An excerpt from Martin Ling’s Muhammad (ﷺ) and his life Based on earliest sources:
A’ishah’s perceptions and reactions were exceedingly quick. Soon after Khaybar, or perhaps a little before it, Halah the mother of Abu l-‘Aas had comee on a visit to Medina to see her son and daughter-in-law Zaynab and her little granddaughter Umarnah; and one day when the Prophet was in ‘A’ishah’s apartment there was a knock on the door, and a woman’s voice was heard asking if she might enter. The Prophet turned pale and trembled; and immediately divining the cause, ‘A’ishah was overwhelmed by a wave of jealousy and scolded him; for she knew that in the voice of Halah he had heard the voice of her sister Khadijah. He confirmed this afterwards, and said that also her manner of asking to enter had been the same as that of his dead wife.
Sawdah, now grown somewhat elderly, gave her day with the Prophet to ‘A’ishah because she felt sure that this would greatly please him; and the rest of the community, including the other wives, had no doubt that of those wives now living it was ‘A’ishah that the Prophet loved most. This was not mere conjecture, since from time to time, by one or another of his Companions, he would be asked the question: “0 Messenger of God, whom lovest thou most in all the world?” And although he did not always give the same answer to this question, inasmuch as he felt great love in more than one direction-for his daughters and their children, for’Ali, for Abu Bakr, for Zayd and Usamah -the answer was sometimes ‘A’ishah but never one of the other wives. For this reason it was becoming the custom in Medina that if a man had a favor to ask of the Prophet, and if he was offering him a gift with a view to his petition as the Koran recommended, he would postpone the offering until the Prophet was in ‘A’ishah’s apartment on the assumption that he was then at his happiest and therefore at his readiest to grant favor. This caused ill feeling in the household of the Prophet, and Umm Salamah went to him on behalf of herself and the others asking him to make an announcement that anyone wishing to give him a present should do so without waiting until it was his day to be in a particular house. The Prophet did not answer her, and she asked him a second time, and again he remained silent. Then she asked him a third time, and he said: “Trouble me not with regard unto ‘A’ishah, for verily the Revelation cometh not unto me when I am beneath the coverlet of a wife, except that wife be ‘A’ishah.” Umm Salamah said: “I repent unto God for my having troubled thee.” But others of the wives were not content to stop there and they sent to Fatimah and asked her to intervene on their behalf and to say to him: “Thy wives adjure thee by God to give them justice in respect of the daughter of Abu Bakr.” Fatimah reluctantly agreed to this, but put off doing it for some days until finally her cousin Zaynab, the daughter of Jahsh, came to her and insisted. So she went to her father and said what she had been asked to say. “My little daughter,” said the Prophet, “Lovest thou not what I love?” And when she assented he said: “Then love her” –meaning ‘A’ishah. Then he said: “It was Zaynab who sent thee, was it not?” “Zaynab and the others,” said Fatimah. “I swear,” said the Prophet, “it was she who set this afoot.” And when Fatimah admitted it, he smiled.
She returned to the wives and recounted what had happened. “0 daughter of God’s Messenger,” they said, “thou hast availed us nothing!” They pressed her to go a second time, but she refused, so they said to Zaynab “Go thou,” and she went to the Prophet, who finally told ‘A’ishah to speak to her, and she produced arguments against which Zaynab could say nothing. The Prophet was bound to be just and equitable towards his wives, and to encourage others to follow his example; but he was not responsible for the equity of others towards his own wives. Nor would his sensitivity have allowed him to interfere; it was for him to receive a present with thanks, and to leave all else to the donor. When Zaynab had gone he said to ‘A’ishah: “Thou art indeed the daughter of Abu Bakr.”