The Prophet is undeniably a figure for Muslims to admire and look up to. Whether as a traveller or a parent, we often try to emulate his words and deeds in our own lives. Another area this applies to is that of being a good husband or wife. The Prophet had 13 wives throughout his lifetime, including esteemed figures such as Khadijah and Aisha. Though his relationship with each of his wives was different, he treated all of them with love and respect. In return, they supported him throughout his journey and they were also held in high esteem. Here are some of the lessons about life, love, and being a good spouse we can draw from the life of the Prophet Muhammad.
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1. Mutual respect, support, and partnership
The Prophet's relationship with his first wife, Khadija, has been written about hundreds of times. Their relationship lasted for 25 years until Khadija's death and was one full of love as much as a deep and mutual respect. According to Aisha, the Prophet's 2nd wife, he reportedly held her in such high esteem that:
" I [Aisha] never felt so jealous of any woman as I felt of Khadija, for Allah ordered him (the Prophet) to give Khadija the glad tidings of a palace in Paradise (for her)." [Sahih al-Bukhari]
The companion Ali also reported that:
"I heard the Prophet saying, "Mary, the daughter of `Imran, was the best among the women (of the world of her time) and Khadija is the best amongst the women. (of this nation)." [Sahih al-Bukhari]
The fact that they were 15 years apart (with Khadija being 40 when they were married) and her standing as a successful businesswoman did not weaken the marriage. If anything, Khadija's strong spirit was what allowed her to support him through difficult periods and their love was strengthened by being able to depend on each other as equals. Reported Aisha:
"Then the Prophet returned therewith, his heart was trembling, and he went to Khadija and said: Wrap me up, wrap me up! So they wrapped him till the fear had left him. He then said to Khadija: O Khadija! what has happened to me? and he informed her of the happening, saying: I fear for myself. She replied: It can't be. Be happy. I swear by Allah that He shall never humiliate you. By Allah, you join ties of relationship, you speak the truth, you bear people's burden, you help the destitute, you entertain guests, and you help against the vicissitudes which affect people."
Her high impression of him never wavered, even when he received his first Revelation as Prophet - instead, Khadija believed in her husband so much that she even converted to Islam and supported him. ❤️ We can take lessons not only from the Prophet but from Khadija as well, on supporting our significant others through their own journeys no matter the difficulty or obstacles that may arise.
2. Varied forms of affection
A popular saying of the Prophet related to marriage is, as narrated by Aisha:
"That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "The best of you is the best to his wives, and I am the best of you to my wives, and when your companion dies, leave him alone."" [Jami' at-Tirmidhi]
The Prophet treated each of his wives with love and affection but did so in a different manner that suited each of them. He didn't shy away from showing affection, but he was subtle about too and there are several accounts of the small things through which he initiated closeness with them. Reported Aisha:
"Yes. The Messenger of Allah would call me to eat with him while I was menstruating. He would take a piece of bone on which some bits of meat were left and insist that I take it first, so I would nibble a little from it, then put it down. Then he would take it and nibble from it, and he would put his mouth where mine had been on the bone. Then he would ask for a drink and insist that I take it first before he drank from it. So I would take it and drink from it, then put it down, then he would take it and drink from it, putting his mouth where mine had been on the cup.'" [Sunan an-Nasa'i]
The context of this makes it even more touching. Shuraih ibn al-Harith, an esteemed judge, was asking Aisha if a woman could eat with her husband while she was menstruating. Regardless of the taboos of the time, the Prophet's actions reflect how he had no qualms about sharing food with his wife during her menses. He also took the first step by inviting Aisha to dine with him. ? Through his actions, he set a standard that others could follow and stood up for the dignity of his wives and other women. Today, there are still cultural taboos surrounding menstruation, but the actions of the Prophet reflect how men can take a step in going against these taboos. Of course, there are also recordings of moments where he was more overt in his love. 'Amr bin Al-'As reported:
"That he said to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): "Who is the most beloved of the people to you?" He said: "'Aishah." He said: "From the men?" He said: "Her father."" [Jami' at-Tirmidhi]
So he didn't shy away from expressing his love for his wives or his in-laws either. While this doesn't mean you have to loudly express your love for your wife or family all the time, it doesn't hurt to remind her every now and then how much she means to you. ? Men are not often taught it's okay to be expressive about their emotions, but the Prophet's actions reflect that these shows of affection can be subtle.
3. Expressing emotions - good and bad
In any relationship, there's bound to be times when you disagree or cannot see eye to eye on a subject. During these moments, bad tempers or split-second decisions may lead us to say things we later regret but cannot take back. Looking at the words and deeds of the Prophet, we can see how communication played a big role in maintaining his relationship with each of his wives. Aisha narrated:
"Allah's Messenger said, " I know whether you are angry or pleased." I said, "How do you know that, Allah's Messenger?" He said, "When you are pleased, you say, "Yes, by the Lord of Muhammad,' but when you are angry, you say, 'No, by the Lord of Abraham!' " I said, "Yes, I do not leave, except your name."" [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Even when Aisha was angry, the Prophet did not restrict her expression of it. Today, wanting to preserve a relationship can sometimes lead to unhealthy habits of controlling the other person or overlooking their feelings. However, we should strive to show patience and understanding like the Prophet did, and understand why our significant other felt such frustration rather than dismissing it. ?
4. Justice, humility, and equality
Nowadays, equality in a marriage or relationship is an important consideration for both men and women. Rather than just being about how much you earn, expectations of equality apply to things like household chores too. The Prophet's home life was, maybe contrary to his position as such an esteemed leader, was one of humility and simpleness. Reported Aisha:
"He was a human from among other humans. He himself removed the lice from his clothing, milked his goats, and did all his work himself". [Ash-Shama'il Al-Muhammadiyah]
Al-Aswad also narrated:
"I asked Aisha what did the Prophet used to do at home. She replied. "He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer.""
His actions remind us that for all that we can achieve, we shouldn't forget to stay humble and remember the small actions that can contribute to a good character. It is telling that those closest to the Prophet remembered him for his mercy, love, and understanding as some of his greatest values. Beyond spreading the word of Islam to the larger community, the Prophet also made sure to strengthen the ibadah of those at home. ☺️ Indeed, it is the actions we do when no one else is watching that reflect the strength of our character the most. Rather than thinking about what society may 'expect' us to do as men or women or husbands or wives, we should strive to try and emulate the Prophet by communicating our needs with each other and coming to agreements that suit the both of us. In the Quran, there is a verse that says:
"And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought." (Surah Ar-Rum, 30:21)
The ayat is a popular recitation at solemnisations and whether you're engaged, newly married, or married for decades, the weight of the words ring true. We hope that these lessons from the life of the Prophet help you to strengthen your own marriage and inspire and remind you to continue to treat your significant others in the best possible way that you can. ❤️