Maria al-Qibtiyya

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Maria bint Shamʿūn, better known as Maria al-Qibtiyya (Arabic: مارية القبطية‎), Maria Qubtiyya, or Mary the Copt (died 637), was an Egyptian who, along with her sister Sirin, was sent to the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 628 as a gift by Muqawqis, a Christian governor of Alexandria, Egypt, during the territory's Persian occupation. She and her sister were slaves.[1][2] She spent the rest of her life in Medina where she converted to Islam and lived with Muhammad when she bore a son, Ibrahim. The son would die as an infant and then she died almost five years later.[3]


In the Islamic year 6 AH (627 – 628 CE), Muhammad is said to have had letters written to the great rulers of the Middle East, proclaiming the continuation of the monotheistic faith with its final messages and inviting the rulers to join. The purported texts of some of the letters are found in Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari's History of the Prophets and Kings. Tabari writes that a deputation was sent to an Egyptian governor named as al-Muqawqis.

Tabari recounts the story of Maria's arrival from Egypt:

In this year Hātib b. Abi Balta'ah came back from al-Muqawqis bringing Māriyah and her sister Sīrīn, his female mule Duldul, his donkey Ya'fūr, and sets of garments. With the two women al-Muqawqis had sent a eunuch, and the latter stayed with them. Hātib had invited them to become Muslims before he arrived with them, and Māriyah and her sister did so. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him, lodged them with Umm Sulaym bt. Milhān. Māriyah was beautiful. The prophet sent her sister Sīrīn to Hassān b. Thābit and she bore him 'Abd al-Rahmān b. Hassān.

— Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings.[4]

The death of Ibrahim caused Muhammad to weep.[5]

Status as a Slave[edit]

Maria bint Shamun was a slave owned by Egypt's Christian governor, who offered her and her sister Sirin, among other presents, as a gift of good will to Muhammad in reply to his envoys inviting him to Islam.[1][2]

Status as a Wife or Concubine[edit]

Like Rayhana bint Zayd, there is some debate between historians and scholars as to whether she officially became Muhammad's wife, or was just a concubine.[6][7][8][9] A fact proving she was a concubine however, is that when she bore her son to Muhammad, she was sent free.[10] Had she been a wife, it would have been out of place.

عن ابن عباس قال: «لما ولدت مارية إبراهيم قال رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم -: أعتقها ولدها»
Ibn ‘Abbas said: When Maria gave birth to Ibrahim the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, ‘Her son has set her free.’[11]

There is also strong evidence that there was no living quarter for her in the proximity of the Prophet's Mosque.[12] Only the wives of Muhammad had their quarters adjacent to one another in the proximity of his mosque at Medina. On the opposed, Maria was made to reside permanently in an orchard, some three kilometers from the mosque.[12] The most direct evidence suggests she was a concubine is in the naration such as:

عن أنس، «أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كانت له أمة يطؤها فلم تزل به عائشة وحفصة حتى حرمها على نفسه»، فأنزل الله عز وجل: {يا أيها النبي لم تحرم ما أحل الله لك} [التحريم: 1] إلى آخر الآية
Anas said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had a female-slave (amat) with whom he had intercourse, but ‘Aishah and Hafsah would not leave him alone until he said that she was forbidden for him. Then Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, revealed: “O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you.’ until the end of the Verse.”[13]

The ‘female-slave’ referred to in this narration was Maria, the Copt. In fact, a narration of ‘Umar b. al-Khattab referring to the same episode mentions her as ‘Umm Ibrahim’ (the mother of Ibrahim):

عن عمر قال قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لحفصة لا تحدثي أحدا وإن أم إبراهيم علي حرام فقالت أتحرم ما أحل الله لك قال فوالله لا أقربها قال فلم يقربها نفسها حتى أخبرت عائشة فأنزل الله عز وجل قد فرض الله لكم تحلة أيمانكم
The Prophet said to Hafsa: ‘Do not mention it to anyone, the mother of Ibrahim (i.e. Maria) is forbidden unto me.’ She said, ‘Do you forbid yourself what Allah has made lawful to you?’ He replied, ‘By Allah I will not be intimate with her.’ ‘Umar said, ‘He did not have intimacy with Maria whereas Hafsa mentioned it to ‘Aisha upon which Allah revealed, ‘Allah has already sanctioned (a way) for you (believers) to absolve yourselves from your oaths’’(Qur’an 66:2)[14]

In a report from Ibn ‘Abbas and ‘Urwah b. al-Zubair in the same context the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to Hafsa:

أشهدك أن سريتي علي حرام
I make you witness that I my concubine (surriyyati) is now forbidden unto me.[15]

However some Islamic scholars regard a different Asbāb al-nuzūl (circumstance of revelation) for the above mentioned Surah 66:1-5, saying it was only caused by Muhammad drinking honey, namely the "honey-incident", which is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari by Muhammed's wife Aisha:[16][17][18]

The Prophet (ﷺ) used to stay (for a period) in the house of Zaynab bint Jahsh (one of the wives of the Prophet ) and he used to drink honey in her house. Hafsa bint Umar and I decided that when the Prophet (ﷺ) entered upon either of us, she would say, "I smell in you the bad smell of Maghafir (a bad smelling raisin). Have you eaten Maghafir?" When he entered upon one of us, she said that to him. He replied (to her), "No, but I have drunk honey in the house of Zaynab bint Jahsh, and I will never drink it again." Then the following verse was revealed: 'O Prophet ! Why do you ban (for you) that which Allah has made lawful for you?. ..(up to) If you two (wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) turn in repentance to Allah.' (66.1-4) The two were `Aisha and Hafsa And also the Statement of Allah: 'And (Remember) when the Prophet (ﷺ) disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wives!' (66.3) i.e., his saying, "But I have drunk honey."

Though, another narration in Sunan Abu Dawud indicates that drinking honey is another term for having a sexual intercourse:

حَدَّثَنَا مُسَدَّدٌ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنِ الأَسْوَدِ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ رَجُلٍ طَلَّقَ امْرَأَتَهُ - يَعْنِي ثَلاَثًا - فَتَزَوَّجَتْ زَوْجًا غَيْرَهُ فَدَخَلَ بِهَا ثُمَّ طَلَّقَهَا قَبْلَ أَنْ يُوَاقِعَهَا أَتَحِلُّ لِزَوْجِهَا الأَوَّلِ قَالَتْ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم " لاَ تَحِلُّ لِلأَوَّلِ حَتَّى تَذُوقَ عُسَيْلَةَ الآخَرِ وَيَذُوقَ عُسَيْلَتَهَا " .
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) was asked about a man who divorced his wife three times, and she married another who entered upon her, but divorced her before having intercourse with her, whether she was lawful for the former husband. She said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: She is not lawful for the first (husband) until she tastes the honey of the other husband and he tastes her honey.[19]

On some early biographers and classical hadith-scholars such as Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir stated that Maria al-Qibtiya was one of Muhammad's wives.[20][21]

Mariyah the Copt was presented to the Messenger of God, given to him by al-Muqawqis, the ruler of Alexandria, and she gave birth to the Messenger of God’s son Ibrahim. These were the Messenger of God's wifes.

Maria al-Qibtiyya is said to have married the Prophet and certainly everyone gave her the same title of respect as the Prophet’s wives, ‘Umm al Muminin’ ‘Mother of the Believers".

However, on the later pages of Tabari's Tarikh, he stated that Maria was indeed Muhammad's concubine, after all. Which suggest what Tabari meant when saying that Mariyah was one of Muhammad's wives, he wasn't denying she was his slave girl, his concubine, but was using "wife" in the sense of one whom Muhammad slept with and who mothered his child.

Mariyah, the Prophet’s concubine and the mother of his son, Ibrahim.

Al-Muqawqas, lord of Alexandria, gave her with her sister Sirin and other things as a present to the Prophet.

According to Ibn ‘Umar [al-Waqidi] – Ya‘qub b. Muhammad b. Abi Sa‘sa‘ah – ‘Abdallah b. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Sa‘sa‘ah: In the year 7/May 11, 628-April 30, 629, al-Muqawqas, lord of Alexandria, sent to the Prophet Mariyah, her sister Sirin, a thousand gold coins, twenty fine robes, his mule Duldul, and his donkey ‘Ufayr, or Ya‘fur. With them was Mariyah’s brother, a very old eunuch called Mabur. Al-Muqawqas sent all this [to the Prophet] with Hatib b. Abi Balta‘ah. The latter suggested to Mariyah that she embrace Islam and made her wish to do so; thus she and her sister were converted, whereas the eunuch adhered to his religion until he was [also] converted later in Medina, while the Prophet was [still] alive.

The Prophet admired Umm Ibrahim ["Mother of Ibrahim," Mariyah’s title], who was fair-skinned and beautiful. He lodged her in al-‘Aliyah, at the property nowadays called of Umm Ibrahim. He used to visit her there and ordered her to veil herself, [but] he had intercourse with her by virtue of her being his property...[22]

Another argument that claimed Mariyah was Muhammad's wife is a statement of Mus‘ab b. ‘Abdullah al-Zubairi (d. 236/851) with al-Hakim (d. 405/1015) who records:[23]

Thereafter the Messenger of Allah married Maria bt. Shamun. She had been gifted to the Messenger of Allah by Maquqas, the chief of Alexandria.

However, Mus‘ab was born in the year 156/773 and, therefore, his report is ''mu‘dal'' i.e. has at least two missing links. Moreover, while it is so mentioned in Mus‘ab's report related by al-Hakim through two intermediary narrators, in the rendering of Mus‘ab's nephew Zubair b. al-Bakkar (d. 256/870) his report makes no mention of marriage. Zubair al-Bakkar gives us the report as:

حدثني عمي، قال: أهدى المقوقس صاحب الإسكندرية إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم مارية ابنة شمعون القبطية، وأختها شيرين، وخصيا يدعى مابورا فاتخذ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم مارية ابنة شمعون لنفسه، فهي أم إبراهيم، ووهب شيرين حسان بن ثابت …
My uncle related to me saying: The chief of Alexandria Maquqas sent as gifts to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), Maria bt. Sham‘un, the Copt, her sister Shirin, and a eunuch named Mabur. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) took Maria bt. Sham‘un for himself. She was the mother of (Prophet’s son) Ibrahim. He gifted Shirin to Hassan b. Thabit …[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b al-Tabari, Abu Jafar. The History of al-Tabari, Volume 9: The Last Years of the Prophet. Translated by Ismail K. Poonawala. SUNY Press. p. 141.
  2. ^ a b Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, p. 499.
  3. ^ Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, p. 653.
  4. ^ Tabari, p. 131.
  5. ^ "Sahih Bukhari". Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  6. ^ Bennett, Clinton, ed. (1998). In Search of Muhammad. A&C Black. p. 251. ISBN 9780304704019.
  7. ^ Fred James Hill; Nicholas Awde (2003). A History of the Islamic World. Hippocrene Books. p. 24. ISBN 9780781810159.
  8. ^ David S. Powers (2011). Muhammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men: The Making of the Last Prophet. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780812205572.
  9. ^ Akbar, Waqar (2018-08-10). "Maria, the Copt: Prophet Muhammad's Wife or Concubine?". ICRAA. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  10. ^ Schacht, J.; al-Andalusi, Ibn Hazm; Haqqi, Mamduh (1957-12-31). "Haccat al-wada'". Oriens. 10 (2): 400. doi:10.2307/1579716. ISSN 0078-6527. JSTOR 1579716.
  11. ^ Al-Andalusi, Ibn Hazm, al-Muhalla bil Athar, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, n.d.) Vol.7, 505; Vol.8, 215; Ibn Hazm termed it ‘sahih al-sanad’ and ‘jayyid al-sanad.’ Ibn Hazm has the report with an isnad different from that with Ibn Majah etc. Some scholars have differed with Ibn Hazm and pointed out hidden defects in its isnad – see, al-Fasi, Ibn al-Qattan, Bayan al-Wahm wa Iham fi Kitab al-Ahkam, (Riyadh: Dar al-Tayba, 1997) Vol.2, 84-86 – it is, however, supported by a statement of ‘Ubaidullah b. Abi Ja‘far al-Kinani that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to Maria, the mother of Ibrahim, ‘Your son has set you free.’ See, al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, al-Sunan al-Kubra, (Beirut: DKI, 2003) Hadith 21788
  12. ^ a b Juzjani, Uthman ibn Siraj al Din (2010-12-31). Tabaqat-I Nasiri. doi:10.31826/9781463229207. ISBN 9781463229207.
  13. ^ "Sunan an-Nasa'i 3959 - The Book of the Kind Treatment of Women - كتاب عشرة النساء - - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  14. ^ al-Maqdisi, Dia Uddin, al-Ahadith al-Mukhtara, (Beirut: Dar al-Kidr, 2000) Vol.1, 299-300, Hadith 189; quoted and classified as sahih by Ibn Kathir in his tafsir under Qur’an 66:2
  15. ^ Reported by Ibn ‘Abbas: Al-Tabari, Ibn Jarir, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2000) Vol.23, 477-478; al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, al-Sunan al-Kubra, (Beirut: DKI, 2003) Hadith 15075; Ibn al-Jawzi, Abu al-Farj, al-Tahqiq fi Ahadith al-Khilaf, (Beirut: DKI, 1415 AH) Vol.2, 379; It comes through an isnad involving ‘Atiyah al-‘Awfi and his descendants. Though criticized otherwise, the tafsir reports through this isnad are accepted since they are known to have been transmitted in writing. See, al-Turifi, ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, al-Taqrir fi Asanid al-Tafsir, (Riyadh: Dar al-Minhaj, 2011) 67-68
  16. ^ al-Buchari: Sahih al Buchari. In: Book 86. Volume 9, Nr. 102.
  17. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari 6691 In-book reference: Book 83, Hadith 68, Vol. 8, Book 78, Hadith 682.
  18. ^ George Sale - Muhammed, The Quran, vol. 4 [1896]. This passage have been occasioned by Muhammad’s protesting never to eat honey any more, because, having once eaten some in the apartment of Hafsa bint Umar or of Zaynab bint Jahsh, three other of his wives, namely, Aisha, Sawda bint Zamʿa, and Safiyya bint Huyayy, all told him they smelt he had been eating of the juice which distils from certain shrubs in those parts, and resembles honey in taste and consistence, but is of a very strong savour, and which the Prophet had a great aversion to.
  19. ^ "Sunan Abi Dawud 2309 - Divorce (Kitab Al-Talaq) - كتاب الطلاق - - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  20. ^ at-Tabari. History of al-Tabari: The Last Years of the Prophet. p. 137. God granted Rayhanah bt. Zayd of the Banu Qurayzah to his Messenger. Mariyah the Copt was presented to the Messenger of God, given to him by al-Muqawqis, the ruler of Alexandria, and she gave birth to the Messenger of God's son Ibrahim. These were the messenger of god's wifes, six of them were from the Quraysh.
  21. ^ Ibn Kathir. "Maria al-Qibtiyya". Mohammads Life: The Wifes of the Prophet Muhammad. transl. by Mohammad Gemeiah & al-Azhar. Maria al-Qibtiyya is said to have married the Prophet and certainly everyone gave her the same title of respect as the Prophet's wives, 'Umm al Muminin' 'Mother of the Believers'
  22. ^ Al-Tabari. History of Tabari - Volume 39 - Biographies of the Prophet's Companions and Their Successors. pp. 193–194.
  23. ^ al-Hakim, Abu; 'Abdullah, al-Mustadrak (1990). hadith nr. 6819. Beirut. Abdullah al-Zubairi related to us and said: Thereafter the Messenger of Allah married Maria bt. Sham‘un. She had been gifted to the Messenger of Allah by Maquqas, the chief of Alexandria.
  24. ^ Zubair b. al-Bakkar, al-Muwaffaqiyat (Beirut: ‘Alam al-Kitab, 1996) No. 147