Women and the Koran

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The Perfect Wife

A Taste of Honey

God’s revelations to His Messenger when it came to controlling his wives, slave-girls and concubines give us a view into the mind of the Almighty when it comes to women. Here is one case that most would consider trivial in which the Almighty feels compelled to intervene.

Muhammad tells one of his wives, in secrecy, that he has eaten some honey. This wife tells another of his wives. Allah, who sees and hears all, decides to tell His Messenger part of what has happened. We are not told about the part Allah leaves out, although this is what seems to hold the key to the story. It is an infantile story that could easily have been dismissed if God had not chosen this opportunity to express his views on what constitutes the perfect wife. First, Allah informs His Messenger of part of the conversation He has overheard.

66:3 And when the Prophet confided to one of his wives a certain matter (his eating of honey); and she divulged it, and Allah disclosed it to him too, He made known part of it, but withheld the other part. Then, when he told her about it, she said: “Who told you this?” He said: “The All-Knowing, All-Informed told me.” God suspects a conspiracy against His Messenger. To put an end to the gossip, He informs the two women of the formidable force allied against them: God himself, His most honourable believers, and all the angels, including the mighty Gabriel support the Prophet.

This has to be about more than divulgence among wives that their husband-in-common has eaten some honey, for Allah to put His own prestige on the line to silence the two women.

 66:4 If you two (the two wives of the Prophet) repent onto Allah, then your hearts will have certainly inclined; but if you band together against him, then Allah is his Master. Gabriel, the righteous among the believers and the angels thereupon are his supporters, too.

Then back to the really big threat—especially in the Prophet’s time—divorce. God would grant His Messenger a divorce so that He may receive in exchange “the perfect wife,” which He describes:

66:5 Perhaps, his Lord will, if he divorces you, give him in exchange wives better than you, submissive, believing, obedient, penitent, devout, fasting, either previously married or virgins.

Do you measure up? Allah follows his instructions about how wives should behave, backed up with the usual threat about burning to a crisp those who don’t scrupulously follow His instructions.

66:6 O believers, guard yourselves and your families against a Fire whose fuel is people and stones; its overseers are harsh, terrible angels who do not disobey what Allah commands, but will do what they are commanded.