Question # 288: I read the following on Wikipedia about al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) that he had 70 or 90 wives in his lifetime, and he frequently divorced women. See //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasan_ibn_Ali#Family_life. Wish to get your opinion on the following, if false what’s the correct version?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake. 

Shorter Answer: The information on Islamic topics on Wikipedia is not always reliable. For the Wikipedia passage on al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه)’s wives, various sources are mentioned; most of which are unreliable. Most part of the passage is from the book ‘The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate’ by Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung (an orientalist), claimed to be a scholar of Islam by Wikipedia. In fact, in his book, Madelung has blindly relied on sources without verify its authenticity and quoted several contradictory and weak/ fabricated narrations. He has twisted the obvious meaning of the ahadith to suit his preconceptions using his baseless interpretation. He rarely gave any weight to the Sunni version of history, and at the same time, disregarded accusations of forgery against the Shia historians. He also accused the companions (رضي الله عنهم) of lying and fabricating narrations.

The most reliable book in this matter is Dr. ‘Ali Muhammad as-Sallaabi’s “al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali – His Life & Times”. He provides a much better account of al-Hasan’s life and at the same time, refutes the reports which allege that he married seventy or ninety women and divorced frequently. Through his analysis, he concludes that such reports are fabricated. (see Long Answer for details)

In reality, the enemies of Islam have motivated and encouraged mercenary writers to attack Islam, distort its image and undermine the reputation of its prominent Islamic figures. For us as Muslims, we must understand that many historical reports are not sound, and we must cautiously quote them, not without critical examination of its narrators.

Long Answer: As for your reference from Wikipedia, there are a number of different sources to this passage on al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه)’s family life. And, of course, if one reads through it entirely, it gives contradicting views about his marriage because of different sources. Moreover, some of these sources are not properly referred to or footnoted. Most part of the passage is from the book ‘The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate’ by Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung (an orientalist), claimed to be a scholar of Islam by Wikipedia. Further, for example, one of the reference in there, which specifically refers to 70 or 90 wives is al-Mada’ini, who is considered a weak and untrustworthy narrator, from whom Imam Muslim refused to narrate. Please note that the information on Islamic topics on Wikipedia is not always reliable.

Nevertheless, there have been few Islamic scholars stating that al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) used to marry and divorce a lot; for example, Ibn Katheer in al-Bidaayah wa’n-Nihaayah, adh-Dhahabi in Siyar A‘laam an-Nubala’, Ibn ‘Asaakir  in Tareekh Dimashq; adh-Dhahabi in Tareekh al-Islam; and ar-Raaghib al-Asbahaani in Muhaadaraat al-Udaba’. But we must understand that many historical reports are not sound, therefore we must be cautious regarding them, especially if they have to do with one of the prominent, leading figures of Islam.

Al-Haafiz al-‘Iraaqi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Alfiyat as-Seerah: “The student should understand that we may find in books of biography reports that are sound and reports that are odd.” Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan al-Mu‘allimi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in ‘Ilm ar-Rijaal wa Ahammiyyatuhu: “No doubt the need to know the status of narrators of reports is greater in the field of history than in the field of hadith, because lying and leniency occur more frequently in historical reports.”

With regard to the reports about al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) marrying more than seventy women, or ninety, and the like, there is no isnad (chain of narrators) that is strong enough to confirm the validity of such reports. Therefore, we should refrain from accepting them and should not rush to accept them and rely on them. As for al-Haafiz Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him), he indicated that the reports which were narrated concerning this matter are not sound, when he said: “It was said that he married seventy women.” The fact that he introduced it by saying “it is said” suggests that the report is not proven to be sound; at the very least this word may indicate that he could not find a reliable isnad for this report. (Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)

Dr. ‘Ali Muhammad as-Sallaabi said in his book “al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali – His Life & Times” in the Section “His marriages”:

Historians state that among al-Hasan’s wives were:

– Khawlah al-Fizariyah,

– Ja’dah bint al-Ash’ath,

– ‘A’ishah al-Khath’amiyah,

– Umm Is-haq bint Talhah ibn ‘Ubaydullah at-Tameemi,

– Umm Basheer bint Abi Mas’ood al-Ansari,

– Hind bint ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr,

– Umm ‘Abdullah, daughter of ash-Shaleel ibn ‘Abdullah, brother of Jareer al-Bajali,

– A woman from the tribe of Banu Thaqeef,

– A woman from the tribe of Banu ‘Amr ibn Ahyam al-Manqari, and

– A woman from the tribe of Banu Shayban from the family of Humam ibn Murrah.

There may have been a few more as well. As you can see, this was not a large number, considering the norm of the time. Bizarre are the reports which allege that he married seventy or ninety or two hundred and fifty or three hundred women. The claims that he married such a large number of women are fabricated.

The first report was quoted by Ibn Abil-Hadeed and others. They took it from ‘Ali ibn Abdullah al-Basri, who is known as al-Mada’ini (d. 225 AH). He is a weak narrator whose narrations cannot be trusted. Imam Muslim refused to narrate from him in his collection of sound hadiths. lbn ‘Adiyy classified him as weak in Al-Kamil, explaining, “His hadith is not strong because he is a narrator of tales and has narrated very few reports with chains.”

The second report is mursal, which is a kind of weak report which a tabi’i (one who knew or met any of the Companions and transmitted hadiths from them) ascribes to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) without mentioning the Companion from whom he heard it.

The third and fourth reports were quoted by the author of Qoot al-Quloob, Abu Talib al-Makki, who is unreliable. Whatever the case, the claim that Commander of the Faithful al-Hasan (رضي الله عنه) had a record number of wives is attributed to this author and was taken from him. Abu Talib al-Makki was known for asceticism and preaching, and he has mentioned strange things in Qoot al-Quloob, where he has quoted hadiths without any basis.

Stories regarding the marriages of al-Hasan are widespread, but most of these stories are based on reports with very weak chains, so they cannot be relied upon. The idea that these reports are fabricated is supported by many facts.

If these reports were sound, al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) would have had many children, commensurate with the number of women they claim he married. In reality, as mentioned in some reports, he had only twenty-two children, including both males and females. This number was regarded as typical at that time and is totally at odds with the huge number of marriages attributed to him.

Another indication that these reports are fabricated is the report from Abu Talib al-Makki alleging that Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) used to ascend the pulpit and say, “Do not give your daughters in marriage to al-Hasan, for he divorces a great deal.”

If Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) himself instructed people on the pulpit not to let their daughters marry his son, this can only mean one of two things: either he had told his son not to do that but was ignored, so he was forced to tell people openly not to marry their daughters to him; or he had not discussed it with his son at all and said that to the people directly, without his son knowing that his father hated his [alleged] multiple marriages.

Both scenarios are very unlikely. The first is unlikely because al-Hasan was very kind to his father and never opposed or disobeyed him. The second is also very unlikely because it would have been more appropriate for Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) to discuss the matter privately with his son and tell him that he disliked what he was doing. He would not have announced it from the pulpit in front of a large crowd and risked breaching the relationship between father and son.

In any case the issue is either acceptable in the Sharia or it is not. If it is acceptable, why would Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) forbid it? If it is not acceptable, how could al-Hasan do it?

We have no doubt that this hadith was fabricated by the opponents of al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) in order to distort his beautiful conduct, which was crowned by his efforts to unite the Ummah. Certain lying narrators distort the biographies of the righteous and hence the history of the Ummah. Thus, the importance of a critical examination of the narrators and assessments of reports becomes clear. We see the great role played by the scholars of Hadith in highlighting the falseness of such reports.

…Another report that supports the idea that al-Hasan had a multitude of wives is a fabricated one. It says that when he passed away, a group of women went out, barefooted and bareheaded. They walked behind his bier, saying, “We are the wives of Imam al-Hasan.” It is quite obvious that this report is fabricated. We cannot imagine why a group of women would come out, barefooted and bareheaded, and shout in front of the people that they were the wives of al-Hasan. If they wanted to express their grief and sorrow, why would they identify themselves and walk among a crowd of men, without covering themselves properly? This report and others like it are unsound, and their chains cannot be proven.

…This hadith, along with other fabricated reports similar to it, only confirms that the idea of al-Hasan having many wives is invented and is unsupported by any strong evidence.

Apart from these fabricated reports, there is nothing that proves that al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) had a large number of wives. To learn how our enemies benefited from these weak and false accounts, we will quote what the Orientalist Lemans wrote about the marriages of al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) and the accusations he hurled against him:

When he had passed the age of youth, he spent the best years of his youth marrying and divorcing to the extent that according to some reports, he had had approximately one hundred wives and had been given the nickname of ‘the divorcer’ as a result of this bad conduct and had created many enemies for ‘Ali. Al-Hasan proved himself to be an extravagant spendthrift who allocated for each of his wives a house with servants and an entourage. Thus, we see how he squandered wealth at the time of ‘Ali’s caliphate, when poverty was prevalent.

To support his views, the English Orientalist Lemans relied on fabricated and weak reports, to which he added further fabrications that no one else had even suggested. He said, “He caused his father to become embroiled in violent disputes because of his marrying and divorcing so frequently.

No biographer of Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) or al-Hasan has ever referred to those ‘violent disputes’ that the Orientalist Lemans claims to have happened.

He wrote that al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) allocated to each of his wives a house with servants and entourage. None of the historians who studied their lives has even mentioned that. This is a pure fabrication.

Christian missionary organizations that fought and transgressed against Islam have motivated and encouraged these mercenary writers to attack Islam, distort its image and undermine the reputation of its prominent figures, who lit the way for humanity and raised the banner of civilization in this world.”

Lastly, coming back to Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung (an orientalist) claimed to be a scholar of Islam by Wikipedia, who wrote the book ‘The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate’. One Mr. Farid analyzed his book and concluded that he blindly relied on sources without verify its authenticity and thereby ended up in quoting several contradictory and weak/ fabricated narrations. He twisted the obvious and clear meaning of the narration to suit his preconceptions using his baseless interpretation to change the outlook of the reader regarding several historical events. He rarely gave any weight to the Sunni version of history, and more importantly, he attempts to re-invent the wheel by introducing new methodology of historical criticism. Moreover, he completely disregarded accusations of forgery against the Shia historians. On the other hand, he accused the companions (رضي الله عنه) of lying and fabricating narrations to support their own views. (//islamistruth.wordpress.com/tag/wilferd-ferdinand-madelung/; Giving Dawah to Shia)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam