Fatima Mernissi, one of the most famous female Islamic scholars, once wrote about an infamous hadith (Prophetic tradition) and how it has come to define the way we think of women and authority:
Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity.
I’m sure many of you have heard this hadith as it is one of the better-known ones. Mernissi tried to find out whether it was really authentic or not, even though it is in Sahih Bukhari’s collection.
It was narrated by someone named Abu Bakra, and to cut a very long story short, she comes up with the following historical facts:
- She gives a detailed historical overview that shows that Abu Bakra had a lot of reason to say something like this, since he had just refused to fight for Aisha.
- Abu Bakra came up with other opportunistic hadith at very convenient moments.
- He was convicted of and flogged for false testimony by the Caliph ‘Umar (which should have disqualified him from hadith narration since hadith scholars and collectors had VERY strict codes on who could narrate, and if one’s reputation had suffered, then he was automatically disqualified).
- Even after Bukhari included this hadith in his collection, it was highly debated by many scholars. Tabari, for example, did not see it as sound enough to disqualify women from education or politics.
Moving on to Abu Hurayra, one of the famous hadith narrators. It’s hilarious reading Mernissi’saccount of him, since she obviously doesn’t like him much 😀 One of his hadith:
“The Prophet said that the dog, the ass, and woman interrupt prayer if they pass in front of the believer, interposing themselves between him and the qibla (direction of Makkah).”
“You compare us now to asses and dogs. In the name of God, I have seen the Prophet saying his prayers while I was there, lying on the bed between him and the qibla. And in order not to disturb him, I didn’t move.”
Interestingly, Bukhari did NOT include Aisha’s version in his collection – even though he usually includes all the conflicting hadith.
Another encounter between them:
“Abu Hurayra, you relate hadith that you never heard.”
“O Mother, all I did was collect hadith, while you were too busy with make-up and your mirror.”
Another hadith Abu Hurayra narrated, “he whom the dawn finds sullied (referring to sullying by the sex act) may not fast”, was refuted by both Aisha AND Umm Salama, who both said the Prophet would spend the night sullied without making any ritual purification, and would then fast in the morning. Abu Hurayra was confronted with this, and then he confessed, under pressure, that he had not heard it from the Prophet, but from someone else. He later retracted his words completely.
Again…interesting! Why, then, was he still considered a narrator of hadith?
“Aisha insisted on these corrections because she was conscious of the implications of what was being said. Pre-Islamic Arabia regarded sexuality, and the menstruating woman in particular, as a source of pollution, as a pole of negative forced.”
Aisha on Aby Hurayra:
“He is not a good listener, and when he is asked a question, he gives wrong answers.”
There are also accounts that say ‘Umar threatened to exile Abu Hurayra if he did not stop recounting hadith!
Interestingly, Abu Hurayra spent 3 years with the Prophet, and remembered 5,300 hadith…even Bukhari included a hadith in his collection nothing that Abu Hurayra recounts TOO MANY hadith!
So has this changed the way you see the hadith addressed here? Why/why not? If it has, has it changed the way you see hadith in general?