Monday, December 27, 2010

The Prophet's Wives: Khadija and Aisha

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.


  1. I know! I've often thought about the status of Khadija before Islam. She fairs much better than many Muslim women today.

  2. This is so true! I've often thought about this as well. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hmm I don't understand what you mean when you talk about Aisha? Please clarify it for me? How does she represent the opressive female? BTW what was her age when she got married to the prophet?

    1. No, I don't believe Aisha represents an oppressive female at all. Not sure how you concluded that. She represents the transition I discussed above.

      If you compare Aisha's life with the Prophet (pbuh) to that of Khadija's with him, you'll note several things, among which are that Khadija did not share him with any other woman, she was actually his boss, and she proposed to him herself. One could also add that she was much older than him as opposed to Aisha, whose age is always debated, but if we're to trust al-Bukhari, then she was 6 years old at the time of the marriage/nikaah and 9 at its consummation. I, however, think all discussions on her age are too futile and petty for me to give them any thought. My only concern, though, is that, assuming she was really 6 years old like her alleged accounts in al-Bukhari say, then why did the Prophet marry her at all? Why not wait till she was 9 years old? But even this, I don't think it's serious enough for me to study it.

      Also, the funny thing is when Muslims use Khadjia to say, "See? Women had a prominent and high status in Islam from the very beginning! Khadjia proposed to the Prophet (pbuh) herself, she was much older than he, she was a businesswoman, etc., etc." What they don't realize, though, is that this was before the Prophet received revelation.

  4. Sultana, in view of Aisha's age at the time of her marriage it's worth you read through this link. There are always two sides to a story and as Serenity say's it's really not a serious issue. It could have been if there were any evidence of Aisha being a child bride, but no evidence means no issue.

  5. "Also, the funny thing is when Muslims use Khadjia to say, "See? Women had a prominent and high status in Islam from the very beginning! Khadjia proposed to the Prophet (pbuh) herself, she was much older than he, she was a businesswoman, etc., etc." What they don't realize, though, is that this was before the Prophet received revelation."

    I KNOWWWWWW!!!!!!!! I often noticed that too, they contradict themselves concerning Khadija, many of the verses that deal with women came after her death so it doesn't make sense to use her as an example of how women were entitled to businesses and keeping their share of wealth. Funny, nowadays the "scholars" focus on explaining to us the importance of being a housewife :P

    Hina, I had read that article long ago, I totally forgot about it! Thanks.

  6. Aisha (may be God be pleased with her)was not an 'oppressive female'as some claim but rather one of the greatest scholars of Islam. She had a great amount of knowlege and narrated a lot of the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him). If you would like to know more about her true life please read authentic books on Islam instead of making false claims. May God guide those seeking the truth to the right path

    1. Salaam -- I've never heard anyone claiming Aisha was oppressed. Where'd you read that?

  7. Hi... sorry I love your page I'm just a little confused on what you mean. Are you saying that it was because of the revelation that the Prophet married someone so young?... sorry if i've completely misunderstood what you've said.

  8. Its really sad how two important women in Islam have been compared in a poor way. And smartly a woman's importance in Islamic is lowered by stating her as pre-islamic. Calling Khadijah RA pre-islamic is in contrast to Aisha RA is a senseless comparison. Those who think Khadijah RA is less Islamic or has lesser importance in Islam, please refer to the following Hadith :
    Narrated Ali: I heard the Prophet SAW saying, “Mary, the daughter of Imran, was the best among the women (of the world of her time) and Khadijah is the best amongst the women (of this nation).”
    Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 58 Hadith 164

    Once Aisha asked him if Khadijah had been the only woman worthy of his love. The Prophet SAW replied: “She believed in me when no one else did; she accepted Islam when people rejected me; and she helped and comforted me when there was no one else to lend me a helping hand.”

    It had been related by Abu Huraira that on one occasion, when Khadijah was still alive, Jibreel AS came to the Prophet SAW and said, “O Messenger of Allah, Khadijah is just coming with a bowl of soup (or food or drink) for you. When she comes to you, give her greetings of peace from her Lord and from me, and give her the good news of a palace of jewels in the Garden, where there will be neither any noise nor any tiredness.”
    What an honour to be a woman chosen to be the first one to believe in the last revelation on earth.
    What an honour to be the first and most beloved wife of the final Prophet and Messenger of Allah’s religion.
    What an honour to devote your life, your love, your wealth, just to please Allah and to support His Prophet and the Message of Allah.
    What an honour to be sent the greetings, not by a human being, but from your own Lord, and delivered by one of the most highest exalted angels, Jibreel AS, to deliver those greetings.
    What an honour to know who you are, where you’re going, and your status in Akhirah.
    What an honour to receive the news of how your palace will look like in Jannah.

  9. Thank you all for your comments! I appreciate the discussion.

    I want to remind everyone that you're not obligated to agree with the comparison. Just recognize that it exists, and I'd argue that it's just as legitimate a comparison as whatever else you or I or anyone else might come up with. It does/should still make us think about how we talk about the role of women before and after the advent of Islam, and I do think that Aisha (r.) and Khadija (r.) serve as a good point of comparison. Whatever you conclude from your comparison, however, is up to you.

    Peace to all!


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