Last Updated on 21st June 2022
“The greatness of Aishara over the rest of the wives is like thareed”, i.e. the superiority that meat has over ordinary food. (The Holy Prophetsa)
Full name: Aisha bint Abi Bakr
Father: Abdullah bin Abi Qahafa (Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiqra)
Mother: Umme Ruman Zainab bint Amir
Appellation (kuniyat): Umme Abdullah
Ahadith Narrated: 2,210
Hazrat Aishara was the daughter of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiqra, who was the closest companion of the Holy Prophetsa and the first Khalifa of the Holy Prophetsa.
Her life is proof of Islam’s progressive stance on women. She was a prominent figure who challenged the prevalent stereotypes and taboos of society. She is proof that women share egalitarian rights in Islam. Her life ascertains that Islam does not discriminate between sexes, nor does it mandate marginalisation of women. A wife, stateswoman, scholar and an enlightened thinker; she was an astute woman who exhibited exemplary moral qualities and became one of the most influential persons of the Islamic history.
A divine marriage
After the demise of Hazrat Khadijara, the Holy Prophetsa carried on with his mission and did not pursue to marry anyone for a while. However, he had dreamt that an angel had presented something to him wrapped in silk. He was told that it was his wife in this life and the Hereafter. When he unveiled the silk cover, he saw it was Hazrat Aishara.
When Hazrat Khaulah bint Hakimra advised him to remarry and offered Aisha’sra name, the Messengersa of Allah took it as a divine sign and asked her to send the proposal.
Hazrat Aishara was first betrothed to Jubair, son of Mutim bin Adi, a non-Muslim friend of Hazrat Abu Bakrra. Hazrat Abu Bakrra went to his house and enquired if Jubair wished to continue with the marriage. However, Mutim nullified the engagement citing that they would not marry a Muslim.
Hazrat Aishara was then married to the Holy Prophetsa, though the union would not be consummated for several years.
A question briefly answered
Her age at the time of her marriage has been a controversial topic of debate. There is only one hadith narrated by Hisham which suggests that Hazrat Aishara was nine years old. With reference to her age, the Promised Messiahas stated in one of his writings:
“It has been written that she was nine years of age. Firstly, there is no evidence that the Holy Prophetsa stated this, nor has there been any revelation in regard to this, nor is it substantiated from the Akhbare-Mutawatirah, [sayings of the Prophet Muhammadsa reported by a large number of people] that she was certainly nine years old. It has only been taken from one narrator.” (Nur-ul-Quran, No. 2, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 9, pp. 377-378)
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra also discoursed in The Life and Character of the Seal of the Prophets that she may have been 12 years old.
Modern researchers have debated on the veracity of this Hadith and inferred that she was much older. According to one of the scholars, Hisham mistakenly left out the word “ashara” i.e. “ten”, after the word “tis‘ah”, which means “nine” in Arabic; insinuating that she was 19 years old when she entered the household of her husband.
Moreover, it is narrated by Hazrat Anasra that in the Battle of Uhud, Hazrat Aishara and Hazrat Umm-e-Sulaimra would carry water and tend to the wounded on the field. The Holy Prophetsa specifically forbade young boys or girls to partake in the battle. The Battle of Uhud took place in 3 AH, and Hazrat Aishara bade farewell to her parents’ home in the second year of Hijrah. If it is to be presumed that she was only 11 years old at the Battle of Uhud, it is incongruous with the command of the Holy Prophetsa.
The fact of the matter is, the Holy Prophetsa did not marry Hazrat Aishara out of lasciviousness or carnal passion (God forbid) as certain orientalists imply; rather, he saw in Hazrat Aishara the future religious scholar who, owing to her young age, would receive a longer opportunity to educate and train Muslim men and women alike. And as the history would later unfold, she became one of the most prolific scholars of her time.
The question about Hazrat Aisha’s age in light of the Sunni-Shia conflict
The first mention of Hazrat Aishara is found in the Tabaqat of Ibn Saad who prepared this collection of biographical accounts 150 years after hijrah. By then, the Sunni-Shia conflict had not only manifested but was rife. Where, on the one hand, Hazrat Alira, Hazrat Fatimara and their progeny were presented as the closest and most beloved to the Messengersa of Islam, there were attempts on the other to prove Hazrat Abu Bakrra to be the rightful successor (khalifa).
Imams from the Sunni school of thought emphasised the superiority of Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Aishara, whereas Shia Imams and scholars highlighted the traditions which made served to venerate and exalt of the stature of Hazrat Alira and Hazrat Fatimara.
Ibn Khaliqan, writing about Allama ibn Jawzi, mentions in his book Wafayat-ul-Ayaan that a group of Sunni and Shia people approached him and asked him to resolve their dispute. The contention was who was more superior, Hazrat Abu Bakrra or Hazrat Alira?
Allama Jawzi replied:
افضل صحابة الرسول الذی بنتہ فی بیتہ
That is, superior was “he whose daughter married the other.”
Although this event, which highlighted the intelligence and sharp nature of Ibn Jawzi, is from the 12th or 13th century CE, it clearly shows the tension between the Sunnis and Shias regarding the status of the Companionsra.
Recording events in pre- and early-Islamic Arabia
Another factor which is essential to be considered in this regard, is that there was no common calendar for the pre-Islamic Arabia.
The calendars used in pre-Islamic Arabia were those partly borrowed from Egypt, Abyssinia, Iran and Syria. These too were not for the general public but the bureaucrats of various tribes who worked on engineer the months of every year in a way that certain festivals fell in certain desired seasons. The Hajj, for instance, was made to occur in autumn or around it – a time when trade caravans would pass through Hijaz – to fully benefit from the economic aspect of festivals. (For details: Al-Asaar al-Baqiya, by Abu Rehan al-Biruni)
Therefore, in an age when there was no calendar for the common people and the concept of numbers was as vague as was limited, recording dates or even years of birth was out of the question. To mark an event of personal biographical importance, it was tied to another event of greater historical importance: “A year before or after the Year of the Elephants (Aam al-Fil), so and so many months before or after the reconstruction of the Ka‘bah” etc.
Estimates derived from other historical events
Now we glance into some historical events, for instance the Battle of Uhud which was fought in 3 AH. Describing the battlefield, Hazrat Anasra is reported to have said:
وَلَقَدْ رَأَيْتُ عَائِشَةَ بِنْتَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ، وَأُمَّ سُلَيْمٍ وَإِنَّهُمَا لَمُشَمِّرَتَانِ، أَرَى خَدَمَ سُوقِهِمَا تَنْقُزَانِ القِرَبَ، وَقَالَ غَيْرُهُ: تَنْقُلاَنِ القِرَبَ عَلَى مُتُونِهِمَا، ثُمَّ تُفْرِغَانِهِ فِي أَفْوَاهِ القَوْمِ، ثُمَّ تَرْجِعَانِ فَتَمْلَآَنِهَا، ثُمَّ تَجِيئَانِ فَتُفْرِغَانِهَا فِي أَفْوَاهِ القَوْمِ
“I saw Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, and Umm Sulaim with their robes tucked up so that their anklets were visible. They hurriedly walked, carrying water skins on their backs, pouring water in the mouths of the wounded, would go back to fill the skins again and return to pour water in the mouths of people.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Jihad wa al-Asir)
If the narration stating her age as nine at the time of marriage was to be followed, she would only have been 10 at the time of Uhud. In the case of other estimates suggesting her to be 12 at marriage, she would have not been older than 13 at Uhud. Where it is a known fact that the Holy Prophetsa strictly took not even male children along to the battleground, it seems highly implausible that he would allow a small girl to be facing the combat. However, Allah knows best.
A source of blessings
Her abode was a treasure house of blessings. The Holy Prophetsa used to say that among all his wives, it was only in her abode that he received revelation. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 3775)
Their union was a product of divine inspiration and the angels would descend upon her and convey their salutations to her. Hazrat Abu Salama narrates the Holy Prophetsa said to Aishara:
“Aisha, Gabriel conveys his Salam to you” to which she returned his greetings. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 3217)
It is reported by Ibn-e-Abbasra that once, the Holy Prophetsa enquired from Gabrielas as to why he did not visit him more often. To this, the following verse was revealed, “We [angels] do not come save by the command of thy Lord. [Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.65]” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 3218)
It can be deduced from the aforementioned ahadith that it was under the command of God Almighty that angels would relate their salutations to her. This further sheds light on the lofty status she held in the eyes of God and the Prophetsa of Islam. It is owing to this that the Holy Prophetsa used to say:
“The greatness of Aishara over the rest of the wives is like thareed”, i.e. the superiority that meat has over ordinary food. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 3769)
Once Hazrat Aishara lost her necklace and the Muslim army had to camp at a place where there was no water. At the moment, God conferred upon the Muslims the convenience of tayammum. Hazrat Uzairra bin Huzair told her:
“Whenever you encounter a difficulty, Allah took you out of it and brought with it a blessing for the Muslims.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 3773)
The last companion
A unique distinction she holds over the rest of the Prophet’ssa wives is that the Holy Prophetsa spent his last days and hours at her house. The wives of the Messengersa of Allah had unanimously agreed that considering his illness, it was in his best interest to live the rest of his days in Hazrat Aisha’sra house.
His last words were, “[I now go to] Allah, the Most Noble Companion” as his head rested on the bosom of his beloved wife, Aishara. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 4463)
After the Messengersa of Allah passed away, she played a critical role in the transmission of knowledge she acquired from her husband. She is the narrator of more than 2,200 ahadith, which today shape the Islamic legal traditions. She is one of the most compelling figures in the mainstream of Islamic intellectual history. She helped the companions of the Holy Prophetsa in resolving intricate issues and the Holy Prophetsa instructed the believers to learn half of religious knowledge from her. Her nephew, Hazrat Urwara bin Zubair attested to her knowledge in the following words:
“I have never met anyone whose knowledge surpassed Hazrat Aisha’sra. She was the most scholarly person of her time in the Quran, fundamentals of religion, fiqh, poetry, medicine, Arabian history and genealogy.”
Scholars believe that one fourth of Islamic jurisprudence is based on her accounts. Such was her knowledge, which she passed on to the Muslim world.
Hazrat Aishara passed away in 678 AD. In accordance with her wishes, she was buried in Jannat-ul-Baqi alongside the rest of the noble wives of the Holy Prophetsa. It is narrated on the authority of Hazrat Amr bin Al ‘Asra:
“I came to the Holy Prophetsa and asked, ‘Who is the most beloved to you?’ He replied ‘Aisha.’ ‘And who among men?’ I asked. He replied, ‘Her father.’” (Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith no. 3662)