Muhammad’s Inconsistency

Prohibiting a Lawful Marriage

Sam Shamoun

The Quran gives men the right to marry up to four wives on the condition that they treat them all fairly:

If you fear that you will not act justly towards the orphans, marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four; but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own; so it is likelier you will not be partial. S. 4:3

Yet Muhammad denied this right to his son-in-law Ali ibn Abu Talib who wanted to marry another woman. Muhammad refused to allow Ali to do so on the grounds that this would hurt his daughter Fatima:

Narrated 'Ali bin Al-Husain:
That when they reached Medina after returning from Yazid bin Mu'awaiya after the martyrdom of Husain bin ‘Ali (may Allah bestow His Mercy upon him), Al-Miswar bin Makhrama met him and said to him, "Do you have any need you may order me to satisfy?" ‘Ali said, "No." Al-Miswar said, Will you give me the sword of Allah’s Apostle for I am afraid that people may take it from you by force? By Allah, if you give it to me, they will never be able to take it till I die." When ‘Ali bin Abu Talib demanded the hand of the daughter of Abi Jahl to be his wife besides Fatima, I heard Allah’s Apostle on his pulpit delivering a sermon in this connection before the people, and I had then attained my age of puberty. Allah’s Apostle said, "Fatima is from me, and I am afraid she will be subjected to trials in her religion (because of jealousy)." The Prophet then mentioned one of his son-in-laws who was from the tribe of ‘Abu Shams, and he praised him as a good son-in-law, saying, "Whatever he said was the truth, and he promised me and fulfilled his promise. I do not make a legal thing illegal, nor do I make an illegal thing legal, but by Allah, the daughter of Allah's Apostle and the daughter of the enemy of Allah, (i.e. Abu Jahl) can never get together (as the wives of one man) (See Hadith No. 76, Vo. 5). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 342)


XVI: Concerning the sons-in-law of the Prophet, which include Abu'l-'As ibn ar-Rabi'

3523. It is related that al-Miswar ibn Makhrama said, "'Ali ibn Abi Talib proposed to the daughter of Abu Jahl and Fatima heard about it. She went to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, ‘Your people claim that you do not become angry on account of your daughters. This ‘Ali is going to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, got up and I heard him say after the tashahhud, "Following on from that, I married my daughter to Abu’l-‘As ibn ar-Rabi’ and he spoke to me and told the truth to me. Fatima is part of me and I dislike that she be vexed. By Allah, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the daughter of the enemy of Allah will not be joined together by the same man.’ So ‘Ali abandoned his proposal."

It is related that Miswar said, "I heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he mentioned an in-law of his from the Banu ‘Abdu Shams and praised him as an in-law, and said, ‘He spoke to me and told the truth. He promised him and kept his promise.'" (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 66. Book of the Virtues of the Companions; source)

Since the Quran that Muhammad preached allows every man to have four wives at one time why was Ali prohibited from marrying Abu Jahl's daughter?

Was it because this marriage was prohibited, being unlawful for a believer to wed the daughter of a disbeliever? First, it would have been pointless for Ali to express the intention of marrying Abu Jahl’s daughter since he would have already known that this was wrong. At the very least we would expect Muhammad to correct him by informing him that such marriages were against the directives of the Quran.

Furthermore, didn’t Muhammad himself marry the daughter of his enemy, Abu Sufyan?

According to Muhammad b. ‘Umar [al-Waqidi] who said: The Messenger of God sent a message to the Negus that he should marry to him Umm Habibah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan, and should send her to him along with the Muslims who were with him. To inform Umm Habibah of the marriage proposal, the Negus sent a slave girl of his named Abrahah to her. Umm Habibah was so overjoyed by the news that she gave Abrahah some of her silver jewelry and a ring. The Negus commanded Umm Habibah to appoint someone as her agent to give her in marriage, and she appointed Khalid b. Sa‘id b. al-‘As. He gave her in marriage: the Negus spoke on behalf of the Messenger of God, and Khalid spoke [for Umm Habibah] and gave Umm Habibah in marriage. The Negus called for 400 dirhams as her bride gift and handed them to Khalid b. Sa‘id. When the money came to Umm Habibah–it was Abrahah who brought it–Umm Habibah gave her fifty mithqals, saying, "I gave you that when I possessed nothing, but now God, Who is mighty and exalted, has brought this!" … When Abu Sufyan learned that the Prophet had been married to Umm Habibah, he said, "That stallion’s nose is not to be restrained!" (The History of al-Tabari – The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1997], Volume VIII (8), pp. 109-110)

The very one whom his own daughter called an unclean pagan or polytheist?

Abu Sufyan then set out and went to the Messenger of God in Medina. Abu Sufyan [first] visited his own daughter, Umm Habibah bt. Abi Sufyan. When he was about to sit on the bed of the Messenger of God, she folded it up to stop him. He said, "My daughter, by God, I don’t know whether you think I am too good for this bed or you think it is too good for me." She said: "It is the bed of the Messenger of God, and you are an unclean polytheist. I did not want you to sit on the bed of the Messenger of God." … (Ibid., p. 164; underline emphasis ours)

And whose wife was involved in mutilating the dead bodies of the Muslims at Uhud and actually chewed the liver of Muhammad’s uncle Hamza?

According to Abu Ja‘far (al-Tabari)– Ibn Humayd–Salamah–Muhammad b. Ishaq–Salih b. Kaysan: Hind bt. ‘Utbah and the women who were with her stopped to mutilate the Messenger of God’s dead companions, cutting off their ears and noses until Hind was able to make anklets and necklaces of them. She gave her own anklets, necklaces, and earrings to Wahshi, the slave of Jubayr b. Mut‘im. Then she ripped open Hamzah’s body for his liver and chewed it, but she was not able to swallow it and spat it out. Then she climbed a high rock and screamed at the top of her voice the lines of verse which she had spoken when they took possession of the booty they had seized from the companions of the Messenger of God. (The History of al-Tabari – The Foundation of the Community, translated by M. V. McDonald, annotated by W. Montgomery Watt [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1987], Volume VII (7), p. 129)

That same Abu Sufyan?

Yet if Ali’s intention for marriage was something lawful then it was pointless for Muhammad and Fatima to be angry since Ali was well within his rights.

In fact, Muhammad knew he was doing something wrong since the report from al-Bukhari quotes him as saying,

V: What is mentioned about the armour of the Prophet, his staff, sword, cup and ring, and what the Khalifs after him used of that which was not mentioned as having been distributed, and about his hair, sandals, and utensils which his Companions and others considered to have blessing after his death…

"… Fatima is from me and I fear that she will be tested in her deenI do not make the lawful unlawful and I do not make the unlawful lawful BUT, by Allah, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the daughter of the enemy of Allah will not be joined together." (Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 62. Book of Khumus, Number 2943; source)

It seems pretty obvious that the reason why Muhammad forbade Ali from an acceptable and lawful marriage is because of his desire to protect his daughter Fatima since he knew she would be jealous and couldn’t handle another woman sharing the affections of her husband. This fact is brought out by the following narratives:

3867. Al-Miswar bin Makhramah narrated: "While he was on the Minbar, I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Indeed Banu Hisham bin Al-Mughirah asked me if they could marry their daughter to ‘Ali bin Abi Talib. But I do not allow it, I do not allow it, I do not allow it – unless ‘Ali bin Abi Talib wishes to divorce my daughter and marry their daughter, because she is a part of me. I am displeased by what displeases her, and I am harmed by what harms her.’" (Sahih)

[Abu ‘Eisa said:] This Hadith is Hasan Sahih. [And ‘Amr bin Dinar reported it similar to this from Ibn Abi Mulaikah from Al-Miswar bin Makhramah like this.]


At the time when ‘Ali wanted to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl and talked to her uncle Harith bin Hisham, all the sisters and the mother of Fatima had died, and she had no lady companion in this adversity. Obviously such situation is very troublesome for a father, so the Prophet dissuaded ‘Ali strongly, and asked him to drop the idea of marrying. (English Translation of Jami‘ At-Tirmidhi, Compiled by Imam Hafiz ‘Eisa Mohammad Ibn ‘Eisa At-Tirmidhi, From Hadith no. 3291 to 3956, translated by Abu Khaliyl (USA), ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair ‘Ali Za’i, final review by Islamic Research Darussalam [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: November 2007], Volume 6, Chapter 60. What Has Been related About the Virtue of Fatimah Bint Muhammad, pp. 485-486; underline emphasis ours)


1998. It was narrated that Mishwar bin Makhramah: "I heard the Messenger of Allah, when he was one the pulpit, say: ‘Banu Hisham bin Mughirah asked me for permission to marry their daughter to ‘Ali bin Abu Talib, but I will not give them permission, and I will not give them permission, and I will not give them permission, unless ‘Ali bin Abu Talib wants to divorce my daughter and marry their daughter, for she is a part of me, and what bothers her bothers me, and what upsets her upsets me.’" (Sahih)


  1. It is not allowed to worry the noble Prophet by any means even though the concern may be about what is lawful; but perhaps it would be displeasing to the Messenger of Allah for a certain reason.
  2. The Messenger of Allah, prohibited ‘Ali from marrying the daughter of Abu Jahl because it would be troublesome for Fatimah, and it would hurt the Prophet too; consequently ‘Ali would earn the displeasure of Allah for bothering the Prophet. This prohibition, in fact, was a means of kindness towards ‘Ali.

1999. ‘Ali bin Husain said that Miswar bin Makhramah told him that ‘Ali bin Abu Talib proposed to the daughter of Abu Jahl, when he was married to Fatimah the daughter of the Prophet. When Fatimah heard of that she went to the Prophet and said: "Your people are saying that you do not feel angry for your daughters. This ‘Ali is going to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl." Miswar said: "The Prophet stood up, and I heard him when he bore witness (i.e., said the Shahadah), then he said: ‘I married my daughter (Zainab) to Abu-As bin Rabi’, and he spoke to me and was speaking the truth. Fatimah bint Muhammad is a part of me, and I hate to see her faced with troubles. By Allah, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah and the daughter of the enemy of Allah will never be joined together in marriage to one man.’"

He said: So, ‘Ali abandoned the marriage proposed. (Sahih) (English Translation of Sunan Ibn Majah - Compiled by Imam Muhammad Bin Yazeed Ibn Majah Al-Qazwini, From Hadith No. 1783 to 2718, Ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair 'Ali Za'i, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Canada), final review by Abu Khaliyl (USA) [Darussalam Publications and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], Volume 3, Chapter 56. Jealousy, pp. 141-143; underline emphasis ours)

The next quotes are even clearer:

Translation: It is narrated on the authority of Abu Abdullah Jafar Al-Sadiq: A miserable of the miserables came to Fatima, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, and said to her: "Did you not know that Ali proposed to marry (Khataba) the daughter of Abu Jahl?" She said: "Is it true what you say? He said three times: "What I say is true." Jealousy entered into her (heart) to an extent she could not control it, for Allah has ordained that women be jealous and that men perform Jihad, and He has made the reward of the patient (woman) similar to that of the Murabit and Muhajir in the way of Allah.

He said: And Fatima’s anguish became severe and she remained thinking about it until night time…she moved to her father’s residence. Ali came to his residence and did not see Fatima and his anguish increased and became great on him, even though he did not know what happened, and he was ashamed to call her from her father’s house so he went to the Masjid and prayed as much as Allah willed, and he collected some of the sand in the Masjid and laid on it.

When the Prophet saw how sad and anguished Fatima was, he poured water over himself and wore his clothes and entered the Masjid. He kept praying, making Rukoo and Sujood, and after every time he completed two Raka he made Du’a that Allah remove what Fatima had of sadness and anguish because he left her turning over and breathing heavily. When the Prophet saw that she could not sleep and could not rest he said: "O daughter, rise!" So she rose and the Prophet carried Al-Hassan and she carried Al-Hussain and took hold of Umm Kulthoom’s hand until they reached Ali (AS) while he was sleeping.

The Prophet put his foot on Ali, pinched him, and said: "Rise Abu Turab! You have disturbed many a resting person. Call for me Abu Bakr from his house and Umar from his Majlis and Talha." So Ali went and got them from their houses and they gathered around the Messenger of Allah.

The Messenger of Allah then said: "O Ali! Do you not know that Fatima is a piece of me and I am from her. Whoever disturbs her, disturbs me and whoever disturbs me has disturbed Allah, and whoever disturbs her after my death then as if he has disturbed her in my lifetime and whoever disturbed her in my lifetime then as if he has disturbed her after my death."

(Source: Ibn Babveh Al Qummi’s "Elal Al-Sharae’", pp.185-186, Al-Najaf Print; also narrated in Majlisi "Bihar" 43/201-202)


And this was not the only time that Ali angered Fatima. According to Shia sources, we see several other instances. On one occasion, she was angry with Ali because she saw his head in the lap of a slave girl that was given to him as a gift. She even left him for awhile and went to her father’s house, which is something that females do when they are upset with their husbands or they are facing marital problems. This narration is available on the, a reputable Shia website…

Translation: Al-Qummi and Al-Majlisi narrated on the authority of Abu Thar: I migrated with Jafar ibn Abi Talib to Abyssinia. A slave girl worth 4,000 dirhams was given to Jafar as a gift. When we came to Medinah he gave it to Ali as a gift that she may serve him. Ali kept her in Fatima’s house. One day Fatima entered and saw that his head was in the girl’s lap. She said: "O Abu Al-Hasan! Have you done it!?" He said: "O daughter of Muhammad! I have done nothing, so what is it that you want?" She said: "Do you allow me to go to my father’s house?" He said: "I will allow you." So she wore her Jilbab and went to the Prophet.

(Source: Ibn Babaveh Al-Qummi’s "Elal Al-Sharae’", p.163; it is also narrated in Bihar Al-Anwar, pp.43-44, Chapter on "How her life with Ali was"; underline emphasis ours)

The above quotations were taken from the site, specifically from the article titled, Ahlel Bayt – A Sunni Perspective, Fadak, Part V: Fatima’s Anger (*). The author(s) translated these narratives from this page (*).

There is further substantiation that Muhammad prohibited Ali from marrying any other woman besides Fatima altogether because of how she would feel. It wasn’t until after the death of Fatima that Ali married a number of wives. These were:

Ali married a total of nine wives, including Fatima, and had a few concubines as well. Doesn’t this make it obvious that the only reason why Ali was prevented from espousing other women is because Muhammad wanted to make sure that his daughter was happy and that she wouldn’t have to compete with other wives for the undivided devotion and love of her husband?

But even here Muhammad acted inconsistently and failed to apply his own standards to himself. It is no secret that Muhammad’s wives were not happy with their husband marrying so many women and were quite jealous and discontent with their situation, just as Muhammad’s child bride Aisha candidly admitted:

Narrated Muadha:
‘Aisha said, "Allah's Apostle used to take the permission of that wife with whom he was supposed to stay overnight if he wanted to go to one other than her, after this Verse was revealed:--

‘You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives) and you may receive any (of them) whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).’" (33.51) I asked Aisha, "What did you use to say (in this case)?" She said, "I used to say to him, ‘If I could deny you the permission (to go to your other wives) I would not allow your favor to be bestowed on any other person.’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 312)

Muhammad didn’t help the situation any since he openly and unashamedly distinguished between his wives by favoring some women over the rest. He even had the audacity to justify his partial and preferential treatment by claiming that Allah would only send down revelations to him when he was in the bed of one of his spouses, specifically his child bride Aisha!

Narrated ‘Urwa from ‘Aisha:
The wives of Allah's Apostle were in two groups. One group consisted of 'Aisha, Hafsa, Safiyya and Sauda; and the other group consisted of Um Salama and the other wives of Allah's Apostle. The Muslims knew that Allah’s Apostle loved ‘Aisha, so if any of them had a gift and wished to give to Allah's Apostle, he would delay it, till Allah’s Apostle had come to ‘Aisha's home and then he would send his gift to Allah’s Apostle in her home. The group of Um Salama discussed the matter together and decided that Um Salama should request Allah's Apostle to tell the people to send their gifts to him in whatever wife’s house he was. Um Salama told Allah’s Apostle of what they had said, but he did not reply. Then they (those wives) asked Um Salama about it. She said, "He did not say anything to me." They asked her to talk to him again. She talked to him again when she met him on her day, but he gave no reply. When they asked her, she replied that he had given no reply. They said to her, "Talk to him till he gives you a reply." When it was her turn, she talked to him again. He then said to her, "Do not hurt me regarding Aisha, AS THE DIVINE INSPIRATIONS DO NOT COME TO ME ON ANY OF THE BEDS EXCEPT THAT OF AISHA." On that Um Salama said, "I repent to Allah for hurting you." Then the group of Um Salama called Fatima, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle and sent her to Allah’s Apostle to say to him, "Your wives request to treat them and the daughter of Abu Bakr ON EQUAL TERMS." Then Fatima conveyed the message to him. The Prophet said, "O my daughter! Don’t you love whom I love?" She replied in the affirmative and returned and told them of the situation. They requested her to go to him again but she refused. They then sent Zainab bint Jahsh who went to him AND USED HARSH WORDS SAYING, "Your wives request you TO TREAT THEM and the daughter of Ibn Abu Quhafa ON EQUAL TERMS." On that she raised her voice AND ABUSED ‘Aisha TO HER FACE so much so that Allah’s Apostle looked at ‘Aisha to see whether she would retort. ‘Aisha started replying to Zainab till she silenced her. The Prophet then looked at ‘Aisha and said, "She is really the daughter of Abu Bakr." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 755)

If Muhammad was truly consistent and an exemplary model he should have thought of the emotional pain that his preferential treatment would cause his wives and therefore contented himself with only one spouse.

Finally, and more importantly, in forbidding Ali from exercising his right to marry additional women, per the Quranic injunction, Muhammad was acting in the same manner and exhibiting the same authoritarian behaviour which he condemned the Jewish rabbis and Christian monks for:

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and the Messiah, son of Maryam> [9:31].

Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded a Hadith via several chains of narration, from 'Adi bin Hatim, may Allah be pleased with him, who became a Christian during the time of Jahiliyyah. When the call of the Messenger of Allah reached his area, 'Adi ran away to Ash-Sham, and his sister and several of his people were captured. The Messenger of Allah freed his sister and gave her gifts. So she went to her brother and encouraged him to become Muslim and to go to the Messenger of Allah. 'Adi, who was one of the chiefs of his people (the tribe of Tai') and whose father, Hatim At-Ta’i, was known for his generosity, went to Al-Madinah. When the people announced his arrival, 'Adi went to the Messenger of Allah wearing a silver cross around his neck. The Messenger of Allah recited this Ayah;

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah>.

‘Adi commented, "I said, ‘They did not worship them.’" The Prophet said,

((Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshiped them.)) …

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah…>

that the Christians and Jews obeyed their monks and rabbis in whatever they allowed or prohibited for them…" (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Surat Al-A'raf to the end of Surah Yunus, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition: May 2000], Volume 4, pp. 409-410; source; bold emphasis ours)


They have taken their rabbis, the scholars among the Jews, and their monks, the devout among the Christians, as lords beside God — following them in making lawful what God has made unlawful and making unlawful what He has made lawful — and the Messiah, son of Mary, when they were not commanded, in the Torah and the Gospel, except to worship One God: there is no god except Him; glory be to Him, as an affirmation of His transcendence [high], above what they associate [with Him]. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; underline emphasis ours)

Hence, Muhammad became the very thing he hated and condemned, namely, a lord besides Allah who expected his followers to obey his commands even if this meant breaking the directives of his own deity.

To summarize our discussion:

In conclusion, this story simply provides further evidence for what we have been saying all along, i.e. Muhammad was someone who refused to practice what he preached and did not personally apply the Islamic law consistently to himself. He even expected that those closest to him would obey his orders over against the Quran. After all, Muhammad deemed it lawful for both himself and others to marry more than one wife, but refused this right to Ali when it came to his daughter. This narrative further defames Fatima for refusing to allow her husband to practice Allah's commands, which he supposedly "revealed" to her father.

And this point bears repeating: Muhammad set his personal desires and commands above the directives of the Quran, and expected the Muslims to acquiesce to his wishes – even if this meant that they would have to go against the Muslim scripture to do so – thereby elevating himself to the position of deity.

Muhammad's Inconsistency
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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