Aisha’s Jealousy of Khadija bint Khuwaylid

The following has been taken from here (pages 92 – 101).

Some people argue that Aisha (رضي الله عنها) was a selfish person whose attitude towards Khadija (رضي الله عنها) indicated her jealousy. Accordingly, they argue that the entire Hadith narrated by Aisha with regards to jealousy is aimed at demeaning Khadija and that this is an unjustified jealousy.

The matter can be elaborated on in the following ways:

  1. Elaborating on the meaning of jealousy, and distinguishing between its praiseworthy and blameworthy forms.
  2. Proving that it is an innate characteristic for any wife to be jealous, not just for Aisha, especially if the husband was Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ).
  3. Elaborating how these Hadiths, narrated by Aisha, aimed at lauding Khadija, rather than demeaning her, and show Khadija’ status in the eyes of Aisha (رضي الله عنهم).

Let’s start with the first point:

  1. Elaborating on the meaning of jealousy, and difference between the praiseworthy and the blameworthy jealousy

Jealousy: is to be overly protective of someone. It is pronounced in Arabic as ghayrah. Jealousy is a noun; its adjective is jealous. An example of a jealous man is one who wants to keep his wife away from other men, while an example of a jealous woman is one who is jealous that her husband married another woman.

Therefore, the strongest jealousy is the kind of protective jealousy that is between a man and his wife.[1]

With this definition in mind, it becomes clear that once anyone gets or owns something, he will not let anyone share it as he considers it an infringement of his right. Due to this, he becomes angry and annoyed. There are three types of that kind of jealousy; a praiseworthy one, a blameworthy one, and the innate one for which women are not to be censured for.

For the praiseworthy jealousy, it is the one that drives you to do good deeds, prevents you from doing wrong deeds, and helps you not to transgress the limits of Allah. While the blameworthy jealousy is the one that encourages you to transgress the limits of Allah or lets you to think evil of others. The innate jealousy is the one that is between a wife and her husband. Islam has overlooked this kind of jealousy from women and does not censure her for it; however, Islam does not permit her to transgress the limits of Allah due to this harbored jealousy even if it is an innate characteristic.

Ibn Abi Hajala (d. 776 A.H.), in his book ‘Diwan al-Sababa’ said: I wrote this chapter only to mention how the lover may be jealous even of himself and of those who are of his own kind and he always tries to overly protect his beloved. Jealousy is two types; the first is that whom Allah and his Messenger (ﷺ) love, while the other is rejected and the one who is characterized by it should be rebuked. The praiseworthy one is the protective jealousy when there are grounds for suspicion and the rejected one is when one thinks evil of others when there are no grounds for suspicion. This rejected one spoils the relationship completely because it causes animosity between the lover and his/her beloved and it may even let the beloved to do what the lover indicted him/her with; consequently, it will lead to great corruption. There are numerous stories about such issues which many of us already know.[2]

Abdullah b. Shaddad said: Jealousy is of two types; one that helps the man amend his family’s affairs, and one that leads him to hell.[3]

Ibnul Qayyim said: Jealousy for the beloved is a praiseworthy one when sharing that beloved one with someone else is blameworthy according to the Shariah and our rationality. For example, for a man to be jealous over his wife, his slave-woman, or over anyone in his family for anyone mentioning them in a negative way, is a praiseworthy one.

This jealousy is just related to the one who loves Allah. For this person actually loves that everyone else also loves Allah, remembers Him, worships Him and praises Him. This is what he loves most, he even invites to the way of Allah through his words and his actions.[4] It was mentioned in Al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Messenger (ﷺ) addressed the people when the eclipse ended and said, “O followers of Muhammed! There is none that has a greater sense of ghayrah (jealousy) than Allah, so He has forbidden that His slave commits illegal sexual intercourse or His slave girl commits illegal sexual intercourse.”[5]

Abdullah b. Mas’ood reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “None loves one’s own praise more than Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, does. It is because of this that He has praised Himself, and none is more jealous than Allah and it is because of this that He has prohibited abominable acts and there is none who is more anxious to accept the apologies of the people than Allah Himself and it is because of this that He has revealed the Book and sent the Messengers.”[6]

Abu Hurayrah reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: “Allah is jealous and a believer is also jealous and the jealousy of Allah occurs when a believer does what He has forbidden him to do.”[7]

Abu Hurayrah reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: “A believer is jealous and Allah is extremely jealous.”[8]

Therefore we learn that great jealousy is of three kinds; 1) a believer who is jealous for the sake of Allah if His His limits are exceeded; 2) the believer who is jealous over his heart and afraid that it inclines to another other than Allah, and 3) the believer who is jealous over his family. These three kinds are what Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ) love. Types of jealousy other than these are either deception by Satan, or an affliction by Allah just like a woman who becomes jealous if her husband marries another woman.[9]

  1. Demonstrating that it is an innate characteristic for any wife to be jealous, and that she cannot resist this feeling.

And those who deny that this is not an innate characteristic and that a woman can cope with it, thinking that they defend the woman by their words, are wrong because either they don’t know a woman’s nature well enough or they are talking about someone other than a woman.

Clarification is as follows:

First: This sense of ghayrah is actually out of love, not hatred. For example:

  • Aisha’s jealousy and we will elaborate this in detail in the third aspect.
  • Sara’s jealousy, the wife of the Prophet Ibrahim (عليه السلام), which was not actually out of hatred towards Hajar, who remembered that Allah had conferred favour upon her that He rescued her from the wicked man, and also Sara was the one who presented Hajar to Ibrahim (عليه السلام), but as a natural characteristic. She felt jealous, as before this great man was for her and only her. Ibrahim (عليه السلام) did not punish her for her jealousy and Allah, the Almighty, did not reveal to him to punish her. Instead, Allah revealed to him to migrate to Makkah with Hajar and that was for a purpose, none knew it, then, but Allah. But now, we all know it.

Here is her story: Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: When Ibrahim had differences with his wife), (because of her jealousy of Hajar, Isma’il’s mother), he took Isma’il and his mother and went away. They had a water-skin with them containing some water, Isma’il’s mother used to drink water from the water-skin so that her milk would increase for her child. When Ibrahim reached Makkah, he made her sit under a tree and afterwards returned home. Isma’il’s mother followed him, and when they reached Kada’, she called him from behind, ‘O Ibrahim! To whom are you leaving us?’ He replied, ‘(I am leaving you) to Allah’s (Care).’ She said, ‘I am satisfied to be with Allah.’ She returned to her place and started drinking water from the water-skin, and her milk increased for her child. When the water had all been used up, she said to herself, ‘I’d better go and look so that I may see somebody.’ She ascended the Safa mountain and looked, hoping to see somebody, but in vain. …… . Later on her boy reached the age of puberty and married a lady from them. Then an idea occurred to Ibrahim which he disclosed to his wife (Sarah), ‘I want to call on my dependents I left (at Makkah).’ When he went there, he greeted (Isma’il’s wife) and said, ‘Where is Isma’il?’ She replied, ‘He has gone out hunting.’ Ibrahim said (to her), ‘When he comes, tell him to change the threshold of his gate.’ When he came, she told him the same whereupon Isma’il said to her, ‘You are the threshold, so go to your family (i.e. you are divorced).’ Again Ibrahim thought of visiting his dependents whom he had left (at Makkah), and he told his wife (Sarah) of his intentions. Ibrahim came to Isma’il’s house and asked. “Where is Isma’il?” Isma’il’s wife replied, “He has gone out hunting,” and added, “Will you stay (for some time) and have something to eat and drink?’ Ibrahim asked, ‘What is your food and what is your drink?’ She replied, ‘Our food is meat and our drink is water.’ He said, ‘O Allah! Bless their meals and their drink.” Abu Al-Qa-sim (i.e. Prophet) said, “Because of Ibrahim’s invocation there are blessings (in Makkah).”[10]

 In another narration, Ibn ‘Abbas narrated, “The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Isma’il. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah.”[11]

Sara’s jealousy of Hajar was an innate characteristic. If the wife asked not to see her fellow-wife or not to live with her, it would not be a denounced act. However, scholars mention that it was Ibrahim (عليه السلام)’s decision to migrate with Hajar and their son, and not because Sara asked to do so.

Ibn Kathir said: The matter is that when Hajar delivered Ismael, Sara became more jealous; therefore, Allah revealed to Ibrahim to take Hajar away from Sara. Ibrahim obeyed Allah and took Hajar to Makkah. Her son was then just a baby, so when he set out homeward, Hajar followed him saying: “O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him: “Has Allah commanded you to do so?” He said: “Yes.” She said: “Then He will not neglect us.”[12]

Does this jealousy belittle Sara’s status? The answer is “No”; as jealousy is an innate and not an acquired characteristic. Therefore, we cannot impose blame upon them except if they became overly jealous or if they did what Allah had declared unlawful such as oppressing her sister, speaking ill of her, slandering her, or even asking her husband to divorce his other wife and so on.

Hafiz Ibn Hajr said: Jealousy for the woman is innate, but if she becomes overly jealous, she should be blamed. The following Hadith elaborates this issue more:  Narrated Jabir b. Atiq: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “There is jealousy which Allah loves and jealousy which Allah hates. That which Allah loves is jealousy regarding a matter of doubt, and that which Allah hates is jealousy regarding something which is not doubtful.”[13]

If the jealousy – of either husband or a co-wife – is driven by the woman’s innate nature and does not exceed what Allah has declared unlawful either by words or by actions, then we cannot blame the woman. This summarizes what the righteous predecessors said regarding women’s jealousy.[14]

Ibn Muflih said: Al-Tabari and other scholars said: It is permitted for the woman to be jealous and there is no punishment for it as it is an innate characteristic.[15]

Ibn Hajar said, explaining the Hadith of the breaking of Safiyyah’s vessel by Aisha, that they – all the scholars who explained that Hadith – said: In this Hadith, there is an indication that we should not blame the jealous woman for what she does because in such a state, she cannot act rationally due to her severe anger induced by her jealousy.[16]

And what the greatest of women did in their state of jealousy does not require one to impose blame upon them as jealousy is a natural thing and because they did not exceed the limits set by Allah, just like what happened between Sara and Hajar. If the wife asks not to see her husband’s other wife or not to live besides her, it would not be considered a denounced act. Although scholars mentioned that it was Ibrahim (ﷺ)’s decision to migrate with Hajar and his son not because Sara asked to do so.

Hafiz Ibn Hajr said: If the husband was fair and gave them – both the wives – their rights that are obligated upon him, the woman’s jealousy, that doesn’t exceed what Allah has declared unlawful either by words or by actions, could not be deemed blameworthy. This summarizes what the righteous predecessors said about women’s jealousy.[17]

Allah has forbidden that a man gets married to a woman and her sister so as not to destroy their relationship because of jealousy. It is also known that a woman does not accept that her husband getting married to her sister, not because she hates her sister but because she likes to keep her husband for herself only.

Al-Qurtubi said: In some sources, the reason behind forbidding combining in marriage a woman and her sister(s) is mentioned, which is to avoid severing familial ties because of jealousy. Ibn ‘Abbas reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) forbade a person to combine in marriage a woman and her father’s sister, and a woman and her mother’s sister and he said “if you did that, you will cut off the ties of kinship.”[18]

This clarifies that jealousy is an innate characteristic and not an acquired one, for it may occur between a woman and her most beloved person. How and why cannot the Messenger’s wives be jealous? Each of them wants to keep him (ﷺ) for herself only.

  1. These Hadith, narrated by Aisha with regard to her jealousy of Khadija are only to inform us of what she felt towards Khadija and how Khadija was a great woman, not to express her envy or hatred for her.

Aisha said: I never felt so jealous of any wife of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as I did of Khadija because Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to remember and praise her too often and because it was revealed to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) that he should give her (Khadija) the glad tidings of her having a palace of Qasab in Paradise.[19]  And in another narration of Muslim, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said to Aisha: “Her love had been nurtured in my heart by Allah Himself.”[20]

Ibn Hajar said: This proves that jealousy is not a blameworthy act as here is one of the greatest women, Aisha, who was jealous of Khadija the most out of all other wives and she clarified the reason behind this jealousy which is that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to remember and praise Khadija too often. The thing that most leads a woman to be jealous is to imagine that her husband loves another woman more than her. Remembering someone often indicates extra love. Al-Qurtubi said: Aisha meant to praise and laud Khadija (رضي الله عنهم).[21]

Aisha (رضي الله عنها) narrated that she said: When Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) remembered Khadija, he was praising her a lot. She said: I felt jealous and said: How often you (ﷺ) used to remember that who is with red gums (i.e. an old woman)! Allah has given you a better one in her instead. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “Allah has not given me a better one in her place; she believed in me when everyone disbelieved in me, knew that what I have brought is the truth when all the people did not, gave me her money when the people obstructed me, Allah, the Almighty, granted me a son from her and deprived me a son from my other wives”.[22] In another narration, she said: One day, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) remembered Khadija and praised her a lot so I felt jealous just like other women.[23]

Ibn al-Qayyim said: Consider this great jealousy against a woman who is dead. This indicates that this jealousy is out of her great love for Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ). She even wanted him not to remember another one except her.[24]

Aisha reported that Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) did not marry any other woman till her (Khadija’s) death.[25]

This was a superior feature reserved for Khadija only, even though Aisha was envious and disliked narrating such a report.

Aisha reported that Hala b. Khuwaylid (sister of Khadija) sought permission from Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) to see him and he was reminded of Khadija’s (manner of) asking leave to enter and (was overwhelmed) with emotions thereby and said: “O Allah, it is Hala, daughter of Khuwaylid“, and I felt jealous and said: Why do you remember one of those old women of the Quraish with red gums and who is long dead-while Allah has given you a better one in her place?[26]

Ahmad added in his version that she said: ‘then, the color of the face of Allah’s Apostle changed and I didn’t see his face like that except when the revelation came to him or when he saw a cloud in the sky till he knew whether it was a mercy or a chastisement.[27]

Tabari added: She said: O Allah’s Apostle, forgive me, may Allay forgive you, I swear not to remember Khadija anymore regarding anything that you don’t like.[28]

Aisha reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) gave glad tidings to Khadija bint Khuwailid of a palace in Paradise.[29]

What the scholars understood from these narrations is that Aisha praised Khadija; there is even a chapter in Sahih Muslim, named The Virtues of Khadija, the mother of the believers.

Aisha continuously narrates Khadija’s merits which cannot be out of bad manners and envy. It is actually a great loyalty for Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ).

Urwa b. al-Zubayr narrated: Aisha said: Then Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) returned with the inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadija replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.” Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa b. Naufal b. Asad….[30]

Aisha said: Whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut it into pieces and send them to the women friends of Khadijah (رضي الله عنها).[31]

Because Aisha admired Khadija and wished to have the same status for herself in the sight of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), she said “I did not envy any woman as I envied Khadijah – and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) did not marry me except after she had died – that was because the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) gave her glad tidings of a house in Paradise made of Qasab, without clamor or discomfort in it.”[32]

Those who are not aware of the Arabic language, misunderstood the meaning of envy in Aisha’s Hadith, as they thought that it means wishing for others to be deprived of good and this is wrong; it means wishing to have the same good things and increasing the others’ good things and this is the praiseworthy jealousy we talked about.[33]

Allah knows best.

References and footnotes:

[1] Fath al-Bari 9/320.

[2] Transmitted by Abu Dawud (2659), an-Nasa’i (2558), Ahmed (5/445) and Darimi (2226) on the authority of Jabir b. Atik; al-Hakim said that its chain is authentic but they did not narrate it; al-Albani said that it is a sound Hadith in al-Irwaa’ (1999).

[3] Diwan al-Sabaaba 1/32.

[4] Rawdat al-Muhibeen (274).

[5] Al-Bukhari (4923) and Muslim (901) on the authority of Aisha.

[6] Al-Bukhari (4358, 4361, 4922, 6968) and Muslim (2760).

[7] Al-Bukhari (4925) and Muslim (2761)

[8] Muslim (2761)

[9] Rawdat al-Muhibeen (295-316) – cited with discretion. Also refer to Fayd al-Qadeer 2/294.

[10] Al-Bukhari (3365).

[11] Al-Bukhari (3364).

[12] Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah 1/154.

[13] Mentioned above.

[14] Fath al-Bari 9/326.

[15] Al-Adaab al-Shar’iah 1/248.

[16] Fath al-Bari 9/325.

[17] Fath al-Bari 9/326.

[18] Sound because of corroborating evidence. Transmitted by Abu Da’ood (2076), Ahmad 1/211 and al-Tabarani in al-Kabeer (12026) on the authority of Khusayf, ‘Ikrima, and ibn ‘Abbas. Khusayf; ibn Abdul Rahman al-Jaziri, is authentic but had a weak memory, and he forgot a lot when he aged. He, although, was followed by Abu Hariz – whose name is Abdullah b al-Hussain Qadi Sistan; authentic but he sometimes narrated incorrectly; Ibn Hibban transmitted it in al-Sahih (4116).

[19] Al- Bukhari (4931).

[20] Muslim (2435).

[21] Fath al-Bari 7/136, Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi 6/134.

[22] Sound; transmitted by Ahmad in his Musnad (6/117,118), al-Tabarani in al-Kabeer (23/14, 22, 23), and ibn Abd al-Bar in al-Isti’aab (4/384). Ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah wan nihayah (3/1073) said: its chain is fine. Al-Haythami in Majma’ al-Zawa’id said: its chain is sound; and said that Ahmad transmitted it and its chain is sound (9/227).

[23] Ahmad transmitted it in his Musnad (6/154,150), Sahih ibn Hibban (7108), Musnad Ishaq ibn Rahawayh (1163). Ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah wan Nihayah (3/174) said: its chain is sound.

[24] Rawdat al-Muhهbeen 1/298.

[25] Muslim (2436).

[26] Muslim (2437).

[27] Musnad Ahmad 6/154.

[28] Al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer of al-Tabarani 23/11 (14), al-Haythami in Majma’ al-Zawa’id (9/227) said: its chain is sound.

[29] Muslim (2434).

[30] Musnad Ahmad (6/223) on the authority of Aisha narrating in al-Bukhari (3) and Muslim (160).

[31] Musnad Ahmed 6/279.

[32] Al-Tirmidhi (3876), and said: It’s a sound Hadith. Al-Hakim said: Authentic. Al-Dhahabi said: Authentic.

[33] Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi 10/264.

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