From the Two Campaigns to the Treaty of Hudaybiyah

Organization of the Arab Community

After the Battle of the Ditch and the destruction of Banu Qurayzah, the situation in Madinah stabilized in favor of Muhammad and the Muslims. The Arab tribes so feared the Muslims that many Qurayshis began to think that it might have been better for their tribe to have made peace with Muhammad, especially since he himself was a Quraysh tribesman and the Muhajirun were all among its leaders and noblemen. The Muslims felt quite secure after they had destroyed Jewish power within and outside Madinah once and for all. For six months, they remained in Madinah during which their commerce prospered and they enjoyed a spell of peace and comfort. At the same time, the message of Muhammad crystallized in the minds of his followers, and they learned better to appreciate his teachings and observe his precepts. The Muslims followed their Prophet in reorganizing and remodeling the Arab community. Departing from tradition and reshaping society according to model principles were necessary steps in the making of that new society that Islam sought to establish in the world. In pre-Islamic days, the only social system known to the Arabs was that which their own customs had sanctified. In the matters of family and its organization, of marriage and its laws and divorce, and of the mutual relations of parents and childrenin all these human relations-pre-Islamic Arabia had not gone beyond the elementary dictates of its hard topography; namely, extreme laissez-faire on the one hand and extreme conservatism reaching to slavery and oppression on the other. Islam was therefore called upon to organize a nascent society which as yet had developed no traditions and looked with disdain on its heritage of social customs. Muslim society had great ambitions, however, for it looked forward to becoming within a short time the nucleus of a great civilization ready for a destiny of absorption of the Persian, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations. Islam was to give this nascent civilization its character and gradually to impress it with its own ethos and brand until, some day, God might find it proper to say of it

"Today I have completed for you your religion; my bounty and grace have been conferred upon you conclusively; and I am pleased that your religion shall henceforth be Islam." [Qur'an, 5:3]


Relations between Men and Women

Whatever the nomadic nature of Arabian civilization had been before Islam, and regardless of whether or not such cities as Makkah and Madinah had enjoyed a level of civilization unknown to the desert, relations between men and women had never extended much beyond the sexual. According to the witness of the Qur'an, as well as of the traditions of that age, such relations were determined only by considerations of class or tribe, and were quite primitive in every other respect. The women used to show themselves off not only to their husbands but to any other men they pleased. They used to go out into the open country singly or in groups and meet with men and youths without hindrance or sense of shame. They exchanged with men glances of passion and expressions of love and desire. This was done with such blase frankness and lack of shame that Hind, wife of Abu Sufyan, had no scruples whatever about singing on such a public and grave occasion as the Day of Uhud

"Advance forward and we shall embrace you!
Advance forward and we shall spread the carpets for you!
Turn your backs and we shall avoid you!
Turn your backs and we shall never come to you."


Arab Eroticism

Among a number of tribes, adultery was not at all regarded as a serious crime. Flirting and courting were common practices. Despite the prominent position of Abu Sufyan and his society, the chroniclers tell, concerning his wife, a great many tales of love and passion with other men without implying any stain on her reputation. Whenever a woman gave birth to an illegitimate child, she felt no restraint about proclaiming the identities of all the men with whom she had had love affairs so that her child might be attributed to the man whom he most resembled. Likewise, there was no limit to the number of wives a man could take or to the number of his women slaves and concubines. Men were completely free to do as they pleased, and women were perfectly free to give birth as they pleased. The whole domain of man-woman relations had no seriousness or gravity except where a scandal was uncovered which brought about disputes, fighting, or libel between one clan and another within the larger tribe. Only on such occasions did the flirtations, courtings, and adulterous rendezvous become reasons for shame, vituperation, or war. When hostility broke out between one house and another, men and women alike felt free to claim and accuse as they wished. The Arab's imagination is by nature strong. Living as he does under the vault of heaven and moving constantly in search of pasture or trade, and being constantly forced into the excesses, exaggerations, and even lies which the life of trade usually entails, the Arab is given to the exercise of his imagination and cultivates it at all times whether for good or for ill, for peace or for war. Should a man, for instance, pour out his imagination in the most sentimental and affected forms when addressing his sweetheart in private, one would think that was normal. But when the same man readily and publicly pours out that same imagination, in the event of war against his sweetheart's tribe or in personal disaffection for her, by describing her neck, breast, waist, hips, and all other aspects of her feminine form, we must conclude that that imagination knows little more of the woman than her sex, feminine form, and adeptness at making love. Despite the decisive blow which Islam had directed at this excessive cultivation of the imagination, much of it was embedded in the Arab psychic character described in the poetry of `Umar ibn Abu Rabi'ah. Indeed, Arabic love poetry has hardly ever been free of this trait; a measure of it can still be found in the modern poetry of our own day.


Woman in Other Civilizations

The foregoing account may have struck the reader who is full of admiration for the Arabs and their civilization, including the Arabs of pre-Islam, as somewhat exaggerated. Such a reader is certainly excused for so thinking, for he must be comparing the picture we have given with the actualities of the present age, intermingled as they certainly are with the ideal relations between man and woman, parents and children. Such comparisons, however, are false and lead the investigator astray. If the comparison is to be fruitful, one should undertake to contrast Arab society as we have described it in the seventh century C.E. with other societies of the same period. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that Arab society, despite all its aberrations, was far superior to the societies of Asia and Europe. We do not have enough information to speak with authority on Chinese or Indian society of that age. But we do know that Europe was wallowing in such darkness that its family structure stood little higher than the most primitive levels of human organization. The Imperium Romanum, possessor of the law, master of the world, and the sole competitor of the Persian Empire, regarded woman as far more inferior to man than she was in the Arabian desert. In Roman law, woman was regarded as a piece of movable property, owned by a man and disposable by him in any way he wished. The Roman male citizen exercised the right of life and death over his women, and did so by law. The law enabled the Roman citizen to treat his women as he would his slaves, making no distinction between them. It regarded a woman as the property of her father, then of her husband, and finally of her son. The right of property exercised over her person was complete, just as complete as the right of property over animals, things, and slaves. Moreover, woman was looked upon as a source of desire. Like an animal, she was not expected to have any control over her sex life. Because morality did not apply to her, it was necessary to fabricate the western artificial framework of absolute chastity in order to instill a sense of ethics in man-woman relations. This necessary though artificial framework furnished the womanly ideal of that society for several centuries afterwards. It will be recalled that Jesus-May God's peace be upon him-was quite compassionate toward women, and that when his disciples expressed surprise at his fair treatment of Mary Magdalene, he proclaimed: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." [John, 8:7] Despite this charitable attitude toward women on the part of Christianity, Christian Europe continued to deride woman and to hold her in the greatest contempt very much as pagan Europe had done before. Europe did not only regard the relation of man to woman merely as a relation of male and female. It coalesced with this relationship that of owner to owned, master to slave, and the honorable to the dishonorable and contemptible. These attitudes have so determined the mind of Europe so long that for centuries the Europeans have asked whether woman has a soul; whether she is a morally responsible being; whether she is to render account on the Day of Judgment; or whether, like an animal, she is devoid of soul, subject to neither judgment nor responsibility, and entitled to no place at all in the kingdom of God.


Muhammad and Social Reconstruction

Led by divine revelation, Muhammad recognized that there can be no social reconstruction of society without the cooperation of all its men and women members in mutually helping, loving, and sympathizing with one another. He realized that no society is viable where women do not enjoy rights as well as duties, where these rights and duties are not exercised in cooperation, reciprocal love and respect, and where men are nonetheless the leaders. To realize these conditions in Arab society quickly and by force of authority was not an easy affair. However strong the faith of Muhammad's Arab followers, to take them slowly forward without exposing them to undue hardships was surer to succeed than otherwise. Slow progress intensifies the faith of the adherents and wins more converts, whereas forced progress creates dissension and weakens the faith of many. The same was true of every social reconstruction God prescribed for the Muslims. Indeed, the same progressive reconstruction characterized the religious duties of Islam, namely prayer, fasting, zakat, abstaining from gambling, eating pork, and the like. Muhammad began to teach social reconstruction and to define the rights and duties of men and women to one another by talking about exemplary instances occurring between himself and his wives which all Muslims could witness. The veil was not imposed upon the wives of the Prophet until shortly before the Campaign of al Khandaq, and the limitation of polygamy to four was not imposed until after that Campaign, indeed a whole year there-after. It would be interesting to see how the Prophet anchored the relationships of man and woman to sound foundations and how he prepared his followers for the equality of men and women under Islam. Islam wanted its women to have the same rights even as they have duties. But it wanted these rights and duties to be exercised in an atmosphere of mutual love, fairness, and compassion, and its men to enjoy the position of leadership.


Islam Forbids Fornication

As we saw earlier, the relationship between man and woman among the Muslims of the period, as among all Arabs, was limited to that of male to female. Fornication, exposure of the woman's flesh and ornaments in a way inviting molestation by men and arousing in them sexual desire, dominated the relationship. There was little or no room for any relationships expressing human spirituality, or for any communion between man and woman in their service to God. The presence of Jews and munafiqun in Madinah and their hostility to the new faith caused many of their men to molest the Muslim women and led, as in the case of Banu Qaynuqa`, to serious harm and injury to Muslim women. A great many unnecessary problems resulted from this situation. Had the Muslim women not exposed themselves outside their homes, thus inviting fornication, their identities would not have been known to the public and they would not have been harmed. Had this been the case, the Muslims would have avoided all these problems and could have made a fair start toward realizing the equality which Islam sought to realize between the sexes. This ideal might have been realized even without hardship to Muslim men and women. It was in this spirit that the Qur'an announced

"Those who harm the believers unjustly, whether men or women, do great wrong. O Prophet, command your women, your daughters, and the women of the believers to lengthen their garbs that they may not be harmed. God is merciful and compassionate. If the munafiqfcn, those who are ill of heart or cause agitation in the city do not stop their evil work, We shall give you mastery over them and the power to terminate forthwith their residence in your midst. They shall be accursed wherever they go, seized, and put to the sword. That is the pattern of God, already realized in earlier history and immutable for ever and ever." [Qur'an, 33:58-62]

With this simple introduction, the Muslims were taught the necessity of outgrowing the customs of their predecessors. The Islamic legislation aimed at reorganizing society on a foundation of pure family life, free of intrusion from the outside. To reach this purpose, Islam declared adultery a grave sin. In consequence, the Muslims learned to appreciate the evil inherent in a woman's fornication and entanglement outside her family. The Qur'an said,

"Command the believers to lower their eyes and to live a life of chastity. That is better for them, for God knows what they do. Command the women believers also to lower their eyes, to live the life of chastity, not to show off their beauty and ornaments except what must be shown in the course of daily life. Command them to cover themselves up, not to show their beauty and ornamentation except to their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons or the sons of their husbands, their brothers or the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, their women-slaves or eunuchs, or immature children. Command them not to stamp their feet in order to show off their hidden ornaments. O Believers, repent to God that you may achieve felicity." [Qur'an, 24:30-31]

Thus Islam worked toward the transformation of man-woman relations into one in which sex is possible only when legitimate, and illegitimate sexual relationships are condemned as evil. In all other matters of human life, the relationships of men to women and vice versa are based on a foundation of absolute equality. Everybody is a servant of God, and everybody is mutually responsible for promoting virtue and the fear of God. If anyone stirred the sexual passion in other people, he would be guilty and obliged to repent and atone to God.

All this, however, was not sufficient to transform Arab character and wean it away from its original customs. Unlike the repudiation of associationism, the tranformation of character could not be brought about with speed. This was only natural, for once a material has been given a certain form, it is not easy to transform that material except slowly and progressively. Even so, the desired change cannot be too radical. Human life is such that inherited custom and local traditions knead and mold it into a definite pattern. If this pattern is to bring change, it must be done slowly by degrees. Moreover, no such gradual change may be undertaken unless man transforms his inner self. It is possible for man to change one aspect of himself by removing the hindrances abetting such change in that aspect. That is precisely what Islam did with the Muslims when it converted them to the unitization of God, to faith in Him, in His Prophet, and in the Day of Judgment. But many other aspects of Arab character, especially the material or social aspects, were not so radically transformed but remained nearer to what they had been before Islam. Arab laziness and love of conversation with women, traits kneaded into their character by life in the desert, were chronically resistant to change.


The Prophet's Home and His Wives

In spite of the aforementioned rectification by the new religion of the relationships between the sexes, the Muslims did not depart radically from their previous customs. Often, one of them would enter the Prophet's house and stay there for a long time enjoying conversation with the Prophet or with his wives. But the Prophet had no time to spend on listening to each of his visitors, nor could he tolerate them to converse with his wives and broadcast their gossip. Seeking to free the Prophet from these minor cares, God revealed the following verses:

"O Men who believe, do not enter the house of the Prophet without permission. Do not wait there until meal time, but eat if food is served. Enter therein if you are invited; but once fed, disperse and do not tarry. Such gossiping in his presence harms the Prophet, who is shy to ask you to leave. But God is not shy of saying the truth. And if you ask the wives of the Prophet for something, then talk to them from behind a curtain. That is purer and more seemly for you and for them. It behooves you not to hurt the Prophet of God nor to marry his wives after him. If you do, your deed will be a great crime in God's eye." [Qur'an, 33:53]

While this verse was addressed to the believers, the following was addressed to the Prophet's wives:

"O Wives of the Prophet, you are distinguished only as long as you are righteous. Do not, therefore, be soft or tempting in speech lest the ill-hearted fall to temptation. Be always gentle and good. Maintain your homes with dignity and do not show off yourselves as pre-Islamic women were wont to do. Observe prayer, pay the zakat, and obey God and His Prophet. God only wishes to keep you pure and to remove from you all uncleanliness and temptation." [Qur'an, 33:32-33]


Social Foundations of Muslim Brotherhood

On this foundation Islam sought to construct the social order of the human community. Its core was the new relationship between man and woman. By its means Islam sought to remove the unchallenged dominion sex had hitherto exercised over this relationship. Its aim was to direct the community to a higher life where man might enjoy the pleasures of this world without corrosion of his moral fabric, and to lead man to a spiritual relationship with all creatures transcending agriculture, industry, trade, and the other preoccupations of life-the relationship implicit in the life of faith which makes man the partner of angels. Other means which Islam employed for that same purpose were fasting, prayer, and zakat-by virtue of what each commands against adultery, injustice and evil doing and by virtue of what each enjoins by way of self-purification, submission to God alone, fraternity between the believers, and communion between man and all that is.


The Campaign of Banu Lihyan

The slow reorganization of society in preparation for the great transformation for which Islam was preparing humanity did not prevent Quraysh and the tribes from lying in wait for Muhammad. Nor did it prevent Muhammad from taking the requisite precaution and being always on the alert, ready to strike terror in the hearts of his enemies should the need arise. A case in point was the campaign of Band Lihyan. Six months after the destruction of Band Qurayzah, it came to Muhammad's notice that the Band Lihyan were marching from a locality near Makkah. Immediately, he remembered the case of Khubayb ibn `Adiy and his companions, who were murdered by Band Lihyan at the well of al Raji two years ago, and sought to avenge them. However, he did not announce his purpose for fear that the enemy might be alerted and take refuge. He therefore announced that he wanted to go to al Sham and, after mobilizing his forces, he led them toward the north. When he felt secure that neither the Quraysh nor their neighbors were aware of his intentions, he turned to Makkah and proceeded in its direction full haste until he reached the camping grounds of the tribe of Band Lihyan at `Uran. Some people, however, had noticed his change of direction, and eventually the Banu Lihyan were informed of his plan. They took refuge in the heights of the surrounding mountains, gathering with them their cattle and property. The Prophet, therefore, could not reach them. He sent Abu Bakr and a hundred cavalrymen in hot pursuit until they reached a place not far from Makkah called `Usfan. He himself returned to Madinah on a day that was remembered for the hardship to the traveller which its extreme heat presented, as the following tradition clearly states

"We returned and, by God's leave, we repent to God and praise Him. We take shelter and refuge in God from the travail of travel, the sadness of tragedy, and the realization of loss in relatives and property."


The Campaign of Dhu Qarad

A few days after Muhammad returned to Madinah, a group led by `Uyaynah ibn Hisn raided the outskirts of the city, seized the camels grazing in the area, killed their shepherd, and carried off his wife. Apparently, he thought that the Muslims would not realize what had happened in time to catch up with him. Salamah ibn `Amr ibn al Akwa` al Aslami, however, who happened to be going that way to the forest with bow and arrows, beheld the raiders running away with their booty as they passed through the place called Thaniyyah al Wada near al Sal'. He followed them, shot arrows at them and called for help throughout the pursuit. His call was soon heard by the Prophet who alerted the people of Madinah, and Muslim cavalrymen came out from every direction. Muhammad ordered them to pursue the raiders immediately, and he followed a little later with another force until he arrived at the mountain of Dhu Qarad. `Uyaynah and his companions pressed ever faster toward Ghatafan where they could find protection from its tribesmen and escape from the Muslims. The Madinese cavalry overtook the enemy's rear, seized the stolen camels, and liberated the captive woman. Some companions were prepared to press the pursuit further and avenge the Muslims against `Uyaynah. The Prophet advised against this course, knowing that `Uyaynah and his companions had already reached the tribe of Ghatafan and had fallen under their protection. The Muslims therefore returned to Madinah bringing with them the liberated woman and the camels. While in captivity and driving her own camel, the Muslim woman vowed that should that camel ever bring her back home, she would sacrifice it to God. When she informed the Prophet of her vow in Madinah, the Prophet answered: "What a terrible reward you propose to the camel which served you and carried you to freedom! That is clearly an evil act, and no vow to perform an evil is valid."


The Campaign of Banu al Mustaliq

Muhammad remained in Madinah for about two months, until the campaign of Banu al Mustaliq at al Muraysi`, which has arrested the attention of every biographer of the Arab Prophet and every historian. The importance of this campaign lies not in its military significance, but rather, in the internal division which it almost caused within the Muslim community, and which the Prophet settled resolutely. Another important aspect of this campaign is its connection with the Prophet's marriage to Juwayriyyah, daughter of al Harith. A third aspect is its connection with the malignant slander of `A'ishah who, though hardly seventeen years of age, was able to repulse these falsehoods by her strong faith and sublime character.

The news reached Muhammad that the Banu al Mustaliq, a clan of Khuza'ah tribe, were mobilizing for war in the vicinity of Makkah and inciting the Arab tribes around them to assassinate Muhammad. Their leader was al Harith ibn Abu Dirar. Acting quickly in seizing the initiative, Muhammad hastened to strike and take them by surprise as was his custom. The two divisions of al Muhajirun and al Ansar which rallied to his immediate call were led by Abu Bakr and Sa'd ibn `Ubadah, respectively. The Muslims encamped near a well called al Muraysi`, not far from the encampment of their enemies. The allies of Banu al Mustaliq ran away upon hearing the news of the advancing Muslim army, with the result that the Banu al Mustaliq themselves were quickly encircled. In the short engagement which followed, the Muslims lost one man, Hisham ibn al Khattab by name, who was killed accidentally by a fellow Muslim. After losing ten men, the Banu al Mustaliq realized that they had better surrender to the Muslim forces. They were all made captives and their cattle confiscated.


The Plot of `Abdullah ibn Ubayy

`Umar ibn al Khattab had a servant charged with taking care of his horse. After the Campaign of Banu al Mustaliq was over, this servant crowded out one of the al Khazraj tribesmen from the proximity of the well. As they quarreled together the man from Khazraj called on al Ansar for help; the other called for help from al Muhajirun. `Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who had accompanied the Muslim forces on this expedition in order to secure some booty, arose when he heard the call and, venting his old hatred of al Muhajirun as well as of Muhammad, said to al Ansar

"Indeed, al Muhajirun have not only crowded us here but even in our own homes. The case of our hospitality to them has been nothing short of the common saying, `Feed your beast and one day it will devour you.' Surely when we return to Madinah, the stronger party shall force the evacuation of the weaker. Such is the fate that you have incurred with your own hands. You have allowed the Muslims to occupy your lands; you have willingly shared your wealth and crops with them. By God, if you could only deny them these privileges, they would have to leave you alone and seek somebody else's help."

The news of this speech of `Abdullah ibn Ubayy was soon reported to the Prophet of God. Muhammad, satisfied that operations against the enemy had all been completed, was visiting with `Umar ibn al Khattab at the time. When the latter heard the report, `Umar suggested that Bilal be sent out to kill him instantly. With his usual foresight, patience, experience, and sense of leadership, the Prophet declined `Umar's suggestion, saying: "O `Umar, what would the people think if they heard that Muhammad had begun to kill his own companions?"

Nonetheless, the Prophet calculated that unless he took some resolute action, the situation might worsen. He therefore commanded his people to start off on their return to Madinah despite the inappropriateness of the hour. Ibn Ubayy in turn heard what had been reported to the Prophet, and he ran to him to deny the report and to explain that he had never entertained such ideas. This action did not affect Muhammad's resolution to command the return. He traveled with his people continuously throughout the whole day and night and most of the second morning until they could bear the desert sun no longer. As soon as the people dismounted or sat down, they were so exhausted that they fell asleep. Their exhaustion caused them to forget the affair of Ibn Ubayy; and after they had rested, they hurried to Madinah carrying the captives and booty from Banu al Mustaliq. One of those captives was Juwayriyyah, daughter of al Harith ibn Abu Dirar, the leader of the vanquished tribe.


Ibn Ubayy's Resentment of the Prophet

After his return to Madinah with the victorious Muslims, Ibn Ubayy could not reconcile himself to their success, and his resentment of Muhammad and the Muslims stirred with unabated vigor. His hatred continued despite his apparent adherence to the faith and his emphatic claim that what was reported to the Prophet at al Muraysi` was false. It was on this occasion that the Surah "al Munafiqun" was revealed in which we read the following verses

"It is the munafiqun who counsel against spending anything for the benefit of the Muhajiran so that the latter may get out of Madinah. But it is to God that all the treasures of heaven and earth belong. The munafiqun are simply ignorant. They threaten that when the Muslims return to Madinah, the stronger will force the evacuation of the weaker. But they do not know that might belongs to God, to his Prophet, and to the believers." [Qur'an, 63:7-8]

Some people believed that the revelation of these verses was a verdict of death passed on Ibn Ubayy and that Muhammad would soon command his execution. Upon learning of this revelation, `Abdullah, son of `Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who was a true and loyal Muslim, ran to the Prophet and said: "O Prophet of God, I have heard that you are seeking to kill `Abdullah ibn Ubayy because of reports which have reached you about him. If this is true, I ask that you command me to do the execution, and I promise to bring to you his head forthwith. By God, it is known that nobody supported al Khazraj tribe as my father did. Should anyone else besides me kill him, I will have to suffer myself to see the murderer of my father go about without avenging him. But I cannot bear such a torture, and the results may be that I will kill the murderer of my father, thereby killing a believer and incurring eternal punishment for myself in hell." Such were the words of `Abdullah ibn Ubayy's son to Muhammad. It is hardly possible to appreciate the struggle within `Abdullah's soul of filial loyalty, genuine faith, tribal chivalry, concern for the preservation of peace, and the prevention of blood feuds among the Muslims. Though he realized that his father was going to be killed, he did not plead to save the condemned life. He believed that the Prophet does what he is commanded by his Lord, and was absolutely certain of his father's treason. But his filial loyalty, personal dignity, and Arab chivalry demanded that he avenge the death of his father. Hence, he was prepared to undertake the killing of his own father, however such a deed might rend his heart and expose his conscience to ruinous self-reproach. He found consolation for his tragedy in his own faith in the Prophet and in Islam. This faith convinced him that if he were to follow the voice of Arab chivalry and filial piety and kill the executioner of his father, he would incur eternal punishment. His was a sublime struggle between faith, emotion, and moral character; and his tragedy was beyond comparison. After hearing his plea, the Prophet answered: "We shall not kill your father. We shall be kind to him, and we shall appreciate his friendship as long as he wishes to extend it to us."

The sublimity and greatness of forgiveness! Muhammad was touched and he stretched forth a kindly hand toward the one who had incited the people of Madinah to rise against the Prophet and his companions. His gentleness and pardon were to have far greater effect than punishment. After this episode, whenever an occasion arose for the Muslims to criticize 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy, they used to remind him that his very life was a gift Muhammad had made to him. One day, when the Prophet was conversing with 'Umar on the affairs of the Muslim community, the criticism ibn Ubayy was meeting from his peers was mentioned. Muhammad asked 'Umar : "Had I commanded him to be killed the day you advised me to do so, many men would have never entered Islam. These same men, were I to command them today to kill him they would do so without hesitation." 'Umar apologized and acknowledged the Prophet's superior judgment.


`A'ishah at the Campaign of Banu al Mustaliq

All the foregoing took place after the Muslims had returned to Madinah with their fruits of victory. Something else had happened on that expedition which was far removed from military affairs and concerning which there was little talk at first. The Prophet was in the habit of drawing lots among his wives whenever he went on an expedition, and would take in his company that wife whose lot happened to be drawn. On the occasion of the campaign of Banu al Mustaliq, it was the lot of 'A'ishah that was drawn. 'A'ishah was petite, slim and light; her presence inside the palanquin in which she rode was hardly noticeable by the men who would lift it for placement on camelback. As the Prophet and his expeditionary force were returning to Madinah after their long and exhaustive journey, they camped not far from Madinah in order to spend the night and recover their energies. At dawn or before, Muhammad gave the sign to resume the travel. `A'ishah had stepped out of the Prophet's tent while her palanquin was placed at the entrance of it that she might ride therein and travel be resumed. On her way back she realized that she had lost her necklace. She quickly retraced her own footsteps, looking for the lost necklace. It took her a long time to find it. She had had very little sleep the previous day, and it is possible that she might have fallen asleep in her search for the necklace. At any rate, by the time she returned to her tent, she discovered that her servants had disappeared with the palanquin and that the whole company had vanished into the desert. Apparently thinking that `A'ishah was inside for there was hardly any difference in its overall weight, the servants attached it to the camel's back and proceeded unaware that the "Mother of the Believers" was left behind. `A'ishah looked around herself, and though not finding anyone, she did not panic; for she believed that her people would soon discover her absence and would return to seek her. She judged that it would be better for her to stay where she was rather than to strike out in the desert on her own and risk getting lost. Unafraid, she wrapped herself in her mantle and laid down waiting for her people to discover her. While she waited, Safwan ibn al Mu'attal al Salami, who had been out of camp on an errand in the desert, returned to camp to find that he had missed his companions who were already on their way to Madinah. When he came close to `A'ishah and discovered that she was indeed the wife of the Prophet, he stood back surprised and angry that she had been left behind. He asked her why she had been left behind and, receiving no reply, he brought her his camel and invited her to ride on it. `A'ishah rode on the camel and Safwan rushed toward Madinah as fast as he could, hoping to join the Muslims before their entry into the city. The Muslims, however, were traveling at a very fast pace, purposely commanded by the Prophet of God in order to keep them exhausted and unable, as it were, to bring to a head the old hatreds between the various Muslim factions which `Abdullah ibn Ubayy had been fomenting. Safwan arrived at Madinah in full daylight; `A'ishah was riding on his camel. When he reached the Prophet's house, `A'ishah dismounted and entered her home. No one present ever entertained any suspicion of unusual behavior on anybody's part, and the Prophet himself never suspected either the daughter of Abu Bakr, or Safwan, the loyal Muslim and pious believer, of the slightest misdemeanor.

Considering that `A'ishah entered Madinah during the day and in front of everybody, and that her return was soon after the return of the Muslim forces, nobody could entertain any suspicion as to her behavior. She entered Madinah bearing her usual pride and unperturbed by any feeling of guilt. The whole city went about its business as usual, and the Muslims occupied themselves with dividing the captives and booty which they had seized from the Banu al Mustaliq. Their life in Madinah was actually becoming more prosperous as their faith gave them more power over their enemies. Their faith had reinforced their wills and had encouraged them to think lightly of death, whether in the cause of God and of His religion, or in defense of religious freedom which they had earned after such a long and hard struggle against their own fellow tribesmen.


Muhammad's Marriage to Juwayriyyah

Juwayriyyah, daughter of al Harith, was one of the captives of the Banu al Mustaliq. She was a noble and attractive woman and her lot fell to a man of al Ansar. She sought to ransom herself but her captor, knowing that she was the daughter of the leader of the Banu al Mustaliq, demanded. a very high price which he thought her people were capable of paying. Afraid of him and his ambition, Juwayriyyah sought the Prophet in the house of `A'ishah and, announcing her identity as the daughter of al Harith ibn Abu Dirar, chief of the Banu al Mustaliq, she asked for the Prophet's assistance in ransoming herself from captivity. After listening to her story, the Prophet thought of a better fate for her. He suggested that he ransom and marry her as well. Juwayriyyah accepted his proposal. When the news reached the people, everyone who held a captive of the Banu al Mustaliq granted that particular captive his or her freedom in deference to the new status the new captives had acquired as the in-laws of the Prophet. `A'ishah had said of her

"I know of no woman who brought as much good to her people as Juwayriyyah."

Such is the story according to one version. Another version tells that al Harith ibn Abu Dirar came to the Prophet to ransom his daughter, and that after talking to the Prophet, he believed in him and declared his conversion. The same version tells that Juwayriyyah followed her father and was converted to Islam, whereupon the Prophet asked for her hand and offered her a dowry of four hundred dirhams. A third version tells that her father was not agreeable to her marriage to the Prophet and that a relative of hers intervened and gave her to the Prophet against the will of her father. Muhammad did in fact marry Juwayriyyah and built for her a room adjoining his other quarters by the mosque. By this, Juwayriyyah became one of the "Mothers of the Believers." While still busy in the aftermath of the wedding, some people began to whisper about `A'ishah's delayed return to the camp mounted on the camel of Safwan. Safwan was a young and handsome man. Zaynab, daughter of Jahsh, had a sister called Hamnah who knew too well that `A'ishah was preferred by Muhammad to her own sister. It was this Hamnah who began to broadcast gossip about `A'ishah. In Hassan ibn Thabit she found a helper and in `Ali ibn Abu Talib, an audience. `Abdullah ibn Ubayy found her gossip of inestimable value in dividing the community and satisfying his hatred. He therefore spread the news in the market places. Al Aws tribesmen defended `A'ishah' however, for they knew she was an example of nobility, chastity and purity. This story and the gossip to which it gave rise almost led to civil war.


'A’ishah's Illness

When the gossip finally reached the ear of Muhammad, he felt deeply hurt. He could not believe `A'ishah would violate her marriage vows. Such indictment was impossible. `A'ishah was pride and purity personified. She enjoyed such fervent love and strong affection from her husband that the mere thought of accusing her was the greatest crime. Yes indeed! But then, woe to women ! Who can ever understand them or reach with certainty to their inner core? `A'ishah was still a child. For, how could she lose her necklace and then retrace her steps looking for it in the middle of the night? And why didn't she say anything about her loss when she came to the camp? These and other questions bothered the Prophet; he did not know what to believe and what not to believe.

As for `A'ishah, nobody dared inform her of the people's gossip. She noticed that her husband was unusually laconic and unfriendly to her, a departure from his usual tenderness and preoccupation with her. She fell severely ill and was attended by her mother. But when Muhammad visited her, he hardly said any more than, "How are you?" Indeed, noticing this coolness on the part of the Prophet, `A'ishah asked whether or not Juwayriyyah had now taken her place in his heart. These strained relations being too much for her patience, she one day asked her husband's permission to move to her parent's quarters where her mother could take care of her. After permission was granted, she moved to her parent's house all the more alarmed at this new expression of unconcern. She remained bedridden for over twenty days, and no knowledge of the gossip spreading around her was ever brought to her notice. The people continued to gossip and annoyed the Prophet so much that he found himself obliged to mention the matter in one of his speeches, "O Men," he said, "why are some of you staining the reputation of my family by accusing them falsely? By God, the members of my family have always been good. Why are you staining the reputation of one of my companions whom I know to be good and who has never entered my house except in my company?" Usayd ibn Hudayr rose and said, "O Prophet of God, if the false accusers are our own fellows of al Aws tribe, we promise that we shall put a quick stop to them. But if they are of the tribe of al Khazraj, then command us and we shall obey. By God, to whichever tribe they belong, they are worthy of having their heads struck off." Sa'd ibn `Ubadah commented on Usayd's proposition that the latter had made it because he knew too well that the false accusers belonged to al Khazraj tribe. A spirit of civil dispute and strife hovered over the whole community that took the Prophet's wisdom and sound judgment to dissipate.


The Gossip and `A'ishah

The gossip finally reached `A'ishah through a woman of al Muhajirun. When she learned of it she almost collapsed in alarm. She cried so hard that she felt as if she were falling apart. Despondent and dejected, she went to her mother and blamed her with broken voice. "May God forgive you, O Mother," she said. "People talk as they do and you do not inform me of it?" Realizing her anguished state, her mother sought to alleviate her pains and said, "O, my daughter, relax and take things lightly. Surely, hardly ever has a beautiful woman such as you, more loved by her husband than his other wives, not been slandered and gossiped about by those wives." `A'ishah, however, was not consoled by this. It began to dawn upon her that the Prophet's coolness and disaffection which had recently replaced his gentleness and affection must have been the result of this gossip and of the suspicion which it has caused. But what could she do now? Would she openly discuss the matter with him? Would he believe her if she swore to him that she was innocent? Or would she acquiesce in the false accusations and seek to offset them by her faith and pleading? Would she show him the same cold shoulder which he had shown her? But he is the Prophet of God, and he has loved her more than any of his other wives. It is surely not his fault that the people have gossiped about her delay in returning to the camp and her return to Madinah with Safwan. Would to God that she could discover some way of convincing Muhammad of the truth so that the real facts might be made clear once and for all and that Muhammad would return to his old love and gentle treatment of her!


The Revolt of `A’ishah

Muhammad was not in a better position. The gossip of the marketplace had hurt him so much that he was forced to consult on the matter with his personal friends. He proceeded to the house of Abu Bakr and there called `Ali and Usamah ibn Zayd to join him. Usamah denied all that had been attributed to `A'ishah as falsehood and lies. He claimed that the people had no more knowledge of any inclination to disloyalty on the part of `A'ishah than he had. On the contrary, they knew as much about her loyalty and innocence. As for `Ali, he answered, "O Prophet, women are many. Perhaps you might get some information out of the servant of `A'ishah, loyal as we all know her to be to you." The servant was called in and `Ali immediately seized her and struck her painfully and repeatedly as he commanded her to tell the truth to the Prophet of God. The servant, however, continued to deny all the gossip and assert that she knew nothing but good as far as `A'ishah was concerned. Finally, Muhammad had no alternative but to put that question directly to his wife, asking that she confess and tell him the truth. He went into her room and, in the presence of her parents and another woman of al Ansar, he found her and that woman crying together. As he entered the room, `A'ishah could see the suspicious look on his face and this cut most deeply into her heart. The man whom she loved and adored, the man in whom she believed and for whom she was prepared to lay down her life, loved her no more. On the contrary, he suspected her. As she composed herself, she listened to him say: "O `A'ishah, you have heard what the people are saying about you. Fear God. If you have done an evil such as they say you did, repent to God for God accepts the repentence of His servants." No sooner had he finished than 'A'ishah sprang to her feet, her tears completely vanished, her blood rushing to her face. She glanced at her father and mother hoping that they would speak out for her. But when they remained silent, her rebellious spirit could hold her tongue no longer. She shouted to the top of her voice addressing her parents: "Don't you answer? Won't you speak out?" Despondently, her parents replied that they had nothing to say. At that moment `A'ishah broke out in tears, and this seemed to temper the fire of the storm raging within her. Her tears drying again, she turned suddenly to the Prophet and said: "By God, I will not repent to God because I do not have anything to repent for. If I were to agree with what the people are saying, God knows that I am innocent and that I would be admitting that which is not true. And yet if I persist in my denial, you do not seem to believe me." After a pause, she said: "Rather, I shall say to myself as did the father of Joseph of his lying sons: `Patience and more patience. God is my refuge against what you describe.'"


Revelation of `A'ishah's Innocence

Silence reigned for a while; nobody could describe it as long or short. Muhammad had not moved from his spot when revelation came to him accompanied by the usual convulsion. He was stretched out in his clothes and a pillow was placed under his head. `A'ishah later reported, "Thinking that something ominous was about to happen, everyone in the room was frightened except me, for I did not fear a thing, knowing that I was innocent and that God would not be unjust to me. As for my parents, when the Prophet recovered from his convulsion, they looked pale enough to die before the gossip was proven true." After Muhammad recovered, he sat up and began to wipe his forehead where beads of perspiration had gathered. He said, "Glad tidings! O `A'ishah, God has sent down proof of your innocence." `A'ishah exclaimed, "May God be praised." Immediately Muhammad went to the mosque and there read to the Muslims the verses which had just been revealed to him.

"Those who brought forth this lie and spread it are some of you. However, do not regard this, O Muhammad, as an evil. You may yet draw good therefrom. Everyone of those who spread the lie shall have his share of due punishment. As for him who has taken the chief part in that gossip, his will be the greatest punishment . . . . When you heard the great lie, you thought that it was unbecoming of you to listen or to respond to it, and you condemned it saying, `Holy God, that is a great calamity!' God admonishes you never to do such a thing if you are believers. He, the Omnipotent, the All-Wise, shows forth His signs to you. Those who like to see immorality spread among the believers will receive a painful punishment in this world as well as in the next. God knows and you do not." [Qur'an, 24:11, 16-17]

It was on this occasion that the punishment for false accusation of adultery was promulgated through the revelation of the following verse

"Those who falsely accuse chaste women of adultery and do not bring forth four witnesses to this effect shall be flogged with eighty stripes and their witness shall never be admitted as evidence in any matter. Those are the decadent, the immoral." [Qur'an, 24:4] In pursuit of this Qur'anic injunction, Mistah ibn Athathah, Hassan ibn Thabit, and Hamnah, daughter of Jahsh, who had spread the false accusation of `A'ishah in the marketplace were flogged eighty stripes each, and `A'ishah returned to her rightful place in the house as well as in the heart of Muhammad.

Commenting on this event in the life of the Prophet, Sir William Muir concluded: "The whole career and life of `A'ishah before that event as well as after it furnishes unquestionable evidence that she was sincere and innocent. There should therefore be no hesitancy in rejecting every report of malconduct imputed to her." Despite his grave misdemeanor, Hassan ibn Thabit repented, made amends with Muhammad and was able to win back the latter's friendship. On the other hand, Muhammad himself asked Abu Bakr not to deny Mistah ibn Athathah the kindness which he used to extend to him. Henceforth, the whole event was forgotten in Madinah. `A'ishah's health improved rapidly, and, after returning to her quarters in the Prophet's residence, she recaptured her favorite position with him and with all the Muslims. Thus, the Prophet was able to devote all his energies to his message, to the administration of policy, and to preparing himself for the events leading to the Treaty of Hudaybiyah that would bring to the Muslims new and certain victories.