Category Archives: English



For some unexplained reason, a few chapters at the end of the book dealing with marriage and divorce are on slaves.  This may be due to a faulty method of classification, or it may be that emancipating a slave was considered a form of talAq, which literally means �freeing� or �undoing the knot�; or it may be that the subject really belongs to the next book, which is on business transactions-a slave, after all, was no more than a chattel.

Modern Muslim writers trying to boost Islam as a humane ideology make much of the sayings of Muhammad on the emancipation (�itq) of slaves.  But the fact remains that Muhammad, by introducing the concept of religious war and by denying human rights to non-Muslims, sanctioned slavery on an unprecedented scale.  Pre-Islamic Arabs, even in their wildest dreams, never imagined that the institution of slavery could take on such massive proportions.  Zubair, a close companion of the Prophet, owned one thousand slaves when he died.  The Prophet himself possessed at least fifty-nine slaves at one stage or another, besides thirty-eight servants, both male and female.  Mirkhond, the Prophet�s fifteenth-century biographer, names them all in his Rauzat-us-Safa.  The fact is that slavery, tribute, and booty became the main props of the new Arab aristocracy.  Slaves continued to suffer under the same old disabilities.  They were the property of their master (saiyid), who could dispose of them as he liked, selling them, gifting them away, hiring them out, lending them, mortgaging them.  Slaves had no property rights.  Whatever they acquired became the property of their masters.  The master had the right to live in concubinage with his female slaves if they confessed Islam or belonged to the �People of the Book.� The QurAn (SUra 4:3, 4:24, 4:25, 23:6) permitted this.  Slavery was interwoven with the Islamic laws of sale, inheritance, and marriage.  And though the slaves fought for their Muslim masters, they were not entitled to the spoils of war according to Muslim religious law.

author : ram swarup



If a man finds his wife in adultery, he cannot kill the adulterous man, for that is forbidden; nor can he make an accusation against his wife, for unless he has four witnesses, he receives eighty stripes for making a false accusation against the chastity of a woman.  But if the witnesses are not always forthcoming, which is most likely in such a case, what should he do?  This was the dilemma confronting the believers.  An ansAr posed the problem to Muhammad: �If a person finds his woman along with a man, and if he speaks about it, you would lash him; and if he kills, you will kill him, and if he keeps quiet, he shall have to consume anger.� Muhammad supplicated God: �Allah, solve this problem� (3564).  And a verse descended on him (QurAn 24:6) which gives us the practice of li�An.  The word literally means �oath,� but technically it stands for that particular form of oath which brings about separation between husband and wife with the help of four oaths and one curse.  A husband�s solitary evidence can be accepted if he bears witness four times with an oath by Allah that he is solemnly telling the truth and then invokes the curse of Allah upon himself if he is lying.  Similarly, the wife can solemnly deny the accusation four times and then invoke the wrath of Allah on herself if her accuser is telling the truth.  One of them must be lying, but this closes the chapter, and they are wife and husband no more (3553-3577).

author : ram swarup



A woman whose husband dies must abstain from all adornment during the �idda period, but mourning for other relatives should not last for more than three days (3539-3552).  AbU SufyAn, the father of Umm HabIba, one of Muhammad�s wives, died.  She sent for some perfume and rubbed it on her cheeks, observing: �By Allah, I need no perfume but for the fact that I heard Allah�s Messenger say, �It is not permissible for a woman believing in Allah and the Hereafter to mourn for the dead beyond three days, but in the case of the death of the husband it is permissible for four months and ten days� � (3539).

author : ram swarup



FAtima hint Quais was divorced by her husband �when he was away from home.� She was very angry and went to Muhammad, who told her: �There is no lodging and maintenance allowance for a woman who has been given irrevocable divorce.� But he mercifully helped her to find another husband.  She had two suitors, AbU Jahm and Mu�Awiya.  Muhammad advised against them both, for the former did �not put down his staff from his shoulder� (i.e., he beat his wives), and the latter was poor.  In their place, he proposed the name of UsAma b. Zaid, the son of his slave and adopted son, Zaid (3512).

Later on a more generous sentiment prevailed.  �Umar ruled that husbands should provide their divorced wives with a maintenance allowance during the period of �idda on the ground that the true purpose of the Prophet�s words had been misunderstood by FAtima, a mere woman.  �We cannot abandon the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of our Apostle for the words of a woman� (3524).

�Idda is a period of waiting during which a woman cannot remarry.  It normally lasts four months and ten days but ends sooner if the woman gives birth to a child.  Once �idda has ended, the woman can contract another marriage (3536-3538).

Having to provide an allowance for four months at the most was not very difficult.  Thus, since husbands had almost no fear of any future burden, and could get rid of their wives so easily, the threat of divorce hung heavily on Muslim women.

author : ram swarup



It seems there were other occasions of domestic discord, some of them centering round money.  These must have occurred in the early days at Medina, when Muhammad lacked funds.  Once AbU Bakr and �Umar went to Muhammad and found him �sitting sad and silent with his wives around him.� He told the two fathers: �They [his wives and their daughters] are around me as you see, asking for extra money.� Then AbU Bakr �got up, went to �Aisha and slapped her on the neck; and �Umar stood up and slapped Hafza� (3506).

On this occasion, the Prophet also gave his wives the option of a goodly departure if they �cared more for this world and its adornments than for Allah and His Apostle and the abode of the Hereafter� (QurAn 33:28-29).  The wives chose the latter.

The moral of these ahAdIs (3498-3506) as drawn by the translator is that �mere giving option to women to divorce does not make the divorce effective, but when it is really intended.�

author : ram swarup



IlA� is a temporary separation from one�s wife.  In this sense of the term, the believers are indeed fortunate in having a �model pattern� in an example provided by the Prophet.

Muhammad himself had to undergo separation from his wives for a period which lasted twenty-nine days.  The SahIh Muslim narrates this incident in several ahAdIs; but before we take them up, let us provide some background information.

In visiting his numerous wives, Muhammad observed a rough-and-ready rule of rotation.  In fact, the days in his life were known by the name of the wife he was visiting.  One day Muhammad was supposed to be with Hafza, but instead she found him with Mary, the beautiful Coptic concubine.  Hafza was furious.  �In my room, on my day and in my own bed,� she shouted.  Muhammad, trying to pacify her, promised never to visit Mary again, but he wanted Hafza to keep the incident a secret.

Hafza, however, told �Aisha, and very soon everybody knew about it.  Muhammad�s Quraish wives detested Mary and were jealous of the servile wretch, who had even given Muhammad a son.  Soon the harem was filled with gossip, excitement, and jeering.  Muhammad was very angry, and he told his wives that he would have nothing to do with them.  He separated himself from them, and soon the news was afloat that he was divorcing them all.  In fact, in the eyes of the believers this rumor was more newsworthy and significant than the reports that Medina was soon to be attacked by GhassAn (the Arab auxiliaries of Byzantium).

In a long hadIs, �Umar b. al-KhattAb (Hafza�s father) reports: �When Allah�s Apostle kept himself away from his wives, I entered the mosque, and found the people striking the ground with pebbles and saying: Allah�s Messenger has divorced his wives.� �Umar decided to find out what was actually happening.  First he asked �Aisha if she had �gone to the extent of giving trouble to Allah�s Messenger.� �Aisha told him to mind his own business.  �I have nothing to do with you.  You should look to your own receptacle [Hafza].� �Umar next sought out Hafza and chided her.  �You know that Allah�s Messenger does not love you, and had I not been your father he would have divorced you,� he told her.  She wept bitterly.

Then �Umar sought permission to be admitted into the presence of Muhammad.  The request was disregarded, but he insisted.  �O RahAb, seek permission for me from Allah�s Messenger. I think that Allah�s Messenger is under the impression that I have come for the sake of Hafza.  By Allah, if Allah�s Messenger would command me to strike her neck, I would certainly do that,� he told RahAb, Muhammad�s doorman.  He was admitted.

As �Umar entered, he saw �the signs of anger on his [Muhammad�s] face,� so he tried to calm him down.  He told him �how we the people of Quraish had domination over women but when we came to Medina we found people whom their women dominated.  So our women began to learn from their women.�

He also told him: �Messenger of Allah, what trouble do you feel from your wives, and if you had divorced them, verily Allah is with you, His angels, Gabriel, Mika�il, I and AbU Bakr and the believers are with you.�

Muhammad relaxed.  �I went on talking to him until the signs of anger disappeared on his face . . . and he laughed,� �Umar narrates.  In this new mood, the famous verses descended on the Prophet, freeing him from his oath respecting Mary, threatening his wives with divorce, and incorporating �Umar�s assurance that all the angels and believers supported him: �O Prophet!� said Allah.  �Why do you prohibit thyself what God has made lawful to you, craving to please thy wives? . . . Allah has already ordained for you the dissolution of your oaths.� Allah also told the Prophet�s wives in no uncertain terms that �his Lord if he divorces you will give him in exchange wives better than you.� Allah warned them, particularly �Aisha and Hafza, in the following terms: �If ye both turn repentant unto God,-for your hearts have swerved!-but if you back each other up against him, verily, Allah, He is the sovereign; and Gabriel, and the righteous of the believers, and the angels after that will back him up.� Allah also told them that if they misbehaved, being the Prophet�s wives would avail them nothing on the Day of Judgment.  �God strikes out a parable to those who misbelieve: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot; they were under two of our righteous servants, but they betrayed them: and they availed them nothing against God; and it was said, �Enter the Fire with those who enter� � (QurAn 66:1-10).

The matter blew over, and they became his wives again.  The Holy Prophet �had taken an oath of remaining away from them [his wives] for a month, and by now only twenty-nine days had passed, [but] he visited them.� �Aisha mischievously reminded the Prophet that it was not yet one month but only twenty-nine days, to which Muhammad replied: �At times, the month consists of twenty-nine days� (3507-3511).

Now �Umar stood at the door of the mosque and called out at the top of his voice: �The Messenger of Allah has not divorced his wives.� A verse chiding his followers for so readily believing in rumors also descended on Muhammad: �And if any matter pertaining to peace or alarm comes within their ken, they broadcast it.  But if they had only referred it to the Apostle, or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would indeed know it� (QurAn 4:83; hadIs 3507).

author : ram swarup



There were two other forms of separation not amounting to legal divorce prevalent among the Arabs at the time of Muhammad: zihAr and IlA�.  In zihAr, the husband vowed that his wife would be unto him as the back (zahr) of his mother and then stayed away from her for a specified period.  This was a customary vow of abstinence among the Arabs, and according to some traditions, Muslims also took it during the period of fasting.  The purpose of the abstinence could be penitential or devotional, or the vow might be taken in a fit of anger.  The same formula was also used as a form of divorce.  Muhammad condemned divorce by zihAr (QurAn 58: 1-5) and allowed a husband who had taken the vow to go back to his wife.  The broken vow could be expiated by making a kaffArah (literally, �that which covers a sin�), which in this case is either a fast for two months or the feeding of sixty poor men and women.

There was another form of separation called IlA� (�to swear�).  In this form, the husband swore an oath to abstain from sexual intercourse with his wife.  In the pre-Islamic period, the Arabs regarded IlA as a form of divorce, but it did not fully dissolve the marriage.  The oath of IlA was sometimes taken to penalize the wife and extort ransom from her.  Muhammad forbade this (QurAn 2:226).  A man who had taken such a vow was to go back to his wife without any blame to himself; if not, the marriage was ipso facto legally dissolved at the end of four months.  The broken vow could be expiated.  �When a man declares his wife as unlawful for himself that is an oath which must be atoned. . . . There is in the Messenger of Allah a model pattern for you� (3494-3495).

In due course, the two forms of separation died away in Islam.

author : ram swarup