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Some of my Shia friends accuse Aisha (RA) of indecency by quoting the following hadith.

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 251: Narrated Abu Salmah:

Aisha’s brother and I went to Aisha and he asked her about the bath of the Prophet. She brought a pot containing about a Sa’ of water and took a bath and poured it over her head and at that time there was a screen between her and us.

Even though it seems that the men in question here are Mehram to Aisha. However the fact of her taking a bath in front of them still raises some eye brows.

The hadith in question seems sahih. If it really is a sahih hadith then I have the following question.

Question: Did Aisha (RA) do anything wrong by taking a bath behind a screen in the presence of two men?

  • why you have not written about screen in the emphasized text of question? it drastically changes meaning. your that emphasized question is deceitful. – qdinar Jul 13 '17 at 5:30
  • I flagged it as unclear what you are asking because you are not telling us what exactly is in the hadith that is indecent? How is taking a bath with a screen indecent? – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Jul 13 '17 at 5:33
  • There is not point in taking a bath behind an opaque screen specifically when you are demonstrating something. During my research I was able to find that the screen was transparent enough for the men to see how she took the ghusl just like the prophet. But still I will edit my question to make sure you feel comfortable – Qaisar Khan Jul 13 '17 at 11:37
  • "How should I explain and prove that " would be off-topic, however asking for the interpretation of the situation given in the hadith would be on topic – Kilise Jul 14 '17 at 11:44
  • @QaisarKhan: How do you know it's an opaque screen? For all we know the screen could have been as dark as the visibility of silhouettes so Aisha(رضي الله عنه‎ ) didn't do anything wrong? – user24306 Jul 15 '18 at 10:57
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Both the men were mahrams of Ayesha. Apparently the relationship of the narrator is not obvious so I'll explain that: Abu Salama was fostered by Umm Kulthum bint Abu Bakr, who was the sister of Ayesha. Hence Ayesha was his foster aunt:

لأنها خالة أبي سلمة من الرضاع أرضعته أختها أم كلثوم

Fath al Bari

وأرضعته أم كلثوم ، فعائشة خالته من الرضاعة

Abu Salma's biography in سير أعلام النبلاء

The rules of hijab are relaxed for mahrams.

وقل للمومنات ... ولا يبدين زينتهن الا ... او اخوانهن ... او بني اخواتهن

And tell the believing women to ... not expose their adornment except to their ... their brothers ... their sisters' sons ...

Quran 24:31

Foster relations are like blood relations:

ان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان عندها، وانها سمعت صوت رجل يستاذن في بيت حفصة، قالت فقلت يا رسول الله هذا رجل يستاذن في بيتك

While Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was with her, she (Ayesha) heard a voice of a man asking permission to enter the house of Hafsa. Aisha added: I said, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! This man is asking permission to enter your house."

فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ اراه فلانا ‏"‏‏.‏ لعم حفصة من الرضاعة‏

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "I think he is so-and-so," naming the foster-uncle of Hafsa.

قالت عايشة لو كان فلان حيا، لعمها من الرضاعة دخل على

Aisha said, "If so-and-so," naming her foster uncle, "were living, could he enter upon me?"

"فقال ‏"‏ نعم الرضاعة تحرم ما تحرم الولادة

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Yes, for foster suckling relations make all those things unlawful which are unlawful through corresponding birth (blood) relations."

Sahih Bukhari


Secondly, her head was visible and the rest of her body was behind a screen. This is what is apparent from the wording of the narration as it mentions that she poured water on her head, and does not mention anything about the procedure of rest of the bath.

A screen is obviously meant to be opaque or translucent, otherwise it is useless. Other hadith which mention bathing screens:

تقول ذهبت الى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عام الفتح، فوجدته يغتسل وفاطمة تستره فقال ‏ "‏ من هذه ‏"‏‏.‏ فقلت انا ام هاني‏

I went to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) in the year of the conquest of Mecca and found him taking a bath while Fatima was screening him. The Prophet (ﷺ) asked, "Who is it?" I replied, "I am Um-Hani."

Sahih Bukhari

فارسلني عبد الله بن العباس الى ابي ايوب الانصاري، فوجدته يغتسل بين القرنين، وهو يستر بثوب، فسلمت عليه فقال من هذا فقلت انا عبد الله بن حنين، ارسلني اليك عبد الله بن العباس، اسالك كيف كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يغسل راسه، وهو محرم، فوضع ابو ايوب يده على الثوب، فطاطاه حتى بدا لي راسه ثم قال لانسان يصب عليه اصبب‏.‏ فصب على راسه، ثم حرك راسه بيديه فاقبل بهما وادبر وقال هكذا رايته صلى الله عليه وسلم يفعل‏.

Abdullah bin Abbas sent me to Abu Aiyub Al-Ansari and I found him bathing between the two wooden posts (of the well) and was screened with a sheet of cloth.

I greeted him and he asked who I was.

I replied, "I am Abdullah bin Hunain and I have been sent to you by Ibn `Abbas to ask you how Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) used to wash his head while in the state of lhram."

Abu Aiyub Al-Ansari caught hold of the sheet of cloth and lowered it till his head appeared before me, and then told somebody to pour water on his head. He poured water on his head, and he (Abu Aiyub) rubbed his head with his hands by bringing them from back to front and from front to back and said, "I saw the Prophet (ﷺ) doing like this."

Sahih Bukhari


Thirdly, there is no reason to assume that she was not fully clothed behind the screen or that any part of her body was bare except her head. She did not intend to take a complete bath for seeking purity but to demonstrate washing the head to give clarification about a question that had arisen at that time.

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First of all the hadith you are referring to is clearly saying that there was a screen between her and her visitors (see here).

Putting a screen or asking somebody to hide ones nakedness (or body or 'awrah) is reported in several ahadith about the Prophet () or others taking a ghusl, so this isn't something strange at all!

Secondly how do you define a non-Mahram? Her brother was one of the visitors, as you can clearly read in the hadith!

Aisha’s brother and I went to Aisha

An other narration in sahih Muslim says it was her foster brother (still a mahram).

So she was in a room with a mahram and a visitor which is absolutely appropriate and far away from being immoral! So far my own conclusions if we assume that the "supposed" non-Mahram has no opportunity to look at her 'awrah!

Did she take a bath in front of two men?
No as none of the two men saw her (neither before she was taking the bath nor later) as she was behind a screen, which is clearly mentioned in the hadith! All they witnessed were here explanations and the sound of her actions and those of the female whom served her by bringing water! This is what one could conclude from the hadith as stated, but what they have seen is unclear, maybe her head, but not much more of her!

Most narrations about sahaba or tabi'in visiting 'Aisha to ask her or get knowledge, show that she was very strict in not appearing in front of male visitors and beside that she asked her sister to breast feed some to create a mahram relationship (however "breast feeding an adult" is a discussed issue between sahaba) again the breast feeding was not like you may think they drunk the milk from a cup!

It is even narrated that once 'Omar was buried beside her husband () and father she began to wear her hijab when visiting their graves which were in her house (see for example Is it permissible for women to visit the graves of their loved ones?)!

Some backup from Hadith-Commentaries

Imam an-Nawawi in his commentary on the hadith from sahih Muslim quoted al-Qadi 'Iyad (my translation take it with care):

قال القاضي عياض - رحمه الله تعالى - : ظاهر الحديث أنهما رأيا عملها في رأسها وأعالي جسدها مما يحل لذي المحرم النظر إليه من ذات المحرم ، وكان أحدهما أخاها من الرضاعة كما ذكر ، قيل : اسمه عبد الله بن يزيد ، وكان أبو سلمة ابن أختها من الرضاعة ، أرضعته أم كلثوم بنت أبي بكر .

What is apparent from this hadith is: that they both saw what she has done on her head and upper parts of her body, which are parts a mahram is allowed to look at. And one of them was clearly her foster brother as it was stated, it was said his name was: Abdullah ibn Yazidm while abu Salamah was her sisters foster son as Um Kalthum (the daughter of Abu Bakr) has breast fed him.

قال القاضي : ولولا أنهما شاهدا ذلك ورأياه لم يكن لاستدعائها الماء وطهارتها بحضرتهما معنى ؛ إذ لو فعلت ذلك كله في ستر عنهما لكان عبثا ورجع الحال إلى وصفها له ، وإنما فعلت الستر ليستتر أسافل البدن ، وما لا يحل للمحرم نظره . والله أعلم

The Qadi added: If they didn't witness or see this then asking for water in their presence wouldn't make any sense, as if she did all of this hidden behind a screen that would make no sense and would only make sense if she was describing what she was doing, and she only placed a screen between her and them to hide what a Mahram is not allowed to see.

What a Mahram is allowed to see is defined in verse (24:31) as stated by Uma in his answer. And as the foster relationship is set equal to blood relationship both are mahrams and her brother and son of her sister!

In 'Omdat al-Qari , al-'Ayni added a statement to the last quote of al-Qadi 'Iyad (I'm not sure whether it is his own or a completion of 'Iyads statement) explaining some more:

وفي فعلها هذا دلالة على استحباب التعلم بالفعل فإنه أوقع في النفس من القول وأدل عليه ...

And in what she has done there's a link to the permission to learn by doing (practical exercise) because it has more effect than learning by (oral) instruction (or report or transmission).

This means 'Aisha asked for water to show them the quantity (one Sa'a صَاع) and then poured the water on her head to show them how to apply! Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani in his fath al-Barry seem to attribute the statement to al-Qadi 'Iyad.

In his al-Mufhim lima ashkala min talkhis kitab Muslim المفهم لما أشكل من تلخيص كتاب مسلم abu al-'Abbas Ahmad ibn 'Omar al-Qurtobi أبو العباس أحمد بن عمر القرطبي held the opinion that abu Salamah ibn Abdurrahman is the son of the brother Aburahman of 'Aisha while his companion was her foster brother. However most hadith commentators say abu Salamah is abu Salamh ibn Abdurrhaman ibn 'Awf, which is the foster son of Umm Kalthoum bint abi Bakr the sister of 'Aisha!

  • I meant Mehram, but by mistake type non-mehram – Qaisar Khan Jul 13 '17 at 11:39
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Another important thing is Aaisha(R A) is "the mother of Muslims" as stated by the holy Quran... And all Muslims are her children... She is not "like a mother" but "is a mother" ...as all Muslims know this fact so if the mom is teaching something to her children ... They should follow... She was an old lady than when she narrated this Hadith. The people who asked were interested in knowledge of practical of the prophet(peace be upon him) because they already knew the way of bath... there question represented that they wanted to know how the prophet did it. One may understand the Hadith that head wasn't covered with sheet. Perhaps taking bath behind the sheets in such way was normal in the society than. As we find some other incidents like narrated above. We don't see proper bath rooms in those days. And the Hadith didn't explains anything that she removed clothes or not

  • She is the mother of believers the qur'an never callled anybody mother of muslims. How do you know she was old at the time do you have any evidence? – Sassir Feb 21 at 6:17
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You do know that there is a way to perform a ghusl so how did hazrat Ayesha (rz) showed her brother how to ghusl if she just poured water on her head how was she then able to to tell them how to wash their lower body parts and if you are saying that what we can conclude from this hadith is that she verbally told them so she could’ve tell them without putting a screen like why is there a need of a screen if you are telling hem verbally how to ghusl and it’s not about pardha even as they both were Mahram

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