This article seeks to assess the role of Umm-ul Momineen Ayesha in Islamic history. Whilst focusing primarily on her conduct towards the Imam (as) during his reign as the fourth khalifa, it touches on other aspects of her character that we felt were worthy of analysis. Whilst recognizing the sensitivities attached to looking at this notable figure, we felt it important to address the topic, as her advocates in effect use the Shia position of her to galvanize hatred of them in the eyes of their adherents. We wish to make it clear that we have in no way written this with a view to humiliating Ayesha or our opponents, this is a critique of her and nothing else. Our opponents will of course insist that the humiliation of Ayesha is the objective nothing more, to which we will point out that there exists a marked difference between humiliating and criticizing an individual.

  • When humiliating somebody, the basic aim is to point out their fallacies in an aggressive way that causes embarrassment to them. Such a method breaches the rules of Islamic decorum.
  • When it comes to criticism, the aim is just to highlight the mistakes in a humble manner that exposes a reality, and thus invite a different way of thinking.
  • Humiliation comprises of aggression, sarcasm and immorality
  • Criticism invites thought and analysis on a subject area, through good manners and decorum

If one conducts an analysis of the written materials produced against the Shia, you will note that the tone frequently aggressive and inflammatory, there is no way that such materials would fall within the definition of a critique. Their objective is not to invite others to ponder and think it but to cause embarrassment to the Shia, and lower their estimation in the eyes of others. Bearing in mind the difference between humiliation and criticism, you will be easily identifying the category these belong to. Now compare this to the defence materials written by the Shia, you will note the differences in style and approach, from which one can easily identify which category such works fall within.

Those whose objective is to humiliate and nothing more, have no Quran and reliable hadith (agreed upon by both Sects) to substantiate their position, nor do they posses any intellect.

Those that pursue criticism as a methodology have a plethora of evidences from the Quran and Hadith, and is from the rulings deduced thereof that those with open intellectual minds that can use such rulings to determine how an individuals role in history should be assessed. Those with open minds will ask three key questions:

  • Has this person’s contribution to this period of history been a positive one?
  • Does the Quran provide any guidance on how such a role should be assessed?
  • Do the Hadith of the Prophet (s) provide any guidance on how such a role should be assessed?

It is this approach that we have adopted for this article. Our critique of Ayesha whilst looking at the historical evidences of her conduct, has invited its readers to use their intellect and assess her conduct against the dictates of the Quran and the edicts of Rasulullah (s). We wish to stress again that we have not sought to humiliate Ayesha, as conscience and intellect would not allow us to adhere to such an approach, moreover such an approach would constitute a breach of our Fiqh rules. To us:

  • criticism sharpens the mind whilst humiliation increases differences
  • criticism increases intellect whilst humiliation destroys it
  • criticism is permitted whilst humiliation is not.

If one is unable to differentiate between criticism and humiliation, we will not be able to discuss history. This would in essence involve removing one hundred and thirty nine verses that that speak of hypocrites; as they were after all sahaba, that sat in the midst of the Prophet (s). We would likewise have to embrace all hadith, without analysis the chains by looking at their narrators thus stifling our ability to ascertain whether a tradition is Sahih or weak. Criticism is a legitimate methodology in the pursuit for truth.

May Allah (swt) accept our intention, and bless Prophet Muhammad and his purified family.