The incident of Ifk Slander & Few Distinctions of Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A), By Mufti Muhammad Shafi
اِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ جَاۗءُوْ بِالْاِفْكِ عُصْبَةٌ مِّنْكُمْ ۭ لَا تَحْسَبُوْهُ شَرًّا لَّكُمْ ۭ بَلْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۭ لِكُلِّ امْرِۍ مِّنْهُمْ مَّا اكْتَسَبَ مِنَ الْاِثْمِ ۚ وَالَّذِيْ تَوَلّٰى كِبْرَهٗ مِنْهُمْ لَهٗ عَذَابٌ عَظِيْمٌ
Those who have come up with the false imputation are a gang among you. Do not think it is bad for you; rather, it is good for you. Every one of them is liable for what he earned of the sin. And the one who undertook the major part of it, for him there is a mighty punishment.
The incident of Ifk and the slander
This incident has been narrated with extraordinary details in the Sahihs and other books of Hadith. However its brief version is as follows: When the Holy Prophet ﷺ went for the battle (بنی المصطلق ) of Bani Mustaliq, also known as battle (مُریسیع) of Muraisi’, in the 6th Hijra, Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) ، amongst the mothers of believers, was also accompanying him. The common practice was that first, she would sit in her litter, and then it was placed on the back of the camel. It was because by that time the injunction in regard to hijab had been revealed. After the battle was over and the caravan was returning to Madinah it stopped for camping to spend the night. Towards the end of the night, an announcement was made to the effect that the caravan would soon be departing, so that people should get ready after completing the necessities. Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) felt the call of nature and went out to ease herself. There the string of her necklace was broken and it fell down. It took her some time to locate it, so she got a little late. By the time she returned to the camp, the caravan had departed. As for her camel, her litter was mounted on its back without realizing that she was not sitting in it. This happened because she was so young and frail at that time that her absence from the litter was not noticed; and also because the litter was covered. On her return to the camp when she did not find the caravan there, she did not panic nor ran helter-skelter to locate it. Instead, she acted very prudently and sat down at the camping place after wrapping herself. She did this knowing the Holy Prophet ﷺ very well that when he will not find her in her litter (ھودج) he will send out men to locate her at the camping place, and if she were gone some other place to locate them, it will only complicate things for the searching party. So, it was best to wait for them there, at the camp. Since it was still dark and she was tired, she fell asleep.
On the other hand, it so happened that Sayyidna Safwan Ibn Mu`attal (R.A) ، whom the Holy Prophet ﷺ had assigned the duty to stay behind the caravan and pick up things if forgotten by anyone in a hurry, reached the camp at dawn. He saw someone sleeping. So he went there and recognized Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) whom he had seen before the injunction of the hijab was revealed. Seeing her there like that, he was extremely dismayed and uttered إِنَّا لِلَّـهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ. On hearing his voice she was awakened and covered her face. Then Sayyidna Safwan (R.A) brought his camel near her and made it sit down. Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) sat on the camel’s back and rode on, while he was holding the string of the camel and walking in front. Abdullah Ibn Ubbayy was a very wicked hypocrite and enemy of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. He got hold of this news and the wretched man fabricated shameless imputation against her. Unfortunately, some naive Muslims also narrated the gossip on hearsay; for instance Sayyidna Hassan and Mistah (R.A) among the males and Sayyidah Hamnah (R.A) from the females. (Tafsir Ad-Durr-al-Manthur has reported this version with reference to Ibn Marduwaih on the authority of Sayyidna Ibn Abbas (R.A) -۔ اعانہ ای عبداللہ ابن اُبّی حسان و مسطح و حمنہ)
When this slander of the hypocrite was publicized, the Holy Prophet ﷺ himself was also very hurt. As for Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A), it was but obvious to get hurt extremely. Even ordinary Muslims were also extremely pained on the spread of this totally false and fabricated slander. This went on for about a month, but at last Allah Ta’ala revealed these verses to exonerate her and condemn those who were involved in its fabrication or spread, in any way. The commentary on these verses will follow soon.
In accordance with the Qur’anic injunction, which has been detailed above under the heading of punishment for false accusation (حدّ القذف) those who were involved in the spread of false slander were asked to produce the evidence in support of their accusation. Since that was a totally unfounded accusation, they could not produce any evidence whatsoever. As a consequence, the Holy Prophet ﷺ awarded the punishment of false accusation (حدّ القذف) to them, and each one of them was flogged with eighty stripes. Bazzar and Ibn Marduwaih have reported on the authority of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah (R.A) that the Holy Prophet ﷺ awarded the punishment to three Muslims, namely, Mistah, Hamnah, and Hassan (R.A) while Tabarani has reported on the authority of Sayyidna Umar (R.A) that the Holy Prophet ﷺ had awarded double the punishment of false accusation to Abdullah Ibn Ubayy, the hypocrite, who had fabricated this slander. After that, the Muslims repented, but the hypocrites remained as they were. (Bayan ul Quran)
Unique proficiency of Sayyidah A’ishah’s (R.A) and the remaining part of the incident of Ifk
The enemies of the Holy Prophet ﷺ did their best to harm him and did everything they could possibly think to afflict him. Amongst all the afflictions which were perpetrated by the infidels, perhaps the most severe and emotionally torturous was to pass slander on the most exalted, proficient, learned, and respected mother of the believers amongst all his pure wives. With the contemptible false slander, the respected name of Sayyidna Safwan Ibn Mu’attal (R.A) was also maligned by the hypocrite Abdullah Ibn Ubayy. The hypocrites gave the slander different colors and then spread it. The most distressful thing in this episode was that some simple Muslims were carried away by the unfortunate slander and started narrating it as well. The unfounded slander would have been exposed by the truth in a few days time, but for compensating the emotional torture inflicted on Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) and on the Holy Prophet ﷺ himself by it and for exonerating her, Allah Ta’ala did not rest just at hinting at the episode in a revelation but revealed almost two ruku’s for her exoneration. Not only that, but all those who had fabricated this slander, and those who had participated in narrating it, were warned to face the torment in this world and in the Hereafter. Perhaps never such warnings were revealed on any occasion.
In fact, this incident of Ifk has brought into the open and highlighted the excellence of Sayyidah A’ishah’s (R.A) superior wisdom and intelligence along with her chastity and sanctity. That is why in the very first of the above-quoted verses Allah Ta’ala has asked not to consider this incident as bad for her, rather it was a blessing. What could be a greater blessing than this, that Allah Ta’ala has confirmed her purity in no less than ten verses, which will be recited until the Dooms Day. Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) had herself said that she was quite confident that Allah Ta’ala would exonerate her and clarify her position through a Wahy (message to the Holy Prophet ﷺ ), but did not consider herself to be so fortunate that Quranic verses would be revealed referring to her person, which will be recited forever. At this point, it will help the readers to know some details about the incident for understanding the verses. So, they are briefly narrated here:
On return from that journey, Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) got involved in her household affairs and was not the least aware of the rumor that was circulated by the hypocrites about her. Sahih of Bukhari has narrated on the authority of Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) herself that after the return from the journey she fell slightly sick, the main cause of which was that she did not notice the favor and grace from the Holy Prophet ﷺ towards her, which was his norm. Instead, she noticed during that period that when he would come home, he would only inquire about her health after the salutation and go back. Since she did not know at all anything about the rumor that was being circulated about her, hence she could not understand the cause of his attitude towards her but took the grief to heart, which started telling on her health. One day she went out in the open to ease herself, as there used to be no latrines in the houses in those days. Because she was not keeping well she took along Mistah’s mother with her. When they were returning home after she had eased herself, the foot of Mistah’s mother got entangled in her sheet and she fell down. As she fell down she uttered the phrase تَعِسَ مِسطَح. This phrase is normally used by Arabs while cursing someone. Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) was taken aback on hearing this phrase from Mistah’s mother for her own son and said to her that it was very bad that she was cursing her own son, who was such a gentleman and who had participated in the battle of Badr. On that Mistah’s mother asked her ` My dear girl, don’t you know, this son of mine, what has he been saying around?’ Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) inquired as to what had he been saying around. Then Mistah’s mother told her the whole story of Ifk fabricated by the people, and how her son was involved in its spreading. Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) goes on to say that on hearing this her sickness was doubled. When she returned home and the Holy Prophet ﷺ came and inquired about her health after the salutation, as usual, she asked his permission whether she could go to her parent’s house. He consented to her going to their house. The idea was to take them in confidence and have a consultation. So she consulted her mother, who consoled her and said that there were people who were jealous of women like her, and spread rumors like that. So, she need not to worry about it. Things would get alright on their own. On that, she retorted Allah is Pure / Subhan Allah! People have been talking about that. How can I be patient?’ Then the whole night she cried and did not sleep a wink. On the other hand, the Holy Prophet ﷺ was extremely grieved on the spread of this false story, more so, because he did not receive any revelation on the incident during that period. Therefore, he called Sayyidna Ali and Usamah Ibn Zaid (R.A) who were both members of his household and consulted them as to what should he do under the circumstances. Sayyidna Usamah Ibn Zaid said very emphatically that on the basis of his information he had no misgivings about Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) whatsoever. There is absolutely nothing, which could point toward any mistrust. Hence he need not pay any heed to such rumors. Sayyidna Ali (R.A) advised him (in order to bring him out of his grief and anxiety) that Allah Ta’ala had not put any restriction on him, hence if he had any unpleasant feelings about Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) because of the rumors, then there are many other women. Moreover, he suggested another alternative to remove his unpleasant feelings and advised him to make inquiries about her from Barirah (R.A) who was the slave girl working for Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A). Hence, the Holy Prophet ﷺ made inquiries from Barirah (R.A) ، who submitted that she did not see anything unbecoming in Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) except that sometimes, because of her young age, she would leave the dough in the open and go to sleep, and the goat would eat up the dough. (After this the Hadith narrates the address of the Holy Prophet ﷺ from the rostrum in great detail in which he had complained about those who had fabricated the accusation and those who had spread the slander. A brief account of what happened next is as follows).
Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) goes on to say “I cried the whole day and the second night also continuously. My parents had also come to me, as they feared that I would break down with grief. While my parents were sitting with me the Holy Prophet ﷺ came in and sat down alongside me. He had not sit with me before ever since this incident had started. Then he recited the khutbah of shahadah and said ` 0, A’ishah, I have received this information about you. If you are free from blame, then Allah will definitely exonerate you (that is express exoneration through revelation), but if you have slipped, then beg for Allah’s pardon with repentance, because when the servant invokes His mercy after admitting his sin then Allah Ta’ala accepts his repentance’. After the Holy Prophet ﷺ had completed his discourse, my tears dried up completely. There was not a drop in my eyes. I requested my father, Abu Bakr (R.A) to give an answer to the Holy Prophet ﷺ but he excused himself saying what could he say. Then I asked my mother to give an answer, and she too excused herself saying as to what could she say. Then perforce I had to speak. I was only a young girl, and by then had not learnt much even the Qur’an”. In such a perplexing condition of grief and distress that she was in, even extremely learned and intelligent persons would have found it very difficult to express themselves in a balanced manner, but what Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) said at that time is a piece of highly intellectual and scholarly discourse. Her wordings are reproduced verbatim below:
و اللہ لقد عرفت لقد سمعتم ھٰذا الحدیث حتّٰی استقرَّ فی انفسکم وصدقتم بہ، ولیٔن قلت لکم : انّی بریٔۃ، واللہ یعلم انّی بریٔۃ، لا تصدّقونی ولیٔن اعترفت لکم بامر، واللہ یعلم انی منہ بریٔۃ، لتصدقونی ، واللہ لا اجد لی ولکم مثلا الا کما قال ابو یوسف : فصبر جمیل واللہ المستعان علی ما تصفون
“By God, I fully realize that you listened to this talk and kept on listening until it made inroads into your heart, and you have confirmed this (by your actions). Now if I say that I am free from this blame, as Allah knows well that I am in reality, then you will not verify my statement. And if I make the admission of the accusation, of which Allah knows I am free, then you will agree with my admission. Wallah, now I do not see any example on the issue between you and me, except the one which the father of Yusuf, said after hearing the wrong statement of his sons that So patience is best. And it is Allah whose help is sought against what you describe.”
Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) ‘related further that “After having said so I went away and lied down on my bed. I was confident that since I was free from the blame, in reality, Allah Ta’ala would surely exonerate me by sending down a revelation. But I did not have the slightest idea or expectation that in my case Qur’anic verses will be revealed, which will be recited forever. It was because I considered my position to be much lower than that. All I had expected was that probably my exoneration will be revealed to him in his dream”. Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) goes on to narrate that “the Holy Prophet ﷺ had not got up from that company yet, nor anyone from the household had got up when he was overtaken by the condition which he used to experience at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an. In this condition, he used to perspire profusely on the forehead. When this condition was over, then the Holy Prophet ﷺ got up smiling, and the very first thing that he said was ابشری یا عایٔشہ اما اللہ فقد ابرأکِ that is “0 A’ishah, listen to the good tiding. As for Allah Ta’ala, He has exonerated you”. Then my mother said to me “Get up and go to the Holy Prophet ﷺ. I replied, “I do not feel obliged to anyone in this case, except Allah, nor would I get up. I am thankful to my Lord, and it is He who has exonerated me”.
Few distinctions of Sayyidah Siddiqah (R.A)
While explaining these verses Imam Baghawi (R.A) has said that there were some distinctions of Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) which no woman other than her could get, and Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) also used to relate them with a sense of pride (as an honorable gift):
- (1) First, that before the marriage with the Holy Prophet ﷺ Jibra’il had brought to him her image wrapped in a silk cloth, and said to him she is your wife’, (As reported by At-Tirmidhi – from A’ishah (R.A) while some other versions say that Jibra’il had brought this image in his palm.
- (2) Second, that the Holy Prophet ﷺ did not marry any maiden girl other than her.
- (3) Third, that the Holy Prophet ﷺ died in her lap.
- (4) Fourth, that he was buried in her house.
- (5) Fifth, that he ﷺ had received revelation even at that time also when he used to be with Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) under the same quilt. None other wives were granted this distinction ever.
- (6) Sixth, that her (R.A) exoneration was sent down from the Heaven.
- (7) Seventh, that she was the daughter of the caliph of the Holy Prophet ﷺ and was herself a Siddiqah (R.A) and was among those whom Allah Ta’ala had promised forgiveness and bountiful sustenance even during their lifetime. (Mazhari)
After seeing Sayyidah A’ishah’s (R.A) scholarly research, understanding of jurisprudence and eloquent expression, Sayyidna Musa Ibn Talhah (R.A) commented that he had never come across a person more eloquent than her. (Tirmidhi)
Tafsir al-Qurtubi has related that when Sayyidna Yusuf was falsely accused, Allah Ta’ala exonerated him through the evidence of a baby by granting him speech, and when Sayyidah Maryam was falsely accused, Allah Ta’ala exonerated her through the evidence of her son, `Isa but when the false accusation was leveled against Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) then Allah Ta’ala sent down ten verses of the Holy Qur’an to declare her exoneration, which has further enhanced her respect and stature.
Now the specific sentences of these verses will be discussed and elaborated:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ جَاءُوا بِالْإِفْكِ عُصْبَةٌ مِّنكُمْ
Those who have come up with the false imputation are a gang among you. 24:11.
The literal meaning of Ifk (اِفک) is to turn over, reverse, or to change. The worst type of lie which turns the truth to falsehood and the false as truth, and labels the pious and God-fearing as a sinner, and the sinner as pious and God-fearing, also falls under the connotation of Ifk. ‘Usbah عُصبَہ means a group of ten to forty persons, but is also used for less or more persons. The word مِنکُم (among you) in the verse refers to Muslims. Although the actual fabricator of the slander was ` Abdullah Ibn ‘Ubayy, who was a hypocrite and not a Muslim, but since the hypocrites used to claim themselves as Muslims, he too has been included within the fold of (مِنکُم). Among the Muslims, two men and one woman got involved in the spread of slander, who was awarded the punishment of false accusation by the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) ، after the revelation of these verses. But all Muslims felt penitence and their repentance was accepted by Allah Ta’ala. Among them were Sayyidna Hassan and Mistah (R.A) who had both participated in the battle of Badr, and for whom Allah Ta’ala has declared forgiveness in the Qur’an. For this very reason, Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) used to dislike if anyone would speak ill of Sayyidna Hassan (R.A) before her, although he was one of those two men who were punished for false accusation. Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) used to say that Hassan (R.A) was the one who had defended the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) in his poetry against the infidels. Hence, no one should speak ill of him. Whenever he used to visit Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) she would make him sit with dignity and respect. (Mazhari etc.)
لَا تَحْسَبُوهُ شَرًّا لَّكُم
Do not think it is bad for you – 24:11.
This sentence is addressed to the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) Sayyidah A’ishah (R.A) Safwan (R.A) and all the Muslims, who were hurt by the spread of this rumor. The purport of the sentence is that you should not feel bad about this incident, because after the exoneration declared in the Qur’an by Allah Ta’ ala her esteem has been raised further, and those who were involved in rumor-mongering were warned strongly in the Qur’an, which will be recited until the Dooms Day.
لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِّنْهُم مَّا اكْتَسَبَ مِنَ الْإِثْمِ
Everyone of them is liable for what he earned of the sin – 24:11.
It means that whoever had taken part in the spread of this slander, his sin has been recorded exactly in the same proportion as was his share in the spread of the slander, and he will be punished accordingly. The one who had fabricated this rumor, which will be dealt later, deserves the most severe punishment, and the one who endorsed the rumor when it reached him, a little less than that, and the one who kept quiet after hearing it, still less than that.
وَالَّذِي تَوَلَّىٰ كِبْرَهُ مِنْهُمْ لَهُ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
And the one who undertook the major part of it, for him there is a mighty punishment – 24:11.
The word means big, large, or great. Here it means that the one who has taken big part in the slander, that is who fabricated it and passed on to others, for him is the great punishment. The indication is toward ` Abdullah Ibn ‘Ubayy (Baghawi etc.).
SOURCE: Maariful Quran, Vol 6, By Mufti Muhammad Shafi.