Name: Aisha Bint Abi Bakr
Kunniyat: Umm Abdullah
Title: Siddiqa and Humaira
Father: Abdullah – Abi Bakr Ibn Abi Qahafa
Mother: Zainab – Umme Ruman Bint Aamer
Clan: Banu Tumaim
Birth: 5th Shawwal AH – 615 CE
Death: 17th Ramadan, 58 AH – 681 CE
How does one begin to define the life and times of a daughter of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (rta) – the most eminent of Companions – and the wife of the most remarkable man of all times – the Messenger of Allah (sa)? Even among these stellar associations, she shines as an individual to reckon, which says volumes about her character and personality.
Even as a child, Aisha (rta) showed exceptional intelligence. She was about six years of age, when the Prophet (sa) saw her in her father’s house playing with some toys, including a toy-horse with wings. The Prophet (sa) asked her: “Aisha, do horses ever have wings?” Instead of feeling shy in the presence of this great man, Aisha (rta) confidently replied: “Yes, King’s Solomon’s horse did.”
Aisha (rta) was at various times a judge, a political activist and, after the death of her husband, an indispensable source of knowledge about the life and teachings of the Prophet (sa). Even such senior Companions as Umar (rta) frequently consulted her about matters, in which they were doubtful. Even Tabi’in, the great scholars of Ahadeeth and Fiqh, learned from her. A part of what they learnt has come down to us in the form of numerous traditions that are narrated on her authority.
She was strong-willed and fiercely feminist – but not a rebel without a cause. Hence, we see her defending women’s rights – even negating opinions of other Companions. On hearing some Companions narrate that if a woman, dog or donkey crosses in front of a person praying, the prayer gets disrupted, she got angry and said: “You did gross injustice in putting us together with dogs and donkeys. The Prophet (sa) would pray and I would lie in front of him; when he wanted to prostrate, I would gather my legs.”
When she felt some women deviating from the Islamic code of conduct, she said in no uncertain terms: “Had Allah’s Prophet (sa) known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from attending the Mosque.” (Bukhari) Her brand of feminism was firmly entrenched in Islamic teachings. She had no ego issues about standing behind a man in congregation or a chip on the shoulder about remaining in Purdah.
Syed Sulaiman Nadwee says: “ The greatest favour that Aisha (rta) has done to women is to demonstrate that a Muslim woman, living in Purdah, can actively participate in literary, religious, social and political activities and can work for the betterment of the community.”
Aisha (rta) did not simply teach and preach Islam – she lived it. She led a truly Muslim life of prayer, charity and struggle for truth and justice. The Prophet (sa) once gave her this advice: “Aisha, if you want to meet me (again in the life to come), then treat this world like a traveler’s meal and do not attend the gatherings of the rich and the powerful, and do not consider clothes old as long as they can be mended.” (Ibn Sa’ad)
During the Caliphate of Umar (rta) and afterwards, wealth began to pour into the hands of Muslims. A due share of it came to Aisha (rta), but she gave away almost all she received. Once Abd Allah Bin Zubayr sent her 100,000 dirhams, but by the end of the same day, she had given it all away. Ibn Sa’ad reports Urwa as saying that on one occasion he saw her distribute 70,000 dirhams and then get up shaking the front of her dress, as if she were clearing it of dust. Aisha (rta) also often kept Nafl (supererogatory) fast and rarely missed Hajj.
This is but a glimpse of an inspiring life!
Some people like to focus only on: “How old was she, when she got married?” or “What about the Battle of the Camel (Jamal)?”
The Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) marriage to Aisha (rta) was an exceptional one. Waheeda Carvello observes: “Here we have a man nearing the end of his life and a woman still near the beginning of hers. Aisha (rta) had a lively temperament and was quick to learn. She had a clear heart and an accurate memory.”
It is important, however, to dig deeper and to bring out the real significance of this union. The emphasis here is on education and the cultivation of the intellect, which every human is blessed with. We must remind ourselves that if knowledge is not related to and acquired through action, it cannot be used for reconstruction of society.
What we lack today is the application of knowledge. Most of us are educated – in some instances, very highly educated – but how well do we understand what we have learnt? And how many of us have the commitment and the strength to apply it? Let alone implement it? This is what made the marriage of Aisha (rta) to the Prophet (sa) so exceptional.
Prophet Muhammad (sa) encouraged intellectual growth and debate. Although Aisha (rta) was intelligent, she had a great deal to learn. The Prophet (sa) tutored her with love and understanding and enhanced her potential. Through this interaction with the Prophet (sa) and the other wives, she became very knowledgeable. Like any student, she would sometimes feel insecure regarding her progress, and the Prophet (sa) would always help her and assist her in improving herself. She was never short of words and was not afraid to question or debate in order to find out the truth. When she got older, she passed on the knowledge she had received from the Prophet (sa), and long after his death, she was a source of knowledge and wisdom for both women and men.
Aisha (rta) accompanied the Prophet (sa) on many expeditions. She participated with total courage and commitment in the battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq and learned through these experiences. Through this kind of training, and as an active participant, she developed into a mature eloquent woman, who could fully participate in the affairs of the first Islamic state and be a beacon for all times to come.
The Battle of the Camel was an incident that caused Aisha (rta) tremendous grief. On remembering it, she would say: “I wish I was a stone, I wish I was a tree.”
The focal point of Aisha’s (rta) remarkable life is her commitment to the cause of Islam under all circumstances, her unfaltering devotion and love for her husband and her submission of her will and intellect to the will of Allah (swt).