[This item is based on Ibn Asakir’s Tarikh ud-damishq.] One of the most charismatic women in the first Islamic generation after the sahaba was Naila, the daughter of Farafsa. She became famous when in the year 28 of the Hijra she married Usman ibn Affan, r.a.; the third rightly guided Caliph of Islam.
She was from a Christian family in Kufa but was educated in Islam by the greatest woman of Islam, Ayesha Siddiqa, r.a., from whom Naila learned Hadith. She also narrated Hadith from her illustrious husband, ‘Usman, r.a.
[Again this is evidence that Hadith was narrated in the FIRST century of Islam, not in the THIRD as the munkareen e hadith contend.]
In the year 35 hijri, Naila witnessed the tragic murder of her husband Usman, r.a. This great sahabi [companion] of the Prophet, pbuh., was the victim of sectarians who later came to be known as “Shi’as.” These murderers were so cold-blooded; they cut down Usman, r.a., while he was reading the very Qur’an, which he had compiled. [The blood of Usman, r.a., trickled down to this verse of the Qur’an he was holding:
“…Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” [2:137]
Naila grappled with the assailants but they were determined to kill the elderly Caliph. One of the assailants tore off Naila’s outer garment. At this an African slave whom Usman, r.a., had freed could not bear to see the emerging tragedy and rushed forward and killed the assailant who had grabbed Naila, only to pay with his own life. Then another assassin’s sword came down on Usman, r.a. Naila stopped it with her left hand and her fingers were cut off. The Caliph was martyred thus putting an end to the ideal era of Islamic excellence.
Weeks later, after her hand had healed, Naila, along with a large number of other virtuous women went to the mosque and addressed the people to shame them about their lack of resistance to the sectarians. She spoke at length and with amazing eloquence which mesmerized the crowd, reminding them of the high esteem in which the Prophet, pbuh, held Usman, r.a.
All the classical historians of Islam accept Naila’s narrative of the murder of Usman, r.a. At that time, Muslims did not think that ONE WOMAN’ AS A WITNESS cannot be accepted.
Also famous is the letter which Naila wrote to Ameer Muawiyya, r.a., reminding him of verse 9 of Suraal-Hujurat and chiding him for having failed to send timely help to Caliph Usman, r.a. The way she begins that letter is remarkable, with a calm assumption of equality: “From Naila, the daughter of al-Farafsa, to Muawiyya the son of Abu Sufian”.
K. Siddique PhD