The life of Aishah is proof that a woman can be far
more learned than men and that she can be the teacher
of scholars and experts. Her life is also proof that a
woman can exert influence over men and women and
provide them with inspiration and leadership . Her life
is also proof that the same woman can be totally
feminine and be a source of pleasure, joy and comfort
to her husband.
She did not graduate from any university there were no
universities as such in her day. But still her
utterances are studied in faculties of literature, her
legal pronouncements are studied in colleges of law and
her life and works are studied and resear ched by
students and teachers of Muslim history as they have
been for over a thousand years.

The bulk of her vast 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 liked and respected for he was a man of wide
knowledge, gentle manners and an agreeable presence.
Moreover he was the closest friend of the noble Prophet
who was a frequent visitor to their home since the very
early days of his mission.

In her youth, already known for her striking beauty
and her formidable memory, she came under the loving
care and attention of the Prophet himself. As his wife
and close companion she acquired from him knowledge and
insight such as no woman has ever acqui red.

Aishah became the Prophet’s wife in Makkah when she
was most likely in the tenth year of her life but her
wedding did not take place until the second year after
the Hijrah when she was about fourteen or fifteen years
old. Before and after her wedding she maintained a
natural jollity and innocence and did not seem at all
overawed 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.

About her wedding, she related that shortly before she
was to leave her parent’s house, she slipped out into
the courtyard to play with a passing friend:

“I was playing on a see-saw and my long streaming hair
was dishevelled,” she said. “They came and took me from
my play and made me ready.”

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
Ansar were waiting outside the door. They greeted her
with the words “For good and for happines s may all be
well!” Then, in the presence of the smiling Prophet, a
bowl of milk was brought. The Prophet drank from it
himself and offered it to Aishah. 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 solemn 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.

“I would be playing with my dolls,” she said, “with
the girls who were my friends, and the Prophet would
come in and they would slip out of the house and he
would go out after them and bring them back, for he was
pleased for my sake to have them there.

“Sometimes he would say “Stay where you are” before
they had time to leave, and would also join in their
games. Aishah said: “One day, the Prophet came in when
I was playing with the dolls and he said: ‘O Aishah,
whatever game is this?’ ‘It is Solomon’s hor ses,’ I
said and he laughed.” Sometimes as he came in he would
screen himself with his cloak so as not to disturb
Aishah and her friends.

Aishah’s early life in Madinah also had its more
serious and anxious times. Once her malafather and two
companions who were staying with him fell ill with a
dangerous fever which was common in Madinah at certain
seasons. One morning Aishah went to visit him and was
dismayed to find the three men lying completely weak
and exhausted. She 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 saying:

“They are raving, out of their minds, through the heat
of the fever.” The Prophet asked what they had said and
was somewhat reassured when she repeated almost word
for word the lines they had uttered and which made
sense although she did not fully underst and 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.

Of the Prophet’s wives in Madinah, it was clear that
it was Aishah that he loved most. From time to time,
one or the other of his companions would ask:

“O Messenger of God, whom do you love most in the
world?” He did not always give the same answer to this
question for he felt great love for many for his
daughters and their children, for Abu Bakr, for Ali,
for Zayd and his son Usamah. But of his wives t he only
one he named in this connection was Aishah. She too
loved him greatly in return and often would seek
reassurance from him that he loved her. Once she asked
him: “How is your love for me?”

“Like the rope’s knot,” he replied meaning that it was
strong and secure. And time after time thereafter, she
would ask him: “How is the knot?” and he would reply:
“Ala haaliha in the same condition.”

As she loved the Prophet so was her love a jealous
love and she could not bear the thought that the
Prophet’s attentions should be given to others more
than seemed enough to her. She asked him:

“O Messenger of God, tell me of yourself. If you were
between the two slopes of a valley, one of which had
not been grazed whereas the other had been grazed, on
which would you pasture your flocks?”

“On that which had not been grazed,” replied the
Prophet. “Even so,” she said, “and I am not as any
other of your wives. “Everyone of them had a husband
before you, except myself.” The Prophet smiled and said
nothing. Of her jealousy, Aishah would say in later
years:

“I was not, jealous of any other wife of the Prophet
as I was jealous of Khadijah, because of his constant
mentioning of her and because God had commanded him to
give her good tidings of a mansion in Paradise of
precious stones. And whenever he sacrifice d a sheep he
would send a fair portion of it to those who had been
her intimate friends. Many a time I said to him: “It is
as if there had never been any other woman in the world
except Khadijah.”

Once, when Aishah complained and asked why he spoke so
highly of “an old Quraysh woman”, the Prophet was hurt
and said: “She was the wife who believed in me when
others rejected me. When people gave me the lie, she
affirmed my truthfulness. When I stood f orsaken, she
spent her wealth to lighten the burden of my sorrow..”

Despite her feelings of jealousy which nonetheless
were not of a destructive kind, Aishah 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 e nd 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 styl e of life.

Once the Prophet stayed away from his wives for a
month because they had distressed him by asking of him
that which he did not have. This was after the Khaybar
expedition when an increase of riches whetted the
appetite for presents. Returning from his sel f-imposed
retreat, he went first to Aishah’s apartment. She was
delighted to see him but he said he had received
Revelation which required him to put two options before
her. He then recited the verses:

“O Prophet! Say to your wives: If you desire the life
of this world and its adornments, then come and I will
bestow its goods upon you, and I will release you with
a fair release. But if you desire God and His Messenger
and the abode of the Hereafter, th en verily God has
laid in store for you an immense reward for such as you
who do good.”

Aishah’s reply was:

“Indeed I desire God and His Messenger and the abode
of the Hereafter,” and her response was followed by all
the others.

She stuck to her choice both during the lifetime of
the Prophet and afterwards. Later 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. Shortly after, a maidservant
said to her: “Could you buy meat for a dirham with
which to break your fast?”

“If I had remembered, I would have done so,” she said.
The Prophet’s affection for Aishah remained to the
last. During his final illness, it was to Aishah’s
apartment that he went at the suggestion of his wives.
For much of the time he lay there on a cou ch with his
head resting on her breast or on her lap. She it was
who took a toothstick from her brother, chewed upon it
to soften it and gave it to the Prophet. Despite his
weakness, he rubbed his teeth with it vigorously. Not
long afterwards, he lost con sciousness and Aishah
thought it was the onset of death, but after an hour he
opened his eyes.

Aishah it is who has preserved for us these dying
moments of the most honoured of God’s creation, His
beloved Messenger may He shower His choicest blessings
on him.

When he opened his eyes again, Aishah remembered Iris
having said to her: “No Prophet is taken by death until
he has been shown his place in Paradise and then
offered the choice, to live or die.”

“He will not now choose us,” she said to herself. Then
she heard him murmur: “With the supreme communion in
Paradise, with those upon whom God has showered His
favor, the Prophets, the martyrs and the righteous…”
Again she heard him murmur: “O Lord, wit h the supreme
communion,” and these were the last words she heard him
speak. Gradually his head grew heavier upon her breast,
until others in the room began to lament, and Aishah
laid his head on a pillow and joined them in
lamentation.

In the floor of Aishah’s room near the couch where he
was lying, a grave was dug in which was buried the Seal
of the Prophets amid much bewilderment and great
sorrow.

Aishah lived on almost fifty years after the passing
away of the Prophet. She had been his wife for a
decade. Much of this time was spent in learning and
acquiring knowledge of the two most important sources
of God’s guidance, the Quran and the Sunnah of His
Prophet. Aishah was one of three wives (the other two
being Hafsah and Umm Salamah) who memorized the
Revelation. Like Hafsah, she had her own script of the
Quran written after the Prophet had died.

So far as the Ahadith or sayings of the Prophet is
concerned, Aishah is one of four persons (the others
being Abu Hurayrah, Abdullah ibn Umar, and Anas ibn
Malik) who transmitted more than two thousand sayings.
Many of these pertain to some of the most in timate
aspects of personal behavior which only someone in
Aishah’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 who became one of the greatest scholars
among the generation after the Companions.

Many of the learned companions of the Prophet and
their followers benefitted from Aishah’s knowledge. Abu
Musa al-Ashari once said: “If we companions of the
Messenger of God had any difficulty on a matter, we
asked Aishah about it.”

Her nephew Urwah asserts that she was proficient not
only in fiqh but also in medicine (tibb) and poetry.
Many of the senior companions of the Prophet came to
her to ask for advice concerning questions of
inheritance which required a highly skilled mathem
atical mind. Scholars regard her as one of the earliest
fuqaha of Islam along with persons like Umar ibn al-
Khattab, Ali and Abdullah ibn Abbas. The Prophet
referring to her extensive knowledge of Islam is
reported to have said: “Learn a portion of your r
eligion (din) from this red colored lady.” “Humayra”
meaning “Red-coloured” was an epithet given to Aishah
by the Prophet.

Aishah not only possessed great knowledge but 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 oratory has been described in
superlative terms by al-Ahnaf who said: “I have heard
speeches of Abu Bakr and Umar, Uthman and Ali and the
Khulafa up to this day, but I have not heard speech
more persuasive and more beautiful from the mouth of
any person than from the mouth of Aishah.”

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. Besides answering enquiries,
she took boys and girls, some of them orphans, into her
custody and trained them under her care and guidance.
This was in addition to her relatives who received
instruction from her. Her house thus became a school
and an academy.

Some of her students were outstanding. We have already
mentioned her nephew Urwah as a distinguished reporter
of hadith. Among her women pupils is the name of Umrah
bint Abdur Rahman. She is regarded by scholars as one
of the trustworthy narrators of ha dith and is said to
have acted as Aishah’s secretary receiving and replying
to letters addressed to her. The example of Aishah 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.

After Khadijah and Fatimah az-Zahra, Aishah as-
Siddiqah (the one who affirms the Truth) is regarded as
the best woman in Islam. Because of the strength of her
personality, she was a leader in every field in
knowledg e, 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. She died in the year 58 AH in the month of
Ramadan and as she instructed, was buried in the Jannat
al-Baqi in the City of Light, beside other companions
of the Prophet.