Why did the Prophet call Aisha a ‘Humaira’?

Why did the Prophet call Aisha a ‘Humaira’?

Why did the Prophet call Aisha a ‘Humaira’? 1920 1080 The Office Of His Eminence Sheikh al-Habib

QUESTION:

What is the true meaning of the word ‘Humaira’? Did the Prophet really call Aisha so because she had rosy cheeks? The other school of thought asserts that ‘Humaira’ is a diminutive form of ‘Hamra’ which means redness. What is the real meaning? 

Kareem H.


ANSWER:

In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and damn their enemies.

Regardless of the fact that it is grammatically incorrect to state that the word ‘Humaira’ is a diminutive form of the word ‘Hamra’, the word ‘Humaira’ was never used to describe a woman with a rosy complexion. 

Arabs used to rather call the male individual who has a rosy complexion ‘Azhar’ and the female ‘Zahra’. This is the reason why Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his pure family) was called rather ‘Azhar’ and not ‘Uhaimer’.

For instance, Rabia, son of Abi Abdur-Rahman, narrated:

I heard Anas, son of Malik, describing the Prophet, saying: ‘He was of medium height amongst the people, neither tall nor short; he had an ‘Azhar’ (rosy) colour, neither absolutely white nor deeply brown.
Sahih Bukhari, volume 4, Book 56, #747

When Ibn Hajr explained the above narration in his famous book Fath al-Bari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, the most valued ‘Sunni’ commentary of Sahih Bukhari, he said: “ ‘Azhar’ means fair with a touch of rose colour.” He added: “The phrase ‘fair with a touch of rose colour’ was also narrated by Anas and reported by Muslim, Sa’id, son of Mansour, al-Tayalisi, al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim on the authority of Ali (peace be upon him) who said: ‘The Prophet was fair with a touch of rose colour’. Ibn Sa’d also reported on the authority of Ali and Jaber, al-Bayhaqi reported on the authority of Ali and in Shama’il it was reported on the authority of Hind, son of Abi Halah, that he had an ‘Azhar’ colour.” 

In addition, the reason why the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima al-Zahra (peace be upon her), was called Zahra is that she resembled her father in her features. Al-Hakim reported on the authority of Anas, son of Malik:

I asked my mother about Fatima, the Apostle’s daughter (peace be upon him and his pure family). She said: ‘She was like a moon on its full night, or like the sun that parts the clouds and shines forth. She was fair with a touch of rose colour on her face. Her hair was black and she had the features of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his pure family).
(Mustadrak al-Hakim, volume 3, page 161

This was also reported by al-Zubaidi in his book:

Zahra means a woman with a luminous face who is fair and has a touch of rose colour.
Taj al-Arus min Jawaher al-Qamus, volume 3, page 250

So far, we have come to know that the adjectives ‘Uhaimer’ or ‘Humaira’ were not conventionally used by Arabs to denote ‘rosy complexion’. Rather the adjectives ‘Azhar’ (for men) and ‘Zahra’ (for women) were alternatively used. We have also come to know that if the true meaning of the adjective ‘Humaira’ was ‘rosy complexion’ then the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) would have called his daughter Fatima (peace be upon her) ‘Humaira’, since she also had a rosy complexion. In fact, it has been narrated that many of the Prophet’s wives were also fair and had a touch of a rose colour, such as Ummu Salama, but none of them was called ‘Humaira’ by the Prophet or any of the Muslims. Only Aisha was.

However, the actual meaning of the adjective ‘Humaira’ is defined in the following: It was reported in Lisan al-Arab, by Ibn Manthour and Tahthib al-Lugha by al-Azhari:

The worst of women is ‘al-Suwayda al-Mimradh’ (whose skin has darkened due to constant health problems) and ‘al-Humaira al-Mihyadh’ (whose skin has changed colour due to constant menstrual bleeding).
This was also reported by Ibn Hayan al-Tawhidi, in al-Basa’ir wal Thakh’ir, volume 57, and al-Zamakhshari in Rabi’ al-Abrar volume 1, page 461

Therefore, Arabs used to rather call the woman who experiences constant menstrual bleeding ‘Humaira’; and due to the lack of absorbent materials at that time, the dripped blood used to drench the woman’s body and thus the skin changes colour. This explains the reason why we find the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) in some narrations describing Aisha as: “Ya Humaira al-Saqain”. The word ‘Saaq’ in Arabic means leg.

In addition, what even rules out the possibility that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) described Aisha as ‘Humaira’ to praise her, is the statement of Ibn al-Qayyim:

Every narration that has a mention of the word ‘Humaira’ or the idiom ‘O Humaira’ is false and fabricated.
Al-Manar Al-Munif fi As-Sahih wa Ad-Da’if, by Ibn al-Qayyim, page 60

The Office of Sheikh al-Habib

The Office Of His Eminence Sheikh al-Habib