Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Muhammad and the Natural Law: Sex with Aunt Khaula

THE NUMBER OF WIVES that Muhammad gathered as if they were pets or playthings is, as we have noted, not consonant with the natural moral law. The practice of polygamy appears to have been abandoned by the Jews of the time of Muhammad. In the work by the Muslim scholar Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi (168/784 - 230/845), the Kitab al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, we read that the Jews, when they witnessed the self-professed prophet Muhammad marrying more than one woman commented: "'Look at this man who never has enough of food and cares for nothing else as he does for women.'" Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, 1:398. While the Muslim scholar Ibn Sa'd attributed the Jews' complaint to envy, he did mention that they pointed to it as counter-indicative of any claim to prophethood: "'If he were a prophet," the Jews said among themselves, "'he would not desire women'" Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, 8:202. The Jews' ruminations seem rather common sense.

Muhammad's desire for women seems to have possessed him after the death of his wife Khadija. "I was the least man in sexuality," Muhammad is related to have said, "till God brought down on me the kafit." This divine gift of sexual prowess, a sort of divine Arabic-Viagra, was readily given to Muhammad by his Allah: "Whenever I seek it I find it." Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, 8:192. According to the dictionary Lisan al-Arab (2:71), kafit is the ability to have sex and to marry. The Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd also relates: "The Messenger of God said, 'Gabriel met me with a pot, of which I ate, and I was given the kafit [sexual ability] of forty men.'" Gabriel was Allah's interlocutor only after Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina.

The Name Muhammad in Arabic

In addition to the practice of polygyny, which of itself, as the Jews of Muhammad's time noted, puts Muhammad out of running as a legitimate prophet, we saw in our last posting that the manner in which Muhammad obtained the hand of young Safiya, the Jewess from the Banu al-Nadir tribe, in marriage raises serious questions of his moral sensitivity. He displayed all the moral sensitivity of a rapacious animal in marrying the young woman whose father, uncle, husband, and kinsmen he had killed. While we may recognize the behavior as one in keeping with a warrior chieftan, it is not the sort of behavior that one would ascribe to an ideal or perfect man, one with the title al-Insan al-Kamil.

Muhammad's marriage to young Safiya is not the only relationship that raises eyebrows. We may also turn to other relationships that raise issues of moral propriety, specifically, relationships that are arguable incestuous, and if not incestuous highly unseeming. We shall focus first on Muhammad's relationship with Khaula bint Hakim (خولة بنت حكيم‎) in this posting. In the next, we shall focus on Muhammad's relationship with his adopted son's wife, Zainab.

In a prior posting, we had cause to quote Qur'an 33:50 and the Islamic scholar Watt's observations regarding this verse in the Qur'an. It is apparent that Muhammad expanded the range of women which were available to him sexually to include a number of categories: (i) wives formally so called; (ii) slaves or concubines which Muhammad's "right hand possessed"; (iii) daughters of maternal uncles and maternal aunts; (iv) those who migrated from Mecca to Medina; (v) any Muslim woman if she offered herself to Muhammad and Muhammad wished to marry her; (vi) a privilege special for Muhammad apart from the other believers, the khalisatan la-ka min dun al-mu'minin ( خَالِصَة ً لَكَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ).

The category that Muhammad could enjoy any Muslim woman who offered herself to Muhammad appears to have been broad enough to include even maternal aunts, given the hadith that relates to a certain Khaula bint Hakim.

Khaula bint Hakim was Muhammad's maternal aunt, his mother's sister. This we learn from the book of ahadith Musnad Ahmad 26768.
مسند أحمد - مِنْ مُسْنَدِ الْقَبَائِلِ - عن المرأة تحتلم فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لتغتسل
26768 حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ وَحَجَّاجٌ قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي شُعْبَةُ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ عَطَاءً الْخُرَاسَانِيَّ يُحَدِّثُ عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ الْمُسَيَّبِ أَنَّ خَوْلَةَ بِنْتَ حَكِيمٍ السُّلَمِيَّةَ وَهِيَ إِحْدَى خَالَاتِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ سَأَلَتْ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَنْ الْمَرْأَةِ تَحْتَلِمُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِتَغْتَسِلْ
What is striking is that this Khaula bint Hakin (خَوْلَةَ بِنْتَ حَكِيمٍ ), "one of the aunts of the prophet, " إِحْدَى خَالَاتِ النَّبِيِّ , was one of the women who presented themselves to Muhammad. We learn this from another hadith, this one found in Sahih Bukhari 7.62.48. In this hadith, related by Hisham's father, the subject involves one of the women who offered themselves to Muhammad for marriage, as allowed by the Qur'an 33:50. The woman happens to be Muhammad's aunt, Khaula bint Hakim. The prospect of Muhammad's aunt offering herself to Muhammad elicits a natural aversion by young Aisha, one immediately squelched by a Qur'anic revelation:

Khaula bint Hakim was one of those ladies who presented themselves to the Prophet for marriage. 'Aisha said, "Doesn't a lady feel ashamed for presenting herself to a man?" But when the Verse: "(O Muhammad) You may postpone (the turn of) any of them (your wives) that you please,' (33.51) was revealed, " 'Aisha said, 'O Allah's Apostle! I do not see, but, that your Lord hurries in pleasing you.' "

The Qur'anic revelation that effectively squelched Aisha's aversion is the following:
You (O Muhammad SAW) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive whom you will. And whomsoever you desire of those whom you have set aside (her turn temporarily), it is no sin on you (to receive her again), that is better; that they may be comforted and not grieved, and may all be pleased with what you give them. Allāh knows what is in your hearts. And Allāh is Ever All­Knowing, Most Forbearing.
Qur'an, (Al-Ahzab) 33:51.

The Qur'anic revelation suggests that Aisha, or for that matter any other wife of Muhammad, ought not to feel aggrieved if Muhammad engaged in sexual relations with women who belonged to the other categories allowed him, whether they be slaves or concubines or women who offer themselves to him, even if they are maternal aunts. Indeed, the Muslim wife, like any submissive creature or well-trained pet, ought to be pleased with the arrangement.

Remember, for a Muslim, الله ورسوله أعلم, Allah and his messenger know best, the natural law notwithstanding.

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