These reflections are based on a talk given by Anse (super colloquial Syrian word for teacher) Tamara Gray. The theme was about learning from the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him- ﷺ) and ‘growing hope’. Anse Tamara studied in Syria for 20 years before moving back to the US. Her area of specialism is in the seerah and the life of the prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).
Five of the prophet’s (ﷺ) wives were highlighted in Anse Tamara’s talk, and though she mentioned one brief defining quality or characteristic of each of them, she made it clear that there was more to them as complex and multi-faceted individuals.
Khadija (may God be pleased with her)
Khadija was a divorced 40 year old woman when she married 25 year old Muhammad (ﷺ). She had two children from her previous marriage; a boy and girl who both went by the name of Hind. She was already a believer in God and it is understood that she was very much aware that there was a prophet to come in later times. When she married the prophet (ﷺ), she believed him to be the calibre and quality of a prophet and when he was given the message 15 years later, she was ready and waiting as the first believer.
Khadija teaches us the virtue of trust and patience, and of honouring your beliefs.
Umm Salama (may God be pleased with her)
Umm Salama was married to Abu Salama and they loved each other intensely. She even made a deal with her husband that when one of them dies, the other would not re-marry. Abu Salama tried to persuade her that if he was to die, that she be able to marry someone much better than himself. When Umm Salama found herself a widow, the prophet (ﷺ) proposed to her. She initially refused, stating that because of her intense sense of love, her jealousy would cause her to act in a manner that would be inappropriate towards the prophet’s (ﷺ) status. She added that she was also old and had children. The prophet (ﷺ) won her over; he told her that as for her age, he was in the same position, that as for her children, they would also become his , and that as for her jealousy, he would ask God to cure her of it.
Umm Salama reminds us of the raw intensity of love and the importance of honesty.
Umm Habiba (may God be pleased with her)
Umm Habiba and her husband both migrated to (then) Abyssinia when Muslims first started to be persecuted. She was vulnerable, in a new land and unfamiliar with her surroundings, but she was happy that she at least had her husband. One day she had a terrible dream about Abu Habiba and recounted to him that she had dreamt he had left Islam. He responded that indeed he had left the faith and that he was now, also leaving her. Umm Habiba was broken and lost. Her heart break was made worse due to the vulnerable state she was in, yet she never made betrayal her story. She healed and after married the prophet (ﷺ).
Umm Habiba teaches us the truth of forbearance, of healing and of hope.
Zaynab (may God be pleased with her)
There was an instance whereby the prophet (ﷺ) was walking with his companions until they reached the mosque and a rope was spotted hanging between two pillars. When the prophet (ﷺ) enquired about the rope, he was told that it belonged to his wife Zaynab, who would pray late at night. When she got tired, she would hold on to the rope to support her while she prayed. The prophet (ﷺ) then requested that the rope be taken down, advising his companions that when one is overcome with sleep while praying, they should sit. This was taken to mean that one either sits in prayer or that one should rest instead.
This story highlights Zaynab’s piety and devotion to her faith.
Aisha (May God be pleased with her)
Aisha’s age always tends to come up whenever she is mentioned, and although there are vast differences in opinion in relation to how old she was, one of the more important defining features of Aisha is that she is the source of some two-thirds of Islamic law and shariah. So much of our understanding of our faith is due to Aisha’s sheer brilliance and intelligence. After the prophet’s (ﷺ) death, Aisha proceeded to take on and teach a substantial number of female and male students.
Aisha’s commitment to learning, scholarship and teaching is something for us to also aspire towards. Anse Tamara Gray advised that one should aim to learn something new every week for at least an hour, and to then also teach something every week for the same amount of time.
The prophet’s (ﷺ) wives were known as the ‘mothers of the believers’ (umuhat al mumineen) and this title of ‘mother’ denotes a number of rights that are due to them by us. The prophet’s (ﷺ) wives knew him so intimately, that it is crucial we learn more about them, in order to learn more about the prophet (ﷺ).
After all, ‘revelation began in the cloak of Khadija and ended in the lap of Aisha’*.
*I noted this final quote from the internet but am now unable to find the source of the quote.