64 – The Necklace

‘A’ishah and Umm Salamah had accompanied the Prophet on this expedition; and at a sunset halt two or three days after the forced march, an onyx necklace which ‘A’ishah was wearing came unclasped and slipped to the ground unobserved. When she noticed her loss, it was already too dark to make a search, and she was loath to go without it. Her mother had placed it round her neck on the day of her wedding, and it was one of her most treasured possessions. The place was without water and the Prophet had intended no more than a brief halt, but he now gave orders to camp there until daylight. The reason for the change of plan was passed from mouth to mouth, and much indignation was felt that a whole army should be kept waiting at such an inclement spot for the sake of a necklace. Some of the Companions went and complained to Abu Bakr, who was greatly embarrassed and scolded his daughter for her carelessness. There was not one well within reach, and the men had used up all the water they carried with them, intending to fill their skins and bottles at the well watered camp they had been aiming for. It would not be possible to pray at dawn, for they had no means of making their ablutions. But in the last hours of the night the verse of earth-purification was revealed to the Prophet -an event of untold importance for the practical life of the community:

If ye find not water then purify yourselves with clean earth, wiping therewith your faces and your hands.[1]

The feelings that had run so high throughout the host subsided, and Usayd exclaimed: “This is not the first blessing that ye have brought unto us, O family of Abu Bakr.”

When daylight came, the necklace was still nowhere to be seen; but when all hopes of finding it were lost and they were preparing to set off without it, ‘A’ishah’s camel rose from where he had been kneeling all night, and there was the necklace on the ground beneath him.

One of the next camps was in a pleasant valley, with long stretches of level sand. The Prophet’s two tents were pitched as usual somewhat apart from the others, and that day it was ‘A’ishah’s turn to be with him. She recounted afterwards how he had suggested that they should have a race. “I girded up my robe about me,” she said, “and the Prophet did likewise. Then we raced, and he won the race. ‘This is for that other race,’ he said, ‘which thou didst win from me.'” He was referring to an incident which had taken place in Mecca, before the Hijrah. ‘A’ishah added, by way of explanation: “He had come to my father’s house and I had something in my hand and he said: ‘Bring it here to me’, and I would not, and ran away from him, and he ran after me, but I was too quick for him.”[2]

The clasp of ‘A’ishah’s necklace was insecure, and at one of the last halts before they reached Medina it slipped from her neck again. This was when the order to march had already been given and she had withdrawn from the camp to satisfy a call of nature. On her return, she and Umm Salamah seated themselves in their respective howdahs, closed the curtains and unveiled their faces. Only then did ‘A’ishah realize her loss; and slipping out from under the curtain she went back to look for it. Meantime the men had saddled the camels, and led them to the howdahs which they strapped each upon its mount. They were accustomed to a considerable difference in weight between them -that of a thirty-year-old woman as compared with one of fourteen who was slight for her age- and they failed to notice that this time the lighter of the two howdahs was even lighter than usual, so they led away the camels to join the march without a second thought. “I found my necklace,” said ‘A’ishah, “and returned to the camp and not a soul was there. So I went to where my howdah had been, thinking that they would miss me and come back for me, and whilst I sat there mine eyes were overcome with heaviness and I fell asleep. I was lying there when Safwan[3] the son of Mu’attal passed by. He had fallen behind the army for some reason and had not slept at the camp. Noticing me, he came and stood over me. He had been used to seeing me before the veil was imposed upon us, and when he recognized me he said: ‘Verily we are for God, and verily unto Him we are returning. This is the wife of the Messenger of God.'” His utterance of the verse of return woke her up; and she drew her veil over her face. Safwan offered her his camel and escorted her himself on foot to the next halt.[4]

On the army’s arrival there, ‘A’ishah’s howdah had been lifted from its mount and placed on the ground; and when she did not emerge from it they assumed that she was asleep. Great was the astonishment when, towards the end of the halt, after the men had rested, she rode into the camp led by Safwan. That was the beginning of a scandal which was to shake Medina, and the tongues of the hypocrites were not slow in starting it, but for the moment the Prophet and ‘A’ishah and most of the Companions were quite unaware of the impending trouble.

The spoils were divided as usual, and one of the captives was Juwayriyah, the daughter of Harith, chief of the defeated clan. She fell to the lot of a Helper who fixed a high price for her ransom, and she came to the Prophet to ask for his intervention on her behalf. He was on that day in the apartment of ‘A’ishah, who opened the door to her, and who said afterwards, recounting what had taken place: “She was a woman of great loveliness and beauty. No man looked on her but she captivated his soul, and when I saw her at the door of my room I was filled with misgivings, for I knew that the Prophet would see in her what I saw. She entered unto him and said: ‘O MEssenger of God, I am Juwayriyah, the daughter of Harith, the lord of his people. Well thou knowest the distress that hath fallen upon me, and I have come to seek thy help in the matter of my ransom.’ He answered: ‘Wouldst thou have better than that?’ ‘What is better?’ she asked, and he answered: ‘That I should pay thy ransom and marry thee.'”[5]

Juwayriyah gladly accepted his offer, but the marriage had not yet taken place when her father arrived with some camels for her ransom They were not the full number he had originally intended to offer, for in the valley of ‘Aqiq, shortly before reaching the oasis, he had taken a last look at the fine animals and had been so smitten with admiration for two of them that he had separated them from the others and hidden them in one of the passes of the valley, unable to bring himself to part with them. The remainder he took to the Prophet and said: “O Muhammad, thou hast captured my daughter and here is her ransom.” “But where,” said the Prophet, “are those two camels which thou didst hide in ‘Aqiq?” And he went on to describe in exact detail the pass in which they were tethered. Then Harith said: “I testify that there is no god but God, and that thou, Muhammad, art the Messenger of God”; and two of his sons entered Islam with him. He sent for the two camels and gave them with the rest to the Prophet, who restored his daughter to him. Then she herself entered Islam, and the Prophet asked her father to give her to him in marriage, which she did;[6] and an apartment was built for her.

When it became known that the Bani Mustaliq were now the Prophet’s kinsmen by marriage, the Emigrants and Helpers set free their captives who had not yet been ransomed. About a hundred families were released. “I know of no woman,” said ‘A’ishah, referring to Juwayriyah, “who was a greater blessing to her people than she.”[7]


[1] Qur’an 4 : 43
[2] W. 427
[3] A young man of the Bani Sulaym who had come to live in Medina and was thus counted as one of the Emigrants
[4] I.I. 732; B. 52, 15; W. 426 – 428
[5] I.I. 729
[6] I.H. 729
[7] I.I. ibid

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