Aisha

Aisha

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Aisha bint Abu Bakr ( Transliteration: , ʕaːʔɪʃæh) also transcribed as (A'ishah, Aisyah, Ayesha, 'A'isha, Aishat, Aishah, or 'Aisha) was Muhammad's
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 favorite wife. In Islamic writings, her name is thus often prefixed by the title "Mother of the Believers" (Arabic: أمّ المؤمنين umm-al-mu'min
Mu'min
Mūʾmin is an Arabic Islamic term frequently referenced in the Qur'an, literally meaning "believer", and denoting a person that has complete submission to the Will of Allah, and has faith firmly established in his heart, i.e...

īn
), per the description of Muhammad's wives in the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

.

According to Sunni beliefs, Aisha had an important role in early Islamic history, both during Muhammad's life and after his death. Regarded by many as his favorite wife, she was an active figure in numerous events and an important witness to many more.

Early life


Aisha was the daughter of Um Ruman
Um Ruman
Zaynab bint ‘Āmir "Umm Rooman" was a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad .Zaynab was raised in Sarat in the Arabian Peninsula. She married a young man from her tribe named ‘Abdullah ibn Harith ibn Sakhbarah Azdi; their son was Tufail ibn Abdullah...

 and Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

 of Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

. Abu Bakr belonged to the Banu Taym sub-clan of the tribe of Quraysh.

Marriage to Muhammad


Khawlah bint Hakim
Khawlah bint Hakim
-Biography:Khawla was the daughter of one of the chiefs of Bani Assad tribe, and her family embraced Islam in its first days. She was married to Uthman bin Maz'oon, both being two of the earliest converts to Islam ....

 suggested that Muhammad marry Aisha after the death of Muhammad's first wife (Khadijah bint Khuwaylid
Khadijah bint Khuwaylid
Khadījah bint Khuwaylid or Khadījah al-Kubra was the first wife of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. She was the daughter of Khuwaylid ibn Asad and Fatimah bint Za'idah and belonged to the clan of Banu Asad. She is important in Islam as Muhammad's first wife, and one of the "mothers of the believers"...

), after this, previous agreement regarding marriage of Aisha with Jubayr ibn Mut'im was put aside by common consent. British historian William Montgomery Watt
William Montgomery Watt
William Montgomery Watt was a Scottish historian, an Emeritus Professor in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh...

 suggests that Muhammad hoped to strengthen his ties with Abu Bakr; the strengthening of ties commonly served as a basis for marriage in Arabian culture.

According to the traditional sources, Aisha was six or seven years old when she was betrothed to Muhammad and nine when the marriage was consummated. American historian Denise Spellberg
Denise Spellberg
Denise A. Spellberg is an American scholar of Islamic history. She is an associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Spellberg holds a BA from Smith College and a PhD from Columbia University....

 states that "these specific references to the bride's age reinforce Aisha's pre-menarcheal status and, implicitly, her virginity." This issue of her virginity was of great importance to those who supported Aisha's position in the debate of the succession to Muhammad
Succession to Muhammad
The Succession to Muhammad concerns the various aspects of successorship of Muhammad after his death, comprising who might be considered as his successor to lead the Muslims, how that person should be elected, the conditions of legitimacy, and the role of successor...

. These supporters considered that as Muhammad's only virgin wife, Aisha was divinely intended for him, and therefore the most credible regarding the debate.

Age at marriage



Aisha stayed in her parents' home for several years until she joined Muhammad and the marriage was consummate
Consummate
Consummation or consummation of a marriage, in many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, is the first act of sexual intercourse between two individuals, following their marriage to each other...

d. Most of the sources indicate that she was nine years old at the time, with the single exception of al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

, who records that she was ten. The sources do not offer much more information about Aisha's childhood years, but mention that after the wedding, she continued to play with her toys, and that Muhammad entered into the spirit of these games.

The issue of Aisha's age at the time she was married to Muhammad has been of interest since the earliest days of Islam. Early Muslims regarded Aisha's youth as demonstrating her virginity and therefore her suitability as a bride of Muhammad. During modern times, however, critics of Islam
Criticism of Islam
Criticism of Islam has existed since Islam's formative stages. Early written criticism came from Christians, prior to the ninth century, many of whom viewed Islam as a radical Christian heresy...

 have taken up the issue, regarding it as reflecting poorly on Muhammad's character.

References to Aisha's age by early historians are frequent. According to Spellberg, historians who supported Aisha's position in the debate of the succession to Muhammad
Succession to Muhammad
The Succession to Muhammad concerns the various aspects of successorship of Muhammad after his death, comprising who might be considered as his successor to lead the Muslims, how that person should be elected, the conditions of legitimacy, and the role of successor...

 against Shi'a claims considered her youth, and therefore her purity, to be of paramount importance. They thus specifically emphasized it, implying that as Muhammad's only virgin wife, Aisha was divinely intended for him, and therefore the most credible in the debate.

Child marriage
Child marriage
Child marriage and child betrothal customs occur in various times and places, whereby children are given in matrimony - before marriageable age as defined by the commentator and often before puberty. Today such customs are fairly widespread in parts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America: in...

s such as this were relatively common in Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 societies at the time, and remain common in some modern societies worldwide, despite being explicitly prohibited in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

. British scholar Colin Turner suggests that such marriages were not seen as improper in historical context, and that individuals in such societies matured at an earlier age than in the modern West.

Status as "most beloved wife"


In Sunni belief, Aisha is described as Muhammad's most beloved wife, and it was in her company that Muhammad reportedly received the most revelations.

Accusation of adultery


In the event Aisha was missing her necklace on a return from an expedition. She left her litter to find it, but got lost and the caravan left without her. She was waiting to be rescued and fell asleep. She was found the next morning by a young nomad named Safwan who brought her back to Medina. Rumors started about infidelity and Muhammad consulted some of his followers, among others Ali
Ali
' |Ramaḍān]], 40 AH; approximately October 23, 598 or 600 or March 17, 599 – January 27, 661).His father's name was Abu Talib. Ali was also the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661, and was the first male convert to Islam...

, who advised Muhammad that he should divorce Aisha. Usama bin Zayd Bin son of Zayd ibn Harithah
Zayd ibn Harithah
Zayd ibn Harithah or Zayd mawla Muhammad was a prominent figure in the early Islamic community and the only one of sahaba whose name is spelled directly in the Qur'an. As he was the adopted son of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, before Islam abolished adoption in exchange of Kafala. He was an...

 defended Aisha's reputation. When questioned declared 'This is all a lie - we know nothing but good of her.' His position as adopted grandson of the Prophet his opinion was listened but was about the same age as Aisha and it would not hold much weight in purpose of a decision. Shortly after this a revelation solved the problem, Muhammad announced that he had received a revelation from God confirming Aisha's innocence and directing that charges of adultery be supported by four eyewitnesses. These verses also rebuked Aisha's accusers, whom Muhammad ordered to receive forty lashes.

Story of the honey


Soon after the event of the honey which involved Aisha, Muhammad reported that he had received a revelation, in which he was told that he could eat anything permitted by God.

Some Sunni commentators on the Qur'an sometimes give this story as the "occasion of revelation" for Sura 66
At-Tahrim
Surat At-Tahrim is the 66th sura of the Qur'an with 12 ayat. The entire Surah was revealed to Prophet Muhammad to expose A'isha's and Hafsa's conspiracy against Zaynab bint Jahsh and the Prophet...

, which opens with the following verses: "Prophet, why do you prohibit that which God has made lawful for you, in seeking to please your wives? God is forgiving and merciful. God has given you absolution from such oaths."

Death of Muhammad



Aisha did not remarry after Muhammad's death because a passage in the Qur'an forbids any Muslim to marry a widow of Muhammad:

After Muhammad


Aisha lived on almost fifty years after the death of Muhammad. She had been his wife for a decade. Much of this time was spent in learning and acquiring knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

 of Muhammad. Aisha was one of three wives (the other two being Hafsah and Umm Salamah) who memorized the Quran. Like Hafsah, she had her own script of the Quran written after Muhammad died. It was during Aishah’s time that veiling and seclusion of women began. It is also Aishah who, appropriately, should hold the position of the first woman of Islam. Aishah’s importance to revitalizing the Arab tradition and leadership among the Arab women that expresses her magnitude within Islam.
Aishah has been deemed one of the most influential "Mother(s) of the Believer." She became readily involved in politics and the continuation of Islam after Muhammad's death. She was known to have given speeches, be involved in war, and helping others with understanding the practices of Muhammad.= book|last=Ahmed|first=Leila|title=Women and Gender in Islam|year=1992|publisher=Yale University Press|location=New Haven & London|isbn=978-0-300-05583-2}}


Important contributions to Islam


Aishah’s marriage to the Prophet has led to her significance among many within the Islamic culture. Being Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aishah occupies a considerable attitude within his life. After the death of Muhammad, Aishah was discovered to be a renowned source of Hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

. Aishah delivered ideas expressing the Prophets practice (sunna
Sunna
Sunna may refer to:* Sunna , a British rock band from the early 2000s* Sunna , a Saxon chief* Kim Sunna, a Swedish professional ice hockey player* Sól , Germanic goddess/personification of the Sun in Old High German...

). Aishah expressing herself as a role model to women can be seen within some traditions attributed to her. The traditions regarding Aishah habitually oppose ideas unfavorable to women in efforts to elicit social change

Aisha's Influence on the Islamic People


Many people came from far and wide to hear Aisha preach her knowledge. She took an active role in social reform in the Islamic culture. She was well known for her influential and understandable methods of teaching. Aisha was regarded by some scholars as one of the most trustworthy narrators of the Hadith. This is understandable, being that she is one of Muhammad’s only wives who was known to have memorized the Revelation
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

. This was Muhammad’s communications or dialogues with their god, Allah
Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

.

Her Respect as a Political Influence


After Mohammed’s death, Aisha became an influential figure in early Islam. Though Mohammed had ordered his wives to stay in the home, Aisha, after Mohammed’s death, took a public and predominant role in politics. After the death of Uthman, a veiled Aisha delivered a public address at the mosque in Mecca. In the address she swore to avenge Uthman’s death. Her charismatic speech eventually influenced many to join her cause, eventually leading to the Battle of Camel, which was named after the camel Aisha rode during the conflict. Aisha became the most prominent of Muhammad’s wives and is revered as a role model by millions of women.

Aisha's father becomes the first caliph


After Muhammad's death in 632, the Islamic community was faced with the dilemma of figuring out who would stand in his place. During a public gathering Umar
Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

 took iniciative and raised the hand of Abu Bakr, Aisha's father, declaring him Muhammad’s successor. From then on Abu Bakr was the first caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

.

In 634 Abu Bakr became sick and was unable to recover. While suffering a tragic death he asked Aisha how many pieces of cloth was on Muhammad’s shroud
Shroud
Shroud usually refers to an item, such as a cloth, that covers or protects some other object. The term is most often used in reference to burial sheets, winding-cloths or winding-sheets, such as the famous Shroud of Turin or Tachrichim that Jews are dressed in for burial...

 and decided he would want the same amount, 3. Abu Bakr soon passed away and was buried next to Muhammad’s grave.

Role during the reign of the 2nd Caliph


After the death of Abu Bakr, Umar took on the role as the second caliph.

Role during the reign of the 3rd caliph and after his death


After the 2nd caliph died, Umar
Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

, set up perameters in order to obtain the rightful 3rd caliph. The third caliph was chosen to be Uthmān, who was liked by Muhammad.He wanted to promote interest in the Umayyads. Aisha had little involvement with Uthmān for the first couple years, but eventually she found a way into the politics of his reign. Many are un-sure of what specifically triggered her eventual opposition towards Uthmān, but a prominent opposition towards him was when Uthmān mistreated Ammār ibn Yāsir
Ammar ibn Yasir
ʻAmmār ibn Yāsir al-Ansi was one of the companions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He was one of the Muhajirun, and referred to as by Shia Muslims as one of the Four Companions....

 (companion of the prophet) by beating him. Aisha became enraged and spoke out publicly saying, "How soon indeed you have forgotten the practice (sunnah) of your prophet and these, his hairs, a shirt, and sandal have not yet perished!" (108)..

As time continued issues of disposition towards Uthmān continued to arise. Another instance is when the people came to Aisha, after Uthman ignored the rightful punishment for Walīd idn Uqbah (Uthmān's brother). Aisha and Uthmān argued with each other,Uthmān eventually made a comment on why Aisha had come and how she was "ordered to stay at home"(111). Arising from this comment, was the question of whether Aisha and women still had the ability to be involved in public affairs. The Muslim community became split, "some sided with Uthmān, but others demanded to know who indeed had better right than Aisha in such matters"(111). .

The caliphate's reign took a turn for the worst when Egypt was governed by Mohammed ibn Abī Bakr (Aisha's half brother). Abbott reports that Mohammed ibn Abī Hudhaifah of Egypt, an opposer of Uthmān, forged letters in the "Mother's of the Believers" names to the conspirators against Uthmān. The people cut off Uthmān's water and food supply. When Aisha realized the behavior of the crowd, Abbot notes, she could not believe the crowd "would offer such indignities to a widow of Mohammed"(122). She is referencing when Ṣafīyah (one of Muhammed's wives) tried to help Uthmān and got taken by the crowd. Ashtar
Ashtar
-Mythological people:*Ashtar-Chemosh, a Moab goddess in Middle East mythology*another spelling of Astar , an Ethiopian Aksumite god*Malik al-Ashtar , in Arabic history, a companion of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of Muhammad, and commander in some battles*Ashtar , an allegedly channeled alien with...

 (a rebel) then approached her about killing Uthmān and the letter, and she claimed she would never want to "command the shedding of the blood of the Muslims and the killing of their Imām
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

" (122), she also claimed she did not write the letters. With the journey to Mecca approaching at this time, she wanted to rid herself of the situation. Uthmān heard of her not wanting to hurt him, and he asked her to stay, this did not persuade Aisha, and she continued on her journey with opposition both towards Uthmān and the Egyptians. .

In Medina, Mohammed ibn Abi Bakr broke into Uthman's house, and eventually Uthman was murdered. It is not quite sure who murdered Uthman, but his wife, Na'ilah , claims it was Mohammed ibn Abi Bakr. Aisha, at this point had been clear of any blame, and was continuing her journey Mecca.

Battle of Bassorah



In 655, Uthman was murdered, which caused the First Fitna
First Fitna
The First Islamic Civil War , also called the First Fitna , was the first major civil war within the Islamic Caliphate. It arose as a struggle over who had the legitimate right to become the ruling Caliph...

.

Professor Leila Ahmed
Leila Ahmed
Leila Ahmed is an Egyptian American writer on Islam and Islamic feminism as well as being the first women's studies professor at Harvard Divinity School.- Background :...

 claims that it was during this engagement that Muslims fought Muslims for the first time, in which Aisha was one of the central figures.

Death


Aisha died in Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

 at the age of 65 in 678 CE (58 AH), 17 Ramadan
Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

 . She was buried in the Jannat al-Baqi
Jannat al-Baqi
Maqbaratu l-Baqī is a cemetery in Medina, Saudi Arabia, located to the southeast of the Masjid al-Nabawi. The mosque is built where the Islamic prophet Muhammad used to live, built a mosque and is currently buried. The cemetery therefore holds much significance. It contains many of Muhammad's ...

. Though the claim of her burial at Al-Baqi cannot be verified from independent sources.

Sunni view of Aisha


Sunnis hold Aisha in high esteem, many believe that she was Muhammad's favorite wife and the best woman of her time. They consider her (amongst other wives) to be Umm al-Mu'minin and among the members of the Ahl al-Bayt
Ahl al-Bayt
Ahl al-Bayt is an Arabic phrase literally meaning People of the House, or family of the House. The phrase "ahl al-bayt" was used in Arabia before the advent of Islam to refer to one's clan, and would be adopted by the ruling family of a tribe. Within the Islamic tradition, the term refers to the...

, or Muhammad's family.

Shi'a view of Aisha



The Shi'a view of Aisha is a negative one. This is primarily due to what they see as her contempt for the Ahl al-Bayt
Ahl al-Bayt
Ahl al-Bayt is an Arabic phrase literally meaning People of the House, or family of the House. The phrase "ahl al-bayt" was used in Arabia before the advent of Islam to refer to one's clan, and would be adopted by the ruling family of a tribe. Within the Islamic tradition, the term refers to the...

 (the Islamic prophet Muhammad's
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 family) and her attempts to stir up the fitnah
First Fitna
The First Islamic Civil War , also called the First Fitna , was the first major civil war within the Islamic Caliphate. It arose as a struggle over who had the legitimate right to become the ruling Caliph...

 (civil war) of the time. Her participation in the Battle of Jamal against Ali
Ali
' |Ramaḍān]], 40 AH; approximately October 23, 598 or 600 or March 17, 599 – January 27, 661).His father's name was Abu Talib. Ali was also the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661, and was the first male convert to Islam...

 is widely considered her most significant sign of such contempt. They also do not believe that she conducted herself in an appropriate manner in her role as Muhammad's wife.

See also

  • First Muslim Dynasty
    First Muslim Dynasty
    The First Muslim Dynasty consists of those directly related to Muhammad.-Family tree of Maymuna bint al-Harith:*Herself: Maymuna bint al-Harith*Husband: Muhammad*Sister: Lubaba bint al-Harith*Sister: Izza...

  • Muhammad's wives
  • List of persons related to Qur'anic verses
  • Sunni view of the Sahaba
  • The Jewel of Medina
    The Jewel of Medina
    The Jewel of Medina is a historical novel by Sherry Jones. It was scheduled for publication by Random House in 2008, but subsequently canceled; it was subsequently announced that it would be published by Beaufort Books in the United States and by Gibson Square in the United Kingdom and the...


Further reading

  • Afshar, Haleh
    Haleh Afshar
    Haleh Afshar, Baroness Afshar OBE is a British professor and a life peer in the House of Lords. She is a prominent Muslim feminist, and characterises herself as a Socialist and a Shi'a Muslim...

    , Democracy and Islam, Hansard Society
    Hansard Society
    The Hansard Society was formed in 1944 to promote parliamentary democracy. Founded and chaired by Commander Stephen King-Hall, the first subscribers were Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee...

    , 2006.
  • Barlas, Asma
    Asma Barlas
    Asma Barlas is an academic educated in Pakistan and the United States. She is the Director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity of the department of politics at Ithaca College, New York. Her specialties include comparative and international politics, Islam and Qur'anic...

    , Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an, pp. 125–6, University of Texas Press
    University of Texas Press
    The University of Texas Press is a university press that is part of the University of Texas at Austin. Established in 1950, the Press publishes scholarly books in several areas, including Latin American studies, Texana, anthropology, U.S...

    , 2002, ISBN 0-292-70904-8.
  • Guillaume, A., The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    , 1955
  • Rodinson, Maxime, Muhammad, 1980 Random House reprint of English translation
  • Spellberg, D.A.
    Denise Spellberg
    Denise A. Spellberg is an American scholar of Islamic history. She is an associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Spellberg holds a BA from Smith College and a PhD from Columbia University....

    , Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: the Legacy of A'isha bint Abi Bakr, Columbia University Press
    Columbia University Press
    Columbia University Press is a university press based in New York City, and affiliated with Columbia University. It is currently directed by James D. Jordan and publishes titles in the humanities and sciences, including the fields of literary and cultural studies, history, social work, sociology,...

    , 1994
  • Aisha bint Abi Bakr, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, Oxford University Press, 2000
  • Rizvi, Syed Saeed Akhtar, The Life of Muhammad The Prophet, Darul Tabligh North America, 1971.
  • Askri,Mortaza, 'Role of Ayesha in the History of Islam' (Translation), Ansarian publication, Iran

External links