When the victorious army reached Medina after their seven weeks’ absence they found that Ja’far and his companions were already there. He had left for Abyssinia at the age of twenty-seven and was now a man of forty. He had not seen the Prophet for thirteen years, though they had been in constant communication. The Prophet clasped him to him and kissed him between the eyes. Then he said: “I know not for which of the two my rejoicing is greater, for the advent of Jafar or for the victory of Khaybar.” With Ja’far was his wife Asma’ and their three sons, ‘Abd Allah, Muhammad and ‘Awn, who had been born in Abyssinia. With him also was Umm Habibah, whose apartment was ready to receive her, and a second marriage feast was held to celebrate her union with the Prophet. She was now about thirty-five years old.
The other wives, all except ‘A’ishah, had known her in Mecca. She was, moreover, the sister-in-law of Zaynab, and Sawdah and Umm Salamah had been her close companions in their early days together in Abyssinia. Her coming had been expected and caused little stir. An object of much greater concern to the wives was the unexpected addition to their household, the young and beautiful Safiyyah, On their arrival in Medina the Prophet lodged her temporarily in one of the houses of the ever-hospitable Harithah; and hearing of her beauty, ‘A’ishah sent to Umm Salamah to ask her about their new companion. “She is beautiful indeed,” said Umm Salamah, “and the Messenger of God loveth her much.” ‘A’ishah went to the house of Harithah and entered with the throng of women who were visiting the new bride. She herself was veiled, and without revealing her identity she remained somewhat in the background, but close enough to see for herself that what Umm Salamah had said was true. Then she left the house, but the Prophet who was there had recognized her, and following her out he said: “O ‘A’ishah, how didst thou find her?” “I saw in her,” said ‘A’ishah, “a Jewess like any other Jewess.” “Say not so,” said the Prophet, “for she hath entered Islam and made good her Islam.”
Nonetheless, Safiyyah was particularly vulnerable amongst the wives on account of her father. “O daughter of Huyayy”, in itself a respectful address, could be changed by the tone of voice into an insult, and on one occasion she came to the Prophet in tears because one of her new companions had tried to make her feel inferior. He said: “Say unto them: my father is Aaron, and mine uncle is Moses.” Of all the wives Safiyyah was the nearest in age to ‘A’ishah, nearer even than Hafsah, who was now twenty-two. This had increased ‘A’ishah’s fears at first, but as the weeks passed the two youngest wives found a certain sympathy for each other, and Hafsah likewise befriended the newcomer. “We were two groups,” said ‘A’ishah in after years, “in one myself and Hafsah and Safiyyah and Sawdah, and in the other Umm Salamah and the rest of the wives.”
‘A’ishah was at that time in her sixteenth year, old for her age in some respects but not in others. Her feelings were always dear from her face, and nearly always from her tongue. On one occasion the Prophet said to her: “O ‘A’ishah, it is not hidden from me when thou art angered against me, nor yet when thou art pleased.” “O dearer than my father and my mother,” she said, “how knowest thou that?” “When thou art pleased,” he said, “thou sayst in swearing ‘Nay, by the Lord of Muhammad’, but when thou art angered it is ‘Nay, by the Lord of Abraham’.”: On another occasion, when the Prophet came to her somewhat later than she had expected, she said to him: “Where hast thou been this day until now?” “O little fair one,” he said, “I have been with Umm Salamah.” “Hast thou not had thy fill of Umm Salamah?” she said; and when he smiled without answering, she added: “O Messenger of God, tell me of thyself. If thou wert between the two slopes of a valley, one of which had not been grazed whereas the other had been grazed, on which wouldst thou pasture thy flocks?” “On that which had not been grazed,” said the Prophet. “Even so,” she said; “and I am not as any other of thy wives. Every woman of them had a husband before thee, except myself.” The Prophet smiled and said nothing.’
‘A’ishah knew well that she could not have the Prophet for herself alone. She was one woman, and he was as twenty men. The Revelation had said of him: Verily of an immense magnitude is thy nature. It was as if he were a whole world in himself, comparable to the outer world and in some ways mysteriously one with it. She had often noticed that if there was a roll of thunder, even in the distance, his face would change color; the sound of a powerful gust of wind would likewise visibly move him, and on at least one occasion when there was a downpour of rain he bared his head and shoulders and breast and went out into the open so that he might share the delight of the earth in receiving the bounty of heaven directly upon his skin. Speaking of Paradise, the Revelation had promised more than once: And we remove whatever there may be of rancor in their breasts.’ One day she said to the Prophet: “O Messenger of God, who are thy wives in Paradise?” “Thou art of them,” he said, and she treasured these words for the rest of her life, as also his having said to her once: “Gabriel is here and he giveth thee his greetings of peace.”
“Peace be upon him, and the Mercy of
God and His Blessings!” she had answered.’
Soon after Khaybar, or perhaps a little before it, Halah the mother of Abu l-‘As had corne on a visit to Medina to see her son and daughter in-law Zaynab and her little grand daughter Umamah; and one day when the Prophet was in ‘A’ishah’s apartment there was a knock on the door, and a woman’s voice was heard asking if she might enter. The Prophet immediately divining the cause, ‘A’ishah was overwhelmed by a wave; for she knew that in the voice of Halah he had heard the voice of her sister Khadijah. He confirmed this afterwards, and said that also her manner of asking to enter had been the same as that of his passed away wife.’ Sawdah, now grown somewhat elderly, gave her day with the Prophet to ‘A’ishah because she felt sure that this would greatly please him; and the rest of the community, including the other wives, had no doubt that of those wives now living it was ‘A’ishah that the Prophet loved most. This was not mere conjecture, since from time to time, by one or another of his Companions, he would be asked the question: “O Messenger of God, whom lovest thou most in all the world?” And although he did not always give the same answer to this question, in as much as he felt great love in more than one direction – for his daughters and their children, for ‘Ali, for Abu Bakr, for Zayd and Usamah – the answer was sometimes ‘A’ishah but never one of the other wives.