The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) didn't take another wife while he was married to Khadeejah (may Allah be pleased with her), neither before Prophethood nor after until his beloved wife Khadeejah passed away.
Before we begin speaking about Sawdah and ‘Aa'ishah (may Allah be pleased with them), we need to know who Khawlah Bint Hakeem was. She was a woman whose deep faith and strong love for the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) pushed her into helping, interfering and contributing to the Prophet’s private family affairs. In fact, she played an excellent role in this regard.
Khawlah was the wife of Uthman ibn Math'oon. Both of them were among the first people to embraced Islaam, afterwhich they lived for Islaam because Islaam began moving within their limbs and veins like blood. Therefore, their hearts pulsed out of love for this heavenly and divine religion.
Khawlah Bint Hakeem Helps the Prophet (peace be upon him)
It was Khawlah who saw in the face of the Noble Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) signs of deep sorrow, just as the other female companions did. She was the bravest of them all and the most daring in that she went to the Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said,
“Messenger of Allah, it seems that you have been afflicted by need since the death of Khadeejah.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied “Yes, she was the mother of the household and the care-taker of the family.” Khawlah, an experienced and mature lady, due her love and compassion and while observing the need of the Prophet’s noble household employed her maturity, farsightedness and deep faith to look out for a spouse for the Prophet.
After much deliberation, contemplation and reflection she suggested to the Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),
“If you like, you can marry an older woman, and if you like you can marry a virgin, O Messenger of Allah.”
He asked her who she was referring to. She replied that the older woman was Sawdah bint Zam’ah and the virgin was ‘Aa’ishah bint Abi Bakr, the daughter of the Prophet’s most beloved friend.
Perhaps, Khawlah suggested Sawdaa’, who was an experienced woman, so that she could take care of the Prophet’s family and cater for his household, and suggested ‘Aa’ishah, who was a young woman, so that his broken heart would be mended and that 'Aa'ishah could also be a means by which to the strengthen the relationship between the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr.
The Messenger of Allah (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) then said to Khawlah, “Mention me to them.” Khawlah began her efforts in doing so and the efforts were successful for both proposals. The Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) married Sawdaa’ and consummated the marriage. ‘Aa’ishah was engaged to him and at that point the marriage was not consummated as she was too young.
This is how Sawdah enter the household of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as one of the Mothers of the Faithful.
Sawdaa’ (may Allah be pleased with her) was previously a widow. After her marriage to the Prophet (peace be upon him) she began taking care of Umm Kulthum and managing the affairs of the Prophet’s household. She was very dark in complexion, slow and fat. But she had a clean heart and was one of the truthful believers. In spite of being slow and fat, she was amiable and humorous, dispelling the Prophet’s worries with her humor like an essential, effective and timely remedy.
It was reported that one day she saw that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was pale and distressed and so she jokingly said to him,
“O Messenger of Allah! I prayed behind you yesterday and you prolonged the prostration for so long that I felt like my nose was bleeding.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) laughed so much so that his molar teeth were visible and the sadness which was on his face disappeared.
This is how Sawdaa’ spent her days and years, recognizing the limits of her status in this great household and striving hard to be a Mother of the Faithful. This the greatest position she sought in her worldly life and she sought nothing beside that. When Sawdaa’ started feeling that she was becoming a liability, she voluntarily gave up the day and night which the Prophet (peace be upon him) had apportioned her to ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) instead. The reason why she chose ‘Aa'ishah out all the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was because ‘Aa'ishah had been her good friend from the beginning and also because ‘Aa'ishah was the most beloved of all of the Prophet’s wives.
Sawdaa’ was a pious worshipper and a generous in giving charity, just as ‘Aa’ishah has described her. It was in the Caliphate of U'mar (may Allah be pleased with her) that she passed away. Sawdaa’ left a clean mark within the period in which she lived within the household of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for thirteen years and concluded the remaining years of her life in piety and worship.
Let's now turn to the life of the Mother of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) and her mother Umm Roomaan.
‘Aa’ishah’s personality is interwoven with that of her mother Umm Rooman's. Umm Rooman played an important role in the life of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who was the husband of her daughter and the intimate friend of her husband Abu Bakr, and what an intimate friend!
Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq (may Allah be pleased with him) had been the Prophet’s umbrageous shade, never leaving his side. He supported him with his own money and his very being. Abu Bakr never lacked in generosity; he was so generous that he spent, as is famously known, all his money in the way of Allah Almighty.
This is why the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) frequented her home every day. Umm Rooman would receive the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a courteous manner and graciously welcomed him whenever he visited. She tried her best to provide him with all of the means of comfort at her disposal.
Umm Rooman's Life
Umm Rooman (may Allah be pleased with her) was formerly married to al-Haarith Ibn Abdullah al-Azdi, who brought her to Makkah. Her former husband entered into alliance with Abu Bakr but died soon thereafter. Then Abu Bakr married her as a sign of respect for that alliance, neighborliness and friendship which was between him and her former husband. She had two children from Aboo Bakr, namely ‘Abdur- Rahmaan and ‘Aa’ishah. Abu Bakr also had two children from his other wife and they are ‘Abdullah and Asma’.
As for her faith in Allah and His Messenger, then it is wondrous. Here, only one statement of the Prophet (peace be upon him) should suffice us. It was his testimony for her on the day when she died and was to be buried. He said while lowering her grave,
“Let him who wants to see a woman (who will be) from amongst the beautiful women of paradise who have wide and lovely eyes look at Umm Rooman.” In another narration, he said, “Let him look at this (woman).”
Umm Rooman was naturally endowed with qualities that qualified her to be among the wide-eyed beautiful women of paradise. For, she was an embodiment of purity, sincerity, modesty and honesty. From the following incidents and facts we can realise this even more:
One: The day the proposal of the Prophet (peace be upon him) came for ‘Aa’ishah (her daughter) through Khawlah bint Hakeem, Umm Roomaan she was jubilant as realized that this would bring about great blessings for her family in this world and the hereafter. She did not say anything about ‘Aa’ishah being too young or that there was a wide age gap between her daughter and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), nor did she bring up any other worldly concerns. All she wisely said was,
“Speak to Abu Bakr about this.”
She said this because she knew that his consent was important to finalize the matter as the husband must be the major reference point in matters like this since it is he who is the head of the family. Expectedly, she took a positive and encouraging stance while this matter was being presented to Abu Bakr. The matter was then concluded as Umm Rooman had willed and ‘Aa’ishah was engaged to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). They decided that the marriage was to be consummated after the Hijrah.
Months passed by, but the Messenger of Allah was too concerned with the new situation the Muslims faced in Madeenah. Some of his preoccupations at that time were: construction of his Masjid, forming brotherhood between the immigrants and the helpers, entering into pacts and treaties between Jews of Madeenah and firmly establishing the new Muslim society upon solid foundations, in accordance with the revelations that were being revealed.
Umm Rooman, the Wife of the Truthful (Abu Bakr) and the Mother of the Truthful (‘Aa'ishah) did not bring up this issue at such a time when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was so seriously preoccupied. It was only on a certain day, after there was relative stability in Madinah that Umm Rooman spoke to her husband Abu Bakr and reminded him of ‘Aa’ishah’s engagement to the Prophet. Abu Bakr went to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and asked in a modest manner regarding his marriage to ‘Aa’ishah. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) smiled and said, “Surely, and upon the blessing of Allah.”
Before the marriage was consummated, ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) had been affected by the weather in Madeenah and as a result had become so weak that her face had a pale look on it. Umm Roomaan, the caring mother that she was, took care of ‘Aa’ishah’s (may Allah be pleased with her) health until she regained herself even more than before. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said,
“My mother was looking after me so that I’d become plump, grooming me for the house of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). She did not succeed in doing so until she made me eat cucumber with fresh dates, then I became plump in the best form that one can be."
What an excellent mother Umm Roomaan was! She wanted the best for her daughter and hence guided her daughter to the goodness of this life and more importantly, the next. This is because she was aspiring for the pleasure of Allah and the love of His Messenger (peace be upon him).
Two: During the days of slander.
The false slander, the news of which was swiftly spreading in Madinah was a great trial for the family of Aboo Bakr, especially for ‘Aa’ishah, Umm Roomaan’s beloved daughter. Allah Almighty tested the Muslims so as to separate the good from the evil and the evil from the good. This was a test so as to distinguish the believers from the hypocrites and the hypocrites from the believers. This was truly a great trial for the victim ‘Aa’ishah and her parents, Abu Bakr and Umm Rooman. The trial was like a violent storm that nearly destroyed everything, if it wasn’t for Allah’s benevolence, care and mercy.
‘Aa'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) herself mentions this painful incident:
“Whenever Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) intended to go out on a journey, he used to draw lots among his wives and take with him the one on whom (i.e. in whose favor) the lot had fallen. Once he drew lots when he wanted to undertake an expedition, and the lot came in my favor. I hence proceeded with Allah’s Messenger after Allah’s order of veiling (of the women) had been revealed. I was carried in my hawdaj (on a camel) and dismounted while still in it. We carried on in our journey, until Allah’s Messenger finished his expedition and we were returning and approaching Madeenah.
Allah’s Messenger ordered to proceed at night and so the army was ordered to resume the home-ward journey, I got up and walked till I left the army camp behind. When I had answered the call of nature, I went towards my hawdaj, but behold! A necklace of mine made of Jaz Dhufar (a kind of black bead) was broken and I looked for it and my search for it kept me behind. The group of people who used to carry me came and carried my hawdaj unto the back of my camel on which I was riding, considering that I was therein. At that time women were light in weight and were not fleshy for they used to eat little (food). Thus the people did not feel the lightness of the hawdaj while raising it up because I was still a young lady, so they drove away the camel and proceeded.
After I had found my necklace and the army had gone, I came to their camp but found nobody therein so I went to the place where I used to stay, thinking that they would miss me and come back in search of me. While I was sitting at my place I felt sleepy and slept. Safwaan ibn al-Mu’attil as-Sulami adh-Dhakwani was behind the army. He had started in the last part of the night and reached my stationing place in the morning and then he found the figure of a sleeping person. He came to me and recognized me on seeing me because he used to see me before veiling (i.e. before the command for veiling had been issued). I got up because of him saying, ‘Innaa Lillahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji’oon,’ which he had uttered when he had recognized me. I covered my face with my garment, and by Allah he did not say to me a single word except ‘Innaa Lillahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji’oon,’ till he brought the camel and I mounted it.
Safwaan then set out while leading the she camel which was carrying me till we met the army as they were resting during the hot midday. Then whoever was to fall into destruction fell into destruction, and the leader of the Ifk (forged statement, slander) was ‘Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn Salool. After this we arrived at Madeenah and I became ill for one month while the people were spreading the forged statements of the people of the Ifk, and I was not aware of anything thereof. But what aroused my doubt was that while being sick, I was no longer receiving from Allah’s Messenger the same kindness as I used to receive when I used to fall sick. Allah’s Messenger would come to me, say a greeting and add, ‘How is that (lady)?' and then depart. This aroused my suspicion in me, but I was not aware of the propagated evil till I recovered from my ailment.
I went out with Umm Mistaah to answer the call of nature towards al-Manasi, the place where we used to relieve ourselves, and we wouldn't go out for this purpose except from night to night (i.e. some nights), and that was before we had lavatories close to our homes. This habit of ours was close to the habit of the old Arabs (in the deserts or in the tents) concerning the evacuation of the bowels, for we considered it troublesome and harmful to take lavatories in the houses. So I went out with Umm Mistaah, who was the daughter of Abi Ruhm ibn ‘Abd Manaf, and her mother was the daughter of Sakhr ibn ‘Amir, who was the aunt of Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq, and it was her son who was Mistaah ibn Uthatha.
When we had finished, Umm Mistaah and I came back towards my house. Umm Mistaah stumbled over her robe, whereupon she said,
‘Let Mistaah be ruined!’
I said to her, ‘What a bad word you have said! Do you abuse a man who has taken part in the battle of Badr?’ She said,
‘O you there! Didn’t you hear about what he has said?’
I said, ‘And what did he say?' She then told me the statement of the people of Ifk (forged statement), this added to my ailment. When I returned home, Allah’s Messenger came to me, and after greeting me said, ‘How is that (lady)?’ I said, 'Will you allow me to go to my parents?’
At that time I intended to be sure of the news through them. Allah’s Messenger allowed me and I went to my parents and asked my mother, ‘O my mother! What are the people talking about?’ My Mother said,
‘O my daughter! Take it easy, for by Allah, there is no charming lady who is loved by her husband and has co-wives as well, but that those wives would find fault in her.’
I said, ‘Subhaan Allah! Did the people really say that?’”
Here, dear reader, we would like to pause for a while and later continue with ‘Aa’ishah’s story inshaaAllah.
Let us ponder over how motherly and wise Umm Roomaan was. Look at how she controlled her anger and how truthful she was in her reliance in Allah because of her deep faith that equals high mountains in solidity and firmness, for she said:
“Take it easy...!”
Indeed, she knew that Allah is the one who can relieve every distress and that He is a supporter in the face of every injustice and the disapprover and falsifier of every false accusation. That is Allah the True Lord, the Glorified.
‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) continued:
“That night I incessantly wept the whole night till the morning. My tears wouldn’t stop, nor did I sleep, and even morning broke while I was still weeping. Allah’s Messenger called ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and Usaamah ibn Zayd when the divine inspiration was delayed so as to consult them over the idea of divorcing his wife (i.e. 'Aa'ishah). Usaamah ibn Zayd told Allah’s Messenger of what he knew about the innocence of his wife and of his affection for her. He said,
‘O’ Allah’s Messenger! She is your wife, and we do not know anything about her except good.’
But ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib said,
‘O’ Allah’s Messenger! Allah does not impose restrictions on you and there are plenty of women other than her. If you however ask (her) slave girl she will tell you the truth.'
'So Allah’s Messenger called for Bareerah and said, ‘O’ Bareerah! Did you ever see anything which may have aroused your suspicion (with regards to ‘Aa’ishah)?’ Bareerah said,
'By Allah who has sent with the truth, I have never seen anything regarding ‘Aa’ishah which I would blame her for except that she is a girl of immature age who sometimes sleeps and leaves her families' dough unprotected so that the domestic goats come and eat it.’
Then Allah’s Messenger got up and addressed the people and asked for somebody to take revenge on ‘Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn as-Salool. Allah’s Messenger, while standing on the pulpit said,
‘O’ Muslims! Who will help me against a man who has hurt me by slandering my family [Arabs refer to their wife as 'family']? By Allah, I know nothing except good about my family, and people have blamed a man of whom I know nothing except good, and he never used to visit my family [i.e. come to my home] except with me.'
Sa’d ibn Mu’adh al-Ansari got up and said,
‘O’ Allah’s Messenger! By Allah, I will relieve you from him. [Even] if he be from the tribe of (Bani) al-Aws I will (still) chop his head off; and if he be from our brethren, the Khazraj, then you give us your order and we will obey it.’
On that Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah got up, who was the chief of the Khazraj, and before this incident he had been a pious man but he was incited by his zeal for his tribe. He said to Sa’d (ibn Mu’aadh),
'By Allah the Eternal, you have told a lie! You shall not kill him and you will never be able to kill him!’
Due to this Usayd ibn Hudayr, the cousin of Sa’d (Ibn Mu’adh), got up and said to Sa’d Ibn Ubadah,
‘You are a liar! By Allah the Eternal, we will surely kill him; you are a hypocrite and defending the hypocrites!’
So the two tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj became upset till they were at the point of fighting each other while Allah’s Messenger was standing on the pulpit. Allah’s Messenger quietened them down until they became silent, whereupon he became silent too.
On that day I kept on weeping so much that neither did my tears stop, nor could I sleep. In the morning my parents were with me and I had wept for two nights and a day without sleeping and with incessant tears till they thought that my liver would burst from weeping. While they were with me and I was weeping, an Ansaari woman asked permission to see me. I admitted her and she sat and began weeping with me. While I was in this state, Allah’s Messenger came to us, greeted (us) and sat down. He hadn’t sat with me at all since the day what had been said [was said]. He had stayed a month without any receiving Divine Inspiration concerning my case. Allah’s Messenger recited the Tashahhud after which he sat down and then said, ‘Thereafter ‘O’ A’ishah! I have been informed such and such a thing about you, and if you are innocent, Allah will reveal your innocence, and if you have committed a sin, then ask for Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him, for when a slave confesses his sin and then repents to Allah, Allah accepts his repentance.' When Allah’s Messenger had finished his speech, my tears ceased completely so that I could no longer feel a drop thereof. I then said to my father:
‘Reply to Allah’s Messenger on my behalf as to what he said.’