'Ayesha – The Mother of The Faithful
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat
June 6, 1985 (Ramadan 17) was the 1347th
anniversary of Umm al-Mu'minin 'Ayesha Siddiqah (with whom
Allah is well-pleased).
'Ayesha was not only the wife of the
greatest man in human history, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him and his family), and the daughter of
one the greatest Muslims of all times, the First Caliph Abu Bakr,
but also a towering Islamic personality in her own right.
A GREAT TEACHER
'Ayesha appears in Islamic history as a
great teacher and respected leader. She was an important and
sometimes indispensable source of knowledge about the life and
teachings of the Prophet. Even senior
disciples of the Prophet such as 'Umar frequently asked her about
matters of faith in which they were doubtful and often found answers
from her. Among the successors of the disciples (tabi`in)
great scholars of Prophetic Traditions (Hadith) and Islamic
Jurisprudence (fiqh) learned the teachings of Islam from her
and then spread them in the rapidly expanding lands of Islam. A part
of what they learned from 'Ayesha has come down to us in the form of
numerous traditions that are narrated on her authority.
The position that 'Ayesha came to occupy
as a teacher in early Islam was in no small measure due to her
intellectual abilities. Even as a child, 'Ayesha showed exceptional
intelligence, which was one of the things, in addition to her
beauty, that attracted the Prophet to her. She was about six years
of age when the Prophet saw her in her father's house playing with
some toys, including a toy-horse with wings. The Prophet asked her,
'Ayesha! Do horses ever have wings? Instead of feeling shy in the
presence of this great man, 'Ayesha confidently replied, yes, King
Solomon's horse did.
'Ayesha also had a very strong memory.
It is reported that she could recite poems of up to 100 verses at a
The teachings of
Islam that 'Ayesha learnt from the Prophet with her strong memory
and keen intelligence were delivered to her students with great
eloquence. Tirmidhi reports Musa ibn talha as saying that he
did not find anyone more eloquent than 'Ayesha.
Like other great Muslims of the time, 'Ayesha
did not simply teach and preach Islam but lived it. She led a truly
Muslim life of prayer, charity and struggle for truth and justice.
The Prophet once gave her the following advice:
"'Ayesha, if you want to meet me (again,
in the life to come), then treat this world like a traveler's meal
and do not attend the gatherings of the rich and the powerful and do
not consider clothes old as long as they can be mended." (Ibn Sa`ad)
'Ayesha always acted according to this
saintly advice of her loving and noble husband. She kept wealth away
from her like one would keep dust from one's person. When in the
Caliphate of 'Umar ibn al-khattab and afterwards, wealth began to
pour into the hands of the Muslims, a due share of it inevitably
came to 'Ayesha but she gave away almost all she received. Once `Abd
Allah bin Zubayr sent her 100,000 dirhams, but by the end of
the same day she had given it all away to the people. Ibn Sa`ad
reports `Urwa as saying that on one occasion he "saw 'Ayesha
distribute 70,000 dirhams among the people and then get up
shaking the front of her dress as if she were clearing it of dust."
'Ayesha also often kept nafl (supererogatory) fast.
THE BATTLE OF THE CAMEL
Saintliness of the great Muslims of
early time was not of a reclusive type. Jihad, that is,
speaking or acting against falsehood and injustice was an integral
part of their saintliness. 'Ayesha was no exception.
In the 35th year of Hijrah, the Third
Caliph `Uthman ibn `Affan was murdered by a group of his opponents.
'Ayesha despite being critical of `Uthman's policies, was of the
opinion that his murderers should be brought to justice. With her
eloquent speeches 'Ayesha organized a campaign against `Uthman's
murderers and their political backers who were considerably strong.
'Ayesha's campaign for justice led to two battles at Basra, one
against the Governor of Basra and the second (known as the Battle of
the Camel) against the new caliph, Hadrat `Ali. She won the first
battle but lost the second. `Ali treated the defeated 'Ayesha with
the respect due to an umm al-mu'minin (mother of the
believers). 'Ayesha accepted `Ali as the lawful caliph and gave him
the respect due to a legitimate leader of the Muslims.
Events that led to the Battle of the
Camel (so-called because Ali's forces directed their attack against
the camel 'Ayesha was riding without hurting the rider) have been
hotly debated in Islamic history and will probably continue to be
debated until the day of judgment. We will not here enter into this
debate. We will say only that these events raised complex questions
of law and order justice which despite their complexity could not be
ignored. 'Ayesha faced these questions, reached an answer, and then
did what she felt she had to do. And this is all that history should
expect from great men and women who are not prophets.
After the Battle of the Camel, 'Ayesha
returned to Makkah and to her life of teaching Islam. She died on
the night of Ramadan 17, 58 Hijrah, at the age of 66.