The Prohibition of Marrying as a Muhrim

Another Case of Muhammad’s Inconsistency

Sam Shamoun

According to the Islamic tradition Muhammad purportedly prohibited a Muslim from marrying and/or proposing marriage either for himself or someone else during ihram. Ihram refers to the state of ritual purity and dedication entered into by the pilgrim to Mecca; it also refers to the special clothing worn for the hajj.

Here are the traditions:


Nubaih b. Wahb reported that 'Umar b. Ubaidullah intended to marry Talha b. 'Umar with the daughter of Shaiba b. Jubair; so he sent a messenger to Aban b. Uthman to attend the marriage, and he was at that time the Amir of Hajj. Aban said: I heard 'Uthman b. 'Affan say that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) had stated: A Muhrim must neither marry himself, nor arrange the marriage of another one, nor should he make the proposal of marriage. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3278)

Uthman b. 'Affan reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) had said: A Muhrim should neither marry himself, nor should he become married to anyone, nor should he make the proposal of marriage. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3280)

Nabaih b. Wahb reported that Umar b. 'Ubaidullah b. Ma'mar intended to marry his son Talha with the daughter of Shaiba b. Jubair during the Pilgrimage. Aban b. Uthman was at that time the Amir of Pilgrims. So he ('Umar b. Ubaidullah) sent someone (as a messenger) to Aban saying: I intend to marry Talha b. 'Umar and I earnestly desire you to be present there (in this ceremony of marriage). Aban said to him: I find you a block-headed 'Iraqi. I heard 'Uthman b. 'Affan say that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: A Muhrim should not marry. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3282)

Section: Marriage in Ihram

Yahya related to me from Malik, from Nafi, from Nubayh ibn Wahb, who was from the tribe of Bani Abd ad-Dar, that Umar ibn Ubaydullah sent a message to Aban ibn Uthman (who was amir of the hajj at the time), while both of them were in ihram, saying, "I want to marry Bint Shayba ibn Jubayr to Talha ibn Umar and I want you to be present." Aban told him that he should not do that and said, "I heard Uthman ibn Affan say that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'A man in ihram should not marry, or give in marriage, or get betrothed.'" (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 20, Number 20.20.71)

Yahya related to me from Malik, from Da'ud ibn al-Husayn, that Abu Ghatafan ibn Tarif al-Murri told him that his father Tarif had married a woman while he was in ihram, and Umar ibn al-Khattab had rescinded the marriage. (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 20, Number 20.20.72)

Yahya related to me from Malik, from Nafi, that Abdullah ibn Umar used to say, "Someone in ihram may neither get married, nor arrange a marriage for himself or others." (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 20, Number 20.20.73)

Muhammad failed to live by his own rules since he accepted a proposal of marriage and married a woman during this state of ihram:

… Maymuna or Barra as she was then called, yearned to marry the Prophet. She went to her sister, Umm al Fadl to talk to her about that and she, in turn, spoke to her husband, al-Abbas. Al-Abbas immediately went to the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with Maymuna's offer of marriage to him and her proposal was accepted…. (Source)

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet married Maimuna while he was in the state of lhram but he consummated that marriage after finishing that state. Maimuna died at Saraf (i.e. a place near Mecca). Ibn 'Abbas added, The Prophet married Maimuna during the 'Umrat-al-Qada' (i.e. the 'Umra performed in lieu of the 'Umra which the Prophet could not perform because the pagans, prevented him to perform that 'Umra) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 559)

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

The Prophet got married while he was in the state of Ihram. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 49)

Ibn 'Abbas (Allah be pleased with them) reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) married Maimuna while he was a Muhrim. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3284)

Other traditions were not quite certain whether Muhammad actually married her during this state:

Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with them) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married Maimuna in the state of Ihram. Ibn Numair made this addition: "I narrated it to Zuhri and he said: Yazid b. al-Asamm (Allah be pleased with him) told me that he (the Holy Prophet) married her when he was not a muhrim." (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3283)

Yazid ibn al-Asamm reported: Maimuna daughter of al-Harith narrated to me that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) married her and he was not in the state of Ihram. And she (Maymunah) was my mother's sister and that of Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with them). (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3285)

Yahya related to me from Malik, from Rabia ibn Abi Abd ar-Rahman, from Sulayman ibn Yasar, that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sent Abu Rafi and a man of the Ansar to arrange his marriage to Maymuna bint al-Harith, and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was in Madina before he had left for umra. (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 20, Number 20.20.70)

The renowned Muslim historian and commentator al-Tabari provides an explanation why Muhammad consummated his marriage with Maimuna in Saraf, after having left Mecca:

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq, who said: When the Messenger of God returned to Medina from Khaybar, he stayed there months of Rabi‘ I, Rabi‘ II, Jumada I, Jumada II, Rajab, Sha‘ban, Ramadan, and Shawwal, sending out expeditions and raiding parties during the period. Then in Dhu al-Qa‘dah, the month in which the polytheists had turned him back [in the previous year], he set out to perform the "Lesser Pilgrimage of Fulfillment" in place of the lesser pilgrimage which they had turned him back. The Muslims who had been with him on that lesser pilgrimage of his set out with him. It was the year 7. When the people of Mecca heard of it, they made way for him. The Quraysh spoke among themselves of how Muhammad and his companions were in difficulty, distress and want…

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Muhammad b. Ishaq – Aban b. Salih and ‘Abdallah b. Abi Najih – ‘Ata’ b. Abi Rabah and Mujahid – Ibn ‘Abbas: The Messenger of God married Maymunah bt. Al-Harith on this journey while he was in a state of ritual purity; al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib married her to him.

According to Ibn Ishaq: The Messenger of God stayed in Mecca three nights. On the third day, Huwaytib b. ‘Abd al-‘Uzza b. Abi Qays b. ‘Abd Wudd b. Nasr b. Malik b. Hisl came to him with a group of Quraysh: Quraysh had deputed Huwaytib to make the Messenger of God leave Mecca. They said to him, "Your allotted time is up; so depart from us!" The Messenger of God said to them: "How would it harm you if you left me and I celebrated the wedding feast among you? We would prepare food for you, and you would attend it." They said, "We do not need your food; so depart from us!" The Messenger of God departed leaving behind Abu Rafi‘ his mawla to take charge of Maymunah. Abu Rafi‘ brought her to him at Sarif, and the Messenger of God consummated his marriage with her there… (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. 133-134, 136-137; bold and underline emphasis ours)


The Prophet married Maymunah in Sarif [a place] ten miles from Mecca. She was the last woman he married, in the year 7/628, during the lesser pilgrimage of the Consummation (‘umrat al-qadiyyah). (The History of al-Tabari: Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors, translated by Ella Landau-Tasseron [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1998], Volume XXXIX (39), p 185-186; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Hence, the proposal took place during ihram, Muhammad accepted the proposal during ihram, and he had every intention of consummating the marriage already during the pilgrimage and in Mecca itself, but was prevented from doing so by the pagans who forced him to leave.

Yet these contradictory statements of the hadith literature led to conflicting opinions among Muslim scholars:

Contracting a Marriage, or Acting on Behalf of Others, or Acting as a Guardian for Someone

Such a marriage contract is invalid, null and void, and is not binding as reported in a hadith transmitted by Muslim and others. It is reported that 'Uthman ibn 'Affan said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "A muhrim must not contract marriage, nor help others contract marriage, nor get engaged for marriage." Malik, Ash-Shafi'i, Ahmad, and Ishaq are also of the same opinion. They hold that it is not permissible for a muhrim to contract a marriage and regard any marriage thus contracted as invalid. Tirmidhi has also reported it but without the words "nor get engaged for marriage." Tirmidhi considers this a sound hadith and remarks that the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) practiced it.

Some of the reports that say the Prophet (peace be upon him) "married Maimunah while he was a muhrim" are contrary to the report transmitted by Muslim that "he married her while he was no longer in the state of ihram."

Tirmidhi said: "There is disagreement concerning the marriage of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Maimunah, for he married her on his way to Makkah. Some said: 'He married her before he put on ihram, but the news of his marriage became known while he was in the state of ihram. Later he consummated his marriage with her in Saraf, on the road to Makkah, after he was free from the restrictions of ihram.'

Hanafi scholars, however, hold that a muhrim may contract a marriage, because in the state of ihram what is forbidden is not marriage with a woman, but only the consummation of marriage. Contracting a marriage is permissible, but intercourse is forbidden. (Fiqh us-Sunna, Volume 5, Number 51; ALIM CD-Rom Version; underline emphasis ours)

The foregoing conflicting statements once again demonstrate the chaotic nature of the Islamic source material. The very foundational texts of Islam are simply a compilation of mass confusion and gross contradictions, and trying to make sense out of them becomes an exercise in futility for the most part.

Moreover, it seems obvious (at least to us) that the hadiths, which claim that Muhammad didn’t marry Maimuna during ihram, were forged in order to salvage Muhammad’s reputation. After all, it is highly unlikely that Muslims would make up a story of Muhammad marrying during ihram when this presents him as someone who acted inconsistently, exposing him for disregarding his own commands, especially when it was expedient for him to do so.

A Muslim may raise the objection that this prohibition came later because there was no hajj or umra before that time. This one was the first time that Muslims were permitted to enter Mecca on pilgrimage, which means that subsequent pilgrimages would have taken place after this time. Thus, Allah couldn’t have forbidden marriages during a state of ritual purity before Muslims started making trips to Mecca.

The problem with this position is that an all-knowing deity could have informed Muhammad during his first pilgrimage to Mecca after his migration that contracting marriages with women during this time is absolutely forbidden. At the very least, Allah could have sent down a revelation shortly after Muhammad desired to marry Maimuna that such a proposal is prohibited, and that he must wait until his period of ritual purity was over.

After all, didn’t Allah correct and rebuke Muhammad on other occasions for doing things contrary to the divine will?

May Allah forgive you (O Muhammad SAW). Why did you grant them leave (for remaining behind, you should have persisted as regards your order to them to proceed on Jihad), until those who told the truth were seen by you in a clear light, and you had known the liars? S. 9:43 Hilali-Khan

And (remember) when you said to him (Zaid bin Harithah the freedslave of the Prophet SAW) on whom Allah has bestowed Grace (by guiding him to Islam) and you (O Muhammad SAW too) have done favour (by manumitting him) "Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah." But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allah has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people (i.e., Muhammad SAW married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave) whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah's Command must be fulfilled. S. 33:37 Hilali-Khan

If it was the divine will for Muslims not to marry or contract marriages during ihram, certainly Allah could have corrected or prevented Muhammad from going against this decree!

Muhammad's Inconsistency
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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