Is There Any Evidence Showing Allah Most High Permitting the Prophet for Having More than Four Wives?
Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel
This question centers on the number of wives that the Beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had. To clarify, the questioner is at peace about polygamy generally, Alhamdulillah.
My question is as such: given the general prohibition on taking more than four wives, is there any evidence that we have access to that displays Allah permitting the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to take more wives or is the Ayat regarding marriage to no more than four was revealed after his marriages, keeping those wives?
Is there any context in which the act of taking more than four wives applies to lay Muslims? I understand that specific provisions in the Sharia may relate solely to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
It was from the unique characteristics of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he was allowed to marry more than four; this is the consensus of the scholars. [Suyuti, Al-Khasais al-Kubra]
Allah Most High says, “O Prophet! We have made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid their (full) dowries and those (bondwomen) in your possession, whom Allah has granted you. And ˹you are allowed to marry˺ the daughters of your paternal uncles and aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and aunts, who have emigrated like you. Also (allowed for marriage is) a believing woman who offers herself to the Prophet (without dowry) if he is interested in marrying her— (this is) exclusively for you, not for the rest of the believers.” [Quran, 33:50]
The first part of the verse explains that we have made lawful (halal) for all your wives whom you have given their dowers. This ruling is general for all Muslims because their existing wives are lawful.
Still, the reason for it being specific is that, at the time of the revelation of this verse, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had more than four wives, while it is not permissible for Muslims, in general, to keep more than four wives at any time. So, it was particular for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that having more than four wives was lawful for him.
“There is no blame on the Prophet for doing what Allah has ordained for him. That has been the way of Allah with those (prophets) who had gone before. And Allah’s command has been firmly decreed.” [Quran, 33:38]
This verse is allowing to continue with the custom of multiple marriages of the prophets and as a preface to doubts to be encountered in the wake of this marriage with Zaynab (Allah be pleased with her), particularly about why so much concern was shown in the case of this marriage despite there being other wives in the household. It was said: “This is a sunnah of Allah, his customary practice not restricted to Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). It has continued to be so in the case of earlier prophets. Under the dictate of valuable religious considerations, permission was given for multiple marriages, among them Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) and prophet Sulaiman. Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) had one hundred wives in his nikah, and Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him) had three hundred. Now, if permission came for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to have several marriages under practical religious considerations – this nikah being included therein – why should it be taken as something far-fetched? Neither is it contrary to the dignity and status of a prophet and messenger of Allah nor against the norms of piety and asceticism.” [Shafi, Ma’riful-Quran]
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I pray this helps with your question.
[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied within UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
He started his early education in UK. He went onto complete hifz of Qur’an in India, then enrolled into an Islamic seminary in UK where he studied the secular and Alimiyyah sciences. He then travelled to Karachi, Pakistan.
He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for a number of years. He has taught hifz of the Qur’an, Tajwid, Fiqh and many other Islamic sciences to both children and adults onsite and online extensively in UK and Ireland. He was teaching at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences.
He currently resides in UK with his wife. His personal interest is love of books and gardening.