Thursday, June 27, 2002

Hamza Yusuf
Wednesday June 19, 2002
The Guardian

When a Welsh resistance leader was captured and brought before the emperor in Rome, he said: "Because you desire to conquer the world, it does not necessarily follow that the world desires to be conquered by you." Today one could offer an echo of this sentiment to western liberals: "Because you wish your values to prevail throughout the world, it does not always follow that the world wishes to adopt them." The imperial voice is based on ignorance of the rich traditions of other civilisations, and on an undue optimism about what the west is doing to the world politically, economically and environmentally. The entrenched beliefs many westerners profess about Islam often reveal more about the west than they do about Islam or Muslims. The Ottomans were history's longest-lasting major dynasty; their durability must have had some relation to their ability to rule a multi-faith empire at a time when Europe was busily hanging, drawing and quartering different varieties of Christian believer.

Today Islam is said to be less, not more, tolerant than the west, and we need to ask which, precisely, are the "western" values with which Islam is so incompatible? Some believe Islam's attitude towards women is the source of the Muslim "problem". Westerners need to look to their own attitudes here and recognise that only very recently have patriarchal structures begun to erode in the west.

The Islamic tradition does show some areas of apparent incompatibility with the goals of women in the west, and Muslims have a long way to go in their attitudes towards women. But blaming the religion is again to express an ignorance both of the religion and of the historical struggle for equality of women in Muslim societies.

A careful reading of modern female theologians of Islam would cause western women to be impressed by legal injunctions more than 1,000 years old that, for instance, grant women legal rights to domestic help at the expense of their husbands. Three of the four Sunni schools consider domestic chores outside the scope of a woman's legal responsibilities toward her husband. Contrast that with US polls showing that working women still do 80% of domestic chores.

Westerners, in their advocacy of global conformism, often speak of "progress" and the rejection of the not-too-distant feudal past, and are less likely to reveal their unease about corporate hegemony and the real human implications of globalisation.

Neither are the missionaries of western values willing to consider why Europe, the heart of the west, should have generated two world wars which killed more civilians than all the wars of the previous 20 centuries. As Muslims point out, we are asked to call them "world wars" despite their reality as western wars, which targeted civilians with weapons of mass destruction at a time when Islam was largely at peace.

We Muslims are unpersuaded by many triumphalist claims made for the west, but are happy with its core values. As a westerner, the child of civil rights and anti-war activists, I embraced Islam not in abandonment of my core values, drawn almost entirely from the progressive tradition, but as an affirmation of them. I have since studied Islamic law for 10 years with traditionally trained scholars, and while some particulars in medieval legal texts have troubled me, never have the universals come into conflict with anything my progressive Californian mother taught me. Instead, I have marvelled at how most of what western society claims as its own highest ideals are deeply rooted in Islamic tradition.

The chauvinism apparent among some westerners is typically triggered by Islamic extremism. Few take the trouble to notice that mainstream Islam dislikes the extremists as much as the west does. What I fear is that an excuse has been provided to supply some westerners with a replacement for their older habit of anti-semitism. The shift is not such a difficult one. Arabs, after all, are semites, and the Arabian prophet's teaching is closer in its theology and law to Judaism than it is to Christianity. We Muslims in the west, like Jews before us, grapple with the same issues that Jews of the past did: integration or isolation, tradition or reform, intermarriage or intra-marriage.

Muslims who yearn for an ideal Islamic state are in some ways reflecting the old aspirations of the Diaspora Jews for a homeland where they would be free to be different. Muslims, like Jews, often dress differently; we cannot eat some of the food of the host countries. Like the Jews of the past, we are now seen as parasites on the social body, burdened with a uniform and unreformable law, contributing little, scheming in ghettoes, and obscurely indifferent to personal hygiene.

Cartoons of Arabs seem little different to the caricatures of Jews in German newspapers of the Nazi period. In the 1930s, such images ensured that few found the courage to speak out about the possible consequences of such a demonisation, just as few today are really thinking about the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the extreme-right parties across Europe. Muslims in general, and Arabs especially, have become the new "other".

When I met President Bush last year, I gave him two books. One was The Essential Koran, translated by Thomas Cleary. The second was another translation by Cleary, Thunder in the Sky: Secrets of the Acquisition and Use of Power. Written by an ancient Chinese sage, it reflects the universal values of another great people. I did this because, as an American, rooted in the best of western tradition, and a Muslim convert who finds much of profundity in Chinese philosophy, I believe the "Huntington thesis" that these three great civilisations must inevitably clash is a lie. Each civilisation speaks with many voices; the best of them find much in common. Not only can our civilisations co-exist in our respective parts of the world, they can co-exist in the individual heart, as they do in mine. We can enrich each other if we choose to embrace our essential humanity; we can destroy the world if we choose to stress our differences.

*Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson is the director of the US-based Zaytuna Institute

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Characteristics of the Islamic Approach
Balance in Muslim Educational Thought
Dr. Faruq al-Samerrai

Intellectual instability constitutes a large part of our fears in our quest for reform. The contemporary Islamic world is witnessing a clear breakdown. One of the reasons is the absence of an enlightened civilizational outlook on the part of many reformers, due to the intellectual instability and the state of imbalance. We should not criticize without offering solutions, but it is difficult to overcome the crisis with faddish solutions that are based on incomplete understanding, inadequate follow-up, and weak vision.
The absence of enlightened intellectual leaders in many Muslim missionary organizations has led to civilizational weakness, whose effects have shown up in a variety of Muslim educational pursuits. Cultural crises have arisen in this context, and both individual and collective efforts have experienced imbalance and an inability to judge between the elements of God's method and contemporary reality.

The element of balance is what qualifies Islamic intellectual thought to maintain intellectual leadership today. Balance arose from the fundamentals of Islam, and has been reflected in Islamic society during the periods of ascendancy and civilizational achievement. There is no division between basics and reality, because Islam, through proper use of its effective methods, maintains balance between spiritual needs and physical needs, between constants and variables, and between God's unlimited power and humanity's limited power (constrained by fallible human nature). The foundation of balance in all of this is faith in Allah and correct practice based on God's law. This foundation produces just and stable method, without extreme liberalism or extreme conservativism, both of which lead to disagreement and acrimony, as well as feelings of revenge. Muslims should not go beyond the logic of truth and rationality of judgment. Allah states: "O you who believe, be supporters of Allah, balanced witnesses, and do not be distracted by the desires of people to not be just; be just, it is closer to God-consciousness, and be conscious of Allah, Allah is verily aware of what you do" surat al-Ma'ida, 5:8. This advice is for the Muslim group capable of going beyond self-service and personal desires to establish justice.

It is important to show intellectual balance, because its absence has caused an educational crisis. This crisis has been amplified by the movement toward fundamentals in today's society. Our educational heritage excels in sciences, but we currently lack a balanced view on how to use our expertise to promote widespread civilizational renewal in all areas of life.

It is also important to find a balanced legal system, characterized by flexibility and open-mindedness in dealing with the heritage. I am not advocating looseness in the law, but rather the comprehensiveness and justice of a balanced view. In this way we can bring together without difficulty the laws of the legal texts and the necessities of life. We can apply the constants of God's method to the variability of events within the framework of law and creed. We should be flexible in choosing what is appropriate and what is capable of changing. In the end the believing group can develop an effective intellectual product capable of energizing agreement within the sum total of the great Islamic heritage.

Despite differences among leaders of Islamic educational thought from one generation to the next, and one century to the next, there is still a common element that moves events and generates commitment among community workers. This is the path of Allah, as it is manifested in the rules of law and the bases for contemplation, which are governed by the Islamic creed. When implementing the law, a believer is not allowed to go beyond the bounds of morality. Allah states:
If you punish, then punish like you were punished; and if you are patient; verily Allah is the best of those who are patient. (16:126)
If you are greeted with a greeting, then respond with a better one or with the same; verily Allah is accounting for everything. (4:86)
Ibn al-Qayyim (May Allah rest his soul) states: "The religion of Allah is centered between the rejecter and the zealot; like a valley between two mountains, and a guidance between two misguiders, and a middle one between two undesirable extremes. In the same way the rejecter of a thing is a loser of it, and a zealot for something is a loser of it, the one due to the absence of implementation, and the other due to going beyond acceptable implementation." Madarij al-Salikeen, volume 2, page 496.
The Qur'an and Sunnah contain many references from which the believer can draw a clear picture of the principle of balance in rituals and behavior, including the simplest of actions in the life of a believer.

The Qur'an contains the following verses in reference to balance: al-Qasas, 77; al-Jum'a, 9-10; al-Isra', 110; al-Isra', 29; al-Ma'ida, 87.

With regard to a balance between knowledge and action, there are three important points:

1) Balance is required between obtaining knowledge and one's ability to implement that knowledge. The companion Abdullah ibn Masud (May Allah be pleased with him) states: "Whenever one of us learned ten verses, we didn't memorize more until we understood their meaning and acted on them." Al-Jami, by al-Tabari, volume 1, page 80.
Al-Hasan al-Basri states: "Seek knowledge without harming your worship, and seek worship without harming your knowledge, for there are those who sought worship and neglected knowledge, until they rebelled and caused mischief [he is referring to the Khawarij]. If they had sought knowledge they would not have done what they did." Jami al-Bayan, by Ibn abd-al-Barr, volume 1, pages 164-165.

2) Balance should be maintained between the type of work and its goals. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) states: "All acts are by intention, and each person merits what he or she intends. Whoever migrates to Allah and the Messenger has migrated to Allah and the Messenger. Whoever migrates to worldly goods or to a spouse for marriage has migrated to those."

3) One should maintain balance in the implementation of God's law by not going beyond the circle of law-making. A man asked Abdullah ibn Abbas: "I have divorced my wife 100 times, so what should I do?" He answered: "She has been divorced from you thrice, and the other 97 are playing with God's verses." Al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur'an, by al-Qurtubi, volume 3, page 156.

With regard to balancing between the comprehensiveness of the principles and uniqueness of the event:
We must be aware of the danger of issuing edicts and establishing rulings, based upon individual events and particular practices. Some scholars resort to finding examples from history books to draw laws for the community, and they particularly look for the actions of exemplary historical figures. We should not distort the balanced Muslim methodology with the actions of those who are exemplary, just like we should not draw the boundaries of faith by looking at those who always choose the easiest way.

The position of Ahmad ibn Hanbal on the question of the Qur'an's creation exemplifies consistency in support of the method. This example is rarely found among the writings of other scholars, even among his contemporaries. Despite the consensus of the community that many of Ibn Hanbal's contemporaries were upright and God-conscious, many of them took the easy way out in order to save themselves or reduce the extent of the crisis. When Ibn Hanbal was tortured, Basheer ibn al-Harith was told: You must speak. He said: "Do you want me to be as the Prophets? I am unable to. May Allah bless Ahmad ibn Hanbal from front and back." Tabaqat al-Hanabila, volume 1, page 13.

We should not judge scholars on the basis of differentiating between the supporters of truth and the supporters of falsehood. We must allow for most actions to be within the circle of independent reasoning, based upon the greater good as seen by each of the scholars. Also, we cannot judge historical events from the rational perspective alone. We should also go into the vast area of law, in order to find many areas for whoever seeks justification, so that we do not harshly criticize the scholars and end up being flawed in our judgment and mired in baseless accusation. We should not defame the scholars of our community as a result of our ignorance and limited vision. This causes an imbalance in our thought, leading to misguided judgment and the spread of chaos.

From ::

Monday, June 17, 2002

Nukilan dari :: Rafique M Nasir

Assalamualaikum sahabat-sahabat yg di muliakan dan dikasihi,

Saya dan beberapa sahabat2 yg lain telah diberi kesempatan utk menghadiri ijtima di Chicago. alhamdulillah, ijtima berjalan lancar dan 34 jemaah di keluarkan masa ijtima dlm USA dan keluar USA spt Jamaica, Panama, Fiji dan lain. bnyk bayan2 atau ceramah2 diberikan encourage kami utk taat perintah Allah ikut sunnah nabi saw dan buat usaha daawah ilallah. seorang alim bagitau, hari ini kita amnya tahu tanggungjawab kita sbg bapa, anak2, suami, isteri, ketua jabatan, pelajar, kawan, dsb. tetapi, kita ummat islam hari ini tak tahu apa tanggungjawab kita sbg hamba Allah dan ummat nabi muhammad saw. bila tak tahu tanggungjawab macam mana nak jadi hamba Allah dan insan yg bertanggungjawab? bila hala tuju dan matlamat kita tidak betul, maka jalan tariqah kita pun tidak betul. ini yg jadi pd ummat islam hari ini. bila material, harta, pangkat, darjat, pendidikan, keseronokan dunia dll dijadikan matlamat dan ukuran kejayaan maka ramai yg karam dan sanggup manjalankan apa sahaja utk mencapai apa yg diingini. "matlamat menghalalkan cara". tetapi, jika ummat islam hari ni menjadikan keredhaan Allah, ketaatan pd perintahNya, kehidupan mulia nabi Muhammad saw sbg matlamat dan ukuran kejayaan, maka insha Allah jalan tariqah ummat ini akan jadi betul.

Jadi, hari ini kita perlu ingatkan diri kita dan ingatkan setiap individu ummat ini supaya kembali kpd usaha utk memperbetulkan the most basic but very essential part of Islam iaitu 'Iman' di dlm hati. Spt kata nabi saw, lebih kurang maksudnya..dlm diri setiap insan ada seketul daging yg mana kalau baik daging tersebut maka baiklah keseluruhan amalannya, kalau buruk daging tersebut maka buruklah amalannya, daging itu ialah hati. Jadi, usaha daawah dan tabligh (spt yg orang umumnya panggil, pd hakikatnya usaha ini tiada nama krn ia bukan satu pertubuhan atau persatuan) ialah usaha atas hati2 ummat ini supaya memasukkan iman dan matlamat hidup yg betul. Usaha ini juga bertujuan utk mengembalikan ruh agama dlm diri insan. Sayang sekali ramai ummat Islam hari ini ada fizikal, jasad dan nama spt muslim, tetapi ruh kita tidak memaparkan kita sbg ruh para muslimin. Kita tahu malah sgt maklum dgn keperluan2 jasad kita spt pakaian, tempat tinggal, rehat dan makanan. Tetapi, kita kurang atau mungkin tidak maklum akan keperluan2 ruh kita. Apa keperluan ruh kita? Iaitu ketaatan kpd perintah2 Allah dan sunnah nabi Muhammad saw. Ruh kita perlu kpd nur2 al-quran dan hadith. Bila keperluan ruh2 kita tidak di tunaikan, maka ruh2 ummat Islam hari jadi lemah dan mudah terpedaya dgn arus dunia, nafsu dan syaitan.

Maka utk kembalikan ruh agama ini usaha perlu dijalankan atas diri kita. Semua perkara perlukan usaha utk mendptkkan kejayaan di dalamnya. Utk dptkan kejayaan dlm pelajaran maka kita belajar bersungguh2. Utk dptkan kejayaan dlm hidup kita di dunia dan akhirat, maka usaha yg perlu kita jalankan ialah apa usaha2 yg telah dibuat oleh golongan2 sebelum kita yg telah pun berjaya di dunia dan akhirat, yg telah pun diberi khabarkan kpd kita dlm al-quran dan hadith, iaitulah golongan para anbiya dan para sahabat. Apa usaha yg mrk jalankan? Iaitulah usaha atas iman dan amal. Usaha daawah ilallah. Cara utk buat usaha ini telah di bentangkan oleh ulama2 iaitu dgn keluar ke jalan Allah swt dgn pengorbanan harta, masa dan diri. Melalui mujahadah spt ini, maka para lelaki dan para wanita muslimin dan muslimah akan belajar memperbetulkan maksud dan matlamat kehidupan dan juga mengembalikan kekuatan dan ruh ummat ini lantas menaikkan semula martabat ummat ini kpd status ummat yg terbaik

“Kamu adalah ummat yg terbaik, dikeluarkan utk manusia, kamu mengajak kpd maaruf dan mencegah munkar, dan kamu beriman dgn Allah..”

“Katakanlah (wahai Muhammad), Ini adalah jalanku, mengajak manusia kpd Allah, dgn basiirah, aku dan mereka2 yg mengikuti aku…”

Usaha daawah dan tabligh ini bukan usaha pertubuhan atau persatuan. Usaha ini bertujuan mengembalikan kesedaran ummat ini tentang maksud kehidupan yg sebenar dan juga mengingatkan ummat ini tentang satu tanggungjawab kita yg telah kita lupakan selama berkurun2 lamanya. Usaha daawah bukan kerja para2 ustaz dan ulama2 sahaja, tapi seluruh individu ummat ini yg mengakui diri sbg muslim perlu menjalankannya. “sampaikanlah drpdku walaupun satu ayat”. Matlamat usaha ini bukanlah hanya saja2 keluar 4 bulan, 40 hari, 3 hari, taalim di masjid dan di rumah, mesyuarat masjid, ziarah dsbnya, tapi matlamat usaha ini ialah agar semua 100% individu ummat ini dpt mentaati perintah Allah swt mengikuti sunnah nabi Muhammad saw setiap waktu dan di mana2 sahaja kita mereka berada. Usaha ini bertujuan mengembalikan agama ke tempat asalnya yg betul, bukan di masjid, bukan di dlm buku2 agama, bukan dlm perhiasan2 di dinding tetapi di dlm diri dan hati setiap individu ummat ini. Usaha ini adalah usaha semua golongan, lelaki dan wanita, kaya atau miskin, berpendidikan atau tidak, tua atau muda, perlu mengambil tanggungjawab dlm usaha ini.

Utk ini, maka saya sarankan diri saya dan kawan2 semua agar mengambil bahagian dlm usaha ini. Ini adalah usaha yg praktikal dan telah membawa perubahan dlm ramai individu2 ummat ini di seluruh dunia. Usaha ini di jalankan bukan atas interest mana2 pihak, individu, ulama atau kerajaan. Usaha ini di jalankan atas dasar kesedaran, fikir dan kerisauan nabi Muhammad saw. Usaha ini dijalankan atas dasar kesedaran agar diri kita dan diri org2 yg kita sayangi mama, papa, abg, kakak, adik, sedara mara, kawan2, cikgu2, dan seluruh individu ummat ini akan dpt kejayaan di dunia dan akhirat. Jika kita benar2 bukakan hati dan fikiran kita dlm menjalankan usaha ini, lihatlah bagaimana kehidupan kita akan berubah kpd kejayaan, fulfillment, sakinah dan rahmah. Wallahua’lam.

Ya Allah, jadilah saksi, aku telah menyampaikan sebahagian kecil dr apa yg telah kau pertanggungjawabkan. Ampuni lah aku atas segala dosa dan kalalaian. Beri hidayah pada ku dan seluruh ummat ini agar kembali ke jalan Mud, RasulMu dan mereka yg kau redhai dunia dan akhirat. Apa yg nabiMu saw minta utk ummat ini itu yg aku minta, apa yg nabiMua saw minta dihindarkan utk ummat ini maka itu yg aku minta dihindarkan.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Characteristics of the Islamic Approach
Keys to Purifying Hearts
First Key: Sincerity in Private and in Public

Dr. Salah Sultan
Head of MAS Department of Islamic Research and Studies

Sincerity is achieved when Muslim brothers or sisters have the intention to please Allah SWT in all their endeavors whether in speech or action. The Muslim seeks generous rewards from Allah SWT without considering any other motives. He or she does not try to gain worldly favors in terms of self promotion or personal interests. In this way, the Muslim will always serve the Islamic faith and thought, rather than being subservient to short term benefits.

Hence, sincerity is the first key that opens the heart to receive the Mercy of Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala. In fact the acceptance of one's deeds depends on one's purity of intention, which in turn depends on the level of sincerity in one's heart. With sincerity, a person can attain the highest ranks in the sight of Allah SWT, make the most of his/her deeds, and even be rewarded for righteous deeds that he or she was not able to perform. On the other hand, without sincerity (which results from not taking care of the heart) a person may end up in Hellfire regardless of how righteous one's deeds appear to be. What is the evidence for this statement?

1) Al-Hakim reported in Al-Mustadrak that Anas ibn Malik, radhiy Allahu anhu, narrated that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Whoever leaves this world with sincerity to Allah SWT Alone, Who has no Partner, and performs the prayers and pays the poor dues (zakat) will die in the pleasure of Allah.

2) Authentic, under the conditions of Bukhari and Muslim, is also Imam Muslim-report from Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: "Three categories of people will be the first to be thrown into Hellfire: a scholar who taught people merely to be praised as a scholar; a generous person who gave charity so that people will call him generous; and a person who participates in Jihad to be recognized as brave."
In order to avoid losing the rewards of our deeds, we should pay attention to our hearts in three stages:
First, before starting to do anything, ask yourself: am I doing this to please Allah (SWT) and to seek his forgiveness and reward, or am I doing it to impress people and seek their praise? If you have any doubt about the sincerity of that task, then you should renew your intention and free it from anything that would interfere with sincerity. On the other hand, if it is sincere, you will feel ease and comfort deep in your heart, and therefore you should go ahead with that task with full confidence. Second, while still engaged in a given task, a person may encounter interference from his vain desires or Satan. One may like to be seen while engaged in that task. There is nothing wrong with people seeing you while doing a task for the sake of Allah (SWT). But if love of publicity and praise dominates one's actions, then there is cause for concern because this may lead to the rejection of that deed by Allah (SWT). A good indication of sincerity is the similarity of a person's behavior in the presence of people and in their absence.
Third, after completing an assignment or a job, do not continue to boast about your role in it. This feeling becomes particularly obvious if somebody wrongs you or someone is chosen for a position you were seeking, and you resort to hurting that person by defaming him. This course of action destroys your good deeds and will turn out to be detrimental to you.
In this verse Allah (SWT) equates showing off with boasting about what one did for others.
Here are some criteria that indicate to us whether we are on the right track to sincerity and the pleasure of Allah (SWT).

Signs of Sincerity

• To have good intentions before starting a task.
• Habits are changed by acts of worship
• To perfect one's duty in private and in public.
• To dislike being praised by others, with du'aa: "O Allah, forgive me for what they do not know about me, and make me better than what they think of me."
• To welcome advice from friends.
• To be visible not only at times of ease and but also available when help is needed.
• To not seek leadership and not nominate yourself for positions of authority.
• To be constantly mindful of one's shortcomings, and to advise or wish others well.
• To feel that your contribution is minimal compared to others.
• To love performing the Fajr, Ishaa', and night prayers.
• To prefer giving charity in secret.

Signs of Lack of Sincerity

• Starting a task without having good intentions.
• Acts of worship change into habits.
• Perfecting one's duty only in public.
• Feeling happy in being praised by others, and forgetting about the supplication.
• Feeling to advice from others.
• Being available at times of difficulty less than at times of ease.
• Seeking and campaigning for votes in order to be selected to a position of authority.
• Exaggerating one's achievements and diminishing the achievement of others.
• Feeling that you are more hardworking than others.
• Find these prayers difficult to perform.
• Preferring to give charity openly in order to be seen by others.

These are some of the signs of sincerity or lack of it. We therefore have to exert ourselves to achieve sincerity because it is a great loss to work hard and end up losing everything. As for those with sincere hearts, they will attain the highest levels of Paradise. Allah describes them: "Say: 'Verily, I am commanded to serve God with sincere devotion; and I am commanded to be the first of those who bow to God in Islam'" (39:11-12). Being the first of Muslims means realizing happiness in this world and the highest levels of Paradise in the Hereafter.

Therefore make a solemn promise to Allah to make your soul display sincerity, such that it becomes a natural part of your existence. In this way, we will possess the key to the heart, which subsequently makes our acts of worship a very pleasant experience. Only those who are endowed with this quality can feel its effect on the person.

Finally, I ask Allah the Almighty to make us among the sincere, who are mindful of Allah without others knowing about it. The people with this characteristic perform their duties without others knowing who they are. On the other hand, when they are absent, people don't know much about them since they do not care about publicity. They are the keys to guidance whom Allah uses to guide those who have gone astray.

We seek refuge with Allah to save us from the vain desires of the soul and the temptations of Satan.


Thursday, June 13, 2002

Aishah Bint Abi Bakr

The life of Aishah is proof that a woman can be far more learned than men and that she can be the teacher of scholars and experts. Her life is also proof that a woman can exert influence over men and women and provide them with inspiration and leadership . Her life is also proof that the same woman can be totally feminine and be a source of pleasure, joy and comfort to her husband.

She did not graduate from any university there were no universities as such in her day. But still her utterances are studied in faculties of literature, her legal pronouncements are studied in colleges of law and her life and works are studied and resear ched by students and teachers of Muslim history as they have been for over a thousand years.

The bulk of her vast treasure of knowledge was obtained while she was still quite young. In her early childhood she was brought up by her father who was greatly liked and respected for he was a man of wide knowledge, gentle manners and an agreeable presen ce. Moreover he was the closest friend of the noble Prophet who was a frequent visitor to their home since the very early days of his mission.

In her youth, already known for her striking beauty and her formidable memory, she came under the loving care and attention of the Prophet himself. As his wife and close companion she acquired from him knowledge and insight such as no woman has ever acqui red.

Aishah became the Prophet's wife in Makkah when she was most likely in the tenth year of her life but her wedding did not take place until the second year after the Hijrah when she was about fourteen or fifteen years old. Before and after her wedding she maintained a natural jollity and innocence and did not seem at all overawed by the thought of being wedded to him who was the Messenger of God whom all his companions, including her own mother and father, treated with such love and reverence as they gave to no one else.

About her wedding, she related that shortly before she was to leave her parent's house, she slipped out into the courtyard to play with a passing friend:

"I was playing on a see-saw and my long streaming hair was dishevelled," she said. "They came and took me from my play and made me ready."

They dressed her in a wedding-dress made from fine red-striped cloth from Bahrain and then her mother took her to the newly-built house where some women of the Ansar were waiting outside the door. They greeted her with the words "For good and for happines s may all be well!" Then, in the presence of the smiling Prophet, a bowl of milk was brought. The Prophet drank from it himself and offered it to Aishah. She shyly declined it but when he insisted she did so and then offered the bowl to her sister Asma wh o was sitting beside her. Others also drank of it and that was as much as there was of the simple and solemn occasion of their wedding. There was no wedding feast.

Marriage to the Prophet did not change her playful ways. Her young friends came regularly to visit her in her own apartment.

"I would be playing with my dolls," she said, "with the girls who were my friends, and the Prophet would come in and they would slip out of the house and he would go out after them and bring them back, for he was pleased for my sake to have them there." S ometimes he would say "Stay where you are" before they had time to leave, and would also join in their games. Aishah said: "One day, the Prophet came in when I was playing with the dolls and he said: 'O Aishah, whatever game is this?' 'It is Solomon's hor ses,' I said and he laughed." Sometimes as he came in he would screen himself with his cloak so as not to disturb Aishah and her friends.

Aishah's early life in Madinah also had its more serious and anxious times. Once her father and two companions who were staying with him fell ill with a dangerous fever which was common in Madinah at certain seasons. One morning Aishah went to visit him and was dismayed to find the three men lying completely weak and exhausted. She asked her father how he was and he answered her in verse but she did not understand what he was saying. The two others also answered her with lines of poetry which seemed to her to be nothing but unintelligible babbling. She was deeply troubled and went home to the Prophet saying:

"They are raving, out of their minds, through the heat of the fever." The Prophet asked what they had said and was somewhat reassured when she repeated almost word for word the lines they had uttered and which made sense although she did not fully underst and them then. This was a demonstration of the great retentive power of her memory which as the years went by were to preserve so many of the priceless sayings of the Prophet.

Of the Prophet's wives in Madinah, it was clear that it was Aishah that he loved most. From time to time, one or the other of his companions would ask:

"O Messenger of God, whom do you love most in the world?" He did not always give the same answer to this question for he felt great love for many for his daughters and their children, for Abu Bakr, for Ali, for Zayd and his son Usamah. But of his wives t he only one he named in this connection was Aishah. She too loved him greatly in return and often would seek reassurance from him that he loved her. Once she asked him: "How is your love for me?"

"Like the rope's knot," he replied meaning that it was strong and secure. And time after time thereafter, she would ask him: "How is the knot?" and he would reply: "Ala haaliha in the same condition."

As she loved the Prophet so was her love a jealous love and she could not bear the thought that the Prophet's attentions should be given to others more than seemed enough to her. She asked him:

"O Messenger of God, tell me of yourself. If you were between the two slopes of a valley, one of which had not been grazed whereas the other had been grazed, on which would you pasture your flocks?"

"On that which had not been grazed," replied the Prophet. "Even so," she said, "and I am not as any other of your wives. "Everyone of them had a husband before you, except myself." The Prophet smiled and said nothing. Of her jealousy, Aishah would say in later years:

"I was not, jealous of any other wife of the Prophet as I was jealous of Khadijah, because of his constant mentioning of her and because God had commanded him to give her good tidings of a mansion in Paradise of precious stones. And whenever he sacrifice d a sheep he would send a fair portion of it to those who had been her intimate friends. Many a time I said to him: "It is as if there had never been any other woman in the world except Khadijah."

Once, when Aishah complained and asked why he spoke so highly of "an old Quraysh woman", the Prophet was hurt and said: "She was the wife who believed in me when others rejected me. When people gave me the lie, she affirmed my truthfulness. When I stood f orsaken, she spent her wealth to lighten the burden of my sorrow.."

Despite her feelings of jealousy which nonetheless were not of a destructive kind, Aishah was really a generous soul and a patient one. She bore with the rest of the Prophet's household poverty and hunger which often lasted for long periods. For days on e nd no fire would be lit in the sparsely furnished house of the Prophet for cooking or baking bread and they would live merely on dates and water. Poverty did not cause her distress or humiliation; self-sufficiency when it did come did not corrupt her styl e of life.

Once the Prophet stayed away from his wives for a month because they had distressed him by asking of him that which he did not have. This was after the Khaybar expedition when an increase of riches whetted the appetite for presents. Returning from his sel f-imposed retreat, he went first to Aishah's apartment. She was delighted to see him but he said he had received Revelation which required him to put two options before her. He then recited the verses:

"O Prophet! Say to your wives: If you desire the life of this world and its adornments, then come and I will bestow its goods upon you, and I will release you with a fair release. But if you desire God and His Messenger and the abode of the Hereafter, th en verily God has laid in store for you an immense reward for such as you who do good."

Aishah's reply was:

"Indeed I desire God and His Messenger and the abode of the Hereafter," and her response was followed by all the others.

She stuck to her choice both during the lifetime of the Prophet and afterwards. Later when the Muslims were favored with enormous riches, she was given a gift of one hundred thousand dirhams. She was fasting when she received the money and she distributed the entire amount to the poor and the needy even though she had no provisions in her house. Shortly after, a maidservant said to her: "Could you buy meat for a dirham with which to break your fast?"

"If I had remembered, I would have done so," she said. The Prophet's affection for Aishah remained to the last. During his final illness, it was to Aishah's apartment that he went at the suggestion of his wives. For much of the time he lay there on a cou ch with his head resting on her breast or on her lap. She it was who took a toothstick from her brother, chewed upon it to soften it and gave it to the Prophet. Despite his weakness, he rubbed his teeth with it vigorously. Not long afterwards, he lost con sciousness and Aishah thought it was the onset of death, but after an hour he opened his eyes.

Aishah it is who has preserved for us these dying moments of the most honoured of God's creation, His beloved Messenger may He shower His choicest blessings on him.

When he opened his eyes again, Aishah remembered Iris having said to her: "No Prophet is taken by death until he has been shown his place in Paradise and then offered the choice, to live or die."

"He will not now choose us," she said to herself. Then she heard him murmur: "With the supreme communion in Paradise, with those upon whom God has showered His favor, the Prophets, the martyrs and the righteous..." Again she heard him murmur: "O Lord, wit h the supreme communion," and these were the last words she heard him speak. Gradually his head grew heavier upon her breast, until others in the room began to lament, and Aishah laid his head on a pillow and joined them in lamentation.

In the floor of Aishah's room near the couch where he was lying, a grave was dug in which was buried the Seal of the Prophets amid much bewilderment and great sorrow.

Aishah lived on almost fifty years after the passing away of the Prophet. She had been his wife for a decade. Much of this time was spent in learning and acquiring knowledge of the two most important sources of God's guidance, the Quran and the Sunnah of His Prophet. Aishah was one of three wives (the other two being Hafsah and Umm Salamah) who memorized the Revelation. Like Hafsah, she had her own script of the Quran written after the Prophet had died.

So far as the Ahadith or sayings of the Prophet is concerned, Aishah is one of four persons (the others being Abu Hurayrah, Abdullah ibn Umar, and Anas ibn Malik) who transmitted more than two thousand sayings. Many of these pertain to some of the most in timate aspects of personal behavior which only someone in Aishah's position could have learnt. What is most important is that her knowledge of hadith was passed on in written form by at least three persons including her nephew Urwah who became one of the greatest scholars among the generation after the Companions.

Many of the learned companions of the Prophet and their followers benefitted from Aishah's knowledge. Abu Musa al-Ashari once said: "If we companions of the Messenger of God had any difficulty on a matter, we asked Aishah about it."

Her nephew Urwah asserts that she was proficient not only in fiqh but also in medicine (tibb) and poetry. Many of the senior companions of the Prophet came to her to ask for advice concerning questions of inheritance which required a highly skilled mathem atical mind. Scholars regard her as one of the earliest fuqaha of Islam along with persons like Umar ibn al-Khattab, Ali and Abdullah ibn Abbas. The Prophet referring to her extensive knowledge of Islam is reported to have said: "Learn a portion of your r eligion (din) from this red colored lady." "Humayra" meaning "Red-coloured" was an epithet given to Aishah by the Prophet.

Aishah not only possessed great knowledge but took an active part in education and social reform. As a teacher she had a clear and persuasive manner of speech and her power of oratory has been described in superlative terms by al-Ahnaf who said: "I have heard speeches of Abu Bakr and Umar, Uthman and Ali and the Khulafa up to this day, but I have not heard speech more persuasive and more beautiful from the mouth of any person than from the mouth of Aishah."

Men and women came from far and wide to benefit from her knowledge. The number of women is said to have been greater than that of men. Besides answering enquiries, she took boys and girls, some of them orphans, into her custody and trained them under her care and guidance. This was in addition to her relatives who received instruction from her. Her house thus became a school and an academy.

Some of her students were outstanding. We have already mentioned her nephew Urwah as a distinguished reporter of hadith. Among her women pupils is the name of Umrah bint Abdur Rahman. She is regarded by scholars as one of the trustworthy narrators of ha dith and is said to have acted as Aishah's secretary receiving and replying to letters addressed to her. The example of Aishah in promoting education and in particular the education of Muslim women in the laws and teachings of Islam is one which needs to be followed.

After Khadijah al-Kubra (the Great) and Fatimah az-Zahra (the Resplendent), Aishah as-Siddiqah (the one who affirms the Truth) is regarded as the best woman in Islam. Because of the strength of her personality, she was a leader in every field in knowledg e, in society, in politics and in war. She often regretted her involvement in war but lived long enough to regain position as the most respected woman of her time. She died in the year 58 AH in the month of Ramadan and as she instructed, was buried in the Jannat al-Baqi in the City of Light, beside other companions of the Prophet.