The lives of the Prophet Muhammad (sa), his wives and the women of early Islam are often portrayed by numerous Western historians and scholars in a negative light. This is largely based on inaccurate historical material or without consulting original sources. This misinformation has been disseminated in the media, magazines and news reports forming an adverse image of the women of early Islam to the world. The Review of Religions has commissioned a special series on the wives and female Companions of the Holy Prophet (sa) to present the true life stories of the noble women of early Islam. Our purpose is not to individually respond to such historians, but only to present the actual history and to let our readers make up their own minds, based on facts. This article details the Holy Prophet’s (sa) second marriage, to Hazrat Saudah (ra).
When the Holy Prophet Muhammad’ssa first wife, Hazrat Khadijah (ra), passed away, her death left him bereft. It is reported that when Hazrat Khaulah bint Hakimra – the wife of Hazrat Uthman bin Maz’un commented, “O Messenger of Allah! You have become so lonely and saddened after Hazrat Khadijah’s (ra) demise,” the Holy Prophet (sa) responded, “Of course – after all she was the mother of my children and supervisor of the house.” Indeed, Hazrat Khadijahra had managed the operations of her household so well that it allowed the Holy Prophet (sa) to fully focus on carrying out his religious obligations and responsibilities. Her death also left a vacuum in the communal life of the Muslims and in the education and moral training of the Muslim women. Hazrat Saudah (ra) became the first wife of the Holy Prophet (sa) after Hazrat Khadijah’sra demise. From accounts of her personality and conduct we can surmise that she was extremely righteous and had deep faith in and obedience to the Messenger of Allah.
Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) father, Zama’ah bin Qais, was from a branch of the Quraish clan, whereas her mother, Shammus bint Qais, belonged to the tribe of Banu Najjar in Madinah.1 Following the Messenger of Allah’s claim to prophethood, Hazrat Saudahra had the honour of accepting Islam during the very outset of its epoch. She was married to her cousin, Hazrat Sukran bin ‘Amoro Al-Qarshira. He had the privilege of being a Companion to the Holy Prophet (sa) and also had the distinction of migrating to Abyssinia; Hazrat Saudah (ra) accompanied him throughout the migration. Hazrat Sukran bin ‘Amoro Al-Qarshira passed away on his return from Abyssinia.2 According to some other narrations, Hazrat Sukranra passed away during the journey on migrating to Abyssinia. Therefore, in addition to having performed migration, Hazrat Saudah (ra) also earned the distinction becoming the widow of a Muhaajir (migrant) Companion. From among the children of Hazrat Sukranra and Hazrat Saudah (ra), was Abdul Rahmanra, who later on became a martyr in the battle of Jalula in Iran.3
Marriage to the Holy Prophet (sa)
After Hazrat Khadijah (ra) passed away, the Holy Prophet (sa) continued to worry about the care of Hazrat Khadijah’s (ra) four daughters and the management of his household affairs. There was an atmosphere of loneliness and sadness, and the Companions felt this as well. Hazrat Khaulah bint Hakimra, an esteemed female Companion, went to the Holy Prophet (sa) as a representative for the rest of the Muslims and offered some suggestions to him regarding suitable marriage partners. Out of these suggestions, the Holy Prophet (sa) expressed a preference for Hazrat Saudah (ra), who was a relatively older widow. Hazrat Khaulahra then spoke to Hazrat Saudah (ra). Her response was, “I have believed in the Messenger of Allah and I am within his Bai’at; what could be a greater privilege for me than this marriage proposal?” Hazrat Khaulahra then went to Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) father. He responded, “What could be a better and more honourable marriage proposal for Saudah than this?” According to Hazrat Ibn Abbasra, when the Messenger of Allah sent the marriage proposal, Hazrat Saudah (ra) already had five or six children. She replied, “There is no obstacle to my marrying you because you are dearer to me than all of creation. But keeping in mind [my] respect [for you] I worry lest these children of mine annoy you with their screams and cries over you, day and night.” The Messenger of Allah responded, “May Allah have Mercy on you. The women of the Quraish train their young children excellently and are very thoughtful of their husbands.”4 The marriage was thus agreed and Hazrat Saudahra was married in the Makkan period and joined the household of the Holy Prophet (sa). The Messenger of Allah fixed her dowry at four hundred dinars.5 When Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) brother, ‘Abd bin Zama’ahra, who was not a Muslim, heard the news, he threw dust on his hair and cried bitterly as a sign of grief. Later on, after becoming a Muslim, he used to admit, “How foolish was I when I mourned and threw dust over my head when my sister married the Holy Prophet (sa); little did I know how great an honour this was!”6
Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) Dream
The marriage took place in accordance with divine decree. Some of Hazrat Saudah’sra dreams also draw attention to her piety, righteousness, and closeness with Allah. Hazrat Saudah (ra) narrates: “Long before marrying the Holy Prophet (sa), I saw in a dream that the Holy Prophet (sa) had come and placed his feet upon my neck. I related this dream to my husband. He remarked, ‘If this dream is true then after my death, you shall tie the knot with the Holy Prophet (sa).’ The next day I saw another dream that I was lying down and the moon fell onto me. I felt worried and told my husband about this dream also. He again interpreted the dream to mean that he would soon die and I would subsequently marry the Holy Prophet (sa).” A narration goes on to say that that very day, her husband, Hazrat Sukranra fell ill and could not be saved.7 It was shortly after this, that her marriage with the Holy Prophet (sa) was settled. After the death of Hazrat Khadijah (ra), Hazrat Saudah (ra) was the Holy Prophet’ssa only wife for approximately three years, until Hazrat ‘A’ishah (ra) came into the house of the Holy Prophet (sa), although Hazrat ‘A’ishah’s (ra) Nikah [formal marriage announcement in Islam] had been settled before Hazrat Saudah’sra Nikah. Hazrat Saudah (ra) thus enjoyed the distinction of becoming the first wife of the Holy Prophet (sa) following the demise of Hazrat Khadijah (ra). She took care of the Holy Prophet’ssa children by Hazrat Khadijah (ra), and was given the important responsibility of running the household of the Holy Prophet (sa).
Hazrat Saudah (ra) was of a very simple and pious disposition. Her faith was unquestioning, so much so that whenever she heard something pious or beneficial, even once, she would adopt the practice resolutely. Her simplicity was an extremely venerable and especially admirable aspect of her character. Rather than comment on any instruction imparted by the Holy Prophet (sa), or delay carrying it out, she would do her utmost to instantaneously act upon it, in accordance with her understanding. Upon the occasion of the Last Pilgrimage to Makkah, the Holy Prophet (sa) mentioned to his Companions that, “This may be my last Pilgrimage. After this, obstacles shall be created.”8 Hazrat Saudah (ra), in her simplicity, stuck to these words of the Holy Prophet (sa) literally. She used to say that the Holy Prophet (sa) had declared, “This is indeed the last pilgrimage. Thereafter, there will be obstacles.” Thus, Hazrat Saudah (ra) and Hazrat Zainabra used to say, “After hearing this statement of the Holy Prophet’ssa, never again did we set out for this purpose.”9 Similarly, in a parental dispute involving Hazrat Saudah’sra brother, Abdul Rahman bin Zama’ahra, the Holy Prophet (sa) ruled in principle in his favour, saying, “The child born to Zama’ah’s slave girl will be counted as belonging to Zama’ah.” However, because this child looked and resembled the other claimant, Utbah bin Abi Waqas, the Prophet (sa) expediently advised Hazrat Saudah (ra) to observe purdah in his presence. Hazrat Saudah (ra) observed this instruction so strictly that she never again expressed a desire to meet him and never saw him for the rest of her life.10
Due to Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) endearing simplicity and straightforwardness, she would at times unintentionally do amusing things and the Holy Prophet (sa) enjoyed them thoroughly. Once, upon receiving news from Allah, the Holy Prophet (sa) described some features of the dajjal (the anti-Christ) in one of his gatherings. As it happened, some of these characteristics were also found in one of the Madinite Jews—a young man named Ibn Sayad—and the Holy Prophet (sa) surmised that perhaps Ibn Sayad might be the dajjal. Subsequently, Hazrat ‘A’ishahra mentioned this to Hazrat Saudahra. Since the Holy Prophet (sa) had said that, “To this day, no fitna [disorder] bigger or more terrifying than the dajjal has been seen; all of the past prophets have warned against this fitna,” Hazrat Saudahra was already scared of the dajjal. Hazrat ‘A’ishahra states that, “When I mentioned to Hazrat Saudah (ra) the fact that Ibn Sayad is the dajjal who has appeared, she was so scared that she hid under a bed in the storeroom and her head and clothes got dusty.” So Hazrat ‘A’ishahra went to the Holy Prophet (sa) and explained the situation to him. The Holy Prophet (sa) came and brought her out of there and asked, “What is the matter?” Hazrat Saudah (ra) said, “I was so afraid of the dajjal that I hid.”11
Hazrat ‘A’ishahra had a special bond of love and openness with Hazrat Saudah (ra). Hazrat Saudah (ra) had a special attachment with Hazrat Hafsara, Hazrat Safiyyara, and Hazrat Zainabra. In her endearing simplicity, she would also give the Holy Prophet (sa) messages on their behalf. In one incident, it is narrated that once the Holy Prophet (sa) stopped at Hazrat Zainab’sra house to drink some honey sherbet. Hazrat ‘A’ishahra sent Hazrat Saudahra to ask the Holy Prophet (sa), “You haven’t by any chance eaten maghaafir honey (Maghaafir is a kind of flower, which gives out an offensive smell, and if the bee obtains honey from it, it is also tainted by the same odour), which causes your mouth to smell, have you?” Because of this question to him, the Holy Prophet (sa) stopped drinking honey made from the maghaafir (flower).12
Another amusing incident took place between Hazrat ‘A’ishahra and Hazrat Saudahra, which Hazrat ‘A’ishahra describes:
“Hazrat Saudah (ra) came to our house. The Holy Prophet (sa) was sitting between us in such a manner that he had one foot on her lap and the other one in my lap. I had made Harirah [a type of soup] for the Holy Prophet (sa) which I also offered to Hazrat Saudah (ra) but she didn’t eat it and kept refusing despite my insistence. I said, ‘I’m not letting you leave until you eat it, and if you don’t, I’m going to rub it on your face.’” When Hazrat Saudah (ra) continuously refused, Hazrat ‘A’ishahra really did smear the sweetmeat over Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) face. When the Holy Prophet (sa) saw Hazrat Saudah (ra) in this amusing state, he could not control his laughter. Then with complete justice, he decided that Hazrat Saudahra should avenge herself and he removed his leg from her lap so that she could do so; and thus Hazrat Saudah (ra) smeared Harirah on Hazrat ‘A’ishah’sra face. In the meantime, Hazrat Umar’s (ra) voice was heard calling somebody and the Holy Prophet (sa) thought that perhaps he wanted to come inside. He then instructed his wives, “Go and wash your faces.”13 The incident is indicative of the good natured ambience that characterised the household of the Holy Prophet (sa).
Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) simple nature, purity of heart and enthusiastic compassion was demonstrated when, during the battle of Badr, seventy disbelievers of the Quraish came as prisoners of war, which included some influential leaders and chiefs. On seeing some of the leaders of the Quraish imprisoned within her house, Hazrat Saudahra spontaneously said something which displeased the Holy Prophet (sa), although he accepted her apology. Hazrat Saudahra narrates: “When the news came that the prisoners of Badr had reached Madinah, I had just returned home after visiting someone. I found that the leader of the Quraish, Abu Yazid Suhail bin Amr, was in one corner of the room in our house, in a state of captivity with his hands tied to his neck with ropes. Seeing Abu Yazid in such a state, uncontrollably I said, ‘Abu Yazid! It would have been better for you to die with respect than to become a captive.’ I had just said this when I was shaken after hearing the voice of the Messenger of Allah from the other side, ‘Saudah! Do you provoke him against Allah and the Messenger?’ ‘O Messenger of Allah! I swear by He who has sent you with the Truth that when I saw Abu Yazid captive and with his hands tied to his neck – it came out uncontrollably, otherwise I did not, God forbid, have any such motive.’”14
Love for Prayer
Once, the desire to pray at night alongside the Holy Prophet (sa) arose in Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) heart. On one of the nights when he was staying with her, after he got up to offer the Tahajjud (pre-dawn voluntary prayer), she stood to offer the prayer with him. When the Holy Prophet (sa) was alone, he would offer his prayers at length standing for a long time, with lengthy bows and prostrations. However Hazrat Saudah (ra) was of a stout physique, and so the next morning, she spoke very openly to the Holy Prophet (sa) of her impressions about the prayer, saying , “O Messenger of Allah, I prayed behind you yesterday; you offered a ruku’ [one of the postures in the prayer] so long that I eventually held on to my nose lest it bled from all the bending down”. Hearing this remark, the Holy Prophet (sa) was much amused.15
Love for the Messenger of Allah
Hazrat Saudah (ra) had a particular love for the Holy Prophet (sa). In his last illness, the Holy Prophet (sa) said, “Among the pure wives of the Prophet (sa), the first wife to meet me there will be the one with the longest hands.” After hearing this, the Prophet’ssa wives began measuring their hands to check who was most fortunate enough to have the longest hands and thus be the first to reach her beloved! Hazrat Saudah (ra), who was tall, turned out to have the longest hands. She was very pleased and said, “This good fortune will fall to my lot first and I will be the first to be reunited with my beloved.”16
Another incident relates to the revelation of the laws pertaining to the veil. There had been generally no previous tradition of Arab women observing purdah, although the women of the nobility would at times wear a chaadar (loose robe) for respect and dignity. The lives of women were limited to within the home. The temperament of Hazrat Umarra, who later became the Second Khalifah of Islam, was such that he was extremely strict regarding purdah. Hazrat Umarra saw Hazrat Saudah (ra) leaving her home to go out, and recognised her owing to her height. Hazrat Umar’sra personal opinion was that the wives of the Prophet (sa) should stay at home and should not leave their homes, in order to maintain purdah properly. Hazrat Saudah (ra), however, did not consider it inappropriate to leave her house veiled with the traditional chaadar (a loose robe). Hazrat Umarra called out loudly, “O Saudah, we have recognised you!” Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) disposition was somewhat spirited. She became angry and turned around immediately for home, and went straight to the house of the wife where the Holy Prophet (sa) was staying that night. Hazrat Saudah (ra) complained, “O Messenger of Allah, Umar bin Al-Khattabra has said loudly in the open bazaars to your pure wives that ‘we have recognised you.’” At that very moment, the Holy Prophet (sa) received the revelation concerning those verses wherein permission was granted to the pure wives to go out of their homes (Surah Al-Ahzaab, Verse 34). The Holy Prophet (sa) then declared, “O Saudah, Permission has been granted to you to go out for business or [other] necessities whenever you wish.”17
Hazrat Saudah (ra) has narrated five Ahadith on the authority of the Messenger of Allah, of which two have been recorded in Bukhari and Muslim and the rest have been recorded in Abu Da’ud and Nisai. Hazrat Ibn Abbasra and Yahya bin Abdul Rahmanra narrate from her.18
In her later years, Hazrat Saudah (ra) became increasingly overweight and as a result of this, she was overcome by weakness and inactivity. For this reason, during the Last Pilgrimage, on the night of Muzdalifah [whilst in Mina], she made a request to the Holy Prophet (sa), “O Messenger of Allah, in the morning, there shall be a large crowd when people return to Muzdalifah; it will be difficult for me to walk with them. For this reason, please allow me to return before everyone else.” On account of her illness, the Holy Prophet (sa) gave her permission to do so. Hazrat Saudah (ra) returned to Muzdalifah on the same night while everyone else returned to Muzdalifah in the morning. So, through Hazrat Saudah’s (ra) blessings, the weak and disabled among the Muslims were allowed ease and mercy. Therefore, after Hazrat Saudah (ra) asked for this permission, when other pilgrims asked about changing around the order for [some of the Hajj rituals such as] the shaving of the head, the sacrifice of the animals and the throwing of the stones, the Holy Prophet (sa) compassionately granted permission and stated, “There is no harm in doing this.”19 During the last years of the Holy Prophet’ssa life, Hazrat Saudah (ra) feared that because of her illness, weakness and old age, she could not maintain her conjugal duties with the Holy Prophet (sa) but did not want that incapacity on her part would nullify her relation with the Messenger of Allah. So, she said to the Holy Prophet (sa), “O Messenger of Allah, I have no desire to compete with the other wives; but of course I wish to be resurrected as one of your wives on the Day of Judgement. I do not want to be separated from you. Nevertheless, I withdraw from discharging the rights of zawjiyyah [being a wife] and I give up my turn in favour of ‘A’ishahra.”20 By making this request, her goal was to gain the pleasure of Allah and His Messenger. The Holy Prophet (sa) accepted her entreaty. Hazrat ‘A’ishahra would mention that Chapter Al-Nisa, Verse 129 in the Holy Qur’an deals with this subject – and that in some specific circumstances, a wife is permitted to give up discharging some of her rights as an expediency.21 Thus, any narrations which allude to the Messenger of Allah’s intention to divorce Hazrat Saudah (ra) are unreliable according to both the principles pertaining to Rawayah and Darayah. The fact is that Hazrat Saudah (ra) herself came forward and gave up her rights based upon an unfounded fear and anxiety. In relation to this matter, in a rebuttal of an allegation raised by a Christian Priest – Fatah Masih – the Promised Messiahas, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community writes: “The story that the Holy Prophet (sa) was about to divorce Hazrat Saudah (ra) due to her old age is entirely false and contrary to facts. Those who have related such stories have failed to provide evidence as to whom the Holy Prophet (sa) ever expressed this view. So the real truth – recorded in the authentic books of Ahadith – is that Hazrat Saudah (ra), on account of her old age, feared in her heart that, ‘Now that on account of age my condition is no longer desirable; it is well-nigh possible that the Holy Prophet (sa) divorces me owing to the natural disinclination, which is an essential part of man’s nature.” “It is quite conceivable that in her heart of hearts she might have feared signs of disinclination on his part. And from this, an apprehension of divorce embedded in her heart; because women tend to be suspicious and sensitive in such matters. That is why she said she only wished to be resurrected among his wives.” “Therefore, in Neil-ul-autar, page 140, there is the Hadith which Ibn Sa’d and Sa’id bin Mansur, Tirmidhi and Abdul Razzaq have also narrated. Moreover, in Fathul Bari it is written that there is the common theme in their narrations that Saudahra felt the fear of divorce herself. Now from this Hadith, it is clear that in reality, the Holy Prophet (sa) did not express any such desire. On the contrary, Hazrat Saudah (ra), considering her old age, had entertained the fear herself. Hypothetically, if we were to overlook the tawarud [recurrence] and tazahur [reinforcement] present in the narrations and suppose that he had decided to divorce her because of an aversion to her old age, there would still be nothing objectionable about this. Nor would such an action be morally wrong, because if any obstacle appears on the path of smooth matrimonial relations of husband and wife, thereby not allowing the man to fulfil his obligations in this regard, then in such a state if any action is taken keeping the norms of Taqwa in mind, there is no sense in criticising it rationally.”22
A Woman of Purest Heart
According to a well-known narration, Hazrat Saudah (ra) passed away in 22 Hijrah in Madinah, during Hazrat Umar’sra period of Khilafat. However, other narrations put her death at a much later date.23 From accounts of her personality, we can surmise that Hadhrat Saudah(ra) was deeply righteous, and had a simplicity of character. She was honest and steadfast. Hazrat Saudah was also held in great respect by the successors of the Holy Prophet (sa), the Khulafa-e-Rashideen. Once, Hazrat Umarra sent her a sack full of dirhams. As the sack was one usually used for dates, Hazrat Saudah (ra) asked, “What is in this?” She was told, “It contains dirhams.” In her simplicity, she asked, “How can there be dirhams in a sack of dates?” So she told her servant to bring her a dish for the dates so that she could put these dates in it. But when the sack was opened, there really were dirhams in it.24 Hazrat ‘A’ishahra deeply loved Hazrat Saudahra on account of her personal qualities. She greatly admired her carefree disposition, simplicity of speech and purity of heart. Once she said: “I have never wished that I was like any other women, except for Hazrat Saudah (ra). I would like to have her simple and unpretentious ways and I wish I could be like her and that I could have a heart as pure and clean as hers and her simple ways.” 25 May Allah have mercy on this righteous soul. edited by nakasha ahmad and sarah waseem.
The series continues in the next Edition. Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad is an eminent scholar of the Holy Qur’an, Hadith and Islamic history. The ‘Hafiz’ in his name denotes that he has memorised the entire Holy Qur’an by heart. He has authored several books, including on the life of the Holy Prophet (sa) and his Companions. He is a regular panellist on the popular religious discussion programme, ‘Rahe Huda’, which broadcasts on Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International (www.mta.tv).
1. Asadul Ghaba, Vol. 7, p.157, (Beirut).
2. Jawami al-Seerah p.66, (Beirut).
3. Asadul Ghaba, Vol. 2, p. 42, Zawjatunabi; Sherawi, p. 136, (Beirut).
4. Tabaqatul Kubra libni Sa’ad, Vol.8, p.54 (Beirut).
5. Tabrani, Vol.23, p.23, (Egypt) & Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol.6, p.210 (Cairo).
6. Tabrani, Vol.24, p.36 (Egypt).
7. Al-Tabaqatul Kubra libni Sa’d, Vol.8, p.56 (Beirut).
8. Al-Tabaqatul Kubra libni Sa’d, Vol.8, p.55 (Beirut).
9. Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol.6, p.324 (Cairo).
10. Bukhari Kitabul Bayo baab Tafsir al- Mushabihat.
11. Al-Isaba, Vol.7, p.610 (Beirut).
12. Bukhari Kitabul Tafsir, Surah At-Tahrim.
13. Majma Al-Zawa’id, Vol.4, p.578 (Beirut) & Kanzul Ummal, Vol.12, p.593.
14. Seerat ibn Hisham, (GZ) 2, p.299 (Mustafa Al-Babi Al-Halabi).
15. Tabaqatul Kubra libni Sa’d, Vol.8, p.54 (Beirut).
16. Bukhari Kitabul Zakat.
17. Bukhari Kitabul Wudu bab Khuruj al- Nisa’…
18. Alam Al-Nisa’…Zawjatun Nabi; Shaa’rawi, p.140, Al-Isaba, Vol.7, p.721.
19. Bukhari Kitab al-Hajj….
20. Al-Isti’ab, Vol.1, p.603.
21. Tirmidhi Kitab al-Tafsir, Surah An-Nisa.
22. Nurul Qur’an, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol.9, pp.380-381.
23. Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d, Vol.8, p.57 (Beirut).
24. Al-Isaba, Vol.7, p.721 (Beirut).
25. Muslim Kitabul Raza’a…