Muslims are told that the Miraculous Night Journey (Isra’ Mi’raj) took place because Allah wanted to bring some consolation to Muhammad the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. It took place in the tenth year of Prophethood, after he had lost his beloved wife, Khadijah, and his protective uncle, Abu Talib.
It was also to give him some “firsthand experience” about the glory of God. He was transported to Seven Heavens, where he “saw” the glory of God with his naked eyes. And the Prophet was also shown some “preview” about the life in the Hereafter, where both Paradise and Hell, yet to take place in our time, were shown to him with his naked eyes. It was “time travel” before the idea of time travel was even conceptualized.
But according to one deranged theory, which seems to find some support in the Internet, the story of the Miraculous Night Journey was only his own concoction. Muhammad was caught in a very embarrassing position with his cousin Umm Hani. He was caught red handed with her in her bed, in her house, with his pants down. Not knowing what else to say, his imaginative mind quickly made up the miraculous journey: first from Makkah to Jerusalem, henceforth to Seven Heavens.
Let’s quote what this theory says:
Muhammad passionately fell in love with her [Umm Hani], but for some unknown reason his beloved uncle, Abu Talib did not give her hand to Muhammad when Muhammad requested. Instead, she was married to a pagan, Hibayrah. But Muhammad’s adulterous relation with Umm Hani (real name Fakitah, also known as Hind) continued. He used to sleep in her house, when no one was around.
Such an incidence took place when Muhammad returned from his failed mission at Taif, after the deaths of his first wife, Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib. Returning from Taif, he took shelter in Ka’ba. But at nightfall, when all were asleep, he stealthily went to Umm Hani’s house and spent the night with her. When the people did not find him at Ka’ba, they went looking for him and when he was discovered in the house of Umm Hani, he was embarrassed, so was Umm Hani.
To hide the truth, he concocted the story of his night journey to Jerusalem and Paradise from Umm Hani’s house (more precisely, from her bed), which many converted Muslims found too incredible to believe and left Islam. This made him sad and withdrawn. Soon, after such an adulterous affair was leaked out, he left Mecca and settled in Medina. But his undying love for Umm Hani remained aflame.(1)
I quote the above exactly as it is written. It shows how far the imagination of the enemies of Islam can go. In a single scoop, three ideas are rubbished in: (1) that Muhammad was passionately in love with his cousin but her love was unrequited due to the objection of his uncle; (2) that after getting caught fornicating with his cousin, he concocted the story of Miraculous Journey to get out of embarrassment; and (3), because of that adulterous relationship, he migrated to Madinah.
One can see that even the Seerah books of the Prophet written by the Orientalists, designed to disparage him, would not have stooped that low. For that reason, none of these allegations need to be defended, for they are all rubbish. I have mentioned the above tale only to introduce the name of the alleged adulterous partner of the Prophet (God forbid), Umm Hani.
Who is she?
Umm Hani is Fakhitah/Hind bint Abi Talib b. 'Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. 'Abd Manaf b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murra. She was the sister of Ali, the daughter of Abu Talib and Fatimah Asad. She was the cousin of the Prophet.
Muhammad’s alleged love story with her has been gaining some interest of late, although such tale can hardly be found in any Seerah literature, classical or contemporary, written by Muslim or otherwise. One Internet site (by a well-meaning Muslim woman) says that she was the Prophet’s first love. I find this curious, because none of the Seerah books that I have read (and I have read plenty), ever put it that way.
There is, however, a famous hadith attributed to Ibnu Abbas, saying that the Prophet wanted to marry her, but her father, Abu Talib, married her to someone else. Abu Talib was quoted as saying that they (Abu Talib and Muhammad) were already closely related to each other through blood, and that he wanted to return the favor by marrying her to another man (Hubayra, or Hibayrah according to the spelling in the above quotation).
There is also another famous hadith saying that the Prophet proposed to marry her again, but this time, it was she who rejected the proposal, on the ground that she did not want to bother him with her small children. She was quoted as saying: “I loved you in Jahiliyya, what to say in Islam? but I have young children and hate that they should bother you.”
There is yet another hadith which says that when her children attained puberty, she went to the Prophet. Umm Hani said to him she was ready to marry him, but this time, it was the Prophet who turned her down.
Putting aside the authenticity of these traditions, there is nothing to suggest that the Prophet was madly in love with her, or even to suggest that she was his first love. As to his adulterous relationship with her, we can just dismiss it outright, without further argument required.
If he was truly madly in love with her, would his uncle object to his proposal, if ever he made one? There was hardly anything his uncle would not have done to him. What more if both were passionately in love with each other.
Furthermore, it takes some imaginative mind to construe the word “love” as uttered by Umm Hani’s in the second hadith to indicate that it was romantic love. It could well be the love of one cousin to another.
Most importantly, if the Prophet was madly in love with her, why on earth did he turn her down when she was ready to marry him, as the third hadith suggest.
Let’s analyze their so called love story into perspective.
We know for certain that the Prophet died in 11 AH when he was 63 years old. He married Khadijah when he was 25, and Khadijah died when he was 50.
I have not yet been able to find the year of Umm Hani’s birth, but she was said to die in 41 AH, about 30 years after the death of the Prophet. If their age was about the same, then Umm Hani had lived a long life, about 90 years, plus minus. We have to keep this age thing in mind because, for Umm Hani to be the Prophet’s first love, she has to be about the same age as the Prophet’s, or perhaps slightly younger. Else, she was too young for the Prophet to marry her before he married Khadijah, in which case Umm Hani cannot be his first love.
Now, we do not know when the alleged first proposal was made (the one rejected by Abu Talib), but we know that the second proposal was made after the conquest of Makkah. The conquest of Makkah took place in 8 AH. By then the Prophet was already 60 years old. If Umm Hani’s age was about similar to the Prophet, then she must have been about 60 as well, or slightly younger, or even slightly older.
If such is the case, why would Umm Hani refuse him by giving such a lame excuse? She said: “But I have young children and I hate that they should bother you.”
Umm Hani had four children. All of them were still very young during the conquest of Makkah. Most did not reach their puberty as yet. If the age of Umm Hani was about similar to the Prophet, then she must have given birth in her late forties and early fifties.
Could that be the case? It is highly unlikely, of course, because that would be the age when woman starts having menopause.
It seems very like likely, therefore, that during the conquest of Makkah, Umm Hani must have been rather young. She was perhaps in her forties, or thirties. That being the case, then Umm Hani must have been a toddler or was just a little girl when the Prophet married Khadijah. For this reason, Umm Hani, therefore, cannot be Muhammad’s first love, unless if you buy the idiotic idea that Muhammad the Prophet was a pervert.
This so-called love affair between the Prophet and his cousin, Umm Hani, is nothing but a fanciful tale. The Prophet’s proposal to marry her after the conquest of Makkah only suggest that he wanted to honor her, as he had honored other women such as Umm Habibah, Hafsah, Juwairiyah and Safiya, by marrying them.
Besides, Umm Hani, on her part, would not have refused him, in spite of her young children, if her cousin (i.e., the Prophet) was madly in love with her. She would not have refused him if truly she was his first love.