (pbuh) would go to either of them, they would enquire the Prophet (pubh) if he had eaten maghafer gum (maghafer was a kind of gum that oozed from a tree in the Arabian Peninsula that used to be called "Arfat" and it gave out a foul smell.) whereas the Prophet (pbuh) regularly kept his mouth fresh-smelling. He made himself sweet-smelling and fragrant. Thus, one day the Prophet (pbuh) went to Hafsa and she said to him what she had agreed with Aisha to say to him.
"I have not eaten maghafer gum," said the Prophet (pbuh). "In fact, I drank some honey which had been prepared by Zaynab bint Jahsh. I swear that I shall not drink from that honey (I fear least the bee of that honey may have sat on an improper plant, probably maghafer). Do not tell this incident to anyone because people might think that I have prohibited for me a halal food, or they might follow the Prophet in this regard and in similar cases or Zaynab might know about it and she might get broken-hearted. However, fianlly she unveiled this secret and eventually it became known that it was a conspiracy. The Prophet (pbuh) got angry and the aforementioned verses were sent down and he gave an end to the story in such a way that prevented the occurrence of such incidents in the future. [9]
It has been said about the interpretation of Sura Ahzab verse 51 [10] that the word "tarajji" is derived from the infinitive "Irja" which means "to defer" or "to drive back" implying "rejection" here, and the word "to'wi" is derived from "evā" and it means to provide someone with a place where he can stay but here it implies accepting someone and drawing him/here closer to himself. [11]
According to exegetes and interpreters of the Quran, when some of the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) hurt him due to jealousy and demanded more provision (nafaqa) and the Prophet (pbuh) stayed away from them, verses 28 and 29 of the same Sura were sent down. The Prophet (pbuh) was commissioned to suggest his wives to choose between the world's life and the abode of the Hereafter. He was allowed to divorce those who chose the world's life. Those who chose the Hereafter were granted the title "Ummul Momeneen" [Mother of the Believers] and were forbidden permanently from marrying other men after the demise of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), and the Prophet (pbuh) could keep with him anyone of them he wished and defer the turn of anyone of them he wanted. The Prophet's wives gave their consent not to object to him, if he took turns or did not take turns or associated more often with one of them and gave more provisions to her as compared to the rest. Of course, the Prophet, peace and benedictions of Allah be upon him, having a broad vision and the authority which God, the Exalted had vested in him treated his wives equally. [12]
What is inferred from religious teachings is that the obligation of doing justice between one's wives does not relate to equal distribution of love between them because one does not have much control on the inclinations of the heart. Even the Prophet (pbuh) who is the best model of moral virtues has not been able nor has he been obligated to do such a justice between his wives. In fact, what the Quran and the traditions explain about doing justice between wives relates to sharing the bed, food and clothing. The Prophet's marriages with his wives (excepting Khadija) took place during the last ten years of his life and they had been on account of certain cultural, emotional, political, social and religious expediencies. Considering that the Prophet was faced with many governmental problems and some of his wives were creating difficulties for him inside his house, eventually God, the Exalted, lifted the necessity of observing sequence between his wives for his solace and to lessen his problems. Thus it became permissible for him not to respect turns amongst his wives due to governmental problems, if he wished so. In addition, his wives also consented to this divine command. Despite that, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) respect his wives' turns even when he was extremely sick. And when he intended to go on a journey, he would draw lots to take one of them with him. He would not take the wife whom he liked most. This manner of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) indicates his just treatment and conduct towards his wives, and there is also no doubt that he is the best model of moral excellence.


resources and references

[1] Allamah Tabatabai, Tafsir al-Mizan, Persian translation by Musavi, vol.6, p.297, Jame'ah Mudarresin Publications, Qom, 1997.
[2] Raghib, Al-Mufradat fi Gharib Al-Quran, p.551.
[3] Allamah Tabatabai, Tafsir al-Mizan, Persian translation by Musavi, vol. 6, p.299.
[4] و َلَنْ تَسْتَطيعُوا أَنْ تَعْدِلُوا بَيْنَ النِّساءِ وَ لَوْ حَرَصْتُمْ فَلا تَميلُوا کُلَّ الْمَيْلِ فَتَذَرُوها کَالْمُعَلَّقَةِ وَ إِنْ تُصْلِحُوا وَ تَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ اللهَ کانَ غَفُوراً رَحيما
[5] Allamah Tabatabai, Tafsir Al-Mizan, Persian translation by Musavi, vol.4, p.307.
[6] Allamah Tabatabai, Tafsir Al-Mizan, Persian translation by Musavi, vol.4, p.309.
[7] Tafsir Asaan, vol.4, p.23, first edition, Islamic Publications, Tehran, 1398 A.H.
[8] Allamah Tabatabai, Tafsir Al-Mizan, Persian translation by Musavi, vol.15, p.137.
[9] Makarem Shirazi, Tafsir Nomouneh, vol.24, p.272.
[10] You may put off whom you please of them, and you may take to you whom you
lease, and whom you desire of those whom you had separated provisionally; no blame
ttaches to you; this is most proper, so that their eyes may be cool and they may not grieve, and that they should be pleased, all of them with what you give them, and Allah knows what is in your hearts; and Allah is Knowing, Forbearing.
[11] Allamah Tabatabai, Tafsir Al-Mizan, Persian translation by Musavi, vol.16, p.504.
[12] Zakavati, Ali Reza, Asbaab al-Nozul, p.189, 1st edition, Tehran, 2004.
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Ref: www.Islamquest.net


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