Written by: Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo
The thrust of this piece is to interrogate and deconstruct the legitimacy and intent of a trending question posted by a non-Ahmadi Muslim on a Facebook group with regard to the hallowed office and matrimony of Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih, the Supreme Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (may Allah strengthen him with the spirit of holiness).
The now viral going poser goes thus: “What is the status of the respected wives of the Khulafa-e-Ahmadiyya in respect to matrimony after the death of the latter. Can they go on with a new marriage?”
Reading this question, one is indisputably justified to quickly interrogate what intents and purposes does a question like this seek to pursue? More critically, from secular and Islamic legal and moral perspectives, one is justified to ask what moral imperatives, and even, academic purposes justify the legitimacy of this question? What benefit?
Clearly, it can be easily perceived that a question like this stinks insidious and invidious intents and calculative and, very definitely, could only have emanated from an unscrupulous individual who pretentiously seeks to whisper and cause unwholesome thoughts to infiltrate, sow confusion and ignite unholy gratification, in the innocent minds of Ahmadi Muslims who humbly and faithfully submit to and follow the institution of Khilafat-Ahmadiyya and, even the collective mind of humanity, in general. No doubt, such a terrible individual has only succeeded in globally publicizing his highest level of incivility underpinned by unholy intents, as evidenced by his lack of respect for the honour and dignity of the office and matrimony of a holy personage who is revered by a global community of tens of millions of followers and commands global influence and presence across socio-religious and political strata.
In fact, would any ordinary man on the street not find it an utterly bizarre trend to wake up on a good morning and begin to read on social media platforms a post about him that calls for people’s opinions as to whether or not his wife can marry another man after his death? That’s exactly how obnoxiously such an uncivilized question smells.
Looking at it, specifically, from a Quranic axiological perspective, we find Quranic moral imperative very strongly condemning the immoral thought and gratification such a question seeks to insinuate and lure the faithful into.
The fact is, divine prophethood is the most hallowed and greatest office a man can ever occupy. Through this office, Prophet Muhammad (saw) performed the divine duties of communicating the divine will and commandments to mankind and guiding and leading them by noble examples in the path of God, prosperity and peace. By both divine wit and default, he was declared as more, not less, a spiritual father to the faithful; while his wives were given the appellation of Ummahaat al-Mumineen (mothers of the faithful) (Quran, 33:7 ). In a gesture of due reverence for the positions of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood respectively occupied by the Holy Prophet (saw) and his noble wives within the community of the Muslim faithful, Allah declared, in the 54th verse of chapter 33 of the Quran, a prohibitive pronouncement that “…And it behooves you not to cause inconvenience to the Messenger of Allah, nor that you should ever marry his wives after him. Indeed that would be an enormity in the sight of Allah.”
In his classical Quranic commentary titled Jami’u Ahkamil Quran, Imam al-Qurtubi documented various reports narrating the immediate historical reasons that occasioned the revelation of the above Quranic legal and moral imperative. He wrote: Allah’s statement: “Nor you should ever marry his wives after him. Indeed that would be an enormity in the sight of Allah,” Qatadah narrated that a man said, ‘if the Messenger of Allah (saw) should pass away, I will marry his wife.’ Then Allah revealed the verse: ‘nor that you should ever marry his wives after him.’ And the verse: ‘And his wives are mothers to them’ was also revealed. Al-Qushairi Abu Nasr Abdur-Rahman said, Ibn Abbas said a man, among the nobles of Quraish and of the ten who were with the Messenger of Allah on the mount Hira, said within himself that ‘if the Messenger of Allah dies, I will surely marry Aisha (wife of the Prophet), she is the daughter of my uncle.’ Muqatil said, the person was Talhah bn Ubaidullah. Ibn Abbas said, ‘this man later showed remorse for this thought, went to Makkah on foot, loaded ten horses with provisions for the cause of Allah, freed a slave and Allah removed for him his sins. Ibn Atiya: ‘It is narrated that the reason for the revelation of this verse was that some of the companions of the Holy Prophet said: ‘if the Messenger of Allah dies, I will marry Aisha.’ This statement reached the Messenger of Allah and he felt some inconveniences as a result. Ibn Abbas only used the word ‘some’, but Makki narrated from Mu’ammar that he (Ibn Abbas) said ‘It was Talha bn ‘Ubaidullah.”
After narrating the above, al-Imam al-Quratubi commented that, “al-Nuhhas also narrated same from Mu’ammar that it was Talha. But this is not correct. Ibn Atiya said, ‘may Allah honour Ibn Abbas! In my view, this is not correct about Talha bn ‘Ubaidullah. Our Sheik, al-Imam Abu Abbas said, ‘This statement has been narrated about some of the noble companions of the Holy Prophet (saw). But innocent are they of such! There is falsehood in the transmission. Surely, such a statement only suits the ignorant hypocrites (of the time of the Holy Prophet (saw)). It is narrated that when the Messenger of Allah married Umm Salma after (the death of her husband) Abi Salma, and Hafsat after (the death of her husband) Khunais bn Hudhafa, a man among the hypocrites exclaimed, ‘what is wrong with Muhammad marrying our women!’ By Allah, if he dies, we will swiftly divide his wives among us in marriage.’ Then the verse was revealed regarding this, and Allah prohibited the marriage of his wives after his death, giving them the legal and moral pronouncement as mothers of the Muslim faithful.” Concluding, al-Imam al-Qurtubi noted: “This is one of his (the Holy Prophet) exclusives and a specification of his high station (saw).”
Similarly, in his celebrated Quranic exegesis, Hadhrat Mirza Bashirudīn Mahmūd Ahmad (ra) also note that, “Marriage with the widows of the Holy Prophet has been declared a grievous sin in this verse. Being the “Mothers of the faithful”, it was inconsistent with their spiritual dignity to marry any of their “spiritual sons.” Moreover, as wives of the Prophet they were entrusted with the great task of the spiritual training of Muslim men and women which required utmost reverence for them on their part.” (Ahmad, Mirza Bashirudīn Mahmūd, The Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary, (2008), Nazarat Nashro Ishaat, India, vol. 4, pp. 2132-2133)
In the light of the foregoing, we have been interestingly appraised not only why the noble companions of the Holy Prophet (saw) and the immediate generations that followed them never ever marry the widows of the Prophet (saw), but also the fact that those who voiced out the unwholesome thoughts and insinuated the gratification to marry the wives of the Prophet were not the noble Muslim Faithful, but the ignorant hypocrites who lacked the respect for the honourable and dignified station of the Prophet and also sought to cause this to infiltrate the minds and attitude of the innocent Muslims.
Now, in line with Quranic promises (Quran, 24:56) and, particularly, the following prophetic prediction:
“Prophethood shall remain among you for as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it to end. Then a caliphate will be established in the footsteps of prophethood which will last for as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it to end. Kinghood will follow which will inflict great pain and misery on its subjects. Its rule will last as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it to end. After this tyrannical monarchies will follow. Their rule will last as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it end. The caliphate will be re-established in the footsteps of prophethood. Thereafter the Holy Prophet became silent;” (narrated by Hudhaifa bn Yaman in Musnad Ahmad) following the demise of the Holy Prophet (saw), Allah instituted the system of Khilafat (successorship) through the agency of the faithful companions.
As the divinely appointed representatives of the Holy Prophet (saw), the Khulafa (Caliphs) occupy the seat of the Prophet in a deputyship capacity and performed the same roles of head and heart for the Muslim community. Naturally, and in the spirit of Islamic moral imperative and courtesy, early Muslims would relate with the office of the Khilafat in a considerable degree as they would accord the Holy Prophet (saw).
Of course, history relates to us two instances of, first, Hadhrat Ali bn Abi Talib’s (ra) marriage with Asmaa bin Umais, one of the widows of Khalifa Abu Bakr (ra) (Al-Taqi al-Fasi, al-Aqd al-Thameen fee Tarikh al-Balad al-Ameen, (1998), Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, Beirut, vol. 6, p. 368), and, second, the marriage of one of the widows of Khalifa Umar bn al-Khattab (ra), Umm Kulthum, with her cousin, ‘Aun bn Ja’far. Though, the authenticity of the historical reality of the latter is rift with the controversy between the Sunni sources and the Shia references. Anyhow, it would not be inconsequential to simply rationalize that such instances, which must have been conducted under the auspices of the sitting Khalifahs of the respective epochs, must have been warranted possibly by some compelling and exceptional circumstances and approved by the respective existing caliphate authorities. More so, it is also important to acknowledge the fact that this subject is highly a personal issue of the concerned individual wives which does not demand public debate.
Evidently, it would be illogical and aberrant for Muslims to consider it necessary and appropriate to saddle the Khulafa with the same responsibilities of the Prophet but deny them same respect and honour which they accord the Holy Prophet and his noble matrimony.
Furthermore, in the light of the foregoing prophetic prediction, the institution of Khilafat that succeeded the prophethood of Muhammad (saw) was allowed by Allah to eclipse due to the negligence of the Muslims of the time to jealously honour, protect and sustain the Khilafat. This was followed by various despotic monarchies and rulers who ruled under the superficial garb of caliphate until 1924 when Mustafa Atau Turk finally abolished the Ottoman Caliphate. Since then, the mainstream Muslim world has continued struggling in vain to re-establish the Khilafat. Scores of books and academic papers have been written, and many conferences held, by them (in Mecca (1924), Cairo (1926), Karachi (1940s), Jerusalem (1931), Geneva (1935) Pakistan (1974), etc.) with a view to re-instituting the Khilafat, but they have all failed miserably.
Notably, however, amid the contemporary global plight of the mainstream Muslim world sorrowfully characterized as a headless and disintegrated Ummah whose internal geopolitical states and communities are hallmarked by entrenched mutual hostilities, conflicts and wars, Allah commissioned Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) as the world reformer imbued with Mahdi-Messianic spirit and power to establish the Ahmadiyya Muslim community for the faithful Muslims of the eschatological times. After his demise in 1908, Allah caused the re-institution of Khilafat within the Community in the footsteps of prophethood as predicted in the aforementioned prophecy of Muhammad (saw).
Now, about one hundred and twelve years after, we are in the blessed epoch of the fifth Khalifah, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), who has continued to lead Ahmadiyya’s global missionary revival of Islamic teaching and reformation of Muslims’ religious practices, exerting entrenching peaceful influence, respect and honour both within his community and across the larger world.
It is about such a Khalifah of Islam that an unscrupulous Muslim, after having woefully failed to re-institute the like of a world Khalifa, is shamelessly trying to infect the minds of the followers of the Khalifah of righteousness and peace with an obnoxious thought and to instigate them to begin to waste their time in discussing a question that does not only lack legitimacy, but is also incompatible with the Islamic moral sense that drives the Ahmadi Muslims.
To my fellow Ahmadi Muslims, I humbly reiterate that, let us jettison such a misguided question. Let us continue to accord the office and matrimony of our beloved and revered Supreme Khulafa the honour and dignity they deserve both during and after their lifetimes.