The story of the Scandal, also known as al-Ifk, is one of the most popular stories of Prophet Muhammad’s life, peace be upon him. This story shows how some of the most basic human faults, can bring harm and division to any community.
The essence of the story is simple and straightforward. Aisha, one of the Prophet’s wives, was rumored to have had an extramarital affair with another man. The rumors became so prevalent, it seems not even the Prophet was certain of the truth.
Eventually, Aisha was declared innocent by divine revelation and what was a disgraceful calumny, became an eternal lesson for the Muslim world. The verses from the Quran related to this story formed a part of the Hudd, or legislated punishment, in Islamic Shariah.
But there’s more to this story then false accusations and divine vindication. There are battles and arguments and lots of finger pointing.
Amidst the lies and treachery of this scandal, there is also hope and redemption. This story proves the justice that Islam seeks for all people. It also illustrates the importance of preserving the honor and reputation of our brothers and sisters.
We live in an age when most people have no problem humiliating and spreading gossip about celebrities, politicians, and even other Muslims.
This story is evidence that while we must always seek justice, we also have a duty to rise above our desire for salacious gossip and human drama.
Part 1: Banu Mustaliq
When the hypocrites come to you, they say: ‘We testify that you are the Messenger of Allah.’ Allah knows you are His Messenger, and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars.
Quran: Chapter 63, Verse 1
Sha’ban, 6 AH
A Preemptive Strike
The slander against Aisha begins with one man’s decision. That man was Harith ibn Abu Dirar, the Sharif, or leader, of Banu Mustaliq.
Banu Mustaliq was allied with the Quraish of Mecca who were still pagan and avowed enemies of Prophet Muhammad.
Ten months after the Muslim victory at the Battle of the Trench, Harith ibn Abu Dirar decided to lead his own invasion of Medina.
The Battle of the Trench had been a turning point for the Muslims. Abu Sufyan, the de facto leader of the Quraish, organized an alliance of pagan tribes to attack Medina. His combined forces numbered almost 10,000.
Medina, with only 1500 soldiers, did not stand a chance. During a war council, the Persian companion Salman al-Farisi, suggested digging a trench around the vulnerable parts of Medina.
The Muslims dug the trench, and sure enough, when the primitive pagan army arrived, they could not find a way across. The alliance camped outside Medina for several weeks before falling apart. Even Abu Sufyan and the Quraish eventually gave up and returned to Mecca.
This stunning victory for the Muslims resulted in few deaths and proved they were a force to be reckoned with. It also changed the Prophet’s philosophy on warfare.
He migrated to Medina five years before the Trench, hoping to preach and teach Islam in peace. But in that time, the Quraish had already attempted two invasions of Medina.
The Prophet would not allow a third attempt. After the Trench, he became more proactive in protecting his community.
So, when he learned Harith ibn Dirar was planning to attack Medina, the Prophet was not going wait for him. He led an army to strike a preemptive blow against Banu Mustaliq.
The Muslims mobilized fast. They had to cross nearly two hundred miles of open desert and strike before Harith could organize his defenses. The Prophet left his adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah, in charge of Medina, and marched out with seven hundred men.
Umar ibn al-Khattab led the advance guard. Abu Bakr carried the standard, or banner flag, for the Muhajirun while Sa’d ibn Ubadah carried the standard for the Ansar.
It was the Prophet’s practice to bring one of wives on every expedition. His wives would choose from among themselves by drawing lots, and in this instance, Aisha won.
Aisha rode in a howdah, a seat enclosed on all sides by a canopy, which the men would hoist on and off her camel. She was young at the time and was out of sight for most of the journey.
The Prophet departed Medina with seven hundred men, including a significant contingent of hypocrites.
The Munafiqun, or Hypocrites, were men and women who were Muslim by name, but did not believe in Prophet Muhammad’s mission.
The most prominent hypocrite was Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul who was a leading member of the Khazraj tribe in Medina.
Abdullah ibn Ubayy once wielded considerable influence. Before the arrival of Prophet Muhammad, the two primary tribes of Medina, Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj, were considering making him their king.
Abdullah ibn Ubayy also had strong connections with the Jewish tribes living in Medina.
But after Prophet Muhammad migrated there, his popularity waned, and he was limited to making subtle insults and instigating petty rivalries.
The Spring of Muraisi
When Harith ibn Darir heard the Muslims were heading his way, he sent a scout to keep track of their movements.
The Muslims captured and interrogated the scout. After learning what they needed, Ali ibn Talib offered him the opportunity to accept Islam. When the scout refused, he was executed.
Prophet Muhammad hoped for a peaceful resolution. He sent Umar ibn al-Khattab to Harith ibn Darir with the same offer of accepting Islam. Harith rebuffed the Prophet’s entreaties and the Muslims prepared for battle.
Banu Mustaliq never stood a chance. Their battles against the Quraish had turned the Muslims into a disciplined fighting force.
The Muslims took Banu Mustaliq by surprise, attacking them while they were watering their flock at a local spring called al-Muraisi.
The Muslims surrounded the men of Banu Mustaliq and a there was a brief exchange of arrows before they attacked each other with swords.
Banu Mustaliq held out for two nights before Harith ibn Darir surrendered.
This was another victory for the Muslims with few casualties. Ten men from Banu Mustaliq were killed and only one Muslim.
The one Muslim casualty was a man named Hisham ibn Subabah from Banu Kalb. He was killed by another Muslim who mistook him for one of the enemy.
Several months later, Hisham’s brother came to Medina and requested blood-money for the accidental death.
The Prophet paid the blood-money to the dead man’s brother who then pretended to accept Islam.
The man stayed in Medina a few more days, killed his brother’s killer, and fled to back to Mecca.
Among the captives of the Battle of Banu Mustaliq was Juwairiyah, the daughter of Harith ibn Darir. Aisha described her as being very beautiful and admitted to feeling some jealousy when the Prophet take an interest in her.
Soon after her capture, Juwairiyah inquired about her ransom. Some reports suggest her father negotiated her ransom, but the strongest evidence indicates she took the initiative.
Juwairiyah went to the Prophet and requested help in obtaining the money to buy her freedom. The Prophet offered to pay her ransom if she married him. Juwairiyah, seeing an opportunity to help her people, accepted his proposal and added some conditions of her own.
She requested the release of half the captives from her tribe as well as the return of their goods. When the Prophet accepted her terms, the freed captives voluntarily accepted Islam.
In one stroke, Juawiriyah brought freedom to hundreds of people, forged an alliance between two former enemies, and increased the Muslim influence in the area. Even Aisha, despite her jealousy, had to acknowledge the benefits Juwairiyah brought to the Muslims.
Khutbah: Family and Faith
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