Thursday, 9 April 2009

Did Muhammad commit adultery? Part one

Not only, he married his adopted son’s former spouse...    

One of the most shocking events in the life of Muhammad, one which has been a major source of embarrassment for Muslims, is his marriage to his adopted son's former wife, Zaynab bint Jash. Zaynab had married Zayd, the freed slave of Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah, whom Muhammad adopted as his son. According to some versions of the story, Muhammad had ventured to see his adopted son, Zayd, at his house. Upon arriving, he found Zaynab unveiled and was enamoured by her beauty. As he departed, Muhammad made some comments which she heard and, when her husband returned, told him what had transpired. After Zayd heard that Muhammad had made some comments about his wife's beauty, he went to his adoptive father and told him that he would divorce her so he could marry her if this is what Muhammad desired. Muhammad refused and encouraged his adopted son to remain with his wife. Subsequently, Zayd divorced his wife and Muhammad was commanded by Allah to then marry Zaynab, his adopted son's divorcee.

According to the Qur’an itself Allah caused Muhammad to have desires for another man’s wife, namely his adopted son Zaid ibn Haritha’s spouse Zaynab bint Jash. This led to his adopted son divorcing her so that Muhammad could marry her. The alleged reason why Allah commanded this to happen was so that Muhammad could set the example for others to emulate, making it permissible for adoptive fathers to marry their adopted children’s divorcees:

The Qur’an refers to this marriage in the following passage:

And when you said to him to whom Allah had shown favour and to whom you had shown a favour:
Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah's command shall be performed. There is no harm in the Prophet doing that which Allah has ordained for him; such has been the course of Allah with respect to those who have gone before; and the command of Allah is a decree that is made absolute: S. 33:37-38 Shakir

Note carefully what these references are actually saying. Muhammad was hiding within himself what Allah supposedly was to bring to light, namely that Muhammad was to marry his adopted son’s wife. This means that even before the divorce occurred Allah had already caused Muhammad to desire a married woman and that it was Allah who caused Zaid to divorce his wife so that Muhammad could then marry her! No wonder Muhammad feared men!

The above quotes clearly say that Muhammad even tried to conceal his desires since he knew the shame and embarrassment this would cause in the eyes of the people, implying that Muhammad held to a higher moral standard than Allah himself!

But, Muhammad was actually on no higher moral ground than even Allah. Just notice how hypocritically he behaves in this hadith.

Narrated 'Aisha: A man asked permission to enter upon the Prophet. When the Prophet saw him, he said, "What an evil brother of his tribe! And what an evil son of his tribe!" When that man sat down, the Prophet behaved with him in a nice and polite manner and was completely at ease with him. When that person had left, 'Aisha said (to the Prophet). "O Allah's Apostle! When you saw that man, you said so-and-so about him, then you showed him a kind and polite behaviour, and you enjoyed his company?" Allah's Apostle said, "O 'Aisha! Have you ever seen me speaking a bad and dirty language? (Remember that) the worst people in Allah's sight on the Day of Resurrection will be those whom the people leave (undisturbed) to be away from their evil (deeds).
" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol 8, Book 73, Number 59o )

The above hadith shows Muhammad acting hypocritically towards a person who he had just slandered behind his back! Thus, it is not at all evident that Muhammad was free of hypocrisy or of manifesting the opposite of what was inside him.

There are several problems with the moral ramifications of these episodes. The God of the Holy Bible, has this to say about those who have desires for married women:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28

"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery
." Matthew 5:31-32

According to the Lord Jesus, Zayd had no grounds for divorcing Zaynab, since neither party committed adultery, and their marriage was still binding when Muhammad married her. Thus, no matter what reason Muslims come up with, the moral problem still remains.

Thus, from a Biblical perspective Muhammad was guilty of committing adultery both in his heart and by his actions.

The other problem with this marriage is that shortly after it took place Allah abolished the practice of adoption completely:

God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast; nor has He made your wives, when you divorce, saying, 'Be as my mother's back,' truly your mothers,
neither has He made your adopted sons your sons in fact. That is your own saying, the words of your mouths; but God speaks the truth, and guides on the way. Call them after their true fathers; that is more equitable in the sight of God. If you know not who their fathers were, then they are your brothers in religion, and your clients. There is no fault in you if you make mistakes, but only in what your hearts premeditate. God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. S. 33:4-5

Ibn Kathir says regarding these verses that:
 “<nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons.>

This was revealed concerning Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him, the freed servant of the Prophet. The Prophet had adopted him before prophet hood, and he was known as Zayd bin Muhammad. Allah wanted to put an end to this naming and attribution… This is a command which abrogates the state of affairs that existed at the beginning of Islam, when it was permitted to call adopted sons after the man who adopted them. Then Allah commanded that they should be given back the names of their real fathers, and states that this was more fair and just. 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.))

Hence when this ruling was abrogated, Allah made it permissible for a man to marry the ex-wife of his adopted son, and the Messenger of Allah married Zaynab bint Jash, the divorced wife of Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him, Allah said ...

So that (in the future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them> (33:37)

And Allah says in Ayat At-Tahrim ...

<The wives of your sons from your own loins> (4:23).

The wife of an adopted son is not included because he was not born from the man's loins. A "foster" son through breastfeeding is the same as a son born from one's own loins, from the point of view of the Shari‘ah, because the Prophet said in the Two Sahihs ...

((Suckling makes unlawful as lineage does.)) ...

<Call them by their fathers.> This is concerning Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him. He was killed in 8 AH at the battle of Mu’tah. In Sahih Muslim it is reported that Anas bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "The Messenger of Allah said …
 ((O my son.))" It was also reported by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi …

<But if you know not their father's (sic) then they are your brothers in the religion and Mawalikum (your freed servants).>

Here Allah commands that adopted sons should be given back their fathers’ names, if they are known; if they are not known, then they should be called brothers in faith or freed servants, to compensate for not knowing what their real lineage is. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Volume 7 (Suraht An-Nur to Suraht Al-Ahzab, Verse 50), abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition: August 2000], pp. 634-637)

And in reference to Surah 33:40 Ibn Kathir writes:

<Muhammad is not the father of any of your men,>

After this it was not permitted to say Zayd bin Muhammad, i.e., he was not his father even though he had adopted him ... (Ibid., p. 701; bold emphasis ours)

Al-Jalalayn wrote:…When the Prophet (s) married Zaynab bt. Jahsh, who had been Zayd b. Haritha's wife, the adopted son of the Prophet (s), they said, 'Muhammad married his son's wife!', and so God proved them liars in this. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; online edition) Link )

A tafsir of Ibn Abbas says:

This verse was revealed about Zayd Ibn Harithah who was adopted by the Prophet (pbuh). People used to call him Zayd Ibn Muhammad, but Allah forbade them from calling him so and guided them to what is proper. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; online edition;

Muslim jurist Imam Malik noted: Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that he was asked about the suckling of an older person. He said, ''Urwa ibn az-Zubayr informed me that Abu Hudhayfa ibn Utba ibn Rabia, one of the companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who was present at Badr, adopted Salim (who is called Salim, the mawla of Abu Hudhayfa) as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, adopted Zayd ibn Haritha. He thought of him as his son, and Abu Hudhayfa married him to his brother's sister, Fatima bint al-Walid ibn Utba ibn Rabia, who was at that time among the first emigrants. She was one of the best unmarried women of the Quraysh. When Allah the Exalted sent down in His Book what He sent down about Zayd ibn Haritha, 'Call them after their true fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah. If you do not know who their fathers were then they are your brothers in the deen and your mawali,' (Surah 33 ayat 5) people in this position were traced back to their fathers. When the father was not known, they were traced to their mawla… (Malik's Muwatta, Book 30, Number 30.2.12) (Link)

In light of the foregoing, how could Muhammad set the example for adoptive fathers to marry their adopted sons’ former spouses when Allah went on to forbid the practice of adoption? Does this make any sense whatsoever? Is it not obvious that Muhammad needed to find justification for marrying Zaynab so he came up with this excuse and after people continued taunting him for marrying his son’s divorcee he then decided to do away with adoption altogether?

Another problem with this episode is that Muhammad didn’t need to marry Zaynab in order to set precedence for others to imitate. All Muhammad had to do was claim that Allah had made it lawful for adoptive fathers to marry the former wives of their adopted children and his followers would have accepted this decree. As one keen Christian writer stated in response to the common excuses given to justify Muhammad’s marriage to a minor:
 Muhammad didn’t need to marry a young girl in order establish a law about marrying girls who had reached puberty. Muhammad, as Islam’s lawgiver, could have simply issued a decree. For instance, Muhammad allowed husbands to beat their wives. Was it necessary for Muhammad to beat his wives in order to establish this as a law? Certainly not. Similarly, when an American lawmaker says that killing someone in self-defence is acceptable, no one argues that the lawmaker must go out and kill someone in self-defence if his law is to stand. Hence, the argument that Muhammad needed to marry a young girl to establish puberty as the appropriate age for marriage completely fails. (Was Muhammad a Paedophile? An Examination of Muhammad's Relationship with a Nine-Year-Old Girl; Source )

We couldn’t have stated it any better. It is time to look at a few Islamic hadiths to see their take on this situation.


Imam al-Bukhari recorded the following narration:

Narrated Anas:
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." Aisha said, "If Allah’s Apostle were to conceal anything (of the Qur’an) he would have concealed this Verse." 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." And Thabit recited, "The Verse:-- ‘But (O Muhammad) you did hide in your heart that which Allah was about to make manifest, you did fear the people,' (33.37) was revealed in connection with Zainab and Zaid bin Haritha." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 516) (Link) 

We shall see shortly that the reason Zaid complained about his wife is because she started to despise him after hearing Muhammad praise her beauty. This next narration is rather interesting:

Anas (Allah be pleased with him) reported:
When the ‘Iddah of Zainab was over, Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to Zaid to make a mention to her about him. Zaid went on until he came to her and she was fermenting her flour. He (Zaid) said: As I saw her I felt in my heart an idea of her greatness so much so that I could not see towards her (simply for the fact) that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) had made a mention of her. So I turned my back towards her, and I turned upon my heels, and said: Zainab, Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) has sent (me) with a message to you. She said: 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) was revealed, and Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) came to her without permission (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3330) (Link)

According to this text the Qur’an’s injunction regarding Muhammad and Zaynab wasn’t composed until after he had offered to marry her. This supports our position that Muhammad sought justification for marrying his son’s divorced spouse and needed to convince Zaynab that she was doing what was pleasing to Allah in accepting Muhammad’s marriage proposal. At the very least this hadith proves that Muhammad wanted to marry her even before the verse of the Qur’an was composed!

We now take a look at what some of Islam’s renowned exegetes and authors have said about this incident. All bold, capital and/or underline emphasis in this next section will be ours.


The authoritative Muslim historian and commentator al-Tabari provides the alleged historical background for these verses:
 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. He would come to the Messenger of God and tell him so, but the Messenger of God would say to him, "Keep your wife." Zayd separated from her and left her, and she became free.

While the Messenger of God was talking with 'A'isha, a fainting overcame him. When he was released from it, he smiled and said, "Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news, saying that God has married her to me?" Then the Messenger of God recited: "And when you said unto him on whom God has conferred favor and you have conferred favor, ‘Keep your wife to yourself .’"- and the entire passage.

According to 'A'isha, who said: "I became very uneasy
because of what we heard about her beauty and another thing, the greatest and loftiest of matters - what God had done for her by giving her in marriage. I said she would boast of it over us." (The History of Al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press, Albany, 1997], Volume VIII, pp. 2-3)

Al-Tabari also mentioned what happened after Zayd refused to be manumitted by his father and uncle, but instead chose to remain with Muhammad:

... The Prophet having witnessed this, took Zayd out to the Hijr and said, "O all those who are present, witness that Zayd [hereby] becomes my [adopted] son, with mutual rights of inheritance." When Zayd's father and paternal uncle saw this, they were satisfied and went away.
 [Zayd b. Harithah] was thus called Zayd b. Muhammad until God revealed Islam. I was told all this by al-Harith [b. Muhammad] - Ibn Sa'd - Hisham b. Muhammad [al-Kalbi] - his father [Muhammad al-Kalbi], Jamil b. Marthad al-Ta'i, and others.
 [Hisham] related part of the story on the authority of his father - [Badham] Abu Salih - ['Abdallah] Ibn 'Abbas. Through the chain of transmission going back to Ibn 'Abbas, [Hisham] related [the following]: The prophet gave to [Zayd] in marriage Zaynab bt. Jash b. Ri'ab al-Asadiyyah, whose mother was Umaymah bt. 'Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim. Zayd later divorced her, and the Prophet married her. The Munafiqun made this a topic of their conversation and reviled the Prophet, saying, "
Muhammad prohibits [marriage] with [the former] wives of one's own son, but he married the [former] wife of his son Zayd." As a result of this God revealed the following verse: "Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, nay, he is the messenger of God and the seal of the prophets ...", etc. God also revealed this verse, "Call them by their fathers' names," so from that day onward [Zayd] was called Zayd b. Harithah, and [other] adopted sons were named after their [real] fathers. (The History of al-Tabari: Biographies of the Prophet's Companions and Their Successors, translated by Ella Landau-Tasseron [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1998], Volume XXXIX (39), pp. 9-10)

Later in this same volume al-Tabari again recounts the story of Muhammad's marriage to Zaynab:

According to Ibn 'Umar [al-Waqidi] - 'Abdallah b. 'Amir al-Aslami - Muhammad b. Yahya b. Habban: The Prophet came to Zayd b. Harithah's house looking for him. Zayd was [at that time] called Zayd b. Muhammad, and the Prophet sometimes would miss him [after] a time and would say "Where is Zayd?" [Once] he went to Zayd's house but did not find him [there]. Zaynab rose toward him and said " Come here, O Messenger of God," but he turned away, muttering something unintelligible, except the words "Praised be God the Great, praised be God, who turns the hearts." When Zayd came home his wife told him that the Prophet had come to his house. Zayd asked "Didn't you ask him to come in?" She said "I proposed it to him but he declined." Zayd asked "Did you hear him say anything?" She said: "When he turned away I heard him say something I did not understand, and I heard him say 'Praised be God the Great, praised be God who turns the hearts.'" Zayd left [his house] and went to the Prophet. He said: "O Messenger of God, I heard that you came to my house. Why didn't you come in? O Messenger of God, may my father and mother be your ransom!
Perhaps [the problem is] that you like Zaynab? In that case, I shall divorce her." The Prophet said "Keep your wife." [But] Zayd could not touch her [after that]. He would come to the Prophet and tell him [about it], and the latter would say "Keep your wife," and Zayd would say "O Messenger of God, I shall divorce her," and the Prophet would say "Keep your wife." Zayd divorced her [all the same] and abstained from her, and she became lawful [for marriage]. [One day], while talking to 'A'ishah, the Prophet fainted. On regaining consciousness he smiled and said "Who will go to Zaynab to bring her the glad tidings that God from above gave her to me in marriage?" The Prophet [then] recited "Recall when thou wert saying to him upon whom Allah bestowed favour and upon whom thou didst bestow favour." 'A'ishah narrated: I was upset by both near and remote troubles, having heard of Zaynab's beauty. What was more, the greatest and noblest of all things happened to her, as God from heaven gave her in marriage. I said [to myself] "She is going to boast of it to us." ... (Ibid., pp. 180-181)

The following is an English translation of al-Tabari's Arabic commentary on Surah 33:37:

…When the Exalted Allah said, "Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah" this was concerning Zainab the daughter of Jash whom the prophet – pbuh – had seen in her robes and was enamoured by her. Thus when Allah saw what was stirring in His prophet’s soul, he placed hatred in the heart of Zaid towards Zainab that he may depart from her. When Zaid mentioned his intention to separate from Zainab to the prophet, the prophet told him, "Retain thou thy wife" even
Narrated by Yunis, narrated by Ibn Wahab, narrated by Ibn Zaid who said, "The prophet –pbuh– had married Zaid son of Haritha to his cousin Zainab daughter of Jahsh. One day the prophet –pbuh– went seeking Zaid in his house, whose door had a curtain made of hair.
The wind blew the curtain and the prophet saw Zainab in her room unclothed and he admired her in his heart. When Zainab realized that the prophet desired her SHE BEGAN TO HATE ZAID.

Zaid then came to the prophet –pbuh– and said, "O apostle of Allah, I wish to separate from my mate." The prophet responded, "Why? Has anything evil come from her?" Zaid responded, "No, by Allah! I haven’t seen anything evil from her only good."

The prophet said, "Hold unto your wife and fear Allah." That is what Allah said in the Qur’an, "Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favor: ‘Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah.’ But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest." F
or the prophet was concealing the fact that he would marry Zainab when Zaid had divorced her. (Source; translated by Dimitrius)

Here, also, are the comments of renowned Muslim commentator al-Qurtubi which are translated directly from the Arabic:

Muqatil narrated that the prophet married Zainab daughter of Jahsh to Zaid and she stayed with him for a while. Then one day the prophet –pbuh– came seeking Zaid but he saw Zainab standing; she was white skinned with a beautiful figure and one of the most perfect women in Quraish. So HE DESIRED HER and said, "Wondrous is Allah who changes the heart." When Zaynab heard the prophet’s exaltation of her, she relayed it to Zaid
who then understood (what he had to do). Zaid said to the prophet, "O prophet of Allah, allow me to divorce her, for she has become arrogant; seeing herself superior to me and she insults me with her tongue."

The prophet replied, "Hold onto your wife and fear Allah."

It was said that Allah had sent a wind which lifted the curtain to reveal Zainab in her room. When the prophet saw her HE DESIRED HER and it delighted Zainab to be desired by the prophet – pbuh. When Zaid returned home, she informed him of what had happened and Zaid was thus determined to divorce her
. (Source; translated by Dimitrius)

Al-Qurtubi also lists the "blessings" and privileges given to Muhammad, including the right to take another man’s wife if he so desired:

And any believing woman who dedicates herself to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed (Nikah) her; this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large).

As for what was granted and made lawful (by Allah) to the prophet –pbuh– they are 16 issues:

• 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 Suraht Mariam.
• Fifteenth: His marriage is still considered effective after his death.
• Sixteenth: If he divorces a woman she remains prohibited to everyone and may not be married, "Nikah," to someone else.

"Yas-tan-kih" comes from the word "Yan’kah." For it is said in different forms "Nakaha" and "Istan-kaha" just as it is said "Ajab" and "Ista-jab"… It is permissible to use the word, "Istan-kaha," to mean one whom requests marriage or one who requests sexual intercourse. ( Source

Another Arabic source, Al-Sira al-Halabiyya, agrees with al-Qurtubi that Muhammad could have caused a man to divorce his wife if he so desired to have her:

"If Muhammad lusted after a married woman, it became a must for her husband to divorce her for him." (Al-Halabi, Al-Sira al-Halabiyya, Vo III, p. 377; as quoted by M. Al Ghazoli in Christ, Muhammad and I, p. 45;  Source)

The Tafsir al-Jalalayn says of Surah 33:36-37 that:

…This [verse] was revealed regarding 'Abd Allah b. Jahsh and his sister Zaynab, whose hand the Prophet had asked for in marriage, but meaning on behalf of Zayd b. Haritha. They were loathe to this [proposal] when they found out [that it was on the latter's behalf], for they had thought that the Prophet (s) wanted to marry her himself. But afterwards they consented because of the [following part of the] verse: And whoever disobeys God and His Messenger has certainly strayed into manifest error. Thus the Prophet (s) gave her in marriage to Zayd.
Then on one occasion he [the Prophet] caught sight of her and felt love for her, where after [when he realised that] Zayd lost his affection for her and so said to the Prophet (s), 'I want to part with her'. But the Prophet said to him, 'Retain your wife for yourself', as God, exalted be He, says: Source )

And when (idh is dependent because of [an implied preceding] udhkur, 'mention [when]') you said to him to whom God had shown favour, by [guiding him to] Islam, and to whom you [too] had shown favour: by manumitting him - this was Zayd b. Haritha, who had been a prisoner of war before [the coming of] Islam (al-jahiliyya). The Messenger of God (s) purchased him before his call to prophethood, and then manumitted him and adopted him as his son - 'Retain your wife for yourself and fear God', before divorcing her. But you had hidden in your heart what God was to disclose, [what] He was to manifest of your love for her and of [the fact] that should Zayd part with her you would marry her, and you feared people, would say, ‘He has married his son’s wife!’, though God is worthier that you should fear Him, in all things, so take her in marriage and do not be concerned with what people say. Zayd subsequently divorced her and her [obligatory] waiting period was completed. God, exalted be He, says: So when Zayd had fulfilled whatever need he had of her, We joined her in marriage to you - the Prophet consummated his marriage with her without [the customary] permission [from her legal guardian] and gratified the Muslims with [a feast of] bread and meat - so that there may not be any restriction for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have fulfilled whatever wish they have of them. And God's commandment, that which He has decreed, is bound to be realised. (Source )

A commentary attributed to Ibn Abbas says:

 (And when thou saidst unto him on whom Allah hath conferred favour) through Islam, i.e. Zayd (and thou hast conferred favour) on him by emancipating him: (Keep thy wife to thyself) and do not divorce her, (and fear Allah) and fear Allah and do not let her go. (And thou didst hide in your mind) her love and the desire to marry her (that which Allah was to bring to light) in the Qur’an, (and thou didst fear mankind) and you feel ashamed of people because of this (whereas Allah had a better right that thou shouldst fear Him) whereas you should be ashamed of Allah. (So when Zayd had performed the necessary formality (of divorce) from her) when she has finished her waiting period after her divorce from Zayd, (We gave her unto thee in marriage, so that (henceforth)) after you (there may be no sin for believers about wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them) when they had finished their waiting period after they are divorced or after the death of their husband. (The commandment of Allah) marrying Zayd to Muhammad (pbuh) (must be fulfilled) must take place. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; Source )

We also provide Al-Zamakhshari's commentary on this subject:

Keep thy wife to thyself: that is, Zainab bint Jahsh. After having given her to Zaid ibn Haritha as a wife, the Messenger of God once caught sight of her, and she made an impression of him. At this sight he said: ‘Praise be to God who changes the heart!’ Previously his soul had turned away from her so that he had not desired her (as a wife). If he had desired her at that time, he would have asked her for her hand in marriage. Now Zainab heard of this praise and mentioned it to (her husband) Zaid, who understood and to whom God gave antipathy against her and aversion to intimacy with her. So Zaid said to the Messenger of God: ‘I might divorce my wife’; to which the latter replied: ‘What is it? Has something filled you with mistrust against her?’ Zaid answered: ‘By God, no! I have observed only good in her; yet her noble rank places her too high above me and causes me to feel hurt.’ Thereupon the Messenger of God said: ‘Keep thy wife to thyself and fear God.’ But Zaid (nevertheless) separated from her, and as soon as the waiting period (during which the wife may enter into no new marriage) had elapsed, the Messenger of God had said (to Zaid): ‘I have no one whom I trust more than you; therefore, seek the hand of Zainab for me!’

Zaid reported: I went forth and there I suddenly found her just as she was leavening some dough. As soon as I saw her she made such an impression on me, since I knew that the Messenger of God had been speaking of her…

One may ask what the Prophet kept secret within himself. To this I answer: the fact that he was devoted to her in his heart. Others say: the wish that Zaid might separate from her. Still others say: his knowledge that Zaid would separate from her and that he would marry her, for God had already given this knowledge to him

 (Further) one may ask what the Prophet should have said when Zaid informed him that he wanted to separate from Zainab, since it would have been objectionable if he had said: ‘Do it, for I want to marry her!’ To this I reply: It may perhaps be God's will that in this case he keep silent or say to Zaid: ‘You know your situation best.’ In this manner he would not have contradicted his secret which he (later) indicated had been revealed .
.. (Helmut Gätje, The Qur'an and its Exegesis [Routledge and Keagan Paul, London UK 1976], pp. 83-85)

The final author from which we quote is the late Martin Lings:

Such demands as these upon the Prophet's time were not to be avoided; but there was a growing need that he should be protected in other ways, and the protection that now came was not unconnected with the following altogether unexpected event which served to emphasize his uniquely privileged position. It happened one day that he wanted to speak to Zayd about something and went to his house. Zaynab opened the door, and as she stood in the doorway telling him that Zayd was out but inviting him none the less to enter,
a look passed between the two cousins which made each one conscious of a deep and lasting bond of love between them. In a moment the Prophet knew that Zaynab loved him and that he loved her and that she knew he loved her. But what could this mean? Surprised at the strength of his feeling, and as he turned to go she heard him say: "Glory to God the Infinite! Glory be to Him who disposeth men's hearts!" When Zayd returned she told him of the Prophet's visit and of the glorification she had heard him utter. Zayd immediately went to him and said: "I have been told thou camest unto my house. Why didst not enter, thou who art more to me than my father and my mother? Was it that Zaynab hath found favour with thee? If it be so, I will leave her." "Keep thy wife and fear God," said the Prophet with some insistence. He had said on another occasion: "Of all things licit the most hateful unto God is divorce." And when Zayd came again the next day with the same proposal, again the Prophet insisted that he should keep his wife. But the marriage between Zayd and Zaynab had not been a happy one and Zayd found it no longer tolerable, so by mutual agreement with Zaynab he divorced her. This did not, however, make Zaynab eligible as a wife for the Prophet for although the Koran had only specified that men were forbidden to marry the wives of sons sprung from their loins, it was a strong social principle not to make a distinction between sons by birth and sons by adoption. Nor was the Prophet himself eligible, for he had already four wives, the most that the Islamic law allows. (Lings, Muhammad: His Life based on the earliest Sources [Inner Traditions International, Ltd., Rochester, Vermont 1983], pp. 212-213)

These Muslim commentators and writers unashamedly admit that Muhammad started to have lustful desires for his son’s wife and that it was his comments regarding her beauty, which she overheard, that caused a rift between husband and wife. Muhammad’s praise of a married woman’s beauty resulted in the couple getting a divorce which then presented him with the opportunity he had long desired, the chance to marry Zaynab his cousin.

Concluding Remarks
We are aware that many Muslims have rejected some of these Islamic sources, specifically the commentaries of al-Tabari and al-Qurtubi, which is obviously due to how severely embarrassing and humiliating they are to Muhammad’s integrity and prophetic claims. Yet no matter whether a Muslim accepts these sources or not these points are clearly supported from the Qur’an itself:
1. Allah caused Muhammad to start lusting for a married woman who happened to be the wife of his adopted son.
2. Allah even caused Muhammad's son to divorce his wife so that Muhammad could then marry her.
3. The reason why Allah did this was to show others that it was permissible for them to marry their adopted sons' former wives.
4. Yet later on Allah forbade the adoption of children and prohibited calling any one the child of someone other than his/her biological father.
5. Therefore, Muhammad’s marriage to Zaynab was unnecessary since Muslims have no chance of ever marrying the former wives of their adopted children since there is no more adoption in Islam!
6. Furthermore, Muslims believe that Allah knows all things which means that he knew beforehand that he was going to abolish the practice of adoption. Why did he then commission the divorce between Zayd and Zaynab in order to allow Muhammad to set an example for others to marry their adopted children’s divorcees when he already knew in advance that he would prohibit adoption altogether?

In light of the preceding, is it not rather obvious that Muhammad needed justification for marrying his adopted son's wife, his daughter-in-law, after having caused a rift in the marriage due to his desires for Zaynab which then led to the couple divorcing? Are we really supposed to believe that the true God not only put it in Muhammad's heart to desire a married woman, but also caused Zayd to divorce his wife in order that Muhammad could marry her? Does God really cause people to lust, to have adulterous desires?

Surprisingly, according to Islamic theology, he actually does:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: I did not see anything so resembling minor sins as what Abu Huraira said from the Prophet, who said, "
Allah has written for the son of Adam his inevitable share of adultery whether he is aware of it or not: The adultery of the eye is the looking (at something which is sinful to look at), and the adultery of the tongue is to utter (what it is unlawful to utter), and the innerself wishes and longs for (adultery) and the private parts turn that into reality or refrain from submitting to the temptation." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Number 609 )

Another one:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying:
Verily Allah has fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in, and which he of necessity must commit. The adultery of the eye is the lustful look, and the adultery of the tongue is the licentious speech, the heart desires and yearns, which the parts may or may not put into effect. (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6421; see also Number 6422)

How, then, can the Allah of Islam be the same God revealed in the Holy Bible? The answer is, he can't be, simple as that.

Hence, whether a person consults the Qur’an alone or seeks to understand it by turning to the hadiths and/or the Islamic commentators, the fact remains that a Muslim must still deal with Muhammad committing adultery by taking another man’s wife.

Further Reading


To be continued at: Did Muhammad commit adultery? Part Two  (here)


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