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Lady Aishah: Piety and Critical Mind

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A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) typified the best ideals expressed in the following verse:

{Muslim men and women, believing men and women, obedient men and women, truthful men and women, patient men and women, humble men and women, charity-giving men and women, fasting men and fasting women, men who guard their private parts and women who do so, and those men and women who remember Allah abundantly, for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and an immense reward.} (Al-Ahzab 33: 35).


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Her Piety and Asceticism

While she was born into a highly respectable family with wealth, fame and status (as Abu Bakr As-Siddiq was a man of abundant means) and in spite of being brought up with comfortable living conditions, `A’ishah bore patiently the hardships, simplicity and ascetic life-style of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Allah had given the Prophet’s wives the choice to bear patiently the harsh life-style they were accustomed to with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in preference for Allah and His Messenger and the Hereafter, or choose a life of this world and part their ways honorably with sufficient alimony. Each wife selected the former.

With her choice to live a life of utter simplicity and asceticism, `A’ishah ate little and drank little, and preferred to wear tattered clothes her whole life, giving away in charity virtually everything that came to her in terms of money and wealth.

The charitable nature of `A’ishah exemplified the Prophet’s hadith about spending in such a way that the left hand does not know what right hand had given.

Her legendary generosity and trait of selfless giving – forgetting her own urgent needs – also brought to life the Quranic ideal, {they prefer others over their own selves even though they themselves are faced with dire need.} (Al-Hashr 59:9)

`Urwah, who was one of the great scholars taught by `A’ishah, said of her, “I saw `A’ishah giving away seventy thousand dirhams in charity while she was wearing a garment which had so many patches sewn into it!”

It was due to her loyalty to Allah and her devotion to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his cause that `A’ishah gave up the comforts of the lifestyle of her own household and chose the simple life-style of the Prophet, bearing all the harshness of it in spite of her young age. After the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), `A’ishah continued to live an ascetic existence dedicated to fasting, prayers, charities, and to the care of orphans and the destitute.


Her Intellect and Scholarship

`A’ishah was endowed with an extraordinary intelligence that very few had been endowed with. She was not merely a passive student in understanding and learning religion even from the best and noblest of teachers, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Her trademark was her critical, ever-inquisitive and probing mind. There are numerous examples of her further questioning the Prophet’s answers.

Once when he found out she had followed him in disguise on his trip to the graveyard to pray for the departed companions in the middle of night, the Prophet asked her, “Did your Devil visit you?

`A’ishah asked back, “Does every person have a devil following him or her around?”

When he replied to the affirmative, she asked, “Are you included in this?”

He answered, “Yes, but my Lord has helped me against him. Thanks to this he has become a Muslim (i.e. he has surrendered and thus does not command anything but good!)”

Another example of her questioning the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) minutely was when the Prophet said that following resurrection people will rise up from their graves as Allah had created them and `A’ishah asked, “Then they will see one another?” He replied, “The matter will be far too grave for them to be looking at each other.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

It was thanks to her intelligence that she never had the patience for an understanding of religion that was irrational and inconsistent with the correct understanding of the Quran. She had a principle firmly entrenched in her mind that the teachings of Islam cannot be irrational and incoherent.

Accordingly she rejected Ibn `Umar’s narration from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) “A person will be punished for his or her family’s crying (lamenting) over his or her death!” `A’ishah rejected it outright saying, “How would the Prophet say something like this when Allah says, {No soul shall bear the burden of another} (Fatir 35:18) Then she went on to clarify what she thought was the context of the Prophet’s statement.

Another example of the same critical understanding is her response to the so called report that “Three things that invalidate one’s prayer are a dog, a donkey and a woman.” When `A’ishah heard this narration, she asked, “how dare you compare us women with dogs and donkeys when I myself did lie down to sleep and the Prophet, having woken up from sleep, would pray in front of me, and when it was time for him to prostrate he would push my legs gently to the side!”

She also dismissed Ibn `Umar’s order to the women of his household mandating them to undo their hair while making ghusl (ritual bath) saying, “Why can’t he then order them to shave their heads? I used to bathe with the Prophet from a single container and yet I did not do more than pouring water on my head three times!”