5. What can you learn from these Hadith?
Hadith are very complicated things to access, because they are reports coming from the 7th century. People had a very different way of communicating than we do. They involved a very intimate circle of people in the Prophets family and in the community. This particular incident is intimate because hes dying.
Aisha is talking about how the Prophet came to see her when he was very ill. There are clearly men present in the room. But, the question is whether or not the men included the person who would lend credence to the Shiite claim that the Prophet intended his cousin and son-in-law to rule. But men and women are clearly intermingling, even in the private space of the home. That tells us something about gender relations in the early Islamic community.
In this very small paragraph you have an example of Aishas role in determining what was to be understood as the authoritative version, but at the same time, an element of dissonance or disagreement and possible contention by someone whos embedded in that very tradition.
The Hadith is something that you can approach and understand on a variety of different levels. You can read a very complicated Hadith like the Prophets last illness and understand from it the importance of the moment, the importance of Aishas presence, even if you dont understand exactly whats going on.
In that Hadith on prayer, shes a religious authority on the level of any other companion of the Prophet. Her proximity enables her to produce a verbatim quote of what he might have said. In the other Hadith, its clear that her proximity to the Prophet gives her a political authority that enables her to be used as a source on a very critical event.