A'isha herself recorded a touching detail that indicated his (Peace be upon him) love: ‘After left one part of the meat on a bone, I used to hand it to the Prophet (Peace be upon him), who would bite the morsel from the place where I had bitten. Similarly, when I used to offer him something to drink after drinking a part, he would drink from the place I had put my lips.' (Reported by Muslim.) Like Khadija, A'isha gave the Blessed Prophet full support in his life of prayer and submission to God, frequently standing behind him through his long nightly hours of meditation, praying with him and ready to give him whatever aid he needed when he had finished. His daily needs were very little - he lived so simply and ate so sparingly. The burden of this ascetic life fell on his women folk, who all shared his regimes. This would certainly not have suited every woman; the wives who married the Blessed Prophet were expected to be of like mind to himself, devout and self-sacrificing, living the life of the poorest folk of Medina. It is therefore to her immense credit that A'isha had the full confidence of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) during his lifetime. This has allowed us to receive a wealth of information on private and intimate aspects of his Sunna, as we will see later. No one apart from Khadija knew him as she did, she who shared his most intimate moments and private devotions; but, unlike Khadija, A'isha left a treasure of thousands of hadith! The Blessed Prophet appreciated her high intelligence and deep understanding, and he found her a worthy coworker for Allah. He used to tell the Muslims that if they had any religious problems while he was absent from Medina, or needed any information; they could go for advice to A'isha.
After his death, the Muslims used to go to her for verification of what they had heard, confident of her judgment, not only because other closeness to the Blessed Prophet, but also because of her own recognized abilities.
Ibn Ata said: ‘A'isha was, among all the people, the one who had the most knowledge of fiqh, the one who was the most educated, and compared to those who surrounded her, the one whose judgment was the best.' (Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba) It is interesting to record that on one occasion she heard Abu Hurayra repeating a hadith concerning what the Blessed Prophet used to do after he made love. She disputed the details, crying: `But who has heard that from Abu'l-Qasim'? (a name of the Prophet). The point was that Abu Hurayra was relying on hearsay, whereas she had had the experience of sharing the Blessed Prophet's most intimate times. She had a keen mind and memory, and no fewer than 2,210 hadiths are narrated on her authority. In an age when the tribal elite found it difficult to accept the full significance of the Islamic teaching on female dignity, her reliability and the respect in which she was held formed a much needed precedent for later generations of Muslim scholars. For example, when according to Ibn Marzuq someone invoked in front of her a hadith stating that the three causes of the interruption of prayer were dogs, asses and women, she rounded on him smartly with the words: ‘Now you compare us to asses and dogs! In the name of Allah, I saw the Prophet (Peace be upon him) saying his prayers while I was there, lying on the bed between him and the qibla, and in order not to disturb him, I did not move.' (Reported by Bukhari.) She never accepted a hadith that was at variance with the Holy Qur’an, even if it came from so reliable a source as the son of the Caliph Umar. Human beings, no matter how high their rank, were all capable of making mistakes. Once Umar's son related a hadith about dead persons suffering punishment on account of the wailings of the mourners. She explained that he had misunderstood or misheard; no person in the Hereafter suffers for the misdeeds of the living. The Blessed Prophet had been commenting on the burial of a Jewess, and pointed out that her relatives were wailing while she was being punished. Ibn Umar conceded the point. The Prophet's next wife was Hafsa, the daughter of Umar, whose husband Khunays had died from wounds suffered at the Battle of Badr when she was nineteen years old. Umar instantly approached their friend Uthman, who had just lost his own wife, the Prophet's daughter Ruqayya. However, Uthman did not rush to marry her, and neither did Abu Bakr, for whom she was also mentioned. It is possible that their reluctance might have been because the lady, like her father, had a fiery temperament. The Prophet (Peace be upon him), realising Umar was hurt, offered to marry her himself. Hafsa was highly educated and very intelligent, and spent much of her time reading and writing. She also frequently argued points with the Blessed Prophet, a habit for which her father rebuked her, but which the Prophet responded to with gentleness. A'isha said of her: ‘Hafsa is the daughter of her father. She is strong willed like him.’ Perhaps in recognition of her strength of character, it was to Hafsa that the written text of the Holy Qur’an was given for safekeeping, and this was later recognised as the standard and authentic version against which all others were checked. The Blessed Prophet did not turn away from women who were strong or argumentative or full of character - women like Khadija, A'isha, Hafsa or Umm Salama.
In fact, he admired and loved them. The hadiths show that his wives were not disappointed, meek, downtrodden, shadowy, boring figures, there simply to do his bidding; on the contrary, his household was full of laughter, his women spoke up whenever they were upset about something (on their own behalf or on behalf of others), and their quarters sometimes rang with female outrage and arguments. The Blessed Prophet's friends were sometimes frankly amazed that he did not discipline his wives as they expected! Many new Muslims found this very perplexing, especially Hafsa's father Umar, who on occasion found the relaxed freedom granted to Muslim women difficult to accept. Umar said: ‘By Allah, in the Jahiliyya (pre-Islamic age of ignorance) we did not pay attention to women until Allah revealed concerning them that which He revealed, and assigned for them that which He has assigned!' (Reported by Bukhari) `Once, when I was pondering a certain matter, my wife told me she wanted me to do such-and-such a thing. I asked her what it had to do with her. Whereupon she said: "How strange you are, son of al-Khattab! You don't want to be argued with, whereas your daughter Hafsa argues even with Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him), so much that he remains angry for a full day!"'
Umar went round to check the unpalatable facts with his daughter. To his chagrin, he found that his wife had spoken the truth. Furious with Hafsa, he warned her never to do it again. Then he went to the house of another of the Blessed Prophet's wives Umm Salama, who was also his relation, and spoke of it again. She, however, rounded on him and rebuked him: ‘O son of al-Khattab! It is astonishing that you interfere in everything! Now you even want to interfere between Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) and his wives!' (Reported by Bukhari)The Blessed Prophet's fifth female ‘apostle' was Zaynab bint Khuzayma, a lady of outstanding piety and self-sacrifice, whose husband was martyred at Uhud, leaving her poverty stricken and alone. After her marriage she was called `Umm al-Masakin', the Mother of the Poor, for her generosity to the destitute. Once, when a poor man came to her house to ask for food, she had only flour enough for one meal, but gave it to him and went without herself. The Blessed Prophet deeply admired her, but tragically she died only a few months after their marriage. Umm Salama (Hind bint al-Mughira) was the widow of his cousin Abu Salama. She was the mother of four children, who was twenty-nine years old when he married her. At first she was reluctant to marry him, not because she did not like him, but because she had been deeply in love with her husband, was pregnant with his last child, and did not know how she would adjust to being a co wife. She had already turned down both Abu Bakr and Umar, who had offered to take her in. The hadiths reveal her shyness; when the Blessed Prophet first used to visit her after their marriage, she used to pick up her baby daughter, and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) would leave her so that she could feed her. It took the persuasion of her foster brother, who found out about this, to persuade her to be at ease with the Prophet. She was an intelligent woman and a good companion to the Prophet (Peace be upon him), and came to love him intensely. When he was dying, she prayed that God would take her or her whole family, if only He would spare him. He often took her along with him on major campaigns, and she offered him valuable advice on several occasions (for example, it was she who suggested he make the sacrifice at Hudaybiyya when the Muslims were refused access to Makka); The famous ayats that mention the equality of male and female believers were revealed following her inquiry as to why it was the Qur’an rarely specified women believers. (See Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:35.)
The Prophet's only ‘cousin-marriage' was to the strong willed Zaynab bint Jahsh, who despite her age of 39 is said by the historians to have been very beautiful. She had previously been brought up under the Prophet's supervision, and had eventually married his freed slave and adopted son Zayd. Although the marriage did not finally succeed, this was an example of people from very different social backgrounds becoming equal in Islam. (It is important to notice how the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had quite deliberately not recommended cousin-marriage as his Sunna. Although he did eventually marry this cousin, Zaynab was his seventh wife - a long way from being first choice.)We do not know how old Zaynab was when she married Zayd, but the Prophet may have arranged this marriage because he feared that she would never marry. It is possible that she had resisted marriage for so long because she had hoped to be married to her cousin, the Prophet (Peace be upon him), and may have been disappointed when she only married Zayd instead. Following her divorce, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was pressed to marry her himself, to resolve the situation. At this stage, he did not see how he could marry her, for he had regarded Zayd as his own son; but then Allah revealed averse to confirm that an adopted son could never be considered in the same category as a blood relation, and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was able to take Zaynab into his household. It was on this particular wedding night that he became distressed when inconsiderate guests tactlessly stayed too long; the ‘verse of the Hijab' was revealed that enabled him to separate his private quarters from public life, and gain a little privacy.
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