Are wives of Prophets (a.s.) symbols of religion?

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Some Muslims claim that wives of all Prophets (a.s.) are symbols of religion and must be respected. Therefore, they maintain, we must respect not only the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), but wives of all past divine Prophets (a.s.) as well!


There cannot be a more ridiculous and un-Islamic claim than this. The respect these Muslims demand is neither supported by intellect nor by the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.

There is no consensus among Muslims even on the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), leave alone wives of all past Prophets (a.s.).

Also, this claim is not rooted in the Noble Quran or the correct Sunnah. Rather, it goes against the Holy Quran as we shall see later.

1. First, respect the Prophets (a.s.)
2. How the Holy Quran portrays the wives of Prophets (a.s.)
3. Women of the nation superior to wives
4. How the Holy Quran portrays the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
5. Wives are not the Ahle Bait of Ayat-e-Tatheer
6. Is going to war with Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) a symbol of Islam
7. Did the wives seek forgiveness from Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.)?
8. Did Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) respect the wives?
9. Love for Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is a test of faith and hypocrisy
10. Can such women be symbols?
11. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) did not care for the wives

Back to Top1. First, respect the Prophets (a.s.)

When Muslims do not even respect the Prophets (a.s.) with the respect they deserve, how can they demand that we respect the wives of the prophets (a.s.)!?

For instance, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the books of the Ahle Tasannun (commonly called the Sunnis) is reduced to the level of an ordinary man or even lower.

According to the reliable books of Ahle Tasannun:

  1. The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to urinate while standing (we seek refuge in Allah)!
  • Sahih-e-Bukhari – Book of Ablution – Chapter of Urinating while standing pg 66
  1. In the last days of his life, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) grew senile (we seek refuge in Allah) and was prevented from writing a will for the guidance of Muslims!
  • Sahih-e-Bukhari – Book of Knowledge – Chapter of Documenting knowledge vol 1 pg 39. Also refer Book of Jihad

These are but a few examples of how the Muslims have portrayed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in their books. There are several more instances of how they have treated the Prophet (a.s.) – Allah’s foremost and most excellent creation.

When our Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has been dealt with in such a degrading manner, how can these Muslims claim that we should respect the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and wives of all other Prophets (a.s.) as symbols of Islam. Even a child will see the foolishness behind such claims!

Back to Top2. How the Holy Quran portrays the wives of Prophets

Let us refer to Allah’s view on the wives of the prophets (a.s.).

ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا اِمْرَأَةَ نُوحٍ وَاِمْرَأَةَ لُوطٍ كَانَتَا تَحْتَ عَبْدَيْنِ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا صَالِحَيْنِ فَخَانَتَاهُمَا فَلَمْ يُغْنِيَا عَنْهُمَا مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا وَقِيلَ ادْخُلَا النَّارَ مَعَ الدَّاخِلِينَ

Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut: they were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: Enter both the fire with those who enter.” (Surah Tahreem (66): Verse 10)

Some points are clear from this verse:

  1. The tone of the verse indicates that these are but two examples. There are other wives who acted treacherously. For instance, wife of Hazrat Moosa (a.s.) who acted treacherously with Moosa’s (a.s.) successor – Yusha b. Noon (a.s.).
  2. After acting treacherously, their status and good actions, if any, turned to naught.
  3. These wives as also all other wives who acted treacherously against the prophets (a.s.) are in the fire.

Is it possible for any Muslim to respect the wives as symbols of Islam with such a categorical verse in the Quran condemning the wives? One who rejects even a single verse of the Quran has rejected the entire Holy Quran and is outside the pale of Islam.

Does the intellect permit us to ruin our faith and hereafter over the matter of treacherous wives?

Back to Top3. Women of the nation superior to wives

The history of divinely revealed faiths has seen many women who were not wives of Prophets (a.s.) but were superior to the wives of Prophets (a.s.). Again, we turn to the Holy Quran for examples of such women.

Immediately after condemning the wives of prophets (a.s.), Allah declares in the very next two verses,

And Allah sets forth an example to those who believe the wife of Firon when she said: My Lord! Build for me a house with Thee in the garden and deliver me from Firon and his doing, and deliver me from the unjust people.

And Mariyam, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our inspiration and she accepted the truth of the words of her Lord and His books, and she was of, the obedient ones.

  • Surah Tahreem (66): Verses 11-12

Hazrat Aasiya bint Muzaahem (s.a.) was not the wife a Prophet. On the contrary, she was the spouse of the tyrant and oppressor Firaun who had claimed divinity. She achieved a high status in front of Allah the High, purely on the basis of her virtuous actions and faith.

Hazrat Mariyam bint Imran (a.s.) was also not the wife of a prophet. Nothing need be said about her piety and proximity to Allah.

Both these women along with Hazrat Khadijah (s.a.) and Janabe Zahra (s.a.) – the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) daughter – are among the four select women of this world. Excepting Hazrat Khadijah (s.a.), none are among the wives of Prophets (a.s.).

If we want to identify symbols of religion, we need not look beyond these four women.

Back to Top4. How the Holy Quran portrays the wives of the Holy Prophet

Let us turn to the wives of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.). While there are many verses on the wives of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) all showing them in poor light, we will examine one particular verse from Surah Tahreem (66).

وَإِذْ أَسَرَّ النَّبِيُّ إِلَى بَعْضِ أَزْوَاجِهِ حَدِيثًا فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَتْ بِهِ وَأَظْهَرَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ عَرَّفَ بَعْضَهُ وَأَعْرَضَ عَن بَعْضٍ فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَهَا بِهِ قَالَتْ مَنْ أَنبَأَكَ هَذَا قَالَ نَبَّأَنِيَ الْعَلِيمُ الْخَبِيرُ

 “And when the prophet secretly communicated a piece of information to one of his wives — but when she informed (others) of it, and Allah made him to know it, he made known part of it and avoided part; so when he informed her of it, she said: Who informed you of this? He said: The Knowing, the one Aware, informed me.” (Surah Tahreem (66): Verse 3)

Allah has not named the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Let us therefore turn to the reliable books of the Ahle Tasannun for clarification.

Sahih-e-Bukhari in vol. 6, book 60, Hadis 435 throws light on this verse:

Ibn Abbas narrates:

For the whole year, I had the desire to ask Umar ibn Al-Khattab regarding the explanation of a verse (in Surat Al-Tahreem) but I could not ask him because I respected him very much. When he went to perform the Hajj, I too went along with him. On our return, while we were still on the way home. Umar went aside to answer the call of nature by the Arak trees. I waited till he finished and then I proceeded with him and asked him.

“O chief of the believers! Who were the two wives of the Prophet who aided one another against him?”

He said, “They were Hafsah and Ayesha.”

Then I said to him, “By Allah, I wanted to ask you about this a year ago, but I could not do so owing to my respect for you.”

‘Umar said, “Do not refrain from asking me. If you think that I have knowledge (about a certain matter), ask me; and if I know (something about it), I will tell you.”

Then Umar added, “By Allah, in the pre-lslamic period of ignorance we did not pay attention to women until Allah revealed regarding them what He revealed regarding them and assigned for them what He has assigned.”

“Once while I was thinking over a certain matter, my wife said, “I recommend that you do so-and-so.” I said to her, “What have you got to do with this matter? Why do you poke your nose in a matter which I want to see fulfilled?”

She retorted, “How strange you are, O son of al-Khattab! You don’t want to be argued with whereas your daughter, Hafsah surely, argues with Allah’s Apostle so much that he remains angry for a full day!”

‘Umar then reported; how he at once put on his outer garment and went to Hafsah and said to her, “O my daughter! Do you argue with Allah’s Apostle so that he remains angry the whole day?”

Hafsah said, “By Allah, we argue with him.”

‘Umar said, “Know that I warn you of Allah’s punishment and the anger of Allah’s Apostle… O my daughter! Don’t be betrayed by the one who is proud of her beauty because of the love of Allah’s Apostle for her (i.e. Ayesha).”

‘Umar added, “Then I went out to the house of Umm Salmah, who was one of my relatives and talked to her. She said, ‘O son of al-Khattab! It is rather astonishing that you interfere in everything; you even want to interfere between Allah’s Apostle and his wives!’”

By Allah, by her talk she influenced me so much that I lost some of my anger. I left her (and went home). At that time I had a friend from the Ansar who used to bring news (from the Prophet) in case of my absence, and I used to give him the news if he was absent. In those days we were afraid of one of the kings of Ghassaan tribe. We heard that he intended to move and attack us, so fear filled our hearts because of that. (One day) my Ansari friend unexpectedly knocked at my door, and said, “Open Open!’ I said, ‘Has the king of Ghassaan come?’ He said, ‘No, but something worse; Allah’s Apostle has isolated himself from his wives.’ I said, ‘Let the nose of Ayesha and Hafsah be struck to dust (i.e. humiliated)!’

(The tradition is lengthy – we have extracted the portion relevant to our discussion.)

  • Sahih-e-Bukhari vol. 6, book 60, Hadis 435

If there was any doubt about the identity of the two wives, it is clarified by this report from Sahih-e-Bukhari as also other reports from various books of the Ahle Tasannun.

To conclude from the 3rd verse of Surah Tahreem (66) in conjunction with the Sahih-e-Bukhari report:

  1. The two wives who acted treacherously with the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) were Ayesha and Hafsah, who some Muslims even consider as Umm al-Momineen.
  2. After examining other verses of the Noble Quran and the Sunnah, it is clear that this was not the first time they had acted treacherously.
  3. By asking the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – who has informed you about our treachery – they have given proof that they did not believe in him (s.a.w.a.) as the Prophet of Allah. Else, they would not have raised such a question. It is like a Muslim asking the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) who has revealed the Holy Quran on you?
  4. Hafsah and Ayesha used to anger the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) so much so that he (s.a.w.a.) did not speak to them for an entire day. All Muslims are unanimous in their belief that whoever angers the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has indeed angered Allah and whoever angers Allah will be in hell-fire.
  5. Among other things, Hafsah’s anger and jealousy was the result of the time the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) devoted to other wives like Hazrat Maariyah (r.a.) and even Ayesha as Umar points out.
  6. All was not well among the wives and there was extreme jealousy among them.
  7. Out of sheer frustration with Ayesha and Hafsah, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to isolate himself from the wives.
  8. Umar used to curse Ayesha and Hafsah for their stubborn and unpardonable behaviour towards the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
  9. Umar used to needlessly interfere in matters related to the wives and as Umme Salmah (r.a.) pointed out, this was unwelcome and irritating for the wives.

Back to Top5. Wives are not the Ahle Bait of Ayat-e-Tatheer

Under the circumstances it is astonishing how some Muslims claim that wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) are the purified personalities of Ayat-e-Tatheer (Surah Ahzaab (33): 33).

If these Muslims take the wives as the purified personalities, then they believe that there is contradiction in the Noble Quran since in one place Allah criticizes the wives (Surah Tahreem (66): 3,) while in the other verse He supposedly purifies them from every impurity and sin (Surah Ahzaab (33): 33).

The Quran has clearly stated that there is no contradiction in it (Surah Nisa (4): 82). So one of the two verses do not refer to the wives. On referring to the most reliable books of the Ahle Tasannun, it is clear which verse refers to the wives and which verse does not refer to the wives.

The verse of Surah Tahreem (66) refers to the wives.

The verse of Surah Ahzaab (33) does not refer to the wives, rather it refers to the Aal-e-Muhammad (a.s.) and the abrupt use of the masculine pronoun for this specific verse is a pointer to this fact. Had it been the wives, the Noble Quran, would have used the feminine pronoun for the wives as it has used in the verses preceding and succeeding Ayat-e-Tatheer.

Back to Top6. Is going to war with Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) a symbol of Islam

Even if we are willing to overlook all other defects of the wives and accept every argument offered by the Muslims favouring the wives, there is one crime for which no excuse is acceptable.

We are referring to the heinous crime of going to battle with Ameerul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) in the Battle of Jamal.

Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is the successor of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his only brother. Warning after warning was given to the companions and the wives about safeguarding his respect and honour and to avoid harassing him.

But the companions and wives disregarded the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) warning and entered into a full-fledged battle with Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.), the caliph of the time. This was the first civil war of Islam and led to the deaths of nearly 30,000 Muslims.

Who is responsible for these killings? The so-called Ummul Momineen who was not even permitted to leave her house after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise is responsible for murdering 30,000 of her sons. Indeed, Muslims are better off without such mothers.

Quran is unforgiving regarding the killing of a single believer as evidenced in this verse:

And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement. (Surah Nisa (4): 93)

When the punishment for a single killing is so harsh, then what about the killing of 30,000 Muslims?

Back to Top7. Did the wives seek forgiveness from Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.)?

Some Muslims offer the rather lame defence that she sought forgiveness for her crimes later from Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.).

Apart from the fact that there is no record of this, even if she were to seek forgiveness it can only be for sins where she was unjust to herself as pointed out by Surah Nisa (4): 64:

‘…had they, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Apostle had (also) asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful.’

She cannot seek forgiveness from Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) for the killing of 30,000 Muslims. As instructed by the Noble Quran and the Sunnah, she has to seek forgiveness from the survivors of those killed and pay the blood-money if they refuse to forgive her.

Is there any record of such a mammoth task undertaken by her?

Back to Top8. Did Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) respect the wives?

Then some Muslims offer the silly argument that Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) very respectfully had her escorted to Medina and this was proof that he (a.s.) respected her and we should also respect her. Else we have exceeded the Imam in dealing with the wives.

This line of reasoning lacks merit because for Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) offering respect and honouring women was not specific to the wives. It was inherent in Ali b. Abi Talib’s (a.s.) nature to behave in this manner with the weak and defenceless. He dealt in the same manner even with his killer Abdul Rahman b. Muljim (l.a.) ordering that his tight chains be slackened and he be offered a drink. This does not make Abdul Rahman b. Muljim (l.a.) a symbol of Islam

There are many sermons in Nahjul Balaghah where Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) has exhorted the Muslims to behave likewise with the weak and defenceless.

Is there any tradition or sermon where Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) has said that had she not been the wife, he would have dealt harshly with her?

So being the wife is not the point over here. It is Ali b. Abi Talib’s (a.s.) exemplary nature and excellent ethics. Instead of praising Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) as a symbol of Islam, these Muslims are praising the wives!

If giving respect and being lenient with someone is a sign that the person is in the right and must be respected, then we ought to respect Firon along with the wives as symbols of Islam. Allah orders Moosa (a.s.) and Haroon (a.s.) to adopt a gentle approach while dealing with Firon.

فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا لَّعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى

‘Then (both of you) speak to him a gentle word haply he may mind or fear.’ (Surah Taha (20): 44)

This verse clearly shows that giving respect was the etiquette of the Prophets (a.s.) and when they dealt gently with the tyrants and oppressors it was with the objective of reforming them and not because they respected the tyrants!

Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) who adopted the etiquette of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) likewise dealt gently with the criminals of Jamal in the hope that ‘they may mind or fear’.

Back to Top9. Love for Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is a test of faith and hypocrisy

All Muslims agree that love for Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is a sign of faith and hatred for him is a sign of hypocrisy and this was how the Muslims used to identify the hypocrites.

If being a hypocrite and battling Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is a symbol of Islam, then what is the symbol of hypocrisy and apostasy? If disobeying Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Imam is Islam and takes one to Paradise, then what is apostasy and infidelity and who are the ones destined for Hell?

If going to war with Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) assures one of a permanent status as a symbol of Islam, then why should we leave others who fought Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) like Muawiyah and Abdul Rahman b. Muljim (curse of Allah on both) in Siffeen and Naharwan respectively?

Like the wives, even these two qualify as symbols of Islam for going to war with Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.).

Back to Top10. Can such women be symbols?

After such clear proofs from the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, how can any sane person claim the wives as symbols of religion?

An ordinary Muslim will never desire a wife who troubles him and angers him. Then how can we imagine such a thing for the divine prophets (a.s.). If they were not even worthy of being wives, how can they become symbols of religion?!

A symbol of religion is worth emulating and imitating. We all want to be like the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Ameerul Momineen (a.s.), Hazrat Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and their immaculate sons (a.s.) because they are worthy of being the symbols of religion; rather, they are religion personified.

Can we say the same for the wives of Prophets (a.s.)? Are they worthy of being emulated? Do we want our wives to be like the wives of Prophet Lut (a.s.) and Prophet Nuh (a.s.) or the two wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?

Only for political benefit and to gain the pleasure of some people, religion has been changed to such an extent that the unworthy ones are being put on a pedestal as symbols of religion and the true symbols of religion are being sidelined.

Back to Top11. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) did not care for the wives

Even the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) was told by Allah the Almighty not to take any undue trouble and effort for the sake of his wives’ pleasure.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ لِمَ تُحَرِّمُ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ لَكَ تَبْتَغِي مَرْضَاتَ أَزْوَاجِكَ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O Prophet! Why do you forbid (yourself) that which Allah has made lawful for you; you seek to please your wives; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Surah Tahreem (66): Verse 1)

When he (s.a.w.a.) is not in need of his wives’ pleasure, why are we Muslims making the permissible into the impermissible and vice versa only for the wives?!

The Book of Allah is a sufficient argument against those who are obsessed with the wives of Prophets (a.s.). These Muslims make even the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) appear careless in this regard (we seek refuge in Allah) by showing they know more about religion and its symbols than even the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who did not care for his wives!

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