Q: Hadhrath Ayesha was a severe critic of Hadhrath Uthman. How is it that following his murder, she chose to rebel against Imam Ali (as) on the premise that his killers should be apprehended? During her lifetime Hadhrath Ayesha was a severe critic of Hadhrath Uthman, to the point that she advocated his killing. How is it that following his murder, she chose to rebel against Imam Ali (as) on the premise that his killers should be apprehended? Why did she leave Makkah, portray Hadhrath Uthman as a victim and mobilise opposition from Basrah? Was this decision based on her desire to defend Hadhrath Uthman or was it motivated by her animosity towards Hadhrath Ali (as)? History records that she said the following about Hadhrath Uthman “Kill this old fool (Na’thal), for he is unbeliever”, see History of Ibn Athir, v3, p206, Lisan al-Arab, v14, p141, al-Iqd al-Farid, v4, p290 and Sharh Ibn Abi al-Hadid, v16, pp 220-223
A: The questioner has assumed as an historical fact the claim drawn from the named sources that Sayyidah A’ishah advocated the killing of Sayyiduna ‘Uthman. He labours under the common misconception that the simple fact that the moment something mentioned is in a history book it is an incontrovertible fact. He fails to understand the need for authentication.
The fact of the matter is that in order for narrated information to be regarded as a valid basis for making claims that affect one’s belief system, or influence the way one views personalities, the information HAS to be authenticated. Leave aside reports of history; even the ahadith of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam have to be authenticated by rigorous criteria before store can be set by it.
What does authentication entail? Does it amount to providing a mere reference to a source or two such as what the questioner has given? Anyone who regards this as authentication hasn’t got the vaguest idea of what authentication is or what it entails. The questioner and other like him would be well advised to equip himself with some knowledge of the discipline before venturing boldly into making claims that may well affect their destiny in the hereafter.
Coming now to the issue under discussion: The questioner provides the following four references for his claim that history records Sayyidah A’ishah as saying about Sayyiduna Uthman, “Kill this old fool (Na’thal), for he is unbeliever”:
1. History of Ibn Athir, v3, p206
2. Lisan al-Arab, v14, p141,
3. al-Iqd al-Farid, v4, p290
4. Sharh Ibn Abi al-Hadid, v16, pp 220-223
The book “Lisan al-‘Arab” by Ibn Manzur is a not a work on history, but a lexicon of the Arabic language. Does the questioner not see the utter ridiculousness of his endeavour to establish historical truth by quoting a dictionary? His attempt is comparable to quoting scientific material from an anthology of poetry.
SHARH IBN ABIL HADID
Ibn Abil Hadid was an extremist Shi’i whose beliefs would be repugnant even to the “moderate” Shi’ah themselves. His views of the near-divinity of Sayyiduna Ali ibn Abi Talib are reflected in his poetry, some of which is reproduced in the editor’s introduction to his commentary on “Nahj al-Balaghah”. As an extremist Shi’i, his being cited on a matter concerning the Sahabah cannot be free from prejudice, and must therefore be called into question seriously.
If we are going to accept everything the Shi’ah say about the Sahabah, we will eventually end up having to accept that beyond inciting the murder of Uthman, Sayyidah A’ishah was also guilty of adultery, [as recorded by Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Qummi in his Tafsir (vol. 2 p. 377), Hashim al-Bahrani in al-Burhan (vol. 4 p. 358) and Abdullah Shubbar in his Tafsir (p. 338)]; that the sixth of the seven doorways of Hell will be exclusively for her [as stated in Bihar al-Anwar vol. 4 p. 378; and Tafsir al-‘Ayyashi vol. 2 p. 243]; and that she was a hypocrite who, along with the vast bulk of the Sahabah turned apostate openly after the demise of the Nabi sallallahu `alayhi wasallam.
Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih’s book “al-‘Iqd al-Farid” is a literary book about which the author states in his introduction, “I have written this book, and I have chosen its rare jewels from amongst select gemstones of literature.” He makes no claim that everything in his book is historically accurate and authentic. Again, the absolute inappropriateness of establishing historical truth from a source as unsuited for this purpose as a literary omnibus seems to escape the notice of the questioner.
IBN AL-ATHIR’S HISTORY
The fact that the questioner names this work as the ” History of Ibn Athir” appears to reveal that he himself is unfamiliar with the book, and happens to be citing it from second or third hand sources. For his information, the book’s proper title is “al-Kamil”. Had the questioner been familiar with this book he would have been aware of the fact that this book is directly based upon Ibn Jarir at-Tabari’s work; and had he been familiar with Tabari’s work he would have known that Tabari has recorded the material in his book complete with chains of narrations. He would also have known that Tabari himself, in a disclaimer at the end of his introduction (vol. 1 p. 24) declares that in terms of authenticity the material in his book is only as good as the chains of narration through which it has come down to him.
In light of the above, let us now proceed to evaluate the authenticity of the statement which the questioner has so boldlessly and recklessly (and also – mind you – ignorantly) ascribed to Sayyidah A’ishah.
This statement is to be found on page 226 of the 5th volume of the edition of Tarikh at-Tabari published by Dar al-Fikr, Beirut in 1418/1998. It is recorded by Tabari on the authority of the following chain of narration:
Tabari narrates from ‘Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Hasan al-‘Ijli, who narrates from Husayn ibn Nasr al-‘Attar, who narrates from his father Nasr ibn Muzahim al-‘Attar…
Up to this point the following flaws present itself in the chain:
1. Of Tabari’s immediate source, ‘Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Hasan al-‘Ijli, no trace can be found in the biographical works of narrators. He is thus an unknown person.
2. The next person in the chain is Husayn ibn Nasr ibn Muzahim. Of him too, no trace is to be found in the biographical literature ¯ hence another unknown person. The only thing that is known about him is the fact that he is the son of Nasr ibn Muzahim.
3. Nasr ibn Muzahim presents a major problem. He was known in his lifetime as a forger of historical material, and was condemned for it by, amongst others, the hadith expert Abu Khaythamah Zuhayr ibn Harb. His general unreliability as a narrator of historical material is echoed by al-‘Uqayli, Abu Hatim ar-Razi, ad-Daraqutni, al-‘Ijli, al-Khalili and Ibn ‘Adi. He is described by a number of these experts as a hardcore extremist Shi’i. (See Lisan al-Mizan vol. 7 p. 187) Even a non-muhaddith such as the literary biographer Yaqut al-Hamawi describes him as an extremist Shi’i who stands accused of forgery and is generally unreliable. (Mu’jam al-Udaba vol. 19 p. 225)
As may be expected, Shi’i hadith critics are generally more affable towards Nasr ibn Muzahim. However, even they have located a problem with the historical material which he transmits. The Shi’i hadith critic Abul ‘Abbas an-Najashi, for example, remarks about him that while he himself was a person of righteous conduct, his problem was that he transmitted material on the authority of unreliable sources. (Rijal an-Najashi vol. 2 p. 384) This statement of an-Najashi is corroborated by al-‘Allamah al-Hilli in al-Khulasah. (Jami’ ar-Ruwat vol. 2 p. 291)
With this background on Nasr ibn Muzahim, let us now proceed to investigate the sources on whose authority Nasr ibn Muzahim has ascribed this alleged statement to Sayyidah A’ishah.
Nasr produces two separate chains of narrators through which he claims to have received this information. They look as follows:
1. Nasr ibn Muzahim narrates from Sayf ibn ‘Umar, who narrates from Muhammad ibn Nuwayrah and Talhah ibn al-A’lam.
2. Nasr ibn Muzahim narrates from ‘Umar ibn Sa’d, who narrates from Asad ibn ‘Abdullah, who narrates from some learned men whom he met.
The first chain of narration shows glaring defects. Sayf ibn ‘Umar is that historian whose total unreliability has been a matter of much discussion, especially in Shi’i circles. The contemporary Shi’i scholar, Murtada al-‘Askari has written an interesting book in which he has pointed a finger of accusation at this very same Sayf ibn ‘Umar. The charge which he levels against Sayf ibn ‘Umar is that he is responsible for inventing of the personality of ‘Abdullah ibn Saba. Despite the flaws in al-‘Askaris’ research (upon which some light has been cast in an article that may be read at) this book has been highly acclaimed in Shi’i circles, and everyone climbed on the bandwagon of labeling Sayf ibn ‘Umar as a shameless liar and forger. But suddenly, when the material which Sayf transmits is not about Ibn Saba, but disparages Sayyidah A’ishah, his unreliability is conveniently forgotten, and an-Najashi! ‘s complaint of Nasr ibn Muzahim narrating from unreliable sources is cast to the wind. Such “objectivity” leaves one in complete amazement.
Furthermore, Sayf ibn ‘Umar’s two sources, Muhammad ibn Nuwayrah and Talhah ibn al-A’lam, are completely unknown entities.
Nasr ibn Muzahim’s second chain of narration suffers once again from the same defect. His immediate source, ‘Umar ibn Sa’d is unknown, as is ‘Umar ibn Sa’d’s source Asad ibn ‘Abdullah. The person or persons from whom Asad ibn ‘Abdullah allegedly received the information are not even named at all.
In summary it may therefore be said that not a single person in the entire chain of narration, from Tabari up the final sources, may be relied upon at all. Is it on the basis of such worthless historical material that the questioner wishes us to believe that Sayyidah A’shah advocated the killing of Sayyiduna ‘Uthman?
If the questioner can bring himself to accept such worthless material, it creates a question in the mind as to why he would do so. It cannot be because of the intrinsic value of the report itself, for it has been adequately demonstrated here that the report has no value at all. The only reason for his acceptance of such narrations will have to be his own sectarian prejudices. He himself will have to answer to Allah for accepting and believing information provided by such worthless and unreliable sources.
As for the rest of us, we abide by the instruction of Allah Most High: “O you who believe, when an evil-doer comes unto you with news, then ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly, and afterwards regret what you have done.” (49:6)
And since Sayyidah A’ishah was of the Muhajirin, it may be of interest to the questioner to note what attitude Allah has instructed those who come after the Muhajirin and the Ansar to adopt towards them: “And those who come after them, they say: Our Lord, forgive us and [forgive] our brethren who preceded us in faith. And do not put in our hearts rancour towards the Believers. Our Lord, You are Most Kind, Most Merciful.” (59:10)