Why Allah maintained silence for a month when rumor about Prophet Muhammad's wife Aisha's adultery was brewing, and why He eventually broke His silence to defend Aisha...    [Read in Indonesian]

Hadithul-ifk, meaning ‘the untruthful talk’, is the name given to the rumours that circulated in the city of Medina upon the return of the Muslims’ Army after defeating the tribe of Bani Al Mustalk. The Muslims’ army won an easy victory over the Jewish tribe and returned fully laden with slaves and other war booties. However, a last minute hitch turned what should have been a big day into one of the most embarrassing days in Muhammad’s life. What could be more embarrassing to a man than returning home and discovering that his wife was out with another man? You can imagine how Muhammad felt when he watched, along with the other residents of Medina, his favourite wife entering the city with a stranger!

Whatever happened between Aisha and Safwan on that day had demoralised Muhammad, dented his integrity and divided the Islamic community. Indeed, Muslims are divided even in our time over what happened between Aisha and Safwan on that day 14 centuries ago. Some of the bitter wars between the conflicting Muslim groups, costing tens of thousands of lives, can be traced back to that infamous day. This article discusses those stressful events, which are well documented in all the reputed sira books, and presents the picture as seen from a non-Islamic point of view. This article tries to explain the otherwise inexplicable delay in the ‘revelations’ when it was most urgently needed.

The Story

It was customary for Muhammad to take one of his wives with him whenever he launched a ‘ghazwa’ (i.e. Jihad raid), which, it would seem, was kind of going out for picnic to him. Muhammad enjoyed those ghazwas so much that he used to launch several of them every year. In the sixth year after hijra, Muhammad picked Aisha to accompany him in his campaign against the Jewish tribe of Bani Al Mustalik. The campaign was an easy success, because they were attack suddenly as they watered their cattle; most of the men were killed, and their wives and children were taken as slaves. Among the captives was Juwayriya, the beautiful wife of the tribe’s chief. The Islamic history sources focus on Juwayriya’s class and splendour and claim that she was one of the most beautiful women in Arabia. She was not only glamorous but also an eloquent woman, who was brought up as a princess. Aisha openly admitted that she hated Juwayriya from the first sight because of her stunning beauty, and she admitted that she was jealous of the female captive because, knowing her husband’s carnal lust, she was sure that Muhammad would be stunned by her exceptional beauty and start coveting her. Aisha couldn’t be more right; Muhammad immediately promoted Juwayriya from slave to his wife.

According to Aisha, as the army had an overnight stop on the way back to Medina, she felt the need to leave the camp to answer the call of nature. Her return to the camp was delayed because she had to search for her dropped necklace. When she came back to the camp, she found that the army had already left the site, and she stayed in her place hoping that Muhammad would realize that she was missing, and return to look for her. As it turned out, Muhammad did not come back to rescue her, and did not even notice her absence until his arrival to medina.

Aisha was soon spotted by Safwan Ibn Al Muattal, Muhammad Jihadi comrade, who had emigrated from Mecca. He was travelling on his own behind the army. He approached her, and offered her a ride on his camel. Aisha, sitting behind Safwan on his camel, made her way into Medina where Muhammad and his companions were waiting (1,2).

According to Ibn Hisham/Ibn Ishaq, that was the story told by Aisha. It implies that she spent more time in that desert ‘loo’ than the time it took the army to prepare to move and actually leave the place and completely disappear from sight. It also implies that she did not hear or sense the movement of an army of seven hundreds men, with their women, horses, camels, captives and slaves. The story also implies that Aisha was left behind without being discovered by Muhammad at all. The young and spoiled Aisha was not used to that level of inattention from her husband, who was probably too occupied with Juwayriya.

The sight of Aisha and Safwan entering the city of Medina was a remarkable oddity considering the situation and prevailing culture. The incident set off people to talk although the couple denied any wrongdoing. Ibn Abi Saloul, the leader of Al Khazraj tribe, was one of the few Arabs in Medina who opposed Muhammad and rejected his presence in the city. Saloul watched with disbelief as Aisha entered the city with a stranger and openly expressed his doubts that the couple couldn’t spend such a long time together without engaging in some sexual activity. Salul’s dirty thoughts were in fact in line with Muhammad’s own teachings; it was Muhammad, who stated in an authentic hadith, that “whenever a man and a woman are alone, the Satan is their third”. Saloul expressed openly what many people were saying in private.

Tension between Ansar and Muhajirun

The timing of the scandal couldn’t have been worse because the relation between the muhajerun (refugees, i.e. Muhammad and his Meccan companions) and the ansar (residents of Medina) was going through a difficult phase. According to Ibn Hisham, after the Al Mustalik campaign was over, a clash broke out between a Medinan Muslim and a Meccan refugee, one of Omar’s aids. The disagreement between the two spread quickly and involved a large number of Muslims from both sides. Saloul was outraged when he knew about the clash, and threatened to review the presence of the muhajirun in his city.

Naturally, the residents of Medina expected Aisha’s case to be resolved immediately because they believed Muhammad had a direct contact with the ‘all knowing’ Allah. Some urgent revelations were necessary but never happened. The lack of revelations was interpreted as a sign that Aisha was guilty and fuelled the suspicions about her fidelity. Even leading Muslim figures like Ali, the third Caliph, and Hassan Ibn Thabit, his poet, were drawn into spreading gossips in Medina. Muhammad himself must have had his suspicions as well, because he neglected Aisha, who was ill and lodged with her parents for nearly a month. Muhammad’s silence and poor handling of the situation did not help; he appeared confused and indecisive in a most sensitive matter.

After a month of social torture, the divine silence was broken and Gabriel came down with the news that Aisha was innocent and those who thought otherwise were guilty:

Q.24: 11. Those who brought forward the lie are a body among yourselves: think it not to be an evil to you; On the contrary it is good for you: to every man among them of the sin that he earned, and to him who took on himself the lead among them, will be a penalty grievous.

The verse condemned the people, who interpreted the divine silence as a sign that Aisha was guilty, and described them as liars and sinful. Allah meant Saloul, but He couldn’t say it openly for fear of upsetting the Khazraj! By revealing this verse, Muhammad accidentally contradicted his own teachings. It was him, who asserted in an authentic hadith that ‘whenever a man and a woman are alone, the Satan joins them as their third’. Those people, who doubted Aisha’s innocence, did so because of Muhammad’s own teachings. They expected a verse to clear her name, but that didn’t happen, which they understood as a sign against her. How would they know that Allah intended to reveal that verse after a month?

As usual, Muslims apply the civilized logic and principles only when they happen to be on the receiving end, which explains their unusually cautious handling of this incident. It appeared as if Muslims suddenly believed in the civilized principle that people are innocent until proved otherwise, which contradicts Muhammad’s own teachings. Muhammad taught his followers that Satan arranges for men and women to have sex, whenever they happen to be alone. Muhammad’s followers apply his teachings in all countries ruled by Sharia, like Saudi Arabia, with frightening cruelty. Saudi Arabia is renowned for countless stories about awful consequences in incidents involving women travelling alone or with ‘non-muhram’ (men who are not close relatives). In his book ‘Karen in Saudi Arabia’, Sami Al Rabbaa gives some chilling accounts of such barbaric practices (3).

Why a month?

Muhammad was not new to troubled times; he was an experienced ‘prophet’ and knew well how to get out of any trouble by revealing a suitable verse. However, he appeared to be totally helpless in the face of those rumours; the best he could do was to wait. Muhammad’s nightmare was the thought of Aisha showing signs of pregnancy because that would implicate her and would discredit him should that happen after ‘revealing’ the required verse. A pregnant Aisha would mean an unfaithful wife because Muhammad did not sleep with her since his marriage with Juwayreya. After arriving to Yathrib, Aisha became ill and went to live with her parents to look after her; Muhammad hardly spoke to her during that month. Also, it doesn’t escape notice that Aisha never became pregnant from Muhammad after many years of marriage; therefore, a pregnancy at that particular time would be highly suspicious.

Aisha’s fidelity, an obvious personal concern to Muhammad, was an issue he could have managed had it remained a personal matter. However, the situation became too complex as the news spread throughout the city. Still, all that complexity would be trivial to what could have happened if he revealed a verse that soon proved to be wrong.

To Muhammad’s relief, Aisha did get her menstruation and pregnancy was ruled out as was the prospect of Muhammad’s favourite wife being officially named and shamed. Muhammad was relieved from a heavy burden and immediately revealed that long awaited verse.

Was Aisha Unfaithful to Muhammad?

It was no secret that Muhammad loved Aisha more than any of his other wives including Juwayreya, his new beautiful pride. Muhammad probably considered Juwayreya as a good fun when he needed that kind of fun, but Aisha was his true love. Muhammad’s other wives recognized Muhammad’s fondness towards Aisha. When Muhammad decided to divorce Sawda, because she got too old, Sawda begged him to keep her and offered to give her night share of Muhammad to Aisha. That incentive worked well, and Muhammad kept Sawda without having to sleep with her.

Aisha was intelligent, confident and extra sensitive to anything that poses a threat to her prominence.  Once, she had no hesitation to plot for the unfair divorce of a new pride which Muhammad was about to add to his harem. As a result of Aisha’s evil advice, the new pride muttered something like ‘I seek refuge with Allah from you’ as a part of the foreplay on her wedding night. As a result, Muhammad divorced the naive pride immediately while Aisha emerged unscathed.

When Muhammad brought his son to show him to Aisha, her response was that ‘the baby did not look like Muhammad’, hinting at the possibility that Maria had the baby from another man. On another occasion, when Aisha noticed that the Quran always agreed with Muhammad’s desires, she remarked to Muhammad: ‘I see that Allah is too quick to answer your desires’. No one else could make such remarks without fearing punishment except Aisha.

We may never know, with cerainity, what actually happened between Aisha and Safwan. Was it by accident that Safwan was travelling on his own behind the army, or was it all planned? Some scholars propose that Safwan was travelling behind in order to collect the army’s leftovers, but there is no historical evidence to support that claim. Was it possible for the wife of the perfect human to contemplate having an affair?  The answer is yes, because there were many reasons for Aisha to consider having an affair.

Aisha was a spoiled teen ager who was aware of Muhammad’s obsession in her. She enjoyed her privileges as a favourite wife of Mohammd and guarded her eminence with jealousy. Aisha must have been deeply offended, during Al Mustalik campaign, by the fact that Muhammad’s attention was turned away from her in favour of Juwayreya, the woman she openly admitted to have hated. From her track record, Aisha was certainly that kind of woman who could respond in kind.

It is also natural to assume that Aisha, as well as Muhammad’s other wives, were all sexually deprived; simply there were too many of them for one old man. The Islamic claim that Muhammad’s sexual potency (4) equalled that of forty men is, of course, an Islamic lie and meaningless to non Muslims. Muhammad’s apparent lust to women did not necessarily mean an increased potency; underneath, there could be some kind of sexual dysfunction. As to Aisha, she was a young girl who opened her eyes to find herself abused by a man older than her father. She had no experience and didn’t know what a normal sexual relation looked like. Aisha was condemned to have only that abnormal relation with that old man who prohibited her from getting married after his death. Muhammad’s (divine) orders to his followers not to marry his wives could be an indication that he wanted to conceal something about his sexuality. By never marrying after him, his wives wouldn’t divulge any of his sexual secrets.

Muhammad asked his followers to learn half of their religion from Aisha. Indeed, Aisha narrated more hadiths than any of the other wives. Most of those hadiths narrated by Aisha described the intimate relations between a man and his wife; the kind of things we would normally label ‘for adults only’. To pre-empt any criticism to this rather embarrassing observation, Muslims are taught that there is no shyness in religion (la haya fid din). According to Muhammad, those embarrassing hadiths comprised half of the religion!

One of those hadiths narrated by Aisha described Muhammad’s ‘etiquette’ in fondling a menstruating wife and praised his ability to control his ejaculation. At the end of the hadith, Aisha remarked “and who of you can control himself better than the messenger of Allah, PBUH”. (5)

How did she know? Was she comparing him to Safwan?


1) Ibn Sa’ad, Al Tabakat Al Kubra, vol.8 (Arabic)

2) Ibn Hisham, sira al nabaweyya(Arabic)

3) Dr. Sami Alrabaa, Karen in Saudi Arabia

4) Sahih al Bukhari, chapter of washing, Narrated by Anas. (Arabic)

5) Al Lulu wa Al Marjan fima ittaffaqa alihi al shaikhan: Muslim and Bukhari, hadith No.168; 173 (Arabic)

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