The incident of al-Ifk is narrated in both Sunni and Shia Tafseer; the incident is also narrated on the popular Shia website, Al-Islam.org. We shall first re-tell the story of al-Ifk and then later shall we authenticate it with Shia Tafseer from Al-Islam.org.
Incident of al-Ifk
On the way back to Medina, the Muslim army stopped for a rest, but then the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) unexpectedly ordered the army to continue the march again. Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) noticed that her onyx necklace was missing so she retraced her steps to find it. When she finally found it and returned to the camp, the Muslim army had already left without her. Her litter was veiled so her absence was not noticed.
Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) waited for someone to notice she was missing and to come back for her. Fortunately, she did not have to wait long, for a young Muslim man named Safwan (رضّى الله عنه), who had fallen behind the army after taking a rest, reached the camp during the night and found her lying fast asleep. Safwan (رضّى الله عنه) recognized her and escorted her back to the Muslim army and the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم).
Unfortunately, some hypocrites who had seen Safwan (رضّى الله عنه) and Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) arrive alone together began to gossip and spread slanderous lies about them. Eventually the story reached the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) himself and by then the whole community was talking about what might or might not have happened between the two young Muslims. Naturally, the believers were certain that nothing bad had happened, but the Munafiqoon (hypocrites) thought otherwise and were not afraid to insinuate that was the case, accusing the Prophet’s wife of engaging in an adulterous affair.
Aisha’s Feelings (رضّى الله عنها) are Hurt
The accusations against Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) hurt her deeply and she soon fell so sick that she asked the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) if she could return to her parent’s house until the matter was cleared up. The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) then tried to vindicate Aisha’s honor (رضّى الله عنها) by calling everyone to the mosque and publicly defending her reputation, but the hypocrites who had started the trouble in the first place only made matters worse, so that arguments broke out all over the mosque, and people had almost come to blows over the matter before the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) calmed them down and silenced them. The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) said to Abdullah ibn Ubayy, leader of the Munafiqoon: “O Muslims, who will deal with a man [i.e. Abdullah ibn Ubayy] who I have heard is speaking in an offensive manner about my family? By Allah, I know nothing but good about my family.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Ali (رضّى الله عنه) Defends Aisha (رضّى الله عنها)
The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) was a person with a lot of Gheerah (protective jealousy) which, according to the Sunnah, is considered a good quality in Muslim men. So the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) was naturally incensed by the accusations that his wife had slept with another man. These accusations caused him a great deal of agitation. The Companions of the Prophet (رضّى الله عنهم) saw how miserable the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) had become over this issue, and so it was that Ali (رضّى الله عنه) said to him: “O Allah’s Apostle! Allah does not impose restrictions on you, and there are plenty of women other than her. If however, you ask her slave girl, she will tell you the truth!” (Bukhari)
The popular Shia author and scholar Al-Tijani cited this as evidence that Ali (رضّى الله عنه) told the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) to divorce Aisha (رضّى الله عنها). He declares that this is recorded in Sunni accounts as well and he off-handedly cites the above Hadith from Bukhari as his “evidence.” This is what we like to call “Half-Hadith-ing” [i.e. using half of a Hadith to “prove” one’s point]. If we look at the other half of the Hadith, we see that it negates Al-Tijani’s claim that Ali (رضّى الله عنه) told the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) to divorce Aisha (رضّى الله عنها).
Let us see what Al-Tijani, the popular Shia scholar and writer, has to say on the issue. Al-Tijani says: “We may ask a few questions about the war of al-Jamal, which was instigated by Umm al-Mumineen Aishah, who played an important role in it…how could Aishah allow herself to declare war on the caliph of the Muslims, Ali Ibn Abi Talib, who was the master of all Muslims? As usual, our scholars, with some simplicity, answer us that she did not like Imam Ali because he advised the Messenger of Allah to divorce her in the incident of al-Ifk…” (Then I was Guided, p. 117)
Ali (رضّى الله عنه) did not in any way advise the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) to divorce Aisha (رضّى الله عنها). He merely said that the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) could since nobody had greater rights than the Prophet of Allah, but that it would be better if the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) just asked Aisha’s slave girl, who was with Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) most of the time, on the matter of Aisha’s innocence. The slave girl was in the room, and Ali (رضّى الله عنه) meant to say that all the believers knew Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) was innocent, even a “lowly” slave girl.
In any case, as we shall see soon, if Ali (رضّى الله عنه) doubted Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) and asked the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) to divorce her in the incident of al-Ifk, then this would mean that Ali (رضّى الله عنه) was one of the Munafiqoon. Is this what the Shia are accusing Ali (رضّى الله عنه) of? The Quran itself would declare anyone who doubted Aisha’s innocence (رضّى الله عنها) to be a Munafiqh. So this is slander against not only the Prophet’s wife but also against Ali (رضّى الله عنه).
Allah Almighty Defends Aisha (رضّى الله عنها)
It would be none other than Allah Himself who would declare Aisha’s innocence (رضّى الله عنها) and vindicate her of the slander levied against her. Allah revealed to the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) the following verses, condemning those Munafiqoon who doubted Aisha’s innocence (رضّى الله عنها) and slandered her honor:
[24:11] “Surely those who fabricate the lie are a group from among you…Every man will receive what he has earned for this sin, and whoever had the greater part in it will have a grievous punishment.”
[24:12] “Why did the men and women believers, when they heard it, not think good of their own folk and say: ‘This is clearly a lie?’”
[24:13] “Why did they not produce four witnesses? Since they did not produce witnesses, they are certainly liars in the sight of Allah.”
[24:14] “If it were not for the grace of Allah, and His mercy on you in this world and in the next world, an awful doom would have overtaken you for what you repeated.”
[24:15] “Since you received it with your tongues, and repeated what you did not know anything about with your mouths, you thought it was a trifle, but in the sight of Allah it is serious.”
[24:16] “Why, when you heard it, did you not say: ‘It is not for us to repeat this, Glory be to You (O Allah), this is a serious slander.’”
[24:17] “Allah warns you to never repeat anything like this again, if you are indeed believers!”
[24:18] “And Allah makes the signs clear to you; and Allah is Knowing, Wise.”
[24:19] “Surely those who love to spread around slander about those who believe will have a painful punishment in this world and in the next world; and Allah knows and you do not know.”
[24:20] “And had it not been for the Grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, (Allah would have hastened the punishment upon you). And that Allah is full of kindness, Most Merciful.”
[24:21] “O you who believe! Follow not the footsteps of Shaitan…”
[24:22] “And…Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? …”
[24:23] “Verily, those who accuse chaste women, who never even think of anything touching their chastity and are good believers, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter, and for them will be a great torment.”
[24:24] “On the Day when their tongues, their hands, and their legs or feet will bear witness against them as to what they used to do.”
[24:25] “On that Day Allah will pay them the recompense of their deeds in full, and they will know that Allah, He is the Manifest Truth.”
[24:26] “Vile women are for vile men, and vile men for vile women. Good women are for good men, and good men for good women; such are innocent of that which people say: For them is pardon and a bountiful provision.”
Sometimes Shia will have a hard time absorbing these verses, so they will oftentimes try denying that these verses were revealed in relation to Aisha (رضّى الله عنها). They will even completely deny the incident of al-Ifk, which is a known historical event recorded in the preserved annals of history and is even in the authentic Shia books.
To categorically prove that these verses were revealed in regard to Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) in the incident of al-Ifk, we shall quote straight from the popular Shia website, Al-Islam.org, which contains the authentic Shia Tafseer of Pooya/M.A. Ali. This is the most authentic Shia Tafseer in English, and can be found at the following Shia website: https://www.al-islam.org/quran/
The reader can simply use the search function on the left hand side of the site (https://www.al-islam.org/quran/) to find the Shia Tafseer (Pooya/M.A. Ali) of verses 24:11-19. We shall copy and paste what Al-Islam.org says here:
Al-Islam.org says“ The particular incident referred to here occurred on the return from the defensive expedition of the Bani Mustaliq in 5-6 Hijra. At one of the halts, A-isha, the Holy Prophet’s wife, withdrew from the camp to cleanse herself in the nearby desert. There she lost her necklace. As it was dark there she took time to discover it. In the meantime the march was ordered. As her litter was veiled, it was not noticed that she was not in it. When she returned to the camp, she could do nothing but wait. She fell asleep. Next morning she was found by Safwan who had been left behind to pick up anything inadvertently left behind. He put her on his camel and brought her, leading the camel on foot. This episode furnished some malicious enemies of the Holy Prophet, particularly the hypocrites, with an opportunity to raise a scandalous storm in order to hurt the feelings of the Holy Prophet. The ringleader among them was the chief of the Madina hypocrites, Abdullah ibn Ubay. Mistah, her uncle, also helped him. Ibn Ubay is referred to as the man who took on himself the lead among them to spread the scandal.
Ali ibn abi Talib knew that it was an obvious lie (as said in verse 12), concocted to hurt the Holy Prophet, so he asked Burayrah, the maid of A-isha, to tell the mischief-makers the truth about her mistress. On Burayrah’s report the scandal was diffused.
People may think it is an insignificant matter to speak lightly of something which damages a person’s character or reputation, but with Allah it is a most serious matter in all cases…
[Pooya/M.A. Ali 24:11]source: https://www.al-islam.org/quran/ ”
Yet today we see that Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) is still insulted and slandered. She is accused of hating Ali (رضّى الله عنه) and of being an enemy of Ahlel Bayt. To the Shia, being a Nasibi (hater of Ahlel Bayt) is worse than Zinnah and indeed such a person is declared a Kaffir according to their texts. Therefore, what Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) is accused of is in fact far worse than what the al-Ifk Munafiqoon spoke about. Commiting Zinnah does not make one a Kaffir, and none of the Munafiqoon during the incident of al-Ifk ever accused Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) of being a Kaffir.
In fact, the very same Shia Tafseer on Al-Islam.org declares that Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) is not only a Kaffir but rather she is the very leader of the Kufaar [Imam al-Kufr]. Al-Islam.org quotes the Shia Tafseer for verse 9:12 as:
Al-Islam.org says“According to the Holy Prophet, a-immatal kufr (leaders of infidelity) are also those who opposed and fought against the divinely commissioned Imams of the Ahl ul Bayt…Ali ibn abi Talib had recited this verse at the battle of Jamal and quoted the above noted prophecy of the Holy Prophet.
[Pooya/M.A. Ali 9:12]source: https://www.al-islam.org/quran/ ”
In Tafseer Al-Qumi (which is perhaps the most classical of Shia Tafseer), it is said that it is the people whom Ali (رضّى الله عنه) fought in the Battle of Jamal including Aisha (رضّى الله عنها), Talha (رضّى الله عنه), and Zubair (رضّى الله عنه) who are being referred to in this Verse as the “Leaders of Kufr.” This view is also the position of Kashani in his Tafseer Al-Safi, and in other Shia interpretations. The Majma ul Bayan Tafseer also includes Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) as one of the “Aimmatul Kufr” (Imams of Kufr) along with the Quraish polythiests, the Persian Magians, and the Byzantine Christians.
The Shia Ayatollahs also accuse Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) of fabricating Hadith which is another act of Kufr. Fabricating Hadith is considered Kufr by both the Sunni and Shia Ulema! It is unfortunate that she is called a Kaffir when Allah Himself declares her a believer: “Surely those who love to spread around slander about those who believe will have a painful punishment in this world and in the next world; and Allah knows and you do not know.” (Quran, 24:19) Moreover, Allah declares Aisha to be a “good believer”: “Verily, those who accuse chaste women, who never even think of anything touching their chastity and are good believers, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter, and for them will be a great torment.” (Quran, 24:23)
If the Shia accuse Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) of being vile, then they are accusing the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) of being vile. Allah says: “Vile women are for vile men, and vile men for vile women. Good women are for good men, and good men for good women; such are innocent of that which people say: For them is pardon and a bountiful provision.” (Quran, 24:26) This is the absolute verdict on the character of Aisha (رضّى الله عنها), and stands as a refutation against all the slander made against her. This verse was revealed in regards to Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) in the incident of al-Ifk, and this is agreed upon by even the authentic Shia Tafseer. So we wonder then why the Shia feel comfortable with slandering her character.
Any unbiased person can see that the accusations levied against Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) by the Ayatollahs are worse than those levied against her by the Munafiqoon in the incident of al-Ifk. The latter only accused Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) of Fisq (i.e. Zinnah is not Kufr), but the Ayatollahs accuse her of Kufr (i.e. fabricating Hadith is Kufr, and according to the Shia, so is preventing the Imamah of Ali [رضّى الله عنه]).
No believer should feel comfortable slandering a woman who was specifically defended in the Quran by Allah Almighty, a person whom the Quran warns against slandering in the strictest of tones, declaring those who do so to be unbelievers. During the incident of al-Ifk, the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) publically denounced the Munafiqoon and said that he knew nothing bad about his family; so why then do the Shia scholars insult the Prophetic family by speaking ill of them, even when the Quran and Hadith both exonerate Aisha (رضّى الله عنها)?