31.12 The Effect of the Prophet's Marriages on Muslim Thought
Islam had become the most important and widespread religion in the peninsula and the Messenger adhered strictly to the principle in the Koran that each shall worship as his conscience dictates. He warned his followers never to try and tempt any of the People of the Book away from their religion. Idol worshippers he did try to convince of the stupidity of worshipping stone or wood, but those who had a holy book he left strictly to their conscience.
He made a pact with the monks of Sinai, granting them protection, security, freedom of worship, and exemption from all taxes. The monks have preserved this pact, and those who visit Sinai can still see it). All this he did in the seventh century when dreadful persecutions were being undertaken by others in the name of religion. While Cyrus, the agent of Heraclius in Egypt, was torturing and mutilating the Christian Copts in order to force them to adhere to the decrees of the Council of Chaldea, the Messenger was far in advance of the rest of the world in thought and action.
Each of the stories of the Messenger's wives has contributed something of value to Islam, a precedent and a heritage. The theory is found in the Holy Koran, but people do not understand by theory alone, it has to be actualized-they have to have the living example before them to understand.
From the story of the lady Khadija one learns much. One learns that the person who had the honor of being the first Muslim after the Messenger was a woman. Then it shows how great, sincere, steadfast and wise a woman can be. It reveals that marriage can be an ideal relationship of mutual love and respect. Over and above all, it shows that women can and are allowed to work in Islam. For many centuries after the Messenger and those great early Muslims passed away, there came the narrow-minded who would confine women at home. To these one points out the story of the lady Khadija who managed her trade business very successfully.
To those who say that women should not learn, that their place is in the house, one could point out that the Messenger urged men to teach their wives and daughters, but more than that one could point out the shining example of the lady Aisha and the service she did to Islam by her learning.
To those who thirst for revenge, one could point out how the Messenger sent to far-off Abyssinia to rescue the daughter of one of his staunchest enemies. The Koran points out that the sins of the parents are not to be visited upon the children, and in the Messenger's behavior to both Umm Habiba and Safiyya, the daughters of two of his worst enemies, is the living proof.
From the story of U mm Salama one learns that fatherless children are the responsibility of the whole community. They should not be ignored nor neglected nor wronged. The Koran gives orphans very clear rights, but it is in the application of these rights that the Messenger excelled.
If any should develop religious zeal against Christians and Jews, one could always point to the Messenger's being married, once to a Christian and once to a Jewess, and his memorable words in consequence,
"He who insults one of the people of the Book has insulted me."
Unselfish and unworldly each of the “Mothers of Believers” tried to do her best according to the abilities Allah had bestowed on her-such were the wives of the Messenger and such should Muslim women be.