I've recently been coming across some interesting perspectives on the two honorable ladies, Khadija and Aisha (God be pleased with them), and what they represent.
Leila Ahmed discusses the two and what they represent greatly in her book Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, but the first time I read about them was in "Women, Islam, and Patriarchalism" by Ghada Karmi in the book Feminism and Islam: Legal and Literary Perspectives, edited by Mai Yamani. In the article/chapter, Ghada Karmi questions the claim that the status of women before Islam was horrific. She uses the example of the Prophet’s first wife, Khadija, to prove that, while some women may have been oppressed, it certainly was not the case with Khadjia; she was, after all, a businesswoman, proposed to the Prophet for her own hand, was fifteen years older than the Prophet, and did not have any co-wives, as did the Prophet’s wives whom he married after Khadija. Karmi also reminds he readers that while Aisha’s role as a political leader was not controversial during the transition from jahiliya ("time of ignorance") to early Islam, it became so only in the minds of later scholars of Islam. ('Tis truuuuuuue!!)
So, Aisha represents the transition from women's liberation through Islam to their oppression during the later eras of Islam. However, let's not the following also: Aisha represents the woman after Islam and Khadjia represents the woman before Islam.
Now it all makes sense, but I'd never thought of the two like this. Makes for an interesting study of classical women's texts!
In the next blog, I'm gonna paste and excerpt from Leila Ahmed's (or is it Fatima Mernissi's? Not sure yet) text on women/feminism and Islam, a conversation between the Prophet and a woman from the "jahiliya." It made me realize what all we've done to the "jahiliya" period just to claim that before Islam, women were oppressed and so terribly treated that had it not been for Islam, women would be treated like dirt -- all over the world. Uh, wrong.