A human being is born with psychological and emotional impulses to respond to the things around him, and so is his impulse of love for the opposite sex strongly ingrained in his “fitrat” (nature). The inclination of one sex towards the other is so immense and paramount that every culture across the globe has recorded its expression in epic stories of love featuring characters like Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnoon, Heer and Ranjha, Shireen and Farhaad. All these epic love stories describe an ideal and ecstatic state of love that serves as a yardstick for us to measure our own nature and spirit of relationship we share with our beloveds. These characters are there to remind us that love is the expansion of one’s self to embrace the other, regardless of individual, social and cultural differences that may intrude or try to thwart such a relationship. The reason behind the popularity of these epic love stories is their universal appeal in the sense that all mankind shares the psychological and emotional turbulence of love described in them and relates to them its own state of heart. The madness of Majnoon is the state of millions of tongue-tied humans; the battle against social forces that Romeo fights is the anger brewing in all of us against the established social and cultural norms that restrict our advances of love; the lamentation of Laila and Juliet is the cry of all the damsels longing for their lovers and aspiring for union.
However, no matter how sublime and deeply engaging these epic love stories are, the fact is that they are merely fictional representations and the characters have never actually existed on planet earth. It is also a fact that these love stories, apart from their popularity, are also infamous among a large chunk of population who see them as compromising on the legal, moral or ethical standards set by cultural and religious traditions.
While digging through the phases of history and looking beyond the fictions of time to find a love story that was real and practical, our search ends the moment we come across the sacred love story of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Hazrat Aisha (RA). The Prophet Muhammad, the last messenger for mankind, had a wife named Aisha, the beloved daughter of Abu Bakar (RA) whom he married despite a major difference in age. Their marriage was a divine wish materialised and a realisation of the Quranic verse that sought to see Prophet and Aisha together once for all. Following the marriage, the Prophet grew so strong a love for Aisha that he would never fail, implicitly or explicitly, to shower love on her and would wait for reasons to cause smiles on her face. Aisha reciprocated equally to his love and shared a deep emotional and physical bond with her beloved husband. Aisha being younger than the Prophet but having a rich intellectual capacity to understand Islamic wisdom and philosophy, more profoundly than other wives, made a great impression on the Prophet’s heart and mind. In addition to the power of comprehension, she possessed wonderful oratory skills and a wonderfully expressive tongue, as narrated by Ahnaf bin Qais who said that he had never heard anyone whose skills of oratory were as beautiful and expressive as Aisha’s.
Apart from being a physical partner to the Prophet, Aisha undoubtedly satisfied his intellectual pursuits by not only understanding the concealed wisdom behind his sayings but also memorising them keenly, as indicated by the huge number of Hadeeth reported by her. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is said to have reported that whenever he sought any suggestion or opinion concerning any subject from Aisha, she would intelligently come up with a deeply wise and satisfying one. Aisha was so deeply attached to the Prophet that she would sometimes wake up with a start during the dead of night only to see and make sure whether the Prophet was around her. Once, after waking up during the night, Aisha, to her utter dismay, found the Prophet absent and in order to search him she left the house, wandered like a wailing lover through the streets, and eventually caught his sight at the graveyard where he was praying. Not considering it wise to disturb him in the nocturnal prayers, she returned home and narrated the whole episode to him the next day. The Prophet in response said that he had felt some human shadow was lurking in the graveyard, hardly knowing it was she.
Their love manifested equally through their mutually shared emotional inclinations, mental or imaginative flights, and their overall conduct. It is said that they would eat from the same plate and the Prophet felt no hesitation in sipping the remains of meat-bones left behind by Aisha. Besides that, he would place his lips on the same spot of vessel where Aisha had placed hers. One day, a companion of the Prophet, Hazrat Umro Bin Alaas, asked him who he believed to be the most beloved person for him in the world. The Prophet said “Aisha”. Umro said that he wanted to inquire about the most beloved among the men community, and to that Prophet said, “Aisha’s father”. Among all the wives of the Prophet (SAW),it was undoubtedly Aisha who possessed his heart and asserted her presence in his emotional landscape more strongly than anyone else. On realising the fact that he had stronger emotional inclination towards Aisha and taking into consideration its possible ramifications, the Prophet once prayed, “Allah, I do everything possible, whatever is in my capacity, to treat my all wives equally and do justice with them but don’t hold me accountable for something not in my control”. The prayer clearly indicates that Prophet had the realisation that he was helpless in the growing intimate compatibility that he felt with Aisha in comparison to his other wives. The immense love he had for her would sometimes spontaneously reflect through his verbal expressions with much vigour and passion.
On one occasion, a camel that was carrying Aisha mistakenly lost its way and took a different route than intended. When the news of the disappearance of Aisha along reached the Prophet, he became depressed and sorrowfully chanted, “aey meri dulhan” (O my bride). The expression “o my bride” was the spontaneous cry of a heart that was intensely occupied with Aisha.
It was Aisha who kept the Prophet going through the challenges and obstacles in the way of his Dawah work. She shouldered with him the responsibility of reconstructing the morally, intellectually and politically decayed environment of the Arab world. She provided resilience and recurrent reasons to smile to the Prophet. Their relationship apart from having deep-rooted love, respect and care was also a wonderful example of humour as well. On one occasion the Prophet found Aisha keeping unwell and told her that if she died he would himself bury her in the grave and do all the rites as required, to which Aisha humorously responded by saying, “Yes, you want me dead so that you could find a new wife and replace my presence with her.” It left the Prophet smiling at her.
The journey of life saw the Prophet and Aisha smiling and crying together. After fulfilling the obligation of conveying the message of monotheism to the world and succeeding in building a model social, moral and political climate in the Arab world, the Prophet had to bid adieu to this mortal existence. What could be a better abode to take the last breath than Aisha’s lap. The last phase of life saw the Prophet ill and waiting for the ultimate end. During that last phase of life, he would invariably take turns daily to spend time with his wives one by one. However, as he was emotionally more absorbed in Aisha and always sought her company, he developed a greater appetite to be with her in his last moments of life. It is reported that during the period of illness the Prophet would often inquire about the date of the week and, following that, his companions thought he was perhaps eager for the day when he had to be with Aisha. On realising this, his companions shifted him permanently to Aisha’s abode where he finally breathed his last in the lap of Aisha.
With the death of the Prophet ended the most pious and sacred romance that featured Allah’s Messenger and his beloved wife, Hazrat Aisha. We as believers are left to follow the Prophet’s life not only in moral, intellectual and political character, but also as a man who taught how to love and to be loved by legally wedded wives. His character as a husband and his management of domestic affairs with all the practical and ideal aspects contains a beautiful example that needs to be emulated by one and all.
PS: The reason for narrating this tale of love between the Prophet and Aisha is that the feeling and relationship of love these days is the most vulgarised, commercialised, sensualised and morally disgraced. I narrated this tale to remind you that there exists a model of love and romance that deserves imitation from us, while keeping all the moral and legal limitations prescribed by our religion in mind.
The writer is a freelance columnist from Anantnag. [email protected]