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

Part Three 'a'ishah in the Time of 'uthman's Rule

Who was 'Uthman?

Abu 'Abd Allah and Abu 'Amr 'Uthman was the son of 'Affan, and grandson of Abu al-'As ibn Umayyah al-Qurayshi. His mother was Arwa, daughter of Kurayz ibn Rabi'ah ibn 'Abd Shams, while Arwa's mother was al-Bayda', daughter of 'Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's aunt.121 'Uthman was from the group of men who were the first in embracing Islam. He married Ruqayyah, daughter of the Prophet and emigrated with her to Abyssinia, and after his return from there, went over to Medina. 'Uthman did not take part in the battle of Badr on the excuse of nursing his sick wife, Ruqayyah, and when she died, he married Umm Kulthum, another daughter of the Prophet. She, too, died while her father was alive. 'Uthman did not have any children from the Prophet's daughters.

When 'Umar was wounded by Abu Lu'lu'ah Firuz, slave of al-Mughayrah, he on his death bed nominated 'Uthman as one of the six members of the council, but made the final choice of the caliph subject to the agreement of 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn 'Awf who was also on the six-member council.

Speaking in such a council, 'Abd ar-Rahman stated: "I will forego my being chosen as caliph or the condition that you accept my nominee." When they agreed to this proposal, he too declared that for assuming the position of caliph, one must act upon the Book of God, the Prophet's tradition and policy of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. He made this offer first to 'Ali, but 'Ali refused the last of the conditions.122 Consequently, 'Abd ar-Rahman and after him the council 121. Refer to his biography in al-Isti'ab, Usd al-ghabah, al-Isabah and Tabaqat.

  1. On his death-bed, 'Umar nominated six of the companions of the Prophet as candidates for the caliphate after his ('Umar's) death, arranging that they should choose one from amongst themselves as within three days, in this manner. If the majority voted for someone and the rest opposed it, these opposers should be beheaded, and if the votes were equally divided in two groups, then the winner would be the group to which 'Abd ar- Rahman belonged. We saw that 'Abd ar-Rahman sidelined himself after 'Umar's death on condition that his nominee should be accepted by the others. He knew 'Ali well and was acquainted with his mentality and his knowledge of the Islamic laws, apart from knowing that 'Ali would never sacrifice the injunctions of God and His prophet for the covetings of a group of selfish and ambitious individuals, or waste twenty-three year long efforts of the Prophet for a few days of rule and assumption of power. Consequently 'Ali would not accept the ways and policies of Abu Bakr and 'Umar.

'Umar himself was aware of this, and he may well have given 'Abd ar-Rahman certain instructions how to act in this case. In view of this matter, and as the course of history and available evidence show, and because of the collusions behind closed doors in those days, we see that 'Abd ar- Rahman could not agree with 'Ali's caliphate upon his refusal to accept the third condition. 'Ali was not prepared to sell his faith for this world of theirs, and knowing well that with his refusal to follow the ways of the two elder caliphs, he would lose the chance of being chosen as caliph, he replied at once: "I accept the Book of God and the Prophet's tradition, but not the ways of the two sheikhs. I adopt my own way." If 'Abd ar-Rahman members pledged allegiance to 'Uthman on Saturday, first of Muharram, 24th year after Hijrah, three days after the burial of 'Umar, since 'Uthman had accepted all the conditions laid down by 'Abd ar-Rahman.

'Uthman became caliph and ruled for twelve years. The period of 'Uthman's rule can be divided into two parts: the period of confirmation and support, and the period of wrath and rebellion. It was that same wrath and rebellion as well as people's uprising against the confusion in the country and the selfishness of 'Uthman's companions, most of whom were the Umayyads, which caused 'Uthman's overthrow and death, and made the assassination of the caliph something simple and feasible.

As we said in our account of 'A'ishah, in people's uprising against 'Uthman and his assassination by the rebels, 'A'ishah played a very effective role. There is a difference of opinion about the date of 'Uthman's death, and it is stated to have occurred between 12th and 28th of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah of the year 35 AH. His age, too, at the time of his death is stated to have been between 82 and 92. His body was buried after three days outside the al-Baqi' cemetery in a place called Hash Kawkab, which was the Jews' cemetery, surrounded by four walls. When Mu'awiyah became caliph, he ordered the demolition of the walls, and thus 'Uthman's grave came to be included among the Muslims' graves in al- Baqi' cemetery.

'A'ishah and 'Uthman the period of confirmation and support

'A'ishah, like other chiefs of Quraysh, rose up to support 'Uthman's caliphate Text of the book The initial years of 'Uthman's rule were similar to those of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, and 'A'ishah thought that she would continue; as in the past, to enjoy the respect shown to her by 'Uthman as the next caliph to receive advantages above other wives of the Prophet, and constantly have a free hand in the settlement of affairs. It was owing to these expectations that 'A'ishah, like other Quraysh chiefs, decided to support 'Uthman, and by issuing some traditions about 'Uthman gave him the benefit of her unsparing support and also to his caliphate for six years.

The traditions which are narrated from 'A'ishah in praise and eulogy of had made his proposal to other members of the council, they would have undoubtedly accepted it. But we see that next to 'Ali, he made the proposal to 'Uthman, his own son-in-law, and 'Uthman accepted it without the slightest hesitation. Indeed, what were the ways and policies of the two elder caliphs upon which 'Abd ar- Rahman insisted, and which were refused by 'Ali? (Sardar-Niya) 'Uthman with no mention being made of his death, belong, in all probability, to this short period namely the period of her support of 'Uthman.

Here we give examples of such traditions as quoted by Musnad of Ahmad:

'A'ishah said: " The Prophet and I were lying down under the same cloak when Abu Bakr arrived and asked permission to enter. The Prophet, remaining where he was, gave him permission to come in, and after fulfilling his wish, Abu Bakr left the room. After Abu Bakr, 'Umar asked permission to meet the Prophet, and he too was admitted to his presence in the same way , and then dispatched after meeting his wish. Then 'Uthman arrived and asked to meet This time the Prophet rose and after arranging his dress admitted him. After attending to his affair the Prophet let him leave. At this time, I said to the Prophet: 'When Abu Bakr and 'Umar came in, you received them without changing your position, but on 'Uthman's arrival you arranged your garment as if you felt shy of him.' He answered: 'You see, 'Uthman is a shy and modest fellow. I feared that if he saw me in that condition, his shyness would prevent him from stating his wish.' "

According to another narration123 'A'ishah says: "The Prophet was lying down in bed and had covered himself up with my cloak. When 'Uthman begged leave to meet him, he told me to cover myself up. I said: 'O Prophet of God! -You did not get nervous at the arrival of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. How is it, Len, that you prepare yourself so carefully and arrange your clothes in order to receive 'Uthman?' He said: 'O 'A'ishah!124 Why should I not show respect to him when, I swear to God, angels too are respectful to him in his presence?' "

In our opinion, the narration and publication of this tradition date back to the time of 'Uthman's caliphate, since as we have already stated in this tradition the names of the three above caliphs are mentioned in the order of their assumption of power and this may assure us that the date of the above tradition was subsequent to the rule of the two elder caliphs and assumption of power by 'Uthman.

It shows also that the above tradition must have been narrated before the commencement of differences between 'A'ishah and 'Uthman, and her disaffection with him, and before his assassination and quite a long time before her decision to kill him; for, otherwise in this tradition, like other similar traditions narrated about 'Uthman, his assassination would have been mentioned.

In addition to what has already been said, the points that create considerable doubt in this tradition are:

1-As the Prophet himself was a symbol of Etiquette and politeness and 123. Muslim 7/117 Chapter on 'Uthman's virtue, Musnad Ahmad 6/155.

  1. Sahih of Muslim 7/116, Musnad Ahmad 6/62, Kanz 6/376 tradition No. 5845 and 6/148 tradition No. 2413 and 2417, p. 382 tradition No. 5904, Selections of Kanz 5/2 and 17, History of Ibn 'Asakir, Ansab al-ashraf of al-Baladhuri.

greatest teacher, how can he admit Abu Bakr and 'Umar, while in a restful position under a cloak with his wife without a feeling of shyness and modesty, whereas on the arrival of 'Uthman, he hastily dresses himself and tells 'A'ishah to do so too? 2-Moreover, why should the Prophet resort to discrimination between the above three leading companions of his, and how is it that the angels feel shy of 'Uthman alone?

The period of wrath and rebellion 'A'ishah was the first to rise against 'Uthman and take over the leadership of his opponents till he was killed.


In the first half of 'Uthman's rule 'A'ishah supported him and always showed obedience to him without fail. Even when she and the other wives of the Prophet intended to make a Hajj pilgrimage, first she asked his permission. In this connection, she says: "When 'Umar passed away and 'Uthman held the rein of affairs, I, Umm Salamah, Maymunah and Umm Habibah sent someone to ask him leave for Hajj pilgrimage." 'Uthman sent this answer: "You remember the way of 'Umar. Like him, I will take you with me to the pilgrimage. So I am ready to take with me any of you, ladies of the Prophet, wishing to undertake a Hajj pilgrimage." 'Uthman fulfilled his promise and took us to this Hajj pilgrimage except Zaynab who had died in 'Umar's time and had not accompanied him on pilgrimage, while Sudah, daughter of Zam'ah and we were veiled from public eyes.125

In that year, 'Uthman accompanied these ladies to Mecca and entrusted their protection to 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn 'Awf and Sa'd ibn Zayd. But this atmosphere of amity did not last long, and with the passage of time, differences arose between 'A'ishah and 'Uthman, with the result that 'Uthman deducted from her pension the two thousand dinars which 'Umar had added to it. al-Ya'qubi says in his history126: "An umbrage occurred between 'A'ishah and 'Uthman and he deducted from her pension the two thousand dinars which 'Umar had added as a privilege over the other wives of the Prophet and put her salary on the same scale as theirs."

We do not know the exact date of the commencement of the dispute, but we 125. Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd 8/209.

  1. History of al-Ya'qubi 2/132, History of Ibn A'tham 155.

know only that it ensued in the second half of 'Uthman's rule. We know also that it was not a sudden incident, but was something gradual, which was intensified until the split between them, became very deep.

We know also that 'A'ishah was the first person to show open opposition to 'Uthman and gather the dissidents to the caliphate around her and act as their leader until the caliph was killed.127 It is also certain that when the tension and opposition to 'Uthman and people's uprising against him were at their height, the hostility of no tribe and Muslim family of that time was as intense towards 'Uthman as that of the Taym tribe to which the family of Abu Bakr belonged. Among the matters which increasingly kindled the128 flame of dispute between 'A'ishah and 'Uthman and made hostility more evident and public, was the subject of al-Walid ibn 'Uqbah, half-brother of 'Uthman, and Ibn Mas'ud Sahabi, a chaste and popular man, each of whom we will deal with separately.

al-Walid ibn 'Uqbah and governorship of Kufah

We see that in the Qur'an, al-Walid ibn 'Uqbah has been introduced as a wicked man who was notorious for winebibbing and obscene acts. Text of the book We said that 'Uthman on his assumption of power, was supported by 'A'ishah and for six years he benefited from this support of the lady of early Islam, and spared no effort in showing respect and honor to her. But as time went by, difference arose between them and they began forming factions and fronts. 'A'ishah, in order to show 'Uthman her power and influence with people, made use of every possible occasion to rouse people's antagonism towards him. This hostility reached such a point where these two figures were ready to make attempts on one another's life.

'Uthman appointed al-Walid, his sinning. Debauchee and winebibbing half- brother, as governor of Kufah, an act which obviously caused this man's confrontations with the people of Kufah and created pretexts for 'A'ishah to attack 'Uthman. We will now look through the history and earlier centuries to give an idea of that period, the deeds of al-Walid, the people's reactions and 'A'ishah's attitude and steps.

al-Walid was the son of 'Uqbah and grandson of Abu Mu'ayt ibn Abi 'Amr,

  1. at-Tabari 5/172 in the accounts of the year 36, talk between Ibn Kilab and 'A'ishah.

  2. Ansab al-ashraf of al-Baladhuri 5/68.

called Dhakwan. Dhakwan was a paid slave of Umayyah ibn 'Abd Shams who adopted him as son. al-Walid's mother, Arwa, was the daughter of Kurayz ibn Rabi'ah, 'Uthman's mother. Thus al-Walid became 'Uthman's brother on his mother's side. 'Uqbah, al-Walid's father was a neighbor of the Prophet in Mecca and at the beginning of the Prophet's ordainment, he frequented his sessions.

One day 'A'ishah had invited a number of guests to his house and had asked the Prophet, too, to attend this feast. The Prophet accepted the invitation, but abstained from eating anything except on the condition that 'Uqbah express faith in the Unique God. 'Uqbah agreed to do so and thus embraced Islam. When the Qurayshis learnt of this matter, they said: " 'Uqbah has abandoned the faith of his ancestors." 'Uqbah had a friend who was not present in Mecca at that time, being on a journey to ash-Sham. On his return one night he asked his wife: "How are Muhammad and his claims?" She answered: "He is persevering getting on." -"What is my friend 'Uqbah doing?" -"He, too, has given up his ancestors' faith and accepted Muhammad's religion."

'Uqbah's friend129 became very uneasy on hearing this and spent an uncomfortable night. Next morning when 'Uqbah came to see him and greeted him, he did not look at him and remained silent. 'Uqbah asked: "Why do you not return my greeting?" -"How can I do so when you have abandoned your religion?" -"Have Quraysh, too, made such a supposition about me?" -"Yes."

-"What can I do to change their opinion about me?" -"It's very simple. You can enter Muhammad's session, spit on his face and insult him with the worst of abuses." 'Uqbah acted upon his friend's suggestion and did what he should not have done. The Prophet showed no reaction to 'Uqbah's misconduct, and only wiped his face, and turning to 'Uqbah said: "If I ever get hold of you outside Mecca, I will cut off your head!" According to another narration, the conversation between 'Uqbah and his friend was as follows:

-''Uqbah! Have you abandoned your ancestors' faith?" -"No! It is not so. One day Muhammad was a guest in my house and swore that if did not embrace Islam, he would not touch my food. I felt embarrassed and to please him I uttered the words testifying the belief in God. But I did not do it in seriousness and sincerity."

-"I won't look at you again unless you spit on Muhammad's face and kick 129. In some narrations, this friend is said to be Ibn Ubayy ibn Khalaf, and in others Umayyah ibn Khalaf. and slap him, thus showing your dislike of him." 'Uqbah saw the Prophet prostrating in Dar an-Nudwah and carried out his friend's suggestion in full. The Prophet said to him: "If I ever see you outside Mecca, I will cut off your head."

From that time onward, 'Uqbah became one of the most headstrong enemies of the Prophet and went so far as to get hold of a sheep's tripe and throw its filthy contents on the Prophet's head.130

When the battle of Badr began, and 'Uqbah's friends hastened to join the infidels in the fight with the Prophet, they proposed to him, too, to join them in the combat, but he excused himself, saying: "I fear this man since he warned me that if he ever found me outside Mecca, he would cut off my head." His friends said: "You have a red-haired camel under you, and if we happen to be defeated and are to retreat, you can easily flee and save yourself.' They kept on persuading him until he agreed to join them, and he took part in the battle. When the battle started the Muslims with divine aid inflicted a severe defeat on the infidels. At that time in a stampede 'Uqbah's camel shied off and carried him to an open desert. The Muslims arrived and took him and seventy others captive. When they brought him to the Prophet, he looked at 'Uqbah and ordered to kill him. When 'Uqbah heard this order, he cried out madly: "Why do you want to kill me alone out of so many captives?" The Prophet said:

"Your guilt is cardinal. You are to be killed because you showed infidelity to God and His prophet and committed injustice." Then he ordered 'Ali to cut his head off.

The following verse has descended about him: "And the day when the unjust shall bite his hands, saying: O! would that I had taken away with the Apostle; O woe is me! would that I had not taken such a one for a friend! Certainly he led me astray from the reminder after it had come to me; and the Satan foils to aid man." 131

The Qur'an introduces al-Walid

al-Walid is the son of the same 'Uqbah. On the day that Mecca was captured by the Muslims and the Prophet and when there was no escape for the infidels and those who had gone astray, he embraced Islam, and after some time, the Prophet sent him to the tribe of Banu al-Mustalaq to collect religious tithe. al-Walid returned a little while later to report that the members of that tribe had turned apostate and refused to pay tithe. The reason for making such a report was that a group of people of that tribe, on hearing of al-Walid's arrival had come out to meet and welcome the Prophet's envoy. But al-Walid seemed 130. Tabaqat of Ibn Sa'd 1/186 printed in Egypt.

  1. The Holy Qur'an, Chapter al-Furqan, Verses 27 and 28, Sirah of Ibn Hisham 1/385 and 2/25, Imta' al- asma' p. 61 and 90, at-Tabari's commentary, al-Qurtubi's commentary, az-Zamakhshari's commentary, Ibn Kathir, ad-Durr al-manthur, an-Nayshaburi, ar-Razi, etc.

to have taken this gathering as a plot against himself and was so frightened that without facing or talking to them, he hurried back to Medina and gave that false report. The Prophet ordered Khalid ibn al-Walid to go to that tribe and after investigating the truth to make a report. He insisted that Khalid should not be hasty and see to the matter quietly and with all possible care. Khalid said in his report that the said tribe were Muslims and had by no means become apostate. At this time the following verse descended showing al-Walid to be an evil-doer:

"O you who believe! if an evil-doer comes to you with a report, look carefully into it' lest you harm a people in ignorance then be sorry for what you have done."132

Now 'Uthman, caliph of the Muslims who considered himself successor to the Prophet, appointed such a notorious evil-doer as governor of Kufah simply on account of his kinship with him, and removed from that position Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, former commander-in-chief of 'Umar's army, whereas Sa'd had, in 'Umar's time and upon his order, built Kufah, turning it into a frontier garrison, and had housed there the soldiers who had accompanied him in the war against Iran. The people of Kufah had a deep respect for Sa'd.

An evil-doer as a governor When al-Walid entered Kufah and Sa'd learnt of his mission, he turned to him and said in surprise:

"We have been away from one another. It seems that despite your stupidity in the past, you have become somewhat intelligent and acquired competence, while in fact it is we who have become stupid and ignorant." al-Walid answered: "Sa'd! Don't get angry! It is this government and monarchy that passes like a ball into different hands." Sa'd answered with conviction: "Yes, I see that you will soon turn it into a monarchy."133

The people of Kufah were angry at this change of governor and protested, saying: " 'Uthman has chosen a bad successor to Sa'd ibn Waqqas." Abu al-Faraj in al-Aghani describes the rule of al-Walid as stated by Khalid ibn Sa'id as follows: al-'Abbas ibn 'Abd al- Muttalib, Abu Sufyan, al-Hakam ibn 'Abi al-'As and al-Walid ibn 'Uqbah were the only people who had the privilege of sitting next to him or in his seat." One day, as usual, al-Walid was sitting with the caliph, when al-Hakam, 'Uthman's uncle, arrived. 'Uthman rose in respect, offered his seat to him and took another seat himself. 'Uthman's gesture towards al-Hakam vexed al- 132. The Holy Qur'an, Chapter al-Hujurat, verse 6. 133. Refer to Tabaqat, al-Isti'ab, Usd al-ghabah, al-Isabah and Kanz, and to all commentaries concerning the above verse.

Walid very much, but he said nothing. After al-Hakam's departure, he turned to 'Uthman and said: "O commander of the faithful! When you showed preference to your uncle over me, I was reminded of these couplets." 'Uthman answered: "al-Hakam is after all a great man of the Quraysh and it is incumbent upon us to show him respect. What are your couplets?" al-Walid recited the following couplets:

"I noticed he held his uncle dearer than his brother, whereas this is an innovation and was not customary before. When I saw this, I longed to see 'Umar and Khalid ('Uthman's sons) grow up and call me uncle on resurrection day." 'Uthman felt sorry for him by virtue of these couplets and in order to cause no umbrage with his half-brother, he gave him a share in his government and said: "We offer you the governorship of Iraq!" Thus, a notorious fellow whom God has called "an evil-doer" in His heavenly Book, was given the power to govern the life, honour and religion of the Muslims and act as an absolute ruler.

al-Hakam, the caliph's uncle

Let us see who al-Hakam is and what is his position that produces so much respect for him on the part of 'Uthman, caliph of the Muslims. He was the son of Abu al-'As, 'Uthman's uncle, and a grandson of Umayyah ibn 'Abd Shams al-Qurayshi. al-Baladhuri says in 5/27: In pagan times, al-Hakam was a neighbor of the Prophet and after the ordainment he did more than all other neighbors to molest the Prophet.

al-Hakam embraced Islam after the capture of Mecca and settled in Medina. But the Muslims regarded him to be weak and lax in religion; for, though he had apparently embraced Islam, he walked behind the Prophet mimicking his footsteps and making faces about him. In prayer, he used his hands and fingers to perform comic gestures. One day the Prophet happened to notice his mimicry and comic gestures, and was vexed at it, and turning to him said imperiously: "Stay as you are!" As a result of this curse, he remained in that comic state from that moment to the end of his life, and his mouth, head and hands kept on shaking nauseatingly all the time.

The Muslims were right in doubting al-Hakam's faith, since, despite this strange and comic appearance which was due to the Prophet's curse, he did not abandon molesting the Prophet, and one day when the Prophet had stayed in the house of one of his ladies, al-Hakam stealthily peered inside through a crack in the door. The Prophet recognized him and came out with a stick and said: "Who will save me from this filthy lizard?" Then he added: 'He and his offspring's must not live in the same city as me' and exiled them to at-Ta'if. After the Prophet breathed his last, 'Uthman interceded for his uncle, al- Hakam and asked Abu Bakr to let him and his children return to Medina. Abu Bakr refused permission and said: "I dare not allow those who have been exiled by the Prophet to return to Medina."

When 'Umar became caliph, 'Uthman renewed his request, but he met with a similar refusal. But when 'Uthman became caliph, he brought back al-Hakam and his offspring's to Medina, saying: "I had interceded with the Prophet to allow their return to Medina and he had given a favorable promise. However, owing to his death it was not fulfilled."

The Muslims were not pleased with the return to Medina of those exiled by the Prophet. al-Baladhuri says on p. 5/22: "al-Hakam exposed the Prophet's secrets. The Prophet laid a curse on him and exiled him and his children to at- Ta'if saying that he should not stay in the same city as himself." al-Hakam and his children remained in exile there until 'Uthman became caliph and he brought them back to Medina. al-Baladhuri says on p. 28: "The Muslims were very angry at the act of 'Uthman in granting to al-Hakam the whole of tithe revenue amounting to 300,000 dinars which the latter bad collected from the Khuza'ah tribe. He says on p. 27: "al-Hakam died during 'Uthman's rule and the caliph performed the burial prayer for him and pitched a tent over his grave as a sign of respect. This was al-Hakam the notorious fellow to whom 'Uthman offered his seat and sat below him."