The Role of Aishah in the History of Islam (volume 1)

Justice Dispensed By 'ali

Whenever any members of the Quraysh came to carry out the religious punishment, al-Walid said: "Look at your kin and yourself. Do not break the ties of relationship with me, and abstain from carrying out the punishment thereby enraging the commander of the faithful." Thus an individual, hearing these words, desisted from doing his duty and no one dared administer the lash on al-Walid's back.

When 'Ali ibn Abi Talib observed this, he picked up the lash and entered the room accompanied by his son, al-Hasan. al-Walid repeated his words in order to dissuade 'Ali from his task. Al-Hasan confirmed his words and reminded his father of the purport. 'Ali said in answer to his son: "If I, too, act in the same way, it would mean having no faith in God!" It is also said that al-Walid asked 'Ali, in the name of God, reminding him of their kinship (the Umayyads and Banu Hashim were cousins) to desist from enforcing punishment. But 'Ali said: "Be quiet; for, the reason for the annihilation of the Israelites was their oblivion of God's limits. Let the Quraysh call me an executioner."

al-Walid wrapped his cloak round himself, but 'Ali pulled it away forcefully and dealt him forty strokes with a double-edged whip. al-Mas'udi writes: when 'Ali began to punish al-Walid, he abused 'Ali and called him a blackmailer. 'Aqil ibn Abi Talib who was present, shouted at him saying: "O son of Abu al-Mu'ayt! It is strange how you have lost yourself! You forget that you are the same slave offspring of Safuriyah!"165 al-Walid kept on creeping here and there; trying to flee from the strokes, but 'Ali seized him, knocked him down and whipped him.

When 'Uthman observed his brother's disgrace to such an extent, he protested to 'Ali and said: "You had no right to treat him in that way." But 'Ali said: "I have the right! A worse treatment is deserved by one who engaged in them. Such a song was called "hadi" which was appropriate for the personality and goal of the travelers. (Sardar- Niya)

  1. The above song meant: "Do not suppose that we have forgotten our ride an easy-paced camels, or that we have forgotten the drunkenness caused by old wine, or the pleasing songs of slave-girls!" 165. Safuriyah was a village in Jordan. As to the ironical remark of 'Aqil refer to the introductory part of the chapter on Wa lid.

debauchery and flees from justice and from the execution of divine punishment." When the whipping was over, al-Walid sang out a poem which meant: "O Umayyads! May God bring separation between you and me in kinship; for, whoever of you gets rich, is treated well by you, and if he becomes poor, he despairs of you!"

It is said that after al-Walid received his punishment, 'Uthman was asked to get al-Walid's head shaved according to the custom for punished persons. But he refused and said: ''Umar acted in that way, but he had abandoned it by the end of his rule."

After al-Walid's dismissal from his position as governor of Kufah on account of his addiction to wine, and due to his receiving punishment, 'Uthman did not deprive him of involvement in governmental affairs. Now he was commissioned to collect the tithe from the two tribes of Kalb and Bulaqayn, and thus the former debauchee governor became a trustee of state fund and collector of taxes.

We probed into various events of al-Walid's history and found him a strange man and his friends even stranger than him. We found him to be a man notorious for adultery and addiction, who was regarded as an evil-doer by the Qur'an. This alone would be enough to show his personality and position in society to a considerable extent. He was so dominant over the weakness and carelessness of his brother, 'Uthman, who governed the Islamic land, that he could turn him to any direction he wished, and as we saw, he so influenced him that he secured from him a free access to the life and property of the Muslims and rule over the people. He made use of his close relationship with the caliph to promote his own whims and fancies and, sheltered by this immunity, he carried out daringly and inconceivably his lustful designs.

He granted his drunkard companions, the Christian poet, extensive land, arranged for him an allowance of money, pork and wine and allowed him entry into the Muslims' place of worship in a gay and drunken state. He brought the Jewish magician into the mosque to perform his tricks and amuse the debauchee governor. He himself stood up to prayer in the altar of the mosque, gay and drunk and feasting garments, acting as Imam of the congregation, and performing four units of morning prayer instead of two, while prostrating instead of reciting lines in praise of God, drunkenly singing poems about women and wine, and polluting the altar with vomiting.

Even when this reckless debauchee was summoned to Medina to investigate his deeds, and when the nobles of Kufah accompanied him to offer excuses to the caliph for his misdeeds, on the way to Medina, he nonchalantly spoke of wine, song and carnal desires, even though he fully knew that it was because of his conduct that he had been summoned to trial, resulting in his punishment.

All the Muslims were dissatisfied with that government and constantly expressed protest. Such matters had excited public opinion so much that all day and night the undesirable acts of the government of the time and its debauchee and godless agents had become the topics of discussion. All these talks and protests everywhere showed that a revolution was imminent and a general uprising against the government was about to begin, and that time it took the form of occasional protests of Ibn Mas'ud, complaints of 'Ammar, Abu Dharr, Jundab and other chief companions of the Prophet. At that time two outstanding personalities drew greater attention of the Muslims. The first was 'Ali ibn Abi Talib who was well-known to the people, and from among all the great companions of the Prophet, it was only he who administered punishment in the presence of the caliph, despite the latter's unwillingness, without taking notice of his rage and uneasiness, and without fearing the vengeance of the Umayyads or its consequence.

It was a rare and amazing coincidence that this same unique and famous personality of all times had upon the order of the Prophet, beheaded the father of this same evil-doer who was whipped for his inattention to religious criteria and for his addiction to wine. Therefore, 'Ali had the right to say: "Let the Quraysh call me their executioner."

With such acts, 'Ali produced deep rancor in the hearts of the Quraysh which, later on, in 'Ali's caliphate, erupted into a violent hostility to spread everywhere. This flame eventually swallowed him and his family.

'A'ishah's instigation's against 'Uthman

The second distinguished personality was 'A'ishah who at that time had turned away from 'Uthman, to join his opponents and accept their leadership. In order to rouse public feelings against 'Uthman she had taken certain steps, which were unprecedented, as these had not been taken by anyone before her. While the people were wholeheartedly attached to the memories of the Prophet, and still spoke of association with him, of his vision and gestures and even of his clothes, she raised his shoe as a decisive evidence of disregard of his ways and traditions by 'Uthman, thus rousing the people violently against him, and instigating them to her heart's content.

With this single gesture which was made with a careful calculation and was appropriate in terms of time and place, she made a great number of people cynical about the caliphate's administration and scattered them away from the caliph in the manner she desired. This step was so calculated that the supporters and opposers confronted each other, and arguments led to a quarrel and conflicts. The first clash among the Muslims took place after the Prophet's death. At last, she succeeded in vanquishing the powerful and despotic caliph with her power, and compelling him to agree to the people's demand, dismiss his debauchee brother as governor of Kufah and summon him to the capital for trial.

Had it not been for her talent and genius in inciting people's feelings, and for her leadership of 'Uthman's opponents, such a thing would not have occurred.

We know that she was not the only wife of the Prophet still living; Hafsah, Umm Habibah and Umm Salamah still lived, and each of them had some share in meddling with governmental affairs, but none of them showed such a leadership as 'A'ishah especially in inciting the people against 'Uthman. It seems that unlike the tradition of the two preceding caliphs, 'Uthman had prepared a special seat or throne for himself, which he sometimes shared with Abu Sufyan, leader of the Prophet's opponents and commander of infidel forces, as well as his wicked and winebibbing brother and al-Hakam who was made an outcast by the Prophet. al-Hakam, son of Abu al-'As and his uncle, who had been exiled by the Prophet, and also cursed and driven away from himself, was admitted as a favorite to 'Uthman's court, contrary to people's expectations, and was shown such favors that he rose to greet him, allowing him to take his own seat, while himself taking an inferior place below him.

We saw also that he had handed over control of the finance of a half of the eastern part of the country to his mad and wicked brother in order to console him, and had given this shameless fellow a free hand in taking possession; of the Muslims' public fund. On the contrary, he punished such a noble companion of the Prophet as Ibn Mas'ud, despite his brilliant record, on the charge of protesting against his wicked brother's misdeeds and abused him obscenely, driving him in disgrace Out of the mosque and breaking his ribs. He ordered to cut off his salary, and forbade his participation in the holy war with pagans, and to the end of his life this unfortunate old man was refused permission to leave Medina, and he committed all these mean acts only in support of his evil brother, al-Walid ibn 'Uqbah. We also noted that he rejected the testimony of the witnesses against his brother and awarded them lashes and threatened and drove them away. And when he was compelled to agree to the legal punishment of this brother, we saw that he made him wear a cloak so as not to feel the pain produced by the strokes of the lash, and also refused to allow the culprit's head to be shaved as an evidence of his punishment. And after all those wrong deeds, he commissioned him to collect tithe in a vast part of the Islamic country.

The subject of al-Walid ibn 'Uqbah, half brother of 'Uthman on the mother's side, and his five-year rule in Kufah, constituted one of the cases in which 'A'ishah interfered directly, and she openly rose in opposition to 'Uthman, using it as a pretext to start a combat with the caliphate. We also observed as to how she emerged victorious out of this combat and forced the center of power to submit to her.

'Ammar ibn Yasir

'Ammar is like the skin between my eyes.

The Prophet

Another matter with which 'A'ishah interfered personally and roused the people against the caliph, was related to 'Ammar ibn Yasir. Let us first introduce 'Ammar and then relate the story. Abu al-Yaqzan 'Ammar was the son of Yasir. His father belonged to the Arab tribe of Qahtani Mudhhaj, who came from Yemen to Mecca, befriended Abu Hudhayfah al- Makhzumi and married his slave-girl, Sumayyah from whom 'Ammar was born. Abu Hudhayfah released 'Ammar and thenceforth he was allied to the Banu Makhzum.

'Ammar, his brother, and parents were among the early Muslims who fearlessly proclaimed their faith in Islam, as a result of which they received nothing but pain and torture at the hands of infidels who made them wear iron chain mail, lay them down on the stones of Meccan desert in burning sun, and placed heavy stones in their chests and bellies to compel them to abandon their religion. But these tortures did not have the slightest effect in weakening their steadfast faith as they refused to submit to the infidels' pressure. While they were being tortured by the infidels, the Prophet, happening to pass by, noticed their sorry condition, suffering so much under the scorching sun and being so maltreated by the inhuman pagans. So he turned to them and consolingly said: "O Yasir's household! Be patient! Heaven is waiting for you!"

Sumayyah, 'Ammar's mother, passed away as a result of a blow received from Abu Jahl with his weapon, and thus she became the first martyr for the cause of Islam. After Sumayyah, her husband Yasir who was 'Ammar's father died under the tortures inflicted by the pagans. But 'Ammar, contrary to his inherent desire, in order to be saved from their cruelty, was compelled to utter the words forced upon him, abuse the Prophet thereby being released by the infidels.

It was reported to the Prophet that 'Ammar had turned unbeliever and gone astray. The Prophet said: "Never! Faith is so deep in 'Ammar that it has taken root in the whole of his soul!" Meanwhile, 'Ammar who was writhing with pain and sorrow, and shedding tears, came to the Prophet who received him affectionately and wiped his tears, saying: "If they molest you again, repeat your words of abuse and deliver yourself from their mischief's!" It was on this occasion that the following verse descended about 'Ammar (Chapter an-Nahl, Verse 106).

"He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of his faith."

'Ammar contributes to building the first mosque of Islam

'Ammar emigrated to Medina and took part in the battle of Badr and other battles. When the Prophet emigrated to Medina, 'Ammar took part in the construction of the Quba' Mosque and thus he became the first builder of an Islamic mosque.166 He took part also in the construction of the Prophet's mosque, and showed much more activity than some other companions in carrying stones and bricks. In the meantime, 'Uthman ibn 'Affan who was an aristocratic Quraysh companion and wore expensive garments, did not show much activity and kept on removing from himself and his clothes the dust raised by the other companions. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib who observed this, began to recite a poem while engaged in work, meaning:167

"Those who labor in building a mosque and are constantly on the move, are not the equal of those who avoid dust and stay away." 'Ammar who was a simple-minded person and did not know what the poem hinted, began to recite the same poem. 'Uthman who knew what 'Ali meant, thought that 'Ammar was deliberately cutting jokes at him. So he said: "O son of Sumayyah! I know your meaning! By God I will knock you on the head with this stick!" The Prophet, who noticed the scene, was vexed at 'Uthman's threat and said: "What do they expect from 'Ammar? He is inviting them to heaven while they call him to the fire! 'Ammar is like skin between my eyes. Abstain from molesting a man who has attained such a rank!"

According to another narration, the story goes on as follows: When the companions saw the Prophet's uneasiness, they asked 'Ammar himself to find a way to alleviate that uneasiness. So 'Ammar who was carrying a heavy load of unbaked bricks, turned to the Prophet and said laughingly: "O Prophet of God! Your companions have killed me, for, they load me with what they are unable to carry themselves."

As the Prophet was removing dust from 'Ammar's curly hair, he said: "O Sumayyah's son! These are not your killers; your killers are the unruly group." The Prophet has, on many occasions, praised 'Ammar, such as the time when Khalid ibn al-Walid spoke angrily to 'Ammar. So he said: "Whoever shows hostility to 'Ammar, will be faced with God's hostility, and whoever earns 'Ammar's rancor will receive God's wrath."

  1. Safuriyah was a village in Jordan. As to the ironical remark of 'Aqil refer to the introductory part of the chapter on Wa lid. 167. Siarah of Ibn Hisham 2/114, and commentary on the Siarah of Ibn Hisham by Abu Dharr al-Khushani, died 604 of Hijrah.

'Ammar took part in the battles of al-Jamal and Siffin under 'Ali. In the latter battle whenever he proceeded towards the battlefield, he was followed by the Prophet's friends, as if the Prophet's words sounded in their ears, saying: "You will surely be killed by an unruly group!" As he was advancing followed by the companions, he sang Out the following words in the battle of Siffin: "Today is the day when together with my friends I meet Muhammad and his party."

Eventually in the same battle 'Ammar was killed by the soldiers of Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, and two of them fell upon one another in order to receive the honor of having killed him. 'Amr ibn al-'As said: "By God! These two are fighting each other for the purpose of going to hell. I swear to God that I wish to have died twenty years ago!"168

'Uthman and 'Ammar

Now that we are acquainted with 'Ammar, it would be fitting to know as to what extent 'Uthman has carried out the Prophet's recommendation about 'Ammar, and what reaction was shown by 'A'ishah, and how she has used him for pounding 'Uthman. al-Baladhuri writes: On the day that they reported to 'Uthman the death of Abu Dharr in ar-Rabadhah169 he said: "May he be blessed by God!" 'Ammar who was present said sadly: "Yes we say from the bottom of our heart, may God bless him." 'Uthman who did not expect such a reproach shouted at 'Ammar: "You villain! Are you reminding me of his exile? Go and take his place!" Then he ordered his beating.

'Ammar prepared to leave since the caliph had ordered him to do so. A number of the people of Banu Makhzum's tribe who were allied to 'Ammar, went to 'Ali, asking him to intercede with 'Uthman to cancel his order. 'Ali did so and said to 'Uthman: " 'Uthman, fear God! You have exiled a chaste man as a result of which he died there. Now you intend to treat a similar man in the same way?"

They argued for some time, and at last 'Uthman said roughly to 'Ali: "You deserve exile more than he." 'Ali answered: "You can order it if you wish!" The emigrants gathered and said to the caliph: "These wont's do that you exile anyone who has a word with you!" So 'Uthman was obliged to let 'Ammar alone.170

One day some of the Prophet's companions including al-Miqdad ibn 'Amr, 168. 'Ammar was martyred on Thursday 9th Safar of 35 after Hijrah at the age of 93. Refer to al-Isti'ab, Usd al- ghabah, al-Isabah and al-Bukhari (Chapter on jihad) and Tabaqat 1/166-189. 169. Abu Dharr al-Ghifari was a close companion of the Prophet and was respected greatly by his fellow- companions for his dignity and spiritual nobility. He was exiled to ar-Rabadhah by 'Uthman for his repeated protests to him and Mu'awiyah, where he died.Refer to the book of 'Abd Allah ibn Saba' for this matter. 170 al-Baladhuri 5/45, History of al-Ya'qubi 2/150..

'Ammar ibn Yasir, Talhah and az-Zubayr, after some consultations wrote a letter to 'Uthman enumerating his improper acts spoke about the fear of God into his heart, adding that if he did not abandon his practice, they would rise and rebel against him.171 'Ammar took the letter to him, and read a part of it. 'Uthman who had become very angry at 'Ammar's impudence and at the contents of the letter, shouted at him: "From among this group is it you alone who have resorted to this act and brought the letter?"

-Yes, because I wish you well more than others do. 'Uthman said: "You are lying, O son of Sumayyah!" 'Ammar answered: "You call me the son of Sumayyah? By God I am the son of Sumayyah and Yasir!"

'Uthman, who was greatly enraged ordered his servants to get hold of 'Ammar's legs and arms, forced him to assume the position of a crucified person, and then with the shoe on his foot gave him such a kick between the legs that he made him suffer from hernia, and fall down unconscious.

Public funds kept on private asset

Another occasion when 'Uthman quarreled with 'Ammar was when the former had taken jewels Out of the public fund. al-Baladhuri writes: In the Medinan treasury, there was a basket full of jewelry and valuable ornaments. 'Uthman had taken out some pieces to adorn one of his ladies. The people heard of this and they began to criticize and reproach 'Uthman, speaking disparagingly to him. Their protests angered him so intensely that he climbed the pulpit and said: Despite all the protests we will take whatever we wish out of this fund!

'Ali protested to him and said: "You will be stopped and not allowed to act so obstinately and seize public property." 'Ammar too shouted: "I take God as witness that I will be the first person not to tolerate such an action." 'Uthman cried Out in rage: "You scoundrel! Do you dare to be insolent towards me?" Then issued order for arresting him. They seized 'Ammar and took him to the caliph's house. When 'Uthman arrived, he ordered to bring 'Ammar to his presence. Then he beat him so hard that 'Ammar fell down unconscious and he was later thrown out of the house in the same condition. Then other people carried him to the house of Umm Salamah, wife of the Prophet.

Many hours and even the time for prayer passed and he was still unconscious. Later on, he regained consciousness and performed ablution and prayer and then said: God be praised! This is not the first time that we are tortured in the way of God!

As we have already said, 'Ammar was allied to the Banu Makhzum tribe. When Hisham ibn al-Walid al-Makhzumi learnt of such maltreatment, he 171. al-Baladhuri 5/49, al-'Iqd al-farid 2/272, and Ibn Qutaybah in al-Imamah wa as-siyasah, about the letter. protested to 'Uthman and said: "You take heed of 'Ali and Banu Hashim and do not molest them, but act unjustly towards us and beat our brother to death. By God! If 'Ammar dies I will kill a pot-bellied fellow! (Meaning 'Uthman)" 'Uthman became very angry and abused him, saying: "O son of Qasriyah!172 Do not show so much impudence." Hisham answered: "Then remember that I reach Qasriyah by two mothers!"

'Uthman ordered to expel Hisham from his house and he went straight to Umm Salamah and found her to be very uneasy about 'Ammar's affair and at the injustice done to him.

'A'ishah aiding 'Ammar

When 'A'ishah heard of 'Ammar's affair, she was greatly enraged and in protest to 'Uthman's conduct, she held up a lock of the Prophet's hair, his shirt and shoe and cried out. "How soon you have forgotten the tradition of the owner of this hair, shirt and shoe, whereas they have remained from him and have not yet gone old or worn out?"

The crowd in the mosque was greatly roused and cried out the name of God. 'Amr ibn al-'As who had been dismissed by 'Uthman as governor of Egypt and was replaced by 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh, was deeply vexed with 'Uthman. He kept on exclaiming: "I take refuge unto God!" more loudly than others, and expressed much astonishment. Meanwhile, 'Uthman was in such a rage that he could not utter a word.173

Burial of Ibn Mas'ud and al-Miqdad The burial of Ibn Mas'ud was another occasion when 'Ammar was subjected to 'Uthman's anger. Ibn Mas'ud had willed at the time of his death that 'Ammar should perform his burial prayer without informing 'Uthman. 'Ammar carried out the will, but when 'Uthman learnt of the matter, he became very angry with 'Ammar. al-Miqdad too died not long after and he too willed that 'Ammar rather than 'Uthman should perform his burial prayer. This will too was duly fulfilled by 'Ammar without informing 'Uthman. He became angrier with 'Ammar this time and exclaimed: "Woe to me at this son of a slave-girl! I knew him well!"174

What mostly draws our attention to these incidents is the confrontation of 'Uthman with 'Ammar and utterance of obscene language. In view of what is quoted from 'A'ishah in well-known commentaries to the effect that 'Uthman was a very shy, modest and polite person and that even the angels feel shy at 172. Qasriyah was an Arab tribe that had no fame and was not related to the Quraysh, and that is the reason for 'Uthman's reproachful reference to his mother. But Hisham's father was of the Quraysh and Sayyids of Banu Makhzum. So he meant by his answer that being related to Qasriyah is not a disgrace since both his mother and grandmother belonged to that tribe. (Sardar-Niya).

  1. al-Baladhuri 5/48.

  2. al-Baladhuri 5/49, History of al-Ya'qubi 2/147.

his modesty and virtue, how could such obscene words be indicative of that modesty and politeness?

Meanwhile, we observe 'A'ishah as a wise leader, organizing the people and those harmed by 'Uthman against him. He was so clear-sighted that she knew exactly what roused public feelings and excitement. On the first occasion she incited the people only by showing a shoe of the Prophet, and achieved the required result with such an act. She knew well that the same simple object would not for the second time be so effective in rousing public feelings. But at the same time, she was aware that she should not disregard the first experiment altogether. So she added the Prophet's hair and shirt to the shoe, and these simple relics of him did the trick in instigating people thereby shaking the very foundation of the caliph's rule. By these two simple but significant methods, she was able, in a clever manner, to destroy the immunity which 'Uthman had secured as an outstanding Islamic personality and the lofty position that he had gained among the Muslims as successor to the Prophet.

She was able to use appropriate means which required no proof and argument in order to exhibit the caliph's true personality, one side, and the Prophet's way and tradition, and his relics and ladies on the other, thereby destroying the respect shown to 'Uthman and considerably lowering his posi- tion and prestige in the society to such a level where an uprising against the caliph was not only considered important, but rather as something easy and practicable.

This lowering of the dignity was confined to the person of the caliph, but extended also to the position of the caliphate, since from that time onward, it no longer possessed the former respect and dignity in the Muslim society and was regarded with little credit. Consequently the people began to show insolence and disobedience openly to the caliphs who succeeded 'Uthman.

Moreover, the sequence of events showed that the relation between 'A'ishah and 'Uthman continued to be drained further. Once she had been a staunch supporter of 'Uthman, but now she became one of this strongest opponent, and as time went by her rancor and hostility towards him became sharper. It may be said that the verbal duels between them began with the reduction of her pension by him, and the passage of time, succession of events and her sharp protests which were met with even sharper responses, changed 'A'ishah from a personality who defended the interests of others into a vengeful and determined person who wished to maintain her own position, and so she came to be regarded as a strong and stubborn enemy of the caliph and caliphate. Now her opposition to 'Uthman was not merely for the sake of preservation of the interests of others but for upholding her owns personality and position in an increasing manner.