4. How do we read Hadith by Aisha?
I brought some Hadith by Aisha that gives us a sense of not only the importance of her role but also, by extension, of the very different kind of life that women led in the early Muslim community. Aisha was often consulted on matters of what the Prophet had established as acceptable ritual practice, whether or not the Prophet outlined this or that kind of procedure for an important ritual. Even rituals as important as prayer are oftentimes confirmed by Aisha.
In this particular Hadith, Aisha is asked to clarify something about praying and when it is acceptable to pray. Aisha narrates, Gods apostle said and she quotes, If any of you feels drowsy while praying he should go to bed till his slumber is over because in praying while drowsy one does not know whether one is asking for forgiveness or for a bad thing for oneself.
Here you have an instance where Aisha is put a very simple question. Is my obligatory prayer to God acceptable if Im in a state of drowsiness or does that render it null and void? She is able to quote the Prophet actually having pronounced on something similar in this particular tradition. She would become a reference or an authority for understanding acceptable ritual practice and in this case whether or not a prayer is acceptable or valid in the eyes of God.
These are Hadiths that are recorded in the collection of Bukhari, one of the standard collections in Sunni Islam. In this one, Aisha remembers what happened at a very critical time, the Prophets death. That was a critical moment because the Prophet had not articulated, according to Sunni Islam, what was going to happen to the community and who was going to lead it before he died. Shiites argue that the Prophet had, in fact, selected his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, to be his successor. Sunnis argue that the Prophet had left no instructions, and therefore Aishas testimony is very important, because he died in her arms. So if there were any last minute instructions, they would have been given or issued while he was with her. The report, coming from Aisha has a certain authority in consolidating the Sunni argument.
Aisha narrated: When the ailment of the Prophet became aggravated and his disease severe, he asked his wives to permit him to be nursed or treated in my house. They gave him this permission. The Prophet then came to my house with the support of two men and his legs were dragging on the ground.
His legs were dragging on the ground between Abbas and another man. Ubaid-Ullah said, I informed Abdullah bin Abbas of what Aisha said. Ibn Abbas said, Do you know who was the other man? I replied in the negative. Ibn Abbas said, He was Ali. Aisha further said, When the Prophet came to my house and his sickness became aggravated he ordered us to pour seven skins full of water on him, so that he may give some advice to the people. So he was seated in a brass tub belonging to his other wife, Hafsa, when all of us started pouring water on him from the water skins until he beckoned us to stop and after that he went out to the people.