A Word About ‘A’ysha And Her Life History

‘A’ysha was the daughter of Abu Bakr, the first caliph, who came from the clan of Taym – one of the branches of the tribe of the Quraysh. Her mother was Umm al-Ruman who was the daughter of ‘Amr b. ‘Uwaymir.

It is commonly held that ‘A’ysha was born in the 4th year of the appointment to Prophethood (of Prophet Muhammad (S)) in Mecca and was brought up there. After the death of his [first and most beloved] wife Khadijah (a.s.) , the Prophet (S) married her and it was in the month of Shawwal after the Battle of Badr, following the relentless insistence of her father Abu Bakr, that she finally moved into the house of the Prophet (S).

After the death of the Prophet (S) and during the period of the caliphate of her father Abu Bakr, and also after him, during the rule of ‘Umar and even in the first-half of the caliphate of ‘Uthman, ‘A’ysha was a strong proponent of the governments of her time.

However in the second-half of the caliphate of ‘Uthman, ‘A’ysha began to brutally pester him and it was during this phase that a huge rift emerged between ‘Uthman and ‘A’ysha. This division slowly grew into full-blown enmity and with this, ‘A’ysha took a stand within the ranks of the opponents of ‘Uthman. Not only this, but she also tried to acquire a position of authority over the Muslim society and also played a key role in the revolution which was taking form against the rule of ‘Uthman which continued until ‘Uthman was eventually killed. ‘A’ysha had hoped that after the killing of ‘Uthman, the caliphate would be given to her cousin, Talha, thus the caliphate would return back to the tribe of Taym (her father’s tribe).

However when she realized that the people had given an oath of allegiance to the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (a.s.) and that all of her schemes had been ruined, she altered her modus operandi and launched the declaration that she was seeking vengeance for the innocent blood of ‘Uthman which had been shed! Thus, she became one of the founders of The Battle of Jamal in Baŝrah (Iraq) and fanned the flames of war alongside Talha and Zubayr!

When the primary supporters of The Battle of Jamal were defeated and the two staunch advocates, namely Talha and Zubayr, were killed and Imam ‘Al i (a.s.) , due to the immense respect he had for the Prophet (S), returned ‘A’ysha back to the city of Medina with full respect and honour, she relegated herself to staying at home. Indeed she was a very conniving woman and it is for this reason that she considered herself worthy of issuing religious edicts (fatawa), and due to her political inclinations, we see that the previous caliphs allowed her the leeway to carry this out!

Ibn Sa’d in his work, al-Tabaqat, writes that ‘Umar had set the yearly stipends for the wives of the Messenger of Allah (S) at 10,000 dinar, however he gave ‘A’ysha 12,000 dinar! However when a difference broke out between ‘Uthman and ‘A’ysha, according to the famous historian, al-Ya’qubi, in his book of history, he cut her allowance by 2,000 dinar.

A dispute which arose between ‘Uthman and ‘A’ysha in relation to the deputation of Walid b. ‘Uqbah became exasperated, as in addition to being one who consumed alcohol, Walid also treated some of the prominent companions of the Prophet of Allah (S) - such as Ibn Mas’ud with utter disregard. Even when he was brought to ‘Uthman and witnesses bore testimony to the fact that he consumed alcohol, according to the historian al-Baladhari in his book Ansab al-Ashraf, not only did ‘Uthman not reprimand his adopted brother Walid, rather he proceeded to punish the witnesses!

After this event, the witnesses sought refuge in the house of ‘A’ysha, however ‘Uthman let out a cry in the city of Medina:

Are the refractory Iraqis seeking refuge anywhere else other than the house of ‘A’ysha!?

When ‘A’ysha heard these words from ‘Uthman, she took the shoes of the Messenger of Allah (S) in her hands, raised them high in the air and said:

The shoes of the Messenger of Allah (S) have not even become old yet and you have [in such a short period of time] thrown the tradition (sunnah) of the Prophet behind your back!?

When the people heard these words, a group of them took ‘A’ysha’s side, while another group stood beside ‘Uthman and both factions made their way to the masjid, physically accosting one another.

Eventually when ‘Uthman was killed1, ‘A’ysha became elated; however when she saw that authority was now in the hands of ‘Ali (a.s.), she became extremely upset since Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) was known for his meticulousness when it came to maintaining justice, and because of this the plots that ‘A’ysha made would not take shape, so she began to harbor even deeper animosity in her heart for the Imam.

Al-Tabari in his book of history, Al-Umam wal Muluk, Ibn Sa’d in his book Al-Tabaqat, and Ibn Athir in his book Al-Kamil have all stated:

When the news reached ‘A’ysha about the martyrdom of ‘Ali (a.s.) she became elated, went into prostration (sajdah) to thank Allah, and then out of the joy that she felt, recited the following words of poetry:

فَأَلْقَتْ عَصَاهَا وَاسْتَقَرَّبِهَا النَّوَى كَمَا قَرَّ عَيْناً بِالإِيَابِ الْمُسَافِرِ

He dropped his staff and found comfort and ease;
Just as the person who is elated when his beloved returns from a journey.

Thus, she wanted to say that her state of grief was finally and she found tranquility in her heart [at the death of Imam ‘Ali (a.s.)]!

Even more mindboggling than this was that she began to praise Ibn Muljim, and when Zaynab the daughter of Umm Salama heard this, she condemned ‘A’ysha at which point she (‘A’ysha) realized what she had done, and albeit merely pretending to be remorseful, apologized and said:

I was completely unaware of what I was doing! Anytime this happens, please remind me! (At this point in time, ‘A’ysha was nearly 50 years old.)

One of the most astonishing episodes in the life of ‘A’ysha was her rapid change of attitude in regards to ‘Uthman.

According to the [Sunni scholar] Ibn Abi al-Hadid:

Whoever reviews the books of history will see things clearly written that ‘A’ysha was one of the most staunch opponents of ‘Uthman. She was the first person to ever use the word نعثل [na’thal] in regards to him when she said:

أُقْتُلُوا نَعْثَلاً قَتَلَ اللَّهُ نَعْثَلاً

Kill the na’thal! May Allah kill the na’thal!

The meaning of na’thal is an old, foolish man and meant a man with a long, full beard. In some references, it is noted that the word na’thal also refers to a Jewish man who has an exceptionally long beard - however it is not clear why ‘A’ysha used this word to describe ‘Uthman.

In any case, when ‘A’ysha heard that following the death of ‘Uthman, the people had chosen ‘Ali (a.s.) as this leader, she said:

If what I hear is true, then I wish that the sky would fall down upon me!

It is from this point in time that she initiated the slogan of:

قُتِلُوا ابْنَ عَفَّانَ مَظْلُوماً

[‘Uthman] Ibn ‘Affan has been killed unjustly!

From here, through the instigation of Talha and Zubayr, she began her quest to “avenge the blood” of ‘Uthman and invited the masses to stand up against [the rightful caliph] ‘Ali (a.s.)!

The Sunni scholar, Ibn Abi al-Hadid then states:

When ‘A’ysha began her revolt against ‘Ali (a.s.) she wanted Umm Salama (one of the wives of the Prophet (S)) to accompany her and invited her to join the movement. She also spoke to her about the oppression that ‘Uthman had faced during his life.

Startled, Umm Salama was taken aback and said to her: “Until yesterday, you encouraged the masses to work against ‘Uthman and referred to him as a na’thal – how is it that today, you have risen up to avenge his blood!? Bear in mind that you know that the status of ‘Ali (a.s.) is much greater (than others) with the Prophet (S), and if you have forgotten this, then I will remind you!”

‘A’ysha replied: “Go ahead and tell me.”

From here, Umm Salama began to relate the story during the lifetime of the Prophet (S) when he mentioned to the people that ‘Ali (a.s.) was the only one fit for the caliphate after him. ‘A’ysha confirmed that this event had occurred to which Umm Salama asked her: “Then why are you trying to rise up against him?” ‘A’ysha replied: “To rectify the situation among the people.”2

The famous historian, al-Tabari also narrated the following:

When ‘A’ysha said that ‘Uthman has been killed unjustly and that she was going to rise up to avenge the innocent blood of ‘Uthman, someone said to her, ‘I swear by God! The very first person who sought to pick a flaw with ‘Uthman was you and it was you who stated:

أُقْتُلُوا نَعْثَلاً فَقَدْ كَفَرَ

Kill the na’thal (‘Uthman) as he has renegaded from the faith!

‘A’ysha replied: “Yes, however the people first wanted ‘Uthman to repent and this is exactly what he did and after repenting they killed him. I accept that I said what I did about him however now I say that he was oppressed and this (what I now say) is better than what I said in the past!”3

The same thing has been narrated by Ibn Athir in his book Al-Kamil.4

Al-Bukhari in his book, al- Sahih has also narrated the story, and how there was jealousy which ‘A’ysha harbored in her heart towards Sayyida Khadijah (a.s.) even though Khadijah died before the Prophet (S) married ‘A’ysha.5

The story of ‘A’ysha’s travel towards Baŝrah and her reaching a city named Haw’ab and the loud scowls which the dogs of that area made is a well-known historical event as well.

It has been narrated that when ‘A’ysha reached Haw’ab and was told the name of the locality, she recalled the words which the Prophet (S) had warned her about when he said:

Be aware of that day when you will be travelling and the dogs of Haw’ab will gather around you, and begin to bark and scowl!

When she reached Haw’ab and the dogs began to gather around her and make loud noises, ‘A’ysha became extremely upset and decided to turn back and go home; however there were some people with her who forced her to reconsider. These individuals searched for and subsequently gathered 50 of the Bedouin Arabs of that region and asked them to swear an oath that they were actually not in Haw’ab!6

It was on a Monday night on the 10th of Shawwal, either in the year 57 ah (677 ce) or 59 ah (679 ce) that ‘A’ysha died in Medina. Prayers over her body were performed by Abu Hurayrah and she was [apparently] laid to rest in the graveyard known as Al-Baqi’.

  • 1. The death of ‘Uthman has been related as such from www.Wikipedia.org [last accessed on November 18, 2011] – TR.

    “Finding the gate of ‘Uthman house strongly guarded by his supporters, the rebels climbed the back wall and sneaked inside, leaving the guards on the gate unaware of what was going on inside. The rebels entered his room and struck blows at his head. Naila, the wife of ‘Uthman, threw herself on his body to protect him. Raising her hand to protect him she had her fingers chopped off and was pushed aside, and further blows were struck until he was dead. The supporters of ‘Uthman then counterattacked the assassins and in turn killed them. There was further fighting between the rebels and the supporters of ‘Uthman, with casualties on both sides, after which the rebels looted the house.

    The rioters wanted to mutilate his body and were keen that he be denied burial. When some of the rioters came forward to mutilate the body of ‘Uthman, his two widows, Naila and Ramlah b. Sheibah, covered him and raised loud cries which deterred the rioters. The rebels left the house and the supporters of ‘Uthman at the gate hearing this, entered but it was too late.

    Thereafter the rioters maintained a presence around the house in order to prevent the dead body from being carried to the graveyard.

    After the body of ‘Uthman had been in the house for three days, Naila, ‘Uthman wife, approached some of his supporters to help in his burial, but only about a dozen people responded. These included Marwan, Zayd b. Thabit, Huwatib b. al-Farah, Jabir b. Muta’am, Abu Jahm b. Hudayfa, Hakim b. Hazam and Niyar b. Mukarram. The body was lifted at dusk, and because of the blockade, no coffin could be procured. The body was not washed, as Islamic teaching states that martyrs’ bodies are not supposed to be washed before burial.

    Thus ‘Uthman was carried to the graveyard in the clothes that he was wearing at the time of his assassination.

    Some people say that ‘Ali attended the funeral, but there is however, overwhelming evidence to the effect that he did not. Naila followed the funeral with a lamp, but in order to maintain secrecy the lamp had to be extinguished. Naila was accompanied by some women including ‘A’ysha - ‘Uthman’s daughter.

    The body was carried to Jannat al-Baqi, the Muslim graveyard. It appears that some people gathered there, and they resisted the burial of ‘Uthman in the graveyard of the Muslims. The supporters of ‘Uthman insisted that the body should be buried in Jannat al-Baqi. They later buried him in the Jewish graveyard behind Jannat al-Baqi. Some decades later, the Omayyad rulers destroyed the wall of the Jewish cemetery and widened the Muslim graveyard to make his tomb inside.

    The funeral prayers were led by Jabir b. Muta’am, and the dead body was lowered into the grave without much of a ceremony. After the burial, Naila the widow of ‘Uthman and ‘A’ysha the daughter of ‘Uthman wanted to speak, but they were advised to remain quiet due to possible danger from the rioters.”

  • 2. Commentary of Nahjul Balagha of Ibn Abil Hadid; vol. 6, pg. 215 (summarized)
  • 3. The History of al-Tabari, v. 3, pg. 477
  • 4. Al-Kamil of Ibn Athir, v. 3, pg. 206
  • 5. Sahih al-Bukhari, v. 5, pg. 48, Section on the Marriage of Khadijah and her merits.
    Note from the translator: The following traditions have been extracted from http://www.sahih-bukhari.com [last accessed on October 13, 2011]:

    Volume 5, Book 58, Number 164: Narrated by ‘A’ysha: I did not feel jealous about any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did for Khadijah (although) she died before he married me, for I often heard him mentioning her, and Allah had told him to give her the good tidings that she would have a palace of Qasab (i.e. pipes of precious stones and pearls in Paradise), and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would send her women friends a good share of it.

    Volume 5, Book 58, Number 165: Narrated by ‘A’ysha: I did not feel jealous about any woman as much as I did of Khadijah because Allah’s Apostle used to mention her very often. He married me after three years of her death, and his Lord (or Gabriel) ordered him to give her the good news of having a palace of Qasab in Paradise.

    Volume 5, Book 58, Number 166: Narrated by ‘A’ysha: I did not feel jealous about any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did of Khadijah even though I did not see her, but the Prophet used to mention her very often, and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadijah. When I sometimes said to him, “(You treat Khadijah in such a way) as if there is no woman on earth except Khadijah,” he would say, “Khadijah was such-and-such, and from her I had children.”

    Volume 5, Book 58, Number 168: Narrated by Abu Hurayra: Gabriel came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! This is Khadijah coming to you with a dish having meat soup (or some food or drink). When she reaches you, greet her on behalf of her Lord (i.e. Allah) and on my behalf, and give her the glad tidings of having a Qasab palace in Paradise wherein there will be neither any noise nor any fatigue (trouble).

    “Narrated ‘A’ysha: Once Hala bint Khuwailid, Khadijah’s sister, asked the permission of the Prophet to enter. Upon that, the Prophet remembered the way Khadijah used to ask permission, and that upset him. He said, “O Allah! Hala!” So I became jealous and said, “What makes you remember an old woman amongst the old women of Quraish, an old woman (with a teethless mouth) of red gums who died long ago, and in whose place Allah has given you somebody better than her?”

    Volume 7, Book 62, Number 156: Narrated by ‘A’ysha: I never felt so jealous about any wife of Allah’s Apostle as I did of Khadijah because Allah’s Apostle used to remember and praise her too often and because it was revealed to Allah’s Apostle that he should give her (Khadijah) the glad tidings of her having a palace of Qasab in Paradise.

    Volume 8, Book 73, Number 33: Narrated by ‘A’ysha: I never felt so jealous about any woman as I did of Khadijah, though she had died three years before the Prophet married me, and that was because I heard him mentioning her too often, and because his Lord had ordered him to give her the glad tidings that she would have a palace in Paradise, made of Qasab and because he used to slaughter a sheep and distribute its meat among her friends.

    Volume 9, Book 93, Number 576: Narrated by ‘A’ysha: I never felt so jealous about any woman as I felt of Khadijah, for Allah ordered him (the Prophet) to give Khadijah the glad tidings of a palace in Paradise (for her).

  • 6. This event has been narrated by Ibn Abil Hadid in detail in vol. 6, of his Commentary of Nahjul Balagha on page 225. In addition, ‘Allamah Amini, in his work Al-Ghadir, vol. 3, has also narrated this event from many sources of the Ahl as-Sunnah (page 188).