By Funsho Animashaun @ knowislam.com.ng
Salam alaekum everyone.
While I was researching for resource materials for this article, I was careful to go through each source at my disposal to ascertain the authenticity of every claim and in-fact I had to scrutinize every author and every book so as to get the TRUTH.
The age of Aisha (Mother of the faithfuls) has been a topic of discuss that most Muslims tend to shy away from if raised by propagandists and most Apologetic missionaries. They tend to label Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) insulting names just to demean his character.
The Prophet (pbuh) married Aisha (RA) after he married Sawdah bint Zam’ah (RA). She – Aisha (RA) – was the only virgin whom Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) married.
The definition of the age of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) when the Prophet (pbuh) did the marriage contract with her as being six years, and of the age when he consummated the marriage with her as being nine years, is not a matter of ijtihaad (individual opinion) on the part of the scholars, such that we could argue whether it is right or wrong; rather this is a historical narration which is proven by evidence that confirms its soundness and the necessity of accepting it.
The question of Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) marriage with Sayyidah Aisha is the one hurled against Muslims in almost every discussion. And it takes much time for people to understand the whole issue only because they fail to understand historical things in their right perspective considering the situation in those particular times. Agreed that a Prophet’s deeds should be above any question in all times and this is true indeed, but there are certain things in which change is inevitable subject to valid reasons and Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) marriage with Sayyidah Aisha is one such case. One who fails to understand the times and all the factors related to issue in hand can never understand the happenings through the history.
Islamic Law regarding age of marriage:
In Islam there is no fixed age of marriage, whenever a person reaches the age of puberty he or she is fit for marriage. Nikah, the marital contract, may be made earlier but consummation of marriage can take place only after puberty is attained.
The age of maturity through the ages and over the regions:
The wisdom behind Islam not fixing an age is evident, different people reach the age of puberty at different times. And the general trend also varies over the time and across the regions with variant climate conditions. For instance, people living in regions of low altitudes attain puberty earlier then those in high altitudes regions. Similarly people in warm climates attain puberty earlier then those in cold climates. Now keeping all this in mind consider that when Holy Prophet (pbuh) married Sayyidah Aisha while she was nine it was some 1400 years back and it happened in Arabia, a region with relatively lower altitude and hot climate as one of its most salient features.
Leaving all the history aside, even now puberty at nine is no wonderful a phenomenon. Experts now suggest that age 7 (even 6 for some races) and not 8 should be considered precocious (i.e. early) for puberty among girls. Below is a reference that a nine year old Thai girl even became a mother.
Sayyidah Aisha was fit for the marriage, considering the puberty factor and physical bearing:
It is rather erroneous to say that Sayyidah Aisha (RA) was a child bride. She was a grown up girl.
Sayyidah Aisha herself narrates; ‘Holy Prophet (pbuh) married her when she was six years old and consummated the marriage when she was nine years old…’ (Bukhari, Hadith 4738)
Having known this, let me draw your attention to another saying of Sayyidah Aisha which Al-Tirmidhi has narrated under a Hadith in his collection’s Book of Marriage, Chapter 18. It goes as:
Sayyidah Aisha said: ‘When a girl is nine years old, she is a woman (meaning, she has attained puberty).’ (Tirmidhi, Hadith 1109)
Moreover, through certain narrations we come to know of the fact she was going through her puberty. Modern science testifies that puberty causes hair loss and this is exactly what we read in a Hadith:
Narrated Sayyidah Aisha: “The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj then I got ill and my hair fell down…” (Bukhari Hadith 3605)
So this makes it absolutely clear that Sayyidah Aisha’s marriage was consummated at an age, she herself says was that of puberty. The general tone of her statement also conveys that it was normal in those times and in that environment.
It also needs to be mentioned that even before the Holy Prophet (pbuh) , she was engaged with Jubair bin Mut’am whose parents dissolved the engagement when her family embraced Islam.
All these details kill the argument that Holy Prophet (pbuh) had intimate marital relations with a child, for in that particular sense she was no more a child and she herself testifies that being a nine year old she was a woman then having attained puberty.
Moreover, she was quite healthy and fit. She herself says:
‘My mother intended to make me fat to send me to the (house of) the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) . But nothing which he desired benefited me till she gave me cucumber with fresh dates to eat. Then I became fat as good (as she desired).’ (Abu Dawud, Hadith 3903. Albani classified it as Sahih)
About Sayyidah Aisha playing with dolls etc:
Another issue concerning this marriage is the fact of Sayyidah Aisha playing with dolls and other toys. The question raised is that playing with toys is an innocent child act, and it proves that she was a child when she was married to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) . This much is true but the point missed is that Holy Prophet (PBUH) did have an understanding of this fact and he did not expect or force her to behave like his other wives e.g. like aged Sayyidah Sawda (RA). Infact we find that Holy Prophet (pbuh) gave her ample chances to fulfill her desire of playing with her friends and made her feel comfortable.
Sayyidah Aisha narrates: ‘I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah’s Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me.’ (Bukhari, Hadith 5665)
Sayyidah Aisha reported: ‘By Allah, I remember the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) standing on the door of my apartment screening me with his mantle enabling me to see the sport of the Abyssinians as they played with their daggers in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) . He (the Holy Prophet) kept standing for my sake till I was satiated and then I went back; and thus you can well imagine how long a girl tender of age who is fond of sports (could have watched it).’ (Muslim, Hadith 1481)
These two narrations show that Holy Prophet (pbuh) did care for the natural urge of his young wife for amusement. And this is also a proof that her marriage at the age of nine did not bar her from the enjoyment craved for at that age.
Holy Prophet (pbuh) consummated the marriage with Sayyidah Aisha when she was nine as she had attained puberty and, as she herself said that at nine a girl is rather a woman, but he did not burden her with tough responsibilities of a wife and provided her ample opportunities to enjoy her age.
This infact shows the wisdom of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) that he did present a role model for all the people to come to care for all the needs of a wife. She married women of all age groups, elder to him like Sayyidah Khadija (RA), of his own age like Sauda (RA), younger but mature of age like Zainab (RA) and much younger like Sayyidah Aisha (RA).
Sayyidah Aisha’s marriage and consent issue:
Next comes the issue of her consent. Her nikah, the marital contract, was made when she was six but the marriage was consummated when she was nine. Now had she showed her displeasure about this marriage when she was nine, and thus a woman according to her own testimony, then marriage would haven been null and void, but it never turned up like that. She did not show any such notion and similarly never in her later life did she ever give any such impression. She rather always showed her love for the Holy Prophet (pbuh) .
Wisdom behind this marriage:
We know that Sayyidah Aisha (RA) was considered the most learned among the all the Companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) . The following testifies to this.
Abu Musa al-Ashari says: “Never had we (the companions) any difficulty for the solution of which we approached Aisha and did not get some useful information from her”. (Tirmidhi, Hadith 3883. Albani classified it as Sahih)
She narrated some 2210 Ahadith from the Prophet (pbuh) and this was possible only because she lived with him for nine years and that too at a young age when people have a sharp memory and great sense of observation. Then she lived for about 46 years after the death of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and continued to teach the people matters of religion especially those related to household affairs and marital life. No other wife of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) did the similar job that may be compared with her blessed endeavors. This shows the Divine Wisdom for it was not the Prophet himself but Allah that ordained this marriage. She herself reports;
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said to me, ‘You were shown to me twice (in my dream) before I married you. I saw an angel carrying you in a silken piece of cloth, and I said to him, ‘Uncover (her),’ and behold, it was you.’ (Bukhari, Hadith 6495)
It may be noted that among his wives were those who were young and old, the daughter of his sworn enemy, the daughter of his closest friend. One of them occupied herself with raising orphans, another distinguished herself from others by fasting and praying qiyaam a great deal… They represented all kinds of people, through whom the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was able to set out a way for the Muslims showing how to deal properly with all kinds of people. [See al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw’ al-Masaadir al-Asliyyah, p. 711].
If you think – may Allah guide you – that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not marry any virgin other than Aisha (RA), and that all his other wives had been previously married, this will refute the notion spread by many hostile sources, that the basic motive behind the Prophet’s marriages was physical desire and enjoyment of women, because if that was his intention he would have chosen only those who were virgins and beautiful etc.
Such slanders against the Prophet of Mercy (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) by kaafirs and others of their ilk, are indicative of their inability to find fault with the law and religion that he brought from Allah, so they try to find ways to criticize Islam with regard to issues that are not related to shariah.
LET US TURN THE TABLES AROUND
The Catholic Encyclopaedia reports regarding Mary, mother of Jesus:
… the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice of God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place.
[The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Reference of Work on the Constitution, Doctrine, Dicipline, and History of the Catholic Church, New York Robert Appleton Company, Vol. VIII, Pg. 505.]
Likewise, the Talmud states, “Marrying off one’s daughter as soon after she reaches adulthood as possible, even to one’s Slave”[Talmud, Pesachim 113a]. In fact, the Talmud presents some shocking guidance on marriage, also stating, “A maiden aged three years and a day may be acquired in marriage by coition, and if her deceased husband’s brother cohabits with her, she becomes his.”[Talmud, Sanhedrin 55b].
So while the Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that Mary and Joseph were married at the ages of 12-14 and 90, respectively, the Talmud permits marrying girls as young as three years and one day. Lest this seem like an attack on Christianity and Judaism—which it is not—we present marriage laws in the West.
For centuries in Scotland, the age of consent for girls was 12—and parental consent was unnecessary [G T Bisset-Smith. 1st edition. Edinburgh: William Green & Sons, (1902)]. Only in 1929 was the age raised to 16 for girls [Id]. But in America even today, Aisha’s consenting marriage to Prophet Muhammad would be considered valid. For example, in New Hampshire, the legal age for girls is 13 with parental consent [New Hampshire Title 53, Chapter 457, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g]. In Massachusetts, the legal age for girls is 12 with parental consent [Massachusetts Title III, Chapter 207, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g]. In Mississippi, there is no age minimum for girls, as long as there is parental consent [Mississippi Title 93, Chapter 1, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g]. In California, there is no age minimum for girls, as long as there is parental consent [California Family Code §§ 300-500, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g.]. Granted, the American state laws were passed in the 19th and 20th centuries—not today. And granted, American’s aged 12 or 13 do not typically get married today. The point still stands, however, that even in recent American history, American’s found value—not objection—in marrying at 12 or 13, or even younger, and passed laws through their state legislatures to affirm their value.
This exercise in no way argues for a return to such marrying ages. Rather, it merely establishes the point that “appropriate” marriage age is based on social construct—not some supposed objective, advanced contemporary standard. Therefore, if we are to accuse Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) of any impropriety in marrying Aisha even if she was 6-9, then we must also condemn the Old Testament, New Testament, the Europe, and numerous American states. Above discussion demonstrates that Aisha’s marriage to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), even if she was 6, was not by any means unusual when compared across time and culture—even to contemporary standards
And Allah Knows Best