Ghastly Gossip


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

This article was published in this month’s Chicago Crescent newspaper.

We recently learned that Tiger Woods will return to golf this month in the Masters tournament. As the entire episode of Tiger Woods and his marital infidelities has shown us, gossip and backbiting can be particularly devastating to a person and his or her career. These negative traits can be equally devastating to a community of the faithful. So much so, that our Precious Lord has warned us about its dangers in our scripture. And it began with a story from our sacred history that must be told again and again. It began with two screams.

“Help me, O Muhajireen!”

“Help me, O Ansar!”

Those were the cries from two companions who had a dispute with each other at a well during one of the expeditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. A number of other companions responded, and a fight was about to ensue. The Prophet calmed the situation by reminding them of their Islamic brotherhood. The matter would have ended had it not been for Abdullah ibn Ubay, the leader of the Hypocrites, who resented what had happened and said:

“They (the Muslims) have outnumbered and shared us our land. If you fatten your dog, it will eat you.” He then swore that when they return to Madinah: “the most honorable among you will expel the lowest out of Madinah.” By this, he meant the Muslims.

Upon learning this, Abdullah ibn Ubay’s son became very angry. When the Muslims returned to Madinah, he stood at its gate, sword unsheathed. When his father attempted to enter, he put his sword to his chest and said, “By God! The Prophet is the honorable one, and you are abased! By God! You will not enter Madinah until the Prophet gives you his permission!” Word was sent to the Prophet, and he gave permission to Abdullah ibn Ubay to enter. This further enraged him: the once King of Madinah had to be given permission to enter his own city. He was looking for something with which to attack the Prophet, and that thing came not too much later.

Back when the army was encamped, the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, lost her necklace, and after she went to retrieve it, the army had left her behind. Deciding to stay put until they discover her absence, she fell asleep. Safwan ibn Muaqil, a trusted companion of the Prophet, also lagged behind the army, and when he discovered Aisha all alone, he lowered his camel so that she could ride on it, and he guided it back to Madinah. Now was the chance for Abdullah ibn Ubay to get back at the Prophet.

“Safwan and Aisha? By God, neither was safe from the other.”

That was all he said. The rumor mill, however, did not cease thereafter, and soon, people accused Aisha of adultery. Some of these people were righteous companions, including Hamnah bint Jahsh, the Prophet’s cousin. Aisha did not know of the things being said about her, as she fell ill as soon as they returned to Madinah. The Prophet, however, did hear what was being said, and it disturbed him. So much so that, according to Aisha, “I was hurt by the fact that I did not see the tenderness I used to see from the Prophet while I was sick. He would enter upon us and ask all of us, ‘How are all of you doing?’ then he would leave.”

As the rumors spread, more disputes sprung up among the Aws and the Khazraj, the two main tribes of Madinah, and it almost led to them fighting one another. Throughout this entire time, no revelation from God had come to clarify the matter. One day, when Aisha felt a little better, she was in the desert with Umm Mistah, the Prophet’s cousin. Umm Mistah tripped, and cursed her son. Aisha was shocked and said, “What an evil thing you have said. How can you curse a person who has witnessed the Battle of Badr?”

Umm Mistah was shocked: “My dear child, did you not hear what he is saying about you?”

When Aisha learned about the slander against her, she became even more ill than before, with some narrations stating that she fainted. She sought permission to go to her parent’s house where she cried incessantly. “My tears could not stop nor could I taste the sweetness of sleep.”

To be continued…

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