Aisha’s Marriage Age

 

As I have established in my articles on ‘The Hadith‘ and ‘Shariah‘, the Qur’an is the primary source that guides a Muslim’s belief system, lifestyle and values.  The hadith supplement these things in interpretations of Shariah that scholars make.  In this decision making process, Shari’ah which does not relate to religious life (See: Islam is a 3 Dimensional Religion) or practice is “dynamic” and able to change based on time, place, the people and technology.  Interpreting hadith is a science that many scholars devote their entire lives to.  There is a historical and cultural context to hadith.

The hadith were written between 200-300 years after the Prophet and he never saw them or authorized them as he did the Qur’an, so we have to ‘authenticate’ the narrators.  We call this ‘isnad‘ (chain of narration) and this tells us that the people who narrated the hadith are trustworthy or not.  Isnad does not tell us that  what was recorded in the hadith is definitively what was said or happened. Hadith are basically “hearsay evidence” and have many classifications of authenticity of isnad, not accuracy of content.  This is why the hadith are a secondary source that supplement the Qur’an.

Keep in mind that although Muslims believe in the Bible (New Testament), we don’t rely on it for our belief system partly for the reason that the earliest writings are from 132AD (in Aramaic) and wasn’t canonized until 325AD (in Greek). More precisely, it has no isnad (chain of narration). That’s 100 to over 300 years after Jesus. The Prophet never saw our books of hadith and Jesus never saw the Bible to authorize it.

There is a logical fallacy by antagonists of Islam claiming that Aisha was too young to marry based on one or two hadith.  People who claim this have little knowledge of what they are talking about and don’t have the desire or know how in order to find out.  Hopefully, I have simplified it here for anyone to easily understand.

Aisha’s marriage was arranged by her father Abu Bakr and she was not married until she was legally able to accept the marriage. The age is highly debatable due to the contradictions of many hadith, compounded by people’s lack sourcing hadith and understanding how to fit them together, hence why it is considered a ‘science’.  In fact, tallying up all of the contradictions on her age mentioned in various hadith averages out to age 19.

To arbitrarily say Aisha was six or nine years old without taking into account the many other hadith that contradict this is a serious logical error.  To put faith in that assertion and deliberately hang on to the belief that Islam teaches Aisha was this young,  the Prophet Muhammad was a sexual predator or Islam teaches Muslims to do this is simply half-baked and absurd.

Unlike in much of today’s western world, in seventh century Arabia, the onset for puberty defined adulthood. As late as five centuries later, this was the case also in Europe. King John of England was 33 years old and married Isabella of Angoulême, who was 12 at the time.

Also, it’s important to mention rarely thought of facts about our western societies before making negative judgments about the issue of ‘marital age’.  “Modern standards” in the United States alone very greatly but all states allow early marriageable ages, some as young as 13. According to various US state law, a girl with her parents consent can marry and have sex in that marriage in her early to mid teens.  There is no top end cap on the age of men, either.  It may or may not be acceptable to most of us for these ages, but before holding a double standard on 7th century Arabian cultural norms, we need to consider these facts, because they aren’t much different.

The fallacy of believing the error of Aisha being too young to be married involve these contradictions in the hadith:

  1. Abu Bakr is reported in Tabari to have wished to spare Aisha the harsh trip to Ethiopia shortly after 615 CE and tried to marry her to Mut’am’s son sooner than planned (she was engaged once prior to the Prophet marrying her).  Mut’am refused because Abu Bakr had converted to Islam.  If Aisha was old enough to be engaged (of marriageable age) in 615 CE she would have been much older than nine in 622 CE when she married.
  2. Tabari also reports that during Jahiliyyah (days before he accepted Islam) all of his kids were born.  His jahiliyyah ended in 610 CE.  This would make Aisha twelve when she married in 622 CE.
  3. The earliest surviving biography of the Prophet (Ibn Hisham) says that she converted to Islam before one of the Prophet’s main companions (Umar ibn Al-Kattab) in the few years around 610 CE.  In order to convert to Islam she had to be of the age of talking and understanding. Assuming this is around age three, that would make her at least 15 in 622 CE when she was married.
  4. Fatima was five years older than Aisha according to Ibn Hajar.  Fatima was born when Muhammad was 35 years old. This means that Aisha was born when the Muhammad was 40 years old which would make Aisha twelve years old when she was married.
  5. Sahih Bukhari states that Aisha participated in both the battle of Badr and Uhud.  According to Bukhari’s Kitab Al’ Maghzi (Book of History), Ibn Umar said that the Prophet did not allow him to participate in the battle of Uhud because he was 14 years old.  No one younger than 15 was allowed to accompany raiding parties. However, on the day of the Khandaq battle Ibn Umar was 15 and he was allowed to participate.  Since it was not allowed for people younger than 15 to participate in raiding parties, Aisha who participated in the battle of Uhud was at minimum 15 years old. This would put her at 13-14 at the time of marriage.
  6. According the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, Aisha was at the battle of Badr, which took place in 624 CE.  It is not possible for her to be at the battle of Badr without being at minimum age 15 because no one younger than this was allowed to accompany raiding parties.  If she was at the battle of Badr (which she was according to Qur’an) she would have been 15 or older. So, when she was married following the hijra (migration to Medina) in 622 CE she would have been 13 or older.
  7. Aisha is said also to have been born eight years before Hijra (migration to Medina) in 622 CE. Yet, in Sahih Bukhari that at the time of the 54th chapter of the Qur’an was revealed (Surah Al-Qamar) Aisha is reported to have said, “I was a young girl”.  However, the 54th Chapter of Qur’an was revealed nine years before Hijra. According to this, Aisha had not even been born yet. So, if Ashia, as an adult after the death of the Prophet, relayed a hadith remembering to a time when she was a young girl (during a time when she wasn’t even born yet) she would most likely be referring to being between 7-14, which would make her between 14-21 at the age of marriage.
  8. It is generally accepted among historians that Aisha’s sister Asma was ten years older than her. Two sources (Taqreeb al-Tehzeeb and Ibn Kathir’s Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah) state that Asma died in the 73rd year after Hijra (migration to Madina) when she was 100 years old. If Asma was 100 at that time, she would have been 27 or 28 during Hijra in 622 CE.  This would make Aisha 17 or 18 years old at that time.  If Aisha got married a year or two later in 1 AH or 2 AH (After Hijra) she would have been somewhere between 18-20 years old at the time of marriage.
  9. Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqat and Ansab al-Ashraf books are in disagreement concerning Aisha’s marriage. Accordingly, her marriage would have been two to five years after Hijra (migration to Madina) and would make her about 17-20. (Source)

Important points:

  • Aisha was at minimum the age of puberty at the time of marriage according to 7th century customs, possibly older.
  • Aisha deeply loved the Prophet Muhammad long after he died and until the day she died.  She was in love with him her entire life and he with her.  Many hadith support how close and intimate their love was for each other.
  • Of all the demonizing from local tribes claiming he was demonically possessed, insane or altering the market economy by making their gods obsolete, etc., no one ever accused him of marrying a girl too young to be married.
  • Aisha was a warrior who commanded men from her tribe in battle.  She was a strong woman with high status in Islam and Arabia.  She relayed the majority of the Prophet Muhammad’s hadith after he died.  Since she had the power to do so, there is no evidence that she reflected in her stories of the Prophet’s life that he victimized her by marrying her or that her marriage or relationship made her unhappy.  She was totally devoted to him until she died.
  • Aisha never gave any indication that she was forced to marry and forced marriages is against Islamic teaching. Her marriage was willful and accepted by her as per custom among Muslims.
  • Aisha had a healthy relationship with the Prophet and no serious scholar of Islamic history has ever noted signs of a forced or sexually abusive relationship.

Article by BrJimC © 2017