Prophet’s Biography – Maria al-Qibtiyya

Following are the references I found about Maria al-Qibtiyya (Prophet Muhammad’s Concubine / Slave Girl and mother of his son Ibrahim) from the book called ‘Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources‘ written by Abu Bakar Sirajuddin, a Muslim convert whose previous name was Martin Lings. The book is one of the most trusted, respect and authentic biographies of Prophet Muhammad.

Chapter ‘After Khyber’
Page 277 – 278:

The Prophet’s letter to the Muqawqis, summoning him to Islam, was answered evasively; but with his answer the ruler of Egypt sent a rich present of a thousand measures of gold, twenty robes of fine cloth, a mule, a she-ass and, as the crown of the gift, two Coptic Christian slave girls escorted by an elderly eunuch. The girls were sisters, Mariyah and Sirin, and both were beautiful, but Mariyah was exceptionally so, and the Prophet marvelled at her beauty. He gave Sirin to Hassan ibn Thabit, and lodged Mariyah in the nearby house where Safiyyah had lived before her apartment adjoining the Mosque was built. There he would visit her both by day and by night; but his wives became so openly jealous that she was unhappy, and he then lodged her in Upper Medina. ‘A’ishah and the others were at first relieved, but they soon found that they had gained nothing. For the Prophet did not visit Mariyah any the less often, and the added distance meant that his absences were even longer than before.

The girls were sisters, Mariyah and Sirin, and both were beautiful, but Mariyah was exceptionally so, and the Prophet marvelled at her beauty. He gave Sirin to Hassan ibn Thabit, and lodged Mariyah in the nearby house where Safiyyah had lived before her apartment adjoining the Mosque was built.

They well knew that he was altogether within his rights -rights which had been recognised from the time of Abraham and before. Were they not all, except Safiyyah, descended from the union of Abraham with the bondmaid Hagar? Moreover, the law revealed to Moses had corroborated such rights, and the Koran itself expressly allowed a master to take his bondmaid as concubine on condition of her free consent. But the wives also knew that the Prophet was exceedingly sensitive, and they saw to it that his whole domestic life was now penetrated by their deliberately undisguised reactions. In particular Hafsah gave vent to such feeling that the Prophet _was finally induced to swear that he would not see Mariyah again, and ‘A’ishah was Hafsah’s accomplice on this occasion.

The Revelation which now came is known as the Surah of Banning’ because it opens with a reproof to the Prophet for having banned Mariyah from his life:
0h Prophet why bannest thou, to please thy wives, that which God hath made lawful unto thee? Then, having formally absolved him from his oath, it addresses Hafsah and ‘A’ishah, though not by name: If ye twain repent unto God ye have cause, for your hearts were set upon the ban; and if ye aid each the other against him, verily God, even He, is his Protecting Friend, and Gabriel, and the elect of the faithful; and beyond these, the angels are massed to help him. The next verse is addressed to all the wives: It may be, if he divorce you, that his Lord will give him wives in your stead who are better than you, submissive unto God, believing, devout, penitent, inclined unto worship and fasting, widows and virgin maids.

0h Prophet why bannest thou, to please thy wives, that which God hath made lawful unto thee?

The Surah ends with examples from sacred history of two evil women and two women who were perfect:
Gad citeth as example for those who disbelieve, the Wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two righteous men from amongst Our slaves, men whom they betrayed and who thus availed them naught against God; and it was said unto both: Enter ye the fire with them who enter it.

And God citeth as example for those who believe the wife of Pharaoh when she said: “My Lord, build for me a dwelling with Thee in Paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds, and save me from the people who transgress”; and Mary, the daughter Imran, who kept chaste her womb and We breathed therein of Our Spirit. And she testified to the truthofthe words ofher Lord and His scriptures, and was of those who are absorbed in prayer.

When he had recited this Revelation to his wives, the Prophet left them to meditate upon it, and withdrew to a roofed verandah which was the only room he had but for their apartments. News spread throughout Medina that he had divorced his wives, and it came to the ears of ‘Umar that night. At dawn he went as usual to the Mosque, but immediately after the prayer, before ‘Umar could address him, the Prophet withdrew to his porch. ‘Umar went to Hafsah and found her in tears. “Why weepest thou?” he said, adding before she could answer: “Did I not tell thee this would happen? Hath God’s Messenger divorced you?” “I know not,” she said, “but he is there, secluded by himself in that porch.”

Chapter ‘Deaths and the Promise of a Birth’
Page 286

The earlier half of this same year of rejoicing, the eighth year after the Hijrah, was also a time of bereavement. The first of the deaths in the household of the Prophet was that of his daughter Zaynab. He was with her at the end and spoke words of comfort to his son-in-law and little granddaughter. Then he gave instructions to Umm Ayman, together with Sawdah and Umm Salamah, to make ready the body for burial. When the ablutions had been performed, the Prophet took off an undergarment he was wearing, and told them to wrap her in it before they shrouded her. Then he led the funeral prayer, and prayed also beside her grave.

Mariyah, his Coptic bondmaid, was expecting a child. She was already a centre of attention for the people of Medina who knew well the Prophet’s affection for her

Khadijah was the only one of his wives who had borne him children. The people ofMedina longed that a child should be born to the Prophet in their city. Only two of his present wives -Umm Salamah and Umm Habibah-; had borne children to their first husbands. But at each new marriage the citizens were filled with fresh hopes, which gradually faded, for not one of the later wives was destined to be the mother of a child to the Prophet. Yet now, shortly after the death of his eldest daughter, it appeared that he was again to become a father. Mariyah, his Coptic bondmaid, was expecting a child. She was already a centre of attention for the people of Medina who knew well the Prophet’s affection for her, and who sought to please him by their kindness to her; and now their attentiveness was redoubled.

Chapter ‘After the Victory’
Page 315

It was now clear that they had not long to wait for the birth of Mariyah’s child. Salma, who had attended on Khadijah at the birth of all her children, was now an elderly woman. Itwas twenty five years since she had helped to bring Fatimah into the world; but she none the less insisted that she would do the same for this new child of the Prophet, so when the birth was thought to be imminent she moved to the quarter where Mariyah lived in Upper Medina.

The child was born at night, and that same night Gabriel had come to the Prophet and addressed him as never before: “0 father of Ibrahim.” Immediately after the birth Salrna sent her husband, Abu Rafi’, to tell the Prophet that he had a son; and the next morning at the Mosque, after the dawn prayer, the Prophet told his Companions of the birth. “And I have named him,” he added “by the name of my father, Ibrahim.” There was great rejoicing in Medina, and strong rivalry among the women of the Helpers as to who should be the foster-mother. The choice fell on the wife of a blacksmith in Upper Medina who lived near the babe’s mother; and the Prophet would visit his son nearly every day, and would often take his siesta there.

Sometimes Ibrahim was brought to his father’s house. ‘A’ishah said that one day the Prophet brought him to her in his arms and said: “Behold his likeness unto me.” “I see no likeness,” she said. “Dost thou not see how fair of skin he is, and how fine of flesh?” said the Prophet. “All that are fed on the milk of ewes are plump and fair of skin,” she answered. One of the shepherds had instructions to send milk every day to the child’s fostermother.

Chapter ‘After Tabuk’
Page 325

The untroubled happiness of the early months of this year came to an end with the illness of Ibrahim. It was soon clear that he would not survive. He was tended by his mother and her sister Sirin, The Prophet visited him continually, and was with him when he was dying. As the child breathed his last, he took him in his arms, and tears flowed from his eyes.

His forbidding of vociferous lamentation had made prevalent the notion that all expressions of woe at bereavement were to be discouraged, and the mistaken idea still lingered on in many minds. “0 Messenger of God,” said ‘Abd ar-Rahrnan ibn ‘Awf, who was present, “this is what thou hast forbidden. When the Muslims see thee weeping, they too will weep.” The Prophet continued to weep, and when he could find his voice he said: “Not this do I forbid. These are the promptings of tenderness and mercy, and he that is not merciful, unto him shall no mercy be shown. 0 Ibrahim, if it were not that the promise of reunion is sure, and that this is a path which all must tread, and that the last of us shall overtake the first, verily we should grieve for thee with a yet greater sorrow. Yet are we stricken indeed with sorrow for thee, 0 Ibrahim. The eye weepeth, and the heart grieveth, nor say we aught that would offend the Lord.”

It was soon clear that he would not survive. He was tended by his mother and her sister Sirin, The Prophet visited him continually, and was with him when he was dying. As the child breathed his last, he took him in his arms, and tears flowed from his eyes.

He spoke words of comfort now to Mariyah and Sirin, assuring them that Ibrahim was in Paradise. Then, having left them for a brief while, he returned with ‘Abbas and Fadl. The young man washed the body and laid it out, while the two older men sat and watched him. Then it was borne forth to the cemetery on its little bier. The Prophet led the funeral prayer and prayed again for his son at the edge of the grave after Usamah and Fadl had laid in it the body. When the earth had been heaped over it, he still lingered at the graveside, and calling for a skin of water he bade them sprinkle it over the grave. Some unevenness had been left in the earth, and noticing this he said: “When one of you doeth aught, let him do it to perfection.” And smoothing it over with his hand, he said of his own particular action: “No harm it doth nor good, but it giveth relief unto the soul of the afflicted.”:

The sun and the moon are two signs of the signs of God. Their light is not dimmed for any man’s death

He had already stressed more than once the need to make perfection one’s aim in every earthly act, and many of his sayings indicate that this aim must be unworldly and detached. ‘Ali is said to have summed up the Prophet’s guidance in this respect as follows: “Do for this world as if to live for ever and for the next as if to die upon the morrow.” To be always ready to depart is to be detached. “Be in this world as a stranger or as a passer-by,”:’ the Prophet said.

On the day of Ibrahim’s death, not long after his burial, there was an eclipse of the sun; but when some of the people attributed it to the Prophet’s bereavement he said: “The sun and the moon are two signs of the signs of God. Their light is not dimmed for any man’s death. Ifye see them eclipsed, ye should pray until they be clear.”

5 thoughts on “Prophet’s Biography – Maria al-Qibtiyya

  1. Quran-e-Karim describes the Muhammad PBUH as role model for all mankind (68:4) and on every part of his life he comes up with best action of that time and context.

    In this case Muhammad PBUH has the following rights according to Arab culture;
    1- Take the both girls as salve.
    2- Take the one girl as salve.
    3- Take both as his wives.
    4- Take the one girl as his wife.

    Option one and two must be the best way for a women interested guy, isn’t?? But He took the last option and gave a respectable life to a slave girl and also putted the best example for Ruler of Egypt regarding Women Rights.

    Still one question comes in mind that;
    why Muhammad PBUH didn’t free the both girls? It should be a valid question!

    There are two types of major logics behind not to free the girls;
    First, if he frees the girls then Muqawqis must take it in negative sense to reject his gift (it is human nature and rulers are too much touchy in this matter, as we all know) and Muhammad PBUH accepted the gift in beautiful manner and give the message to the Ruler and also increase the Respect of ‘Maria al-Qibtiyya’ from a ‘Slave Girl’ to ‘Mother of Believers’.

    Second, both girls were belonged to Christine family and Muhammad PBUH created the beautiful harmony between the both religions.

    Means to say his every action always have a deep insight. So, at the end I am concluding my answer with the holly word or Quran-e-Karim;
    ‘Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! You also should invoke blessings on him and salute him with the salutation of peace.’ {33:56}

    • The book quoted above suggests Mariah as the Prophet’s ‘bondmaid’, not his wife. This is consistent with the Quran, which does not allow Muslims to marry non-Muslims but allows them to keep them for casual sex.

      • Reply to Sayyed Mehdi.
        The Qur’an does not forbid Muslims from marrying Christians.
        You can refer to chapter 5:5

      • Reply to Sayyed Mehdi.
        Men can marry non Muslim woman, but woman that are Muslim can not get married to a non Muslim men.

      • Mariyyah al-Qibtiyya was not a non-Muslim. She was of Egyptian Coptic origins but converted to Islam by choice after being informed about it either on the way to Medina and RasulAllah (saws) or by RasulAllah (saws) himself when she arrived.

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