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

Support of Islam

All the above points show that the glory and greatness of Islam are based on its laws and teachings, not on its followers, and this greatness is not the product of the support and confirmation by its followers so as to expose it to annihilation by them.

I myself believe that if the entire world rises to fight and joins hands to destroy it, there cannot be inflicted the slights damage upon its glory and greatness. Similarly, if the whole world join hands to glorify and support it, nothing can be added to that glory and greatness; for, the secret of Islam lies in its lofty principles, and the secret of those principles lies in themselves not in the visage of its followers. This is a point which is understood only by true scholars and learned people. Therefore, if the pioneers of Islam and the Prophet's companions are subjected to discussion and criticism and their life, words and deeds are analyzed in detail in order to introduce the wicked and dishonest persons to the world of Islam, no damage will be done to Islam and its spiritual truth. On the contrary, an Islam which lays the foundation of justice through its injunctions, and declares the equality of all human beings in the eyes of the law, will allow such a survey and criticism, and particularly insist upon such an investigation and criticism for the sake of discovering truth and leading people towards their right destination.

Why should we go that far? The great reformer of humanity, Muhammad, has in his wise guidance, directly and indirectly encouraged us to follow truth alone and accept and support truth only because of its being right irrespective of individuals, even if it were in the interest of a poor and helpless person, and also to rise up against falsehood and corruption, even if it is to the detriment of a noble and distinguished individual, and to make no discrimination between the noble and ignoble for the enforcement of divine punishments.

Muhammad and enforcement of justice

It is narrated in the traditions of Sahih that Usamah ibn Zayd whose father and himself were respected by the Prophet, one day interceded with him to exempt a noble woman of Quraysh who had committed theft, from being given due punishment, but that great reformer and divine Prophet refused to accept this intercession and uttered his well-known and everlasting remark about this matter, saying: "O people! Your predecessors wasted away everything of theirs! They let alone a noble person, who had committed theft, whereas they punished a weak and unknown thief! I swear to God that if Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad, committed theft, I would cut off her hand!"

It was with such final words that the Prophet, the founder of the principles of justice and equality, refused not to enforce the punishment prescribed by heavenly laws upon that noble woman of al-Makhzumi tribe, despite her high rank and dignity among her own people.6 In this way, the Prophet abolished class differences hundreds of years before theorists of communism tried to remove them. At a time when he declared the law of justice and equality, he made all people equal under that law, and gave personal help to abstemious, shelterless and distressed people against the powerful and infamous tyrants. This law has been clearly expressed in the Qur'an, and holy and prophetic traditions. The Qur'an says:

"O you men! Surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful of his duty." 7 The holy tradition says: "Whoever puts into practice my order, will have heaven for his abode even if he is an Abyssinian slave, and he who disobeys will have the fire of hell for his seat, even if he is a dignitary of the Quraysh." Most of the noble traditions of the Prophet are manifest examples of the height of humanity and justice.

The close and distant friends of Muhammad

Where the Prophet speaks of future and unveils occurrences, he describes his companions after his demise as follows: some of them will proceed worthily in the way of God, while some others will deviate; a number rise up against justice, while others will resort to mutiny and injustice.

He addressed 'Ammar and said: "O 'Ammar! You will be killed by a group of rebellious and tyrannical individuals!" And he said to 'Ali: "O 'Ali! Do you know the most miserable of past and future people?" 'Ali answered: "God and His prophet are more aware." The Prophet said: "The most miserable of past people was he who cut off the leg of the Thamud tribe's camel; and the most miserable of the future persons is he who kills you."8

All these points show that without any doubt the Prophet's companions differ from each other in terms of their rank and position like other people. Some of them have attained the highest degree of perfection, virtue and humanity, whereas some others have remained in the abyss of meanness and corruption, and not all of them have succeeded to gain honour as companions of the Prophet or to find the way leading to truth and perfection, and thus to win equality with others.

This being the case, would this law that believes the companions and other people are equal in the religion of Islam and makes dignity and superiority dependent upon the degree of chastity and performance of sacred injunctions of Islam, not be the most adequate reason for that group of people who have not 6.Sahih Muslim 5/114.

7.The Holy Qur'an, Chapter al-Hujurat, Verse 13. wa as-siyasah, Ibn Qutaybah 1/119, Printed in Cairo.

yet abandoned the way of caution, to permit a discussion and a critical survey of the Prophet's companions? A companion who has not followed the path of truth and has not submitted to the sacred law of Islam, cannot claim a distinction only by being a companion of the Prophet, in the same way that the people of our own time who have been separated greatly from the era of the Prophet, but have fully understood his holy principles and have been deeply influenced by Islam, cannot be reproached for not having lived in the Prophet's time and not having had the good fortune of being his companions.

In fact, there are many individuals who are near in appearance, but far in reality, whereas there may be many who are far in appearance, and yet close in reality. In my opinion, we and the Prophet's companions are equal in our call for truth and the need for propagating the exalted laws of Islam.

Indeed, the greatest distinction gained by the Prophet's companions in benefiting from his association has been their opportunity to have personal contact with and received direct command from the master of the faith. It should be remembered that this distinction has no more than two aspects: Firstly, the great blessing of his companionship and receiving his direct command without intermediary, and secondly it is the most convincing sign and decisive argument for the companion himself.

If the companionship with the Prophet could, in itself, provide the means for his intercession on the day of resurrection, and protect the companion from criticism, and keep him immune from hardships and upheaval of time, and prevent the issuance of a verdict by the Muslims for or against him, the Prophet would never have uttered these historical and everlasting words to his dearest child: "O Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet of God! Ask me whatever you wish, for before the threshold of divine justice, the fact of your being the daughter of the Prophet will be of no avail to you."9

This historical statement was uttered by the Prophet to his daughter on the day when the following verse descended to him: "Inform your close relations." Indeed, the lofty principles laid down by the Prophet about justice and equality consider all people equally in carrying out the punishments based on Islamic injunctions.

Some time ago, research scholar Mr. Murtada 'Askari presented his book "Ahadith of Umm al-Mu'minin 'A'ishah" to men of learning and scholars, especially to two groups of readers who fervently sought truth, heartily desired to discern the philosophy of Islamic history, and comprehend the reasons and history of the canon law and its principles. He engaged himself in this research at a time when he came across undeniable documents concerning the life of 9.This tradition is among those quoted from 'A'ishah, Umm al-Mu'minin. It will be discussed in the subsequent volumes of this book. (Sardar-Niya)

Umm al-Mu'minin 'A'ishah, and he made use of them to present the truth, and express his views freely. However telling the truth and seeking it are regarded as an unforgivable offence by the short-sighted and by those who think it improper to criticize and issue a verdict of any kind against each of the Prophet's companions, since they themselves have enforced a limit for this survey and investigations about those companions.

Mr. 'Askari has, in his book, fully adopted the method of critics and researchers by employing scientific sequence and scrutiny, and explained in his introduction the difficulties and obstacles which existed in the way of investigation for all seekers of truth. One of these obstacles may be a scholar's attachment to his own feelings and partiality, causing him to prefer one group or personality to another, due to his prejudice, while this may be contrary to truth. Or owing to self-interest and adverse motive, he may resort to every trick in order to conceal truth. This is the way of some writers who try to establish some concordance between two opposite views. This concordance may seem agreeable, but it is obvious that two contrary views and aspects cannot be brought together to create harmony.

Mr. 'Askari has succeeded in removing in his own discussion such defects, which exist in the way of every scholar's investigation. He pursues a definite goal from which he has not deviated, and he has not made personalities and authorities the axis of his task, since his aim has been to discover truth. Moreover, he has been able to lay aside his own feelings and inclinations, and allow perfect freedom to intellect alone in issuing verdicts, avoiding all blind and misleading prejudices, and showing no preference to one group over another, even if that group belongs to his own sect. It would be no exaggeration to say that Mr. 'Askari has laid down a firm and steadfast rule in the method of his investigation. What mostly attracts scholars apart from the apparent form of this book and wins their praise and admiration, is the fact that he has been able to observe the general law in his scientific discussion, and analyze the traditions of Umm al-Mu'minin with perfect care and caution, and thus reveal the truth with all its manifestations.

'Ali's assassination and 'A'ishah's praise of God

Historical evidence compels us to express doubt about some of the traditions of Umm al-Mu'minin, such as the traditions which speak of the caliphate of the two elders (Abu Bakr and 'Umar) without a mention of 'Ali, and also the traditions related to the qualities of the two elder caliphs and 'Uthman and 'Ali's ways, since in these traditions, feeling and interest have played an important role, for, her relationship with Abu Bakr was one between a daughter and father. Similarly, her words about 'Umar are very different from her expressions about 'Ali who was considered a rival of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. Also, her rise against 'Uthman and her incitement of people to shed his blood, and then her uprising, for the sake of avenging his death, are other arguments, which make us, doubt the truth of her words.

In the same way, her actions against 'Ali, her aids to his enemies and her alliance with Talhah and az-Zubayr who had broken their vow with 'Ali, and her starting the fire of the battle of al-Jamal, are all clear examples of her rancor and long-standing hostility towards such a chaste Imam as 'Ali, using those acts as a means to create division and dispersion among the Muslims. She felt such a pain in her heart about 'Ali that it gave her no tranquility. Even when she heard the news of the Imam's assassination, she prostrated herself to thank God, and recited a couplet expressing her feeling.

Each of her traditions is related to one of such important historical events, which should be treated with caution, and discovery of truth gives her a higher position than her personality and one's own inclinations.

Moreover, a companion of the Prophet may, like other people, err in his verdict and judgment, since so long as a human being, whoever he may be, acts upon his own opinion and taste, he may be right or wrong. But an investigator has no right to lay aside wisdom and intelligence, humble himself before great personalities, and conceal the truth. He is not permitted in his evaluation, to place right and wrong views on the same level. His duty is to state the truth in its full sense.

In addition, when we agree that every authority may err and blunder and hence will be called to account at the threshold of divine justice, Umm al- Mu'minin will not be exempted from this rule, and no injustice is done to her. From the viewpoint of scientific and research method, injustice occurs when we give a prejudiced judgment about 'Ali and 'A'ishah, and consider them to be equal from the viewpoint of justice, or when we regard 'Ali, who proceeded in the right path, as an authority to be at par with those who had gone astray, such as 'A'ishah, Mu'awiyah and other companions who rose in opposition to and dispute with 'Ali.

'Ali regarded God as his governor

'Ali, not in his capacity as the "Gate of the City of Knowledge" and the Guardian appointed by Muhammad, not only because he uttered the truth strongly and explicitly and defended it staunchly and thus gave religion strength and consistency, and not because of all the above qualities, but on account of the fact that he has been the possessor of all the attributes of perfection in its full sense, has attained his status.

What has placed 'Ali above everyone else is the fact that in all his words and deeds, he regarded God as his supervisor and a watchful governor, and was strict upon himself in the interest of the Muslims, preferring public and Muslim society's interests to his own and worldly gains. During his Caliphate, the noblest stage of humanity and perfection of a human being is distinguished in such a rank and position. He, in this period in particular, was a perfect model in his food, dress, justice of his verdicts, and avoidance of the deceptive manifestation of the world.

While others exerted great efforts to secure Caliphate, in the case of 'Ali it was caliphate itself, which hastened towards him. Others preferred their interests and those of their relatives to public interests, but 'Ali placed public interests before those of his own and his kinsmen.

At the time 'Ali was in Kufah, his brother 'Aqil ibn Abi Talib joined him. 'Ali welcomed and asked him why he had come to Kufah. 'Aqil said: "My salary is not adequate for our livelihood, and the high cost of living in Medina has put me heavily in debt. I have come to ask for your help to save me from this situation."

'Ali said: "I swear to God that I have nothing but my own salary. So you must wait until the due time of payment so that you may receive it instead of me." 'Aqil said: "Do you think that I have come so far from Hejaz in the hope of receiving your salary? Of what worth is your share of salary to me? How can it solve my problem?" The chaste Imam answered: "Do you know of any worldly goods belonging to me? Or do you expect God to burn time in the fire of hell for offering Muslims' funds to a relative?"

Thus 'Aqil who could not tolerate the justice of a chaste Imam as 'Ali, turned to and joined Mu'awiyah who made no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate acts, and regarded public funds as his personal property. This event acquaints us with 'Ali's personality and the extent of his chastity and degree of preferring public interests to those of himself and his kinsmen. It can be claimed without any doubt that none of the Prophet's companions but 'Ali had attained such a height of humanity and perfection; or, he himself has, in all sincerity, uttered his famous and immortal phrase saying: "O world, deceive others but not me!"

'Ali and the Caliphate

I do not think there is any companion of the Prophet whose verdict and authority may not be subject to comments except 'Ali about whose authority there does not exist the slightest room for criticism. I make this statement with full courage since it is confirmed by all the political events that have occurred in Islam.

'Umar interfered in the matter of caliphate with the result that Abu Bakr succeeded to get that position. In his decree he argued that he had checked riot and sedition, and after Abu Bakr he shouldered that heavy responsibility, and on many occasions, confessed his own mistake in giving his verdict in favor of Abu Bakr's caliphate. At that time when some of the companions spoke to him about the allegiance to his son 'Abd Allah, he answered: "It is enough for 'Umar's household to have one person responsible and to be called to account at the threshold of divine justice about Muhammad's ummah." But 'Ali explained, contrary to the two elders and concerning the matter of caliphate, that he was engaged in a more important task, namely preparing the body of the Prophet for burial.10

This was the greatest criticism leveled always against Abu Bakr and 'Umar, showing, 'Ali to be entitled against those two. In the election of the caliph after 'Umar, 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn 'Awf gave his verdict upon 'Ali and 'Uthman who were two of the six candidates for the Caliphate nominated by 'Umar, and notified to those two the duty of the caliph in relation to his own verdict. Although he knew that 'Ali would not submit to his authority, he began first by proposing to 'Ali the acceptance of the terms of caliphate.

'Ali accepted that duty to the extent of his power and ability, and assurance of his conscience before God and His prophet. But 'Uthman, in order not to let the chance of caliphate escape him, accepted unconditio

nally all those conditions, irrespective of his power and ability. In accepting the terms of the son of 'Awf, 'Ali was more eager to win the consent of God and His prophet, and Muslims' interests than to gain the position of caliph and command, whereas 'Uthman cherished that position rather than anything else. God knows whether, at the outset, 'Uthman possessed perfect discernment of the task faced by him, or whether he realized it, later on, since this is an internal matter about which we cannot issue a verdict and we can only judge by appearance.

Historical verdicts of 'A'ishah

At first 'A'ishah agreed to 'Uthman's caliphate and confirmed it. Then she turned against him and gave an opposite verdict. For that reason, her authority is not reliable. But 'Ali, despite establishing the reasons for his rivalry with 'Uthman on the issue of caliphate, did not, unlike 'A'ishah, rise in conflict with 'Uthman.

After 'Uthman was killed, 'Ali refused to accept allegiance of Talhah and az- Zubayr except in the mosque and in the presence of all people, and when they forced him to accept caliphate, he rose in the mosque and said: "I was weary of becoming your caliph, but you favored only my command. Remember that I shall take no step except with your approval and advice. I hold the keys to your public funds, but I shall never take one drachma of it without your approval." 10.For this reason, 'Ali did not attend the penthouse of Banu Sa'idah, and in his absence, Abu Bakr and 'Umar hastily embarked on electing the caliph. If they had wanted for the conclusion of the Prophet's burial ceremony so that 'Ali could attend their gathering, such events would not have taken place, and the course of Islamic history would have been different. (Sardar-Niya)

Then he asked: "Do you agree to this?" The people shouted their agreement, and 'Ali said: "O God! Be their witness," and then he accepted the caliphate. 'Ali had made the right decision and thus he left no excuse for people, since it was they who forced him to accept that position and not because he himself desired it. Therefore, anyone who shirked his duty and opposed 'Ali, would be a traitor and guilty, and he who remained loyal would be a true believer. 'A'ishah resorted to a verdict once again, namely when she rose to oppose the murderers of 'Uthman and avenge his murder, and formally collaborated with Talhah and az-Zubayr who had broken their pact with 'Ali and trampled upon their allegiance with him. This motivated action showed that it was not free from spite and grudge so that the people accused her of having risen, not to avenge 'Uthman's blood, but intending to cause division and dispersion among the Muslims and scattering people from around 'Ali. Had there been anyone else in 'Ali's place, she would not have resorted to such an action.

Umm Salamah's historical letter to 'A'ishah

'A'ishah's action in fighting 'Ali was the second split that occurred in the foundation of Islam after 'Umar's move with regard to caliphate. This statement is not a personal opinion expressed for a particular motive. They are undeniable facts about which just leaders of nations and well-known impartial historians are unanimous.

The action of 'A'ishah has been despised by supporters of justice and truth since the time of the Prophet's companions. A witness to this claim is Umm Salamah, another consort of the Prophet. She wrote a letter of counsel to 'A'ishah, asking her to abstain from this action, and warned her against the Creation of division and dispersion among the Muslims. The letter goes like this:

"From Umm Salamah, wife of the Prophet of God, to 'A'ishah, Umm al- Mu'minin. I praise Unique God and confess His uniqueness. But now, you have, with your action, torn the veil of respect between the Prophet of God (p.b.u.h.) and his nation, and desecrated it. The Qur'an has gathered up your skirt; so do not obstinately drag it along. Your rank and position are secure; so do not lose them in a futile manner. Fear Unique God Who is the guardian of this ummah! If the Prophet of God had considered it worthy of women to fight, he would certainly have issued a command in this connection. Do you not know that he has forbidden you from challenging others. For, if any deviation takes place in the pillar of religion, it will never be corrected by the force of women, and not repaired by them. The holy war of women is to observe self-control, chastity and contentment.

If the exalted Prophet sees you driving your camel in the desert form one watering place to another, what will you say to him? You are bound to hasten towards him sooner or later. I dare say that if they tell me: 'O Umm Salamah, enter heaven', I would feel ashamed in meeting the Prophet while I have shown disrespect to him.

Therefore, veil yourself and remain peacefully in your house. You will be doing the greatest service to this nation if you do nothing for them. I know also that if I were to inform you of a remark I have from the holy Prophet, you will writhe like one bitten by a snake! That is all." This letter is another evidence that 'A'ishah had erred in her judgment, and confirms this point that the reason for her uprising had not really been others' interest in society and solidarity of the Muslims. Moreover, none of the consorts of the Prophet assisted her in this uprising.