The life of Aisha is proof that a woman can be far more well informed than men and that she was the teacher of scholars and experts. Her life is also proof that a woman can exert influence over men and women as well as provide them with inspiration and leadership. She did not graduate from any university, there were no universities as such in her day, but her utterances are still studied in the faculties of literature, her legal pronouncements are studied in colleges of law and her life and works are studied and researched by students and teachers of Muslim history as they have been for over thousands of years.
The majority of her immense treasure of knowledge was obtained while she was still quite young. In her early childhood she was brought up by her father who was greatly praised and respected for being a man of wide knowledge, gentle manners and an agreeable presence. Moreover he was the closest friend of the Prophet who was a frequent visitor to their home since the very early days of his mission.
Aisha in her youth, already known for her outstanding beauty and her impressive memory, she came under the loving care and attention of the Prophet himself. Before and after her wedding she maintained a natural cheerfulness and innocence and did not seem at all intimidated by the thought of being wedded to him who was the Messenger of God whom all his companions, including her own mother and father, treated with such love and reverence as they gave to no one else. For her wedding they dressed her in a wedding-dress made from fine red-striped cloth from Bahrain and then her mother took her to the newly built house where some women of the Ansaar were waiting outside the door. As she entered, in the presence of the smiling Prophet, a bowl of milk was brought.
The Prophet drank from it himself and offered it to Aisha. She shyly declined it but when he insisted she did so and then offered the bowl to her sister Asma who was sitting beside her. Others also drank of it and that was as much as there was of the simple and sacred occasion of their wedding. There was no wedding feast. Marriage to the Prophet did not change her playful ways. Her young friends came regularly to visit her in her own apartment. Aisha’s early life in Madinah also had its more serious and anxious times. Once her father and two companions who were staying with him fell ill with a dangerous fever, which was common in Madinah at certain seasons. Aisha was also present at her father’s deathbed.
Abu bakr asked her how many pieces of cloth were used to bury the Prophet and she told him three. He asked his daughter to wrap him also in three sheets of burial. Aisha saved the place beside her father’s grave for her own burial but, after the injury, which was to prove fatal. Aisha asked her father how he was and he answered her in verse but she did not understand what he was saying. The two others also answered her with lines of poetry, which seemed to her to be nothing but unintelligible babbling. She was deeply troubled and went home to the Prophet telling him that she was unable to figure out was his father and his companions were saying.
The Prophet asked what they had said and was reassured when she repeated almost word for word the lines they had uttered and which made sense although she did not fully understand them then. This was a demonstration of the great retentive power of her memory, which as the years went by were to preserve so many of the priceless sayings of the Prophet. Aisha was really a generous soul and a patient one. She bore with the rest of the Prophet’s household poverty and hunger, which often lasted for long periods. For days on end no fire would be lit in the sparsely furnished house of the Prophet for cooking or baking bread and they would live merely on dates and water. Poverty did not cause her distress or humiliation; self-sufficiency when it did come did not corrupt her style of life.
When the Muslims were favored with enormous riches, she was given a gift of one hundred thousand dirhams. She was fasting when she received the money and she distributed the entire amount to the poor and the needy even though she had no provisions in her house. During his final illness, it was to Aisha’s apartment that he went at the suggestion of all his wives. For much of the time he lay there on a couch with his head resting on her chest or on her lap. It is evident that Aisha is who preserved for us the dying moments of the most honored of God’s creation, his beloved Messenger. Aisha also prided herself on being the only virgin that theProphet ever married, and that she had been shown to him by Gabriel. It was only in her case that revelation was sent to the Prophet while he laid by her in a sheet.
After the death of the Prophet, she lived in the same apartment. She daily attended to the tomb. She was the custodian of the grave. In fact she called it her property. Aisha lived on almost fifty years after the passing away of the Prophet. She had been his wife for a decade. The fact is that Aisha was very intelligent, able and alert and gained vast knowledge of diversified problems from the Prophet. As his wife and close companion she acquired from him knowledge and insight such as no woman has ever acquired. This was a great service rendered by Aisha to Islam by spreading its teaching and the practice of the Holy Prophet long after his death.
Much of this time was spent in learning and acquiring knowledge of the two most important sources of God’s guidance, the Quraan and the Sunnah of His Prophet. Aisha was one of three wives who memorized the Revelation. Like Hafsah, she had her own script of the Quraan written after the Prophet had died. So far as the Prophetic Narrations or sayings of the Prophet are concerned, Aisha is one of four people who transmitted more than two thousand sayings. Many of these pertain to some of the most intimate aspects of personal behavior, which only someone in Aisha’s position could have learnt. What is most important is that her knowledge of Hadith was passed on in written form by at least three persons including her nephew Urwah.
Many of the learned companions of the Prophet and their followers benefitted from Aisha’s knowledge. Aisha not only possessed great knowledge, but also took an active part in education and social reform. As a teacher she had a clear and persuasive manner of speech and her power of persuasiveness has been described in untouchable terms. Men and women came from far and wide to benefit from her knowledge.
The number of women is said to have been greater than that of men. Aisha always remained a sacred personage, popularly respected and revered by the Muslim world. She is reported to have handed over to the Community not less than 2210 hadith directly from the lips of the Prophet. She continued preaching and giving instructions in the precepts of Islam to men, women, children and slaves. She was a distinguished traditionist, and was often consulted on theological and juridical subjects, for she had the advantage of having been in the society of the Prophet for a long period and she had always been keen to learn things from the Prophet. She is highly praised for her talents. She could read and write. Besides answering enquiries, she took boys and girls, some of them orphans, into her custody and trained them under her care and guidance. Her house thus became a school and an academy.
Some of her students were outstanding. Among her women pupils is the name of Amra bint Abdur-Rahman. She is regarded by scholars as one of the trustworthy narrators of hadith and is said to have acted as Aisha’s secretary receiving and replying to letters addressed to her. The example of Aisha in promoting education and in particular the education of Muslim women in the laws and teachings of Islam is one, which needs to be followed. Aisha is regarded as the best woman in Islam due to the strength of her personality; she was a leader in every field in knowledge, in society, in politics and in war.
She often regretted her involvement in war but lived long enough to regain position as the most respected woman of her time. Some hadith reveal the close relationship between the Prophet and Aisha through their hearty and good-humored remarks about each other. However, these remarks should be seen as between husband and wife and not as between a Prophet and his follower.
A deep study of this relationship shows that it was basically a spiritual and intellectual relationship, because the Prophet found Aisha was at a very high level of spiritual attainment and intellectual understanding, possessing a very deep insight into the significance of Tawheed and the knowledge of Islam. In spite of this strong relation between the two, this relation was confronted by a severe test, which is called the incident of slander in which, the Prophet, Aisha, and her parents experienced a very hard time, had a great suffering, and lived a lengthy time, which lasted more than a month.
The result was very great for every body and a revelation of her innocents and purification was sent from Allah. Aisha’s physique and character were raised as a woman of great integrity and knowledge whose love for Allah’s Din was beyond doubt and question. It also revealed her love for the Prophet, for she suffered great agony and pain but did not say anything. It also showed the great love of the Prophet for her because, when he received the Revelation, he was more overjoyed and excited than anyone else except Aisha, and broke the good news in great excitement. Aisha’s love and devotion to Muhammad and his cause made her excel over his other wives in many ways.
Above all, the fact that the Prophet requested the other wives to allow him to stay with Aisha in his last days and that he died in Aisha’s lap is evident testimony of her excellence and superiority over the other wives. Aisha added that he died on the day of her usual turn at her house, the Prophet passed away with his head was between her chest and neck. It is another addition to the excellence of Aisha that the Prophet died in her compartment and was buried in a corner of the same compartment.