Was the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) Fair with His Wives?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question

A couple of hadiths have been causing many doubts. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said he loved ‘Aisha the most. Would this not have caused upset and hurt his other wives? Please shed light on this and one hadith nr. 2581 of Sahih al-Bukhari.

Answer

I pray you are well.

The Beautiful Way of the Messenger

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was – without a shadow of a doubt – the justest and most fair individual, ever. This is a quality that was coupled with his immense kindness, and both showed in his dealings with people.

He was also the most honest of people, and when he was asked in Medina who the most beloved person to him was, he said: “‘Aisha.” [Tirmidhi] The question was asked by ‘Amr b. al-‘As (Allah be well pleased with him), who had accepted Islam only a short time before, just prior to the conquest of Mecca. He asked because he thought he was the most beloved person to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) due to the kind treatment he received from him.

This shows that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made everyone around him feel special and loved. This was especially the case with his wives. He said, “The best of you are those who are the best to their wives (literally meaning ‘families’), and I am the best of you to my wives.“ [Tirmidhi]

There is no denying this, and it is well known and documented. They were all given a choice to be given a gift and set free from the marriage or to remain as his wives and they all willingly and vehemently chose to stay.

His Treatment of His Wives

Clearly, his wives all received the same loving treatment from him. However, it does not mean he loved them the same.

Love is a strange thing. It is placed by Allah in our hearts and we cannot control who we love and how much we love another. This is clear to anyone who has loved more than one person in the same capacity.

Even with romantic love, feelings for one person may persist for years, long after that person is no longer in one’s life, and they could dwarf the feelings one has for a current spouse. It’s not something that can be controlled or switched off. He loved Khadija like this even after many years of her passing.

His treatment of all his wives was fair. There is no doubt about this. He said, “O Allah, this is my division [between my wives] of the things I can control; don’t blame me for things You control and I don’t control.” [Abu Dawud] This shows that every manifestation of kindness and good treatment from him to all his wives was the same – but the intensity of the love in his beautiful heart was something Allah alone controlled.

This could possibly have been because Allah wanted to manifest his particular favor on ‘Aisha and her blessed father (Allah be well pleased with them both). Theirs was a blessed family and the only one where four generations were companions: Abu Bakr, his father, his children, and their children.

The Hadith in Sahih al Bukhari

The hadith you referred to in Sahih al Bukhari is a long narration. The gist of it is that people knew that ‘Aisha was the most beloved person to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and many people who send gifts of food to him on the days he was with her.

His other wives were upset because of this, so on multiple occasions, they got Umm Salama, Fatima, and Zaynab b. Jahsh to speak to him and demand that he speaks to the people who gave the gifts and tell them to give them when he is with his other wives too. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not speak to them for reasons we shall discuss.

First, it is important to note that it is human nature for people to feel upset by things, and the other wives of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) were all virtuous ladies who had feelings like everyone else. Being his wives, they all had the desire to be the most beloved to him. This is natural. Who doesn’t want to feel like they are the most precious thing to the one they love?

Secondly, ‘Aisha was not to blame here at all. She did nothing wrong. In fact, when the false accusation was levelled against her, her mother even told her that it is common for people to feel jealous of a beautiful woman who is loved by her husband. [Bukhari] Note, that this ‘jealousy’ is not hasad, which is when one wishes for another to lose their blessings. Rather, it is a feeling of being defensive of what is one’s own right (ghayra) and it is a common trait, and praiseworthy in some situations.

The other wives of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) were upset that people would choose ‘Aisha’s day to give gifts. They did so to make that time the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) even more special. A beautiful gesture, full of love and a desire to make him happy.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did nothing unfair: he did not ask for them to do this. In fact, he would send some of the gifted food to his other wives in order to make them happy through the gift and the knowledge that he was thinking of them.

Why was he unwilling to speak to people about this matter, then? Gifts are given willingly, and not demanded, nor expected. Had the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said this to people they may have felt obliged to give him these gifts. He did not want that. Good character entails not making people feel obliged to do something for you, nor to make them feel you are discreetly asking for a favour. [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

Also, they may have felt upset by knowing their gifts have indirectly caused him distress. This would have affected them, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was too kind to upset them – especially those who had been good to him.

Finally, we have seen that his treatment of each wife was exemplary. He did everything to make them feel loved. Ask anyone who has been deprived of love and they will tell you that feeling loved is very different to knowing you are loved. Knowing you are loved is important, but the emotional needs of a human being are fulfilled by feeling loved.

So, with that being the case, even if he did tell people his heart was most fond of ‘Aisha, he did not wrong his wives in any way. Nor did he ever say he loved her more in order to upset them. Rather, he was honest when asked, and I have not come across a source stating he said directly to his wives. Rather, it was something everyone knew of him.

How He Made Them Feel

He made them feel loved and was never unfair. They were upset at the people who gifted things on ‘Aisha’s day. This was something they decided to address collectively because they all felt the same ghayra. When people are emotional they do not always consider every aspect of a situation, like the feelings of the Companions here, and the aspect of making them feel obliged to give gifts.

It’s situations like this that show us the beautiful conduct of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Others may have buckled under the pressure, but the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) consistently stuck to what was the best course of conduct in all situations.

May Allah make us of those who are the most beloved to his Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the closest to him on the Day of Judgement due to the good character He bestows on us. Amin

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.