Whether you spell it Aisha, Aishah, Ayesha or Iesha, the name is very popular. Thousands of women in North America, non-Muslims and Muslims alike bear this name. But who is the original Aisha?
She is none other than Aisha bint Abi Bakr, the great Islamic scholar, poetess, medical expert and legendary figure of Islamic history. Very few other Aishas have impressed the world the way our mother Aisha has.
All discussion about her age at the time of marrying Prophet Muhammad aside, her marriage to him was the biggest blessing to our ummah. It was because she spent so much time in her home and outside of it with him that we learn so much of our beloved Prophet’s manners and lifestyle.
Growing up Muslim
It was rare in pre-Hijrah Makkah for someone to have been raised a Muslim. In most families, the children accepted Islam at an age they could clearly remember. Born after revelation, she recalls her parents only ever practicing Islam.
For her to have this upbringing in the hardest times for the Muslim ummah shows where she learned her fierce sincerity to the faith. Surviving with her believing parents through the harm, insults and physical attacks must have taught her harsh lessons about faith and disbelief. As her parents were among the first converts, her education must have been full of devotion and energy.
Of the shameless attacks on the early Muslims was when she was engaged to be married to a polytheist’s son. To insult her father Abu Bakr because he was one of the first Muslims, the engagement was broken publicly. Surely surviving that, and the boycott against all the Muslims in Makkah, toughened Aisha and her family bringing them to the forefront of the new Muslim ummah.
Marriage to Rasul Allah (SAW)
One day Aisha was told about a dream. It was an amazing dream, with life-changing meaning. Aaishah (may Allah be pleased with her), who said that the Prophet (SAW) said to her: You were shown to me twice in a dream. I saw you in a piece of silk (i.e., he saw her image on a piece of silk, or he saw her wearing a silken garment). I was told, This is your wife, so unveil her, and it was you. I said: if this dream is from Allah then it will come to pass. (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, 3606).
What an amazing way to propose! How pleased Aisha must have been! So Prophet Muhammad (SAW) came to Abu Bakr and asked for Aisha’s hand in marriage, and he accepted.
Marriage to the Prophet of Allah was the best thing that could have happened to her. After having been rejected for marriage by a vengeful enemy of Allah, she was married to the Prophet of Allah! Khadijah, his dear first wife had died years before, and he needed another strong support to help him. Allah gave him dear Aisha, our mother, teacher and inspiration. Aisha’s questions, eloquence and amazing memory was now activated as she spent the next decade learning the sunnah.
Travelling to Madinah
Her first trip to Madinah was for Hijrah, and it was bittersweet for Aisha and all the Makkan immigrants. To leave their homes, where they knew everything and everyplace, broke their hearts.
Upon reaching Madinah, they had hardly unpacked and settled in before they became very ill. The climate and the weather in Madinah was so different than in Makkah and so many of the Companions were ill for some time. Aisha’s father Abu Bakr and the companion Bilal ibn Rabah recited poetry about death and how they missed Makkah. The Prophet cursed the leaders of the Quraish for making them leave Makkah to this ‘land of epidemics’.
But the second trip back to Madinah was an even greater test for Aisha, her family, and the Muslim ummah of the time. On a trip with the Prophet, Aisha got left behind by the caravan by accident, and a companion escorted her back to Madinah. Some people with evil in their hearts started a rumor that Aisha had been intimate with the companion, committing adultery.
She became sicker and weaker than she had been when she came to Madinah for Hijrah through crying and depression over the slander. Even her parents, and even the Prophet himself had nothing to say to her, so she handed her affair to Allah.
Allah revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) very detailed verses explaining the incident, defending Aisha’s innocence, and reprimanding those involved with the rumor.
Yet Aisha, whose name means ‘lively’, did not thank the Prophet when these ayaat came as her mother encouraged her to do: she thanked Allah.
Legacy of Striving
She lived up to the meaning of her name in many other ways: her fierce work during battles bringing water and helping heal the wounds of soldiers took place in every battle in the time of the Prophet. Later, after he died, she led armies herself!
As she lived before the death of the Prophet, she lived after him, questioning people when they stated something was part of the religion, and challenging people for reliable proofs. Her narrations numbered over 2000, and her students were very many. Often the famous companions would come and ask her to clarify a sunnah or an interpretation of the Quran.
It was, after all, only in her house that the Prophet received revelation. No other wife aside from the great Khadijah could claim that. She observed him and memorized what he said and did, and taught generations of Muslims after him.
She lived a life of stoicism, fasting and giving in charity to the extent that once she gave away her only morsel of food! Allah blessed her with a long life and a blessed time on this earth, may Allah be pleased with her. May Allah allow us all to be inspired to live life with her energy and dignity!