Question # 101: What is the wisdom behind the marriage of mohammed p.b.u.h with ayesha r.a?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer:  Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) commanded the wives of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to narrate what Allah has revealed from the Qur’an in their homes and what they have seen of the Prophet’s deeds and sayings regarding them so that people follow their example. Hence, it was necessary for someone to relate news about the Prophet’s private, family life, so that the community at large could learn. As Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) bestowed ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) with remarkable memory, intelligence and understanding, she was able to fulfill her role in this regard.

When one takes a passing look at the books of Hadith and Seerah, one gains a true appreciation of the important role that ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) played in preserving and disseminating Islamic knowledge. Her interpretation of the Qur’anic verses became very popular among the jurists. Beside occupying the fourth place among the hadith narrators and giving fatwas, ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) critiqued the narrations and opinions of many Companions.

All of the above was possible because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) decreed for her to get married to Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) at a very young age, so that she would outlive the four Righteous Caliphs and remain alive for about fifty years after the death of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Another wisdom behind her marriage to Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was strengthening the ties of Islamic Brotherhood with those companions, who dedicated their lives to the message of Islam and da’wah.

Long Answer: First of all, we need to understand that the marriages of Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) were for the sake of religion and not for worldly pleasures. Therefore, all his wives, except ‘Aishah bint Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه), were widows / divorced and elderly women. Marriage relations, at his time, were considered one way of propagating Islam. Hence, in some cases, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) hoped that marriage relations would help abate the wrath of the enemy and appease compensation for the loss of men as well as encourage them.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) married ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) in the early part of the Madanee period – the period that was filled with the revelation of Islamic legislations and laws. Now, to be sure, the average individual spends a great percentage of his life at home, in the company of his family. That being the case, it was necessary for someone to relate news about the Prophet’s private, family life, so that the community at large could learn about how they are supposed behave with their families. Since the Companions (رضي الله عنه) of course could not observe the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) as he was interacting with his wives, it was the job of ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) in particular and of the Prophet’s other wives in general to convey news about his personal life to the Muslim population at large. It was personal in that only his wives witnessed his interaction with them within their homes, but at the same token it was public in that Muslims are commanded to follow the example of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in all aspects of their lives – including their personal, family lives. With intelligence and understanding, ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) was able to fulfill her role in this regard. When one takes a passing look at the books of Hadith and Seerah, one gains a true appreciation of the important role that ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) played in preserving and disseminating Islamic knowledge. One factor that helped her to teach Muslims about the life of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) decreed for her to remain alive for about fifty years after the death of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). For she was married to him at a very young age and she lived after him during the whole period of the four Righteous Caliphs, teaching and offering religious consultations, both in words and action, the lessons she so well learnt directly from the source.

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) ordained the wives of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to inform other women of what was happening in their homes. He also commanded the whole Ummah to believe their narration. In this regard, Allah, Most High, says, “And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes, of the signs of Allah and His wisdom.” (Soorah Al-Ahzab, 33:34) In his comment on this verse, Ibn al-‘Arabi said, “Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) commanded the wives of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to narrate what Allah has revealed from the Qur’an in their homes and what they have seen of the Prophet’s deeds and sayings regarding them so that people follow their example. This indicates the permissibility of accepting evidence presented by a man or a woman in religious matters. (lbn al-‘Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol. 3. p. 1538)

Let’s study in further details, various aspects and Aishah (رضي الله عنه)’s unique personality and attributes, which justify the wisdom behind the marriage of Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه):

Strengthening the Ties of Islamic Brotherhood

One of the main considerations for Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was to strengthen the ties with those men, who dedicated their lives to the message of Islam and da’wah. He chose ‘A’ishah, the daughter of Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) and Hafsah, the daughter of ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) and then chose Umm Salamah, the widow of his commander, who was martyred in the way of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). And, he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) gave his daughter, Fatima in marriage to Ali (رضي الله عنه) and the two daughters, Umm Kulthum and Ruqayyah in marriage to Uthman (رضي الله عنه).

As for Abu Bakr, he was among the first people to embrace Islam; he was the one who offered himself and his wealth for the victory of Islam and for the protection of Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم).The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) could not find a better reward for Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) in this world than to marry his daughter; thus their friendship was strengthened and their relationship deepened. (‘Fallacies & Misconceptions about the Messenger’s Marriages’ by Sheikh Mohammad Ali Al Sabouni)

Knowledge

‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) was the bearer of the banner of knowledge and science. The Prophet’s Companions used to ask her opinion concerning various legal matters. ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) was interested in learning from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم); she memorized a great deal of knowledge from him to the extent that she became a source of authorization and documentation in Hadith transmission and sacred law. No wonder, she enriched the Islamic jurisprudence with a quarter of its rulings relating to different issues. (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, vol. 7, p. 134)

Here we may quote the sayings of the scholars and the successors that show the wideness of her knowledge. ‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr narrated, “I said to ‘Aishah ‘When I think of your knowledge, really, I wonder how you could acquire all this amount of knowledge. You are the best scholar in Fiqh and the most knowledgeable about the days and the lineage of the Arab. There, I used to answer myself saying, ‘It is no wonder, since she is the wife of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and the daughter of Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) who was the most prominent scholar of Quraysh. But, when I came to your knowledge of medicine, I find no answer, so tell me how you could learn it! Upon this she held my hand and said, ‘O ‘Urwah! Whenever the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was sick, Arab and non-Arab doctors used to prescribe treatment to him. Thereby, I memorized such prescriptions.’” (Ahmad, vol. 6, p. 67)

In this context, az-Zuhari said, “If we compared ‘Aishah’s knowledge to all women’s, ‘A’ishah’s would surpass them.” (Al-Hakim, Al-Mustarak, vol. 4, p. 11)

Imam adh-Dhahaby stated, “I have never seen a woman from among the Ummah of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) or from among any other Ummah more knowledgeable than ‘Aishah.”(Adh-Dhahabi, Siyar A ‘lam an-Nubala’, vol. 2, p. 140)

Once, Imam Masruq was asked about ‘A’ishah’s knowledge of al-Fara’id (the rulings of inheritance). He answered, “By Allah, I have seen the great Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) seeking her knowledge in regard to this issue.” (At-Tabarani, Al-Kab’ir, vol. 23, p. 183)

Narration of Hadith

‘Aishah occupies the fourth place among the mukaththirun. She enjoyed the constant company of the Prophet for about eight and a half years (Dhahabi, Tadhkira, I, 24). ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) had a sharp memory that enabled her to be one of those who narrated huge number of ahadith on the authority of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). It was estimated that she narrated 2210 ahadith. Thus, this was the largest number that a female companion narrated on the authority of Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Of these ahadith, al-Bukhari and Muslim agreed upon 194; unilaterally, al-Bukhari reported on her authority 54 and Muslim 69 ahadith (As-Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa ar-Rashad, vol. 12, p. 77). In Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, there are 2405 ahadith narrated by her.

Among the Companions who narrated from ‘Aishah are: her father, Abu Bakr; ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab; ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar; Abu Hurayrah; Abu Musa al-Ash’ari; ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas; Rabi’ah ibn ‘Amr al-Jurashi; al-Sa’ib ibn Yazid; ‘Amr ibn al-‘As; Zayd ibn Khalid al-Juhani; ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amir ibn Rabi’ah; ‘Abdullah ibn al-Harith ibn Nawfal and others (رضي الله عنه). In addition, in the major compilations of hadith, there are over 300 narrators from ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه).

The Eloquent Speaker

‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) was so eloquent that she could catch people’s attention when talking. Mu’awiyah (رضي الله عنه) bore witness to her eloquence saying, “By Allah, I have never seen a lecturer who is more fluent or intelligent than ‘Aishah.” (At-Tabarani, Al-Kabir, vol. 23, p. 183-184) Added to that, she (رضي الله عنه) memorized and chanted poetry. Ash-Sha’bi reported that ‘Aishah said, “I narrated approximately one thousand verses for Lubayd.” Ash-Sha’bi used to praise ‘Aishah saying, “What would you expect from a woman who was instructed by the Prophetic guidance. (Adh-Dhahabi, Siyar A ‘lam an-Nubala’, vol. 2, p. 11)

Concerning Women’s Affairs

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was always looking after ‘Aishah to prepare her to the great duty, as a wife of a Prophet. He often made her participate in Da’wah activities and bearing its sufferings. She (رضي الله عنه) used to be present when he gave his pledge to women, led them in prayer, and answered their questions with regard to religious matters and the ethics of marital relationship. The majority of scholars agreed that in most cases the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to avoid answering such questions out of shyness and thus assigned her to comment and clarify these embarrassing matters as in the case of the female Companion who came to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asking him about the purification from menstruation. She was so interested in learning from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) all religious matters to the extent that men used to ask her concerning prophetic sunan including private and public affairs. (‘Abbas Mahmud al-‘ Aqqad, As-Siddiqah Bint as-Siddiq, p. 72-73)

‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) related such details of the behavior of Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) as none but a wife could know. She (along with other wives) was also the source of legislation concerning feminine matters known only to women especially those who are married and which vary from one woman to another. Moreover, she quoted the blessed traditions which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said in private, and nobody but his wives heard.

Jurisprudence

‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) had her own views concerning jurisprudence in Islam and the circumstances of the revelation of some Qur’anic Signs. She was very careful in quoting the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and acting in accordance with the order of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). Thus we find that many traditions related by trustees, go back to the wives of the Prophet.

‘Aishah’s interpretation of the Qur’anic verses became very popular among the jurists. The compilations of hadith and books of tafsir contain many other examples of her tafsir. Su’ud ibn ‘Abdillah al-Funaysan has put together a 500-page book of them, Marwiyyat umm al-mu’minin ‘Aishah fil-tafsir, culled from the books of the famous mufassirun like Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Ibn Abi Hatim, al-Baghawi, Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Qurtubi, al-Khazin, Ibn Kathir, al-Suyuti, al-Shawkani.

Ibn Hazm counted the Companions known for giving fatwas as 130. Of those, seven are known for giving a lot of fatwas; of those seven, one was ‘Aishah. Mahmud ibn Labid says: ‘Aishah used to give fatwas in the time of ‘Umar and ‘Uthman until she died; [those] great Companions of the Prophet, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman, used to refer to her. The great jurists among the Successors used to attend on her to get her juristic opinions.

Ibn Kathir said that ‘Aishah is distinguished for having noted and formed a judgement on a variety of issues (masa’il) that are not found with any of the other Companions. Moreover, she had unique preferences’ on some matters, that is, opinions in which she differed from others. There are reports (akhbar) about her opinions, and others’ counter-opinions, which later imams have collected.

‘Aishah was, among the Companions, men and women, a principal resource for juristic opinion. ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah said: ‘Aishah was the most expert in jurisprudence among all the people. Masruq said: ‘I have seen the great jurists among the Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) – asking her about the law of inheritance. ‘Urwah said: ‘I have never seen anyone more knowledgeable of the fiqh than ‘Aishah.

Besides narrating a lot of ahadith and giving fatwas, ‘Aishah critiqued the narrations and opinions of many Companions. Imam Abu Mansur ‘Abd al-Muhsin ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Shihi al-Baghdadi (d. 489) compiled her critique in a juz’.

When, for instance, Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) related that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had said that the dead are punished in their graves on account of the wailing of their relatives, she pointed out that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had said that while the dead are punished in their graves for their sins, their relatives wept for them (Bukhari, Maghazi, Badr (III, 5)). It was on account of her extensive knowledge of hadith and Islamic law that even the most important Companions sought her advice on legal problems. A long list of those who related hadith on her authority may be found in Ibn Hajar’s book Tahdhib al-Tahdhib.

Another example of that is when it was reported to ‘Aishah that Abu Hurayrah said: ‘The Messenger of God (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: Shu’m [ill-omen] is in three things, in the house, the woman and the horse. ‘Aishah said: ‘Abu Hurayrah did not preserve [the whole of the matter]. He entered while the Messenger of God (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was saying: May God fight the Jews [for] they say there is shu’m in three things, the house, the woman, and the horse. Abu Hurayrah heard the end of the hadith and did not hear the beginning of the hadith. (Abu Dawud Al-TayaLisi, al-Musnad, as cited in AL-Zarkashi, al­ijabah, 59)

(Most portion of the above reply is based on the following books: ‘Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam’ by Mohammad Akram Nadwi; ‘The Noble Life of the Prophet, peace be upon him’ by Dr. ‘Ali Muhammad as-Sallaabee; ‘Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development’ by Muḥammad Zubair Siddiqi)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam