The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him used to cast lots, whenever he intended to go on an expedition, to decide who among his wives should accompany him. In the expedition of Banu al‐ Mustaliq the lot had fallen on ‘Aisha and she had accordingly accompanied the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him. At one of the stopovers in their journey back to Madinah, the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him spent a part of the night before he ordered to break the camp. ‘Aisha had gone to answer the call of nature, and when she came back she discovered that she had dropped her necklace. She went back to hopefully recover it, but by the time she returned the army had already left. Then the camel drivers in charge of ‘Aisha’s transport saddled her covered litter thinking that she was in it as usual.
However, ‘Aisha was small and very light, so no one noticed that her litter was empty. When ‘Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) came back she found no trace of the army, so she wrapped herself in her smock and laid down in the hope that as soon as they would discover the real situation, someone would come to fetch her.
Safwan ibn al‐Mu’attal al‐Salam, had earlier followed behind the army for a purpose. He happened to pass by ‘Aisha and stopped at her. He saw her. “Inna Lillah”, he called out, “The Prophet’s wife!” Then he brought his camel near her and turned back a few paces.
After ‘Aisha rode the dromedary, Safwan took hold of the camel’s halter and went ahead quickly in search of the army. Safwan overtook the army when it had again rested.
Nobody noticed the incident, for such mishaps were not unusual in the caravans trekking the vast emptiness of the Arabian wilderness. To wayfaring Arabs, it was just a familiar misfortune and their code of honor, even in the days of pagan past, never tolerated the disgrace of their daughters.
The Arabs, both pagans as well as after embracing Islam, were chivalrous enough to lay down their lives defending the honor of their women rather than to support any disgrace. A poet of pre‐Islamic days expresses the Arab sentiment of chastity and virtuousness in a couplet, which depicts a lovely picture of Arab womanhood. “If my glance meets the looks of a neighboring maiden, I cast my eyes low until her abode takes her in”.
The companions held the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him in the same esteem and reverence as one has for one’s father while the wives of the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him all served as ‘Mothers of the Faithful’ to every Muslim. In fact, never had any people loved anyone so dearly than how the companions cherished the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him. Safwan b. al‐Mu’attal was, as they say, a man of sterling qualities noble, true‐souled and God‐fearing who had the reputation of being least interested in women.
In short, nobody paid any attention to the incident and the matter would have been forgotten had not ‘Abdullah b. Ubbay walked into the picture. On coming back to Madinah, ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy thought it an ideal opportunity for their plans to succeed to capitalize on the adversity. He had found out, as he would though, something that he could bank upon to humiliate the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him and his household and thus weaken Muslims’ sentiments of love and admiration for him and his family.
His treacherous disposition was ample enough to assure him that his shameless attack on the Prophet’s honor would create sufficient misgivings to destroy even the mutual trust among the Muslims. And true enough, the crafty conspirator, had thus convinced a few circumspect Muslims who were accustomed to jumping into conclusions without verification.
Aisha had no idea of the defamation against her. As it normally happens in such cases, she came to know of it very late, and when she did, she was bewildered. Plunged into sorrow, her anguish had kept her sobbing until tears overflowed her eyes.
The scandal was even more distressing to the Prophet of God peace be and blessings upon him. When he found out the architect of this intrigue, he proceeded to the mosque and ascending the pulpit he said, “O ye believers, who would allow me to say something about the man, who I have come to know, has caused trouble to my family? What I know of my family is naught but good and what they say concerning a man, I have known only good about him. Whenever he enters my house, he enters with me.”
The people of Aus were filled with indignation at the grief of the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him. They said, “We are prepared to behead the man, whether he belongs to Aus or Khazraj, who has given tongue to this calumny.” ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy belonged to Khazraj, and hence his tribesmen took the remark as an affront to tribal honor. Pent up emotions reigned until the two tribes were about to grapple with one another, but the presence of the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him calmed them down finally preventing the outbreak.
‘Aisha knew her innocence. She was distressed, but was also confident and composed, so typical of the one who knows that the truth ultimately prevails in the end.
She knew in the depths of her heart that God would ultimately protect her honor and bring shame to the slanderers. But it had never crossed her mind that God would send down a revelation concerning her, which would be read in the mosques during prayers, a reality that will abide ‘till the end of time. She had not waited for long when the verses attesting her innocence were sent down by God, hence:
“Lo! They who spread the slander are a gang among you. Deem is not a bad thing for you: nay, it is good for you. Unto every man of them (will be paid) that which he hath earned of the sin; and for him among them who had the greater share therein, his will be an awful doom. “Why did not the believers, men and women, when ye heard it, think good their own folk, and say: it is a manifested untruth?” [Qur'an 24:11‐12].
And thus ended the frightful menace which was forgotten completely by the Muslims of Madinah who devoted themselves once again to a great task which determines not only their own success, but that of the salvation of the entire humanity as well. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 289‐302 and Al‐Bukhaari).