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Aisha, b. 614, d. July 678, was the third and favorite wife of Muhammad and daughter of the caliph Abu Bakr. After the Prophet's death in 632, she opposed the fourth caliph, Ali. When her army was defeated by him in the "Battle of the Camel" (656), she retired to Medina.

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General Information

Aisha or Ayeshah (circa 614-78), favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad after the death of his first wife, Khadija. In order to strengthen ties with Abu Bakr, his chief adviser, Muhammad married Aisha, Abu Bakr's daughter, when she was about nine years old. (He was about 53 years old at the time.) Even after subsequent marriages of the Prophet, she remained devoted to him; she is known among Muslims as Mother of the Believers. After the death of Muhammad in 632, Aisha, a childless widow of 18, helped her father become first caliph, or ruler, of the Muslims. She remained politically inactive during his caliphate (632-34), but she later opposed the succession of Ali as fourth caliph (656-61) and incited an unsuccessful revolt against him.


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"Aisha" is a common misspelling of Ayesha

Aisha bint Abu Bakr (Arabic: عائشة ʿāʾ 'isha, "she who lives", also transcribed as A'ishah, Ayesha, 'A'isha, or 'Aisha) was a wife of Muhammad. In Islamic writings, she is thus often referred to by the title "Mother of the Believers" (Arabic: أمّ المؤمنين umm-al-mu'minīn), per the description of Muhammad's wives as "Mothers of Believers" in the Qur'an (33.6), and later, as the "Mother of the Faithful", as in Qutb's Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (pps6). She is quoted as source for many Hadith (traditions about Muhammad's life), with Muhammad's personal life being the topic of most narrations.

Aisha is a controversial figure because of differing portrayals of her in Shia versions of Islamic history and her role in the First Fitna (first Islamic civil war) at the head of an army against Ali ibn Abu Talib in the Battle of Bassorah.

Early life

Aisha was the daughter of Um Ruman and Abu Bakr of Mecca. Abu Bakr belonged to the Banu Taym sub-clan of the tribe of Quraysh, the tribe to which Muhammad also belonged. Aisha is said to have followed her father in accepting Islam when she was still young. She also joined him in his (first) migration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 615 AD; a number of Mecca's Muslims emigrated then, seeking refuge from persecution by the Meccans who still followed their pre-Islamic religions.

According to the early Islamic historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Aisha's father tried to spare her the dangers and discomfort of the journey by solemnizing her marriage to her fiance, Jubayr ibn Mut'im, son of Mut‘im ibn ‘Adi. However, Mut’am refused to honor the long-standing betrothal, as he did not wish his family to be connected to the Muslim outcasts. The emigration to Ethiopia proved temporary and Abu Bakr's family returned to Mecca within a few years. Aisha was then betrothed to Muhammad.

Marriage to Muhammad

Aisha was initially betrothed to Jubayr ibn Mut'im, a Muslim whose father, though pagan, was friendly to the Muslims. When Khawla bint Hakim suggested that Muhammad marry Aisha after the death of Muhammad's first wife (Khadijah bint Khuwaylid), the previous agreement regarding marriage of Aisha with ibn Mut'im was put aside by common consent. [2] Watt suggests that Muhammad hoped to strengthen his ties with Abu Bakr;[2] the strengthening of ties commonly served as a basis for marriage in Arabian culture.[3]

Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad. She stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine, when the marriage was consummated.[2][4][5][6] The marriage was delayed until after the Hijra, or migration to Medina, in 622. Aisha and her older sister Asma bint Abi Bakr only moved to Medina after Muhammad had already fled there. Abu Bakr gave Muhammad the money to build a house for himself. After this, the wedding was celebrated very simply. After the wedding, Aisha continued to play with her toys, and Muhammad entered into the spirit of these games.[7]

Status as "favorite wife"

Even though the marriage may have been politically motivated, to mark the ties between Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr, most early accounts say that Muhammad and Aisha became sincerely fond of each other. Aisha is usually described as Muhammad's favorite wife, and it was in her company that Muhammad reportedly received the most revelations.[1]

Accusation of adultery

Aisha was traveling with her husband Muhammad and some of his followers. Aisha claimed that she had left camp in the morning to search for her lost necklace, but when she returned, she found that the company had broken camp and left without her. She waited for half a day, until she was rescued by a man named Safwan ibn Al-Muattal and taken to rejoin the caravan. This led to speculation that she had committed adultery with Safwan. Muhammad's adopted son Zayd ibn Harithah defended Aisha's reputation. Shortly after this, Muhammad announced that he had received a revelation confirming Aisha's innocence and directing that charges of adultery be supported by four eyewitnesses.[8] These verses also rebuked Aisha's accusers,[9] whom Muhammad ordered to receive forty lashes, among them his poet Hassan ibn Thabit.[10][11]

Story of the honey

Ibn Kathir wrote in his biography of Muhammad that Muhammad's wife Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya was given a skin filled with honey, which she shared with her husband.[12] He stayed overlong with Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya; at least in the opinion of Aisha and her co-wife Hafsa bint Umar. Aisha and Hafsa conspired. Each of them was to tell Muhammad that the honey had given him bad breath. When he heard this from two wives, he believed that it was true and swore that he would eat no more of the honey. Soon afterwards, he reported that he had received a revelation, in which he was told that he could eat anything permitted by God.[13] In the following verses, Muhammad's wives are rebuked for their unruliness: "your hearts are inclined (to oppose him)".

Word spread in the small Muslim community that Muhammad's wives were tyrannizing him, speaking sharply to him and conspiring against him. Umar, Hafsa's father, scolded his daughter and also spoke to Muhammad of the matter. Muhammad, saddened and upset, separated from his wives for a month. By the end of this time, his wives were humbled and harmony was restored.

When Muslim commentators on the Qur'an explicate At-Tahrim, Sura 66, it is usually this story that is told to explain the "occasion of revelation."

There is a similar but alternative explanation of this chapter, also involving Aisha. In this story, Aisha and her co-wives were unhappy because Muhammad was infatuated with Maria al-Qibtiyya, the Coptic Christian woman who bore Muhammad a brief-lived son. (Some accounts say that she was a slave, some that she converted to Islam, was freed, and was taken as a wife.)[14]

Death of Muhammad

Ibn Ishaq, in his Sirah Rasul Allah, states that during Muhammad's last illness, he sought Aisha's apartments and died with his head in her lap. The Sunni take this as evidence of Muhammad's fondness for Aisha. The Shia deny this, and say that Muhammad died with his head in Ali's lap.[15] Aisha never remarried after Muhammad's death. A passage in the Qur'an forbids any Muslim to marry a widow of Muhammad:

Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy God's Apostle, or that ye should marry his widows after him at any time. Truly such a thing is in God's sight an enormity.

Qur'an 33:53

After Muhammad

Aisha's father becomes the first caliph

After Muhammad's death in 632 AD, Aisha's father, Abu Bakr, became the first caliph, or leader of the Muslims. This matter of succession to Muhammad is extremely controversial to the Shi'as. Shia believe that Ali had been chosen to lead by Muhammad; Sunni maintain that the community chose Abu Bakr, and did so in accordance with Muhammad's wishes.

Battle of Bassorah

Abu Bakr's reign was short, and in 634 AD he was succeeded by Umar, as caliph. Umar reigned for ten years, and was then followed by Uthman Ibn Affan in 644 AD. Both of these men had been among Muhammad's earliest followers, were linked to him by clanship and marriage, and had taken prominent parts in various military campaigns. Aisha, in the meantime, lived in Medina and made several pilgrimages to Mecca.

In 656 Uthman was killed by rebellious Muslim soldiers. The rebels then asked Ali to be the new caliph. Many reports absolve Ali of complicity in the murder. He is reported to have refused the caliphate. He agreed to rule only after his followers persisted.

Aisha raised an army which confronted Ali's army outside the city of Basra. Professor Leila Ahmed claims that it was during this engagement that Muslim slaughtered Muslim for the first time.[1] Battle ensued and Aisha's forces were defeated. Aisha was directing her forces from a howdah on the back of a camel; this 656 battle is therefore called the Battle of the Camel.

Ali captured Aisha but declined to harm her. He sent her back to Medina under military escort. She lived a retired life until she died in approximately 678 under the reign of Muawiyah I.

Sunni and Shia views of Aisha

Sunni historians see Aisha as a learned woman, who tirelessly recounted stories from the life of Muhammad and explained Muslim history and traditions. She is considered to be one of the foremost scholars of Islam's early age with some historians accrediting up to one-quarter of the Islamic Sharia (Islamic religious law), based on the collection of hadiths, to have stemmed from her narrations. Aisha became the most prominent of Muhammad's wives and is revered as a role model by millions of women.[1]

Shia historians believe that Ali should have been the first caliph, and that the other three caliphs were usurpers. Aisha not only supported Umar, Uthman, and her father Abu Bakr, she also raised an army and fought against Ali, her stepson-in-law. Shia believe that she did wrong in rebelling against Ali.[16]


  1. Goodwin, Jan. Price of Honour: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World. UK: Little, Brown Book Group, 1994
  2. Watt, "Aisha", Encyclopedia of Islam Online
  3. Amira Sonbol, Rise of Islam: 6th to 9th century, Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures
  4. Barlas (2002), p.125-126
  5. Sahih Bukhari 5:58:234, 5:58:236, 7:62:64, 7:62:65, 7:62:88, Sahih Muslim 8:3309, 8:3310, 8:3311, Sunnan Abu Dawud 41:4915, 41:4917
  6. Tabari, Volume 9, Page 131; Tabari, Volume 7, Page 7
  7. Watt, Muhammad, Oxford University Press 1961, page 102.
  8. Surah 24:4
  9. Surah 24:11
  10. Watt, M "Aisha bint Abi Bakr". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Ed. P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Academic Publishers.
  11. Glubb (2002), p. 264f.
  12. Muhammad's Wives in the Books of al-Sira
  13. Qu'ran 66:1
  14. Rodinson 1961, pp. 279-283
  15. Death and Burial
  16. Shia sources:
    a)Al Shafi, Vol. No. 2, Page No. 108
    b) Haqq-ul-Yaqeen, Page No. 139
    c) Hayat-ul-Quloob, Vol. No. 2, Page No. 901


Aisha - 9 year-old bride

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Muslim documentation of her earliest life.

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234

Narrated Aisha: The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became Allright, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, "Best wishes and Allah's Blessing and a good luck." Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah's Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age.

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 151

Narrated 'Aisha: I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah's Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for 'Aisha at that time, as she was a little girl, not yet reached the age of puberty.) (Fateh-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13)

Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Number 3309


'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house at the age of nine. She further said: We went to Medina and I had an attack of fever for a month, and my hair had come down to the earlobes. Umm Ruman (my mother) came to me and I was at that time on a swing along with my playmates. She called me loudly and I went to her and I did not know what she had wanted of me. She took hold of my hand and took me to the door, and I was saying: Ha, ha (as if I was gasping), until the agitation of my heart was over. She took me to a house, where had gathered the women of the Ansar. They all blessed me and wished me good luck and said: May you have share in good. She (my mother) entrusted me to them. They washed my head and embellished me and nothing frightened me. Allah's Messenger (, may peace be upon him) came there in the morning, and I was entrusted to him.

Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Number 3310

'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house when I was nine years old.

Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Number 3311

'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.

Sunan Dawud - Book 41, Number 4915

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) married me when I was seven or six. When we came to Medina, some women came. according to Bishr's version: Umm Ruman came to me when I was swinging. They took me, made me prepared and decorated me. I was then brought to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), and he took up cohabitation with me when I was nine. She halted me at the door, and I burst into laughter. 

Sunan Dawud - Book 41, Number 4916

Narrated AbuUsamah: The tradition mentioned above (No. 4915) has also been transmitted by AbuUsamah in a similar manner through a different chain of narrators. This version has: "With good fortune. " She (Umm Ruman) entrusted me to them. They washed my head and redressed me. No one came to me suddenly except the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) in the forenoon. So they entrusted me to him. 

Sunan Dawud - Book 41, Number 4917

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: When we came to Medina, the women came to me when I was playing on the swing, and my hair were up to my ears. They brought me, prepared me, and decorated me. Then they brought me to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and he took up cohabitation with me, when I was nine. 

As an older man of fifty-plus years, Muhammad married a mere child of six years old and co-habited with her when she was 9 years old.  As quoted above, the most trusted collections of hadiths establish the authenticity of this oral tradition. But still, Western Muslims are embarrassed by these hadiths.  Sometimes they use a Weak hadith defense to excuse Muhammad's child marriage.

At other times, they use an Arabic culture defense by claiming that no one has the right to judge Oriental culture by Occidental norms.  Now, this is a strange defense to make, since Muslims frequently criticized Western culture as being morally decadent. If another culture cannot be morally evaluated, then other cultures must not be judged as morally decadent.  But, this conclusion is not acceptable to Muslims, since they argue that an Islamic culture is the better culture.  So, we must conclude that cultures may be evaluated morally, or that, someone is hypocritically judging others while not permitting themselves to be judged by the same standard.  

However, if hypocrisy is not a good alternative, then it is concluded that cultures may be evaluated morally.  In fact, it is permissible, and even desirable, to have moral discussions on cultural issues.  Moral discussions on cultural issues occur in many different cultures.

So, the problem of Muhammad marrying a child cannot be defended on Eastern cultural grounds.  The issue remains as to whether or not Muhammad acted rightly in marrying a six year old.  Certainly, it is wrong according to the natural order of Allah's creation. In fact, many nations of the world list such behavior as a crime against nature.  Thus, it must be concluded that Muhammad committed a grave moral sin against the moral order of Allah's creation.  And, his behavior is a reprehensible example for others to follow.  It is tragic to read news reports of old men marrying children in some Islamic countries, because they seek to follow the example of Muhammad who married a child.  Muhammad had such an interest in fondling young girls, he criticized even the lawful marriage union of two grown adults.  

Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 17

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: When I got married, Allah's Apostle said to me, "What type of lady have you married?" I replied, "I have married a matron' He said, "Why, don't you have a liking for the virgins and for fondling them?" Jabir also said: Allah's Apostle said, "Why didn't you marry a young girl so that you might play with her and she with you?'

In the classic history of "The Life of Muhammad" (Sirat Rasul Allah) by Ibn Ishaq, there is an account in which Muhammad expressed a marital interest in a crawling baby.  This event seems to have occurred around the time of the Battle of of Badr which would have made Muhammad approximately 55 years old.  He had married Ayesha two years earlier, when he was 53 years of age.

(Suhayli, ii. 79: In the riwaya of Yunus I. I. recorded that the apostle saw her (Ummu'lFadl) when she was a baby crawling before him and said, 'If she grows up and I am still alive I will marry her.'  But he died before she grew up and Sufyan b. al-Aswad b. 'Abdu'l-Asad al-Makhzumi married her and she bore him Rizq and Lubab...1

So, Muhammad's interest in young girls extended beyond Ai'sha ('Ayesha). Why would anyone think that Muhammad's sexual interest in babies be "the timeless expression of the Will of Allah?" How does such a prurient desire support Muhammad's claim to be a prophet of Allah? Such a desire by an old man is contrary to nature, and it is a perversion against the moral order of Allah's universe.

Yet, according to Islam, Muhammad is the perfection of humanity and the prototype of the most wonderful human conduct. He married a nine year-old and leaves an enduring legacy for old Muslim men to fulfill their carnal desires contrary to natural law and to the life-long devastation of young girls.


1 Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, Translated by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, (Re-issued in Karachi, Pakistan, 1967, 13th impression, 1998) 1955, p. 311.

The Wives of Muhammad

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Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

Sawda bint Zama*

Aisha bint Abi Bakr*

Hafsa bint Umar

Zaynab bint Khuzayma

Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya

Zaynab bint Jahsh

Juwayriya bint al-Harith

Ramlah bint Abi-Sufyan

Rayhana bint Amr ibn Khunafa**

Safiyya bint Huyayy

Maymuna bint al-Harith

Maria al-Qibtiyya**

* succession disputed

** status as wife or concubine is disputed

Modern Effect of Muhammad and Aisha

Many Muslim countries consider only men to be important, where women are not allowed to go to school, to drive, to work, or even to talk to any other adult man who is not a relative.

We are aware of a specific situation in Saudi Arabia, where a Judge decided that he could not Annul a marriage in 2008, between a 58-year-old man and an 8-year-old girl. Sadly, that is not an unusual situation, as the girls and their parents have virtually no rights against a man who claims to be husband, and therefore, owner, of any woman or girl. Many Muslim countries officially declare that the Age of Consent of a girl is generally around 12 or 13 years old, but local Tribal Jurisdiction often overrides any National guideline on this, and 'wives' who are 7 or 8 or 9 years old are not uncommon. And, like in the Saudi Arabia Court Case, the man is accepted as husband, the girl virtually never has any rights at all. This seems to even extend to life and death, where a man with several wives apparently does not even need to present any cause to murder one or more of his wives. It seems more common that they decide to keep them as wives but to throw battery acid in their faces to make the girl/woman so ugly that no man would ever want to even talk to her.

Many people have tried to find ways of helping such girls and women over many decades, but the Tribal Authority in many Muslim countries is considered to be of religious basis, thereby automatically superceding any governmental authority. It is hard to see how such girls and women are ever likely to have any rights at all.

Also, see:
Islam, Muhammad
Koran, Qur'an
Pillars of Faith
Testament of Abraham
Revelation - Hadiths from Book 1 of al-Bukhari
Belief - Hadiths from Book 2 of al-Bukhari
Knowledge - Hadiths from Book 3 of al-Bukhari
Times of the Prayers - Hadiths from Book 10 of al-Bukhari
Shortening the Prayers (At-Taqseer) - Hadiths from Book 20 of al-Bukhari
Pilgrimmage (Hajj) - Hadiths from Book 26 of al-Bukhari
Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihad) - Hadiths of Book 52 of al-Bukhari
ONENESS, UNIQUENESS OF ALLAH (TAWHEED) - Hadiths of Book 93 of al-Bukhari
Hanafiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Malikiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Shafi'iyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Hanbaliyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Maturidiyyah Theology (Sunni)
Ash'ariyyah Theology (Sunni)
Mutazilah Theology
Ja'fari Theology (Shia)
Nusayriyyah Theology (Shia)
Zaydiyyah Theology (Shia)
Imams (Shia)
Qarmatiyyah (Shia)
Ishmael, Ismail
Early Islamic History Outline
Kaaba, Black Stone
Sunnites, Sunni
Shiites, Shia
Sahih, al-Bukhari
Abu Bakr
Fatimids (Shia)
Ismailis (Shia)
Islamic Calendar
Interactive Muslim Calendar

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in December 1997.

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