Waqar Akbar Cheema
This article is about an academic inquiry into arguments around a Jauniyya woman’s mysterious and bizarre behaviour in the presence of the Prophet (ﷺ) in their first meeting after marriage. The interaction was brief yet odd and it culminated in immediate divorce. The nature of interaction made individual reports about it, especially those recorded in a primary hadith collection, rather susceptible to conjecture and, therefore, to misleading propaganda as well. This paper collates recorded information on the issue to present a clear picture allaying a number of concerns.
A woman from Bani Jaun, a subtribe of Kindah, was married to the Prophet (ﷺ) but the marriage came to end before consummation. Al-Bukhari (d. 256/870) and other hadith scholars have quoted narratives from the story mentioning her arrival in Madina and short interaction with the Prophet (ﷺ) to make some legal points. While these scholars brought the narratives of reports concerning her to make the points they intended to, their choice of narratives have given rise to a number of queries and provided room for critics to twist those accounts against the Prophet (ﷺ). While the past scholars cannot be blamed for ill intended and unscholarly way of approaching the narratives by people far removed from their scholarly culture, it is nevertheless imperative to provide the readers with complete details of the story that are often lost in the age of digital reading. Moreover, whereas classical Islamic commentators of hadith sought to and did provide those details by collating the accounts from original sources modern translations of hadith texts even by Muslims often fail to give readers any insights beyond the bare reports viewed in isolation. In many cases translation ends up giving only literal translation of reports aggravating the issue of understanding already marred by click-to-read possibility opened up for the lay people in our times.
2. A Report about Jauniyya in Sahih al-Bukhari and accusations pressed out of it
In Sahih al-Bukhari reports about Jauniyya are recorded first in Book of Divorce (Chapter: “Whoever divorced (his wife),and should a man tell his wife face to face that she is divorced,”) and then in the Book of Drinks. The most detailed of these reports from Book of Divorce goes as;
عن أبي أسيد رضي الله عنه، قال: خرجنا مع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم حتى انطلقنا إلى حائط يقال: له الشوط، حتى انتهينا إلى حائطين، فجلسنا بينهما، فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: «اجلسوا ها هنا» ودخل، وقد أتي بالجونية، فأنزلت في بيت في نخل في بيت أميمة بنت النعمان بن شراحيل، ومعها دايتها حاضنة لها، فلما دخل عليها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: «هبي نفسك لي» قالت: وهل تهب الملكة نفسها للسوقة؟ قال: فأهوى بيده يضع يده عليها لتسكن، فقالت: أعوذ بالله منك، فقال: «قد عذت بمعاذ» ثم خرج علينا فقال: «يا أبا أسيد، اكسها رازقيتين، وألحقها بأهلها»
Muhsin Khan translated this as;
Narrated Abu Usaid: We went out with the Prophet to a garden called Ash-Shaut till we reached two walls between which we sat down. The Prophet said, “Sit here,” and went in (the garden). The Jauniyya (a lady from Bani Jaun) had been brought and lodged in a house in a date-palm garden in the home of Umaima bint An-Nu‘man bin Sharahil, and her wet nurse was with her. When the Prophet entered upon her, he said to her, “Give me yourself (in marriage).” She said, “Can a princess give herself in marriage to an ordinary man?” The Prophet raised his hand to pat her so that she might become tranquil (as she did not know that he is Allah’s Messenger). She said, “I seek refuge with Allah from you.” He said, “You have sought refuge with One Who gives refuge.” Then the Prophet came out to us and said, “O Abu Usaid! Give her two white linen dresses to wear and let her go back to her family (i.e. she is divorced).”
The missionary critics whose arguments approach the level of lunacy seek to make four arguments out of this;
- Jauniyya must have been a child to have a wet nurse.
- The Prophet (ﷺ) asking her to give herself to him suggests that Prophet (ﷺ) sought to sleep with her without wedlock.
- The Prophet (ﷺ) sought to beat her.
- Jauniyya sought refuge from the Prophet (ﷺ) as she abhorred him for his behaviour towards her.
While the critics themselves admit that it requires one “to read between the lines” to get to these conclusions, the absurdity of such a reading becomes evident when we carefully study the reported details about Jauniyya. In the following passages details of the issue are studied with focus on these are other aspects that might be disconcerting to general readers.
3. Who was Jauniyya?
Before addressing the points made by critics let us take a look at some general information about Jauniyya which itself reveals a lot about the quality of arguments of the critics.
While a lot of confusion exists across reports mentioning her, it is generally agreeable that she was [al-] Umaima Asma’ bt. Nu‘man al-Jawniyya from the tribe of Kinda.
Whereas Sahih Bukhari’s report mentioned above name her Umaima bt. Nu‘man b. Sharahil, Ibn Ishaq and others positively name her as Asma’. Al-Kalabi gives her complete name as Asma’ bt. Nu‘man b. Sharahil b. al-Aswad b. al-Jawn al-Kindiyya. Some have named her Asma’ bt. Ka‘b which might be due to one of her ancestors by the name of Ka‘b. Mentioning these details Ibn Hajar reconciles the reports by suggesting that her name was Asma’ but she had the surname Umaimah. We can, therefore, call her “[al-]Umaima Asma’ bt. Nu‘man al-Jawniyya al-Kindiyya.” 
Ibn Sa‘d gives us a detailed report about background and details of her relation and interaction with the Prophet (ﷺ).
قدم النعمان بن أبي الجون الكندي… فقدم على رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – مسلما فقال: يا رسول الله ألا أزوجك أجمل أيم في العرب كانت تحت ابن عم لها فتوفي عنها فتأيمت وقد رغبت فيك وحطت إليك. فتزوجها رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – على اثنتي عشرة أوقية ونش. فقال: يا رسول الله لا تقصر بها في المهر. [فقال رسول الله: ما أصدقت أحدا من نسائي فوق هذا ولا أصدق أحدا من بناتي فوق هذا] . فقال نعمان: ففيك الأسى. قال: فابعث يا رسول الله إلى أهلك من يحملهم إليك فأنا خارج مع رسولك فمرسل أهلك معه. فبعث رسول الله معه أبا أسيد الساعدي …
Nu‘man bin Abi Jaun al-Kindi having embraced Islam came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said; ‘Shall I not marry you to the most beautiful widow in Arabia? She was married to the son of his uncle who has now died. She is widowed, is inclined towards you and wants to marry you.’ So the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him, married her giving five hundred dirhams of dower. He (Nu‘man) said, ‘Please do not reduce her dower.’ The Messenger of Allah replied, ‘I haven’t set up dower of any of my wives or daughters more than this.’ Nu‘man said, ‘In your example is a good model. ’ He (further) said, “O Messenger of Allah send to me one who brings to you your wife, I will accompany him and send back your wife with him.’ So the Messenger of Allah sent Abu Usaid al-Sa‘di with him …
Her father offered her hand to the Prophet (ﷺ) which the Prophet (ﷺ) accepted after some discussion on dower following which a companion Abu Usaid brought her to Madina where the marriage ended up before consummation. The marriage was solemnized in Rabi-I 9/ July 630 i.e. before the marriage related restrictions were imposed on the Prophet.
4. Was Jauniyya a child?
We have seen in Ibn Sa‘d’s narration that Jauniyya was in fact a widow and had expressed her feelings for the Prophet (ﷺ) to Nu‘man as the latter had mentioned to the Prophet (ﷺ). This alone is enough to prove that she was no child then. Moreover, all the reports mention her as a woman (imra’).
The critics seek to derive the notion of her being a child from mention of her wet nurse accompanying her to Madina. Let us have a careful look at the words in the hadith and their meanings. The hadith reports describes the person accompanying her as, “dayatuha hadinatun laha.” While dayah actually means a mid-wife, hadinah refers both to a wet-nurse and a governess. The hadith report, therefore, tells us that a woman who had been a mid-wife in case of Umaima accompanied her as a hadinah which in turn means she used to remain with the lady as a support. Aisha Bewley translated this very aptly as, “she had with her wet-nurse who was her governess.” Women of prominent social stature like Umaima had the luxury of such attendants. Accordingly, rather than implying anything about her age it only says about her social status which is confirmed in the report itself as we shall discuss below.
5. Was marriage already done or did the Prophet make proposal?
5.1 Translator’s mistake
In Muhsin Khan’s translation the Prophet’s (ﷺ) words to Jauniyya “habi nafsaki li” have been rendered as “Give me yourself (in marriage)” (No. 5255) suggesting that Prophet (ﷺ) was then making a marriage proposal and that too with a waiver of dower which some trigger-happy critics further twist to imply that the marriage wasn’t the concern rather the intent was only to sleep with her.
In reality, however, besides the report with Ibn Sa‘d, another report related by al-Bukhari only next to the abovementioned report confirms that the Prophet (ﷺ) had already married Jauniyya before the incident in question.
عن عباس بن سهل، عن أبيه، وأبي أسيد، قالا: «تزوج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أميمة بنت شراحيل، فلما أدخلت عليه بسط يده إليها، فكأنها كرهت ذلك فأمر أبا أسيد أن يجهزها ويكسوها ثوبين رازقيين»
Narrated Sahl and Abu Usaid: The Prophet married Umaima bint Sharahil (tazawwaja al-nabi sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam umaima bint sharahil), and when she was brought to him, he stretched his hand towards her. It seemed that she disliked that, whereupon the Prophet ordered Abu Usaid to prepare her and to provide her with two white linen dresses.
Moreover, the fact that al-Bukhari mentioned the report with words “habi nafsaki li” (Give yourself to me) in the Book of Divorce takes marriage a priori.
More than just answering the ridiculous suggestion of the critics about some extra marital affair this even shows translator’s mistake in making it as case of proposal for marriage. In the translation of Jauniyya’s reply “وهل تهب الملكة نفسها للسوقة؟” as “Can a princess give herself in marriage to an ordinary man?” the words “in marriage” are unwarranted and against the facts of the issue. All this actually happened at the time of first interaction after the marriage had already been solemnized.
5.2 Meaning of “Give yourself to me”
In view of the above consideration it is evident that the words “give yourself to me” were neither by the way of marriage proposal which had already been solemnized nor a call to waive the dower for it had also been agreed as in the report with Ibn Sa‘d. It was only by the way of intimate talk between spouses. Explaining these words Ibn Hajar, therefore, writes:
ويكون قوله هبي لي نفسك تطييبا لخاطرها واستمالة لقلبها ويؤيده قوله في رواية لابن سعد إنه اتفق مع أبيها على مقدار صداقها وأن أباها قال له إنها رغبت فيك وخطبت إليك
His words, ‘Give me yourself’ were to put her at ease and to sway her heart. And this is supported by the narration of Ibn Sa‘d that he had agreed with her father on the amount of dower and her father had mentioned to the Prophet, ‘She has liking for you and wants to marry you.’
In fact a report from Ma‘mar b. al-Muthanna (d. 209/824) clarifies this point:
تزوج رسول الله ص من اليمن أسماء بنت النعمان بن الجون بن شراحيل بن النعمان، من كنده، فلما دخل عليها، فدعاها اليه، فقالت: تعال أنت، وأبت ان تجيء فطلقها.
The Prophet married a Yemeni woman by the name of Asma’ bt. al-Nu‘man b. al-Jawn b. Sharahil b. al-Nu‘man, of the Kindah. When he went to see her and invited her [to approach] him she said “[No], you approach me!” She refused to approach him, so he divorced her.
Though this report too does not give the whole picture it does explain that in asking Jauniyya to “give yourself to me” the Prophet (ﷺ) was actually inviting her to approach him.
6. A Princess and an ordinary man
With regard to Jauniyya’s words to the Prophet (ﷺ), “Can a princess give herself in marriage to an ordinary man?” Ibn Hajar quotes Ibn al-Munayyir (d. 683/1284);
هذا من بقية ما كان فيها من الجاهلية والسوقة عندهم من ليس بملك كائنا من كان فكأنها استبعدت أن يتزوج الملكة من ليس بملك وكان صلى الله عليه وسلم قد خير أن يكون ملكا نبيا فاختار أن يكون عبدا نبيا تواضعا منه صلى الله عليه وسلم لربه ولم يؤاخذها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بكلامها معذرة لها لقرب عهدها بجاهليتها
This is what remained with her of ignorance. Suqah in their parlance referred to everyone except a monarch. She said thus as she considered it strange that a queen should marry someone who was not a king. The Prophet (ﷺ) could choose to become a King Prophet but he choose to be a slave Prophet to show his humility to his Lord. The Prophet (ﷺ) did not take exception to her words and excused her for she had just come from [life of] ignorance (and had not undergone Islamic culturing).
She was the daughter of the chief of the tribe who had just entered Islam. Knowing that the Prophet (ﷺ) was the leader of the Muslims she must have thought of him living in an ordinary royal fashion. But once she arrived in Medina she learned how the Prophet (ﷺ) lived in a simple austere manner which was no way the practice of tribal chiefs let alone kings. This background helps understand her comment. The Prophet (ﷺ) overlooked it as she had no knowledge of Islamic ideals.
7. Did the Prophet (ﷺ) seek to beat Jauniyya?
There is absolutely no suggestion that the Prophet (ﷺ) sought to beat Jauniyya for her behavior. Instead the report is unequivocal that the Prophet (ﷺ) sought to pat her “so that she might become tranquil.” It was in fact a step in his approaching her, as clear from a version of the report that says the Prophet (ﷺ) touched her on her neck. Unless one wishes to concoct a story of his choice there is no room at all for reading an impression of beating in the hadith.
8. Why did Jauniyya seek refuge from the Prophet (ﷺ)?
The most important question with bearing on all the issues discussed above is; why did Jauniyya seek refuge from the Prophet (ﷺ)? It is related to issues discussed because it, apparently, represents the peak of her disinterest and anger for the Prophet (ﷺ). It also, however, makes one wonder as to what turned a woman who once loved the Prophet (ﷺ) react so weirdly right when the Prophet (ﷺ) approached her as a husband?
The reported answer to this is not very convincing, at least not at the face of it. At the end of Ibn Sa‘d narration earlier discussed it says;
ودخل عليها داخل من النساء فدأين لها لما بلغهن من جمالها وكانت من أجمل النساء. فقالت: إنك من الملوك فإن كنت تريدين أن تحظي عند رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – فإذا جاءك فاستعيذي منه فإنك تحظين عنده ويرغب فيك.
She was the most beautiful amongst women, so when the women (of Madina) learnt of her beauty they came to her. One of them said to her, ‘You are a queen, if you wish to be closer to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) then say to him when he comes to you, ‘I seek refuge from you’, (this way) you will become adorable to him and he will be much inclined to you.’
Another report says;
الجونية استعاذت من رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – وقيل لها هو أحظى لك عنده. ولم تستعذ منه امرأة غيرها وإنما خدعت لما رؤي من جمالها وهيئتها. ولقد ذكر لرسول الله من حملها على ما قالت لرسول الله [فقال رسول الله: إنهن صواحب يوسف وكيدهن عظيم]
Jauniyya sought refuge from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) for she was told this word will make her adorable to the Prophet. No one other woman sought refuge from him. This was a deception to her because of her beauty. When those who made her to say this were mentioned to the Messenger of Allah he said, ‘They are like the women around Yusuf and their treachery is great.’
Another narration says ‘Aisha and Hafsa tricked her this way. But it is hardly fathomable that a woman should say such a thing to her husband even if someone had asked her to do so. There is, however, one report that helps understand Jauniyya’s behaviour.
عن ابن مناح قال: استعاذت من رسول الله ص، وكانت قد ذهلت وذهب عقلها.
Ibn Mannah: She uttered the formula ‘I seek God’s protection’ (a‘udhu bi-Allah) against the Prophet, for she had been dumbfounded and had lost her mind.
This puts everything in perspective. It explains all her uncanny behavior towards the Prophet (ﷺ), and perhaps also one of the reasons she was accompanied by a governess. Though the reports about wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) tricking her into making the refuge statement come through narrators of questionable repute, these could perhaps be explained as a clever way on their part to get the Prophet (ﷺ) know of the fact that the exceptionally good looking lady from the tribe of Jaun he had taken as a wife was mentally disoriented.
9. Further observation and elucidation
9.1 Rightful translation of report in Sahih al-Bukhari
Before a recap and conclusion let us put together a rightful translation of hadith report recorded by Sahih al-Bukhari around which this discussion essentially revolves.
It is related that Abu Usaid said, We went out with the Prophet (ﷺ) until we reached a walled garden called al-Shawt and there we sat down between two walls. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Sit here,’ and he went in. The Jauniyya woman Umaima bint al-Nu‘man ibn Sharahil [who the Prophet (ﷺ) had married] was brought and lodged in a house among the date palms. Her wet-nurse had accompanied her as governess. When the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) came to her, he said, ‘Give yourself to me.’ She replied, ‘Can a queen give herself to a layman?’ He stretched his hand to her to calm her and she said, ‘I seek refuge with Allah from you!’ He said, ‘You have sought refuge with the Refuge.’ Then he came out to us and said, ‘Abu Usaid, give her two long white linen garments and take her back to her family.’
Whereas rest of the details have been discussed above, it may be pointed out that there is a mistake in the original narration in the phrase;
فأنزلت في بيت في نخل في بيت أميمة بنت النعمان بن شراحيل
Muhsin Khan’s translation reproduces the mistake as such;
The Jauniyya (a lady from Bani Jaun) had been brought and lodged in a house in a date-palm garden in the home of Umaima bint An-Nu‘man bin Sharahil.
This suggests Jauniyya was brought to the house of Umaima bt. al-Nu‘man while we have seen that Umaima was in fact the name of the very Jauniyya. Ibn Hajar, therefore, rightly points out;
وإنما جاء الوهم من إعادة لفظ في بيت وقد رواه أبو بكر بن أبي شيبة في مسنده عن أبي نعيم شيخ البخاري فيه فقال في بيت في النخل أميمة إلخ
The problem appeared due to inadvertent repetition of the words “fi baitin” (in a house). Abu Bakr b. Abi Shaiba in his Musnad related this hadith from Abu Nu‘aim who is also Bukhari’s source for this hadith and recorded it as “[the Jauniyya] Umaima was lodged in a house among the date-palms …”
9.2 Collated and cogent rephrasing of the story
The Prophet’s (ﷺ) marriage with Jauniyya had been solemnized before her arrival in Madina. Her father had arranged the marriage stating that Jauniyya actively inclined towards the Prophet (ﷺ) after having become a widow. Five hundred silver coins (dirhams) were agreed as dower. She was, however, mentally disoriented which is why she reacted in an uncanny way when the Prophet (ﷺ) first came to her. The report in Sahih Bukhari alongwith the report of Ma‘mar b. Muthanna together give a fuller picture. The Prophet (ﷺ) entered her presence and asked her to approach him which she refused and instead asked the Prophet (ﷺ) to approach and when the Prophet (ﷺ) did and in the process patted her she made the truly weird utterance of seeking refuge from him which made (ﷺ) it abundantly clear to the Prophet (ﷺ) that despite her father’s claim she was not capacitous to consent let alone propose due to her mental instability. He, therefore, had her sent back to her family implying that she had been divorced. Perhaps the women including the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) while preparing her for meeting with him realized it first and had her say a thing that made the Prophet (ﷺ) realize the gravity of her condition. The Prophet (ﷺ) did not simply send her back he also gifted her two garments which proves that it was a carefully thought out action and not just a response out of some momentary feeling, as some critics suggest.
The full details of the issue highlighted through various reports show that there is absolutely no room for any of the meanings suggested by jaundiced-eye missionaries and other critics with regard to Jauniyya. In fact the Prophet (ﷺ) out of utmost courtesy and realizing the actual state of the woman returned her to her family with a gift of two garments. Considering that he did it after experiencing an unhealthy interaction with the woman whose father had married her mentioning her likeness for him the story only highlights the Prophet’s (ﷺ) noble character and great morals.
References & Notes:
 Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Sahih, (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 1997) Hadith 5254-5257
 Ibid., Hadith 5637
 Khan, Muhsin, The Translation and Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari, (Riyadh: Maktaba Dar us Salam, 1997) Vol.7, 118-119
 Sina, Ali, Understanding Muhammad, (Ali Sina, 2008) 145-146
 al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifah, 1367 AH) Vol.9, 358
 For details on her name and other highlights about her see our article; Prophet’s Marital Life: Unconsummated Marriages, Unmaterialized Proposals
 Ibn Sa‘d, Muhammad, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-‘Ilmiyya) Vol.8, 113-114
 Ibn Sa‘d, Muhammad, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 115
 This answers those few sceptics who seek to denounce the reports about Jauniyya alleging that the Prophet (ﷺ) had already been restricted from taking any wives before this event. For details see our article, “Marriage Related Privileges of the Prophet: A Study in Chronology”
 Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 5256-5257
 al-Tahawi, Abu Ja‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 1994) Vol.15, 342
 al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol.9, 360
 al-Tabari, Ibn Jarir, Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Maluk (Beirut: Dar al-Turath, 1387 AH) Vol.11, 615; translated in Tasseron-Landau, Ella, The History of al-Tabari: Volume XXXIX – Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998) 191; this too was by the way of arrogance as one source says she said, “I am approached, I do not approach.” See, al-Maqdisi, al-Mutahhir, al-Bad‘ wa al-Tarikh, (Port Said: Maktaba Thaqafa al-Diniya, n.d.) Vol.4, 138 and Vol.5, 9
 al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol.9, 358; that the Prophet (ﷺ) out of humility chose to be a servant rather than a king is based on an authentic hadith related by Abu Huraira. See, Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2001) Hadith 7160
 al-Tahawi, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Hadith 642
 Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 114
 Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 115
 al-Tabari, Ibn Jarir, Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Maluk,Vol.11, 612; translated in Tasseron-Landau, Ella, The History of al-Tabari: Volume XXXIX – Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors, 187; it may be pointed out that Ibn Sa‘d brought this report under the mention of the woman from Banu Kilab (Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat a-Kubra, Vol.8, 112). In response it suffices to say that the original report does not have name of the woman rather it identifies her as one who sought refuge. Moreover, for multiple reasons it can be argued that Jauniyya and Kilabiya were in fact one and the same. For details on this see our article, “Prophet’s Marital Life: Unconsummated Marriages, Unmaterialized Proposals”
 Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim, (Beirut: Dar al-Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 2006) Vol.3, 541
 Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 5255; translation by ‘Aisha Bewley heavily emended.
 al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol.9, 358; published edition of Musnad Ibn Abi Shaiba does not seem to have the report in the wording noted by Ibn Hajar. It is, however, thus found through the same Abu Nu’aim with al-Tahawi. See, al-Tahawi, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Hadith 641. It is likewise reported though another link as well. See, Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Hadith 22869
Published : December 28, 2019 Last modified : August 31st, 2020