Muhammad's Sexual Prowess

Islamic tradition relates that Muhammad was a superman when it came to sex:

Narrated Qatada:
Anas bin Malik said, "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men)." And Sa'id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268)

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet used to visit all his wives in one night and he had nine wives at that time. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 282; see also parallel hadiths in Vol. 7, Book 62, Numbers 6 and 142)

How credible are these traditions? Note that Muhammad was not a young man of twenty or 25 at that time — and it would have been rather incredible even at that age —, but he was already about 60 years old when he had finally aquired all those nine wives. Moreover, these traditions state that this was not an exceptional one time event, but allege that Muhammad did so regularly.

There is another hadith which may provide an explanation of how these above traditions have to be understood:

Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on Allah's Apostle so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 71, Number 660; see also Number 661)

Maybe the hadith relating that Muhammad was imagining having sex with his wives — while in reality he had not — is a commentary/explanation to the first set of traditions? Note again that this tradition (originating with Muhammad's favorite wife and sex partner!) also emphasizes that this happened not only once but regularly.

For a detailed discussion on the issue of magic and Muhammad having come under a spell, see the articles listed in the dictionary entry Muhammad and Satan.

Even though Muhammad probably did not have all the sex that he thought he had performed, the above traditions still provide part of the evidence that sex was rather prominently on his mind, see also the article Muhammad, Islam, and Sex.

Far-reaching implications

The consequences of this observation are much larger than merely gaining a clearer picture of Muhammad's sex life. Apparently, the so-called authentic and trustworthy hadiths are reporting Muhammad's sustained illusions and hallucinations as if they were factual!

If that is indeed the case on this issue, this immediately raises the next question: How many more of the hadiths in the foundational collections of Islamic traditions would potentially fall into that category? Many of the teachings of Islam, both regarding theology and instructions for practical life, are based on these hadiths. Are Muslims building their faith and their lives on something that may not have been much more than the result of Muhammad's hallucinations?

If it is established that Muhammad's illusions are narrated as facts in the hadiths, this also raises doubts in regard to the Qur'an. What if some or all of the alleged "visitations of the angel Gabriel" and the "revelations that were brought down" by him were creations of an unstable mind, and have really been an illusion instead of a fact?

Jochen Katz

Articles about Muhammad
Answering Islam Home Page