“Muhammad’s Wives” by Aliya Anjum – A Book Review
For many non-Muslims, one of the most controversial aspects of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) life and legacy is his marital life. No other issue is as much of a hot button topic when individuals, either willfully or incidentally ignorant of Islam, engage in debate with Muslims concerning the life of our beloved Messenger (SAW). In her e-book, Muhammad’s Wives, Aliya Anjum illustrates the lives of the Prophet’s 11 wives beautifully, while simultaneously debunking many of the allegations and misunderstandings surrounding the issue of the Prophet’s (SAW) marriages.
In a brief, but thoughtfully researched book, Anjum defends the wisdom behind Prophet’s (SAW) marriages against those who make false attributions about his intentions. This e-book is highly recommended for readers seeking a fast read on this controversial and highly relevant topic. The reader is able to walk away from Anjum’s book equipped with simple rebuttals to those who defame the character of the Prophet (SAW) and his marital life.
In the prologue to her book, Anjum acknowledges that the Western world’s general and public perception of the prophet’s marriages is foundationally flawed in understanding. Anjum offers an explanation as to why predominantly Christian societies are predisposed to scoffing at the prophet’s plural marriages, pointing out that “perhaps due to the perceived bachelorhood of John the Baptist (Yahya in Islam) as well as Jesus the son of Mary (Isa in Islam), the 11 wives of Muhammad (SAW) appear excessive.” Besides the fact that 11 wives may seem like an anomaly to other religions, Anjum also cites the media portrayal of Arabs and Muslims, as associated with the harem culture, as a prime origin of this controversy. According to the author, the idea of the harem as a bastion of unrestrained male sexuality, as desiminated by Hollywood flicks such as Arabian Nights, has been successfully molded into the laymen perception of Muslim marital life. These stereotypes by default obscure any proper understanding of the Prophet’s marriages.
Chronologically ordered according to each wife that the Prophet (SAW) married, Anjum begins with a case study of the Prophet’s marriage to Khadija. Anjum highlights the fact that the Prophet (SAW) remained in a monogamous relationshipwith Khadija until her death. The author emphasizes the nurturing and loving relationship between the couple within the context of Arabian society, where, had Muhammad (SAW) been the oversexual man that some Western critics allege he was, he could have taken multiple wives. Furthermore, with his marriage to Khadija, the Prophet (SAW) did not have sons who lived beyond infancy, but if he was so inclined “Muhammad could have easily taken another younger wife to sire him the much vaunted sons, but he remained monogamous.” As is illustrated in the Seerah of the Prophet (SAW), Khadija was a dutiful wife who stood by her husband during the difficult initial years of his prophecy.
While Khadija is often portrayed as the strong business woman, Anjum reminds readers that she was also a devoted housemaker, with “no record of [her] trading activities after her marriage to Muhammad.” Her influence remained upon the prophet (SAW) long after her death, as he made clear to his wives that no woman could fill her shoes.
After lengthy commentary on the life of Khadija, Anjum also spends a significant portion of the book on Ayesha, the third wife. The prophet’s marriage to Ayesha is the pinnacle of controversy in regards to his marital life. There is unnecessary confusion that arises concerning Aisha’s age at the time the marriage was consummated. Anjum devotes several pages to vigorously defending the prophet’s decision to marry Ayesha, as readers are encouraged to explore. Beyond the age controversy, Anjum illustrates why it is that Ayesha is a great role model for Muslim women. Ayesha was a trusted authority on hadith and other matters of deen. Of her childlessness, “she established the precedent of a woman’s worth for her intellect and personality over a women’s value being derived from childbearing alone.”
Although all of the Prophet’s wives are worth of mention here, I encourage readers to engage with Anjum’s rendition of the topic, as they will be sure to find nuggets of insight into the wisdom of the Prophet.
Due to the brevity of its content, Muhammad’s (SAW) Wives may not be suitable for readers seeking an in depth biographical sketch of the Prophet’s (SAW) wives. For example, individuals who would like to read more about the ahadith that were narrated by the wives, and the historical backdrop in which they occurred won’t be satisfied with this book, and will need supplementary sources. However; this book is a good starting point for individuals who are new to studying aspects of the live of the Prophet (SAW), such as new converts or young children. This book is also suitable for non-Muslim audiences who perhaps are not ready to deal with nuances of hadith history or seerah, but are in need of a brief introduction to this facet of the Prophet’s (SAW) life that has been so misunderstood.
It is noteworthy that the author of this book is female. More than ever, it is important for Muslims to be actively engaged in producing Islamic scholarship, and we should applaud Muslim women who seek to defend the honor of Islam through their work.http://muslimmatters.org/2011/09/18/muhammads-wives-by-aliya-anjum-a-book-review/#comment-107928