Maria the Copt (Mariyah Al-Qibtiyyah)
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Mary the Copt (Arabic: مارية القبطية Mariyah Al-Qibtiyah), also known as Maria Qubtiyya, was one of the concubines/sex slaves of the prophet Muhammad. Although she is considered an "umm al-mu'minin" أم ألمؤمنين she was never actually the wife of the prophet according to the accepted historical sources by orthodox Sunni Islam. According to the sira she was sent to Muhammad as a gift from the Christian Patriarch of Egypt. According to the hadith and the sirah her beauty and Muhammad's lust for her incited the jealousy of Muhammad's wives, in particular Hafsa and Aisha. The jealousy they had of her and Muhammad's response was actually the cause of the "revelation" of several Qur'an verses according to the tradition. Although she converted to Islam and bore the prophet a son who later died, she remained a slave of the prophet until he died, according to most of the traditional scholars. The traditional sources compare her concubinage to that of Hajar to Ibrahim, and the son that Mariyah bore was named Ibrahim. According to classical Islamic sources, had her son Ibrahim lived, he too would have been a prophet.
Life Before Muhammad
Not much is known of Mariyah's life before she was gifted to the prophet as a sex slave. According to the traditional sources, she was the son of a certain Sham'un from the town of Hafn in the region of Ansina. According to the traditional sources, she was gifted to Muhammad with her sister Shirin; but since the shari'ah prohibits a man having concurrent sexual relations with a woman and her sister, Muhammad was forced to choose between the two, and chose Mariyah for her exceeding beauty, while giving her sister to the poet Hassan bin Thabit .
Gifting to Muhammad and Conversion to Islam
According to the traditional sources, after the treaty of Hudaybiya, the prophet Muhammad sent letters to the heads of various Middle Eastern powers inviting them to convert to Islam. One of these letters went to a certain Al-Muqauqis, who is not immediately identifiable with any historical person but seems to be the Melkite Patriarch Cyril of Egypt. He did not, apparently, accept the call to Islam but in response sent Mariyah and her sister Shirin as sex slaves to Muhammad. That a Christian patriarch in Egypt would send Christian girls as sex slaves to this strange, obscure, and previously unknown heretic in Arabia was a question that apparently never arose on any side; there is no confirmation of any part of this story in contemporary Muslim or non-Muslim accounts from the 7th century, and the narrative itself only appears in Muslim sirah, tafsir and hadith literature written over a hundred years after the fact. On the way to Medina, she converted to Islam. When she and her sister arrived in Medina, since Muhammad could not have concurrent sexual relations with both sisters as per Islamic law, Muhammad chose Mariyah for her exceeding beauty. The prophet did not wed her, but rather kept her as his jaariyah (جارية) or surriyah (سرية), that is his sex slave. The prophet was very stricken with her gave her a house in the upper portion of Medina, which purportedly still exists to this day.
Scandal with Muhammad's Wives and Quranic Revelation
According to multiple tafsir and hadith traditions, the first 6 ayyaat (verses) of surat-at-tahriim (surah 66) were revealed to Muhammad in regards to a sexual scandal within his household. According to the traditional reading, the verses admonish Muhammad's wives and command him to fulfill his desires as Allah has allowed to him:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ لِمَ تُحَرِّمُ مَآ أَحَلَّ ٱللَّهُ لَكَ ۖ تَبْتَغِى مَرْضَاتَ أَزْوَٰجِكَ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ قَدْ فَرَضَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ تَحِلَّةَ أَيْمَٰنِكُمْ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ مَوْلَىٰكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَلِيمُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ وَإِذْ أَسَرَّ ٱلنَّبِىُّ إِلَىٰ بَعْضِ أَزْوَٰجِهِۦ حَدِيثًا فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَتْ بِهِۦ وَأَظْهَرَهُ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ عَرَّفَ بَعْضَهُۥ وَأَعْرَضَ عَنۢ بَعْضٍ ۖ فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَهَا بِهِۦ قَالَتْ مَنْ أَنۢبَأَكَ هَٰذَا ۖ قَالَ نَبَّأَنِىَ ٱلْعَلِيمُ ٱلْخَبِيرُ إِن تَتُوبَآ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ فَقَدْ صَغَتْ قُلُوبُكُمَا ۖ وَإِن تَظَٰهَرَا عَلَيْهِ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ مَوْلَىٰهُ وَجِبْرِيلُ وَصَٰلِحُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۖ وَٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةُ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ ظَهِيرٌ عَسَىٰ رَبُّهُۥٓ إِن طَلَّقَكُنَّ أَن يُبْدِلَهُۥٓ أَزْوَٰجًا خَيْرًا مِّنكُنَّ مُسْلِمَٰتٍ مُّؤْمِنَٰتٍ قَٰنِتَٰتٍ تَٰٓئِبَٰتٍ عَٰبِدَٰتٍ سَٰٓئِحَٰتٍ ثَيِّبَٰتٍ وَأَبْكَارًا يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ قُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا ٱلنَّاسُ وَٱلْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَٰٓئِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَّا يَعْصُونَ ٱللَّهَ مَآ أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ
O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Allah has already ordained for you [Muslims] the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise. And [remember] when the Prophet confided to one of his wives a statement; and when she informed [another] of it and Allah showed it to him, he made known part of it and ignored a part. And when he informed her about it, she said, "Who told you this?" He said, "I was informed by the Knowing, the Acquainted." If you two [wives] repent to Allah, [it is best], for your hearts have deviated. But if you cooperate against him - then indeed Allah is his protector, and Gabriel and the righteous of the believers and the angels, moreover, are [his] assistants. Perhaps his Lord, if he divorced you [all], would substitute for him wives better than you - submitting [to Allah], believing, devoutly obedient, repentant, worshipping, and traveling - [ones] previously married and virgins.O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.
The entire scandal of Muhammad sleeping with Aisha is explained in the tafsir of al-Jalalayn on surah 66 (at-tahrim) verse 1-3:
يا أيّها النَّبِيّ لِمَ تُحَرِّم ما أحَلَّ اللَّه لَك﴾ مِن أمَتك مارِيَة القِبْطِيَّة لَمّا واقَعَها فِي بَيْت حَفْصَة وكانَتْ غائِبَة فَجاءَتْ وشَقَّ عَلَيْها كَوْن ذَلِكَ فِي بَيْتها وعَلى فِراشها حَيْثُ قُلْت: هِيَ حَرام عَلَيَّ ﴿تَبْتَغِي﴾ بِتَحْرِيمِها ﴿مَرْضاة أزْواجك﴾ أيْ رِضاهُنَّ ﴿واللَّه غَفُور رَحِيم﴾ غَفَرَ لَك هَذا التَّحْرِيم﴿ قَدۡ فَرَضَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمۡ تَحِلَّةَ أَیۡمَـٰنِكُمۡۚ وَٱللَّهُ مَوۡلَىٰكُمۡۖ وَهُوَ ٱلۡعَلِیمُ ٱلۡحَكِیمُ﴾ [التحريم ٢]﴿ قَدْ فَرَضَ اللَّه﴾ شَرَعَ ﴿لَكُمْ تَحِلَّة أيْمانكُمْ﴾ تَحْلِيلها بِالكَفّارَةِ المَذْكُورَة فِي سُورَة "المائِدَة" ومِن الأَيْمان تَحْرِيم الأَمَة وهَلْ كَفَّرَ ﷺ ؟ قالَ مُقاتِل: أعْتَقَ رَقَبَة فِي تَحْرِيم مارِيَة وقالَ الحَسَن: لَمْ يُكَفِّر لِأَنَّهُ ﷺ مَغْفُور لَهُ ﴿واللَّه مَوْلاكُمْ﴾ ناصِركُمْ﴿ وَإِذۡ أَسَرَّ ٱلنَّبِیُّ إِلَىٰ بَعۡضِ أَزۡوَ ٰجِهِۦ حَدِیثࣰا فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَتۡ بِهِۦ وَأَظۡهَرَهُ ٱللَّهُ عَلَیۡهِ عَرَّفَ بَعۡضَهُۥ وَأَعۡرَضَ عَنۢ بَعۡضࣲۖ فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَهَا بِهِۦ قَالَتۡ مَنۡ أَنۢبَأَكَ هَـٰذَاۖ قَالَ نَبَّأَنِیَ ٱلۡعَلِیمُ ٱلۡخَبِیرُ﴾ [التحريم ٣]﴿ و﴾ اذْكُرْ ﴿إذْ أسَرَّ النَّبِيّ إلى بَعْض أزْواجه﴾ هِيَ حَفْصَة ﴿حَدِيثًا﴾ هُوَ تَحْرِيم مارِيَة وقالَ لَها لا تُفْشِيه ﴿فَلَمّا نَبَّأَتْ بِهِ﴾ عائِشَة ظَنًّا مِنها أنْ لا حَرَج فِي ذَلِكَ ﴿وأَظْهَرَهُ اللَّه﴾ أطْلَعَهُ ﴿عَلَيْهِ﴾ عَلى المُنَبَّأ بِهِ ﴿عَرَّفَ بَعْضه﴾ لِحَفْصَةَ ﴿وأَعْرَضَ عَنْ بَعْض﴾ تَكَرُّمًا مِنهُ ﴿فَلَمّا نَبَّأَها بِهِ قالَتْ مَن أنْبَأَك هَذا قالَ نَبَّأَنِي العَلِيم الخَبِير﴾ أيْ اللَّه
And, mention, when the Prophet confided to one of his wives, namely, Hafsa, a certain matter, which was his prohibition of Māriya, telling her: ‘Do not reveal it!’; but when she divulged it, to ‘Ā’isha, reckoning there to be no blame in [doing] such a thing, and God apprised him, He informed him, of it, of what had been divulged, he announced part of it, to Hafsa, and passed over part, out of graciousness on his part. So when he told her about it, she said, ‘Who told you this?’ He said, ‘I was told by the Knower, the Aware’, namely, God. And, mention, when the Prophet confided to one of his wives, namely, Hafsa, a certain matter, which was his prohibition of Māriya, telling her: ‘Do not reveal it!’; but when she divulged it, to ‘Ā’isha, reckoning there to be no blame in [doing] such a thing, and God apprised him, He informed him, of it, of what had been divulged, he announced part of it, to Hafsa, and passed over part, out of graciousness on his part. So when he told her about it, she said, ‘Who told you this?’ He said, ‘I was told by the Knower, the Aware’, namely, God.
"O Prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, in terms of your Coptic handmaiden Māriya"— when he lay with her in the house of Hafsa, who had been away, but who upon returning [and finding out] became upset by the fact that this had taken place in her own house and on her own bed — by saying, ‘She is unlawful for me!’, seeking, by making her unlawful [for you], to please your wives? And God is Forgiving, Merciful, having forgiven you this prohibition. "Allah has already ordained for you [Muslims] the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise." Verily God has prescribed, He has made lawful, for you [when necessary] the absolution of your oaths, to absolve them by expiation, as mentioned in the sūrat al-Mā’ida [Q. 5:89] and the forbidding of [sexual relations with] a handmaiden counts as an oath, so did the Prophet (s) expiate? Muqātil [b. Sulaymān] said, ‘He set free a slave [in expiation] for his prohibition of Māriya’; whereas al-Hasan [al-Basrī] said, ‘He never expiated, because the Prophet (s) has been forgiven [all errors]’. And God is your Protector, your Helper, and He is the Knower, the Wise. "And [remember] when the Prophet confided to one of his wives a statement; and when she informed [another] of it and Allah showed it to him, he made known part of it and ignored a part. And when he informed her about it, she said, 'Who told you this?' He said, 'I was informed by the Knowing, the Acquainted.'"
As the above tafsir lays out, according to the story preserved over many hadith and tafsir traditions Muhammad was caught in flagrante delicto having sexual relations with Maria in the house of Hafsa. Muhammad told Hafsah he would not do this again and begged her not to tell Aishah, but she disobeyed his wish and told her anyway. Allah sent down Qur'an 66:1 in order to chastise Muhammad for forbidding himself Mariyah. Not satisfied with having allowed Muhammad to have sex with their servant in Hafsah's house, Allah further chastised his wives and threatend them with hell fire for disobeying them:
﴿عَسَىٰ رَبُّهُۥۤ إِن طَلَّقَكُنَّ أَن یُبۡدِلَهُۥۤ أَزۡوَ ٰجًا خَیۡرࣰا مِّنكُنَّ مُسۡلِمَـٰتࣲ مُّؤۡمِنَـٰتࣲ قَـٰنِتَـٰتࣲ تَـٰۤىِٕبَـٰتٍ عَـٰبِدَ ٰتࣲ سَـٰۤىِٕحَـٰتࣲ ثَیِّبَـٰتࣲ وَأَبۡكَارࣰا﴾ [التحريم ٥] ﴿عَسى رَبّه إنْ طَلَّقَكُنَّ﴾ أيْ طَلَّقَ النَّبِيّ أزْواجه ﴿أنْ يُبَدِّلهُ﴾ بِالتَّشْدِيدِ والتَّخْفِيف ﴿أزْواجًا خَيْرًا مِنكُنَّ﴾ خَبَر عَسى والجُمْلَة جَواب الشَّرْط ولَمْ يَقَع التَّبْدِيل لِعَدَمِ وُقُوع الشَّرْط ﴿مُسْلِمات﴾ مُقِرّات بِالإسْلامِ ﴿مُؤْمِنات﴾ مُخْلِصات ﴿قانِتات﴾ مُطِيعات ﴿تائِبات عابِدات سائِحات﴾ صائِمات أوْ مُهاجِرات
"If you two [wives] repent to Allah, [it is best], for your hearts have deviated. But if you cooperate against him - then indeed Allah is his protector, and Gabriel and the righteous of the believers and the angels, moreover, are [his] assistants." If the two of you, namely, Hafsa and ‘Ā’isha, repent to God … for your hearts were certainly inclined, towards the prohibition of Māriya, that is to say, your keeping this secret despite [knowing] the Prophet’s (s) dislike of it, which is itself a sin (the response to the conditional [‘if the two of you repent to God’] has been omitted, to be understood as, ‘it will be accepted of both of you’; the use of [the plural] qulūb, ‘hearts’, instead of [the dual] qalbayn, ‘both [your] hearts’, is on account of the cumbersomeness of putting two duals together in what is effectively the same word); and if you support one another (tazzāharā: the original second tā’ [of tatazāharā] has been assimilated with the zā’; a variant reading has it without [this assimilation, tazāharā]) against him, that is, the Prophet, in what he is averse to, then [know that] God, He (huwa, [a pronoun] for separation) is indeed his Protector, His supporter, and Gabriel, and the righteous among the believers, Abū Bakr and ‘Umar, may God be pleased with both of them (wa-Jibrīlu wa-sālihu’l-mu’minīna is a supplement to the [syntactical] locus of the subject of inna [sc. ‘God’]), who will [also] be his supporters, and the angels furthermore, further to the support of God and those mentioned, are his supporters, assistants of his, in supporting him [to prevail] over both of you. "Perhaps his Lord, if he divorced you [all], would substitute for him wives better than you - submitting [to Allah], believing, devoutly obedient, repentant, worshipping, and traveling - [ones] previously married and virgins."It may be that, if he divorces you, that is, [if] the Prophet divorces his wives, his Lord will give him in [your] stead (read yubaddilahu or yubdilahu) wives better than you (azwājan khayran minkunna is the predicate of ‘asā, ‘it may be’, the sentence being the response to the conditional) — the replacement [of his wives by God] never took place because the condition [of his divorcing them] never arose — women submissive [to God], affirming Islam, believing, faithful, obedient, penitent, devout, given to fasting — or given to emigrating [in God’s way] — previously married and virgins.
Ibn Kathir also recounts how Qur'an 66:1-6 were revealed to Muhammad by Allah because, in response to Hafsa and Aisha's complaints about Muhammad sleeping with Mariyah, Muhammad cut himself off sexually from Mariyah:
وَقَالَ ابْنُ جَرِيرٍ...: أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ﷺ أَصَابَ أُمَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي بَيْتِ بَعْضِ نِسَائِهِ، فَقَالَتْ: أَيْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، فِي بَيْتِي وَعَلَى فِرَاشِي؟! فَجَعَلَهَا عَلَيْهِ حَرَامًا فَقَالَتْ: أيْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، كَيْفَ يَحْرُم عَلَيْكَ الْحَلَالُ؟ فَحَلَفَ لَهَا بِاللَّهِ لَا يُصِيبُهَا. فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ: ﴿يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ لِمَ تُحَرِّمُ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ لَكَ﴾ ؟The messenger of Allah, peace and prayer of Allah be upon him, was having sexual relations with a female slave which he had, but Aisha and Hafsa would not cease to bother him about it until he forbid himself to continue it, until Allah praised and glorious brought down a verse saying "O prophet, why do you forbid to yourself what Allah has allowed" until the end of the verse. Ibn Jarir said...The messenger of Allah, peace and prayer of Allah be upon him had sex with Um Ibrahim (Mariyah Al-Qibtiyah) in the house of some of his women. Then she (Hafsah?) said "Hey messenger of Allah! In my house and upon my bed?!" Then the prophet made it forbidden (for him to have sex with her). Then she said "Hey messenger of Allah, how will you forbid what is allowed to you?" Then he swore not to have sex with her. Then Allah revealed "Oh prophet why do you forbid what Allah has made allowable to you?"
The slave in this case is usually said to be Mariyah. In response, according to the tradition, Allah sent down surat-at-tahreem, the surah of making things off limits. Hafsa was highly aggrieved by this and told Aisha who also rebuked the prophet for his sexual appetite and cruelty to Hafsa.
It was narrated from Anas, that the Messenger of Allah had a female slave 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.
As the Encyclopedia of Islam states, other narratives exist around these verses, but considering how bad the original narrative looks for Muhammad it is unlikely that the any of the alternatives were the most primordial narrative; rather, the above narrative would appear to be the oldest, and the others were later fabrications meant to protect the reputation of the prophet.
Scandal of Maria's Accused Fornication With Her Cousin and His Execution
After the death of Khadijah, Muhammad took about 16 (+/-) wives and concubines for himself, but none of them bore him any children. Maria, though, bore him a baby boy shortly after she was given in concubinage to Muhammad; since none of the prophet's other partners bore him any children, a rumor spread that it was actually Maria's male cousin Mabur, who had also been given as a slave to the prophet, who had impregnated Maria. When Muhammad heard those rumors, he ordered the killing of of Mabur without any court trial, which would have been required by Shari'ah (Islamic Law) in a similar case with any other person, and since this was fornication between two unmarried slaves the penalty should have been 50 lashes, not death.
Aisha said: " Maria" was presented to the prophet of Islam (as a slave woman) and her cousin (a coptic male slave) was with her. After a while Maria became pregnant. Upon that, the people started slandering that since he [the prophet of Islam] needed child, he related the son of that slave-man to himself. Since Maria, as a mother didn’t have enough breast milk, they fed him by sheep 's milk that’s why he (the son Ibrahim) was fat. 'Aisha said: Once the prophet brought him to me and asked what I thought about him, I replied, "everyone fed by sheep 's milk will get fat." The holy prophet said doesn’t he look like me? Aisha said, "I jealously said "No" ." and then the prophet heard of the untrue accusations of people to toward Maria. Upon that the prophet sent Ali to kill her cousin ...
Yet Muhammad persisted in his jealousy, and the angel Jibreel had to come down and confirm him that Ibrahim was indeed his child:
Anas said, when Ibrahim was born to Maria, then Muhammad became doubtful if Ibrahim was really his son or not. Upon that angel Jibrael came to him and said: Peace be upon you, O the Father of Ibrahim (i.e. confirmed to him that Ibrahim was indeed his son).
In addition to extra-juridically killing Mabur in contravention of Shari'ah (Islamic Law), the slander against Maria would be considered قذف or slander in an Islamic shari'ah court and theoretically should have been punished with lashing, as was done in the Incident of Ifk with A'ishah. The case thus presents interesting examples of the prophet contravening what would later be codified as Islamic law.
Son She Birthed to the Prophet
According to the sirah and hadith, Mariyah is an umm-walad أم ولد of the prophet, that is to say she bore him a male child. The son she bore him was named Ibrahim, after the prophet. The child died very young, within a year and a half of his birth, and the prophet is said to have shed tears over his death. According to the traditional sources he died during an eclipse, which combined with the fact that he died only 5 months before his father would put his death on the 10th of Shawwal 10 AH or the 27th of January 623 CE . Multiple ahadith tell that he would have been a prophet had he grown to adulthood. The hadith also speak of his death being necessary due to Muhammad being خاتم النبيين"khaatam al-nabiyyin'" or the "seal of the prophets." This is also in line with the famous Quranic verse surat-al-ahzab (surah 33) verse 40:
مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ ٱللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ ٱلنَّبِيِّۦنَ ۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمًاMuhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah, of all things, Knowing.
As such, according to this verse, Ibrahim could not have lived since Muhammad is not the father of any of the men of the believers.
Influence on Islamic Law and Society
The use of Mariyah sexually by the prophet, like every aspect of the prophet's life, provides an example for later Muslims and the religious justification for the sexual exploitation of slave women by Muslim men . Her sexual exploitation by Muhammad was in continuity with the practice of the pagan Arabs and was continued by later Islamic empires and movements, up to the very current day with the ISIS terrorist organization taking Yazidi girls in Iraq as sex slaves on the prophetic model. Since Mariyah also bore Muhammad a son, and was this an umm-walad أم ولد or mother of a boy for the prophet, her story was integral to later Islamic discourse about the place of the sons of slave women in Islamic societies (although the classical jurists of the 4 traditional Sunni madhabs do not usually invoke her example as a "proof text"). Since the raiding for sexual slaves formed a large part of the wealth-building enterprise undertaken by later Islamic caliphates and empires such as the Umayyads, Abbasids and many others the number of children born to slave women quickly proliferated in Islamic society. There were so many children of concubines in Islamic society that several contenders for the throne of the caliphate ended up being the children of slave women. The rightly guided-caliphs and the early Umayyads were all free-born Arab men, but in 740 Zayd bin Ali made an unsuccessful bid for the caliphate, and he was the mother of a slave women. His opponent used his lineage as the son of a sex slave to mock and belittle him, claiming that his birth to an un-free woman disqualified him from the throne. Yet by 744, Yazid III became the first caliph born of a slave mother; thereafter, the next 3 Umayyad caliphs and most of the Abbasids caliphs were the sons of concubines. Zayd bin Ali in his arguments for why the son of a slave woman such as himself should be eligible for caliph made great reference to Isma'il and Hajar. Hajar's biography bears many resemblances to Mariyah's; both were from Egypt, both were the concubines of prophets, both suffered the jealousy of the rightful wife(wives) of the prophet, both bore sons for the prophet, with the name of the son of Mariyah being the name of the husband of Hajar. Later caliphs and other sons of concubines would invoke the legacy of Mariyah and her son Ibrahim, who might have been another prophet, to justify their place in Islamic society.
As Mariyah was an umm-walad of the prophet, and as the concept took on greater importance in Islamic society as the children of concubines, the example of Mariyah was used in Islamic discourse to discuss the rights, privileges and duties of an umm-walad and her offspring in Islamic societies. Although the umm-walad is elevated above the rank of the normal slave, she is still a slave. The husband has the right to avail himself of her sexually whenever he wants, as Muhammad continued to with Mariyah (and as Allah instructed him to do). There was some discussion in Islamic sources such as ibn Kathir as to whether the umm-walad must be freed . There were ahadith to the affect that Muhammad freed Mariyah after she bore him Ibrahim; the conclusion of Islamic law is that this may or may not have happened but if it did this was done out of Muhammad's special love for Mariyah and is not applicable to slave women who bear children in general. The son of an umm-walad, though, was taken to be a free man, as Ibrahim would certainly have been free had he survived to adulthood. The umm-walad can also not be sold from her master or separated from her son. The prophetic example of Muhammad and Mariyah provides an example of the umm-walad in the biography of the prophet himself, and the exalted status of their son would prove a powerful rhetorical tool in the disputes over the places of the offspring of umm-walads in Islamic societies.
As noted above, the story of Mariyah is deeply reflective of the story of Abraham (Ibrahim)'s concubine Hagar (Hajar) in the Bible. Like Hajar she is Egyptian, and the tradition associates a number of sayings of the prophet to Muhammad that the Muslims should treat the Copts of Egypt well based on the prophet's love of Mariyah; similar hadith traditions exist about Hajar. Like Hajar Mariyah provided a son to the otherwise son-less Muhammad. The fact that Muhammad had so many wives but so few children in an age when it was considered a sign of god's favor for a man to have many children must have caused suspicion to arise--which is likely why the Qur'an verse above specifically mentions Muhammad by name, which is unusual in the Qur'an, and states that he is not the father of any of the men of the believers (which has led to the theory that the verse itself is perhaps an interpolation into the text after the death of the prophet). Like Hajar Mariyah became a devout believer in the message of her prophet, and like Hajar Mariyah aroused the jealousy of the prophet's household due to her youth and her fertility in bearing a son for the prophet. These parallels, as well as the convenient connection of her to some otherwise hard-to-explain verses in the Qur'an, have led some scholars to conclude that Mariyah either never existed or her story was embellished beyond recognition by elements lifted wholesale from the Hajar narrative. The constant pairing of Hajar and Mariyah in later Muslim debates about the concept of "umm-walad" in Islamic law underscore the close connection between these two figures.
In addition to the biblical connections to Hajar, the tradition closely associated Muhammad with Ibrahim. In the sirah of Ibn Hisham/Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad is said to remark upon meeting Ibrahim that he is the person that most resembles himself. In giving birth to "Ibrahim" Mariyah brings the entire circle around full in respect to the connection of her narrative to that of Ibrahim and Hajar. Even her name has antecedents--in the Shahnahmah (the epic poem describing the lives of the pre-Islamic shahs of Iran) the emperor Maurice (582-602 CE) gave his daughter Mariyah in marriage to the Persian shah Khusraw Parviz (590-628 CE). He ended up leaving her, though, for the love of his youth, Shirin. The royal antecedent for Mariyah is fitting, considering how at the time of the compilation of the Islamic narratives of the sirah and the hadith Muslim claimants to the throne of the caliph were claiming royal lineage through their slave mothers and citing the example of Mariyah. In addition to all of the above, the death of young Ibrahim serves to underscore the status of Muhammad as "khaatim al-nabiyyin" خاتم النبيين or the "seal of the prophets." Considering the literary and biblical allusions, it is quite likely that Mariyah in fact either never existed or that the major details of her story were literary embellishments meant to strengthen the connection of Muhammad to Ibrahim, provide a link with Muhammad to the people of Egypt, justify the norms around the "umm-walad" in the Islamic shari'ah, underline the doctrine of the seal of the prophets and reinforce the idea that Muhammad "Is not the father of any of your men."
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- ibid, 57
- Concubines and Courtesans: Women and Slavery in Islamic History. Oxford University Press. pp. 327. ISBN 978-0-19-062218-3. OCLC 1014474115, 2017. https://books.google.com/books?id=F3QzDwAAQBAJ.
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- ibid, 238
- Ibid, 230
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- ibid, 857
- Concubines and Courtesans: Women and Slavery in Islamic History. Oxford University Press. pp. 228. ISBN 978-0-19-062218-3. OCLC 1014474115, 2017. https://books.google.com/books?id=F3QzDwAAQBAJ.
- "When Ibrahim (AS) Met Muhammad (SAW) | About Islam", About Islam, https://aboutislam.net/multimedia/videos/when-ibrahim-as-met-muhammad-saw/.
- Kaj Öhrnberg. Mariya Al-qibtiyya Unveiled. Finnish Oriental Society. pp. 298. OCLC 28522109, 1984. https://books.google.com/books?id=s_ZSwQEACAAJ.
- David Powers. Muhammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men: The Making of the Last Prophet. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 57. ISBN 978-0-8122-2149-7. OCLC 1037937026, 15 March 2011. https://books.google.com/books?id=OUxWN1VBnBEC.
- Kaj Öhrnberg. Mariya Al-qibtiyya Unveiled. Finnish Oriental Society. pp. 302. OCLC 28522109, 1984. https://books.google.com/books?id=s_ZSwQEACAAJ.