How the False Story Was Circulated
Commentary by Sayyid QutbFriday 5 September 2003
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Those who concocted the falsehood were a band from among you. Do not regard it as bad for you; indeed it is good for you. Each one of them shall bear what he has earned of sin; and awesome suffering awaits the one who took on himself the lead among them. (Light, Al-Noor: 24: 11)
The falsehood story, as described in the Qur’an, was discussed in this column over the last two weeks from the point of view of its effect on the people the fabricated story touched upon, and its effect on the Prophet himself.
At the end of our commentary last week we said that the whole issue at the center of this story was not Aishah’s personal status. It touched on the Prophet, his personality and his role in the Muslim community. It indeed touched on his relation with his Lord and his message. The falsehood story was not aimed at Aishah as a person. It aimed to undermine the entire faith of Islam, by casting doubts about the Prophet sent by God to deliver His message. For this reason, a whole passage of the Qur’an was revealed to provide a final verdict on this invented falsehood. Thus, the Qur’an directs the Muslim camp in the raging battle, revealing the divine wisdom behind all developments.
“Those who concocted the falsehood were a band from among you.” It was not merely one or a few individuals that circulated the story. On the contrary, they were a ‘band’ or a group working for a particular objective. Abdullah ibn Ubayy was not the only one who fabricated the story. Rather, he was the one who took the lead and did the larger part in the affair. He simply represented the band of the Jews or the hypocrites who felt unable to fight Islam in an open engagement. Therefore, they sought to hide behind the pretense that they were Muslims. They felt that this would enable them to scheme in secret against Islam.
This false story was one of their worst schemes which was so successful that some Muslims were deceived and a few of them, like Hamnah bint Jahsh, Hassan ibn Thabit and Mistah ibn Athathah repeated the story. The real culprits, however, were that band headed by Abdullah ibn Ubayy, a canny schemer who operated behind the scene, saying nothing in public that might have incriminated him. He simply whispered into the ears of those whom he trusted never to testify against him. The scheme was so subtle that the false rumors continued to circulate for a whole month in Madinah, the purest society on earth at the time.
The Qur’anic passage opens with stating this fact so as to make clear the enormity of the event and the fact that it was perpetrated by a band of people engaged in wicked scheming against Islam. The surah, however, quickly reassures the Muslim community that the eventual outcome of the event would not harm them: “Do not regard it as bad for you; indeed it is good for you.”
Good indeed it was because it exposed those who schemed against Islam, targeting the Prophet himself and his family. It also showed the Muslim community the importance of prohibiting the accusation of other people of adultery, and prescribing a severe punishment for such false accusations. The event also clearly showed the dangers that threaten the Muslim community if people were to casually accuse chaste female believers who might behave unwittingly. Once this begins, it never stops. Indeed, it can increase at such a scale that it will eventually touch the most noble leadership. The result is that the Muslim community will lose all values that provide protection against such a state of affairs. Moreover, it is good for the Muslim community that God outlines for it how best to deal with such an affair.
As for the pain suffered by the Prophet, his household and the Muslim community in general, it is all part of the test they had to go through in order to learn from experience.
Those who got involved in circulating and repeating the false story will bear their fare shares of sin, according to what they did or said: “Each one of them shall bear what he has earned of sin.” Each will be taken to account by God for what they perpetrated. Vile indeed is that, because it is a sin that incurs punishment both in this world and in the life to come. Furthermore, “awesome suffering awaits the one who took on himself the lead among them,” to match his role in this ghastly business.
The one “who took the lead” and masterminded the whole affair was Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool, the chief of the hypocrites who was consistently the worst schemer against Islam. He knew how to choose his moment which could have had devastating effect, had not God foiled all his schemes. In His grace, God preserved His faith, protected His messenger and looked after the Muslim community. One report suggests that when Safwan ibn Al-Mu’attal, leading Aishah’s howdah, passed by him and a group of his people, Abdullah ibn Ubayy asked: “Who was that?” People said: “Aishah.” He said: “By God! She has not been safe from him, nor was he safe from her.” He further exclaimed: “Your Prophet’s wife has passed the night with a man until the morning, then he comes leading her!”
That was a wicked remark which he repeated in various ways through his band of hypocrites. They employed such wicked means that Madinah was full of this incredible story for a whole month, despite all indications and evidence that confirmed its falsehood. Yet many were the Muslims who spoke about it in a casual manner, and it became a topic of discussion for a month, when it should have been dismissed right away.
How could all this have happened in that particular community? We will try to answer this question next week, God willing.
- Arab News Islam in Perspective 5 September 2003
Last Update 5 September 2003 12:00 am