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The Necklace

    A short time after the Battle of the Trench, the Muslim army set out towards the coast to persuade some of the allies of the Quraish that it would not be a good idea to try to raid Madinah, since news had reached the Prophet  that those tribes had been considering just such a move. The campaign had been brief and successful, with very few casualties and very many captives taken by the Muslims. Aisha , and Umm Salamah , wives of the Messenger of Allah , had accompanied him on this campaign. The women traveled in howdahs, which were curtained seats strapped to the backs of camels. In this way the women could travel in privacy within the shelter of the howdah. When the army camped, two tents were set up for the Prophet and his household, a little apart from the rest of the camp.

    Several days into the return trip, the army had stopped just briefly at sunset, but was planning to continue to a place with a well to camp for the night, because the place where they had stopped was without water. However, Aisha ,  who was only fourteen years old at the time, lost her necklace. It had become unclasped and fallen unnoticed to the ground. By the time she realized that it was missing, it was too dark to search for it. This necklace had been given to Aisha by her mother on her wedding day, so it was very precious to her and she did not want to leave without it. The kindhearted Prophet therefore gave orders to camp there for the night so that a search could be made for the necklace the following morning. What a grumbling there was in the camp. Just because the daughter of Abu Bakr could not hold onto a necklace, they would not be able to make wudhu for the fajr prayer at dawn. All the water had been used up and they had been planning to replenish their supply at the other site.

    Sometime during the night, however, the Prophet received a revelation which turned the complaints into words of praise for the daughter of Abu Bakr . The use of clean sand in place of water for ablution, where no water is available, became permissible (al Qur'an 4:43). This practice of tayammum solved a lot of  problems for the early Muslim community, which lived in an environment with very little water. The necklace, by the way, could not be found the following morning, either. After a fruitless search the group prepared to break camp and continue on their way home. But when Aisha's camel stood up, there, on the spot where it had knelt all night, was the necklace.              

Bonnie L. Hamid


Published: February 2005

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