Anti Islamic missionaries allege that the Qur’an contains contradictions in its rulings on marriage, They state that on one hand the Qur’an limits the number of women that can be married at a time to four and yet the Prophet of Islam ﷺ married more than that.
The verse of the Qur’an which limits the number of women that can be married at a time is as follows:
Surah Nisaa 4:3
And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one …
Before asking for the Muslim evidences, as to why the Prophet ﷺ married more than four when the verse above explicitly limits it to four, the anti Islamic missionaries find the solutions themselves and then carry on with their interpretations. This approach will, obviously, find many faults with the Qur’an. It is like giving the car to an amateur and then blaming the car for the accident. For those seeking answer to as to why the Prophet ﷺ was polygamous, refer here.
Before we present our evidence (verse quoted at the end), let us look at what the anti Islamic missionaries consider as a possible Muslim response.
Surah Ahzaab 33:50
O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom God has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makkah) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; – this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess; – in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Quoting this verse, the anti Islamic missionaries allege that the Prophet ﷺ is not allowed to marry any other woman besides those mentioned above and state that only those women who migrated with him from Makkah to Madina can be wed. This is either a pure case of poor reading or deliberate maligning campaign. Simply concentrating on the emphasis will clear all such ridiculous claims.
The anti Islamic missionaries claim, regarding the quoted verse above:
… the privilege given to Muhammad wasn’t that he could have more than four wives, but rather that he could take any woman who willingly offered herself to him.
The answer to this query is in the invalid conclusion itself. The emphasis above is ours and not the missionary. From the verse, we established that certain things were applicable to the Prophet ﷺ only also such as the night prayer (see also 17:79, 73:2-4). Any woman who willingly offered herself to the Prophet ﷺ could also have been taken by the Prophet ﷺ as his wife. “Any woman” does not limit the number.
Some commentators have understood this to mean that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ could marry any woman who willingly forfeited the bridal price or dowry (mahr), something not permitted to any other Muslim. Whether we accept or reject this understanding of some commentators, it is irrelevant to the allegation against the Qur’an, as there is nothing in the Qur’an that states whether the wives of the Prophet ﷺ forsook their bridal gift or not. If the wives of the Prophet ﷺ had forsaken their bridal gift, then as per some of these commentators, the Prophet ﷺ could have married more than four women. The Qur’an is silent on these private details and therefore any attack is automatically inapplicable.
Here is the view of Ibn Kathir on this verse:
[قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا فَرَضْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ فِى أَزْوَجِهِـمْ]
(Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives) means, `concerning the limiting of their number to four free women, and whatever they wish of slave-girls, and the conditions of a representative, dowery and witnesses to the marriage. This is with regard to the Ummah (the people), but We have granted an exemption in your case and have not imposed any of these obligations upon you.’
Surah Ahzaab 33:38
There is not to be upon the Prophet any discomfort concerning that which Allah has imposed upon him. [This is] the established way of Allah with those [prophets] who have passed on before. And ever is the command of Allah a destiny decreed.
The rules of Allah Almighty are different for the believers than they are for Prophets.
Indeed Allah knows best.