The Prophet Keeps Away From His Wives For a Month

In the 9th year of the Migration, the light of Islam covered the whole Arabian Peninsula with its magnificence. The Messenger of God had many material things. The wealth of the Islamic state increased and the financial situation of the Muslims improved.  

Despite all kinds of material opportunities, the Messenger of God continued to lead a plain and modest life; he did not have any luxurious or wasteful things.

However, due to the inclination to the jewels and worldly goods inherent in the nature of women, the wives of the Prophet wanted their share of clothes and jewels from the wealth of the world. Therefore, they sometimes said to the Prophet, “We also want some jewels like the other women.” Then, they told the Prophet what they wanted.

However, the Prophet wanted his wives to lead a plain life like his life and show consent to it. Therefore, he did not give them what they wanted. He also felt disturbed by their requests like that.

The Prophet had a custom. After the afternoon prayer, he visited all of his wives asked about their health and determined their needs. In the evening, all of his wives gathered in the room of the woman who was going to be with the Prophet that night and the Prophet talked to them there. After that, everybody went to their own room.

During these usual visits, the wives of the Prophet treated him to the food or drinks that they had.

Once, somebody gave Zaynab bint Jahsh a leather bag full of honey. Whenever the Prophet visited Zaynab, she treated him to the sherbet she made of that honey that the Prophet liked very much. Therefore, the Prophet stayed with Zaynab longer than usual.

Aisha noticed this and wondered why the Prophet stayed with Zaynab longer than usual. She found out through her female slave that he stayed there longer due to the sherbet made of honey.[1]

The Instruction of Hazrat Aisha

There was a competition between Hazrat Aisha and Hazrat Zaynab; due to this competition, the wives of the Prophet were divided into two groups.  Sawda, Safiyya and Hafsa (may God be pleased with them) supported Aisha; Umm Salama, Umm Habi­ba, Maymuna and Juwayriyah (may God be pleased with them) supported  Zaynab bint Jahsh.[2]

Aisha felt grievous and jealous because the Messenger of God stayed in Zaynab’s room longer. She gathered the wives of the Prophet that supported her and said to them,

“When the Messenger of God comes to any of our room, we will ask him, ‘O Messenger of God! Have you eaten maghafir?’ The Messenger of God will say, ‘No’. Then, we will say, ‘What is this smell then?’ He will say, ‘Zaynab gave me honey sherbet.’ Then, we will say, ‘It means that honey was produced by bees that collected nectar from urfut tree’.”[3]

Maghafir is the plural of “maghfur”. Maghfur is sticky and sweet gum from the urfut tree; it has an unpleasant smell.

The Messenger of God did not like this smell; he felt disturbed by it. Aisha knew about it. That is why, she gave them an instruction like that. 

Once the Prophet was entering Hafsa’s room; she asked, “O Messenger of God! Have you eaten maghafir?”

The Prophet said, “No!”

Hafsa said, “What is this smell then?”

The Prophet said, “I drank honey sherbet in Zaynab bint Jahsh’s house.”

Then, Hafsa said, “It means that honey was produced by bees that collected nectar from urfut tree.”

Thereupon, the Messenger of God said, “I will not drink it again.” And he vowed that he would never drink it. Then he said, “I have vowed. Never tell about it to anyone (Aisha or anybody else).”[4]

Thus, the Prophet vowedthat he would not have honey, which is halal (permissible), because he wanted to rejoice his wives and he and to prevent the competition caused by jealousy among his wives[5] from causing a negative effect on the order of his family.[6]

He asked Hafsa to keep it secret along with some other things[7]he told her. He made her promise not to tell anyone about them.

When the Prophet vowed that he would not have honey from then on, the following verse was sent down:

“O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which God has made lawful to thee?, Thou seekest to please thy consorts? But God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”[8]

Hafsa did not keep those secrets very long; she told Aisha about it. Then, the other wives of the Prophet knew about it.  

God Almighty informed His Prophet through revelation that the secret that he wanted to be kept was disclosed: “When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his consorts, and she then divulged it (to another) and God made it known to him, he confirmed part thereof and repudiated a part. Then when he told her thereof, she said, ‘Who told thee this?’ He said, ‘He told me who knows and is well-acquainted (with all things).’”[9]

Thereupon, the Messenger of God reproached Hafsa. Aisha supported her. Altogether, they requested some things about the worldly life.  

The Prophet felt grievous about the situation and he felt disturbed by the fact that his wives were jealous of one another. 

Thereupon, he vowed that he would keep away from his wives for a month in order to show them that the worldly life was unimportant for him, to teach them a lesson, to decrease the jealousy among them and to measure their love of and loyalty to him.[10]After this vow, he started to live in the arbor called Mashraba.[11]

This incident is called “the Incident of I’la”. “I’la” lexically means an absolute vow; as a fiqh term, it means vow by a man that he will not approach his wife for sexual intercourse.

The Panic of the Companions

When the Companions heard that the Prophet started to live in Mashraba alone, they panicked because they thought he divorced his wives. Hazrat Umar narrates that panic as follows:

“I was living in Awali, a district of Madinah. I had a neighbor from Ansar. We visited the Prophet every other day. When I went to visit the Messenger of God, I informed my neighbor about the revelation that was sent down that day and any other news when I returned. When he went to visit the Prophet, he informed me about things when he returned.

It was my neighbor’s turn to visit the Prophet. It was late at night. He knocked on my door very loudly. I opened the door in panic.

I asked him, ‘What is the matter?’

He said, ‘A great disaster!’

I said, ‘What happened? Did Ghassanis attack Madinah?’

He said, ‘No! They say the Messenger of God has divorced all of his wives.’

Thereupon, after performing the morning prayer, I got dressed and went to Madinah. I went to my daughter, Hafsa. She was crying.

I said, “Why are you crying? Did I not warn you against opposing him and not demanding anything from him?’

Then, I asked her, ‘Did the Messenger of God divorce you?’

She said, ‘I do not know.’

I asked, ‘Where is the Messenger of God now?’

She said, ‘He is there, in that Mashraba; he is resting.’

I stood up and approached the place where the Messenger of God was. Rabah, his servant, was at the door.

I said, ‘O Rabah! Ask the Messenger of God permission for me to see him.’

Rabah went in and then returned. He said, ‘I asked him but he did not say anything.’

I went to the mosque. Some Companions were sitting around the pulpit sadly; some of them were weeping. I sat there for a while. I could not overcome my sorrow. I approached the room of the Messenger of God again. 

I said to Rabah, ‘Ask the Messenger of God permission for Umar to see him.’

The servant went in and then returned. He said, ‘I asked him but he did not say anything.’

I returned to the mosque. I sat near the pulpit for a while. I could not get rid of my anxiety and sorrow no matter what I did.

I approached the room of the Messenger of God again.

I said loudly, ‘O Rabah! I want to see the Messenger of God. Ask for permission. If the Messenger of God thinks that I will intercede for Hafsa, I swear by God that I will kill her if the Messenger of God orders me to do so.’

Rabah went in. When he came out, he said, ‘I told him but he kept silent. He did not say anything.’

While I was returning, I heard the servant say, ‘Come in; you were given permission.’

I went in. I greeted the Messenger of God. He was on a mattress made of straw. There were marks of the mattress on his body. I looked around. I saw a handful of barley and a fleece hung on the wall. I started to weep.

 The Messenger of God asked, ‘Why are you weeping?’

 I said, ‘O Messenger of God! How should I not weep? The kings and sultans of other countries lead a life of pleasure but you lead a very simple and plain life though you are the most beloved slave of God.’

The Messenger of God said, ‘O Umar, son of Khattab! Do you not consent to the hereafter for us and the world for them?’

Then, I said, ‘O Messenger of God! Did you divorce your wives?’

He looked up and said, ‘No!’

Upon this answer, I said, ‘Allahu akbar!’ All of the Companions are in sorrow. Did I go and tell them the truth?’

The Messenger of God said, ‘Alright’ and he talked to me until his sorrow disappeared. Then, he became happy and started to laugh.

Thereupon, I stood near the door of mosque and shouted loudly: ‘The Messenger of God did not divorce his wives.”[12]

The Messenger of God Leaves Mashraba

When one month passed, the Messenger of God ended the seclusion and started to see his wives. Meanwhile, the following verses were sent down:

“O Prophet! say to thy Consorts: ‘If it be that ye desire the life of this world, and its glitter― then come! I will provide for your enjoyment and set you free in a handsome manner."

But if ye seek God and His Messenger, and the Home of the Hereafter verily God has prepared for the well-doers amongst you a great reward.’”[13]

According to the verses, the Messenger of God offered two options to his wives: To prefer the world and the possessions in the world or to prefer God and His Messenger.

When the verses were sent down, the Prophet was near Aisha. He told her about the verses; he said she could also talk to her parents regarding the issue.

Aisha gave her answer at once: “Why should I talk to my parents regarding this issue? I definitely prefer God, His Messenger and the hereafter.”[14]

The Prophet smiled at Aisha’s answer.

His other wives also preferred God, His Messenger and the hereafter to the world and worldly possessions. Thus, they proved their love of and loyalty to the Prophet.

[1]Ayni, Umdatu’l-Qari, Vol. 20, p. 244.

[2]Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 3, p. 132.

[3]Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, Vol. 8, p. 85; Bukhari, ibid, Vol. 4, p. 167; Muslim, Sahih, Vol. 2, p. 1101-1102.

[4]Ibn Sa’d, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 85; Bukhari, ibid, Vol. 6, p. 167; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 1102.

[5]Kamil Miras, Tecrid-i Sarih Tercemesi, Vol. 11, p. 209.

[6]What is meant by rendering something halal haram means refraining from using it. It does not mean that he rendered something that God rendered halal haram. Nobody can render what God rendered halal haram or what God rendered haram halal. However, a person can refrain from eating or drinking something that is halal. Therefore, the Messenger of God vowed not to eat honey or drink honey sherbet, which is halal. Therefore, we should not have a thought like, “How can the Messenger of God render something that God rendered halal haram?”

[7]According to some narrations, the Prophet told Hafsa that after him Hazrat Abu Bakr and after that Hazrat Umar would become the Caliph (Ibn Kathir, Sirah, Vol. 4, p. 390).

[8]Tahrim, 1.

[9]Tahrim, 3.

[10]Bukhari, ibid, Vol. 7, p. 230; Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 3, p. 406.

[11]Bukhari, ibid, Vol. 7, p. 230; Halabi, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 406.

[12]Bukhari, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 31-33; Vol. 6, p. 70; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Vol. 1, p. 33; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 1109; 1112; Tirmidhi, Sunan, Vol. 5, p. 421; Halabi, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 404.

[13]Ahzab, 28, 29.

[14]Bukhari, ibid, Vol. 6, p. 23; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 2, p. 1113.