Settling the debate on Mother Aisha (ra)’s age of marriage
What I have noticed throughout my life so far that most debates arises due to lack of exposure and knowledge. People who normally raise questions are the ones who lack proper understanding on the subject of issue, which is very normal and should be the case. But when it becomes an issue of attack and slander with a negative intention and learning and understanding is not the motive then it becomes a problem, a fitnah. The debate and argument on the age of mother Aisha (ra)’s marriage is one such issue that needs to be resolved. And I intend to do that in this article once and for all.
My approach on religious inquiry is simple and straightforward. I do not rely on any information other than the Qur’an and Sunnah (i.e., authentic ahadiths) when it comes to settling a matter in Islam. Here too I will apply that same strategy.
Since there is no relevant information on this topic in the Qur’an; therefore, I had to look for references in the four main sources of hadiths in order of preference: Bukahri, Muslim, Abu Dawd and Muatta. Normally, I do not go beyond these four resources. Occasionally, I venture into Tirmidi, but never into Ibne Majah and Baihaki, as they contain many false and weak ahadiths without being identified as false or weak as done by Abu Dawd, Tirmidi, Ahmad, et al. Therefore, consulting those references is very risky.
Fortunately, I could not find any reference on this topic in any of the hadiths except for Bukhari. Sahih Bukahri sources are considered the most authentic and most reliable among all the ahadiths. Therefore we are already in an advantage. So let’s explore them now.
It all began with a dream –
Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle 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. I said (to myself), 'If this is from Allah, then it must happen.' Then you were shown to me, the angel carrying you in a silken piece of cloth, and I said (to him), 'Uncover (her), and behold, it was you. I said (to myself), 'If this is from Allah, then it must happen.' " (Bukhari, Book #87, Hadith #140); (Book #58, Hadith #235); (Book #62, Hadith #15); and (Book #87, Hadith #139).
Therefore, to begin with, marriage with Aisha (ra) was foretold to Prophet (s) through couple of dreams; and the whole matter was a dream come true.
Narrated Aisha: The Prophet engaged me when I was a
girl of six (years). We went to
This is the most common and well known among all the hadiths related to this case where Mother Aisha (ra) herself has revealed some information about her own marriage. What we see here is that in her own account, she was “engaged” at the age of “six” through an informal ceremony where some Ansari women were present who wished her “good luck”. Then three years later she was formally “handed over by her mother” to the Prophet (s) when she was “nine” years old.
Narrated Hisham's father: Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old. (Bukhari, Book #58, Hadith #236)
Now we find an account from “Hisham’s father” relating the same information in a brief manner. Therefore, we are not in contradiction so far. The following hadith narrated by Ursa sheds some light on how this marriage was arranged.
Narrated 'Ursa: The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for 'Aisha's hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said "But I am your brother." The Prophet said, "You are my brother in Allah's religion and His Book, but she (Aisha) is lawful for me to marry." (Bukahri, Book #62, Hadith #18)
The above reference makes it clear that the marriage proposal went to Abu Bakr – the father of Aisha (ra) directly from the Prophet (s) that raised a confusion in Abu Bakar’s mind about the relationship matter that was resolved by the Prophet (s) followed by acceptance by Abu Bakr (ra). Therefore, it was a normal and a fair deal as it happens in pretty much every society (Islamic or not) even today.
How old was Prophet (s) when he married Aisha (ra)? Some say 49, some say 53 or 55. Therefore, let’s do a little math based on the following hadith –
Narrated 'Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death). (Bukahri, Book #62, Hadith #64)
Again, it is Aisha (ra) at her own rescue. She herself is once again confirming her marriage age matters with an added information that she remained with the Prophet (s) for “nine” years. Prophet (s) was 63 years of age at the time of his death. Therefore, (63 – 9) = 54 years was the age of the Prophet when he married Aisha (ra). And she was 18 years old when the Prophet (s) departed [An amazing fact is, she lived for another 30 years covering the total duration of Khulafae Rashidun period where she was one of the crucial advisors after the close companions of the Prophet (s)]. Here is another hadith that confirms that above hadith –
Narrated 'Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that 'Aisha remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death)." what you know of the Quran (by heart)' (Bukahri, Book #62, Hadith #65)
Again, Ursa has reported summarizing all of the above,
Narrated 'Ursa: The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death). (Bukahri, Book #62, Hadith #88)
We have managed to find narrations from three individuals (i.e., Aisha (ra), Hisham’s father, and Ursa) all recorded by Bukahri that are in line and in coherence with each other. Therefore, those who suspect that the hadiths are false or weak or tampered or fabricated are denouncing not just one or two but all of the hadiths above.
As I see it, the reason for suspicion of authenticity of the hadiths related to this topic is mainly due to the fact that Aisha (ra) was only nine years old when the marriage was “consummated”. Therefore, the modern day disbelievers are bringing in an accusation against the Prophet (s) calling him a pedophile or lustful or whatever. The bottom line is, they are trying to create a fitnah and confusion in the mind of the believers by making this a big issue. Where as, in Islam, and in many civilized society, consideration of marriage comes when one reaches “puberty”. Today definition of puberty varies from nation to nation, country to country, which was not the case back then during the time of the Prophet (s). If the accuser goes back to their own history and culture a thousand years back he or she would probably find that members of their own past generation married when they were very young. I know for a fact that my grandfather married my grandmother when she was only 11 years old and he was 21. They were happy couple with 9 children, my father being the eldest.
It is very common around the world that girl’s reaches puberty as early as 7 and 8 years of age, and 9 for sure.
Puberty, usually occurring during adolescence, is when kids develop physically and emotionally into young men and women. Usually, this starts to happen no earlier than about 7 to 8 years of age for girls and 9 years of age for boys (the average age is about 10 for girls and 12 for boys). (Source: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/sexual/precocious.html )
So what is the big deal? Why are we so apologetic in understanding and explaining the matter? Isn’t it better than the practice the “sugar daddies” have in the West? Case closed.
Why Prophet Muhammad Married Aisha When She Was Only 9?: http://islamgreatreligion.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/why-prophet-muhammad-married-aisha-when-she-was-only-9/
An Examination of Muhammad’s Marriage to a Prepubescent Girl And Its Moral Implications: http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/prepubescent.htm