The Incident of Ifk

The group of munafiqs who seemingly believed in God but did not actually believe always looked for an opportunity to disturb the Messenger of God and his Companions. They resorted to all kinds of methods to attain their aims. They even slandered the privacy of the Messenger of God and acted arrogantly and meanly.

The Incident of Ifk is the slander by Abdullah b. Ubay, the leader of the munafiqs, against Hazrat Aisha. The incident took place as follows:

According to what we learnt from Hazrat Aisha, when the Messenger of God went on an expedition, he drew lots among the names of his wives and took that wife with him.[1]On the expedition of Sons of Mustaliq, Aisha’s name was drawn.[2]

Hazrat Aisha related the incident as follows:

“I was on an expedition with the Messenger of God. This expedition took place after the verse of hijab was sent down. Therefore, I was carried in a kind of chair and when we stopped for a break, I was put down in the chair. We travelled like that.  

The Messenger of God (pbuh) was returning from the expedition of Sons of Mustaliq. When we approached Madinah, we stopped somewhere for a break. We spent some part of the night there. Then, the Prophet ordered to set out.

When the order to move was given, I left the army alone to answer the call of the nature. After that, I went near the camel that I had ridden. When I checked my chest, I noticed that my necklace made of Yemen beads was lost. (That necklace had been given to her by her mother, Umm Ru­man.) I went back to look for my necklace. However, while I was looking for my necklace, I missed the army. I thought those who had joined the expedition would never leave before I was in my chair. However, those who served me had put my chair on the camel and made the camel move. They thought I was in the chair; the women at that time were very light; they were not large or heavy. They ate little. Therefore, when the servants lifted the chair to put it on the camel, they did not notice that I was not in the chair.  I was a small and weak woman. They moved the camel.

I found my necklace after the army left. I returned to the place where the army had stopped for a break. However, I could not find anybody there. Then, I went to the place where I had been. I wrapped myself in my sheet and lay down. I thought they would return and look for me when they found out that I was not in the chair. Meanwhile I fell asleep.  

Safwan b. Muattal always stayed behind the army and checked if there was anything left behind and then took those things to the army.

Safwan came to the place where I was toward the morning. When he noticed a sleeping person, he stopped and recognized me. He had seen me before the verse of hijab was sent down.

When Safwan saw me, he said in surprise, ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun = To God we belong and to Him is our return’.

I woke up when I heard his voice. I covered my face with my sheet.

I did not talk to him and I did not hear anything but [“Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun”].

Then, Safwan made his camel sit. He stepped on the front foot of the camel so that I would mount the camel. He said, ‘Mount’ and went back.

I mounted the camel. He held the halter of the camel and started to walk quickly to catch up with the army.

We could not catch up with the soldiers for a long time.

Finally, when the army stopped for a break, Safwan took the camel there”[3]

The Leader of the Munafiqs Makes Use of the Situation

While Safwan b. Muattal was bringing Hazrat Aisha on the camel, Abdullah b. Ubay, the leader of the munafiqs, saw them and asked, “Who is that person?”

They said, “It is Aisha.”

Abdullah b. Ubay, who had been discredited among his tribe and who was regarded as a negative person, wanted to make use of this simple incident. He expressed his evil intention there:

“By God! Neither Aisha nor that man will be acquitted of this incident!”

He uttered many other mean sentences.[4]

The rumor that Abdullah b. Ubay, the leader of the munafiqs, caused spread among the soldiers of the army.  

Hazrat Aisha said,

“The slanderers uttered many words against me  and everybody was talking about me. By God, I was not aware of any of them!”[5]

Evil Slander

As it is seen, the incident happened without any blemish. Hazrat Aisha was left behind due to a reasonable and legitimate excuse. After a while, Safwan b. Muattal, who was appointed to check for the things that the army left and return them to their owners, who was a very simple-hearted man and who turned out to be infertile, found her and took her to the place where the army was.

According to the Quran, the prophets are more valuable to the believers than themselves. The wives of the Prophet are like the mothers of the believers. It was definitely forbidden to marry any of the wives of the Prophet even after the death of the Prophet.[6]

Therefore, under the light of such definite and clear signs, it was impossible for a real Muslim who believed in God and His Messenger to say bad things or even to think of bad things about any of the wives of the Prophet both when the Prophet was alive or after he died.  

What could have been more natural and necessary for a real believer and Muslim who believed in God and His Messenger and who obeyed their orders and prohibitions to make the wife of the Prophet, whom he loved more than his own self, mount the camel with respect and lead her to the place where the army had stopped?

Safwan b. Muattal, who was a real believer and Muslim, and who was deprived of masculine characteristics, fulfilled that religious duty.

However, the munafiqs, who had illnesses in their hearts, who said, ‘we believed in God’ but who did not believe heartily and who always tried to set believers against one another, and especially Abdullah b. Ubay b. Salul, made use of this opportunity and slandered Hazrat Aisha. His aim was to be freed from the negative looks that were directed at him, to disturb the kind heart of the Messenger of God, to set Muslims against one another and to shake their faith to one another.

Hazrat Aisha is Unaware of the Rumor for a Long Time

For a long time, Hazrat Aisha was not aware of the incident of slander that was started by the leader of the munafiqs, Abdullah b. Ubay and that was spread by Hassan b. Thabit, Mistah b. Uthatha, Hamna bint Jahsh and some gullible Muslims that were deceived by the munafiqs. Hazrat Aisha narrates the incident as follows:  

“When we arrived in Madinah, I fell ill with a fever for a whole month. The inhabitants of Madinah were all talking about the slander, but I did not know anything about it. The Messenger of God and my parents had also heard about it but they did not say anything to me about it.

However, I was doubtful due to the fact that I did not see the tenderness I used to see from the Prophet (pbuh) while I was sick. He would enter upon us and ask, “How is the patient?” Then, he would leave. I did not know anything about what the slanderers had uttered.”[7]

Although the Messenger of God, Hazrat Abu Bakr and Aisha’s mother heard the rumors, they did not say anything to Aisha. However, Aisha was worried about the attitude of the Messenger of God. Nevertheless, she did not know the reason.

How and from Whom did Hazrat Aisha Learn about the Slander?

Hazrat Aisha narrates from whom and how she learnt about the slander as follows:

“More than twenty nights had passed after my illness. I had got over the illness and I was in the period of recuperation.

We did not have toilets next to our houses like non-Arabs did due to the stink. We went outside the city of Madinah to answer the call of the nature. Women went there every night to relieve themselves.

One night, I went out with the mother of Mistah b. Uthatha to Manasi to relieve ourselves. When she tripped by stepping on her covering, she said, ‘May Mistah fall,’ or ‘Damn Mistah!’ I said,

‘O Umm Mistah! Why do you curse your son?’ She kept silent. She did not answer me.

She tripped for the second time. She said, ‘‘May Mistah fall,’ or ‘Damn Mistah!’

I said,

‘O Umm Mistah! Why do you curse your son?’ She kept silent again.

She tripped for the third time and cursed, ‘May Mistah fall,’

I said, ‘O Umm Mistah! Why do you curse your son? How can you curse a person who was present in the Battle of Badr? She replied,

‘I curse him due to what he said against you.’

I asked, ‘What did he say about me?’

Thereupon, Umm Mistah told me what the slanderers had said. I became extremely ill. I could not even relieve myself and returned home. I cried so much that I thought my lungs would break into pieces.”[8]

Hazrat Aisha is in her Mother’s Home

When Hazrat Aisha was ill, Umm Ruman, her mother, looked after her.

One day, the Messenger of God entered the house, greeted them and asked, “How is your patient?” without mentioning Aisha’s name. He did not say anything else.

Hazrat Aisha said,

“(Thereupon) I could not help saying, ‘O Messenger of God! I have been suffering so much. Will you let me go to my Mother’s house? I can be looked after there.’

The Messenger of God said, ‘You may go!’

I wanted to go to my parents and find out about the news against me.

The Messenger of God sent me to my father’s house with a servant. 

My mum asked, ‘O my daughter! Why did you come?’

I said, ‘Mum! People have been talking against me but you did not mention anything to me.’

Mum said, ‘My daughter, take it easy. By God, it hardly occurs that a wife is so beloved to her husband, and she has co-wives at the same time, except that they talk about her!’

I asked, ‘Does my father know about it?’ She said,

‘Yes, he does.’

I asked, ‘Does the Messenger of God know about it?’ She said,

‘Yes, he does.’

I could not help crying.

My father was reading the Quran upstairs. When he heard my voice, he came downstairs. He asked Mum, ‘What is wrong with her?’

Mum said, ‘She heard about the rumors against him.’

My father started to cry too.

I cried and cried until the morning came.”[9]

The Prophet Consults his Companions

The Messenger of God spent most of his time at home and did not go out very often during the days when the slander against Hazrat Aisha was prevalent.

When revelation regarding the issue was delayed, he talked to his Companions and asked them about their views.

Hazrat Umar’s View

Hazrat Umar said, “O Messenger of God! This is a big slander. I definitely know that it is a lie of the munafiqs. God protects you even from flies. Is it possible that God, who protects your body from flies that land on dirt and keeps them away from your body, will not protect your family from such disgrace?”

Hazrat Uthman’s View

Hazrat Uthman expressed his view as follows:

“O Messenger of God!  God protects your shadow from being on the ground so that people will not step on it or dirt will not land on it. Is it possible that God, who does not let anybody step on your shadow, will let anybody blemish the honor of your family?”

Hazrat Ali’s View

Hazrat Ali said, “O Messenger of God! Once, you were leading the prayer. You took off your shoes. We took off our shoes following you. When you finished the prayer, you asked us why we had taken off our shoes. We said we had taken them off to follow you. Thereupon, you said, ‘Gabriel ordered me to take them off because they were not clean.’ Is it possible that you were informed about the dirt that polluted your shoes and you were ordered to take them off but you would not be ordered to remove something that blemished your honor?”[10]

The View of Hazrat Aisha’s Maid

Meanwhile, the Messenger of God called Aisha’s maid servant, Barira, and asked her view.

Barira said, “O Messenger of God! I swear by God, who has sent you as the true prophet that I have not seen anything from her but goodness.  I can only say one thing that can be regarded as a fault about her:  one thing.  She was a young girl. She sometimes used to fall asleep when she was kneading the dough; and when she fell asleep, the lamb would come and eat the dough.”[11]

Hazrat Zaynab’s View

Hazrat Zaynab regarded herself equal to Hazrat Aisha among the wives of the Prophet in terms of her beauty and position; she always competed with her. However, she did not have any negative thoughts about Hazrat Aisha. When the Messenger of God asked her about her view, she said,  

“O Messenger of God! I protect my ears from saying, ‘I heard’ what I did not hear and my eyes from saying, ‘I saw’ what I did not see. I do not know anything but goodness about her.”[12]

The Prophet’s Speech

In fact, the Messenger of God knew very well that Aisha, his wife, was free from such slander; however, he was depressed that such treacherous, sly and planned slander spread among people. It made him change his attitude toward her. As a matter of fact, the speech that he made in the mosque expressed it clearly:  

“Oh gathering of Muslims! Who will help me against a person who has hurt me with slander about my wife? By God, I only know good about my wife. And they have mentioned a man with her concerning whom I only know good of as well.”[13]

The Prophet Talks to Hazrat Aisha

Although about a month passed after the slander against Hazrat Aisha, no revelation was sent down to the Messenger of God.

A few days after his speech in the mosque, the Prophet went to Hazrat Abu Bakr’s house. After greeting them, he sat next to Aisha and said, “O Aisha! I have heard such and such things about you. If you are free and away from those accusations, God will state that you are free and away from them. If you have committed such a sin, ask forgiveness from God and repent to Him. When a slave confesses his/her sin and repents, God treats him/her with mercy.”

Hazrat Aisha narrates her mood at that time as follows:

“When the Messenger of God (pbuh) ended his words, my tears dried. There was not even one drop coming out of my eyes.

I turned to my father and said to him, ’Answer the Messenger of God on behalf of me.’

My father said, ‘O my daughter! By God, I do not know what to say the Messenger of God (pbuh).’

Then, I turned to my mother and said to her, ’Answer the Messenger of God on behalf of me.’

She said, ‘By God, I do not know what to say the Messenger of God (pbuh), either’.”[14]

Hazrat Aisha’s Answer

Hazrat Aisha’s father and mother did not answer the Messenger of God; so she had to speak. After uttering kalima ash-shahada and praising God Almighty, she said, “By God, I know that you have heard these rumors, and you look as if you have believed them. So, if I were to tell you that I am not guilty, – God knows that I am not – you would not believe me. And if I were to tell you I did something bad, – God knows that I did not – you would readily believe me! So, all I can say to you for my and your situation is the story of Jacob (pbuh) with his sons. At that time, he said, ‘(For me) patience is most fitting: against that which ye assert, it is God (alone) whose help can be sought.’[15]”[16]

Revelation is Sent down to the Prophet

The Messenger of God had not stood up yet. Nobody from the household had gone out. Revelation was sent down to the Prophet there. Hazrat Aisha narrated the incident as follows:

“The Messenger of God showed the signs of receiving revelation like sweating due to the difficulty and intensity of the revelation. As a matter of fact, he would have beads of sweat like pearls during revelation even on a winter day. They covered the body of the Messenger of God (pbuh) and put a pillow under his head. I was neither afraid nor worried. I knew that I was innocent and that God would not treat me unjustly. My parents were very scared because they were worried that the rumors would be confirmed by God.”[17]

When the state of revelation ended, the Messenger of God was smiling happily. He said to Aisha, “Glad tidings O Aisha! God acquitted you and stated that you were free and away from that slander.”[18]

Hazrat Abu Bakr became very happy. He stood up and kissed her daughter’s head. 

The Verses that were Sent down

God Almighty stated the following in the verses that He sent to His Messenger regarding the issue:

“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 (will come the punishment) of the sin that he earned and to him who took on himself the lead among them will be a Penalty grievous.

Why did not Believers, men and women when ye heard of the affair― put the best construction on it in their own minds and say "This (charge) is an obvious lie"?

Why did they not bring four witnesses, to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses such men in the sight of God, (stand forth) themselves as liars!

Were it not for the grace and mercy of God on you, in this world and the Hereafter, a grievous penalty would have seized you in that ye rushed glibly into this affair.

Behold ye received it on your tongues and said out of your mouths things of which ye had no knowledge; and ye thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God.

And why did ye not when ye heard it say? "It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to Thee (our Lord)! this is a most serious slander!"

God doth admonish you, that ye may never repeat such (conduct) if ye are (true) Believers.

And God makes the Signs plain to you: for God is full of knowledge and wisdom.

Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: God knows and ye know not.

Were it not for the grace and mercy of God on you, and that God is full of kindness and mercy, (ye would be ruined indeed).”[19]

Thus, God Almighty told His Messenger that what was said about Hazrat Aisha was nothing but slander, relieving the clean soul and conscience of His Messenger of the distress and preventing the personality of Hazrat Abu Bakr from being humiliated; so, the mischief and disturbance that emerged among Muslims was prevented from being spread.   

The Best Acquittal

Once Hazrat Abdullah b. Abbas was asked about the interpretation of the verses related to Hazrat Aisha. He explained them as follows:

“God acquitted four people of four things and freed them from the slanders:

1) He acquitted Hazrat Yusuf through the tongue of a witness from the family of Zulaykha.

2) He acquitted Hazrat Moses of the rumors of the Jews through the stone that took his clothes.

3) He acquitted Hazrat Maryam by making the baby on her lap say, ‘I am a slave of God’.

4) He acquitted Hazrat Aisha through the magnificent verses of the glorious Quran, which will be preserved until the Doomsday; this last acquittal has had no match. Look and see the difference between this acquittal and the others.

God did it only to show the highness of the degree of His Messenger.”[20]

The Slanderers are Punished

After the revelation regarding the issue was sent down, the Messenger of God recited a sermon and then the read the verses to the people.

After that, he ordered Mistah b. Uthatha, Hassan b. Thabit and Hamna bint Jahsh, who worked hard with their tongues to spread the rumor, to be punished. The slanderers were whipped 80 lashes.[21]

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[1]Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 3, p. 154.

[2]Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 3, p. 154.

[3]Ibn Hisham, Sirah, Vol. 3, p. 310-311; Muslim, Sahih, Vol. 8, p. 113-114.

[4]Tabari, Tafsir, Vol. 18, p. 89.

[5]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 311.

[6]al-Ahzab, 6, 53.

[7]Muslim, Sahih, Vol. 8, p. 114.

[8]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 311-312; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8. p. 114; Tirmidhi, Sunan, Vol. 5, p. 332-333.

[9]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 311-312; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 7, p. 115; Tirmidhi, ibid, Vol. 5, p. 333.

[10]Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, Vol. 2, p. 624-625.

[11]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 313-314; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 115.

[12]Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 118.

[13]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 312; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 115; Tirmidhi, ibid, Vol. 5, p. 332

[14]Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 116; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Vol. 6, p. 197.

[15]Yusuf, 18.

[16]Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 116.

[17]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 315; Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 117.

[18]Muslim, ibid, Vol. 8, p. 117; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Vol. 6, p. 197.

[19]an-Nur, 11-20.

[20]Nasafi, Tafsir, Vol. 3, p. 138.

[21]Ibn Hisham, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 315; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Vol. 6, p. 35.

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