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The Life of Aisha bint Abu Bakr

By sksachinsk Feb 25, 2014 1225 Words
Aisha bint Abu Bakr was a leader, a woman, a wife, a theologian, a scholar and a political activist. She was precocious, loyal, brave and remarkably intelligent. These aspects of her humble life have allowed her to make a powerful impact on the development and expression of Islam that “no woman [has] reached”1. Not only did she influence the position of women in Islamic society, Islamic ethics, and the understanding and interpretation of the Qur’an, but she also modelled these qualities for the men, women and children of Islam. As a woman in Islamic society, Aisha carried a particularly high status. She was the daughter of Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, who had embraced Islam before she was born. Thus, she was not influenced by the former polytheistic religious tradition of pre-Islamic Arabia, and its stance for gender inequality. Aisha was also the third and favourite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, to whom she was divinely revealed:

“I saw you in my dreams three times. The angel brought you to me and you were clad in white silk.” (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, p285)

Over the course of history, A’isha has been given the titles of “Mother of All Believers” and “Lover of the Lover God”. She was present at and bore witness to many key events during the foundation period of Islam and was believed to be of ‘divine grace’ that gave her credence, after all she was a mere woman in Arab society. A’isha was with Mohammad during many of Allah’s revelations, showing the she was entrusted with the most sacred and secret teaching of Islam. She was the loyal follower of Islam, and was rewarded for her unswerving faith by the respect she was shown by her contemporaries.

She has a keen intellect, strong will and eloquence in which she was an important role model of Muslims. A’isha became a pupil of the Prophet, learning to read and write, and studied the Quran. She was a ‘hafizah’ meaning a woman who called fully recite the Quran and became so well versed in theology and acquired knowledge of literature, history and medicine and also wrote poetry. She was considered an authority on Islamic law and tradition with over 2000 memorised sayings in the Hadith being attributed directly to her. Thus she taught and helped develop the tradition of Islam.

A’isha was and continues to be a positive role model for Muslim women in the Islamic society as she did not fit the cultural stereotype of women. She lived in a patriarchal society, where a woman’s “job was to care for her husband and her children. Some of Mohammed’s wives are hardly mentioned in Islamic texts, because their responsibility was in the home. But because A’isha had no children, she could devote her life to the new religious tradition founded by her husband.

The ‘Battle of the Camel’ against the Caliph Ali, was so called because of the camel ridden by A’isha, she had taken a bold move despite it being a male affair. This showed that a woman is as strong as a man, and is quite capable of leading an army. The fact that she had the support of an army was a clear indication of the respect owed to this woman. In a society where a woman is only a caretaker and a nurturer she defied all in the way that she was a teacher and an authority on Islamic law and traditions, a leader and a scholar as the Prophet had stressed the importance of education and women were being lectured by him and could question him in public assemblies.

Another active role Aisha played in the development and expression of Islam was as a political activist. Due to her close companionship with the Prophet Muhammad, Aisha gained sufficient knowledge of warfare to be able to participate in battles. And again in the example of the Battle of the Camel, Aisha led opposition forces against the newly appointed caliph, Ali. The fact that after their defeat, Ali “captured Aisha but declined to harm her” suggests that her bravery and leadership was highly regarded, by both men and women. Such actions that were undertaken by Aisha, as a political activist, gives inspiration to all Muslims experiencing hardship, in that she was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and surrender to Allah, which is a fundamental part of belonging to Islam

In many chapters of the Qur’an, noted individuals asked A’isha for guidance. Muhammad authorised A’isha in his absence to give religious advice, telling Muslims to “take half your religion from this ruddy woman”. She has provided a testimony for the Prophet’s teachings and many followers of this new religion asked for her interpretation and the authenticity of the quotes of Allah’s words and in fact corrected many errors in the writing of the texts. They trusted that she, who was privy to Muhammad’s highest teachings would help them to understand. She influenced the living expression of Islam by providing a wholesome example, and helping other gain similar enlightenment. By the testimony of A’isha, it is reported that the Prophet Muhammad said that “Allah is gentle and loves gentleness in all things”. It is also reported that A’isha told other followers of Islam that Muhammad said to her: “If you wish to join me in the hereafter, be satisfied with worldly things to the extent of a riders provision, avoid sitting with the rich, and do not consider garment worn out until you patch it.” She was considered an authority on the teachings of Islam, more than any Islamic man. After the Prophet’s death when A’isha was eighteen, believers used to come to her for verification of what they had heard. They were confident in her judgement, not only because of her closeness to the Prophet, but because of her own intelligence. Ibn’ Ata said: “A’isha was, among all people, the one who had most knowledge of fiqh”. He relates that she was “the most educated, and compared to those who surrounded her, the one whose judgement was the best”.

She was a catalyst for change, her faith was questioned when she spent time alone with a man known in the Necklace story. Muhammad has no proof of infidelity and could not divorce her. She refused punishment for a crime she did not commit and thus the rules of divorce were changed and can be found in Sura 24:18-28.

A’isha led a life of example in all that she did. Her life was one of prayer, simplicity and alms-giving. Her life was that of a devout ascetic. A’isha;s life illustrated that Muslim women can be teacher of religious knowledge and she continues to inspire all Muslim’s as she is a leader to men and women alike. Through the qualities of precocity, loyalty, bravery and intelligence, Aisha bint Bakr was able to play the role of a woman, a wife, a theologian, a scholar and a political activist. These roles were had significant impacts on the development and expression of Islam in that they embodied and contributed to the fundamental aspects of Islam: being a Muslim, who submits to Allah, and the interpretation and understanding of the Qur’an and Hadith

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