Wife of the Prophet (s)
|Full Name||'A'isha bt. Abi Bakr|
|Well-known Relatives||the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr|
|Place of Birth||Mecca|
|Places of Residence||Mecca, Medina|
|Burial Place||al-Baqi' cemetery, Medina|
|Known for||Wife of the Prophet (s)|
|Activities||Participating in the battle of Jamal|
Date of Marriage
(before Hijra/before 622)
ʿĀʾisha (Arabic: عائشة) (d. 58/678) was the daughter of Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and was amongst the influencing women of the Islamic era. From amongst the wives of the Prophet, 'A'isha was very well-known for her political activities and standpoints as well as for the prominent role she played in narrating traditions from the Prophet (s). The school of Ahl al-Sunna, citing traditions which mention her virtues as well as her popularity with the Prophet, hold her to an esteemed position. On the other hand, the Shi'a strongly criticize her personality and behaviour on account of her hostile stance and actions during the period of Imam Ali's caliphate.
- 1 Lineage
- 2 'A'isha and the Prophet (s)
- 3 'A'isha and the Caliphs
- 4 Demise
- 5 Role in the Narration of Hadith
- 6 References
'A'isha was the daughter of Abu Bakr who was from the family of Taym, and her mother Um Ruman was the daughter of 'Umayr from the tribe of Banu Kananah.
'A'isha and the Prophet (s)
Marriage with the Prophet (s)
The exact point in time of 'A'isha's marriage to the Prophet (s) is unknown. According to a report, this marriage took place after the demise of Lady Khadija (a), and two or three years prior to the migration of the Prophet (s) to Medina. According to this report, this was the Prophet's first marriage after the demise of Lady Khadija (a). However, other more famous reports mention that the Prophet (s) married Sawda before marrying 'A'isha. According to popular sources of history, 'A'isha was around six or seven years old at the time of her marriage to the Prophet (s) but before that, was supposed to marry Jubayr b. Mut'am. However, after being suggested to marry the Prophet (s), this arrangement was called off and she married the Prophet (s). The consummation of their marriage took place a few years later after the migration to Medina when 'A'isha was nine years old.
In the face of this report, some researchers have referred to different historic accounts and have known 'A'isha's age at the time of marriage to be 18 years. Amongst the sources these researchers cite, is the report from Ibn Ishāq who mentions 'A'isha to be one of the first Muslims and indicates that 'A'isha was a child at that time. If at the time of the appointment of Prophethood to the Prophet (bi'that) 'A'isha was at least seven years old, then she should be seventeen years old at the time of her marriage to the Prophet.
Another source that confirms 'A'isha's age at the time of marriage to the Prophet (s) is the age of her sister Asma' bt. Abu Bakr. Asma' was ten years older than her sister 'A'isha. She was 27 years old at the time of the migration. If we know 'A'isha's marriage to have taken place on the first year of the migration, then accordingly, she should be 17 years old at the time of her marriage.
'A'isha was the only wife of the Prophet (s) who had not been married earlier. Ahl al-Sunnah cites many accounts indicating the Prophet's great affection for her to the extent of calling her the Prophet's most beloved wife. On the basis of such accounts, they believe 'A'isha to have many virtues and merits.
On the other hand, the Shi'a consider the reports present in the texts of Ahl al-Sunnah about 'A'isha to be fabricated and exaggerated. They cite reports which mention her actions to have caused the Prophet (s) to become angry and unhappy, or quote the Prophet (s) to have complained on her account. Likewise, they cite reports mentioning 'A'isha's jealousy towards the Prophet's other wives and her vicious actions against them. Some of these reports even appear in authentic texts of Ahl al-Sunnah.
Some Quranic exegeses of the Ahl al-Sunnah report the 11th verse of the sura al-Hujurat to be revealed about 'A'isha. According to them, 'Aisha ridiculed Umm Salama or Zaynab bt. Khuzayma and in effect, this verse was revealed.
Incident of Ifk
- Main article: Incident of Ifk
According to narrations that appear under the exegesis of certain verses of sura al-Nur, it is related that in the year 5/626-627, on the return from the Battle of Banu l-Mustaliq when the caravan had halted for rest, 'A'isha distanced herself from the caravan to relieve herself. When she found her necklace to be missing, she went looking for it. The caravan, not aware that she was missing, left carrying her palanquin with them assuming she was inside it. Upon returning to the place the caravan was pitched and finding it vacant, she stayed there until a man named Safwan b. Mu'attal came to her and gave her his camel and escorted her to her caravan. This incident caused some companions of the Prophet (s), who according to Islamic texts were hypocrites, to defame 'A'isha. They accused 'A'isha of unchastely behaviour and consequently the aforementioned verses of the Quran announced slander of chaste women to be a grave sin. However, some of these verses are said to be about Mariya al-Qibtiyya, another wife of the Prophet (s).
Incident of Tahrim
The incident of tahrim is mentioned in the first verse of the sura al-Tahrim in the Quran wherein Allah reprimands the Prophet (s) for prohibiting upon himself that which Allah had made permissible, for the pleasure of his wives. According to a report in Tafsir Nimuna, the context of revelation of this verse is that, at times when the Prophet (s) visited one of his wives, Zaynab bt. Jahsh, she offered him a drink of honey that she prepared. 'A'isha did not like this and she conspired with Hafsa that whenever the Prophet (s) visited either of them, they should immediately remark, "Have you had the maghafir gum?!" Maghafir was a type of foul smelling gum. The Prophet (s), too, was self-conscious about his mouth smelling foul. When the Prophet (s) visited Hafsa and heard the same words from her, he swore to never have that honey again.
This account has been mentioned in various sources with some variation; Bukhari, too has narrated it. Bukhari narrates another hadith in relation to this from the second caliph stating that 'A'isha and Hafsa became co-conspirators against the Prophet (s). Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Qayyim believe the 10th verse of sura al-Tahrim to be revealed about 'A'isha and Hafsa.
'A'isha and the Caliphs
During the period of the caliphate of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, 'A'isha did not directly interfere in political matters in spite of being the wife of the Prophet (s), the daughter of the first caliph, occupying a high social status and being well served by the first two caliphs. According to a group of Shi'a authors, 'A'isha played an important role in making Abu Bakr reach caliphate, and in the last days of the Prophet's life, strove to create the groundwork for her father's caliphate. Likewise she narrated traditions from the Prophet (s) mentioning the virtues of Abu Bakr and 'Umar in order to help establish and legitimize their caliphate. There are accounts which relate the first two caliphs offering gifts and reaching out to 'A'isha and extending continuous help and offerings to her much more compared to the other wives of the Prophet (s). These reports have caught the attention of the Shi'a and have been regarded as a form of unfairness.
'A'isha's relation with 'Uthman was cordial during the first few years of his caliphate, but soured during the end. During the first half of his caliphate, she narrated plenty of traditions in favor of him; amongst which are:
- "The Prophet (s) was lying on the bed and had spread my cloak over him. At this time, Abu Bakr asked permission to enter; the Prophet (s) gave permission and responded to his request in that state. Thereafter, 'Umar asked permission and the Prophet (s) responded to his request in a similar fashion. Then, 'Uthman asked permission and the Prophet (s) commanded me to dress myself. I asked him: O Prophet of God, you did not become so perplexed by the entering of Abu Bakr and 'Umar; but now for welcoming 'Uthman you make such preparations and dress yourself?! The Prophet (s) replied: How can I not regard and respect him when, I swear by God, that the angels exhibit modesty and bashfulness in his presence!"
However, in the second half of 'Uthman's caliphate, 'A'isha executed a more prominent political role in the Islamic world when she entered the group of 'Uthman's opponents. She, in her words and in her exchanges with 'Uthman in al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, strongly criticized him, and according to reports, knew him to deserve death.
'A'isha and Imam 'Ali
'A'isha was amongst the opponents of Imam 'Ali (a). Some writers have recognized this conflict to have begun during the lifetime of the Prophet (s) itself. Her dislike towards Imam 'Ali (a) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) was to the extent that she did not participate in the mourning ceremony of the martyrdom of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) with the Bani Hashim; some others have said that she even rejoiced on account of it. She said to Ibn 'Abbas: "No city is more hated to me than the city in which the Bani Hashim reside". Her animosity with Imam 'Ali (a) caused her to sometimes refrain from even uttering his name. Towards the end of the Prophet's life, she is reported to have said: "Two people held the Prophet from under his shoulders, Qutham b. 'Abbas and the other one." The narrator says that she meant Imam 'Ali (a).
'A'isha was of a mind that after 'Uthman, the caliphate should return to the tribe of Bani Taym. After the murder of 'Uthman, it was said to her that Talha has been selected caliph. This news caused her happiness and she set to journey towards Medina until she reached a land called Saraf. There, she learned that the people had paid allegiance to Imam 'Ali and immediately after hearing this, returned back to Mecca and raised the cry of 'Uthman's oppressed state. She used to say that one night of 'Uthman's rule was equal to the entire life of Imam 'Ali's (a).
Battle of Jamal
- Main article: Battle of Jamal
The role 'A'isha played in stimulating a massive uprising against the caliphate of Imam 'Ali (a), which led to the Battle of the Camel, was a huge indicator of her enmity towards him. Some writers from Ahl al-Sunnah believed her to be under the influence of instigative evil-doers and supposed her gathering of an army for Basra to be for the revenge from 'Uthman's killers and not an act of opposition to Imam 'Ali (a). They considered this an error in ijtihad for which 'A'isha herself was later repentant.
'A'isha, who was amongst the opponents of 'Uthman and was present in Mecca at the time of Uthman's murder, on hearing the news of Imam 'Ali's caliphate, remained in Mecca. After a while when Talha and Zubayr reached Mecca, the three after gathering an army of Arab tribes journeyed to Basrah and claimed to avenge the blood of 'Uthman. After conquering this city, they deployed their army against that of Imam Ali's. The battle that ensued thereafter was named the Battle of the Camel because of 'Aisha's presence in it as she sat on the top of a Camel. This was the first battle to take place between the Muslims themselves.
Imam 'Ali's Martyrdom
Some reports narrate 'A'isha's happiness upon Imam 'Ali's martyrdom. When she heard the news of his martyrdom, she threw her walking stick and sat peacefully in her seat resembling a wayfarer who finds pleasure upon returning home. Aba al-Faraj even relates her prostrating in thanks on his martyrdom. Then, 'A'isha inquired about the killer of Imam 'Ali and upon learning that it was Ibn Muljam, she recited poetry in praise of him; it is even said that she named her slave Abd al-Rahman and the reason for this was her fondness for Ibn Muljim Moradi whose first name was Abd al-Rahman.
'A'isha and Mu'awiya
In spite of reports of monetary gifts extended to 'Aisha by Mu'awiya that exist in historic sources, 'Aisha became an opponent and critic of Mu'awiya during a part of his rule. She was particularly displeased with him when her brother Muhammad b. Abi Bakr was killed upon the command of Mu'awiya. She also criticized him on killing Hujr b. 'Adi, a companion of the Prophet. It is narrated that upon hearing the news of the arrest of Hujr b. 'Adi, she sent someone to Mu'awiya to intercede for him, but this messenger reached Damascus when Hujr and his companions had already been martyred.
Episode of Burial of Imam al-Hasan's Body
Amongst the issues that sustained the Shi'a's criticism of 'A'isha was her not allowing the burial of Imam al-Hasan's body next to the grave of the Prophet (s). The resting place of the Prophet was in 'A'isha's house and after that, had been the burial place of the first two caliphs too. With the martyrdom of Imam al-Hasan (a), his brother Imam al-Husayn (a) initially intended to bury him next to the grave of the Prophet (s) in accordance with his will; but 'A'isha, with the help of the governor of Medina, prevented its fulfillment. To avoid discord, Imam al-Husayn (a) resigned from it.
'A'isha died of a natural death at 10 Shawwal 58/8 August 678 (or 57/677) at the age of 66 in Medina. Abu Hurayra led her funeral prayer and she was buried in the Baqi' cemetery. Some said she died at 17 Ramadan 58.
However, some reports pronounce Mu'awiyah as the cause for her death. According to one narration, this incident took place in the Islamic month of Dhi l-Hijja. Al-A'amash al-Kufi has narrated that 'A'isha's death was attributed to Mu'awiyah.
Role in the Narration of Hadith
'A'isha was amongst the most important narrators of the words and the life of the Prophet (s). The number of traditions related from her exceeds 2100. Parts of the reports narrated by her which are present in historic texts have been subject to research and criticism by the Shi'a researchers and academics.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from عایشه in Farsi WikiShia.