Since the advent of Islam, more than fourteen centuries ago, its opponents have spared no effort to enshroud its Prophet’s character with doubts, drawing a deformed image of him to slander his messengership and damage his reputation.
They did their level best to fabricate fallacies and superstitions in order to corrupt the believers’ faith and turn people away from believing in his Message. It is not surprising to hear such fabrications against the prophets and messengers because the fact is that enemies opposed every prophet. This fact is stressed in the Holy Quran; Allah says what means: “And thus We have made for every prophet an enemy from among the criminals. But Sufficient is your Lord as a guide and a helper.” [Quran: 25:31]
Among the misconceptions repeatedly hammered on by some westerners is that regarding the polygny practiced by Prophet Muhammad (may Allah exalt his mention). They allege that: “Muhammad was a womaniser, indulging in satisfying his carnal desires. He was not satisfied with only one wife, rather he gathered ten or more wives in order to fully satisfy his excessive lust.”
They also say: “'Eesaa (Jesus) and Muhammad, may Allah exalt their mention, were never alike. There is a great difference between a man who could confound his whims and control his carnal passions (Jesus), and another who was wallowing in sexual indulgence". What a big lie and an atrocious deformation of facts this is!
Prophet Muhammad was extremely far from being lustful and sexually preoccupied. Rather, he was a messenger of noble conduct and high disposition. He was neither a god nor a son of God, as Christians mistakenly believe 'Eesaa, may Allah exalt his mention, to be. He – Muhammad - was only a man like other men. The only distinguishing point is that he was singled out by Divine revelation: “Say [O Muhammad]: 'I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed …'” [Quran: 18:110]
He was in no way different from the Prophets who preceded him. He never came to change their course of life. Of those noble prophets, may Allah exalt their mention, the Holy Quran says: “And we have already sent messengers before you and assigned to them wives and descendents…” [Quran: 13:38]
Why is it, then, that those fanatic falsifiers launch their ignominious campaign against the final of all Prophets?!
To absolutely refute such a misconception, we have to keep in mind two important points that debunk whatever allegations arise in this respect, and shut the mouths of the scandalmongers. These two points are:
1- Prophet Muhammad did not practice polygny except after he had passed the age of fifty.
2- All of his wives, may Allah be pleased with them, were widows except for ‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, who was a virgin. She was the only one whom he married while she was still young.
From these two points we realise how simply absurd and baseless the accusations imputed to the Prophet by the orientalists are. Had his objective of polygny been answering his sexual desires to satisfy his personal whims, he could have married in his youth and not in his old age. Moreover, he could have married young virgins, not old widows.
It is narrated that Jaabir bin 'Abdullaah, may Allah be pleased with him, – a prominent companion of the Prophet – once came to the Prophet with a gleeful expression on his face and wearing sweet-smelling perfume. "Have you gotten married?” the Prophet asked. "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!” Jaabir answered. "A virgin or a widow?” the Prophet further enquired. "A widow,” was the answer. "Why not a young virgin,” the Prophet asked “so that you may tease (play) and have fun with each other?”
The Noble Messenger advised his follower (Jaabir) to prefer the virgin as a wife. This vividly means that he (the Prophet ) was not unaware of the path of carnal enjoyment and the way sexual needs are best satisfied.
Is it logical, then, that he married old widows turning his back on the young virgins if his only purpose was sexual satisfaction? Moreover - as mentioned before - his practice of polygny began only when he passed young age and entered old age.
The divine wisdom behind the Prophet’s polygamy is of multiple aspects. However, we can sum up these aspects in the following four points:
The Educational Aspect
The Legislative Aspect
The Social Aspect
The Political Aspect
Let us now speak briefly about each one of these points:
First: The Educational Aspect
The main purpose of the Prophet’s polygamy was to qualify several women as teachers to teach the Muslim women the Islamic rulings (Sharee’ah). Women are the inevitable other half of society and they are ordained to undertake their duties as men are.
Muslim women were too bashful to ask the Prophet about some of the legislative rulings, particularly the female-related concerns, such as those regarding the monthly period (menstruation), postpartum period, ceremonial impurity (post-discharge state), and other marital affairs.
For women, shyness was a great obstacle when they wanted to ask the Prophet about such matters. The Prophet on the other hand, was known for his absolute shyness also, which was among his outstanding, conspicuous attributes. It is narrated in the authentic books of Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, practices, and approvals) that he was more bashful than a virgin in her boudoir. Accordingly, he could not answer frankly, using open and direct language, all the questions women raised. He rather made use of metaphorical and a highly refined style of language, which could be too difficult for those laywomen to grasp.
‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that a woman from the Ansaar (the inhabitants of Madeenah) came to the Prophet and asked him about how to purify herself (i.e., wash up) after her menses. The Prophet taught her how to do so and then said: “Take a perfumed piece of cotton and clean yourself with it.” She said: “O Messenger of Allah! How do I clean myself with it?” to which he embarrassedly replied: “Glory be to Allah! Clean yourself with it!” ’Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, then caught the lady's hand, drew her aside, and said to her in a whisper: “Put the piece of cotton in such and such a place and wipe away the blood.” She explicitly named to her the private place to be cleaned.
Being very shy, it was too embarrassing for the Prophet to use the direct, open style of language that 'Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, used with the woman. Those women who could, with great difficulty, confound their timidity to ask the Messenger frankly about their affairs were very few.