Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) so-called respect for Ayesha based on Sunnah of Past Prophets
Fans of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) wives will not settle for anything less than absolute infallibility for the wives. For them, the ‘pure’ wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) can do no wrong and must be respected by all Muslims.
They maintain that the wives are symbols of religion and even the wives of past prophets were dignified!
To support their argument, they advance instances from history when the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) wives were honoured despite their misdeeds – they freely cite the ‘respect’ shown by Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) to Ayesha after the Battle of Jamal.
It is always surprising to note the sheer attachment and love some Muslims have for the wives. If they had expended the same energy in defending the honour and respect of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his progeny (a.s.), particularly his daughter Sayyidah Fatima Zahra (s.a.), Islam would have been in a much better place.
1. Wives were given to grave errors and infidelity
Blind love is suitable only for infallibility – for Muslims this is possible only with the fourteen infallibles (a.s.) – the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Sayyidah Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and the 12 Imams (a.s.).
Everyone else needs to be brought under the scanner and criticized when he or she disobeys Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
The wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) were far from infallibility, in fact it is even debatable whether some of them were Muslims. Some of the wives have been condemned by even the Ahle Tasannun in their books viz.
Fatemah bint al-Zahhaak al-Kelabiyyah: She chose the world over the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – (Al-Isabah by Ibn Hajar, vol. 8, p. 273)
Asma bint al-No’man: She sought refuge in Allah from him (s.a.w.a.) – (Ibid. vol. 8, p.19)
Al-Shanbaa bint Amr: She denied his Prophethood altogether – When Ibrahim, the son of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) expired, she said, “Had he been a Prophet, his son would not have died.’ (Al-Seerah al-Nabaviyyah, Ibn Katheer, vol. 4, p. 580).
Laili bint al-Khateem: She left him (s.a.w.a.) – (Tarikh Tabari, vol. 2, p. 417)
Qateelah bint Qais al-Kindiyyah – She become an apostate after the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) (Al-Tabaqaat al-Kubra, Ibn Sa’d, vol. 8, p. 147)
When the original wife-lovers have denounced the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), we don’t understand why the neo wife-lovers have taken up their cause. Don’t they have any other cause like protecting the dignity of Aal Muhammad (a.s.)?
Moreover, it is particularly surprising how the neo wife-lovers have given top billing to wives of all prophets (a.s.) in the face of categorical verses like this:
‘Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut: they were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: Enter both the fire with those who enter.’
Surah Tahreem (66): 10
This clearly proves that wives of previous prophets (a.s.) were far from symbols of religion, in fact quite the opposite. Hence to place them on the pedestal of faith and perfection and condemn any attempt to criticize them amounts to disbelief in the Holy Quran.
This is about the wives of past prophets.
As for the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) there are clear verses condemning them for their open indecency, treachery, display of finery like the ignorance of yore, inviting strange men in the house of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his absence.
Hence there is no case for blankly defending the wives of the prophets as if they were beyond reproach.
2. Why Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) ‘respected’ Ayesha
Let us study the oft-cited example of the neo wife-lovers when it comes to respecting the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
They may not praise all actions of the Imam (a.s.) with the same intensity, but they just love the way Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) ‘respected’ Ayesha by sending her back to Medina with all etiquette.
We will ponder over one narration to understand the reason behind this so-called respect of the wife.
Abdullah bin Masud narrates: I asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – O Messenger of Allah! Who will perform your ghusl after your demise?
He (s.a.w.a.) replied – Every prophet is given ghusl by his successor.
I asked – Who is your successor O Prophet of Allah?
He (s.a.w.a.) replied – Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
I asked – How long will he live after you, O Prophet of Allah?
He (s.a.w.a.) said: He will live for thirty years. The successor of Prophet Moosa (a.s.) lived for thirty years after him and he was opposed by Safra bint Shoaib – the wife of Moosa (a.s.). She said – I am worthier than you in the matter (of leadership). Then he battled her and killed her warriors and imprisoned her in the best manner. Then the daughter of Abu Bakr will soon rebel against Ali (a.s.) in such and such place with a thousand Muslims. Then she will battle him, and then he will slay her warriors and imprison her with the best etiquette. And it is regarding her that Allah has revealed – And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore (Surah Ahzab (33): 33) i.e. ignorance of yore of Safra bint Shoaib.
Kamal al-Deen v 1 p 27
Nahj al-Haqq p 368
Tafseer al-Safi v 4 p 168 under (Surah Ahzab (33): 33)
Tafseer al-Burhan v 4 p 442 (Surah Ahzab (33): 33)
Clearly, Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) ‘respect’ had nothing to do with Ayesha’s honour or dignity. It was simply a case of treading on the Sunnah of Yusha Ibn Noon (a.s.) who has been compared to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) in several narrations. Since Yusha Ibn Noon (a.s.) treated Safra bint Shoaib in a certain manner, Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) treated Ayesha likewise.
Even this narration has lessons for those who believe wives are beyond reproach and criticism.
Sufra bint Shoaib is no ordinary person – she is the daughter of Prophet Shoaib (a.s.) and is referred to in the Noble Quran.
Yet when she opposes the prophet’s successor – Yusha, who himself was a prophet, she is put in her place and imprisoned like a common criminal.
Ayesha didn’t even have Sufra’s credentials. Her father was no prophet and barely a Muslim.
Nonetheless, Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) treated Ayesha on the lines of Yusha’s (a.s.) conduct. We fail to see how a bloody battle claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Muslims can be interpreted as respect and honour of wives. If this is respect, then what is disrespect?!
In fact it was prophesied that events in Islam and Bani Israel would mirror each other closely.
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) predicted – Whatever occurred in Bani Israel will happen exactly and precisely over here. (Man laa Yahzorohu al-Faqih vol. 1, p. 203, trad. 609).
He (s.a.w.a.) also said – Surely, Torah and the Quran were written by one Angel, on one skin, and with one pen, and all examples with tradition became equal. (Kitab-o-Sulaim b. Qays al-Hilaali (r.a.) vol 2 pg 599
It is to honour the word of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) treated Ayesha on the lines of Sufra. Else who knows what he (a.s.) would have done with her. The common punishment for rebelling against the caliph is death and Ayesha was very lucky to have survived that fate.
3. Imams (a.s.) were particular about respecting the Sunnah of Past Prophet
History is witness that the Imams (a.s.) were careful in abiding by the Sunnah of past Prophets based on wisdom. Not only Ameerul Momineen (a.s.), we see other Imams (a.s.) take a specific course of action based on the Sunnah of previous prophets.
For instance, in the famous incident when Imam Reza (a.s.) orders the image of the lion from the table cloth to swallow the impudent man in Mamoon’s court, the onlookers are shocked and Mamoon faints on the spot.
When Mamoon regains his senses, he beseeches Imam Reza (a.s.) – By my right over you, I implore you to reinstate the man.
Imam (a.s.) replied – If the staff of Moosa (a.s.) had ejected the ropes and staffs of the magicians, I would also have ejected him.
This (incident) is the biggest cause of Imam (a.s.) being killed by Mamoon.
Oyoon Akhbaar al-Reza (a.s.) vol. 1 p. 95-96
Three points are notable over here.
Apparently there was no harm in Imam (a.s.) reinstating the impudent man.
It is only because of an instance in the Sunnah of Prophet Moosa (a.s.) that Imam (a.s.) chose not to restore the man.
Imam (a.s.) based on his knowledge of the unseen knew that this would have fatal consequences for him and would lead to his martyrdom. But Imam (a.s.) did not care and preferred to go by the Sunnah of Prophet Moosa (a.s.) than worry about his life.
Clearly, the Imams (a.s.) were well aware of the Sunnah of the past prophets and were careful to observe them when wisdom demanded it. That’s one of the reasons why Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) behaved with the rebellious wife in a particular manner, since that was how the past prophets (a.s.) had behaved. There is no virtue for the rebellious wife here, the virtue lies with Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) for denying himself the right to punish the rebels of Jamal and instead sending the wife back dutifully to Medina, where she belonged.