By Yasmina Blackburn
Aisha was called the “most truthful daughter of the most truthful one.”
She was most devout. Most beautiful. And she was wed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, in the latter part of his lifetime.
The story of Aisha bint Abu Bakr (may God be pleased with her) is one of divinity, fortitude, knowledge, and love. She contributed more than 2,000 hadith (sayings of the Prophet) to mankind- and is one of the most extraordinary figures in Islamic history.
The Prophet’s first wife, Khadija, supported him at the beginning of his Prophethood in Mecca and through his most difficult days up until her death. Aisha supported the Prophet after his migration to Medina, through various battles and divine revelations up until his death.
Contextualizing the societal constructs of the Prophet’s time is critical when discussing Aisha. Her story is one that is used and abused to discredit the Prophet – at the hand of challengers insisting she was a child bride.
What is the real story of Aisha?
Some incredible facts about Aisha, may God be pleased with her:
A Match Made in Heaven
“Marry her, since she is your wife,” Angel Gabriel revealed during the time the Prophet’s mosque was established in Medina and civilization was thriving.
The marriage of Aisha to the Prophet was divinely decreed. It was quite literally “a match made in heaven.”
Muhammad saw Aisha in a dream. Her father, the companion to the Prophet, Abu Bakr, was delighted about the marriage. As an esteemed “Mother of the Believers,” he treated her with great honor. Muhammad had other wives (previously divorced or widowed) which was customary since women did not hold rights in pre-Islamic times. Women were treated like property; the marriage was about survival. Aisha was his only pure wife who never married before or after him.
She Helped Establish a Woman’s Right to Choose Her Husband
Pre-Islamic times were referred to as the Era of Jahiliyya or the Age of Ignorance. It was common practice for women to have no say in who they could marry, forced by their fathers and societal predilections. Women turned to Aisha for issues in their lives as well as marital advice. When a girl came to Aisha unhappy that her father was forcing an arranged marriage upon her, Aisha brought the matter to the Prophet who for the first time- established that a woman’s choice in marriage was hers to make. Though arranged marriages exist still today in many cultures of various faiths with both good and bad outcomes, it is this period in time that forced marriage became prohibited in Islam.
Her Life Experiences Resulted in Quranic Decrees Favoring Women
Aisha combats slander in her death as she did in life. During an army caravan journey back to Medina from a campaign hailed Banu Mustaliq, Aisha was unwittingly left behind as she was off searching for her sister’s lost necklace. Rescued by a male army member, rumors soon spread that she was adulterous. Aisha reportedly fainted from grief upon realizing the magnitude of slander against her. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received divine revelation- today is known as surah an-Nur, that not only confirmed Aisha’s purity, it admonished those that took part in the slander. It also established that in Islam, one could not be accused of adultery unless there are four witnesses to the effect:
“Why did they not produce four witnesses (in support of the accusation?) Now that they have not produced witnesses, it is indeed they who are the liars in God’s sight. (an-Nur 24:13)
The way Mary and Joseph were slandered in the time of Jesus, so was Aisha. Her travail resulted in the Qu’ranic protection of false accusations against women from God Himself.
She Braved the Front Line in Battles
Befitting the title of the Mother of the Believers, Aisha was courageous, braving the front line of the battlefield alongside her husband without a second thought. She famously took part in the Battles of Uhud, al-Khandaq, Banu Qurayza, Banu Mustaliq, Hudaybiya, and the Meccan conquest.
She cared for the wounded and brought water to the armies. Aisha is attributed to the Qur’anic revelations of surah an-Nisa involving tayammum or the use of sand or dirt in the absence of water to perform wudu (ritual ablution before prayer.)
She Ran Circles Around Scholars of Her Time
Aisha was the anti-sheep! She was feisty, questioning everything- believing nothing- unless it was proven to her beyond a shadow of a doubt. Her keen intuition allowed her to astutely understand the motivation that lies behind what people said and did.
Aisha prayed with the Messenger himself, learning Islam from his most intimate and personal moments. She was in attendance at his famous last sermon. Graced with an eidetic memory, she was a wealth of knowledge issuing justice so squarely- it didn’t matter who it was for or against. She even issued fatwas (rulings on dubious matters)
Poetic and superbly eloquent, scholars clamored to attend Aisha’s lectures. She was a teacher like no other teacher – with a God-given gift for speaking.
A True Love Story
There was never hesitation from Aisha to become the wife of the Prophet of Islam. She loved him so much; she wanted him all to herself. It was a personal struggle for her to relinquish him to his other wives (who he was fair in dividing his time for) and to the people. Aisha shared tender moments with her husband and they lovingly teased each other. She even harbored some jealousy of her husband’s love for his first wife, Khadija, with good reason. Khadija was his ultimate love because of how she was the only person he could rely on during his darkest days. His love for Aisha, however, was so deep- it made him truly happy. The Prophet died on Aisha’s bosom. Upon his death, Aisha mourned intensely for her loss- never marrying again.
She Witnessed thousands of Miracles and Saw The Angel Gabriel
Aisha was the only wife to witness the Messenger receiving revelation. She twice saw the Angel Gabriel in human form and received salaams (greetings of peace) directly from him.
She Was Not a Child Bride
Though the controversy of Aisha’s age at her engagement, marriage, and marital consummation will always persist, historical back-tracking of her age at death as well as key historical events that took place in her life most likely makes her age at engagement 14 or 15- while her age at marriage was most likely 17 or 18. For marriage customs dating back 1,400 years- she was actually getting “up there” in age!
Aisha the Champion
Aisha spent her entire life as a champion for Islam. She lived a highly spiritual life knowing she was an example to mankind with the quest to reunite with her husband in the afterlife. Her days were spent in charity and fast, living modestly while spreading knowledge at every turn. People of all walks of life turned to her for advice all throughout her lifetime. Aisha remains a shining example in Islamic history, a gift to mankind.
Much credit for the information I learned for this article goes to the book, Aisha; The Wife, the Companion, the Scholar by Resit Haylamaz. This is not an official endorsement or paid book review of any kind.
About the author
Yasmina Blackburn is a Muslim American artist, writer, and activist. She was born and raised in Chicago and is a mom to 2 amazing kids. She can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Yasmina_Reality