On this day in 678, Aisha bint Abu Bakr, wife of the Prophet Muhammad, died. Called “Mother of the Believers” by Muslims, Aisha is one of the most important figures in Sunni Islamic history.
Though her birth year is unknown, Aisha’s lineage is clear. She belonged to the Banu Taym, a sub-clan of the tribe of Quraysh, to which her mother, Um Ruman, and father, Abu Bakr belonged. Abu Bakr was a wealthy merchant and powerful tribal leader in Mecca, as well as a close companion of Muhammad and first Caliph of Islam. As such, Aisha enjoyed a privileged childhood, learning to read and write at a young age.
As a girl of great beauty, intelligence, and lineage, Aisha’s father offered her to Muhammad in marriage. She was the second wife Muhammad took after the death of his first wife. Historians believe Aisha may have been married to Muhammad as young as six or seven years of age and the marriage consummated at nine or ten. The issue of her age has often been a point of controversy, but child marriages were common in Bedouin societies at the time.
Despite the gap in ages, Aisha was known to have been Muhammad’s most favoured wife in his later years. It was in her company that he received the most revelations and in her lap that Muhammad died when she was just 18. After his death, Aisha continued to exert an important influence on the development of Islamic society. Having spent much of her life with Muhammad, Aisha had many opportunities to observe his actions, learn his teachings, and memorize the revelations that were sent down to him. As such, she had an enormous amount of knowledge that she used to help early Muslims interpret the Quran. In fact, to this day many of Muhammad’s teachings are traced back to Aisha. She was, in essence, one of the first scholars of Islam.
In addition to being a wife and scholar, Aisha was also a warrior and leader. Upon the death of the third Caliph Uthman, Aisha gathered an army to fight Ali bin Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, whose claim to the caliphate she challenged. She led an army to war in the Battle of the Camel, which she lost.
In her later years, Aisha continued to relate teachings and traditions of Muhammad. She died on 13 July 678 at the age of 66. Aisha was among the most influential figures in Islam’s early years and one who modern Muslims continue to regard as a leading female figure in Islamic history.