I was curious as to how the Prophet supported himself and his wives. In a class, I was taking recently, it was suggested that the Prophet took 1/5th of the booty from war.
The sources of the Prophet (pbuh)’s livelihood may be classified into pre-hijrah and post-hijrah (i.e. before and after the migration to Medinah) sources. Moreover, the sources of the Prophet (pbuh)’s livelihood before his prophethood, are not under consideration here.
Before the migration to Medinah, the Prophet (pbuh) was primarily supported by his friends and relatives. His wife, Khadijah (ra) and his most devoted friend, Abu Bakr (ra) were among his biggest supporters. In short, before hijrah, the Prophet lived on his own sources of finance and those provided by his personal friends and relatives.
The post-hijrah period can again be divided into the initial and the later period. During the initial post-hijrah period, the Prophet (pbuh)’s living was mostly supported by his followers from among the Ansaar (i.e. the natives of Medinah). This support was normally in the form of gifts. These gifts included, among other things, food items. Some of the most well known names of this period include Abu Ayuub Ansari (ra) the fortunate companion of the Prophet, who was the host of the Prophet of God during this initial period. Later on, when it was decided that a mosque be built, it was once again Abu Bakr (ra) who financed the purchase of the land for the mosque, at a cost of ten dinaars and a hundred and twenty dirhams, while the construction material was contributed by the well to do natives of Medinah. At the time the Prophet had two wives – Ayesha (ra) and Sauda (ra) – thus, two rooms were built adjacent to the mosque for them. Although no details can be found regarding the source from which these two rooms were financed, yet it seems that they too were financed and built by the companions of the Prophet. Subsequently, as the number of the Prophet’s wives increased, additional rooms were built by the contributions from among the companions of the Prophet (pbuh), which mostly included the Ansaar. However, even after the Prophet shifted his residence to the rooms adjacent to the mosque, his companions regularly sent food items for him and his family. Besides these gifts, a number of narratives also evidence the fact that the wives of the Prophet also cooked food for themselves and the Prophet, which may be taken to signify that the Prophet might have had some sources of income, though none are clearly mentioned in the source books. Later on, when fighting with the non-believers was allowed, it was declared by the Qur’an that these wars are not ordinary wars. These wars are subject to the divine law regarding the messengers (Rasu’l) of God, whereby His messengers are bound to be victorious over their adversaries. Therefore, no one has a right to get any part of the spoils of these wars (Al-Anfaal 8: 1). Subsequently, it was clearly mentioned that one-fifth of these spoils shall be at the Prophet’s discretion. Moreover, if in any war, spoils are gained without any fighting (for example, if the enemies run away leaving their belongings behind), then the whole of the spoils shall be at the discretion of God and His messenger. It seems that these provisions in the distribution of the spoils arranged for the Prophet (pbuh) some reasonable sources for his living and for supporting his family.
22nd August 1999