Saturday, 20 October 2012

Rumours in Medina

Hadithul-ifk, meaning ‘the untruthful talk’, is the name given to the rumours that circulated in the city of Medina upon the return of the Muslims’ Army after defeating the tribe of Bani Al Mustalk. The Muslims’ army won an easy victory over the Jewish tribe and returned fully laden with slaves and other war booties. However, a last minute hitch turned what should have been a big day into one of the most embarrassing days in Mohammed’s life. What could be more embarrassing to a man than returning home and discovering that his wife was out with another man? You can imagine how Mohammed felt when he watched, along with the other residents of Medina, his favourite wife entering the city with a young man!

Whatever happened between Aysha and Safwan on that day had demoralised Mohammed, dented his integrity and divided the Islamic community. Indeed, the Muslims’ divide over what happened between Aysha and Safwan continues to our time. Some of the bitter wars between the conflicting Muslim groups, with the loss of tens of thousands of lives, can be traced back to that infamous day. This article discusses those stressful events, which are well documented in all the reputed Sira books, and presents the picture as seen from a non Islamic point of view. This article tries to explains the otherwise unexplainable delay in the ‘revelations’ when it was most urgently needed.

The Story
It was customary for Mohammed to take one of his wives with him whenever he launches a ‘ghazwa’, or a raid, which was his understanding of picnics. Mohammed enjoyed those ghazwas so much that he used to launch several of them every year. In the sixth year after hijra, Mohammed picked Aysha to accompany him in his campaign against the Jewish tribe of Bani Al Mustalak. The campaign was a remarkable success; most of the tribe’s men were killed and their wives and children were taken as slaves. Among the captives was Juwayreya, the beautiful wife of the tribe’s chief. The Islamic history sources focus on Juwyreya’s class and splendour and claim that she was one of the most beautiful women in Arabia. She was not only glamorous but also an eloquent woman who was brought up as a princess. Aysha openly admitted that she hated Juwayreya from the first sight just because of her stunning magnificence. Aysha also admitted her jealousy from that female captive because, knowing her husband, she was sure that he also would be stunned by her exceptional beauty. Aysha couldn’t be more right; Juwayreya was immediately promoted by Mohammed from the slave status to become his wife.

According to Aysha, as the army had an overnight stop on the way back to Medina, she felt the need to go outside the camp to answer the call of nature. Her return to the camp was delayed because she had to search for a necklace that had dropped while still there. When Aysha came back to the camp she found that the army had already left the site, so she stayed in her place with the hope that Mohammed would miss her and returns for her rescue. As it turned out, Mohammed did not come back to rescue her and did not even notice her absence until his arrival to medina.

Aysha was soon spotted by Safwan Ibn Al Muattal, who approached her and offered her to ride his camel. Sawan was one of the muhajirun, or Mohammed’s companions who emigrated from Mecca, and was travelling on his own behind the army. Safwan and Aysha made their way to Medina where Mohammed and his companions were waiting (1,2).

According to Ibn Hisham, that was the story as told by Aysha. It implies that she spent more time in that desert ‘loo’ than the time it took the army to prepare to move and actually leave the place and completely disappear from sight. It also implies that she did not hear or sense the movement of an army of seven hundreds men, with their women, horses, camels, captives and slaves. The story also implies that Aysha was left behind without being missed at all by Mohammed. The young and spoiled Aysha was not used to that level of inattention from her husband, who was probably too occupied with Juwayreya.

The sight of Aysha and Safwan entering the city of Medina was a remarkable oddity considering the situation and the prevailing culture. The incident set off people to talk although the couple denied any wrong doing. Ibn Abi Saloul, the leader of Al Khazraj tribe, was one of the few Arabs in Medina who opposed Mohammed and rejected his presence in the city. Ibn Abi Saloul watched with disbelief as Aysha entered the city with a stranger and openly expressed his doubts that the couple couldn’t spend such a long time together without engaging in some sexual activity. Ibn Abi Salul’s dirty thoughts were in fact in line with Mohammed’s own teachings; it was Mohammed who stated in an authentic hadith that whenever a man and a woman are alone, the Satan is their third”. Ibn Abi Saloul expressed openly what many people were saying in private.

Tension between Ansar and Muhajirun
The timing of the scandal couldn’t have been worse because the relation between the muhajerun (Mohammed and his Meccan companions) and the ansar (residents of Yathrib) was going through a difficult phase. According to Ibn Hisham, after the Al Mustalak campaign was over, a clash broke out between a Muslim from Yathrib and one of Omar’s aids (from the muhajirun). The disagreement between the two spread quickly and involved a large number of Muslims from both sides. Ibn Abi Saloul was outraged when he knew about the clash and threatened to review the presence of the muhajirun in his city.

Naturally, the residents of Medina expected Aysha’s case to be resolved immediately because they believed Mohammed had a direct contact with the ‘all knowing’ Allah. Some urgent revelations were necessary but never happened. The lack of revelations was interpreted as a sign that Aysha was guilty and fuelled the suspicions about her fidelity. Even leading Muslim figures like Ali, the third Caliph, and Hassan Ibn Thabit, his poet, were drawn into the spreading gossip in Medina. Mohammed himself must have had his suspicions as well because he neglected Aysha, who was ill and living with her parents, for nearly a month. Mohammed’s silence and poor handling of the situation did not help; he appeared confused and indecisive in a most sensitive matter.

After a month of social torture, the divine silence was broken and Gabriel came down with the news that Aysha was innocent and those who thought otherwise were guilty :

Q.24: 11. Those who brought forward the lie are a body among yourselves: think it not to be an evil to you; On the contrary it is good for you: to every man among them of the sin that he earned, and to him who took on himself the lead among them, will be a penalty grievous.

The verse condemned the people who interpreted the divine silence as a sign that Aysha was guilty and described them as liars and sinful. Allah meant Ibn Abi Salul, but He couldn’t say it openly for fear of upsetting the Khazraj! By revealing this verse, Mohammed accidentally contradicted his own teachings. It was him who asserted in an authentic hadith that ‘whenever a man and a woman are alone, the Satan joins them as their third.Those people who doubted Aysha’s innocence did so because of Mohammed’s own teachings. They expected a verse to clear her name but that didn’t happen, which they understood as a sign against her. How would they know that Allah intended to reveal that verse after a month?

As usual, Muslims apply the civilized logic and principles only when they happen to be on the receiving end, which explains their unusual cautious handling of this incident. It appeared as if the Muslims suddenly believed in the civilized principle that people are innocent until proved otherwise, which contradicts Mohammed’s own teachings. Mohammed taught his followers that Satan arranges for men and women to have sex whenever they happen to be alone. Mohammed’s followers apply his teachings in all countries ruled by sharia, like Saudi Arabia, with frightening cruelty. Saudi Arabia is renowned of countless stories about the awful consequences of incidents involving women travelling alone or with ‘non- muhram’ (men who are not close relatives). In his book ‘Karen in Saudi Arabia, Sami Al Rabbaa gives some chilling accounts of such barbaric practices (3).

Why a month?

Mohammed was not new to troubled times; he was an experienced ‘prophet’ and knew well how to get out of any trouble by revealing a suitable verse. However, he appeared to be totally helpless in the face of those rumours; the best he could do was to wait. Mohammed’s nightmare was the thought of Aysha showing signs of pregnancy because that would implicate her and would discredit him should that happen after ‘revealing’ the required verse. A pregnant Aysha would mean an unfaithful wife because Mohammed did not sleep with her since his marriage with Juwayreya. After arriving to Yathrib, Aysha became ill and went to live with her parents to look after her; Mohammed hardly spoke to her during that month. Also, it doesn’t escape notice that Aysha never became pregnant from Mohammed after many years of marriage; therefore, a pregnancy at that particular time would be highly suspicious.

Aysha’s fidelity, an obvious personal concern to Mohammed, was an issue he could have managed had it remained a personal matter. However, the situation became too complex as the news spread throughout the city. Still, all that complexity would be trivial to what could have happened if he revealed a verse that soon proved to be wrong.

To Mohammed’s relief, Aysha did get her menstruation and pregnancy was ruled out as was the prospect of Mohammed’s favourite wife being officially named and shamed. Mohammed was relieved from a heavy burden and immediately revealed that long awaited verse.

Was Aysha Unfaithful to Mohammed
It was no secret that Mohammed loved Aysha more than any of his other wives including Juwayreya, his new beautiful pride. Mohammed probably considered Juwayreya as a good fun when he needed that kind of fun, but Aysha was his true love. Mohammed’s other wives recognized Mohammed’s fondness towards Aysha. When Mohammed decided to divorce Sawda, because she got too old, Sawda begged him to keep her and offered to give her night share of Mohammed to Aysha. That incentive worked well, and Mohammed kept Sawda without having to sleep with her.

Aysha was intelligent, confident and extra sensitive to anything that poses a threat to her prominence. Once, she had no hesitation to plot for the unfair divorce of a new pride which Mohammed was about to add to his harem. As a result of Aysha’s evil advice, the new pride muttered something like ‘I seek refuge with Allah from you’ as a part of the foreplay on her wedding night. As a result, Mohammed divorced the naive pride immediately while Aysha emerged unscathed.

When Mohammed brought his son to show him to Aysha, her response was that ‘the baby did not look like Mohammed’, hinting at the possibility that Maria had the baby from another man. On another occasion, when Aysha noticed that the Quran always agreed with Mohammed’s desires, she remarked to Mohammed: ‘
I see that Allah is too quick to answer your desires’. No one else could make such remarks without fearing punishment except Aysha.

We may never know, with cerainity, what actually happened between Aysha and Safwan. Was it by accident that Safwan was travelling on his own behind the army, or was it all planned? Some scholars propose that Safwan was travelling behind in order to collect the army’s leftovers, but there is no historical evidence to support that claim. Was it possible for the wife of the perfect human to contemplate having an affair? The answer is yes, because there were many reasons for Aysha to consider having an affair.

Aysha was a spoiled teen ager who was aware of Mohammed’s obsession in her. She enjoyed her privileges as a favourite wife of Mohammd and guarded her eminence with jealousy. Aysha must have been deeply offended, during Al Mustalak campaign, by the fact that Mohammed’s attention was turned away from her in favour of Juwayreya, the woman she openly admitted to have hated. From her track record, Aysha was certainly that kind of woman who could respond in kind.

It is also natural to assume that Aysha, as well as Mohammed’s other wives, were all sexually deprived; simply there were too many of them for one old man. The Islamic claim that Mohammed’s sexual potency (4) equalled that of forty men is, of course, an Islamic lie and meaningless to non Muslims. Mohammed’s apparent lust to women did not necessarily mean an increased potency; underneath, there could be some kind of sexual dysfunction. As to Aysha, she was a young girl who opened her eyes to find herself abused by a man older than her father. She had no experience and didn’t know what a normal sexual relation looked like. Aysha was condemned to have only that abnormal relation with that old man who prohibited her from getting married after his death. Mohammed’s (divine) orders to his followers not to marry his wives could be an indication that he wanted to conceal something about his sexuality. By never marrying after him, his wives wouldn’t divulge any of his sexual secrets.

Mohammed asked his followers to learn half of their religion from Aysha. Indeed, Aysha narrated more hadiths than any of the other wives. Most of those hadiths narrated by Aysha described the intimate relations between a man and his wife; the kind of things we would normally label ‘for adults only’. To pre-empt any criticism to this rather embarrassing observation, Muslims are taught that there is no shyness in religion (la haya fid din). According to Mohammed, those embarrassing hadiths comprised half of the religion!

One of those hadiths narrated by Aysha described Mohammed’s ‘etiquette’ in fondling a menstruating wife and praised his ability to control his ejaculation. At the end of the hadith, Aysha remarked “
and who of you can control himself better than the messenger of Allah, PBUH”(5)

How did she know? Was she comparing him to Safwan?

1) Ibn Sa’ad, Al Tabakat Al Kubra, vol.8 (Arabic)
2) Ibn Hisham, sira al nabaweyya(Arabic)
3) Dr. Sami Alrabaa, Karen in Saudi Arabia
4) Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of washing, Narrated by Anas.(Arabic)
5) Al Lulu wa Al Marjan fima ittaffaqa alihi al shaikhan: Muslim and Bukhari, hadith No.168; 173 (Arabic)



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