A brief Summary of the Life of Sayyidatuna ‘Aisha bint Abi Bakr by Hajja Aisha Bewley

A brief Summary of the Life of

Sayyidatuna ‘Aisha bint Abi Bakr

May Allah be pleased with her

A talk delivered by Hajja Aisha Bewley

The Lady Aisha College, October 2013

I’ve been asked to speak about the life of ‘Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her. This is going to be a very brief talk since we could go to great lengths concerning the details of ‘Aisha given the amount of hadith and various transmissions that came from her, but it will be, I hope, comprehensive.

‘Aisha was born between seven and eight years before the Hijra. Her father was Abu Bakr who was two years and a few months younger than the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him. Abu Bakr was part of the caravan on which the Prophet went to Syria with his uncle, Abu Talib, and met the monk Bahira on his return. It is probable that he was involved in the War of Fijr between the tribes of Quraysh and Hawazin in which the Prophet also participated, and thus we see that he and the Prophet were neighbours, involved in the same matters. As such, Abu Bakr was a prominent figure in those primary events with Muhammad before he was a Prophet.

After the Prophet married Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, he moved to her house, and he and Abu Bakr became close neighbours. Abu Bakr was the leader of the Banu Taym, which was a big tribe. Both the Prophet and Abu Bakr were of a similar age, and both were traders and good managers. They both were kind-hearted men with concern for others, were of strong and good character, and were critical of the evils in the contemporary idolatrous society of Makka. Both men felt themselves to be kindred spirits, and this set the foundation for a life-long attachment between the two.

When the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, received the Message for the first time, Abu Bakr was away in Yemen. On his return, when he heard the news that his companion had declared the Message, he immediately said, “Yes, it’s true.” He recognised and believed it without any hesitation, question, or asking for assurance. And he was the first person outside of the Prophet’s immediate family to become Muslim.

Abu Bakr was first married to Qutayla bint ‘Abd al-‘Uzza of the Banu ‘Amir and she bore him Asma’ and ‘Abdullah. Asma’ is a very well-known lady; she is the one who, when they went on Hijra, tore her belt in two to put the provisions on the camels, and because of this is known as ‘She of the Two Belts’. Abu Bakr divorced Qutayla when she refused to become Muslim, and later married a widow, Umm Ruman bint ‘Amir of the Banu Kinana. Her name was Zaynab. She and her husband had moved to Makka from Sarat, a little distance from Makka, and he became a business partner with Abu Bakr. When Zaynab’s husband died and she was left without support, Abu Bakr married her. She bore him ‘Abd ar-Rahman and ‘Aisha.

Before he became Muslim, Abu Bakr used to meet Muhammad occasionally, but afterwards he made it a point to spend most of his time every day in the company of the Prophet. Making no secret of his entering Islam, he became a messenger of the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, using his considerable social influence to spread Islam so that many people became Muslim through him. ‘Aisha therefore grew up constantly seeing the Prophet who used to visit her father every day. From the time she was born, she never knew anything but Islam.

After the death of his beloved wife Khadija, the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, was fairly miserable. This was the same year that his uncle, Abu Talib, died, and is known as the Year of Sorrow. It is said of this time that the angel Jibril brought a picture of ‘Aisha to him in a dream and said, “This one has some of the qualities of Khadija.” The Prophet then told Umm Ruman, her mother: “Take good care of ‘Aisha and watch over her for me.” One day he came to their house and found ‘Aisha weeping. She said that her mother was cross with her. He said to Umm Ruman, “Did I not tell you to watch over ‘Aisha for me?”!

At the suggestion of a friend, Khawla bint Hakim, the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, married Sawda bint Zama’a. Sawda was an elderly woman and among the early Muslims. She was a good housewife, and did a good job of looking after the house and the children of the Prophet; at that time there were still four daughters surviving Khadija. Khawla bint Hakim also suggested to the Prophet that he should also marry a young woman who could keep him company, and she suggested that ‘Aisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, would be a good choice. The Prophet left it to Khawla to pursue the matter with Abu Bakr. ‘Aisha was already promised in marriage to one of the Quraysh, Jubayr ibn Mut‘im. However, he was happy to cancel the contract because he was afraid his son might become Muslim. This left her free to marry the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him. Most reports say that the marriage contract was made in the month of Shawwal, three years before the Hijra.

When the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, and Abu Bakr emigrated, Abu Bakr’s daughters and wife, Umm Ruman, stayed behind. When the Prophet reached Madina, he sent Zayd ibn Haritha and his freedman, Abu Rafi‘, to fetch them. Outside Makka, they met up with Talha, a very famous Companion, and his family who were also emigrating. They made it to Madina, and some days later Abu Bakr asked the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, about carrying out the marriage contract. He arranged for a dowry of about fifty dirhams-worth of household goods, and she moved in with him. We also hear it was 500. (Respective transmissions have clearly had a confusion with the zeros!)

There are various stories about ‘Aisha’s time with the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him. Some entail anecdotes of expeditions during which he stayed behind with ‘Aisha and they ran a race – she won. Some years later he stayed behind and again ran a race with her which he won, and he exclaimed, “This is for that time!” There was another occasion when he held her up on his shoulder so that she could watch Abyssinians dancing with their spears. It is clear that he and the Prophet had a very sweet relationship and did things that were fun together. According to Anas, she was also one of the women present at the Battle of Uhud who took water to the injured fighters on the battlefield, even though she was quite young at that time. 

Now we come to the famous incident that took place in the sixth year of the Hijra. The Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, decided to raid the Banu al-Mustalaq. On the return journey, he and his Companions stopped close to Madina for part of the night. Just before they left, ‘Aisha went out to relieve herself in the dark. She was wearing a necklace made of onyx. This necklace slipped off her neck without her noticing it, but only when she got back to camp did she realise it was missing. She went back to look for it and finally found it, but on her return she found they had left without her, thinking that she was inside her howdah. (This is a little seat on top of a camel which typically has a canopy, and on which they used to travel.) ‘Aisha was very light and effectively her lack of weight was not detected. No one seemed to be around, so she wrapped herself in her cloak and lay down to wait, assuming they would come back when they realised she was missing. Safwan ibn al-Mu‘attal, who had been lagging behind the men, then arrived and saw her. On recognising her he exclaimed, “We belong to Allah and to Him return!” He brought his camel for her to mount, modestly turning to look in the other direction, and led the camel quickly to catch up with the party. When the people saw them coming together, the gossip started: “Ooooh, she’s been seen with another man…”

When they arrived in Madina, ‘Aisha came down with a fever and consequently heard nothing of the spreading gossip. She did however notice that the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, was a little distant when he visited her. She asked to go and stay with her mother until she was better. She was ill for three weeks. She first heard about the gossip when she went out to the countryside to relieve herself (they did not have lavatories at that time) with a woman called Umm Mistah. At some point, Umm Mistah tripped on her gown and exclaimed, “Perish Mistah!” (referring to her son). ‘Aisha said, “That’s a terrible thing to say about a muhajir and someone who was at Badr!” Umm Mistah asked her if she had heard what was being said and proceeded to tell her exactly what they were saying.

‘Aisha was very upset and wanted to know why her mother had not mentioned anything. Her mother told her not to worry, “because a beautiful woman often has others talk badly about her.” This went on for some time and it caused a great deal of disruption among the people. In fact, they practically formed into groups and started fighting each other over it. ‘Ali suggested that the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, question the slavegirl, Barira, who only had good to say about ‘Aisha. The Prophet then approached ‘Aisha and said, “You have been told what people are saying about you. Fear Allah. If you have done wrong as they say, then repent to Allah. Allah accepts repentance from His slaves.” ‘Aisha stopped crying and waited for her parents to defend her, but they did not say anything. When she saw that they did not answer him, she said, “Will you not answer the Messenger of Allah?” They answered, “We do not know what to say.” She burst into tears again and said, “By Allah, I will never repent to Allah for what you refer to. If I were to affirm what people are saying, I would be affirming what had not happened. But if I were to deny it, you still would not believe me!” She said, “I will say as the father of Yusuf said (Surat Yusuf 12: 18):

18 Beauty lies in showing steadfastness.

It is Allah alone who is my Help

in the face of the event that you describe.”

Almost immediately the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, received the revelation which we find in Surat an-Nur , and which exonerated her (24: 11-19):

11 There is a group of you who propagated the lie.

Do not suppose it to be bad for you;

rather it is good for you.

Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned

and the one who took it on himself to amplify it

will receive a terrible punishment.

12 Why, when you heard it, did you not,

as men and women of the muminun,

instinctively think good thoughts

and say, ‘This is obviously a lie’?

13 Why did they not produce four witnesses to it?

Since they did not bring four witnesses,

in Allah’s sight, they are liars.

14 Were it not for Allah’s favour to you and His mercy,

both in the dunya and the akhira,

a terrible punishment would have afflicted you

for your plunging headlong into it.

15 You were bandying it about on your tongues,

your mouths uttering something about which

you had no knowledge.

You considered it to be a trivial matter,

but, in Allah’s sight, it is immense.

16 Why, when you heard it, did you not say,

‘We have no business speaking about this.

Glory be to You! This is a terrible slander!’?

17 Allah warns you never to repeat the like of it again

if you are muminun.

18 Allah makes the Signs clear to you

and Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

19 People who love to see filth being spread about

concerning those who have iman

will have a painful punishment

both in the dunya and the akhira.

Allah knows and you do not know.

The Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, then said: “Rejoice, ‘Aisha. Allah Almighty has revealed your innocence.” Umm Ruman said that she should go to her husband and show her gratitude, but ‘Aisha said, “By Allah, I will not go to him. I will only praise Allah. He is the One who revealed my innocence.” This famous story is called the Story of the Lie, or the Story of the Slander. It illustrates the character of ‘Aisha, in that she put her trust solely in Allah and thanked Him. ‘Aisha later said of this time that she did not think herself important enough to have an ayat revealed about her, but indeed had hoped that Allah would give the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, a vision exonerating her.

This same onyx necklace getting lost plays a role in another story. ‘Aisha said: “We went out with the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, on one of his journeys until we reached al-Bayda’, or Dhat al-Jaysh, where my necklace broke and the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, stayed to look for it and everyone else stayed with him. There was no water there, so the people went to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and said, ‘Do you not see what ‘Aisha has done? She has caused the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, and everyone else to halt at a place where there is no water for them, nor are they carrying any water with them!’ Abu Bakr came and found that the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, had gone to sleep with his head against my thigh. Abu Bakr said to me, ‘You have held up the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and everyone else in a place where there is no water and they are not carrying any water with them!’ He then rebuked me, saying what Allah wished him to say and started to poke me in the side with his hand, and the only reason I did not move was that the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, was against my thigh. At first light, the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, got up and found that there was no water. Allah ta‘ala then revealed the verse of tayammum. So the people did tayammum. Usayd ibn al-Hudayr said, ‘Family of Abu Bakr, this is not the first blessing you have brought!’” ‘Aisha continued: “We made the camel I was on get up – and found the necklace underneath it.”

It is well known that ‘Aisha was the favourite of the Prophet’s wives – after Khadija. He was once asked whom he loved most and he replied, “’Aisha.” The asker said, “I was asking about men,” and he said, “Her father.” He also said to her, “Your love, ‘Aisha, in my heart is like the firmest handhold.” Several years later, she said, “How is it still?” to which he replied, “Still the same.” The Muslims were aware of this and therefore used to send their gifts to the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, on ‘Aisha’s day, seeking to please him by that. He would then send the other wives their shares of those presents. The other wives got together and sent Umm Salama to get him to receive the gifts in their rooms. “What about us?” He told her, “Do not annoy me regarding ‘Aisha. Revelation has not come to me while I was in any woman’s garment but that of ‘Aisha.” But they still were not satisfied! So they sent Fatima to speak to him. He said to her, “Do you not like what I like, girl?” “Indeed,” she answered. He then said, “Then love this woman.” He also said, “The excellence of ‘Aisha over other women is like the excellence of tharid over other foods.” Tharid is a kind of broth which has a bit of bread in it, and it was considered the best of foods because you had some liquid, some bread and some meat all in one.

In describing the death of the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, ‘Aisha said, “When the Messenger of Allah came to my house, I had a headache. Due to its severity, I said, ‘My head!’ The Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, said, ‘If that had been while I was alive, I would have asked Allah to forgive you and make supplication for you.’ In other words, if that would have been a serious thing causing her to die. She said, ‘O my loss! By Allah, I think that you want for me to die. If that were to happen, you would spend the rest of your day sleeping with one of your wives!’ He said, ‘Rather I should say, “O MY head!” I should (or I wanted) to send for Abu Bakr and his son and appoint him lest some people say that the caliphate is for a certain person, or some people wish for it.’” The Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, was becoming ill at that point. When he became very ill, he asked his wives to permit him to be nursed in ‘Aisha’s house. He eventually died with his head in ‘Aisha’s lap.

‘Aisha continued living in the same room she had done while the Messenger had been alive. Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, became the Caliph and he held that position until his death a couple of years later. It is reported that when Abu Bakr was dying, he said to ‘Aisha: “Daughter, you know that you are the most beloved of people to me and the dearest of them. I gave you my land, which you know in such-and-such a place, and I want for you to return it to me so that the division (of my possessions) amongst my children will be according to the Book of Allah. My Lord gives and no child should be preferred to another.” Another account has that when Abu Bakr was dying, he summoned ‘Aisha and said, “There is no one I would prefer to be wealthy after I die than you, and no one it is more difficult for me to see poor after I die than you. I gave you some land with palm-trees due to be cut at al-‘Aliya worth twenty wasqs. If you had cut and harvested the dates one year, then they would have been yours to keep – but it is the wealth of the heirs. They are your brothers and sisters.” ‘Aisha said, “Asma’.” He said, “And the daughter of bint Kharija – it is in my heart that she is a girl. (One of his wives was pregnant and he believed the baby to be a girl.) Look after her well.” So he had given her some property but then realised, no, I can’t do it, it has to be fairly distributed between the heirs, yet ‘Aisha immediately then said, “I have returned it.” In the end, Abu Bakr left neither a dirham nor a dinar; all he had left from the booty of the Muslims was an Abyssinian slave, a water-camel and a threadbare blanket which he ordered to be sent to ‘Umar after he died. When ‘Umar saw Abu Bakr’s actions he said, “You have made things very difficult for the people after you!” Meaning, how do you imitate that?

Another critical role ‘Aisha played was after the murder of ‘Uthman, the caliph: ‘Aisha had gone to Makka after the mob had attacked Umm Habiba’s mule – things had reached such a dangerous situation whereby even one of the wives of the Prophet was going there to take water to ‘Uthman who was under siege, and they cut the reins on her donkey and drove her off – and there ‘Aisha performed ‘Umra after the time of Hajj. She was on her way back to Madina when she heard of the murder of ‘Uthman and was told, “The mob rules.” (And if you want to know more about the history of this there are accounts that narrate how the rabble had taken over in Madina.) So she went back to Makka. She went to the Hijr and spoke to the people from behind a curtain denouncing what had been done, saying, “As long as the mob rules, order will not be established,” and she called on them to avenge ‘Uthman. Initially ‘Aisha wanted them to go to Madina, but it was decided because of the situation there that they did not have enough men to deal with the mob and so it would be better to go to Basra to rally the people there to sort out the chaos and to avenge the murder. ‘Aisha was to go with them. Hafsa also wanted to go but her brother, feeling it was too dangerous, wanted her to stay behind. So ‘Aisha, Talha and az-Zubayr thus set out for Basra with about a thousand men. It was ‘Aisha who appointed the person to lead the prayer on this journey – and in doing so, essentially she took charge. She made this appointment to prevent any division about leadership between the people of Talha and az-Zubayr. She did not make individual tactical judgments but she got suggestions made, saying, “Right, well we’ll do this, and we’ll do that.” The respective accounts make it clear that she was practically the general of the journey.

Once in Basra, it was suggested that she send letters to various people there, which she did. One can read those letters in the various Histories. (It is not clear whether she wrote them out herself or dictated them.) The people came and questioned Talha and az-Zubayr who said that they had been forced to give bay’a when they were in Madina, and although they were not throwing off their bay’a, they were seeking ‘Uthman’s murderers. ‘Aisha went to Basra and addressed the people in ‘an extremely loud voice’ and supporters of the two camps eventually split up. There were skirmishes, with ‘Aisha’s side not intending to start a battle but merely defending themselves when necessary.

Eventually when they had reached an agreement, the murderers sparked off further fighting which turned into a full-fledged battle. As an aside, if you imagine: the two armies are facing each other, suddenly someone gets hit by an arrow and falls down, and then they think, “Aha, they’re fighting us!” – which is what happened. So they went forward and the other side went forward, and there was suddenly a very fierce battle, even though this was not at this point anyone’s intention. This was called the Battle of the Camel, in 36 AH. The battle centred around ‘Aisha’s howdah since she rode to the centre of the battle, and so intense was the fighting around her that someone commented that at the end her howdah looked like a hedgehog! It was like a pincushion full of arrows. People realised they had to get her out of the battle, so someone came and cut the strap that was holding her howdah onto the camel so that ‘Aisha’s position was no longer a defined central point.

After the battle, ‘Ali had a tent set up for her. She was then taken to a house in Basra where she sent out men to look for the wounded and bring them to stay. ‘Ali went to the house and found the women weeping over some of the slain. The wife of one of them spoke harshly to him, but ‘Ali ignored her. When she insulted him on his exit, he pointed out that he was ignoring the wounded in the house who had just fought him. Then, while he was standing there, two of his men insulted ‘Aisha and he ordered that they be seized, saying that he would cut off their heads. However, he was convinced to have them flogged instead. This shows that even though they had just fought, he was defending ‘Aisha.

The fact that all the wives were known as Umm al-Muminun, ‘Mother of the Believers’, meant that ‘Aisha was actually treated as a mother – even by those fighting her. They would address her as ‘mother’ to which she would say, “You’re no son of mine!”

Eventually things calmed down, and ‘Ali gave her a camel and money and what she needed for the return journey. She addressed the people before she left: “My sons,” she said, “some of us criticized others, saying they were slow or excessive. But do not let any of you hold anything you might hear about this against any others. By Allah, there was never anything in the past between me and ‘Ali except that which usually happens between a woman and her male in-laws. In my opinion, he has shown himself to be of the best of men, despite my criticism.” ‘Ali replied, “By Allah, men, she has spoken the truth and nothing but the truth. That was all there was between us. She is the wife of your Prophet now and forever.” He escorted her along with al-Hasan and Husayn for some miles as they set off to return for Makka, where ‘Aisha stayed until the Hajj. 

‘Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, was forthright in anything she said. In the same way, if ‘Aisha thought that something was wrong, she did not hesitate to comment on it. She wrote to Mu‘awiya when he was caliph to criticize him for executing Hujr ibn ‘Adi, saying that he had been too hasty. When he went on Hajj, he stopped to visit her and to explain himself.

‘Aisha continued to live a simple life in spite of the wealth that came to the Muslims through their conquests. Once someone visited her while she was mending a garment and said to her, “Umm al-Muminin, has not Allah given you much wealth?” She answered, “We’ve had enough of you! Someone who has nothing old and mended has nothing new.” She reported that the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, had said, “Aisha, if you want to join me, then enough for you of the provision of this world is the provision of a rider. Beware of sitting with the wealthy, and do not replace a garment until you have mended it.” It is also related from al-Qasim that she used to fast all the time.

Once she was given one hundred thousand dirhams as a gift while she was fasting. She was still living simply and refused to live in luxury, and she had nothing to break her fast with – yet she gave all the money to the poor Muslims. When she finished distributing the money, her slave-girl asked her: “Would you not reserve a dirham in order to buy meat to break your fast with?” ‘Aisha replied that she would have done had she been reminded! 

‘Aisha had profound knowledge in many fields: tafsir of the Qur’an, hadith, fiqh, poetry, Arab history, and lineage – the latter considered particularly important among the Arabs. She had spent her entire life in the presence of the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, until his death. As she had an inquiring mind, she asked the Prophet about things in the Qur’an and things that he had said, and discussed them with him, thus giving her a unique perception into those things. She also acted as an intermediary on matters about which women could not ask the Messenger directly. ‘Urwa said, “I have not seen anyone with more knowledge of the Qur’an, shares of inheritance, the halal and haram, poetry, events of the Arabs and lineage, than ‘Aisha.” In one version he also mentioned medicine. When ‘Urwa asked where she had got her knowledge of medicine, she answered that when the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, was ill at the end of his life, delegations would come from all directions and suggest various treatments which she then used.

She was also a major source of legal fatwas. As Mahmud ibn Labid said, “Aisha used to give fatwas in the time of ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. The great Companions of the Prophet, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman, used to refer to her.” The great jurists among the Tabi‘un (the generation after the Companions), used to go to her for fatwas, often on quite detailed matters, not just ‘female questions’.

‘Abd ar-Razzaq reported from Ma‘mar and Sufyan ath-Thawri from Abu Ishaq that his wife visited ‘Aisha with a group of women. A woman said to her, “Umm al-Muminin, I had a slave girl whom I sold to Zayd ibn Arqam for 800 dirhams with a deferred payment of the price. Then I bought her from him for 600 and paid those 600 on the spot and wrote him 800 as a debt.” ‘Aisha said, “By Allah, how evil is what you have done! How evil is what you have done! Tell Zayd ibn Arqam that he has invalidated his jihad with the Messenger of Allah unless he repents.” Then she went on to explain how this transaction is a ruse for lending money at interest. This is an example of her legal judgment, and you can find many of these.

It is also related that ‘Urwa said, “When I was young I asked ‘Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, ‘What do you think of the words of Allah, the Blessed and Almighty (Surat al-Baqara 2: 157):

157 Safa and Marwa are among the Sacred Landmarks of Allah,

so anyone who goes on Hajj to the House or does ‘Umra

incurs no wrong in going back and forth between them.

– by Allah, so there is nothing wrong in someone not going between Safa and Marwa?’ ‘Aisha said, ‘My nephew, if it was as you say, it would have been, “…incurs no wrong in not going back and forth between them.” However, it was revealed about the Ansar who previously used to go into ihram for the idol Manat, which was opposite Qudayd. They considered it to be a sin to go between Safa and Marwa. When Islam came, they asked the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, about that and Allah Almighty sent down, “Safa and Marwa are among the Sacred Landmarks of Allah, so anyone who goes on Hajj to the House or does ‘Umra incurs no wrong in going back and forth between them.”’”

This is an example of her doing tafsir of Qur’an. She could give the exact tafsir of the meaning was. If you read the books of tafsir there are many, many things that come from ‘Aisha regarding those things that were asked her. Az-Zurqani said that it could be said that a quarter of the rulings of Islam come from ‘Aisha. So a quarter of your Deen comes from her! Ibn Kathir said that ‘Aisha is distinguished by having formed an opinion on a variety of issues not found from any of the other Companions, and positions in which she differed from others among the Companions. Later imams have collected her opinions and the counter opinions, indicating her position as someone whose independent ijtihad is recognised.

Noted for her tafsir (interpretation) of the Qur’an, which was much used, a book has been compiled of her tafsir taken from famous commentators which extends to 500 pages. (The book’s title is Marwiyyat Umm al-Muminin ‘Aisha fi at-tafsir). She narrated 2210 hadiths: 297 of which are to found in the Sahih collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim. She is second in number of hadith transmission only to the Companion, Abu Hurayra. Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari, the Companion, said, “Whenever any matter became difficult for us, the Companions of the Prophet, we asked ‘Aisha about it and we found that she had knowledge of that.” It is reported that whenever Masruq related from her, he would say, “It was related to me by the truthful woman (the Siddiqa), the daughter of the truthful man (the Siddiq), the one declared innocent by Allah, the beloved of the Beloved of Allah.” There are 300 narrators who have transmitted from ‘Aisha.

‘Aisha held classes in her home that were attended by various relatives and orphans. Men also attended, separated by a curtain. Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari said, “If we, the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, were unclear about a matter, we asked ‘Aisha about it and we always learned something from her about it.”

As for her ability in public speaking, al-Ahnaf said, “I have heard the speeches of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali, and the caliphs up to today, but I have not heard speech more persuasive and beautiful from the mouth of any person than that from the mouth of ‘Aisha.”

It is related that Dhakwan, the doorman of ‘Aisha, said, “I went in and ‘Aisha’s nephew, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahman, was by her head. I said, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas asks permission to visit you.’ Her nephew leant down to her and repeated, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas asks permission to visit you.’ She was dying. She said, ‘Spare me Ibn ‘Abbas! I have no need of him or his commendation.’ He said, ‘Mother! Ibn ‘Abbas is one of the righteous men of your people who would greet you and bid you farewell!’ She said, ‘Give him permission if you like.’ He entered and when he had greeted her and sat down, he said, ‘Good news!’ ‘Of what?’ she asked. He said, ‘Nothing remains between you and meeting Muhammad, Allah’s blessing and peace be on him, and the beloveds except for the spirit to leave your body. You were the most beloved of the wives of the Messenger of Allah to the Messenger of Allah, and the Messenger of Allah only loved good. You dropped your necklace on the night of al-Abwa’ and the Messenger of Allah began to look for it until morning found him still in the campsite. The people had no water and so Allah revealed that they should do tayammum with good soil. What Allah allowed this community of lenience was through you. Allah sent down your innocence from above the seven heavens. The Trusty Spirit brought it and so there are none of the Mosques of Allah in which He is remembered but that it is recited in it at the ends of the night and day.’ She said, ‘Leave me be, Ibn ‘Abbas. By the One who has my soul in His hand, I wish that I had been something discarded and forgotten.’”

She was quoting what Sayyidah Maryam said when she was in labour with Sayyiduna Isa (Surat Maryam 19: 22):

22 The pains of labour drove her to the trunk of a date palm.

She said, “Oh if only I had died before this time

and was something discarded and forgotten!”

She died on 17 Ramadan in the year 58AH after the witr at the age of 66, in the caliphate of Mu’awiya. She was buried at night and a huge number of people attended the funeral from all over Madina and the villages surrounding Madina. Abu Hurayra led the prayer over her as he was deputized by the governor, Marwan, who was performing ‘Umra.

So that is a brief summary of the life of Sayyidatuna ‘Aisha. May Allah be pleased with her. Indeed, with over 500 pages of tafsir and all of those hadith, one could go on and on.

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