Aisha

Aisha was the youngest daughter of Abu Bekr, himself the chief advisor, the first disciple, and best friend of Muhammad -- the Messenger of God. It was customary in those days, and still is today in Arabia, for a man of property and substance to have many wives. In offering his daughter to Muhammad, Abu Bekr was trying to solidify his ties with that great man, hoping an issue would spring forth to carry on the name of both Muhammad and Aisha. The Qoran allows a man to have up to four wives. Exceptions are made for exceptional men. All told, Muhammad had more than a dozen wives of different ages and of every type. One wife, for example, Miriyam, was given to the Prophet by a prince of Egypt. She bore him a son whom they named Abrahim, but he died as an infant. In fact all of the sons sired by Muhammad died in their youth. He was rich with daughters. And wives. Aisha was his youngest wife, a mere prepubescent child, not yet a teenager, and his favorite.

The time is the early 600s AD The former caravan merchant -- his enemies liked to deride him as the camel driver -- had founded a new religion called Islam. In Arabic, Islam means "submission." Submission to Allah. Muhammad destroyed the pagan gods of the Bedouins, and taught his countrymen to worship one God. In Arabic, Allah means "the God." Muhammad single-handedly raised the Arabs to the religious level of the Jews and Christians, who similarly worshipped one God. After his death, Islam spread far and wide and was in its time the preserver of the highest culture, arts, and sciences in the civilized world. Are we not right in assuming that the God who spoke to Muhammad was the same as our God? Surely so.

Muhammad was an imposing man. He was a mystic who went into trances, as did all the prophets in the Bible. When he came out of those trances, he would utter the most beautiful poetry anyone in Arabia had ever heard. The poetry, which is recorded in the Moslem Holy Book, The Qoran, was all the more astounding in that Muhammad was not a literary man. He was the "unlettered prophet," and some say that he neither knew how to read nor write. While this is doubtful, it is certain that he did not know how to write poetry. He was not a Reciter, as they called poets in Arabia who made a living reciting their poems in the houses of noblemen, much as Homer did among the ancient Greeks. Muhammad must have been touched by divine inspiration to produce the exquisite phrases of The Qoran. He also was an active man skilled in leadership, business, politics, and even warfare. It is not difficult to see why men gave up their lives for him. He was charismatic in appearance as well. This is how he is described by one of his biographers:

"Slightly above middle size, his figure, though spare, was handsome and commanding; the chest broad and open; the bones and framework large, and the joints well-knit together. His neck was broad and finely molded. His head, unusually large, gave space for a broad and noble brow. The hair, thick, jet black and slightly curling, fell down over his ears. The eyebrows were arched and joined. His countenance was thin but ruddy. His large eyes, intensely black and piercing, received additional luster from long, dark eyelashes. The nose was high and slightly aquiline, but fine, and at the end attenuated. The teeth were set apart. A long, black, thick beard, reaching to the breast, added manliness and presence. His expression was pensive and contemplative. His faced beamed with intelligence."

Although his recitations were recorded by his secretaries in The Qoran, most of the personal details of his life were recorded by his friends in their reminiscences and journals. We owe to Aisha some of the most crucial details of how the Messenger of God lived and prayed. It was she who told us about the first vision that came to Muhammad during his customary retreat of fasting and contemplation in a cave in the hills. There appeared unto him the vision of the Archangel Gabriel who ordered