Many Muslims who are more familiar with the Qur’an than the Hadith erroneously believe that Muhammad had only four wives (the Qur’an limits a man to four – Sura 4:3).  However, given that nine of Muhammad’s wives outlived him, it is obvious that he must have given himself special treatment somewhere along the way.

In fact, this special treatment is detailed in the Qur’an (Sura 33:50-51) in which “Allah” lists all of the categories of women who are made available to Muhammad.  (It is unclear why this personal directive should be a part of Allah’s universal and unchanging word to all of mankind). 

There are two things of which to take note of in this verse.  First, the context is that Allah permitted Muhammad so many women as a favor to him.  Other men are not allowed to have this many wives, no matter how much they wish (although they are permitted to have an unlimited number of sex slaves).

Secondly, the needs of the women are not mentioned as a factor for marriage.  Indeed, Muhammad married most of his wives based on their attractiveness to him.  This was obviously the case with Zainab, who was married to his adopted son at the time that he coveted her (another curiously personal directive from Allah allowed him her pleasure – Sura 33:37).

Many of the women that Muhammad captured during battle were also beautiful and would have been “married” by other Muslims.  A good example is Safiyya of Khaybar.  Not only did Muhammad personally have her husband killed (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 764), but he had already given her as booty to another Muslim before he decided that he wanted her for himself (Bukhari14:68).