Aisha: Mother of Muslim believers

HAKAN ARSLANBENZER
ISTANBUL
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One of the wives of Prophet Muhammad, Aisha bint Abi Bakr, is known as the beloved wife of the prophet who led society in religious and political matters as the closest witness of the revelations

The Quran describes the wives of Prophet Muhammad as "the mothers of the believers." This has two meanings. One is that nobody could marry any of them after the prophet. The second meaning, which is also explained in some other lines of the Quran, is that the wives of Muhammad were "not like other women" and would be double awarded or punished for their good or bad deeds.

Among Muhammad's wives, Khadija bint Khuwaylid and Aisha bint Abi Bakr are the most famous. Khadija is considered the first of the believers. Besides, she was the beloved of Muhammad, which we are certain of since the prophet never married another woman during her lifetime.

Aisha comes next. Yet, she was very close to the prophet. There was a mutual affection between them. They played, bathed and swam together. Moreover, there was a close intellectual relationship between them. They had serious talks. Aisha never hesitated to say what she thought before Muhammad. Besides, she became one of the wisest people within the Muslim community after the prophet's death. She was involved in religious matters and political events as well.

Early life

Aisha was born in 613, three years after Muhammad received the initial revelations of the Quran, as the daughter of Abi Bakr, Muhammad's closest friend. Her mother, Umm Ruman, was from the Bani Kenane tribe of Mecca.

Some modern commentators argue that Aisha was older, but Aisha herself said: "I found my parents as Muslims already," which means that she cannot be older than the initial revelations. Aisha's age has been a problem for some modern Muslim historians since they try to show that she was more than 18 years old when she married Muhammad. Yet, the historical sources (the original hadiths) apparently show that she was younger than the modernist commentators want her to be.

Marrying the prophet

Aisha became engaged to Muhammad before the great pilgrimage to Medina after Khadija's death. She went to Medina with both her and Muhammad's family members to unite with the other Muslims and the prophet.

Sources tell us that Aisha could not get accustomed to the weather in Medina and fell sick. After she recovered, she married Muhammad, which was in the second year of the great pilgrimage.

Though we do not have much information about her childhood, we are sure that she was a very brilliant and active young woman after marrying the prophet. She served Muslim fighters in the Battle of Uhud by giving them water, collecting necessary information and treating wounded soldiers. She participated in some other battles, too. She accepted war prizes after the capture of Khaybar Castle from the Jews. Muhammad asked her if she wanted land or crops as spoils of war, and she chose land, which shows her intelligence in material subjects.

Accusation of adultery

The "Nur" (Light) chapter of the Quran tells us that Aisha was falsely accused by some people of adultery, who would be punished as God ascertained her innocence. According to the related hadiths, during a trip with the prophet and other Muslims, Aisha left her camel to relieve herself. Her slaves mounted the camel and prepared it for travel without noticing any difference in weight without Aisha's presence. Hence the caravan accidentally departed without her. She remained at the camp until the next morning when Safwan ibn al-Muattal, a nomad and member of Muhammad's army, found her and brought her back to Muhammad at the army's next camp. Rumors that Aisha and Safwan had committed adultery were spread, particularly by Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, Hassan ibn Thabit, Mistah ibn Uthatha and Hammanah bint Jahsh (sister of Zaynab bint Jahsh, another of Muhammad's wives). Usama ibn Zayd, son of Zayd ibn Harithah, defended Aisha's reputation, while Ali ibn Abi Talib advised: "Women are plentiful, and you can easily change one for another." Muhammad came to speak directly with Aisha about the rumors. He was still sitting in her house when he announced that he had received a revelation from God confirming Aisha's innocence. Surah 24 details the Islamic laws and punishment regarding adultery and slander. Aisha's accusers were subjected to punishment of 80 lashes.

After the prophet's death

Muhammad died in Aisha's apartment as his head was lying on her knees. Aisha lived 47 years more after her beloved husband's death. She acted as a wise person of the ummah in Medina. Many hadiths come from her. The prophet loved her much and called her "Humayra" (White Face). Ali ibn Abu Talib refers to her as "the darling of Muhammad."

Although she remained silent politically during her father Abu Bakr's caliphate and also under Umar ibn al-Khattab's rule, Aisha became a political figure during the Uthman and Ali periods. She opposed some decisions of Uthman and she openly acted against Ali. For some years, she was like a leader of the opposition. She even fought two battles against Ali's forces and lost against him. After that, Aisha kept silent as a political figure until her death in 678. However, she criticized Muawiyah, too, from time to time, though she lived in tranquility in Medina.

Aisha was also a religious leader. Women always asked her what to do or what the prophet did in his life. Umar ibn al-Khattab also asked her advice, especially for women's matters.

Aisha knew the Quran and Sunnah (sayings and actions of Muhammad) very well. She was an intelligent person with a deep memory and good, sharp judgment.

Aisha loved poetry and said: "Teach poetry to your children and let them have taste in their tongue." She knew many poems of the greatest poets of her time, including Labid, Kaab ibr Malik, Hassan ibn Thabit and Abdullah ibn Rawahah, by heart. Thanks to her knowledge of poetry and brilliance, she was an effective orator as well.

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