The true legacy of Aisha Bint Abu Bakr in the World.

In a recent online instagram discussion, African-American Muslim Hip-Hop artist Lupe Fiasco was asked about the marriage of our mother Aisha(RA) to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The truth of the matter is the marriage of our mother Aisha(RA) to the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, was beneficial to the world. It is time as Muslims we do more to educate the world of this fact.

Aisha Bint Abu Bakr  legacy has been distorted and maligned by numerous dubious and pseudo-historical sources which continue the Orientalist tradition of that has tried to essentially create their own Aisha, which I have dubbed, “the Aisha of the Orientalist imagination.” This Aisha is stripped of her scholastic accomplishments, military leader, and her advocacy for unjustly treated individuals; she is turned into a passive figure that mirrors the contemporary tropes that western modernity has placed upon Muslim women such as traits of docility, passivity, and tragic story of victimhood.

The Aisha of the orientalist imagination quickly collapses and is exposed with any rudimentary reading of the works and life of the actual of Islamic theology.

In one incident, Aisha was expressing indignation because she found a young woman whose father was attempting to force her into a marriage. Aisha brought this to the attention of the Prophet Muhammad, who spoke to the young woman’s father and mandated that women not be forced to marry against their will. However, the young girl then stated, “O Messenger of God, I do accept the marriage that my father arranged. By asking you to intervene, I was trying to show women that fathers did not have any right to force their daughters into marriage.”  This incident is cited for Islam’s prohibition of forced marriages.

In Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam, the author Asma Sayeed notes that the life of Aisha bint Abu Bakr ”challenges two opposing views: that Muslim women have been historically marginalized in religious education, and alternately that they have been consistently empowered thanks to early role models such as Aisha bint Abi Bakr.”

In Aisha: The Wife, The Companion, The Scholar,  Resit Haylamaz notes, “She found orphans and needy people, and fought to educate useful members of society. She not only provided their material needs, but turned them into a store of knowledge.”

In one tradition, Aisha bint Abu Bakr praises the women of Ansar for not allowing their modesty to deter them from going out and acquiring knowledge. Aisha’s legacy was of international repute; people would travel from Syria to hear her lecture in Medina.

Aisha Bint Abu Bakr(ra) was an eminent scholar renowned for her knowledge in multiple disciplines. Ata Abu Rabah, said, “Aisha was the most intelligent, scholarly person, and the one who had the best thoughts and opinion among people.”

Another elder of the society, Hasam Ibn Urwa, stated, “I did not see anyone more well-informed than Aisha in medical sciences, classical jurisprudence, or poetry.”

Qasim Ibn Muhammad stated, “I did not meet anyone as eloquent as Aisha, or anyone who was cognizant of Islamic theology as her, among men or women, both before and after her.”

In another incident a woman came to Aisha stating,”My husband neither divorces me nor leaves me on my own, nor has martial relations with me.

The man was calling for a divorce but before the waiting period ended keep calling it off, claiming to have changed his mind; his real intent was not to work on their marriage, but to prevent her from remarrying. He wanted to continue to have control over her even though he no longer wanted her to be his wife. Upon hearing of this, Aisha indignantly told the Prophet Muhammad about it; eventually, the angel Gabriel revealed to him the following verse: “Divorce must be pronounced twice and then a woman must be retained in honor or released in kindness.” (Baqara 2:229) [9]

We can see the influence of Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the wife of the Prophet, on women’s education in her community, for in one poem Nana Asma’u states, “I bring all women to Aisha; Aisha, the Noble Daughter of Al-Siddiq… She was held in esteem by the Prophet. “ The purpose of such a poem in her education  campaign was to call upon her community to study the life of Aisha bint Abu Bakr to foster an attitude of women’s learning and scholarship.

The house of Aisha bint Abu Bakr became one of the earliest Islamic academic centers in the world. Within her academic center, many of the earliest scholars of Islam would learn, study, and graduate.

 Ibn Abu Malayka, stated about her, ”When she was faced with something that she did not know, she was not able to stand without learning more.

Aisha Bint Abu Bakr had a global impact in terms of fostering the education of women.

 

“I bring all women to Aisha; Aisha, the Noble Daughter of Al-Siddiq… She was held in esteem by the Prophet. She had a mastery of learning and exceeded all women. She was the most outstandingly pious women of her time” were the words of Nana Asmau, a woman Islamic scholar who at a time when women in the western world were largely denied educational opportunities.

 Nana Asma’u was personally commissioned by the Caliph of this West African spiritual community known as the Sokoto Caliphate to oversee an entire educational campaign including mass literacy for women.

The purpose of such a poem in her education campaign was to call upon her community to study the life of Aisha bint Abu Bakr to foster an attitude of  women’s learning and scholarship. This is the true legacy of our mother Aisha Bint Abu Bakr(RA) and it is time we as Muslims educate the world of this fact.

 

1) Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam, by Professor Asma Sayeed

2)Aisha, the Wife, the Companion, the Scholar by  Resit Haylamaz.

3)  Women Education and Empowerment:  An inclusive and precious model from the life of Aisha   (R.A) Sayyed Mohammed Mushin. http://khadijahconference.com/onewebmedia/Women,%20education$20and%20empowerment%20-%Aisha%Aisha20(ra).pdf

3) One Woman’s Jihad,  Nana Asmau Scribe,

4)  Boyd, Jean (Editor); Mack, Beverly (Editor). African Historical Sources, Volume 9 : Collected Works of Nana Asma’u : Daughter of Usman Dan Fodiyo, (1793-1864). East Lansing, MI, USA: Michigan State University Press, 1997. p 282

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