The Heart's Witness Against Muhammad: Zaynab and Marriage of Convenience
To overcome the four-wife problem without forcing Muhammad to divorce one of his wives so as to allow for his marriage to Zaynab, a further revelation was needed
Four things are troublesome with respect to Muhammad's relationship with his fifth wife, Zaynab bint Jash. First, there is the issue of Muhammad's problematic sexual appetite. Second, there is the issue of facile divorce and remarriage entertained by Muhammad. Third, there is the issue of the unseemly nature of marrying one's daughter-in-law (Zaynab was not only Muhammad's daughter-in-law, she was also his first cousin, being the daughter of his paternal aunt Umayma, but we'll ignore than for now). Fourth, there is the issue of what we may call the convenience and self-justificatory character of Allah's revelations during this period which makes them highly suspect.
Four things are troublesome with respect to Muhammad's relationship with Zaynab bint Jash. First, there is the issue of Muhammad's problematic sexual appetite. Second, there is the issue of facile divorce and remarriage entertained by Muhammad. Third, there is the issue of the unseemly nature of marrying one's daughter-in-law (Zaynab was not only Muhammad's daughter-in-law, she was also his first cousin, being the daughter of his paternal aunt Umayma, but we'll ignore that for now). Fourth, there is the issue of what we may call the convenience and self-justificatory character of Allah's revelations during this period which makes them highly suspect.
To understand the problem with Muhammad's marriage to Zaynab, we should quickly explain family relations as they existed before Muhammad's marriage to her.
Muhammad had no sons that survived infancy. However, Muhammad had an adopted son, a former slave of his whose name was Zayd bin Haritha. After his adoption, Zayd then became known as the son of Muhammad, Zayd bin Muhammad. Zayd bin Muhammad married the young woman who was a first cousin of Muhammad named Zaynab bin Jash and who is the focus of this article.
According to the Muslim historians Ibn Sa'd and at-Tabari, on one occasion Muhammad sought Zayd at Zayd's house, but did not find him there. He surprised Zaynab and happened to come upon her when she was not fully clothed. Muhammad, seeing her scantily clad, formed a strong desire for her. Though he apparently fought against the desire, it appears to have consumed his concupiscent heart and gotten the better of him. "The heart of the Prophet," say the historians, "was filled with admiration for her. He went away muttering something that was hardly understandable but for this sentence: 'Praise be to Allah who disposes the hearts.'"
The comment was overheard by Zaynab who interpreted it as an expression by Muhammad of desire for her. When Zayd returned home, Zaynab told her husband of Muhammad's comments, and Zayd promptly went to Muhammad and this dialogue is said to have ensued:
"'Perhaps you liked Zaynab. I can leave her.'
The Messenger of God said, 'Hold on to your wife.'
Zayd said, 'O Messenger of God, I will leave her.'
The Messenger of God said, 'Keep your wife.'
Muhammad admitted that he desired Zaynab, but feared what others might have thought had he required a divorce and married the former wife of his adopted son. Zayd, however, apparently got the message either that Muhammad desired Zaynab. Either that, or perhaps Zaynab desired to move up socially by becoming the wife of the leader of the Muslims. In any event, Zayd divorced Zaynab and she was therefore made available to Muhammad.
The historians also mention that after this event, Muhammad was with his young wife 'A'isha when "he was taken in a trance, and when it lifted, he smiled and said, 'Who will go to Zaynab to tell her that God wedded her to me from heaven?'" Apparently, in the silence of Muhammad's mind, his Allah had authorized Muhammad's prior lust, Zaynab's divorce from Zayd, and Zaynab's remarriage to Muhammad. This is all very strange behavior for a God who was recorded by a real prophet to have said, "I hate divorce." (Malachi 2:16)
Despite this "divorce and re-marriage made in heaven," Muhammad confronted two problems. First, he had already had a supposed revelation that Muslims were limited to four wives. (Qur'an 4:3) In marrying Zaynab he would have infringed upon the Qur'anic revelation since he already had four wives: Saudah, 'A'isha, Hafsah, and Umm Salamah. Moreover, after he married Zaynab he faced the prospect of the unseeming nature of marrying one's adopted son's former wife and his maternal cousin, something redolent of incest. The former was also clearly against the customary practice of the society in which he lived. (Apparently there was no problem in marrying first cousins in that society, nor in Islam, as shari'ia allow intermarriage among first cousins.)
Not to worry. A triad of new Qur'anic ayats--"revelations"--could solve these problems. If we turn to Qur'an 33, we can find how perceptive and even sarcastic are the words of young 'A'isha, "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." (Sahih al-Bukhari, 6.60.311; see also Sahih Muslim 8.3453).
First, a revelation (aya) to dispose of the adopted son problem:
"Allah . . . . has not made your adopted sons your [true] sons. That is [merely] your saying by your mouths, but Allah says the truth, and He guides to the [right] way." (Qur'an 33:4)
Thus, Allah abrogated any custom regarding adoption. From thenceforward, adoption was not allowed in Islam. This nullified the adopted son and daughter-in-law problem. From thence, Zayd was no longer known as Zayd bin Muhammad, but as Zayd bin Haritha.
Second, a revelation was needed to dispose of any suggestion that the marriage to Zaynab was motivated by lust. Instead, through Allah's own "revelation" we have the assurance that this divorce-and-re-marriage was made in heaven, and for the express purpose of setting a legal precedent. In other words, rather implausibly the "revelation" proposed that the marriage was for the common good of Islam and Muhammad was just the collateral beneficiary.
"And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favor and you bestowed favor, 'Keep your wife and fear Allah,' while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. So when Zayd had no longer any need for her, we married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. And ever is the command of Allah accomplished." (Qur'an 33:37)
Third, to overcome the four-wife problem without forcing Muhammad to divorce one of his wives so as to allow for his marriage to Zaynab, a further revelation was needed. And so a "revelation" was conveniently received that increased the number of wives that Muhammad could have relative to all other Muslims so as to relieve the "discomfort" to Muhammad of having to restrain himself to four wives:
"O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives] and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you and a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet [and] if the Prophet wishes to marry her, [this is] only for you, excluding the [other] believers. We certainly know what We have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and those their right hands possess, [but this is for you] in order that there will be upon you no discomfort. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. . . . ." (Qur'an 33:50)
It is remarkable that Muhammad's followers fell for such obvious self-indulgence and self-justifications presented as revealed truths from the God who made the universe. It is simply inconceivable that the God who is the author of the natural moral law, including the natural laws regarding marriage and family life, would so flippantly disregard that natural law, enjoin a divorce, grant a man the right to a fifth wife abrogating his supposed prior positive edict, order the marriage of a father in law to his daughter in law and first cousin, and prohibit wholly salutary customs (such as adoption), all for the purposes of easing the sexual "discomfort" of his supposed prophet for whom four wives and a handful of concubines was not enough.
No. This incident is not something that may be flippantly disposed of with the constant refrain that Allah and his prophet know best, Allahu wa rasuluhu a'lam. Divine and prophetic positivism cannot undo the natural law. While Allah and his alleged prophet may know what is best for the alleged prophet, that is, what is expedient, they do not seem to know what is best simpliciter, that is, what is good. At least not in this instance.
(The author has written a book entitled The Heart's Witness Against Muhammad: Why the Natural Law Proves Muhammad False wherein Muhammad's teachings and actions are compared to the natural moral law.)
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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