prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) married sawdah bint zamah a short while after the death of his first and most beloved wife, khadijah, with whom he shared a very happy 25 years of his blessed life.
sawdah was a mature woman, around 40 years of age, and a mother of five children. this marriage gave sawdah an uplift in her life, for she had been mourning her husband, al-sakran ibn amr.
he had died soon after the couple had returned from abyssinia, where a number of the prophet's companions had gone a few years earlier to establish a second base for islam, away from the persecution in makkah.
she was now married to god's messenger, who was renowned for his fine character and compassion, in addition to the great qualities that fitted him to be the recipient of god's final message to mankind.
scholars and writers about the prophet and his character often explain his marriages in terms of different needs: some political, others social, and some even legislative. while such reasons were certainly present in many of his marriages, they are not the overriding reasons for any.
each of his marriages expressed a desire to be united with the lady in question. in sawdah's case, we read explanations that he wanted to compensate her for the loss of her husband.
the fact is that the prophet needed a new wife after khadijah had passed away, and the qualities he needed in his new wife were maturity, kindness, and being a believer in his message. sawdah answered all these. she was the one to take care of his two unmarried daughters, umm kulthoom and fatimah.
dealing with jealousy
we see some aspects of sawdah's maturity in the fact that when other wives came into the prophet's home and jealousies surfaced between them, leading to the emergence of two camps, sawdah did not join either group. she remained loyal to her husband, giving him all that he needed of love and care.
nor did she ever express, in word or gesture, any feeling of jealousy when she realized that the prophet's heart leaned toward a particular one of his wives.
on the contrary, we see her rising to the sublime as she realized that the prophet's heart favored aishah above all others, but he had to maintain fairness between all his wives.
he would not allow himself to give aishah an hour more than he would give every one of his other wives. therefore, in her eagerness to please the prophet, sawdah made a gift of her nights to aishah. this was a voluntary gift, motivated only by her desire to please her husband.
thus, every time it was sawdah's turn, the prophet would visit her in the evening before going to spend the rest of the night at aishah's place.
sawdah's action speaks much about her character. she was a woman who loved to be kind to others, and enjoyed giving them what pleases them.
she wished to remain married to the prophet and always be remembered by muslims throughout the world as a "mother of all believers" as his wives earned this title.
at the same time, she wanted to give greater pleasure to her husband and the one whom he loved most among his wives. hence, her gift that became a model for any woman who lovingly wishes to forego some of her rights in order to please her husband.
sawdah died toward the end of the reign of the second caliph, umar ibn al khattab, about ten years after the prophet had passed away.