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in category Seerah

Did the prophet (saw) divorce any of his wives?

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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in the English language. I also studied at Temple University in the US.
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In a Nutshell:
Most scholars agree the Prophet (saw) divorced Hafsah (ra) after the consummation of marriage and took her back as his wife again soon after. Some also argue he divorced Ibnat al-Jawn (ra) before the consummation of the marriage however others assert, he simply ended an engagement.


Background

Classical Scholars disagree on the number of wives whom the Prophet (saw) divorced before the consummation of the marriage.

The scholars of seera deny such marriages at all and considered it as mere faskh al-khitbah (disengagement). The scholars of hadith and fiqh, however, argue they were marriage contracts and many of them were divorced in the room of consummating the marriage.

The tenth-century historian Muhammad Salihi argued:

ِفِي ذِكْرِ مَنْ عَقَدَ عليّها ولَمْ يَدْخُلْ بِها- صلى الله عليه وسلم- عَلَى خِلَافٍ فِي بَعْضِهِنَّ، هل هِيّ مِمَّن عُقِدَ عليها أمْ لا؟ والكَلَامُ في ذلك طَويِلُ الذَّيلِ، والخِلافُ فِيه مُنْتَشِر، حتى قال في زادِ المَعَاد ... وأما من خَطَبَهَا ولمْ يَتَزَوّجَ بها فنحو أربعٍ أو خمسٍ. قال الحَافظُ الدُّمْيّاطِيِ: هن ثَلَاثُون امرأةً، وأهلُ السيّر وأَحْوَالِهِ لا يعْرِفُونَ هَذا بَلْ يُنكِرُونَهُ
"Regarding whom the Prophet (saw) married but did not consummate the marriage: There are disputes about some of them in term of 'Is she one of the wives whom the Prophet contracted a marriage or not?
The views here are a lot and the dispute is widespread.
(Ibn al-Qayim) said in Zad al-Mi'ad argued … but whom he engaged and did not marry are four or five.
Al-Hafidh ad-Dumyatti said: They are thirty women.
The scholars of seera and his life don't recognise this and deny it.'" (Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa ar-Rashad, Vol. 11, p. 220)

But scholars mostly don't disagree on the issue of the Prophet (saw) divorced Hafsa, the daughter of Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra), and took her back in marriage again.

Divorced Wives (before Consummation)

Salihi included in his book 'Subul al-Huda wa ar-Rashad' (Vol. 11, pp-200-230) twenty-six wives of the Prophet (saw) whom he married but did not consummate the marriage because of divorce or their death.

Salihi did not cite sound narrative evidence (adilah haditiyah) or any evidence at all for some. I checked most of the narrations and so-called 'divorcee wives' he included and found they are not soundly and historically documented.

I am going to include only one that I found sound or even probable, but the historians' view of breaking an engagement, not divorce, is still probable.

Ibnat al-Jawn

It was narrated the Prophet (saw) married her, but when she saw the Prophet (saw), she said 'I seek refuge from Allah against you,' the Prophet (saw) immediately divorced her.

A'isha narrated:

أَنَّ ابْنَةَ الْجَوْنِ لَمَّا أُدْخِلَتْ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَدَنَا مِنْهَا قَالَتْ أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنْكَ‏.‏ فَقَالَ لَهَا:‏ لَقَدْ عُذْتِ بِعَظِيمٍ، الْحَقِي بِأَهْلِكِ
"I was told by 'Urwa that `Aisha said, 'When the daughter of Al-Jawn was brought to Allah's Messenger (saw) and he went near her, she said, 'I seek refuge with Allah from you.'
He said, 'You have sought refuge with The Great; return to your family.'" (Bukhari 5254, Ibn Majah 2128)

The other narrators of the hadith imply this was after a marriage contract, not an engagement. For example, it was narrated the Prophet (saw) was going to put his hands on her and he would not touch a foreign woman.

A'isha narrated:

فَأَهْوَى بِيَدِهِ يَضَعُ يَدَهُ عَلَيْهَا لِتَسْكُنَ فَقَالَتْ أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنْكَ‏
"The Prophet (saw) was going to put his hand upon her to pat her so that she might become tranquil." (Bukhari 5255)

These two narrations and other shawahid were narrated in many other hadith sources and they are always confused with other names. Therefore, scholars count them as separate wives and add such a large number of wives.

For example, some scholars argue she was Asmaa al-Kilabiyah; Ibn Sa'ad said Fatima bint ad-Dahaq or 'Amrah bint Yazeed; Kalbi argued she was 'Aliyah bint Dhabyan; Ibn Hajar argued the sound understanding is she was Umaymah bint an-Nu'man; other places argued she was Fatima bint ad-Dahaq; Ibn Abd al-Bar narrated an invalid Ijma' she was Asmaa bint an-Nu'man bint Shurahbeel; Ibn Ishaq argued she was Asmaa bint Ka'b. (Ibn al-Mulaqan, at-Tawdeeh li-Sharh al-Jami' as-Sahih, Vol. 25, pp. 198-205, Shawkani, Nayl al-Awttar, Vol. 6, p. 289, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 7, p. 357)

These names were falsely argued to be other divorcee wives. Shawkani argued ibn Sa'd said the narrations talk about one woman but scholars disagree on her name. (Shawkani, Nayl al-Awttar, Vol. 6, p. 289)

Divorcee Wives (after Consummation)

It was narrated the Prophet (saw) divorced Hafsah and took her back. Ibn Umar narrated:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم طَلَّقَ حَفْصَةَ ثُمَّ رَاجَعَهَا
"The Prophet (saw) divorced Hafsah, but he took her back in marriage." (Abu Dawud 2283)

The same narration was narrated on the authority of ibn Abbas and Umar ibn al-Khattab. (Ibn Majah 2016, Nasa'i 3560)

It was also narrated Allah ordered him to take her back in marriage. Anas (ra) narrated:

أتَانِي جِبْريلُ عليه السَلامُ فقالَ (اللهُ يأمركَ أنْ تُـ) رَاجِعَ حَفْصَةَ فإنها صَوَّامَّةٌ قَوَّامَّةٌ وإنَها زَوْجَتُكَ في الجَنَّةِ
"Gabriel (as) came to me and said (Allah orders you to) take Hafah back in marriage, she keeps fasting and praying and she is your wife in Paradise." (al-Haythami, Majma' az-Zawa'id, Vol. 2, p. 248, Suyuti, al-Jami' as-Sagheer 6061 and others)


Conclusion

It is generally agreed the Prophet (saw) divorced Hafsah (ra) after the consummation of marriage and took her back in marriage again. Some argue he also divorced Ibnat al-Jawn (ra) before the consummation of the marriage though others say he simply ended a potential engagement.

References

Ibn al-Mulaqan, at-Tawdeeh li-Sharh al-Jami' as-Sahih;
Shawkani, Nayl al-Awttar;
Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa ar-Rashad;
Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari;
Al-Haythami, Majma' az-Zawa'id.


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