ʿĀʾishah bint Abī Bakr (Arabic: عائشة بنت أبي بكر [ˈʕaːʔɪʃa], c. 613/614 – c. 678 CE),[a] also transcribed as Aisha (//, also US: /- /,, UK: /( ) /) or variants,[b] was Muhammad's third and youngest wife. In Islamic writings, her name is thus often prefixed by the title "Mother of the Believers" (Arabic: أمّ المؤمنين, romanized: ʾumm al-muʾminīn), referring to the description of Muhammad's wives in the Qur'an.
عائشة بنت أبي بكر (Arabic)
ʿĀʾishah bint Abī Bakr
c. 613/614 CE
|Died||c. 13 July 678 / 17 Ramadan 58 AH (aged around 64)|
|Other names||"Mother of the Believers"|
|Spouse(s)||Muhammad (m. 620; died 632)|
|Parent(s)||Abu Bakr (father)|
Umm Ruman (mother)
Battle of the Camel
Aisha had an important role in early Islamic history, both during Muhammad's life and after his death. In Sunni tradition, Aisha is portrayed as scholarly and inquisitive. She contributed to the spread of Muhammad's message and served the Muslim community for 44 years after his death. She is also known for narrating 2,210 hadiths, not just on matters related to Muhammad's private life, but also on topics such as inheritance, pilgrimage, and eschatology. Her intellect and knowledge in various subjects, including poetry and medicine, were highly praised by early luminaries such as al-Zuhri and her student Urwa ibn al-Zubayr.
Her father, Abu Bakr, became the first caliph to succeed Muhammad, and after two years was succeeded by Umar. During the time of the third caliph Uthman, Aisha had a leading part in the opposition that grew against him, though she did not agree either with those responsible for his assassination or with the party of Ali. During the reign of Ali, she wanted to avenge Uthman's death, which she attempted to do in the Battle of the Camel. She participated in the battle by giving speeches and leading troops on the back of her camel. She ended up losing the battle, but her involvement and determination left a lasting impression. Because of her involvement in this battle, Shia Muslims have a generally negative view of Aisha.
Some traditional hadith sources state that Aisha was betrothed to Muhammad at the age of 6 or 7; other sources say she was 9 when she had a small marriage ceremony; some sources put the date in her teens; but both the date and her age at marriage and later consummation with Muhammad in Medina are sources of controversy and discussion amongst scholars.
Aisha was born 613 or early 614. She was the daughter of Umm Ruman and Abu Bakr of Mecca, two of Muhammad's most trusted companions. No sources offer much more information about Aisha's childhood years.
Marriage to Muhammad
The idea to match Aisha with Muhammad was suggested by Khawlah bint Hakim after the death of Muhammad's first wife, Khadija bint Khuwaylid. After this, the previous agreement regarding the marriage of Aisha with Jubayr ibn Mut'im was put aside by common consent. Abu Bakr was uncertain at first "as to the propriety or even legality of marrying his daughter to his 'brother'." Muhammad, however, responded that they were brothers only in religion. British historian William Montgomery Watt suggests that Muhammad hoped to strengthen his ties with Abu Bakr; the strengthening of ties commonly served as a basis for marriage in Arabian culture.
Age at marriage
There was no official registration of births at the time that Aisha was born, so her date of birth, and therefore the date of marriage, cannot be stated with certainty. Her age is not mentioned in the Qur'an. All discussions and debate about her age at marriage rely on, firstly, the various ahadith, which are regarded by most Muslims as records of the words and actions of Muhammad and as a source for religious law and moral guidance, second only to that of the Qur'an. Unlike the Qur'an, not all Muslims believe that all ahadith accounts are a divine revelation, and different collections of ahadith are given varied levels of respect by different branches of the Islamic faith. Sunni, various branches of Shia (such as Ismaili and Twelver), Ibadi and Ahmadiyya Muslims all regard different sets of ahadith as "strong" or "weak" in the power of their evidence, depending on their perceived provenance.
Aisha's age at the time of her marriage is frequently mentioned in Islamic literature. According to John Esposito, Aisha was married to Muhammad in Mecca in 624CE, after Hegira to Medina and the Battle of Badr. Several scholars interpret this to indicate that she reached puberty at this age, although her age at the time is the subject of dispute. Al-Tabari says she was nine at the time her marriage was consummated. Sahih al-Bukhari's hadith says "that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old." Other sources differ on the age of marriage, but agree that the marriage was not consummated at the time of the marriage contract. All biographical information on Muhammad and his companions was first recorded over a century after his death, but the ahadith and sīra (traditional Islamic biographies of Muhammad) provide records of early Islam through an unbroken chain of transmission. Various ahadith stating that Aisha was either nine or ten at the time of her consummation come from collections with sahih status, meaning they are regarded as reputable by most Sunni Muslims. Other traditional sources also mention Aisha's age. The sīra of Ibn Ishaq edited by Ibn Hisham states that she was nine or ten years old at the consummation. The historian al-Tabari also states that she was nine. Marriage at a young age was not unheard of at the time, and Aisha's marriage to Muhammad may have had a political connotation, as her father Abu Bakr was an influential man in the community. Abu Bakr, on his part, may have sought to further the bond of kinship between Muhammad and himself by joining their families together in marriage via Aisha. Leila Ahmed notes that Aisha's betrothal and marriage to Muhammad are presented as ordinary in Islamic literature, and may indicate that it was not unusual for children to be married to their elders in that era.
Aisha's age at marriage has been a source of controversy and debate, and some historians, scholars, and writers have revisited the previously-accepted timeline of her life. Some writers have calculated Aisha's age based on details found in some biographies, eschewing the traditionally-accepted ahadith. One hadith recorded in the works of some medieval scholars, including al-Dhahabi, states that Aisha's older sister Asma was ten years older than her. This has been combined with information about Asma's age at the time of her death and used to suggest that Aisha was over thirteen at the time of her marriage. Gibril Haddad criticizes this approach as relying on a single narrator, and notes that a hadith from the same narrator gives a broader range for the age difference between the sisters. Using reports on the birth year of Fatimah as a reference point, the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement scholar Muhammad Ali has estimated that Aisha was over ten years old at the time of marriage and over fifteen at the time of its consummation.
Noting the references to Aisha's age as either nine or ten at the age of consummation, American historian Denise Spellberg states that "these specific references to the bride's age reinforce Aisha's pre-menarcheal status and, implicitly, her virginity". She notes that Aisha herself seemed to promote the fact that she was a virgin before her marriage to Muhammad, as a way to distinguish herself from his other, non-virginal wives. This was of great importance to those who supported Aisha's position in the debate of the succession to Muhammad. These supporters considered that as Muhammad's only virgin wife, Aisha was divinely intended for him, and therefore the most credible regarding the debate.
Relationship with Muhammad
In many Muslim traditions, Aisha is described as Muhammad's most beloved or favored wife after his first wife, Khadija bint Khuwaylid, who died before the migration to Medina took place. There are several hadiths, or stories or sayings of Muhammad, that support this belief. One relates that when a companion asked Muhammad, "who is the person you love most in the world?" he responded, "Aisha." Others relate that Muhammad built Aisha's apartment so that her door opened directly into the mosque, and that she was the only woman with whom Muhammad received revelations. They bathed in the same water and he prayed while she lay stretched out in front of him.
Various traditions reveal the mutual affection between Muhammad and Aisha. He would often just sit and watch her and her friends play with dolls, and on occasion, he would even join them. Additionally, they were close enough that each was able to discern the mood of the other, as many stories relate. It is also important to note that there exists evidence that Muhammad did not view himself as entirely superior to Aisha, at least not enough to prevent Aisha from speaking her mind, even at the risk of angering Muhammad. On one such instance, Muhammad's "announcement of a revelation permitting him to enter into marriages disallowed to other men drew from her [Aisha] the retort, 'It seems to me your Lord hastens to satisfy your desire!'" Furthermore, Muhammad and Aisha had a strong intellectual relationship. Muhammad valued her keen memory and intelligence and so instructed his companions to draw some of their religious practices from her.
Aisha was jealous of Khadija bint Khuwaylid who was the first wife of Muhammad, saying, "I did not feel jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did of Khadija though I did not see her, the Prophet used to mention her very often, and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut its parts and send them to the women friends of Khadija. When I sometimes said to him, "(You treat Khadija in such a way) as if there is no woman on earth except Khadija," he would say, "Khadija was such-and-such, and from her I had children."
Aisha and Muhammad would often have races with each other, " I had a race with him (the Prophet) and I outstripped him on my feet. When I became fleshy, (again) I raced with him (the Prophet) and he outstripped me. He said: This is for that outstripping."
Accusation of adultery
The story of the accusation of adultery levied against Aisha, also known as the Event of Ifk, can be traced to sura (chapter) An-Nur of the Qur'an. As the story goes, Aisha left her howdah in order to search for a missing necklace. Her slaves mounted the howdah and prepared it for travel without noticing any difference in weight without Aisha's presence. Hence the caravan accidentally departed without her. She remained at the camp until the next morning, when Safwan ibn al-Mu‘attal, a nomad and member of Muhammad's army, found her and brought her back to Muhammad at the army's next camp. Rumours that Aisha and Safwan had committed adultery were spread, particularly by Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, Hassan ibn Thabit, Mistah ibn Uthatha and Hammanah bint Jahsh (sister of Zaynab bint Jahsh, another of Muhammad's wives). Usama ibn Zayd, son of Zayd ibn Harithah, defended Aisha's reputation; while Ali ibn Abi Talib advised: "Women are plentiful, and you can easily change one for another." Muhammad came to speak directly with Aisha about the rumors. He was still sitting in her house when he announced that he had received a revelation from God confirming Aisha's innocence. Surah 24 details the Islamic laws and punishment regarding adultery and slander. Aisha's accusers were subjected to punishments of 80 lashes.
Story of the honey
After the daily Asr prayer, Muhammad would visit each of his wives' apartments to inquire about their well-being. Muhammad was just in the amount of time he spent with them and attention he gave to them. Once, Muhammad's fifth wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh, received some honey from a relative which Muhammad took a particular liking to. As a result, every time Zaynab offered some of this honey to him he would spend a long time in her apartment. This did not sit well with Aisha and Hafsa bint Umar.
Hafsa and I decided that when the Prophet entered upon either of us, she would say, "I smell in you the bad smell of Maghafir (a bad smelling raisin). Have you eaten Maghafir?" When he entered upon one of us, she said that to him. He replied (to her), "No, but I have drunk honey in the house of Zainab bint Jahsh, and I will never drink it again."..."But I have drunk honey." Hisham said: It also meant his saying, "I will not drink anymore, and I have taken an oath, so do not inform anybody of that'
Soon after this event, Muhammad reported that he had received a revelation in which he was told that he could eat anything permitted by God. Some Sunni commentators on the Qur'an sometimes give this story as the "occasion of revelation" for At-Tahrim, which opens with the following verses:
O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee? Thou seekest to please thy consorts. But Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Allah has already ordained for you, (O men), the dissolution of your oaths (in some cases): and Allah is your Protector, and He is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom.
Word spread to the small Muslim community that Muhammad's wives were speaking sharply to him and conspiring against him. Muhammad, saddened and upset, separated from his wives for a month. ‘Umar, Hafsa's father, scolded his daughter and also spoke to Muhammad of the matter. By the end of this time, his wives were humbled; they agreed to "speak correct and courteous words" and to focus on the afterlife.
Death of Muhammad
Aisha remained Muhammad's favorite wife throughout his life. When he became ill and suspected that he was probably going to die, he began to ask his wives whose apartment he was to stay in next. They eventually figured out that he was trying to determine when he was due with Aisha, and they then allowed him to retire there. He remained in Aisha's apartment until his death, and his last breath was taken as he lay in the arms of Aisha, his most beloved wife.
After Muhammad's death, which ended Aisha and Muhammad's 14-year-long marriage, Aisha lived fifty more years in and around Medina. Much of her time was spent learning and acquiring knowledge of the Quran and the sunnah of Muhammad. Aisha was one of three wives (the other two being Hafsa bint Umar and Umm Salama) who memorized the Qur'an. Like Hafsa, Aisha had her script of the Quran written after Muhammad's death. During Aisha's life many prominent customs of Islam, such as veiling of women, began.
Aisha's importance to revitalizing the Arab tradition and leadership among the Arab women highlights her magnitude within Islam. Aisha became involved in the politics of early Islam and the first three caliphate reigns: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman. During a time in Islam when women were not expected or wanted, to contribute outside the household, Aisha delivered public speeches, became directly involved in a war and even battles, and helped both men and women to understand the practices of Muhammad.[additional citation(s) needed]
Role during caliphate
Role during first and second caliphates
After Muhammad's martyred in 632, Abu Bakr was appointed as the first caliph. This matter of succession to Muhammad is extremely controversial to the Shia who believe that Ali had been appointed by Muhammad to lead while Sunni maintain that the public elected Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr had two advantages in achieving his new role: his long personal friendship with Muhammad and his role as a father-in-law. As caliph, Abu Bakr was the first to set guidelines for the new position of authority.
Aisha garnered more special privileges in the Islamic community for being known as both a wife of Muhammad and the daughter of the first caliph. Being the daughter of Abu Bakr tied Aisha to honorable titles earned from her father's strong dedication to Islam. For example, she was given the title of al-siddiqa bint al-Siddiq, meaning 'the truthful woman, daughter of the truthful man', a reference to Abu Bakr's support of the Isra and Mi'raj.
In 634 Abu Bakr fell sick and was unable to recover. Before his death, he appointed ‘Umar, one of his chief advisers, as the second caliph. Throughout ‘Umar's time in power Aisha continued to play the role of a consultant in political matters.
Role during the third caliphate
After ‘Umar died, ‘Uthmān was chosen to be the third caliph. He wanted to promote the interests of the Umayyads. Aisha had little involvement with ‘Uthmān for the first couple years, but eventually, she found a way into the politics of his reign. She eventually grew to despise ‘Uthmān, and many are unsure of what specifically triggered her eventual opposition towards him. A prominent opposition that arose towards him was when ‘Uthmān mistreated ‘Ammar ibn Yasir (companion of Muhammad) by beating him. Aisha became enraged and spoke out publicly, saying, "How soon indeed you have forgotten the practice (sunnah) of your prophet and these, his hairs, a shirt, and sandal have not yet perished!".
As time continued issues of antipathy towards ‘Uthmān continued to arise. Another instance of opposition arose when the people came to Aisha after Uthmān ignored the rightful punishment for Walid ibn Uqbah (Uthmān's brother). Aisha and Uthmān argued with each other, Uthmān eventually commented on why Aisha had come and how she was "ordered to stay at home". Arising from this comment, was the question of whether Aisha and for that matter women, still could be involved in public affairs. The Muslim community became split: "some sided with Uthmān, but others demanded to know who indeed had a better right than Aisha in such matters".
The caliphate took a turn for the worse when Egypt was governed by Abdullah ibn Saad. Abbott reports that Muhammad ibn Abi Hudhayfa of Egypt, an opponent of ‘Uthmān, forged letters in the Mothers of the Believers' names to the conspirators against ‘Uthmān. The people cut off ‘Uthmān's water and food supply. When Aisha realized the behavior of the crowd, Abbott notes, Aisha could not believe the crowd "would offer such indignities to a widow of Mohammad". This refers to when Safiyya bint Huyayy (one of Muhammad's wives) tried to help ‘Uthmān and was taken by the crowd. Malik al-Ashtar then approached her about killing Uthmān and the letter, and she claimed she would never want to "command the shedding of the blood of the Muslims and the killing of their Imām"; she also claimed she did not write the letters. The city continued to oppose ‘Uthmān, but as for Aisha, her journey to Mecca was approaching. With the journey to Mecca approaching at this time, she wanted to rid herself of the situation. ‘Uthmān heard of her not wanting to hurt him, and he asked her to stay because she influenced the people, but this did not persuade Aisha, and she continued on her journey.
In 655, Uthman's house was put under siege by about 1000 rebels. Eventually the rebels broke into the house and murdered Uthman, provoking the First Fitna. After killing Uthman, the rebels asked Ali to be the new caliph, although Ali was not involved in the murder of Uthman according to many reports. Ali reportedly initially refused the caliphate, agreeing to rule only after his followers persisted.
When Ali could not execute those merely accused of Uthman's murder, Aisha delivered a fiery speech against him for not avenging the death of Uthman. The first to respond to Aisha was Abdullah ibn Aamar al-Hadhrami, the governor of Mecca during the reign of Uthman, and prominent members of the Banu Umayya. With the funds from the "Yemeni Treasury" Aisha set out on a campaign against the Rashidun Caliphate of Ali.
Aisha, along with an army including Zubayr ibn al-Awam and Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah, confronted Ali's army, demanding the prosecution of Uthman's killers who had mingled with his army outside the city of Basra. When her forces captured Basra she ordered the execution of 600 Muslims and 40 others, including Hakim ibn Jabala, who were put to death in the Grand Mosque of Basra. Aisha's forces are also known to have tortured and imprisoned Uthman ibn Hunaif a Sahabi and the governor of Basra appointed by Ali.
Ali rallied supporters and fought Aisha's forces near Basra in 656. The battle is known as the Battle of the Camel, after the fact that Aisha directed her forces from a howdah on the back of a large camel. Aisha's forces were defeated and an estimated 10,000 Muslims were killed in the battle, considered the first engagement where Muslims fought Muslims.
After 110 days of the conflict, the Rashidun Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib met Aisha with reconciliation. He sent her back to Medina under military escort headed by her brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, one of Ali's commanders. She subsequently retired to Medina with no more interference with the affairs of the state. She was also awarded a pension by Ali.
Although she retired to Medina, her forsaken efforts against the Rashidun Caliphate of Ali did not end the First Fitna.
Contributions to Islam and influence
After 25 years of a monogamous relationship with his first wife, Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Muhammad participated in nine years of polygyny, marrying at least nine further wives. Muhammad's subsequent marriages were depicted purely as political matches rather than unions of sexual indulgence. In particular, Muhammad's unions with Aisha and Hafsa bint Umar associated him with two of the most significant leaders of the early Muslim community, Aisha's and Hafsa's fathers, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb, respectively.
Aisha's marriage has given her significance among many within Islamic culture, becoming known as the most learned woman of her time. Being Muhammad's favorite wife, Aisha occupied an important position in his life. When Muhammad married Aisha in her youth, she was accessible "...to the values needed to lead and influence the sisterhood of Muslim women." After the death of Muhammad, Aisha was discovered to be a renowned source of hadiths, due to her qualities of intelligence and memory. Aisha conveyed ideas expressing Muhammad's practice (sunnah). She expressed herself as a role model to women, which can also be seen within some traditions attributed to her. The traditions regarding Aisha habitually opposed ideas unfavorable to women in efforts to elicit social change.
The so-called Muslim women's movement is predicated on the idea that Muslim men, not Islam, have been responsible for the suppression of women's rights. For this reason, Muslim feminists throughout the world are advocating a return to the society Muhammad originally envisioned for his followers. Despite differences in culture, nationalities, and beliefs, these women believe that the lesson to be learned from Muhammad in Medina is that Islam is above all an egalitarian religion. Their Medina is a society in which Muhammad designated women like Umm Waraqa as spiritual guides for the Ummah; in which the Prophet himself was sometimes publicly rebuked by his wives; in which women prayed and fought alongside the men; in which women like Aisha and Umm Salamah acted not only as religious but also as political—and on at least one occasion military—leaders; and in which the call to gather for prayer, bellowed from the rooftop of Muhammad's house, brought men and women together to kneel side by side and be blessed as a single undivided community.
Not only was Aisha supportive of Muhammad, but she contributed scholarly intellect to the development of Islam. She was given the title al-Siddiqah, meaning 'the one who affirms the truth'. Aisha was known for her "...expertise in the Quran, shares of inheritance, lawful and unlawful matters, poetry, Arabic literature, Arab history, genealogy, and general medicine." Her intellectual contributions regarding the verbal texts of Islam were in time transcribed into written form, becoming the official history of Islam. After the death of Muhammad, Aisha was regarded as the most reliable source in the teachings of hadith. Aisha's authentication of Muhammad's ways of prayer and his recitation of the Qur'an allowed for the development of knowledge of his sunnah of praying and reading verses of the Quran.
During Aisha's entire life she was a strong advocate for the education of Islamic women, especially in law and the teachings of Islam. She was known for establishing the first madrasa for women in her home.[additional citation(s) needed] Attending Aisha's classes were various family relatives and orphaned children. Men also attended Aisha's classes, with a simple curtain separating the male and female students.[additional citation(s) needed]
After the defeat at the Battle of the Camel, Aisha retreated to Medina and became a teacher. Upon her arrival in Medina, Aisha retired from her public role in politics. Her discontinuation of public politics, however, did not stop her political influence completely. Privately, Aisha continued influencing those intertwined in the Islamic political sphere. Amongst the Islamic community, she was known as an intelligent woman who debated law with male companions. Aisha was also considered to be the embodiment of proper rituals while partaking in the pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey she made with several groups of women. For the last two years of her life, Aisha spent much of her time telling the stories of Muhammad, hoping to correct false passages that had become influential in formulating Islamic law. Due to this, Aisha's political influence continues to impact those in Islam.
Aisha died at her home in Medina on 17 Ramadan 58 AH (16 July 678).[c] She was 67 years old. Some such as Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, Hakim Sanai, and Khwaja Mehboob Qasim Chishti Muhsarafee Qadiri say that she was murdered by Muawiyah. Muhammad's companion Abu Hurairah led her funeral prayer after the tahajjud (night) prayer, and she was buried at Jannat al-Baqi‘.
Sunni view of Aisha
Sunnis believe she was Muhammad's favorite wife after Hazrat Khadija bint Khuwaylid. They consider her (among other wives) to be Umm al-Mu’minin and among the members of the Ahl al-Bayt, or Muhammad's family. According to Sunni hadith reports, Muhammad saw Aisha in two dreams in which he was shown that he would marry her.
Shia view of Aisha
- Al-Nasa'i 1997, p. 108
‘A’isha was eighteen years of age at the time when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) died and she remained a widow for forty-eight years till she died at the age of sixty-seven. She saw the rules of four caliphs in her lifetime. She died in Ramadan 58 AH during the caliphate of Mu‘awiya...
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i.e., the year 613–614
Aisha was born at the beginning of the fourth year of prophethood
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Evidence that the Prophet waited for Aisha to reach physical maturity before consummation comes from al-Ṭabarī, who says she was too young for intercourse at the time of the marriage contract;
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قال عبد الرحمن بن أبي الزناد : كانت أسماء أكبر من عائشة بعشر . (Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi al-Zunad said: Asma was older than Aisha by ten years
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- The story is told multiple times in the early traditions, nearly all of the versions being ultimately derived from Aisha's account. Typical examples can be found in Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:462, Sahih Muslim, 37:6673 and Guillaume 1955, pp. 494–499 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFGuillaume1955 (help).
- "Great Women of Islam – Zaynab bint Jahsh". Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:78:682
- Quran 66:1–2
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- Haykal 1976, pp. 502–503
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- Spellberg 1994, pp. 4–5
- Spellberg 1994, p. 33
- Abbott 1942, p. 108
- Abbott 1942, p. 111
- Abbott 1942, p. 122
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- Holt 1977, pp. 67–68 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFHolt1977 (help)
- Madelung 1997, p. 107 and 111
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- Chavel, Geneviève (2007). Aïcha : La bien-aimée du prophète (in French). Editions SW Télémaque. ISBN 978-2753300552.
- Rivzi, Sa'id Akhtar (1971). The Life of Muhammad The Prophet. Darul Tabligh North America.[ISBN missing]
- Rodinson, Maxime (2002). Muhammad. New Press. ISBN 978-1565847521. (translated from the French by Anne Carter)
- "Biography of Aisha". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2004.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)