Women have been made dear to me

The following is a translation of pages 297 to 303 from the book Mahasin al-Islam wa Radd Shubuhaat al-li’aam.

The following Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) is used by some to question him:

حُبِّبَ إِلَىَّ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا النِّسَاءُ وَالطِّيبُ وَجُعِلَ قُرَّةُ عَيْنِي فِي الصَّلاَةِ

“In your world, women and perfume have been made dear to me, and my comfort has been provided in prayer.’ [Sunan an-Nasa’i 3939]

People with doubts say that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) mentioned that women are one of the things he loves most and they argue that this is an indication of the excessive sexual craving.

This can be responded to in a number of ways:

  1. Meaning of Hadith and what is intended by the word “Women”
  2. The assertion that it is an affliction by Allah
  3. The assertion that it is a thing of benefit for the Muslims

We discuss all these below:

  1. Meaning of Hadith and what is intended by the word “Women”

Al-Mawardi said: Scholars are divided into two groups regarding the meaning women being made dear to the Prophet (ﷺ). One group says that this is a kind of an additional affliction and burden acting as as an obstacle to fulfill his mission. This way, the Prophet (ﷺ) will struggle more and will have a greater reward as well.

The other group says that this is a type of blessing for the Prophet (ﷺ) as his wives will narrate his good deeds, miracles, and private Islamic laws which are not often witnessed except by them and which refute the polytheists’ claim that he is a magician and a poet.

Therefore, both statements are good virtue for him (ﷺ).[1]

Ibn al-Haaj said: Consider carefully the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ): “have been made dear to me,” instead of saying, “I love them”, and his saying, “In your world”, instead of “in my world”. This indicates that his love is only for his Lord, the Almighty, and his saying, “and my comfort has been provided in prayer” proves that.

This also is an indication that everything our Prophet (ﷺ) did, is an example with his nation (Ummah) and serves as setting of laws for them. He did not do a thing simply because he needed it. Allah, the Almighty, says in Qur’an about those who are ignorant of the exalted characteristics and great qualities of the Prophet (ﷺ) “And they {those who disbelieve} say, “What is this messenger that eats food and walks in the markets?”. Have you ever thought carefully in His saying in His Qur’an wherein Allah says: “Say, [O Muhammad (ﷺ)], “I do not tell you that I have the depositories [containing the provision] of Allah or that I know the unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel.”

He didn’t say “I am not an angel” but he said “nor do I tell you that I am an angel“; which shows that he only denied that he did not tell them that he is an angel while his deeds and qualities are like those of angels.[2]

Al Fakhr al-Razi said: the Prophet (ﷺ) gave greater value to prayer than to marriage saying “and my comfort has been provided in prayer.”[3]

Ponder over what al-Razi says. He said, “He gave greater value to prayer than to marriage” which confirms the Hadith’s meaning that what the Prophet (ﷺ) means by “women” are just his wives; who are permissible for him only.

Qadi Iyad said that the Prophet (ﷺ) stressed on “your world” as his love for women and perfume is not for his worldly affairs but for his Hereafter, and you can re-read the reasons mentioned in marriage and meeting the angels. While his true love was to contemplate Allah’s power and to talk to Him, so that he differentiated between women and perfume, using the verb “made dear to me”, and his love for prayer, saying “and my comfort has been provided in prayer“, which is definitely a stronger meaning.[4]

Ibn Qayyim said regarding the Hadith: It is not shameful for a man to love or even to adore his wife, except if this love keeps him away from loving Allah and his Messenger (ﷺ) or if he loves her more than Allah and his Messenger (ﷺ). Therefore, each love that lessens your love for Allah and his Messenger (ﷺ) is a blameworthy one while the love that encourages you to love Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ) more is a praised one.[5]

This also overemphasizes the fact that women in this Hadith means his wives only.

Al-Suyuti said: In view of the fact that what is understood from the context of this Hadith is that the Prophet (ﷺ) wanted to clarify what he received from the enjoyments of this world; he (ﷺ) started his statement saying, “In your world, women and perfume have been made dear to me …“. In view of the fact of what has been made dear to him (ﷺ) from the enjoyments of this world is the best thing of it; the women, as evidenced by his saying in another Hadith “The world is but a (quick passing) enjoyment; and the best enjoyment of the world is a pious virtuous woman” [Muslim]. It is appropriate to include the best religious matter, prayer, in the same Hadith, as prayer is the best worship that ranks second to faith (Iman) (in the five pillars of Islam). Therefore, we learn that this Hadith is a rhetorical one as it includes the best worldly enjoyments besides the best religious worships. Furthermore, the Prophet (ﷺ) simply used the words “made dear to me” for the worldly matters while for the religious worships, he used the great expression of “my comfort has been provided in” as we can see that the word ‘comfort’ is used to express a great love not a normal one like the word “dear”.[6]

Ali b. Burhan al-Din al-Halabi said: Since he (ﷺ) didn’t say “in my world’ nor “in the world” as general; he mentions “in your world” that women and perfume are enjoyments for people, not for him; while he said “made dear to me” because they narrate his good deeds, miracles, and private Islamic laws that are not often witnessed except by them.[7]

Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Salihi said: The Prophet (ﷺ) was not eager to have the gold ornaments of the worldly life as it was offered by Allah to make the valley of Makkah into gold for him, but he declined and chose to be in want of Allah.

It is known that by gold he (ﷺ) could have whatever he wanted in the worldly life, but plenty of sound Hadiths prove that the Prophet (ﷺ) had very few enjoyments from the world and that he was ascetic/spiritual. This goes to show that his love for women and perfume was not because he was deeply enamored by them but in fact it was for his Hereafter and for reaching the highest ranks. He was married to more than one wife in order to inform the people about the private and the public Islamic laws, especially the issues that men feel too shy to ask about or to mention. His wives had a lot of knowledge of Islamic matters and clear proofs that he (ﷺ) performed when he was alone or in sleep. They also were aware of his hard work and diligence and informed the people of many acts that the Prophet (ﷺ) performed which no one saw except his wives. Hence, “women being made dear to the Prophet (ﷺ)” is a great benefit for the Muslims, otherwise who would have informed the people about these matters?! For his love for perfume, he used to wear perfume because he wanted the angel to keep descending upon him with the revelation and also he refrained from eating anything that had a strong smell. He (ﷺ) said “He who has eaten onion or garlic or leek should not approach our mosque, because the angels are also offended by the strong smells that offend the children of Adam.” By this, it becomes clear that his love for women and perfume is for his Hereafter and not for worldly enjoyment.[8]

In an edict issued by ‘Al-Azhar’ regarding this Hadith, it is mentioned that the Messenger (ﷺ)’s love for women was not a lustful one that implies excessive sexual craving like those who are districted with such things. We know well that he was always busy inviting people to the way of his Lord, solving the nation’s problems, and arising to pray at night till the skin of his feet would crack. Therefore, his love for his wives was a normal one because he was a man without any defect, but his love is not excessive and does not prevail his spirituality; thus he (ﷺ) said, “my comfort has been provided in prayer”. The best dearest thing for him (ﷺ) was the prayer, therefore, his interest in women did not distract him from prayer, his comfort.

Moreover, this Hadith could be a response to those who see that devoutness means monasticism; devotion to Allah and refraining from what Allah has permitted for us. Accordingly, the Prophet (ﷺ) said to such people: “By Allah, I fear Allah more than you do, and I am most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I observe fast and break it; perform prayer and sleep at night and take wives. So whoever turns away from my Sunnah does not belong to me”.

In addition, he was good and kind with all women and advised us to be the same. There are many Hadiths that convey this meaning. [9]

Thus, what the scholars said above clarifies the sound meaning of the Hadith and no one denies that the Prophet (ﷺ) meant only his wives.

  1. The assertion that it is an affliction by Allah

Al-Suyuti said: Some scholars said: Regarding the meaning of “women being made dear to the Prophet (ﷺ)”, scholars were divided into two groups: one state that this was a sort of an affliction and a burden that served as an obstacle to fulfill his mission. This way, the struggle of the Prophet (ﷺ) was much more carrying a much greater reward too.[10]

سَعْدِ بْنِ أَبِي وَقَّاصٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَىُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاَءً قَالَ ‏ “‏ الأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ يُبْتَلَى الْعَبْدُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ صُلْبًا اشْتَدَّ بَلاَؤُهُ وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ ابْتُلِيَ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَمَا يَبْرَحُ الْبَلاَءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الأَرْضِ وَمَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ خَطِيئَةٍ ‏”

Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas, said: “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), which people are most severely tested?’ He said: ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.’[11]

An-Nawawi said: Scholars said: Wisdom in the Prophets being the most severely tested, then the next best and the next best, is that they have the perfect patience, seek the reward from Allah, and know that this severity is a test and is a blessing from Allah to multiply their reward for their patience and satisfaction.[12]

Ibn Battal said: Allah, the Almighty, specifically severely tested His Prophets because He specifically granted them the certainty, strong patience, and content in order to give them the great reward.[13]

Therefore, this assertion is possible and substantiated by the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ) “have been made dear to me” instead of “I love…”.

Al-Abdari said: Ponder over the wisdom of his saying (ﷺ): “have been made dear to me” instead of “I love” and his saying “in your world” instead of “my world”, while he described prayer only as his comfort.[14]

He added: This shows that his love was for his Lord, as evidenced by his saying “my comfort has been provided in prayer” because this word has a strong indication for love.[15]

Qadi Iyad said: The Prophet (ﷺ) stressed on “your world” as his love for women and perfume, which are considered a worldly enjoyment for the other people, but for him it is not for his worldly matters but for his Hereafter.[16]

Qadi Iyad confirmed that the Prophet (ﷺ) endured the affliction and was patient for his Hereafter and not for his world.

  1. The assertion that it’s a thing of benefit for the Muslims

Al-Suyuti said: The other group says that this is a matter of benefit for the Prophet (ﷺ) as his wives narrated his good deeds, miracles, and private Islamic laws that were not ordinarily witnessed except by them, which consequently refute the polytheists’ claim that he was a magician and a poet.

Therefore, both the statements are good virtue for him (ﷺ).[17]

AL-Sindi said: It was said that “women have been made dear to him” was mentioned to inform the people about things that are not directly seen by the people around and that which men feel shy to talk about.[18]

Burhanuddin al-Halabi said: Women have been made dear to him (ﷺ) in order to narrate his good deeds, miracles, and private Islamic laws that are not often witnessed except by them and for other religious benefits.[19]

This already happened as his wives quoted from him Islamic laws and rulings very important for the Muslims such as the mother of the faithful believers A’ishah who narrated several Hadiths of the Prophet (ﷺ).

Al-Zahabi described the mother of the faithful A’ishah saying that she is the most versed woman ever.[20]

Al-Zarkali said about her: She is the most versed and the most knowledgeable woman concerning religion and literature. She was given the kunyah (nickname) Um Abdullah. The Prophet (ﷺ) married her in the second year after migration and she was the dearest wife to him. She was also the wife who narrated the most of his Hadiths. She gave speeches and gave Islamic edicts as well to the people. She used to compose poetry for every incident and the senior components asked her for rulings as well regarding the obligatory worships.[21]

Al-Zahabi said: A’ishah narrated 2210 Hadiths of the Prophet (ﷺ), from which 174 have been transmitted by both al-Bukhari and Muslim, 45 have been transmitted by al-Bukhari alone while 69 Hadiths have been transmitted only by Muslim.[22]

Allah knows best.

References and footnotes:

[1] Al-hawi al-Kabeer lil Mawardi 11/25, Hashyat al-Suyuti ala an-Nisa’i 7/61, Hashyat as-Sindi ala an-Nisa’i 7/61.

[2] Al-Madkhal li ibn al-Haaj 2/189.

[3] Tafseer al-Fakhr al-Razi 23/213.

[4] Ash-shifa be ta’reef huquq al-Mustafa lil Qadi Iyad (pg. 106).

[5] Ighathat al-lahfan (pg. 215).

[6] Al-hawi lil fatawa lil Suyuti 1/355.

[7] As-syar al-Halabya 2/181.

[8] Sabil al-huda wal-rashad fi sirat khair al-Ibad 10/417.

[9] Fatawa al-Azhar 8/261.

[10]Hashyat al-Suyuti ala an-Nisa’i 7/61; also see Hashyat as-Sindi ala an-Nisa’i 7/61.

[11] Tirmizi 2398, and he said: this is a sound Hadith, and Ibn Majah 4023; al-Albani said that it is a sound Hadith, in al-Silsila as-Sahiha 1/273.

[12] Sharh Muslim lil Nawawi 8/374.

[13] Sharh al-Bukhari li ibn al-battal

[14] Al-Madkhal li ibn al-Haaj 2/189.

[15] Al-Masdar as-Sabik

[16] Ash-Shifa be ta’reef Huquq al-Mustafa lil Qadi Iyad (pg. 106).

[17] Hashyat al-Suyuti ala an-Nisa’i 7/61.

[18] Hashyat as-Sindi ala an-Nisa’i 7/61.

[19] As-syar al-Halabya 2/434.

[20] Syar al-a’lam an-Nubalaa’ 2/135.

[21] Al-a’laam lil Zarkali 3/240.

[22] Syar al-a’lam an-Nubalaa’ 2/139; read more about it in Ash-shubuhat ‘an zawjat an-Nabi (ﷺ).

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