When things are difficult and we are stressed, human nature proves time and again that we naturally seek those who we admire for comfort. We go to our mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends and we turn to our favorite religious leaders. We know that these people have gone through similar trials, and there is a deep connection to them. However, we often neglect the source of absolute comfort and as a result, our problems resurface.
In the Qur’an we are provided with example after example of how the Prophets all faced incredible trials and came out stronger than before. Prophet Musa (AS) confronted Pharoun, the worst tyrant in history; Prophet Adam (AS) struggled with temptations and suffered the consequences of giving in to them; Prophet Yusef (AS) dealt with the worst kind of sibling rivalry and was separated from his loved ones for years because of it; Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was burned, mocked, and made enormous sacrifices throughout his life; Prophet Nuh (AS) was ridiculed and mocked for his obedience; Prophet Yunus (AS) was trapped under layer upon layer of pressure, both physically and mentally, with no way out; Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) dealt with loss and cruelty of people who were once his neighbors and family; and, Prophet Ayyub (AS) lost everything he had, from his wealth to his family. They all suffered, and yet they all became stronger in their faith in God.
We are told these incredible examples of acts of faith and strength, and after a time we begin to think of them as just stories and legends. We forget the purpose of these revelations – as ways for us to feel connected and comforted by our history as Muslims. We forget that, though our Prophets lived in different times, and things may seem so completely different today – it’s actually not different at all.
How many of us still deal with temptations and sibling rivalries? How many of us have lost something important to us or someone we loved? How many of us feel trapped and overwhelmed by things in our lives and have made sacrifices? How many of us would raise our hand if asked if we ever felt ridiculed for our beliefs and if we ever felt oppressed by people in power? These stories are what connects us to our history as Muslims, but they also provide us with the basis to create our own solutions. All of the trials that were faced by our prophets, are also revealed with their resolutions.
As if the guidance of our Prophets wasn’t enough, in addition to their stories, we are provided with the stories of powerful women in Islam, like Hajar (RA), Asiyah (RA), Maryam (RA), Khadijah (RA), and more. These are provided not only to show the strength and status of women in Islam, but also to provide us with actual proof that as Muslim women, yes it’s hard in so many ways, but it will always get better inSha’Allah.
One of the most incredible women in Islam, and one of the most powerful stories in the entirety of the Qur’an stems from Aisha (RA). The stories of her life come with the hardships of being young, living in poverty, and dealing with vicious rumors among so much more. Aisha (RA) showed the world how women could be more powerful than men, politicians, and warriors. She showed us that education and knowledge is the foundation of success. She told us stories of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that we hold close to our hearts, and told us about the stories, legacies, laws, and literature of the time of the Prophet (PBUH) that are studied in Universities across the world even today.
She was the closest wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the daughter of his closest friend, Abu Bakr As-Saddiq (RA). She was young and beautiful, but her mind was agile and ready to remember things. She joked with the Prophet (PBUH) and relieved his stress with dua’a. She didn’t care about worldly things, and even though at times all they had to eat was just water and dates, she would give everything she had to people she felt needed it more. To me, she has always been the most relatable – full of energy and capable of expressing both half-hearted jealousy and playful mischief.
Aisha (RA) is also one of the few people on earth about whom, besides the Prophets, Qur’anic ayats were directly revealed. In this revelation about her, we can find so much comfort and instruction, and so much awe and admiration for her. It’s one of my favorite stories, because it shows the power of patience and faith, and it shows us how to have grace to move on when people try to intentionally harm you or your character:
During one of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s journeys back to Medina from a battle, Aisha (RA) was present it the caravan. As the wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), she was given special status and therefore, was covered during the travel in a small cabin with curtains on a camel to avoid heat and overexertion. During these journeys, the caravan would only stop once during the day and in this particular instance, they stopped during the night. As they rested, Aisha (RA) left her cabin and went further into the dessert to relieve herself. On her way back, she realized she had lost her necklace, one of special significance because it was given to her by the Prophet (PBUH).
She became occupied with looking for her necklace, which was difficult because it was at night and in the dessert. She was so occupied, she didn’t realize the caravan was moving and the army didn’t realize she wasn’t in her cabin because the curtains were drawn and she was so lightweight there was no discernable difference. When Aisha (RA) finally found the necklace and realized she had been left behind, she laid down in the spot her camel had been and waited, hoping the caravan would return. Eventually, she fell asleep.
A sahabah by the name of Sufwan (RA) was the man designated to travel further behind the caravan to ensure nothing was left behind. He discovered Aisha (RA) sleeping the next morning and upon identifying her, he backed up and said “inna illahi wa inna lillahi rajoun” (to Him we belong and to Him we return). She woke up suddenly by his words – the only words that were ever spoken between them – and covered her face. He silently lowered the camel, she got on, and they traveled in complete silence back to Medina in broad daylight. A man by the name of Abdullah saw them return, and as someone who had a history of causing trouble among the believers, quickly set to insinuated things among the people in the city.
Upon her return home, Aisha RA fell extremely sick, enough for her to be unable to leave her house for an entire month. Meanwhile, rumors were spreading like wildfire about her and getting worse as they travelled from person to person and down the grapevine. When she was well enough to leave her home with her nurse at night, the rumors were revealed to her by her Aunt. After hearing the news of these rumors being spread, Aisha (RA) asked to go back to her parents’ home because she wanted to confirm what was being said by people she loved and couldn’t bear for the words to leave the Prophet (PBUH)’s mouth. When it was confirmed by her parents, she fell even sicker and spent the entire night crying.
When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), spoke with Aisha (RA) about the situation, she decided that wouldn’t speak about it and put her complete faith in God. All she could say was what Yaqoub (AS) said to his sons – that she would have patience and belief that all would be okay by God. While Aisha (RA) had complete faith in God and while knew she was the wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), she was still so humble to think she wasn’t important enough for ayats in the Qur’an to be revealed about her. The ayats that were revealed are, even to this day, powerful in their message and guidance.
Verses revealed in Surah An-Noor (24:11-21), revealed not only Aisha (RA)’s innocence, but also came as the clarification of what is wrong with slander and accusations as well as the necessity of evidence and witnesses. These ayats are the foundation of justice for how we treat one another in mankind. These ayats go to prove that starting rumors and accusations about one another is incredible harmful and wrong, but that in the face of accusations being spread to you or about you, the best option is to stop speaking entirely and remove yourself from the situation. Our belief in God and Islam depends on how we treat and talk about Muslims and if there is no evidence, the accused must be believed as completely innocent. Even if something seems true or easily proven to be, we must understand that only God is the only judge that matters. We should put ourselves in the situation of those who are the subject of the rumors that are spread.
The strength that Aisha (RA) showed in the face of immense hardship – hardship that was felt by a completely demoralized Ummah – is incredible. Instead of trying to defend her innocence, or respond with anger towards those who mocked her character, she decided to keep silent and wait for her innocence to be proven. That type of complete faith is something that we can look at and learn from today. The next time we deal with a bunch of girls spreading rumors about us, we can draw inspiration from Aisha (RA). The next time people attack Islam and Muslims in the face of all the Islamophobia and hateful rhetoric that we are constantly being assaulted with, we can take comfort in the fact that this is not the first time Muslims were ridiculed. The next time we deal with hatred and bigotry, oppression or sacrifice, pressure or temptation, we can find solutions and guidance in the verses of the Qur’an and in the stories that were revealed to us.