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“Aicha la bien-aime du Prophet” by Genevieve Chauvel, (November 19, 2007)

I decided to review “Aicha, the most beloved to the Prophet” for the chronicles of the active life of the Prophet Mohammad, and the specific circumstances that revealed the messages from Archangel Gabriel.  Aicha lived to be 67 of age and experienced Islam since she was born, and she died as Islam was splitting into schisms.

Aicha was born in 616 in Mecca and she was redheaded like her maternal grandmother.  Her father Abu Bakr, later the first Caliph, spared her life because Khadija, the wife of Mohammad, played a part in this difficult and life threatening birth.

Mohammad ibn Abdullah ibn Hachim was an orphan brought up by his uncle Abi Taled, the father of Ali. The father of Muhammad died before his birth and his mother passed away as Muhammad was only 6 of age.  Ali was to be the fourth Caliph.

(Islam would like us to believe that Mohammad was illiterate to exaggerate his divine message, but I beg to differ. Read link in note #4).   The wealthy trader Khadija hired Mohammad to lead her caravans to Damascus.  Khadija was almost twenty years older than Mohammad when she asked him to marry her; she was widowed twice and Muhammad was 25 year-old.  Khadija gave  him a son Al Qasem, who died at age two, and four daughters.

Khadija was the first person to believe in Mohammad prophesies and for 11 years protected him from the mockeries and sarcasms of the inhabitants of Mecca and cared for him during his fits of epilepsy when Archangel Gabriel used to appear to him. Two of Mohammad’s daughters were repudiated by their husbands because they refused to be married to girls who converted to Islam.  Fatima, the youngest one, married Ali, Mohammad’s nephew, and gave Mohammad two grand boys, Hassan and Hussein and two granddaughters.  Zainab, one of the daughters of Mohammad, was married to Aboul-As whom she loved so much that she preferred to stay with him in Mecca; Aboul-As fought against Mohammad at the battle of Badr and was made prisoner and later decided to convert in order to keep Zainab.

Rukaya was married to Uthman ibn Affan, later the third Caliph, and when she died, Mohammad married his daughter Oum Kulthum to Uthman because he needed his clan on his side.  Uthman ran away during the lost battle of Ohud and had vacated a strategic position held by the archers. Mohammad adopted Zaid ibn Haritha who was Khadija’s slave at the age of twelve and he used him to be his personal messenger to his wives after each battle.  Zaid was very learned and translated and interpreted the Jewish Books to Mohammad and was devoted to his adoptive father.

Mohammad married Sawda (Black) after Khadija died because he needed an experienced woman to run and maintain the household.  Sawda was widowed to a convert who fled to Ethiopia from the Quraichi tribes’ persecution.

After the death of Khadija, Mohammad realized that he won’t be protected anymore from certain death; he fled Mecca to Yathreb in the year 622 after foiling an assassination attempt on his life.  It took him and Abu Bakr almost four months to arrive at Yathreb, a six days travel, to avoid the head hunters of the tribes of Quraich.  Most of the Prophet’s followers had preceded him to Yathreb and welcomed him as a hero.

Mohammad married Aicha in Yathred when she was ten years old.  Abu Bakr was the first adult male to convert to Islam and he was Mohammad’s closest Companion and guide.  Aicha was 8-years old when Mohammad officially asked her hand and married her at age ten. The mother of Aicha, Oum Roumane, almost died when giving birth to Aicha and Khadija was called upon to deliver her and Mohammad saw Gabriel at the same time he was contemplating to commit suicide by throwing himself off a cliff because of the miserable life that Gabriel forced upon him.  After the death of Khadija, Mohammad saw Aicha three times in his dreams, as a baby wrapped in green blanket and the third time it was Gabriel who removed the blanket for Muhammad to recognize the face of baby Aicha, and ordered to obey the request of Gabriel to take her as wife.  Aicha had a vast memory and was educated to read and write and she was the person who transposed the verbal messages into written verses during the revelations.

The Moslem emigrants in Yathreb were suffering from miseries. First, they were not used to the humid climate and the marshes: Many died of the malaria fever.  Aicha almost died as she arrived in Yathreb.  Second, the emigrants could not find suitable employments and had to accept temporary jobs at the Jewish households and farms.  Consequently, the emigrants had to revert to what the tribes did when they were hungry and penniless.  They decided to raid a major caravan coming from Damascus and lead by Abu Suffyan; the caravan was to stop at an oasis called Badr but Abu Sufyan got wind of the raid and diverted its route and sent for troops from Mecca.  The Moslems won the battle of Badr, their first.

Sawda’s father and brother were killed in the battle of Badr fighting against the Moslems.  Sawda was greatly grieved and lambasted the prisoners parked in front her house and told them that they should have fought instead of being taken prisoners. Mohammad repudiated her for a while until she asked forgiveness and she opted not to have intercourse with him as the tradition regulated Mohammad nights among his wives.

Mohammad encircled the fortified castle of the Jewish tribe Banu Qaynoqa because the tribe decided to break the treaty with Mohammad rather than pay the ransom for a murdered emigrant.  The tribe capitulated when it realized the succor from Banu Khazraj was not forthcoming.  Muhammad had set his mind to beheading all the males of the defeated Banu Qaynoqa tribe as the revelation dictated but the chief of the Ansar (supporters) tribe of Khazraj prevented him saying: “I am a man who fears the reversal of circumstances” The Banu Qaynoqa were allowed to leave the city and it settled in the Jewish town of Khaibar, around 20 miles north west of Yathreb.

Mohamamad married Afsa, the widowed daughter of Omar ibn Khattab, the second Caliph because he needed his total loyalty.  She was eighteen. Actually, Omar insisted on Uthman to marry Afsa but he declined the request repeatedly. Muhamad had set his mind to marry his second daughter Um Kulthum to Uthman to secure the Ummaya powerful clan.  Aicha was crest fallen and suffered her first jealousy attacks.

The Moslems lost the battle of Ohud but the forces of Quraich did not pursue their objective to entering Medina and retreated to Mecca.  Muhammad directed his angst against the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadhir that secretly supported Quraich.  He ordered this Jewish tribe to leave Medina; the eye witness accounts related that the citizens in Medina never saw a caravan as opulent, rich and luxurious in their lives.

Mohammad married Zainab, the daughter of the clan leader of Bani Assad, who was widowed and 30 years of age. Zainab died three months after her wedding.

Mohammad married Hind, daughter of Abi Ummayah, a recent widow of Abu Salama who was mortally injured during the battle of Ohud, the first defeat of the Moslems against the tribe of Quraich and their allies outside the walls of Yathreb and now called Medina.  Hind or Um Salama was about thirty of age and had many children and declined to marry Abu Bakr and Omar and even Mohammad.  Muhammad asked her hand a second time and promised to care for her many offspring.

Mohammad married Zainab bint Jahsh, a cousin thirty of years of age and of great beauty.  Zainab was the wife of his adoptive son Zaid ibn Haritha who separated from her when she welcomed Mohammad almost nude to entice him and throw trouble in his heart.  She roamed after Mohammad reminding him that she separated because of him.  The Koran was very strict on the number of only four wives for the believers but Mohammad received a message from Gabriel telling him that Zainab is an offer from God that cannot be rejected.  The aggrieved Aicha interjected that God has a tendency to accord his Messenger all his desires.

Mohammad repulsed a fresh attack by Quraich on Medina by following the suggestion of Salame the Persian; Salame supervised the digging of a large and deep trench around Madina that the cavalry could not jump over.  A violent wind followed by a torrential rain convinced the Quraichi’s armies to retreat.  Then, Mohammad surrounded the hold up of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah for 25 days because they were tacitly allied to Quraich.  The Prophet beheaded 700 of the male captives and dumped their bodies in a large hole and ordered Ali and Zobayr (the husband of Aicha’s sister Asmat) to perform the executions.

Mohammad asked the hand of Rihana, a Jewish captive girl, to marry him but she declined. After she converted, Mohammad asked her hand again and she preferred to remain slave than marry someone with several wives but she became his concubine. Since this mass cruel beheading, troops of Mohammad had easier tasks convincing the neighboring tribes to join Islam and plundering the caravans arriving from Damascus or Alexandria.

Mohammad married Juwayriah, the daughter of the chief clan of Harith, which his last raid brought her as captive.  The Harith tribe and their allies convert to Islam.  Aicha joined that raid and lost her favorite collar that the Prophet had offered her during their wedding; Mohammad had to receive a message allowing ablution with sand when water is not available: the fighters were utterly upset for wasting precious time searching for the collar and the time for prayer was close and they were far from the nearest oasis.  This revelation allowed the Moslem armies to expand its raids in the desert.

A turning point was reached when Aicha lost her favorite collar that her mother Em Rumana gave her for her wedding.  The story goes that Muhammad took Aicha on an expedition.  Aicha lost her collar as the troop were heading to the next water well and the caravan was very short on water for the ablution before prayer.  Aicha insisted on finding the collar and a verse was handed down that sand can be used for purification in dire moments.  On the way back from the expedition, Aicha stepped away from the troop for bodily relief.  As she reached the caravan, she realized that she dropped this loose collar again.  Aicha went back to search for the collar and the troop started without her.  Aicha would recount that she was so light that the attendants didn’t realize that she was not in the cabin that was raised over the camel.  Aicha lay down.  Safwan, a young and handsome convert, found on the second, confident that the troops will retrace their path searching for her as they reached the camp.  Safwan, a young and handsome convert, a little behind the caravan, found Aicha and mounted her on his horse.

Later, rumors spread that, while the sixty years old prophet is resuming his mania of marrying far more than the four allowed by the Koran, his younger wives are cheating on him.  Aicha fell dangerously sick and was moved to her folks’ domicile and Mohammad didn’t pay her a visit for 28 days because he started to believe the rumors.

When Mohammad finally arrived to see Aicha, the Angel Gabriel showed up and revealed to the Prophet that Aicha was innocent. Um Roumana told Aicha to come foward and thank the Prophet.  Aicha retorted: “By God I will not!  I will praise but God who finally decided to declare me innocent”  Seventeen revelations were dedicated to these awful circumstances; calumny was revealed as a crime as dangerous as adultery and specific penalties prescribed.  Mistah, a cousin of Aicha, Hassan ibn Thabit, the poet of Islam, and Hannah bint Jahsh, the sister of one of the Prophet’s wives, were flogged 100 times for their crimes of calumny without having four witnesses for their accusations.  Aicha regained her position as the most favored “Um al Mu’mineen”.

Mohammad had a dream while sleeping with Aicha that he shaved his head and performed the pilgrimage to Al Kaaba in Mecca.  Aicha encouraged him and Muhammad left Medina with 700 unarmed men to Mecca.  The favorite camel of Muhammad named Qaswa parked in Hudaybiya, close to Mecca, and would not move.  By the way, Qaswa was the camel that selected the location for the Prophet house and the Mosque in Yathreb.

The Quraichi’s tribes sent delegations and they reached a ten-year non-belligerence treaty and promised Muhammad that they would be permitted pilgrimage starting next year.  Although Muhammad was not allowed to enter Mecca, he wanted to perform the rites in Hudaybiya but the Companions refused. Um Salama encouraged Muhammad to perform the sacred rituals and shaved Muhammad’s head and then his slaughtered his sacrificial camel and the believers hurried to follow suit; the party returned to Medina sanctified.

Mohammad married Safiya, a Jewish beauty and of high grace from Khaibar who was married to a brute of a husband that died during the battle of Khaibar. Mohammad had just conquered the fortified Jewish town of Khibar, North West of Madina in the year 630.  The lands were turned over to Mohammad and his closest Companions and the Jews agreed to cultivate the land as serfs for 50% return for their subsistence and relinquished their treasures.

Um Salama escorted the Prophet in this raid and recounted to the harem that a Jewish girl roasted a lamb for Mohammad and then he realized it was poisoned; when asked why she poisoned the lamb she replied: “You killed my father, brother and husband. If you are a King then good riddance; if you are a Prophet then you must discover the plot.”  The girl was not punished for the rational that she will spread her conviction that Mohammad is indeed a prophet.  Un Salama added that Mohammad liked his new wife very much: he didn’t wait the customary 40 days grievance and married her on the way back to Medina and spent four whole days and nights with Safiya.  With virgins, the husbands spend 7 whole days and nights!  Aicha thought that Um Salama could have spared her added anxieties.

Mohammad married Um Habiba, the daughter of Abu Suffyan, his arch enemy of Quraich.  Um Habiba was a recent widow and 40-year old and living in Ethiopia with her husband who converted to Christianity; she was one of the first converts to flee to Ethiopia after the Quraich persecutions.

The governor of Coptic Egypt sent Muhammad gold and fine gifts and two Christian girls as slaves, Maria and Sirine.  Maria became immediately the concubine of the Prophet until she converts to Islam and he spent most of his time with Maria, raising a revolt within his harem.

Aicha took a definite advantage over the remaining wives. Individuals who wanted to offer the Prophet gifts learned that the best moments were when he is with Aicha.  Aicha thus enjoyed the best fabrics and gifts and the other wives revolted again wanting fair distribution of the gifts.  Mohammad told Um Salama that his revelations descend when he is with Aicha, but the revolt went on and the Prophet decided to retreat from his harem for a whole month, sending fear and frustration in the community of the believers.  After a month, Mohammad revealed a message placing men as superior to women and admonishing wives to obey their husband, and permitting husbands to punish their wives if they disobeyed.  Mohammad reconquered his authority in the harem and wives had to pay the price of this revolt for centuries after.

In 630 or the 8th year of Mohammad emigration to Yathreb Prophet assembled ten thousand fighters for his pilgrimage to the Kaaba and entered Mecca and destroyed the pagan Gods and became the uncontested leader of all the tribes in the Arabia peninsula; his arch enemy Abu Suffian converted to Islam before the troops of the Moslems entered Mecca.  The wife of Abu Sufian, Hind, converted to Islam also.  Hind is the famous woman who opened the chest of Hamza in the Battle of Ohud and ate his liver in order to avenge her father in the battle of Badr; Hamza had killed Hind’s father in a singular fight before the battle of Bard.

Mohammad married Maymouna, a relative of both tribes of Abi Taleb and Hashim to the fainting and shock of the harem.  A revelation descended that the messenger is allowed all the women he desires.  Besides his nine wives, Muhammad had two concubines, Maria and Rihana, and uncounted numbers of women who wanted to offer themselves to him to gain Paradise.  Once, Fatima told the harem that her husband Ali wanted to take another wife and she intervened with the Prophet; Aicha was beside herself to learn that this plain woman and not as educated could enjoy one husband and generate four offspring, two of them males.  Aicha realized that she could not get pregnant even after her expertise led to many successful full coital with Muhammad.

Rihana died shortly after as well as Mohammad’s eldest daughter Zainab.  Maria gave Mohammad a male son called Ibrahim and thus, Maria was released from bondage.  The blood family of the Prophet consisted of Ali, Fatima, his two grandsons, his two grand daughters and Ibrahim; his adoptive son Zaid died during a battle in the north against the Byzantium Empire.

Mohammad organized an army of 30,000 fighters in the year 631, recruited from all over Arabia and marched to Tabuk, a city within the Syrian borders, to avenge the death of his adoptive son Zaid; he took Aicha with him on this campaign.  The Governor of Syria didn’t deign to challenge the Prophet and Mohammad returned to Medina after securing many treaties with the neighboring tribes and oasis in Syria.  The whole of Arabia was converting to Islam.

Ibrahim, the son of Mohammad, aged 18 months, dies.  The Prophet cried and lamented, a behavior which was not the custom of the male believers.

The Prophet went on pilgrimage to Mecca the next year with 30,000 pilgrims and the entire harem went this time.  Mohammad gave a speech alluding that it might be his last pilgrimage. Shortly after his return to Medina Muhammad suffered from terrible headaches for a month; he asked Abu Bakr to preach in his place when he was bed ridden.  The Prophet dies on June 8, 632; he was 63 years old.

Omar would not believe that the Prophet could die and threatened anyone who says so; then Abu Bakr told the congregation “Moslems, those among you who adore Mohammad, Mohammad is dead.  Those who adore God, God is living”.

Ali was to wash the body and arrange for the funeral. The Companions elected Abu Bakr Caliph in the absence of Ali who was the closest member in the prophet’s “House”. Abu Bakr reminded the Moslems what the Prophet told him once: “All prophets were buried at the place of their death”; and thus Mohammad was buried in Aicha’s bedroom.  Aicha replaced the bed on top of the burying ground and continued sleeping there.

Abu Bakr would not distribute the Prophet’s inheritance to anyone of his wives or family members because Mohammad has told him that prophets’ belonging went to charities.  Fatima died 6 months later as Mohammad has predicted, aggrieved and desperate.

Under Abu Bakr, Aicha, aided by Zayd ibn Thabit, got the huge responsibility of gathering and collecting all the parchments and written verses and the early oral verses of the Koran and then sorting them, verifying their authenticity, correcting and compiling them. Aichi was not twenty years old.  Abu Bakr died within two years and was also buried in Aicha’s bedroom next to the Prophet.  At the time of his death, Khaled ibn Al Walid had vanquished the Byzantine Emperor at Yarmuk and was advancing toward Damascus.

Omar was selected by Abu Bakr to be the next Caliph. Omar extended Islam to Persia by a victory in Qadissiya and toward Egypt.  Omar was assassinated by a Christian slave while praying in the Mosque in Medina; Omar also asked permission of Aicha to be buried in her bedroom.  By then, Aicha was the ultimate interpreter of the Koran and had issued 2,210 Hadiths and was the expert in women’s legal right or “Fiqh Al Nissa2”.

Omar appointed a Council of five Companions from the tribes of Quraich to elect the next Caliph.  Uthman ibn Affan was selected and Aicha had misgivings on how he might manipulate the masses of documents collected on the verses of Islam.  Omar left the documents with his daughter Afsa to hand over to the next Caliph.

Uthman ended up exercising nepotism and appointing relatives as governors and civil servants in high offices and he built a palace and lived luxuriously with 500 serfs maintaining the palace and organizing the feasts.  The new Caliph destroyed the documents related to the Koran that he didn’t like and Aicha came out of her house carrying the sandals and shirts and hair of the prophet and shouted at the caliph: “The Prophet’s belongings had not had time to deteriorate and you started to turn your back on his teachings”. Aicha had a copy of all the documents and she rewrote her version of the Koran. A large dissatisfied mob of Moslems, who were manipulated by extremists in Basra (Iraq), marched on Medina. Aicha had premonition that the arriving mob is bad news and got permission from Uthman to leave for pilgrimage with the harem.  The mob entered the palace of Uthman burned it asunder and stabbed and beat the Caliph to death.

Ali was elected Caliph but refrained to give the revenge for the murder of the Caliph Uthman as priority; this lukewarm behavior prompted Aicha to action and she started delivering speeches in Meca to the effect that the punishment of the leaders of assassins should be carried out first thing first.  Her brother-in-law Zobair and another Companion Talhat excited Aicha to leading a contingent of 3,000 fighters to Basra.

Ali was on his way to Damascus to fight Moawiya, the governor of Syria, and stopped at Kufa to recruit more fighters and had to challenge Aicha before resuming his campaign.  Aicha, Zobair and Talhat managed to recruit an army of 30,000 men against 20,000 with Ali.  The battle of the “Camel”, the first among the Moslems, left 15,000 victims and injured among the Moslem fighters which affected Aicha for the remainder of her life. Talhat and Zobair died in the battle. Aicha was riding hidden in a palanquin and exhorting her army to fight. Ali ordered his officer to cut the hand of the camel guide so that the camel could be moved from the center of the battle field; guides took the relay and 72 camel guides left theirs hands on the rope before the camel’s hamstrings were cut and was brought down and the symbol of “The Mother of the Believer” finally relinquishing its effect on the troops. Ali permitted Aicha to return to her home in Medina and she was escorted as a Queen. One of Moawiya’s delegates told Aicha that they wished she died in the battle so that the allies of Moawiya would have had an excellent excuse to fight Ali.

Aicha spent the remaining of her life in her house, receiving scholars and students who regarded her as the main resource for correct interpretations of the religious verses and taking notes of her experiences. Aicha was the only virgin in the harem and whatever she knew of love making was the invention and initiation of Muhammad.  A specific revelation forbade Muhammad’s wives to remarry and to remain in their homes and to be covered completely and wear the “nikab” on their face when stepping outside their doors or meeting males.

The effects of the assassination of Uthman didn’t end up there.  Muawiya raised the same reason of avenging Uthman to engage Ali in a terrible battle at Seffine in Syria: the bloodied shirt of Uthman hanging in the Mosque of Madina demanded retribution and the Arabs coined the dictum “the Shirt of Uthman” to convey the meaning that the reason offered is but an excuse for the power struggle.   There were no victors in this battle and a large contingent of Ali’s army dissented because Ali agreed to arbitrage; these dissenters were labeled Al Khawarej and were led by Abdulah ibn Wahab (the actual Saudi Monarchy is Wahabi in affiliation); they went on assassination rampage against the leading followers of both Ali and Muawiya.

The Khawarej failed to assassinate Muawiya but killed Ali in Kufa.  Ali refused to name anyone to succeed him as Caliph and said to his followers that he would not disagree with anyone they select; Aicha was to say “this is typical Ali’s ambiguity” as she forecasted the worst to the unity of the “Umma” or Nation of Islam.

Muawiya was elected Caliph and the power became hereditary and the period is known as the Omayyad (the most powerful tribe of Quraich) reign in Damascus, which lasted for a century before the Abbaseed (The house of Abbass, the Uncle of Muhammad) succeeded in taking power in Baghdad for two centuries.  The Central Asian converted Sunni tribes were to dominate the political and religious landscape for over ten centuries.  Muawiya sent assassins to achieve any potential leaders related to the Prophet and Aicha lived to experience the death of many of her male family members.  Hassan, the son of Ali, was assassinated by his wife wearing a poisoned dress.  Moawiya then slaughtered Hassan’s wife to hide his schemes with her.

Notes:

  1. 1)The Prophet had two sons who died before the age of two.  Ali, his nephew who married his youngest daughter Fatima, was the only male in his “House”.  Muhammad appointed Ali to read the religious messages in meetings where the Prophet could not be present.  Ali and Abu Bakr were the most learned males, among the early Companions, on Islam but Aicha was the best and she was present during many revelations of Archangel Gabriel in her house.
  2. 2)Ali was the most qualified to be the Imam of Islam but since there was yet no separation between the political and religious functions then Ali had to seek power as Caliph.  Ali lacked the political acumen and the qualities of a government leader because he was constantly plagued with ambiguities as a result of his vast religious knowledge and his apprehension to err in his decisions. Schism developed during his short five years reign and the Shi’aa sect (the followers of Ali’s second son Hussein) emerged as a counterpart to the Sunni sect representing the legitimate Moslems.
  3. 3)Muhammad was mortally sick for at least a month and he knew his days were counted because Gabriel gave him a choice between this world and the Other World and the Prophet opted for the Other World.  Muhammad had time to think about the succession of power and the appropriate processes but no revelations were forthcoming.  The tribal spirit was to dominate the political landscape, the same spirit that Muhammad intended to re-direct toward a Unique God and unite the “Umma”.  The Arab and Moslem World were tribal in structure and ended up with a caste system when the Central Asian tribes overpowered the Quraichi tribal rights for leadership.
  4. The Prophet Muhammad was highly literate https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/the-parson-and-the-prophet-book-review/

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