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

Part Two : 'a'ishah During Caliphates of Abu Bakr and 'umar the Two Sheikhs (elders) Reciprocal Respect

'Umar uses 'A'ishah's house as the consultative assembly's seat where the issue of the caliphate and government should be settled. Text of the book During the whole period of the caliphate of the two Elders, 'A'ishah was shown a particular respect by them. She, too, in her turn, spared no reverence towards the caliphate and exalted both the caliphs and their position publicly. 115. al-Isabah 3/385-386.

Thus her humility and modesty played an important role in winning the submission and consent of the people of the ruling caliph. The caliphs, too, showed no negligence in paying a special respect to her, winning her consent and giving her a preferential treatment over the other wives of the Prophet.

This reciprocal respect continued to be displayed throughout the rule of the two elder caliphs, especially down to the moment of 'Umar's death. Such mutual respect, friendship and modesty are perfectly evident in the last messages exchanged between 'Umar and 'A'ishah. al-Bukhari says in his book entitled "Fada'il ashab an-Nabi", and Ibn Sa'd in his Tabaqat describes 'Umar's life, quoting 'Amr ibn Maymun, in a long narration116: 'Umar told his son, 'Abd Allah, to visit 'A'ishah and deliver this message: " 'Umar sends his greetings and begs permission to have his body buried after death by the tomb of the Prophet of God and Abu Bakr's." 'Abd Allah, son of 'Umar, asked leave to enter her house and saw her sitting down and weeping. He delivered his father's message, and she answered: "I had already chosen that site for myself, but I give priority to the caliph." 'Abd Allah carried the answer to his father, and then 'Umar asked: "What news?" He answered: "All went as you wished. She has agreed." 'Umar said: "Thank God! I had hoped much for this."

He chose 'A'ishah's house as the council's seat Ibn 'Abd Rabbih says in al-'Iqd al-farid117: In his talk to six people who had been nominated as candidates for the caliphate, 'Umar had said: "On the approval and permission of 'A'ishah, get together in her house for consultation and choose one from among you as caliph." When 'Umar died and was buried, al-Miqdad ibn al-Aswad, on 'A'ishah's permission, assembled the members of the council in her house. At this time, 'Amr ibn al-'As and al-Mughayrah ibn Shu'bah arrived and sat down at her door. But Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas drove them away with pebbles, saying: "Do you intend to include yourselves in the council at 'A'ishah's house for choosing the caliph and thus claim to be equal to us?" Now that these four names are mentioned, introducing them here would not be out of place.


al-Miqdad ibn al-Aswad al-Kindi was the son of 'Amr ibn Tha'labah. Owing to a murder which had occurred in his family in pagan times, he fled to Hadhramaut, and made a pact with the Kindah tribe. Later on, owing to his 116. al-Bukhari 4/69 to 70, printed Bombay 1270, and Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd 3/337.

  1. al-'Iqd al-farid 4/275 to 277.

  2. For his biography, refer to al-Isti'ab 3/453, and al-Isabah 3/433-434. quarrel with Abu Shimr who wounded him in the leg with his sword, al- Miqdad fled to Mecca, and made a pact with al-Aswad ibn 'Abd Yaghuth to become his adopted son. Thenceforth, he came to be known as al-Miqdad ibn al-Aswad al-Kindi. When divine verdict descended that the Muslims should be given a name related to their fathers, he was renamed al-Miqdad ibn 'Amr. He died in the year 33 after the Hijrah.118 'Amr ibn al-'As

Abu 'Abd Allah or Abu Muhammad, 'Amr ibn al-'As was of the Banu Sahm of Quraysh, and his mother was Nabighah, daughter of Harmalah who was a war captive and was put up for sale in the market of 'Ukkaz. al-Fakah, son of al- Mughayrah, bought her and she was transferred later to 'Abd Allah ibn Jad'an, and then to al-'As ibn Wa'il from whom 'Amr was born (His mother, Nabighah, had been a notorious prostitute in pagan times). Quraysh sent 'Amr ibn al-'As to Abyssinia to change the attitude of an- Najashi (Negus) towards Ja'far ibn Abi Talib and other Muslims who had accompanied him in the emigration to Abyssinia, and bring them back to Mecca, but Negus turned them away.

'Amr ibn al-'As embraced Islam in the 8th year after the Hijrah, six months before the capture of Mecca. In 'Umar's caliphate, Egypt was conquered by him, and he was appointed its governor by the caliph and he held that post until the fourth year of 'Uthman's caliphate. Then he was dismissed by 'Uthman with the result that he joined 'Uthman's opponents and embarked on a propaganda and instigation against him until 'Uthman was killed. Then 'Amr joined Mu'awiyah and on the pretext of avenging 'Uthman's blood, fought 'Ali. It was also through his cunning that the shattered army of Mu'awiyah in the battle of Siffin placed copies of the Holy Qur'an atop of spears, and a battle which was on the point to putting an end to Mu'awiyah, proved inconclusive. When 'Ali's army nominated Abu Musa al-Ash'ari for arbitration, Mu'awiyah chose 'Amr ibn al-'As on his part, and eventually 'Amr ibn al-'As deceived Abu Musa, making him remove 'Ali from the caliphate, and himself named Mu'awiyah as the caliph. As a reward for this service and as a condition set by 'Amr ibn al-'As, Mu'awiyah offered him the life-long governorship of Egypt.

After killing Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, 'Amr ibn al-'As continued to hold that post until or after the year 43 of the Hijrah and was also buried there upon his death (Refer to al-Isti'ab, al-Isabah, Usd al-ghabah and Tabaqat). al-Mughayrah ibn Shu'bah al-Mughayrah, son of Shu'bah ibn Abi 'Amir ibn Mas'ud ath-Thaqafi

embraced Islam in the time of the battle of al-Khandaq, and then after emigrating to Medina took part in the battle of al-Hudaybiyah. The Prophet sent him together with Abu Sufyan to smash the idols of Thaqif in at-Ta'if. His eyes were damaged in the battle of al-Yarmuk. He was appointed by 'Umar as governor of Basra and as he was accused of adultery which was duly testified, he was dismissed by 'Umar. Sometime later, he was given the governorship of Kufah. Eventually, he died there as a governor appointed by Mu'awiyah. It is said that he married 300 or as some say, 1000 women after his conversion to Islam.119

**Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas ** Abu Ishaq Sa'd was the son of Abi Waqqas (whose name was Malik ibn Uhayb al-Qurayshi, of the Zuhri tribe). He was one of the seven pioneers who embraced Islam. He was the prime archer in the Islamic army, and took part in the battle of Badr and other battles. He acted as commander of the Islamic army in the conquest of Iraq and was the first man to capture that land. He built the town of Kufah and was appointed its governor by 'Umar. 'Umar chose him as one of the six candidates for the caliphate. He retired after 'Uthman's death, and eventually died in the year 50 after the Hijrah as a result of the poison given to him through Mu'awiyah's plot, and was buried in al-Baqi'.120 Now we resume our account and follow up the matter of reciprocal respect between 'Umar and 'A'ishah.

We see how the man who had vanquished Caesar and Kasra and seized their lands from them to break them up, the man who had dealt lashes on the backs of the Prophet's companions, thus displayed his absolute power; the man upon hearing whose name powerful kings and rulers trembled, now humbles himself before such a woman as 'A'ishah and politely begs her permission to choose his eternal resting-place. He makes her house the site for the meeting of the council to decide the question of the caliphate and the powerful rule of Islam and Muslims, thereby gaining greater honour and credit in the eyes of the world of Islam to her house and her person, and through a typical act of opportunism reinforced her rank and position in the hearts of the Muslims and Islamic society even in the last moments of his life.

So, in this and many other ways, 'Umar during his rule, gave such a distinction to 'A'ishah over her equals and other Muslims that it made the Islamic society subordinate to the glory and greatness of this lady, thereby giving her such a power with which she was able to rise in combat against the two succeeding caliphs and oppose them.

Indeed she went so far in her opposition to 'Uthman and 'Ali, the two sons- in-law of the Prophet, that she incited the Muslims to shed their blood, whereas 119. al-Isabah 3/432, al-Isti'ab 3/368, and Usd al-ghabah 4/406.

  1. al-Isti'ab on al-Isabah 2/18-25, al-Isabah 2/30-32.

both of them were the Prophet's companions and caliphs of the Muslims, and were considered as the Prophet's successors. With the power and influence which she had gained, she was able to engage daringly and with a surprising insolence in such great tasks and similar ventures, and in the same way that she had acted after the Prophet's death, she managed once again to use her genius and intelligence in determining the course of the history of Islam, and play a most sensitive role in it.

A summary of the previous account

As the government of the time relied on 'A'ishah's verdict and instructions and increased her pension, her name was given precedence over the names of other wives of the Prophet.

Text of the book From the previous account we may sum it up that since the government of the time (especially during the rule of the elder caliphs) received instructions and verdicts from 'A'ishah and granted her a higher pension than the other ladies of the Prophet, her name was mentioned above them and very often there was no mention of their names at all. The reason was that the caliph paid much attention to her, and this attitude paved the way for her to attain her goals and carry' out her inherent ambitions. Thus she gained a high position in the Islamic society down to the present day.

There was one exception, namely that she was not allowed (like the other ladies of the Prophet and his companions) to leave Medina, and consequently she could associate with none but the Prophet's aides. Therefore, there arose no occasion to discuss many of the Prophet's traditions, since most of her contemporaries, especially the Medinans, had the chance of direct contact with the Prophet, with the result that her traditions, like those of others during the rule of the two elder caliphs, are very scanty, probably no more than a few scores in number. It is also likely that this very number, narrated by her during this period, comprised the same traditions which were related to endorsing the position of 'Umar and her father, as caliphs, in which there is no when during her whole life, she was one of the staunchest supporters of the rule of the two elders. Moreover, her traditions about the excellence of Abu Bakr and 'Umar are not confined to their reigns, since after their death as compared with their life-time, she has narrated many traditions concerning their virtues and qualities.

We saw also that at the end of this period, 'Umar, who was highly regarded by the Prophet's intimate companions and respected by the rulers of the time for his power, and was obeyed by various nations, showed such a reverence and honor to her that he obtained her permission to make her house the venue of the council, and her agreement to make the Prophet's house his own eternal dwelling.

For those reasons he granted her out of the public fund a larger amount of pension than what was given to the other wives of the Prophet. On various occasions, too, she was consulted by him about the Prophet's methods and traditions and asked for instructions. He regarded her as the only great personality and commander in the world of Islam next to himself. It was through this same power and influence that she was able to face the next two caliphs, rouse the people to kill them and assume a leading role in determining the course of Islamic history.