Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article Muhammad and the treatment of wives

Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun’s Article “Muhammad and the treatment of wives”

Sam Shamoun’s article could be located here

Sam Shamoun said:
The Quran sanctions polygyny under the condition that a person treats all of his wives fairly:
O people! be careful of (your duty to) your Lord, Who created you from a single being and created its mate of the same (kind) and spread from these two, many men and women; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by Whom you demand one of another (your rights), and (to) the ties of relationship; surely Allah ever watches over you. And give to the orphans their property, and do not substitute worthless (things) for (their) good (ones), and do not devour their property (as an addition) to your own property; this is surely a great crime. And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two AND three AND four (mathna WA thulatha WA rubaAAa); but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possessthis is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course. And give women their dowries as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result. S. 4:1-4 Shakir
This passage is a bit perplexing and rather incoherent. After mentioning the property of orphans and the fear of not being able to treat them fairly the text then goes on to mention marrying up to four wives. Is this a general injunction meaning that a person can marry any lawful woman? Or is it saying that a man can only marry up to four women from among the orphans? After all, Aisha herself said that this reference was initially given to address marriages with orphans:
Narrated Aisha:
There was an orphan (girl) under the care of a man. He married her and she owned a date palm (garden). He married her just because of that and not because he loved her. So the Divine Verse came regarding his case: "If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls…" (4.3) The sub-narrator added: I think he (i.e. another sub-narrator) said, "That orphan girl was his partner in that date palm (garden) and in his property." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 97)
Narrated ‘Urwa bin Az-Zubair:
That he asked ‘Aisha regarding the Statement of Allah:
"If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls…" (4.3) She said, "O son of my sister! An orphan girl used to be under the care of a guardian with whom she shared property. Her guardian, being attracted by her wealth and beauty, would intend to marry her without giving her a just Mahr, i.e. the same Mahr as any other person might give her (in case he married her). So such guardians were forbidden to do that unless they did justice to their female wards and gave them the highest Mahr their peers might get. They were ordered (by Allah) to marry women of their choice other than those orphan girls." ‘Aisha added, "The people asked Allah’s Apostle his instructions after the revelation of this Divine Verse whereupon Allah revealed:
‘They ask your instruction regarding women.’ (4.127)" ‘Aisha further said, "And the Statement of Allah: ‘And yet whom you desire to marry.’ (4.127) As anyone of you refrains from marrying an orphan girl (under his guardianship) when she is lacking in property and beauty." ‘Aisha added, "So they were forbidden to marry those orphan girls for whose wealth and beauty they had a desire unless with justice, and that was because they would refrain from marrying them if they were lacking in property and beauty." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 98)
Basically, the way Sura 4:3 is formulated there are three ways of understanding it: If you fear not to be able to treat the orphan girls fairly (in what regard?) then marry (a) two, three or four of THEM (the orphan girls), (b) two, three or four OTHER women (i.e. NOT those orphan girls), or (c) two, three or four of ANY women. However, if the latter option was meant, one wonders what does this have to do with orphan girls. After all, the statement is an "if ... then ..." construction, and one would expect that there is an obvious relationship between the two. This relationship is clearly missing, unless one wants to claim that only those who are in danger to treat orphans unjustly are allowed to become polygamous, while all others have to remain monogamous. Even more: Why does this verse not even give the option of marrying only one woman, why does it start with the number TWO? Does that mean that all Muslims should marry at least two women, or only those who fear that they can’t deal justly with the orphans in their care have to marry at least two women? This injunction is very incoherent and raises more questions than it answers.
Furthermore, is this reference suggesting that a man can have up to four wives, or is it saying that a man can actually have a total of nine wives at one time? In other words, did the author of the Quran use the Arabic conjunction wa (and) to mean the same as "or," i.e. that a person can have either two, three, or four wives at any time, but cannot exceed four? Or did he intend for his readers to understand by the conjunction that they can actually add up all these numbers so as to arrive at a total of nine wives at one time? The passage also left some other issues untouched as the following Christian source notes:
Ja‘far al-Sadiq was asked about this verse: "Why is the main clause of the conditional sentence far from the conditional article without obvious reason?" His response was: "A camel load between the main clause and the subordinate clause from the Quran."
Other Islamic commentators offered solutions. Al-Razi said: "Marry of the women who seem good to you" does not include men slaves, since a slave cannot afford to marry unless he gets permission from his master. Sura al-Nahl 16:75 says: "Allah sets forth the parable [of two men: one] a slave under the dominion of another. He has no power of any sort." …
Any slave who would be married without the permission of his master is an adulterer. So the slave does not fall under the verdict of the above verse.
Most Islamic theologians said that a slave can marry four wives. Malik b. Anas said: "It is lawful for the slave to marry four wives." Al-Shafi said that marrying four wives is the right of the free person only. He quoted two Quranic verse to defend his idea. He quoted, "What your right hand possesses" while slaves do not possess, but are possessed by their masters. He also quoted "Take it and enjoy it" (Sura al-Nisa 4:4) even though slaves do not enjoy what is given them, because it is the property of their masters.
Some Muslims claim that it is lawful for a man to marry as many women as he wants. They use the following rationale:
1. "Marry of the women that seem good to you" is an absolute statement which embraces all numbers.
2. "Two, three, four" cannot be particularized for these numbers exactly, because one man can marry this number of women, and more above it. The verse is clear: marry whatever you want of women.
3. The Arabic wa ("and") implies the total of these numbers, which is nine. It can also mean eighteen.
Muslims support their views with these historical Islamic events:
1. Muhammad died while married to nine wives. It goes without saying that Allah commands us to "follow him," which implies nothing less than "permission."
2. To marry four wives was the way of the prophet who said: "If anyone turns away from my laws, he is not of me." Anyone who breaks this "golden rule" in Islam is guilty, as far as marrying four wives is concerned (see al-Razi’s commentary on Sura al-Nisa 4:3).
Yet some Islamic theologians stress enumeration, which is based on tradition. For instance, Ghilan became a Muslim with ten wives. The prophet said to him: "Keep four and depart from the rest." Nawfal b. Muawiya became a Muslim with five wives. Muhammad said to him "Keep four and depart from one." (True Guidance: Comments on Quranic Verses [Light of Life, PO Box 13, A-9503 Villach, Austria; First English Edition, 1994], Part 5, pp. 79-80)

My Response:
Shamoun usually refers to commentaries in his articles. He is usually a big fan of Ibn Kathir. If he just saw Ibn Kathir’s commentary then he wouldn’t need to have written that argument.
Ibn Kathir says…

The Prohibition of Marrying Female Orphans Without Giving a Dowry
Allah said,
[وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تُقْسِطُواْ فِى الْيَتَـمَى فَانكِحُواْ مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِّنَ النِّسَآءِ مَثْنَى]
(And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two) Allah commands, when one of you is the caretaker of a female orphan and he fears that he might not give her a dowry that is suitable for women of her status, he should marry other women, who are plenty as Allah has not restricted him. Al-Bukhari recorded that `A'ishah said, "A man was taking care of a female orphan and he married her, although he did not desire to marry her. That girl's money was mixed with his, and he was keeping her portion from her. Afterwards, this Ayah was revealed about his case;
[وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تُقْسِطُواْ]
(If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly)'' Al-Bukhari recorded that `Urwah bin Az-Zubayr said that he asked `A'ishah about the meaning of the statement of Allah,
[وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تُقْسِطُواْ فِى الْيَتَـمَى]
(If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls.) She said, "O my nephew! This is about the orphan girl who lives with her guardian and shares his property. Her wealth and beauty may tempt him to marry her without giving her an adequate dowry which might have been given by another suitor. So, such guardians were forbidden to marry such orphan girls unless they treated them justly and gave them the most suitable dowry; otherwise they were ordered to marry woman besides them.'' `A'ishah further said, "After that verse, the people again asked the Messenger of Allah (about marriage with orphan girls), so Allah revealed the Ayah,
[وَيَسْتَفْتُونَكَ فِى النِّسَآءِ]
(They ask your instruction concerning the women..) [4:127].'' She said, "Allah's statement in this Ayah,
[وَتَرْغَبُونَ أَن تَنكِحُوهُنَّ]
(yet whom you desire to marry) [4:127] refers to the guardian who does not desire to marry an orphan girl under his supervision because she is neither wealthy nor beautiful. The guardians were forbidden to marry their orphan girls possessing property and beauty without being just to them, as they generally refrain from marrying them (when they are neither beautiful nor wealthy).'' (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Source)

The Permission to Marry Four Women
Allah's statement,
[مَثْنَى وَثُلَـثَ وَرُبَاعَ]
(two or three, or four), means, marry as many women as you like, other than the orphan girls, two, three or four. We should mention that Allah's statement in another Ayah,
[جَاعِلِ الْمَلَـئِكَةِ رُسُلاً أُوْلِى أَجْنِحَةٍ مَّثْنَى وَثُلَـثَ وَرُبَـعَ]
(Who made the angels messengers with wings, - two or three or four) [35:1], does not mean that other angels do not have more than four wings, as there are proofs that some angels do have more wings. Yet, men are prohibited from marrying more than four wives, as the Ayah decrees, since the Ayah specifies what men are allowed of wives, as Ibn `Abbas and the majority of scholars stated. If it were allowed for them to have more than four wives, the Ayah would have mentioned it. Imam Ahmad recorded that Salim said that his father said that Ghilan bin Salamah Ath-Thaqafi had ten wives when he became Muslim, and the Prophet said to him, "Choose any four of them (and divorce the rest).'' During the reign of `Umar, Ghilan divorced his remaining wives and divided his money between his children. When `Umar heard news of this, he said to Ghilan, "I think that the devil has conveyed to your heart the news of your imminent death, from what the devil hears during his eavesdropping. It may as well be that you will not remain alive but for a little longer. By Allah! You will take back your wives and your money, or I will take possession of this all and will order that your grave be stoned as is the case with the grave of Abu Righal (from Thamud, who was saved from their fate because he was in the Sacred Area. But, when he left it, he was tormented like they were).'' Ash-Shafi`i, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ad-Daraqutni and Al-Bayhaqi collected this Hadith up to the Prophet's statement, "Choose any four of them.'' Only Ahmad collected the full version of this Hadith. Therefore, had it been allowed for men to marry more than four women at the same time, the Prophet would have allowed Ghilan to keep more than four of his wives since they all embraced Islam with him. When the Prophet commanded him to keep just four of them and divorce the rest, this indicated that men are not allowed to keep more than four wives at a time under any circumstances. If this is the case concerning those who already had more than four wives upon embracing Islam, then this ruling applies even more so to marrying more than four. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Source)

Sam Shamoun said:
Traditionally, Islamic scholarship has sided with the up to four wives interpretation which, unfortunately for Muslims, Muhammad expressly violated (12).
My Response:

Sam Shamoun said:

There is another problem with this passage. Sura 4:3 says that a man can marry more than one woman provided that he can deal fairly with them. Yet this next citation says a man will not be able to deal fairly with his wives:
And they ask you a decision about women. Say: Allah makes known to you His decision concerning them, and that which is recited to you in the Book concerning female orphans whom you do not give what is appointed for them while you desire to marry them, and concerning the weak among children, and that you should deal towards orphans with equity; and whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it. And if a woman fears ill usage or desertion on the part of her husband, there is no blame on them, if they effect a reconciliation between them, and reconciliation is better, and avarice has been made to be present in the (people's) minds; and if you do good (to others) and guard (against evil), then surely Allah is aware of what you do. You will NOT be able to be equitable between your wives, be you ever so eager; yet do not be altogether partial so that you leave her as it were suspended. If you set things right, and are godfearing, God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. But if they separate, God will enrich each of them of His plenty; God is All-embracing, All-wise. S. 4:127-130
Note the tension between these references:
  1. Sura 4:3 states that men can marry more than one woman provided they can treat them all fairly.
  2. Sura 4:129 expressly says that a man will not be able to deal fairly with all of his wives, and yet still permits him to have multiple spouses.
Hence, instead of telling the person to keep only one wife as a result of not being able to be fair with all of them, this reference basically justifies the unfair treatment of wives! It allows the man to have more than one wife even when he cannot deal justly with all of them, which expressly violates the stipulation of Sura 4:3 that a man cannot marry more than one woman if he cannot be fair. Because of this blatant contradiction, two different explanations have been proposed. One explanation is to suggest that Sura 4:129 revokes the permission to marry more than one wife. The other, more common explanation is to assume that fairness in Sura 4:3 refers to financial responsibility, that a man must provide for all his wives equally, whereas 4:129 is referring to a man’s inability to love all his wives the same. The late Muslim scholar Sayyid Abu A‘la Mawdudi sums all this up in his comments on Sura 4:129:
This means that it is not possible for a man to accord complete equality of treatment to two or more wives under all circumstances and in all respects. It is possible that one is ugly, the other beautiful; one is old, the other young; one is permanently sick, the other healthy; one is irritable, the other good-tempered. These and other differences are likely to make a person less attracted to one and more to another. In such circumstances, the Law does not demand that one should necessarily maintain absolute equality between the wives in respect of love, emotional attachment and sexual relationship. What it does demand is that if a husband does not repudiate marriage despite aversion for his wife, either because of his own desire or out of consideration for the desire of his wife, he should at least maintain a good relationship short of which his wife begins to feel if she is without a husband. In such circumstances, while it is natural that a person should prefer one wife to the other, this should not go to the extent that the woman remains, as it were, in a state of suspension, as if she were without a husband at all.
Some point out that in this verse the Qur’an in one breath stipulates justice as the necessary condition for plurality of wives and in the other breath declares it to be impossible. On this ground they conclude that the Qur’an has itself revoked the permission to marry more than one wife. There is, however, absolutely no justification for such an inference. Such an inference would have been justified had the Qur’an merely said that: ‘You will not be able to treat your wives with (absolute) justice.’ But this statement has been followed by the directive: ‘… do not allow yourselves to incline wholly to one, leaving the other in suspense.’ This leaves no grounds at all for the blind followers of Christian Europe to force an interpretation of their liking on the verse. (Maududi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an: English Version of Tafhim al-Qur’an, translated and edited by Zafar Ishaq Ansari [The Islamic Foundation, Leicestershire, United Kingdom, Reprinted 2004], Volume II, Surahs 4-6, pp. 91-92, fn. 161; bold and italic emphasis ours)
Mawdudi’s response failed to consider that Sura 4:3 makes no such qualification since it rather emphatically states that the condition for having multiple wives is fair treatment for all.
My Response:
Surah 4:129 is talking about men not ever being able to fair emotionally towards their wives. This is something natural. You cannot EQUALLY love two people. Even most parents would tend to love one child just a little bit more than the other while loving them all very much at the same time.
You will never be able to be just to, to treat equally, your wives, in terms of love, even if you be eager, for this; yet do not turn altogether away, towards the one you love with respect to the shares and maintenance expenses, so that you leave her, the one from whom you turn away, like one suspended, one that is neither a slavegirl nor a woman with a husband. If you set things right, by being just with the shares, and are wary, of injustice, surely God is ever Forgiving, regarding the inclination in your hearts, Merciful, to you in this respect. (Tafsir Jalalayn, Commentary on Surah 4:129, Source)
(Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives) as regards love, (however much ye wish (to do so)) even if you exert your efforts: (But turn not altogether away) with your bodies ((from one)) in favour of the young wife, (leaving her) the other one: the old wife (as in suspense) like a prisoner: neither unmarried nor married. (If ye do good and keep from evil) if you treat them equally and avoid transgression and aversion, (lo! Allah is ever Forgiving) of those who repent of transgression and aversion, (Merciful) towards those who die in a state of repentance. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 4:129 Source)

However, Surah 4:3 is saying that the person should be fair when it comes to things such as providing food, water, shelter etc. and spending equal time with them (unless they give permission otherwise).
(And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans) and if you fear that you will not preserve orphans’ wealth, you should also fear not dealing fairly with women in relation to providing sustenance and apportionment. This was because they used to marry as many women as they liked, as many as nine or ten. Qays Ibn al-Harth for example had eight wives. Allah forbade them from doing so and prohibited them from marrying more than four wives, saying: (marry of the women, who seem good to you) marry that which Allah has made lawful for you, (two or three or four) marry one, two, three or four but do not marry more than four wives; (and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice) to four wives in relation to apportionment and providing sustenance (then one (only)) then marry only one free woman (or that your right hands possess) of captives, and in that case you do not owe them any apportionment, and they need not observe any waiting period. (Thus it) marrying just one woman (is more likely that ye will not do injustice) that you will not incline to some at the expense of others or that you transgress regarding the provision of sustenance and apportionment to four wives.(Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 4:3 Source)

The meaning of Allah's statement,
[وَإِن تُحْسِنُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيراً]
(But if you do good and have Taqwa, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do) if you are patient with the wife you dislike and treat her as other wives are treated, then Allah knows what you do and will reward you for it perfectly. Allah's statement,
[وَلَن تَسْتَطِيعُواْ أَن تَعْدِلُواْ بَيْنَ النِّسَآءِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتُمْ]
(You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire,) means, O people! You will never be able to be perfectly just between wives in every respect. Even when one divides the nights justly between wives, there will still be various degrees concerning love, desire and sexual intimacy, as Ibn `Abbas, `Ubaydah As-Salmani, Mujahid, Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim stated. Imam Ahmad and the collectors of the Sunan recorded that `A'ishah said, "The Messenger of Allah used to treat his wives equally and proclaim,
«اللَّهُمَّ هَذَا قَسْمِي فِيمَا أَمْلِكُ، فَلَا تَلُمْنِي فِيمَا تَمْلِكُ وَلَا أَمْلِك»
(O Allah! This is my division in what I own, so do not blame me for what You own and I do not own) referring to his heart. This was the wording that Abu Dawud collected, and its chain of narrators is Sahih. Allah's statement,
[فَلاَ تَمِيلُواْ كُلَّ الْمَيْلِ]
(so do not incline too much to one of them) means, when you like one of your wives more than others, do not exaggerate in treating her that way,
[فَتَذَرُوهَا كَالْمُعَلَّقَةِ]
(so as to leave the other hanging. ) referring to the other wives. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan, Ad-Dahhak, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, As-Suddi and Muqatil bin Hayyan said that Mu`allaqah [hanging] means, "She is neither divorced nor married.'' Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«مَنْ كَانَتْ لَهُ امْرَأَتَانِ فَمَالَ إِلى إِحْدَاهُمَا، جَاءَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَأَحَدُ شِقَّيْهِ سَاقِط»
(Whoever has two wives and inclines to one of them (too much), will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides dragging.) Allah's statement,
[وَإِن تُصْلِحُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً]
(And if you do justice, and do all that is right and have Taqwa, then Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) The Ayah states: If you do justice and divide equally in what you have power over, while fearing Allah in all conditions, then Allah will forgive you the favoritism that you showed to some of your wives. (Tafsir ibn Kathir, Source)

Sam Shamoun said:

Moreover, many people are not aware that Sura 4:128-30 was addressing Muhammad’s failure as a husband, specifically in reference to his treatment of Sauda bint Zam’ah, who was one of his first wives after Khadijah’s death. Muhammad decided to divorce and desert her when she had become old and was no longer attractive. Renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir wrote regarding this Sura:
Making peace is better than separation. An example of such peace can be felt in the story of Sawdah bint Zam’ah who WHEN SHE BECAME AGED, THE PROPHET WANTED TO DIVORCE HER, but she made peace with him by offering the night he used to spend with her to A'isha so that he would keep her. The Prophet accepted such terms and kept her.
Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded that Ibn ‘Abbas said, "Sawdah feared that the Messenger of Allah might divorce her and she said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Do not divorce me; give my day to ‘A'ishah.’ And he did…
In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that ‘A’ishah said that when Sawdah bint Zam'ah BECAME OLD, she forfeited her day to ‘A’ishah and the Prophet used to spend Sawdah's night with 'A'ishah
<And making peace is better>IT REFERS TO THE WIFE RELINQUISHING SOME OF HER MARITAL RIGHTS and his acceptance of the offer. Such compromise is better than total divorce, as the Prophet did when retained Sawdah bint Zam'ah. By doing so, the Prophet set an example for his Ummah to follow as it is a lawful act ... (the preceding citation taken and adapted from Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged, Volume 2, Parts 3, 4 & 5, Surat Al-Baqarah, Verse 253, to Surat An-Nisa, Verse 147 [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; first edition March 2000], pp. 599-601, and Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Part 5, Sura An-Nisa, ayat 24-147, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa’i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000 first edition], pp. 193-194; bold emphasis ours)
The two Sahih collections provide additional corroboration for Sauda relinquishing her day to Aisha:
Narrated Aisha:
Whenever Allah’s Apostle wanted to go on a journey, he would draw lots as to which of his wives would accompany him. He would take her whose name came out. He used to fix for each of them a day and a night. But Sauda bint Zam’a gave up her (turn) day and night to ‘Aisha, the wife of the Prophet in order to seek the pleasure of Allah's Apostle (by that action). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 766)
‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Never did I find any woman more loving to me than Sauda bint Zam'a. I wished I could be exactly like her who was passionateAs she became old, she had made over her day (which she had to spend) with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to ‘A’isha. She said: I have made over my day with you to ‘A’isha. So Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) allotted TWO DAYS to ‘A’isha, her own day (when it was her turn) and that of Sauda. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3451)
Ibn 'Abbas's Hadith, may Allah be pleased with them. 'Ata' related:
We were with Ibn 'Abbas at a funeral in Sarif, Ibn 'Abbas said: This is the wife of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him); so when you lift her bier, do not shake her or disturb her, but be gentle, for Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) had nine wives, with eight of whom he shared his time, but to one of them, he did not allot a share. (Hadith number in Sahih Muslim [Arabic only]: 2660(Source)
The Salafi scholars that write for cite references agreeing that Sura 4:128 referred to Muhammad’s mistreatment of Sauda:
Al-Tirmidhi reported via Sammaak from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbaas that he said: “Sawdah was afraid that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would divorce her, so she said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah, do not divorce me; give my day to ‘Aa’ishah.’ So he did so. Then this aayah was revealed.” Al-Tirmidhi said: “(This is) hasan ghareeb.” I say: there is corroborating evidence in a hadeeth from ‘Aa’ishah narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim, without referring to the revelation of the aayah. (From Fath al-Baari).
The hadeeth mentioned by al-Haafiz ibn Hijr (may Allaah have mercy on him) is in Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 2966, where it is reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “Sawdah was afraid that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would divorce her, so she said: ‘Do not divorce me. Keep me and give my day to ‘Aa’ishah.’ So he did so, then Allaah revealed the aayah: ‘… there is no sin on them both if they make terms of peace between themselves; and making peace is better…’ [al-Nisaa’ 4:128]. So whatever they agreed upon was permissible.” It is as if the last sentence was the comment of Ibn ‘Abbaas. Abu ‘Iesa said: this is a hasan ghareeb hadeeth.
Al-Mubaarakpoori said, commenting on this hadeeth:
‘Sawdah was afraid…’ This refers to Sawdah bint Zam’ah ibn Qays al-Qurashiyyah al-‘Aamiriyyah. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) married her in Makkah after Khadeejah had died, and consummated the marriage there. The scholars agree that he consummated his marriage to her before he consummated his marriage to ‘Aa’ishah, and she migrated to Madeenah with him. She died at the end of the khilaafah of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab.
‘…was afraid that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would divorce her, so she said…’ Al-Bukhaari and Muslim reported from ‘Aa’ishah that Sawdah bint Zam’ah gave her day to ‘Aa’ishah, so the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to give ‘Aa’ishah her own day and that of Sawdah. Al-Haafiz said in al-Fath: Abu Dawood reported this hadeeth (from ‘Aa’ishah): ‘The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) never used to prefer any of us over others in sharing his time (i.e., he was fair in dividing his nights among his wives, and each one of them had her allotted night). When Sawdah bint Zam’ah grew old and feared that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) might divorce her, she said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah, my day is for ‘Aa’ishah,’ and he accepted this from her. Then concerning this and similar cases, the aayah was revealed (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And if a woman fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part…’ [al-Nisaa’ 4:128]. These reports agree that she feared divorce and so gave her day to ‘Aa’ishah.
Then al-‘Allaamah al-Mubaraakpoori said: The aayah may be explained thus: ‘If a woman fears’ means if she expects. ‘Cruelty’ means that he spurns her by refusing to sleep with her or by spending less on her than he should, because he dislikes her and wants to marry someone more beautiful. ‘Desertion’ means that he turns his face away from her. ‘There is no sin on them both if they make terms of peace between themselves’ means with regard to the sharing of his time and his spending on her, i.e., he should still give her something in this regard (sharing time or spending) in order to preserve the relationship: if she accepts, this is OK, otherwise the husband must either give her her full rights or divorce her. ‘Making peace is better’ means better than separation, cruelty and desertion. Whatever they agree upon between themselves is permissible. (Tuhfat al-Ahwadi Sharh Jaami’ al-Tirmidhi). (Question #2218: A man doesn’t want to live with his wife but doesn’t want to divorce her for the sake of the childrenonline source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
Not only was Sauda said to be old, but other narrations mention her being overweight as well:
Narrated Aisha:
Sauda (the wife of the Prophet) went out to answer the call of nature after it was made obligatory (for all the Muslims ladies) to observe the veil. She was a fat huge lady, and everybody who knew her before could recognize her. So ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her and said, "O Sauda! By Allah, you cannot hide yourself from us, so think of a way by which you should not be recognized on going out." Sauda returned while Allah’s Apostle was in my house taking his supper and a bone covered with meat was in his hand. She entered and said, "O Allah’s Apostle! I went out to answer the call of nature and 'Umar said to me so-and-so." Then Allah inspired him (the Prophet) and when the state of inspiration was over and the bone was still in his hand as he had not put in down, he said (to Sauda), "You (women) have been allowed to go out for your needs." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 318)
How despicable and cruel. The foregoing makes it embarrassingly obvious that Muhammad wanted to divorce Sauda because she had gotten old and had become unattractive, a point confirmed by the above hadith’s graphic depiction of her as "a fat huge lady." Sauda, in order to prevent this from happening, chose to make certain concessions such as relinquishing her day with Muhammad, to which Allah gave his divine approval!
Moreover, this handing over of Sauda’s visitation to Aisha meant that Muhammad preferred the latter and loved her more than the rest of his spouses. After all, Muhammad ended up spending two days with Aisha whereas all the rest of his wives only had one day to spend with him (with the exception of Sauda). Thus, Muhammad was being quite intentional in his unfair treatment of his wives and display of love.
My Response:
First of all we need to make one thing clear. There is no evidence what so ever to suggest that the Prophet Muhammad ever intended to divorce Sauda. I searched the complete Tafsir of Ibn Kathirregarding this verse and there is only one narration that suggests that the Prophet wanted to divorce Sauda…

حَدَّثَنَا الْقَاسِم بْن أَبِي بَرَّة قَالَ : بَعَثَ النَّبِيّ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِلَى سَوْدَة بِنْت زَمْعَة بِطَلَاقِهَا فَلَمَّا أَنْ أَتَاهَا جَلَسَتْ لَهُ عَلَى طَرِيق عَائِشَة فَلَمَّا رَأَتْهُ قَالَتْ لَهُ : أَنْشُدك بِاَلَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْك كَلَامه وَاصْطَفَاك عَلَى خَلْقه لَمَا رَاجَعْتنِي فَإِنِّي قَدْ كَبِرْت وَلَا حَاجَة لِي فِي الرِّجَال . لَكِنْ أُرِيد أَنْ أُبْعَث مَعَ نِسَائِك يَوْم الْقِيَامَة فَرَاجَعَهَا فَقَالَتْ : فَإِنِّي جَعَلْت يَوْمِي وَلَيْلَتِي لِحِبَّةِ رَسُول اللَّه
Al-Qasim ibn Abi Beza said the prophet sent to Sauda a message divorcing her. So she waited for the prophet on his way to ‘Aisha. When she saw him she said I implore you by Him who revealed His words to you and chose you above all his creation why did you divorce me. I have become old and have no need of men but I wish to be resurrected amongst your wives in the last day. So he changed his mind and she said I have given my day and night to [‘Aisha] the prophet’s beloved...
This is the only narration that shows that the Prophet intended to divorce Sauda, however notice what Ibn Kathir says at the end of the narration…

وَهَذَا غَرِيب مُرْسَل
And this is ghareeb mursal.

That means that the hadith is a mursal and ghareeb hadith. 
What does that mean?
mursal or "unattached" hadeeth is one that contains a gap of one generation (according to both Azami and Hasan it is a hadeeth reported by a Successor who drops the Companion from whom he learned it in the isnad).
among them ghareeb ("scarce" or "strange"), 
So you can't use a hadith that has a gap in it and is scarce to prove a point. 

So it was only Sauda’s fear that the Prophet would divorce her. That does not mean that the Prophet was actually going to do so.
The fact that the Prophet wanted to divorce her because of her bad looks is a lie, because from the very beginning when he married her she was unattractive.
Ibn Kathir says...
There was great surprise in Mecca that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would choose to marry a widow who was neither young nor beautiful. (Ibn Kathir, Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)Source)

It was a habit of the wives of the Prophet to give up their days in order to try and satisfy the Prophet. Here is an example...
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was, once, angry with Safiyyah and so Safiyyah went to Aisha and said to her, "Could you make the Prophet (peace be upon him) forgive me and I would give up my day for you?" Aisha said, "Yes." Aisha then took her yellow veil and perfumed it and then sat beside the Prophet (peace be upon him) who said, "O Aisha, keep away from me, it is not your day". Aisha said, "It is Allah's Grace and He bestows it upon whomever He wants," and then she told him the whole matter and he forgave Saffiyyah. (Ibn Majah, An-Nikah, vol. 1 p.634, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus'ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.174)
This shows that the Prophet was strict in keeping his days to his wives. The only reason why he agreed to not give it to Sauda is because SHE IS THE ONE that offered to give up her day. Read the hadith carefully...
Sahih Bukhari
Volume 3, Book 47, Number 766:
Narrated Aisha:
Whenever Allah's Apostle wanted to go on a journey, he would draw lots as to which of his wives would accompany him. He would take her whose name came out. He used to fix for each of them a day and a night. But Sauda bint Zam'a gave up her (turn) day and night to 'Aisha, the wife of the Prophet in order to seek the pleasure of Allah's Apostle (by that action).

Volume 3, Book 48, Number 853:
Narrated Aisha:
Whenever Allah's Apostle intended to go on a journey, he used to draw lots among his wives and would take with him the one on whom the lot fell. He also used to fix for everyone of his wives a day and a night, but Sauda bint Zam'a gave her day and night to 'Aisha, the wife of the Prophet intending thereby to please Allah's Apostle.

Sahih Muslim
Book 008, Number 3451:
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Never did I find any woman more loving to me than Sauda bint Zam'a. I wished I could be exactly like her who was passionate. As she became old, she had made over her day (which she had to spend) with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to 'A'isha. She said: I have made over my day with you to 'A'isha. So Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) allotted two days to 'A'isha, her own day (when it was her turn) and that of Sauda.

These women of such high faith would do anything to keep their husbands happy. Especially if your husband happens to be the glorious Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Especially due to the fact that there is such a great reward for obedience to husbands…
A woman’s being patient in obeying her husband is one of the means of entering Paradise, as it says in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn Hibbaan: “If a woman offers her five daily prayers and fasts her month (i.e., Ramadaan) and guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her: ‘Enter Paradise from whichever of the gates of Paradise you wish.’” This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer, no. 660. (cited here 

The Prophet thought highly of Sauda...

Sahih Bukhari

Volume 2, Book 24, Number 501:
Narrated 'Aisha:
Some of the wives of the Prophet asked him, "Who amongst us will be the first to follow you (i.e. die after you)?" He said, "Whoever has the longest hand." So they started measuring their hands with a stick and Sauda's hand turned out to be the longest. (When Zainab bint Jahsh died first of all in the caliphate of 'Umar), we came to know that the long hand was a symbol of practicing charity, so she was the first to follow the Prophet and she used to love to practice charity. (Sauda died later in the caliphate of Muawiya).

So there is no evidence at all that the Prophet was ever unfair to Sauda. On the contrary, his marriage to her was nothing but an act of mercy...

The Wisdom Behind This Marriage
Imagine what the situation would have come to if the Prophet (peace be upon him) had not married Saudah. Had she been safe from the torture and persecution of her relatives who were still disbelievers?
She belonged to a disbelieving family; her father was an aged disbeliever; and so was her brother. Her husband died and she became a widow having a little girl without a supporter or a provider. 
No doubt, her marriage to the Prophet (peace be upon him) was mercy and protection for her from the torture of her family. Perhaps if she had stayed, they would have killed her or tried her in her belief.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) sympathized with this faithful widow immigrant. Her married her to save her from the oppression of her family. (Muhammad Fathi Mus'ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.32)

Sauda offered this to the Prophet and he accepted it. There is nothing wrong with this at all. But if the Prophet did it without Sauda’s permission then Sam would make a point.
Maybe Sam could tell us how Prophet Solomon (1Kings 11:3) treated his 700 wives equally. (I will be nice and forget about the 300 concubines)

Sam Shamoun said:
A further indication of Muhammad’s inability to treat his wives fairly is seen from his separating them into two groups. One group of wives he would sleep with more often, while the other group he would put off having sex with them. He would only have sex with this other group whenever he wished, not when they wished. Noted linguist and commentator Al-Zamakhshari wrote the following regarding this issue:
It is related that the Prophet (refrained from sexual intercourse and) put off temporarily the following wives: Sauda, Juwairiya. Safiyya, Maimuna, and Umm Habiba. In so doing he used to grant them a share (of sexual intercourse) according TO HIS WISH. Among the wives whom the Prophet preferred to take to himself belong ‘A’isha, Hafsa, Umm Salama, and Zainab (bint Jash). Thus, he used to put five off temporarily in order to take four to himself. (On the other hand) it is related that, disregarding divorce and the selection concerned with it, the Prophet treated (all his wives) the same, with the exception of Sauda, who relinquished the night belonging to her to ‘A’isha and said (to the Prophet): ‘Do not divorce me but let me remain in the company of your wives!’… (Helmut Gätje,The Qur'an and Its Exegesis, translated and edited by Alford T. Welch [Oneworld Publications, Oxford England], pp. 90-91; bold and capital emphasis ours)
My Response:
Well again like I mentioned before, when it comes to ‘love’ and sexual inclination one cannot control his heart and natural desires that easily.
Again, I need to remind you that Sauda is the one who gave up her day…
Thus, he used to put five off temporarily in order to take four to himself. (On the other hand) it is related that, disregarding divorce and the selection concerned with it, the Prophet treated (all his wives) the same, with the exception of Sauda, who relinquished the night belonging to her to ‘A’isha and said…
Sam Shamoun said:
Even the wives noticed Muhammad’s partial and unfair treatment, being clearly aware that he loved one particular wife more than the others. This moved them to jealousy and strife:
Narrated ‘Urwa from ‘Aisha:
The wives of Allah's Apostle were in two groups. One group consisted of 'Aisha, Hafsa, Safiyya and Sauda; and the other group consisted of Um Salama and the other wives of Allah's Apostle. The Muslims knew that Allah’s Apostle loved ‘Aisha, so if any of them had a gift and wished to give to Allah's Apostle, he would delay it, till Allah’s Apostle had come to ‘Aisha's home and then he would send his gift to Allah’s Apostle in her home. The group of Um Salama discussed the matter together and decided that Um Salama should request Allah's Apostle to tell the people to send their gifts to him in whatever wife’s house he was. Um Salama told Allah’s Apostle of what they had said, but he did not reply. Then they (those wives) asked Um Salama about it. She said, "He did not say anything to me." They asked her to talk to him again. She talked to him again when she met him on her day, but he gave no reply. When they asked her, she replied that he had given no reply. They said to her, "Talk to him till he gives you a reply." When it was her turn, she talked to him again. He then said to her, "Do not hurt me regarding Aisha, AS THE DIVINE INSPIRATIONS DO NOT COME TO ME ON ANY OF THE BEDS EXCEPT THAT OF AISHA." On that Um Salama said, "I repent to Allah for hurting you." Then the group of Um Salama called Fatima, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle and sent her to Allah’s Apostle to say to him, "Your wives request to treat them and the daughter of Abu Bakr ON EQUAL TERMS." Then Fatima conveyed the message to him. The Prophet said, "O my daughter! Don’t you love whom I love?" She replied in the affirmative and returned and told them of the situation. They requested her to go to him again but she refused. They then sent Zainab bint Jahsh who went to him AND USED HARSH WORDS SAYING, "Your wives request you TO TREAT THEM and the daughter of Ibn Abu Quhafa ON EQUAL TERMS." On that she raised her voice AND ABUSED ‘Aisha TO HER FACE so much so that Allah’s Apostle looked at ‘Aisha to see whether she would retort. ‘Aisha started replying to Zainab till she silenced her. The Prophet then looked at ‘Aisha and said, "She is really the daughter of Abu Bakr." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 755)
My Response:
What are these equal terms that the wives of the Prophet were demanding?

, والمراد به التسوية بينهن في كل شيء من المحبة وغيرها
And the intended meaning is equal terms on everything from love and anything else. (Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, Source)

However, we already mentioned that it is impossible for one to love someone equally as the other. So they were demanding something beyond the control of the Prophet.

Sam Shamoun said:
Umar gave this advice to his daughter Hafsa, one of Muhammad’s wives:
… Then ‘Umar went on relating the narration and said. "I and an Ansari neighbor of mine from Bani Umaiya bin Zaid who used to live in ‘Awali Al-Medina, used to visit the Prophet in turns. He used to go one day, and I another day. When I went I would bring him the news of what had happened that day regarding the instructions and orders and when he went, he used to do the same for me. We, the people of Quraish, used to have authority over women, but when we came to live with the Ansar, we noticed that the Ansari women had the upper hand over their men, so our women started acquiring the habits of the Ansari women. Once I shouted at my wife and she paid me back in my coin and I disliked that she should answer me back. She said, ‘Why do you take it ill that I retort upon you? By Allah, the wives of the Prophet retort upon him, and some of them may not speak with him for the whole day till night.’ What she said scared me and I said to her, ‘Whoever amongst them does so, will be a great loser.’ Then I dressed myself and went to Hafsa and asked her, ‘Does any of you keep Allah’s Apostle angry all the day long till night?’ She replied in the affirmative. I said, ‘She is a ruined losing person (and will never have success)! Doesn’t she fear that Allah may get angry for the anger of Allah's Apostle and thus she will be ruined? Don’t ask Allah’s Apostle too many things, and don't retort upon him in any case, and don't desert him. Demand from me whatever you like, and don’t be tempted to imitate your neighbor (i.e. ‘Aisha) in her behavior towards the Prophet), for she (i.e. Aisha) IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU, AND MORE BELOVED to Allah’s Apostle. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 648)
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
that ‘Umar entered upon Hafsa and said, "O my daughter! Do not be misled by the manners of her who is proud of her beauty because of the love of Allah’s Apostle for her." By ‘her’ he meant ‘Aisha. ‘Umar added, "Then I told that to Allah’s Apostle and he smiled (on hearing that)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 145)

My Response:
I don’t see the problem with the hadith posted. The hadith in no way show that the Prophet loved Aisha more just simply because she was more beautiful. He had other wives who were beautiful as well such as Safiyah for example.
Notice what the hadith says…
Demand from me whatever you like, and don’t be tempted to imitate your neighbor (i.e. ‘Aisha) in her behavior towards the Prophet), for she (i.e. Aisha) IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU, AND MORE BELOVED to Allah’s Apostle. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 648)
The Prophet loved Aisha more because of her behavior and personality.

The Prophet emphasized more on the importance of marrying a woman based on her personality (a religious one of course)…
Sahih Muslim
Book 008, Hadith Number 3457.
Chapter : Excellence of contracting marriage with a pious lady.
Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: A woman may be married for four reasons: for her property, her status, her beauty and her religion,so try to get one who is religious, may your hand be besmeared with dust.

The Prophet loved Ayesha more than all the women…

Sahih Bukhari
Volumn 005, Book 057, Hadith Number 014.
Narated By 'Amr bin Al-As : The Prophet deputed me to read the Army of Dhat-as-Salasil. I came to him and said, "Who is the most beloved person to you?" He said, " 'Aisha." I asked, "Among the men?" He said, "Her father." I said, "Who then?" He said, "Then 'Umar bin Al-Khattab." He then named other men.

As his wife and close companion she acquired from him knowledge and insight such as no woman has ever acquired…
Marriage to the Prophet did not change her playful ways. Her young friends came regularly to visit her in her own apartment.
"I would be playing with my dolls," she said, "with the girls who were my friends, and the Prophet would come in and they would slip out of the house and he would go out after them and bring them back, for he was pleased for my sake to have them there." Sometimes he would say "Stay where you are" before they had time to leave, and would also join in their games. Aishah said: "One day, the Prophet came in when I was playing with the dolls and he said: 'O Aishah, whatever game is this?' 'It is Solomon's horses,' I said and he laughed." Sometimes as he came in he would screen himself with his cloak so as not to disturb Aishah and her friends.
Aishah's early life in Madinah also had its more serious and anxious times. Once her father and two companions who were staying with him fell ill with a dangerous fever which was common in Madinah at certain seasons. One morning Aishah went to visit him and was dismayed to find the three men lying completely weak and exhausted. She asked her father how he was and he answered her in verse but she did not understand what he was saying. The two others also answered her with lines of poetry which seemed to her to be nothing but unintelligible babbling. She was deeply troubled and went home to the Prophet saying:
"They are raving, out of their minds, through the heat of the fever." The Prophet asked what they had said and was somewhat reassured when she repeated almost word for word the lines they had uttered and which made sense although she did not fully understand them then. This was a demonstration of the great retentive power of her memory which as the years went by were to preserve so many of the priceless sayings of the Prophet.
Of the Prophet's wives in Madinah, it was clear that it was Aishah that he loved most. From time to time, one or the other of his companions would ask:
"O Messenger of God, whom do you love most in the world?" He did not always give the same answer to this question for he felt great love for many for his daughters and their children, for Abu Bakr, for Ali, for Zayd and his son Usamah. But of his wives the only one he named in this connection was Aishah. She too loved him greatly in return and often would seek reassurance from him that he loved her. Once she asked him: "How is your love for me?"
"Like the rope's knot," he replied meaning that it was strong and secure. And time after time thereafter, she would ask him: "How is the knot?" and he would reply: "Ala haaliha in the same condition."
As she loved the Prophet so was her love a jealous love and she could not bear the thought that the Prophet's attentions should be given to others more than seemed enough to her. She asked him:
"O Messenger of God, tell me of yourself. If you were between the two slopes of a valley, one of which had not been grazed whereas the other had been grazed, on which would you pasture your flocks?"
"On that which had not been grazed," replied the Prophet. "Even so," she said, "and I am not as any other of your wives. "Everyone of them had a husband before you, except myself." The Prophet smiled and said nothing. Of her jealousy, Aishah would say in later years:
"I was not, jealous of any other wife of the Prophet as I was jealous of Khadijah, because of his constant mentioning of her and because God had commanded him to give her good tidings of a mansion in Paradise of precious stones. And whenever he sacrificed a sheep he would send a fair portion of it to those who had been her intimate friends. Many a time I said to him: "It is as if there had never been any other woman in the world except Khadijah."
Once, when Aishah complained and asked why he spoke so highly of "an old Quraysh woman", the Prophet was hurt and said: "She was the wife who believed in me when others rejected me. When people gave me the lie, she affirmed my truthfulness. When I stood forsaken, she spent her wealth to lighten the burden of my sorrow.."
Despite her feelings of jealousy, which nonetheless were not of a destructive kind, Aishah was really a generous soul and a patient one. She bore with the rest of the Prophet's household poverty and hunger, which often lasted for long periods.

So you see it is natural for women to be jealous. They can even get jealous of ex wives who died (like how Aisha did with Khadija). However, this jealousy was not destructive and was only out of great love for the Prophet.
The Prophet had more love for Aisha than the others due to her great character. Something that the Prophet found unique in her that he might not have found in his other wives, however that does not mean that he did not love his other wives. His wives did not have destructive jealousy and hatred for Aisha. They got jealous because it was natural and out of love for the Prophet.
Also Shamoun emphasized on this part of the hadith…
We, the people of Quraish, used to have authority over women, but when we came to live with the Ansar, we noticed that the Ansari women had the upper hand over their men, so our women started acquiring the habits of the Ansari women.
I don’t know what point Sam was trying to make. Aren’t men supposed to have authority over their wives? (Ephesians 5:22)
Sam Shamoun said:
Muhammad’s wives complained about his preferential treatment of Aisha and demanded to be treated equally. Instead of acquiescing to their demands, Muhammad justified his preferential treatment by claiming that divine revelations came to him on no other bed except Aisha’s! If Muhammad was correct this meant that Allah himself distinguished Aisha’s bed from the rest, thereby implying that it was actually Allah who caused Muhammad to expressly break the supposed divine command of being fair with all of one’s wives.
More importantly, Muslims claim that Muhammad’s marriages were, for the most part, consummated for political reasons, to solidify relationships with his companions or certain tribes. Yet this is not the reason stated by some of the older Muslim references:
… Sahl at-Tustari said, "Women were loved by the Master of the Messengers, so how could we abstain from them?" Ibn Uyayna says something to the same effect.
The most ascetic of the Companions had a lot of wives and salve-girls and had much sexual intercourse with them. More than one of them disliked the idea of meeting Allah unmarried. (Qadi ‘Iyad Musa al-Yahsubi, Muhammad Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K. 1991; third reprint, paperback], p. 46)
He said, "He made me love, in this world of yours, WOMEN and scent, and the coolness of my eye (i.e. my delight) is in the prayer," and then he indicated that his love was for women and scent which are worldly things for other people whereas his occupation with them was not for this worldly life, but rather for the life of the Next World because of the otherworldly benefits of marriage already mentioned and his desire to come to the angels wearing scent. Scent also encourages intercourse, assists it and stimulates it. He loved these two qualities for the sake of others and for the restraint of his appetite. His true love, particular to him, lay in witnessing the Jabarut of his Lord and intimate conversation with Him. That is why he made a distinction between the two loves and separated the two conditions, saying, "and the delight of my eye is in the prayer."
Yahya and ‘Isa were on the same level regarding the trial of women. However, there is an extra virtue in satisfying women’s needs. The Prophet was among those who have given the ability to do so and he was given it in abundance. This is why he was allowed a greater number of wives than anyone else.
It is related from Anas, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to visit his wives in one hour of the day or night, and there were eleven of them."
Anas said, "We used to say he had been given the power of thirty men." Something similar was related from Abu Rafi’. Tawus said, "The Prophet was given the power of forty men in intercourse." A similar statement came from Safwan ibn Sulaym.
Salama, the female client of the Prophet, said, "The Prophet would go around in the night to nine wives and purify himself from each of them before going to the next. He said, ‘This is better and purer.’"
The Prophet Sulayman said, "I went around in the night to a hundred or ninety-nine women." So he had that capacity as well. Ibn ‘Abbas said, "There was the semen of a hundred men in the loins of Sulayman, and he had three hundred wives and three hundred slave-girls." An-Naqqash and others related that he had seven hundred wives and three hundred slave-girls.
In the hadith of Anas, the Prophet said, "I have been preferred over people in four things: generosity, courage, MUCH INTERCOURSE and great power." (Ibid., pp. 47-48; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)
This reference unashamedly admits that the reason Muhammad was permitted to have more wives is because of his very strong sex drive!
My Response:
Notice what Qadi says…
and then he indicated that his love was for women and scent which are worldly things for other people whereas his occupation with them was not for this worldly life, but rather for the life of the Next World because of the otherworldly benefits of marriage already mentioned and his desire to come to the angels wearing scent.
Unlike Paul who thought that marrying women was only good for satisfying your sexual desires…
1 Corinthians 7:1-2;8
   1Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.[a] 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.     8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

This actually contradicts what Genesis says…

Genesis 2:18

And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him."

As for why the Prophet was able to marry more than four wives, well there is more to it than you think. Read about it here.

Sam Shamoun said:
The preceding factors present Allah as a deity who had nothing better to do than to please Muhammad’s desires. Allah’s primary focus, it seems, was to grant Muhammad his desires and wishes, an observation which even Muhammad’s child bride made. Aisha said by way of mocking:
Narrated Aisha:
I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah’s Apostle and I used to say, "Can a lady give herself (to a man)?" But when Allah revealed: "You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily)." (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311)
My Response:
‏أي ما أرى الله إلا موجدا لما تريد بلا تأخير
I see that Allah is always present for what you need without delay. (Fathul Bari, Source)

This was a remark by Aisha. However, the Prophet did go through many hardships and had to endure patience through rough times. So it is not entirely true that Allah always ‘hastened’ to fulfill the Prophet’s wishes.
Secondly, even if God did. What is the problem? Why would God do otherwise? He is the Messenger of God and deserves such honor and privileges from the Almighty God.
Sam Shamoun said:
(b) Sura 4:3 is talking about providing equally for all of the wives, whereas 4:129 is talking about not being able to love all wives the same. The problem with this explanation is that the texts themselves do not make such distinctions. One will not find it stated anywhere that being just in one verse refers to providing financially for all wives whereas in the other passage it refers to loving them all equally. This interpretation is nothing more than ad hoc.

My Response:

I already quoted Ibn Abbas’s commentary…

(Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives) as regards love, (however much ye wish (to do so)) even if you exert your efforts: (But turn not altogether away) with your bodies ((from one)) in favour of the young wife, (leaving her) the other one: the old wife (as in suspense) like a prisoner: neither unmarried nor married. (If ye do good and keep from evil) if you treat them equally and avoid transgression and aversion, (lo! Allah is ever Forgiving) of those who repent of transgression and aversion, (Merciful) towards those who die in a state of repentance. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 4:129 Source)

This is what Sam Shamoun says about Ibn Abbas…

Hence, the commentary of Abdullah Ibn `Abbas who is one of the Sahaba (companions) and Mohammed's cousin. His opinions are held to be above the opinions and commentaries of all other Sheiks who are not Sahaba. (Sam Shamoun, The Quranic Witness To Biblical AuthoritySource)

So according to Sam we should take what Ibn Abbas said and see how the companions of the Prophet understood how the Prophet explained the Quran (Surah 16:44).


People would still might see it as unjust that a husband could love one wife more than the other. However, we have to understand that this is one of the tests for women here on earth. The woman who pleases her husband is such great honor that it could lead her straight to paradise. For a Muslim man to achieve that he would have to die a martyr! So just imagine how much easier it is for the woman to do so in order to attain paradise. If she is in a polygamous marriage it would actually be easier for her because she has other women helping her in pleasing her husband. Only if women truly understood this they would all want to be in a polygamous marriage. Earning paradise is not easy and requires the woman to be patient with her husband. This is her test in life.

A woman’s being patient in obeying her husband is one of the means of entering Paradise, as it says in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn Hibbaan: “If a woman offers her five daily prayers and fasts her month (i.e., Ramadaan) and guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her: ‘Enter Paradise from whichever of the gates of Paradise you wish.’” (This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer, no. 660, Cited here)  

A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "Who has the greatest rights over a woman?" He said, "Her husband." She asked, `And who has the greatest rights over a man?" He said, "His mother." (Reported by al-Bazzar with a hasan isnad. See Majma' al-Zawa'id, 4/308, Bab haqq al-zawj 'ala'l-mar'ah, Cited here)

Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: `Any woman who dies, and her husband is pleased with her, will enter Paradise.'" (Ibn Majah, 1/595, Kitab al-nikah, bab haqq al-zawj 'ala'l-mar'ah; al-Hakim, 4/173, Kitab al-birr wa'l-silah; he said its isnad is sahih, Cited here)

A woman came to ask the Prophet (PBUH) about some matter, and when he had dealt with it, he asked her, "Do you have a husband?" She said, "Yes." He asked her, "How are you with him?" She said, "I never fall short in my duties, except for that which is beyond me." He said, "Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell."13 (Reported by Ahmad and al-Nisa'i with jayyid isnads, and by al-Hakim, who said that its isnad was sahih. See al-Mundhiri, Al-Targhib wa'l-Tarhib, 3/52, Kitab al-nikah, Cited here)

Its also ironic to mention that no where in the Bible is polygamy condemned. Read this.

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