Updated: 3 days ago
When we think to our marriages, we often think in terms of what our marriages mean to us in the now, what we desire of ourselves and our spouse in this life. While it is true that we should achieve fulfillment and satisfaction from ourselves, our lives, and our spouse during life, this does not necessarily reflect the higher goal of the matrimonial union we call marriage. The purpose of marriage is for two people to come together with the lifelong commitment of assisting one another in this life for their journey to Paradise in the hereafter, seeking the face of Allah.
Building on this idea, as we explore our scripture, we often find detail of a man's marital relationship in Paradise, but have we ever stopped to ask the question, who will my wife be with in Paradise?
We often assume that a wife will be with her husband in life and in the hereafter as well, but have we ever stopped to ask, do I deserve my wife to also be my wife in the hereafter? And what if she has been married to multiple men during life? What if she never married during life? Who then will she be with in Paradise?
Scholarship has explored this matter and has drawn interesting conclusions on the matter. Let us first look to the speech of Allah.
"And it is not [conceivable or lawful] for you to harm the Messenger of Allah or to marry his wives after him, ever. Indeed, that would be in the sight of Allah an enormity."
[Chapter Aḥzāb (33):53]
The understanding here is when the Prophet ﷺ married his wives, his marriages were continual into the next life, which is why his wives were prohibited from marrying after his passing. This verse displays that the last husband a wife is with is her husband in Paradise. We can further add to this, the majority of the women he married had prior marriages, yet they remain his wives in Paradise.
Subsequently, this verse does raise some interesting points of exploration. Is this verse specific to the Prophet ﷺ and not the remainder of the creation? What if the last husband she was with was not a good husband to her and treated her poorly, will she be with him eternally? What if both spouses do not make it to Paradise? What if she never married, will she remain single forever? What if she was married to a Non-Muslim at the time she embraced Islam and died married to him?
"Enter Paradise, you and your spouses, delighted."
[Chapter Zukhruf (43):70]
This verse clearly illustrates that one will be in Paradise with one's spouse, and this is not necessarily exclusive to the Prophet, as this verse is general, but there are some details.
Allah, the Glorious, has stated,
"Gardens of perpetual residence; they will enter them with whoever were righteous among their fathers, their spouses and their descendants. And the angels will enter upon them from every gate."
[Chapter Ra'd (13):23]
We now see that the spouse one will be with in Paradise with is the spouse that was righteous in this life, and being righteous is, generally, indicative of Islam, which would also indicate, if the spouse does not make it to Paradise, then one will not be married to an inhabitant of Hell.
Ibn Kathīr comments, "He will join them with those beloved to them, their forefathers, their spouses, and their children, from those amongst them who were righteous. These believers will be entered into Paradise and their eyes will be cooled by their families, to the extent that those on a lower level of Paradise will be raised to the highest level amongst the family, as a favor and grace from Allah, without decreasing the level of the highest amongst them, as Allah has stated,
'And those who believe, and their progeny has emulated them in faith, they will be adjoined with their progeny.'"
[Chapter Ṭūr (52):21]
Elegantly, as for if a woman had more than one husband, and all of them enter Paradise, a frequented view is that she will be with her last husband. This is due to what al-Bayhaqī has collected in his Sunan of Ḥudhayfah b. Yamān's statement to his wife, "If you would like to be my wife in Paradise, then do not marry after me, for a woman in Paradise will be with the last husband she had in this life. For this reason, Allah prohibited the wives of the Prophet ﷺ from marrying after him because they are his wives in Paradise." This has also been reported by al-Qurṭubī in his work at-Tadhkirah.
In a different turn of events, Mu'āwiyah b. Abū Sufyān proposed to Umm ad-Dardā, yet she turned him down. She mentions, "I heard Abū ad-Dardā speaking about the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, and he said, 'A woman will be with the last of her husbands in Paradise.' And he said to me, 'If you want to be my wife in Paradise, then do not marry after me.'"
Another valid perspective is that she will be with the husband who was best in character to her and with her, and yet another view is that she will be able to select which of her husbands she would prefer to be with.
In the above regard, we have the prophetic tradition of Abū Bakr an-Najjād that has been reported on Anas on Umm Habībah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, she mentions, "'O Messenger of Allah, a woman has had two husbands in this life then they pass yet all of them gather in Paradise, which one will she be with, the first or the last?' He responded, 'The one who was best in character to her, O Umm Habībah. Good character overtakes all that is good in this life and the hereafter.'" al-Qurṭubī has reported this in at-Tadhkirah.
As for righteous women married to a Non-Muslim husband, then perhaps Āsiyah is the best example of this, and as for righteous women who never married, then perhaps Maryam is the best example of this. We should note that in our current law it is unlawful for a Muslim woman to be married to a Non-Muslim man, however, it appears that past civilizations may have had an allowance for this, as in the case of Āsiyah and Pharoah. The only scenario under our current law where this may occur is when the wife within a marriage embraces the faith whilst her husband does not, and even then, they cannot remain married indefinitely without the marriage dissolving, but from mercy, the couple is granted both time and opportunity for both the husband and wife to embrace the faith.
Allah, the Compassionate, has stated,
"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 fasting - [ones] previously married and virgins."
[Chapter at-Taḥrīm (66):5]
Buraydah has reported concerning the reasoning of this verse, "Allah promised His Prophet ﷺ by this verse that He would marry him, so the previously married that he will marry is Āsiyah, the wife of Pharoah, and the virgin will be Maryam the daughter of 'Imrān." Collected by aṭ-Ṭabarānī and Ibn Kathīr.
And in prophetic tradition, the Prophet ﷺ entered upon Khadījah when she was approaching death,"'O Khadījah, when you meet your cowives, convey salaam to them from me.' She responded, 'O Messenger of Allah, did you marry before me?' He then said, 'No, but Allah has married me to Maryam bint 'Imrān, Āsiyah, the wife of Pharoah, and Kulthum, the sister of Musā.'" Collected by Ibn 'Asākir in Tārīkh Damishq.
We should also make the point that whatever areas of contention existed between a husband and wife in this life will completely dissipate in Paradise. From our Lord's honor and care for us, He fully removes hatred, distaste, and dispute from our hearts in Paradise. This proves to us there is nothing but love, happiness, and excitement between spouses in Paradise.
"And We will remove whatever is in their breasts of resentment, [so they will be] brothers, on thrones facing each other."
[Chapter Ḥijr (15):47]
As for the woman never married or never married to a Muslim, then she can select whomsoever she chooses from amongst the men of Paradise. This must be the case since there is no one who remains single in Paradise. We have in Prophetic tradition collected by al-Bukhārī and Muslim, "Every person amongst them will have a spouse. Their bone marrow will be visible beyond their flesh, and there is no one single in Paradise."
So which of these scenarios will a woman find herself in after entrance into Paradise? Our Lord knows better, as this is a matter of the unseen, and the only certain knowledge of the unseen we possess is the certain knowledge He has revealed to us. Perhaps, varying women will find themselves within the varying circumstances mentioned above. Perhaps, it is not a one size fits all scenario. Perhaps, each woman's situation will be particular to her in Paradise. Indeed, our Lord has the ability to do all things.
And success lies with Allah.
Kenneth "Aqil" Ingram II
Sha'bān 29, 1443 Anno Hegirae
April 1, 2021 Anno Domini
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