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Aisha

[ah-ee-shah for 1; ah-ee-shuh for 2]
Aisha bint Abu Bakr (died 678) (Arabic عائشة Transliteration: ʿāʾisha, ʕaːʔɪʃæh "she who lives", also transcribed as A'ishah, Ayesha, 'A'isha, or 'Aisha, Turkish Ayşe, Ottoman Turkish Âişe etc.) was the second wife of Muhammad. In Islamic writings, she is thus often referred to by the title "Mother of the Believers" (Arabic: أمّ المؤمنين umm-al-mu'minīn), per the description of Muhammad's wives as "Mothers of Believers" in the Qur'an (33.6), and later, as the "Mother of Believers", as in Qutb's Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (pps6). She is quoted as source for many hadith, sacred traditions about the prophet Muhammad's life, with Muhammad's personal life being the topic of most narrations. She has narrated 2210 hadiths out of which 316 hadiths are mentioned in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

Early life

Aisha was the daughter of Um Ruman and Abu Bakr of Mecca. Abu Bakr belonged to the Banu Taym sub-clan of the tribe of Quraysh, the tribe to which Muhammad also belonged. Aisha is said to have followed her father in accepting Islam when she was still young. She also joined him in his migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 615 AD; a number of Mecca's Muslims emigrated then, seeking refuge from persecution by the Meccans who still followed their pre-Islamic religions.

According to the early Islamic historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Aisha's father tried to spare her the dangers and discomfort of the journey by solemnizing her marriage to her fiance, Jubayr ibn Mut'im, son of Mut‘im ibn ‘Adi. However, Mut’am refused to honor the long-standing betrothal, as he did not wish his family to be connected to the Muslim outcasts. The emigration to Ethiopia proved temporary and Abu Bakr's family returned to Mecca within a few years. Aisha was then betrothed to Muhammad.

Marriage to Muhammad

See also: Criticism of Muhammad: Aisha

Aisha was initially betrothed to Jubayr ibn Mut'im, a Muslim whose father, though pagan, was friendly to the Muslims. When Khawla bint Hakim suggested that Muhammad marry Aisha after the death of Muhammad's first wife (Khadijah bint Khuwaylid), the previous agreement regarding marriage of Aisha with ibn Mut'im was put aside by common consent. British historian William Montgomery Watt 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 hadith, Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad. She stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine, when the marriage was consummated. American historian Denise Spellberg states that "these specific references to the bride's age reinforce A'isha's pre-menarcheal status and, implicitly, her virginity." The marriage was delayed until after the Hijra, or migration to Medina, in 622; Aisha and her older sister Asma bint Abi Bakr only moved to Medina after Muhammad had already migrated there. Abu Bakr gave Muhammad the money to build a house for himself. After this, the wedding was celebrated very simply. 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 Muhammad entered into the spirit of these games.

Status as "favorite wife"

Most early accounts say that Muhammad and Aisha became sincerely fond of each other. Aisha is usually described as Muhammad's favorite wife, and it was in her company that Muhammad reportedly received the most revelations. Some accounts claim it was the curtain from her tent that Muhammad used as his battle standard.

Accusation of adultery

Aisha was traveling with her husband Muhammad and some of his followers. Aisha claimed that she had left camp in the morning to search for her lost necklace, but when she returned, she found that the company had broken camp and left without her. She waited for half a day, until she was rescued by a man named Safwan ibn Al-Muattal and taken to rejoin the caravan. This led to speculation that she had committed adultery with Safwan. Muhammad's adopted son Zayd ibn Harithah defended Aisha's reputation. Shortly after this, Muhammad announced that he had received a revelation 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

Ibn Kathir wrote in his biography of Muhammad that Muhammad's wife Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya was given a skin filled with honey, which she shared with her husband. He was fond of sweets and stayed overlong with Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya; at least in the opinion of Aisha and her co-wife Hafsa bint Umar. Aisha and Hafsa conspired. Each of them was to tell Muhammad that the honey had given him bad breath. When he heard this from two wives, he believed that it was true and swore that he would eat no more of the honey. Soon afterwards, he reported that he had received a revelation, in which he was told that he could eat anything permitted by God. In the following verses, Muhammad's wives are rebuked for their jealousy: "your hearts are inclined (to oppose him)".

Word spread in the small Muslim community that Muhammad's wives were taking advantage of their husband, speaking sharply to him and conspiring against him. Umar, Hafsa's father, scolded his daughter and also spoke to Muhammad of the matter. Muhammad, saddened and upset, separated from his wives for a month. By the end of this time, his wives were humbled; they had admitted their wrongdoing, and harmony was restored.

When Muslim commentators on the Qur'an explicate Sura 66, it is usually this story that is told to explain the "occasion of revelation."

Death of Muhammad

Ibn Ishaq, in his Sirah Rasul Allah, states that during Muhammad's last illness, he sought Aisha's apartments and died with his head in her lap. It highlighted Muhammad's fondness for Aisha. Aisha never remarried after Muhammad's death. A passage in the Qur'an forbids any Muslim to marry a widow of Muhammad:

After Muhammad

Aisha's father becomes the first caliph

After Muhammad's death in 632 AD, Aisha's father, Abu Bakr, became the first caliph, or leader of the Muslims. This matter of succession to Muhammad is extremely controversial to the Shi'aas. Shia believe that Ali had been chosen to lead by Muhammad; Sunni maintain that the community chose Abu Bakr, and did so in accordance with Muhammad's wishes.

Battle of Bassorah

Abu Bakr's reign was short, and in 634 AD he was succeeded by Umar, as caliph. Umar reigned for ten years, and was then followed by Uthman Ibn Affan in 644 AD. Both of these men had been among Muhammad's earliest followers, were linked to him by clanship and marriage, and had taken prominent parts in various military campaigns. Aisha, in the meantime, lived in Medina and made several pilgrimages to Mecca.

In 656 Uthman was killed by rebellious Muslim soldiers. The rebels then asked Ali to be the new caliph. Many reports absolve Ali of complicity in the murder. He is reported to have refused the caliphate. He agreed to rule only after his followers persisted.

Aisha raised an army which confronted Ali's army outside the city of Basra. Professor Leila Ahmed claims that it was during this engagement that Muslim slaughtered Muslim for the first time. Battle ensued and Aisha's forces were defeated. Aisha was directing her forces from a howdah on the back of a camel; this 656 battle is therefore called the Battle of the Camel.

Ali captured Aisha but declined to harm her. He sent her back to Medina under military escort.

Her respect as scholar and role model

Historians see Aisha as a learned woman, who tirelessly recounted stories from the life of Muhammad and explained Muslim history and traditions. She is considered to be one of the foremost scholars of Islam's early age with some historians accrediting up to one-quarter of the Islamic Sharia (Islamic religious law), based on the collection of hadiths, to have stemmed from her narrations. Aisha became the most prominent of Muhammad’s wives and is revered as a role model by millions of women.

Death

After Khadijah al-Kubra (the Great) and Fatimah az-Zahra (the Resplendent), Aishah as-Siddiqah (the one who affirms the Truth) is regarded as the best woman in Islam. She often regretted her involvement in war but lived long enough to regain position. She died in the year 58 AH in the month of Ramadan and as she instructed, was buried in the Jannat al-Baqi in the City of Light, beside other companions of the Prophet. She was 65 years of age when she died.

See also

Notes

References

  • Barlas, Asma, Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an, pp. 125-6, University of Texas Press, 2002, ISBN 0292709048.
  • Guillaume, A. -- The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, 1955
  • Rodinson, Maxime -- Muhammad, 1980 Random House reprint of English translation
  • Spellberg, D.A. -- Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: the Legacy of A'isha bint Abi Bakr, Columbia University Press, 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

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