A’isha: Mohammed’s Nine-Year Old Wife
July 2010 version
Numerous people have said that Mohammed had sex with his youngest wife, ‘Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, when he was about 53 and she was only nine years old. Some Muslims deny that. If somebody were to claim Mohammed and ‘Aisha had sex when she was nine, and they were wrong, that would be a serious slander against Mohammed. On the other hand, if it were true, that would show a very different side of Mohammed that would shock many. So is this accusation against Mohammed true or false?
This paper will first give the evidence for A’isha being nine when her marriage was consummated, then raise 11 objections to this, and finally, ask what if each view were correct.
This is important to a widely practiced but overlooked practice today: child brides in Muslim lands due to Mohammed’s example.
In Iran as of June 2002 it is legal for a 9 year old girl to marry with her parents’ permission. Voices Behind the Veil p.136-137
In the Ivory Coast this book also tells of a 12 year old girl who would leave the house for hours before returning home. After her father tied her up, burned her back with a piece of iron, locked her up for three days with no food, he eventually married her of to a 40-year old man. He never sent her to school because he said that it would drive them from their tradition, they would start asking questions, and not want to marry until they are 19 or 20.
The Taliban encouraged families to marry off their daughters as young as eight years old. (Voices Behind the Veil p.110)
The Dallas Morning News Sep 28, 2003 p.1,10S had a story about the sad plight of Muslim Nigerian girls who were married very young, got pregnant and had labor before their small bodies were ready. It was actually somewhat of a gross story, basically of many girls who needed C-sections but did not get them. Many survived, but could not have any children due to their perforated uteruses.
To understand the authoritative nature of the example of Mohammed, we have to understand something of the Muslim hadiths. They hold a higher place in Sunni Islam than church tradition does in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Sunni Muslims hold to six collections of hadiths as the most authoritative writings in Islam after the Qur’an. The rest of this paper shows that the accusation is completely true, according to numerous corroborating early Muslims sources. In addition to these quotes from the six authoritative hadiths is a reference from the highly respected early Muslim historians ibn Ishaq and al-Tabari.
1. Sahih al-Bukhari 810-870 A.D. 256 A.H.
1a. "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 consummated that marriage when she was nine years old." Bukhari vol.5 book 58 ch.43 no.236 p.153.
1b. The same points are in Bukhari vol.5 book 58 ch.43 no.234 p.152.
1c. "Narrated ‘Urwa: The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with ‘Aisha while she was six year 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). Bukhari vol.7 book 62 ch.60 no.88 p.65
1d. Narrated 'Aisha: The Prophet was screening me with his Rida' (garment covering the upper part of the body) while I was looking at the Ethiopians who were playing in the courtyard of the mosque. (I continued watching) till I was satisfied. So you may deduce from this event how a little girl (who has not reached the age of puberty) who is eager to enjoy amusement should be treated in this respect. Bukhari vol.7 book 62 ch.115 no.163 p.119
1e. "Narrated 'Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) I never remembered my parents believing in any religion other than the true religion (i.e. Islam), and (I don't remember) a single day passing without our being visited by Allah’s Apostle in the morning and in the evening." Bukhari vol.5 book 58 ch.44 no.245 p.158. Therefore ‘Aisha either was not born yet or else not very old or not born yet when her parents became Muslims. This is consistent with her being a child when her marriage with Mohammed was consummated.
2. Sahih Muslim 817-875 A.D. 261 A.H.
This is generally considered the second most reliable collection of hadiths.
2a. "(3309) ‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house at the age of nine. She further said: We went to Medina and I had an attack of fever for a month, and my hair had come down to the earlobes. Umm Ruman (my mother) came to me and I was at that time on a swing along with my playmates. She called me loudly and I went to her and I did not know what she had wanted of me. She took hold of my hand and took me to the door, and I was saying: Ha, ha (as if I was gasping), until the agitation of my heart was over. She took me to a house, where had gathered the women of the Ansar. They all blessed me and wished me good luck and said: May you have shared in good. She (my mother) entrusted me to them. They washed my head and embellished me and nothing frightened me. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) came there in the morning, and I was entrusted to him." Sahih Muslim vol.2 book 8 ch.548 no.3309 p.715-716
2b. "(3310) ‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house when I was nine years old."
(3311) ‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) married here when she was seven years old, and she was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her: and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old." Sahih Muslim vol.2 book 8 ch.548 no.3310,3311 p.716.
2c. "(5981) ’A’isha reported that she used to play with dolls in the presence of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and when her playmates came to her they left (the house) because they felt shy of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), whereas Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent them to her.
2d. (5982) This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Hisham with the same chain of transmitters with a slight variation of wording." Sahih Muslim vol.4 book 29 ch.1005 no.5981-5982 p.1299
3. Sunan Abu Dawud817-888/9 A.D. 275 A.H.
3a. "(2116) ‘A’ishah said : The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) married me when I was seven years old. The narrator Sulaiman said : Or six years. He had intercourse with me when I was nine years old." Sunan Abu Dawud vol.2 book 5 ch.700 no.2116 p.569
3b. "(4913) ‘A’ishah said : I used to play with dolls. Sometimes the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) entered upon me when the girls were with me. When he came in, they went out, and when he went out, they came in." Sunan Abu Dawud vol.3 book 36 ch.1769 no.4913 p.1373
Note carefully this is NOT saying Mohammed had intercourse with A’isha while her playmates were watching. Rather it says the playmates played with her, and they went out when Mohammed came by, and could come back after he was finished with her.
3c. "(4915) ‘A’ishah said : The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) married me when I was seven or six. When we came to Medina, some women came. According to Bishr’s version: Umm Ruman came to me when I was swinging. They took me, made me prepared and decorated me. I was then brought to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him), and he took up cohabitation with me when I was nine. She halted me at the door, and I burst into laughter.
Abu Dawud said : That is to say : I menstruated, and I was brought in a house, and there were some women of the Ansari (Helpers) in it. They said : With good luck and blessing. The tradition of one of them has been included in the other. Sunan Abu Dawud vol.3 book 36 ch.1770 no.4915 p.1374
3d. (5916) [typo, really 4916] The tradition mentioned above has also been transmitted by Abu Usamah in a similar manner through a different chain of narrators. This version has: ‘With good fortune.’ She (Umm Ruman) entrusted me to them. They washed my head and redressed me. No one came to me suddenly except the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) in the forenoon. So they entrusted me to him. Sunan Abu Dawud vol.3 book 36 ch.1770 no.4916 p.1374
3e. (4917) ‘A’ishah said: When we came to Medina, the women came to me when I was playing on the swing, and my hair were [sp] up to my ears. They brought me, prepared me, and decorated me. Then they brought me to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) and he took up cohabitation with me, when I was nine. Sunan Abu Dawud vol.3 book 36 ch.1770 no.4917 p.1374
3f. (4918) The tradition mentioned above has also been transmitted by Hisham b. ‘Urwah through a different chain of narrators. This version adds: I was swinging and I had my friends. They brought me to a house ; there were some women of the Ansar (Helpers). They said : With good luck and blessing. Sunan Abu Dawud vol.3 book 36 ch.1770 no.4918 p.1374
3g. (4919) ‘A’ishah said : We came to Medina and stayed with Banu al-Harith b. al-Khazraj. She said : I swear by Allah, I was swinging between two date-palms. Then my mother came, and made me come down; and I had my hair up to the ears. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition." Sunan Abu Dawud vol.3 book 36 ch.1770 no.4915-4919 p.1374.
Conclusion on Abu Dawud: 7 references and no counter-references affirm that A’isha was nine.
4. Tirmidhi825-892 A.D. 209-279 A.H.
"..Ahmad and Is'haq said that if a female orphan reaches nine years old and was wed with her consent, then the marriage is permissible and she will have no choice when she matures. The two relied on a hadith by Ai'sha stating that the prophet peace be upon him had sexual relations with her when she was nine. Aisha said, if the little girl reaches nine then she is a woman" Tirmidhi said: A good hadith. (Tirmidhi, "Marriage according to Allah's apostle", #1027)
Conclusion on Tirmidhi: 1 reference and no counter-references affirm that A’isha was nine.
5. Sunan Nas’ai830-915 A.D. 215-303 A.H.
5a. A’ishah said: The Apostle of Allah peace be upon him married her when she was six and had intercourse with her when she was nine. (Sunan Nas’ai, Book of Marriage, no.3255)
5b. A’ishah said: The Apostle of Allah peace be upon him married me when I was seven and had intercourse with me when I was nine. (Sunan Nas’ai, Book of Marriage, no.3256)
5c. A’ishah said: The Apostle of Allah peace be upon him married me when I was nine and I accompanied him for nine years. (Sunan Nas’ai, Book of Marriage, no.3257)
5d. A’ishah said: The Apostle of Allah peace be upon him married her when she was nine and died when she was eighteen. (Sunan Nas’ai, Book of Marriage, no.3258)
5e. A’ishah said: The Apostle of Allah peace be upon him married me when I was six and had intercourse with me when I was nine and I was playing with dolls. (Sunan Nas’ai, Book of Marriage, no.3256)
Note that the previous are in original Arabic, but were not in the English translation. However, the English translator at the front wrote the following under #18.
"When Hadrat ‘A’isha passed nine years of married life, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fell in mortal sickness. On the 9th or the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal 11 A.H., he left this mortal world…Hadrat ‘A’isha was eighteen years of age at the time when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed away and she remained a widow for forty-eight years till she died at the age of sixty-seven." Sunan Nasa’i vol.1 #18 p.108-109 (English material at the front)
Note that she had nine years of married life with Mohammed, and since he died when she was eighteen, she was nine years old when she started her married life with Mohammed.
Conclusion on Sunan Nasa’i: Not counting English translation notes, the Arabic has 5 references and no counter-references to affirm that A’isha was nine.
6. Ibn-i-Majah 824-886/887 A.D. 273 A.H.
6a. A’isha was married when she was six years old, and nine when she went to Mohammed’s house. Ibn-i-Majah vol.3 book 9 ch.13 no.1876 p.133
6b. A’isha was married at seven, went to Mohammed’s house at nine, and was 18 when Mohammed died. According to al-Zawa’id, its isnad is sahih according to the condition of Bukhari. However Abu ‘Ubaida did not hear from his father, so it is munqata (has a gap) Ibn-i-Majah vol.3 book 9 ch.13 no.1877 p.134.
7. The Historian ibn Ishaq - died 767/773 A.D. 145/151 A.H.
7a. "Yahya b. Abbad b. Abdullah b. al-Zubayr from his father told me that he heard Aisha say: "The apostle died in my bosom during my turn: I had wronged none in regard to him. It was due to my ignorance and extreme youth that the apostle died in my arms.""
8. The Historian al-Tabari - died 923 A.D.
8a. ‘Aisha was 6 (or 7) years old when she was married, and the marriage was consummated when she was nine years old. al-Tabari vol.9 (year A.H. 10) p.129-131. Muhammad b. ‘Amr is one of the transmitters.
8b. ‘Aisha was 6-7 when married, and the marriage was consummated when she was 9-10, three months after coming to Mecca al-Tabari vol.7 (year A.H. 1) p.7. The chain of transmission includes an unnamed man from the Quraysh.
8c. Aisha died in June-July 678 A.D. (A.H. 58) at the age of 66. That would make her born in 610 A.D.. al-Tabari says she consummated her marriage with the prophet when she was nine years old. al-Tabari vol.39 p.171,173. (al-Tabari wrote 38 volumes of history, plus a 39th volume called Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors.)
X 8d. On the other hand, al-Tabari also wrote that i.e. "All four of his [Abu Bakr’s] children were born of his two wives -- the names of whom we have already mentioned -- during the pre-Islamic period." (Tarikhu'l-umam wa'l-mamlu'k, Al-Tabari, vol.4, (Account of Luhrasb) p.50, Arabic, Dara'l-fikr, Beirut, 1979. al-Tabari vol.11 (A.H 13) p.141 also mentions this, with footnote 766 saying al-Tabari has a conflict here. The footnote also says that al-Baladhuri’s Ansab I, p.409-411; Ibn Hajar’s Isabah IV, p.359-360 supports her being married by 9 years old.
Majority Muslim Explanations
There are two basic categories of answers Muslims have for this: the majority agree that these hadiths are reliable here, and a minority disagree.
The majority view affirms the reliability of these hadiths. If the hadiths and historians are to be trusted, then Mohammed, at around 53 years old, did have sex with a nine year old girl. As one Muslim told me "… and I bet A’isha was the happiest nine-year old girl in the world".
In 2005, the following defunct web page also said this, and also accused liberal Muslims of catering to western morality and denying the truth. http: // admin.muslimsonline.com/~islamawe/Polemics/aishah.html
The Sahih Muslim translation footnote 1958 on p.715 says in part: "According to Imam Shafi’i, marriage in childhood is not something appreciable. It was under some exceptional circumstances that Hadrat ‘A’isha was married to the Prophet (may peace be upon him). The second point to be noted is that Islam has laid down no age limit for puberty for it varies with countries and races due to climate, hereditary, physical and social conditions. Those who live in cold regions attain puberty at a much later age as compared with those living in hot regions where both male and female attain it at a quite early age. "The average temperature of the country or province,’ says the well-known authors of the book Woman, "is considered the chief factor here, not only with regard to menstruation but as regards the whole of sexual development at puberty. … Similarly, the author of Kinsey Report states: ‘The incidence of pre-adolescent sex play at particular ages (active incidence) seems to have been highest in the younger age groups. Some eight per cent of the females in the sample recalled pre-adolescent hetero-sexual play at ages five and seven" (Alfred C. Kinsey and Others, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female, p.110)" -- All of this was quoted from Sahih Muslim vol.2 footnote 1958 p.715.
[However, against saying girls mature more rapidly in that climate, here is what an Assyrian writer, named Bardaisan/Bardesan, (224-232 A.D.) wrote, "For a man does not become a father before the age of fifteen, nor does a woman become a mother before the age of thirteen." The Book of Laws of Diverse Countries.]
The translator of Sahih Muslim vol.2 gives an explanation in footnote 1960 on p.716. "The Holy Prophet’s (may peace be upon him) marriage with ‘A’isha has been criticized by the Western critics. It is, however, strange that contemporary critics of Muhammad (may peace be upon him) who leveled all kinds of charges against him did not make any mention, not in the least, of this marriage. It should be borne in mind that, like all acts of the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him), even this marriage had a Divine purpose behind it. Hadrat ‘A’isha was a precocious girl and was developing both in mind and body with rapidity peculiar to such rare personalities. She was admitted to the house of the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) just at the threshold of her puberty, the most impressionable and formative period of her life. … Even from the psycho-sexual standpoint it was a happy union as it is evident from the records of the Hadith. ‘When the difference (in ages),’ says Von De Velde, Director of the Gynaeological [sp] Clinic at Harlem [New York?], ‘is great, e.g. exceeds fifteen or twenty years, the results may be happier. The marriage of an elderly (senescent) - not, of course an old (senile) - man to a quite young girl, is often very successful and harmonious The bride is immediately introduced and accustomed to moderate sexual intercourse" (Ideal Marriage, Its Psychology and Technique, London, 1962 p.243)." Sahih Muslim vol.2 p.716.
Timeline of Mohammed and A’isha
Note that the interpretations and explanations of official hadith scholars, in trying to explain the rationale for her young age when the marriage was consummated, confirm the young age.
Footnote 2728 on the same page says in part: "Thus the marriage of the Prophet (may peace be upon him) with ‘A’isha at an age when she was at the threshold of puberty was a great necessity, as it was through her that instructions could successfully be imparted to the young ladies who had newly entered the fold of Islam. Moreover, this marriage struck at the root of a wrong notion which had firmly taken hold of the minds of the people that it was contrary to religious ethics to marry the daughter of a man whom one declared to be one’s brother." [Abu Bakr and Mohammed were brothers in religion, but not biological brothers.]
After Mohammed died, later in life A’isha started a Muslim Civil war, culminating with the Battle of the Camel [Jamal].
Muslims have said that either people got married younger back then, and/or girls in hotter countries tend to mature earlier. However, the age of marriage is not an issue, because even when children are married when both are less than one year old, they do not live together as husband and wife until the wife is old enough to bear children. As a result of Mohammed’s example, as mentioned previously, Nigerian Muslim girls have often been married early, and gotten pregnant before their young bodies were capable of bearing children. The Nigerian girls were raised in a hot climate too.
Eleven Possible Objections
A minority view denies that Mohammed had sex with a nine-year old, usually claiming that A’isha 17 to 19 years old. Here are reasons given, and some responses.
Objection 1: Doubts on Three of the Transmitters
1.1 An unnamed man from Quraysh is a transmitter in al-Tabari vol.7 (year A.H. 1) p.7, which is a weak reference.
1.2 Hisham ibn ‘Urwah is a transmitter in many quotes. If he was mistaken, then all the people who accurately quoted him would have wrong information too. Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, a book on the [life sketches of the] narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) reports that when he was old, Hisham's memory suffered quite badly. (vol.4, p.301-302)
Tehzibu'l-tehzib, one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) reports that according to Yaqub ibn Shaibah: "narratives reported by Hisham are reliable except those that are reported through the people of Iraq". It further states that Malik ibn Anas objected on those narratives of Hisham which were reported through people of Iraq. (vol.11, p. 48 - 51)
1.3 Muhammad ibn Amr is called weak by Ibn Abu Hatim in Al-Jarah wa al-Ta’deel: Yahya said, "he is not among those whom you would desire [to report from]." Abu Hatim asked Malik who said similar, and Yahya bin Mu’een said "People refrain from accepting his narratives"
Al-Dhahabiy in "Siyar Aa`laam al-Nubalaa", says that Juzyanniy said that Muhammad ibn Amr is not strong [in reliability]. Al-Dhabahiy also says Yahya ibn Qataan said Muhammad ibn Amr was not very careful in reporting narratives.
‘Uqailiy also said Muhammad ibn Amr was a weak [less reliable] narrator in al-Du`afaa al-`uqailiy, vol. 4, p.109.
Response to 1: Even assuming Hisham, ibn Amr, and an unnamed man are all weak transmitters, weak does not necessary mean they are wrong. Also, what about the more who are not weak? Here is a scorecard
A Scorecard on References
7 weaker references do not cancel out strong references; rather they add to their credibility.
Objection 2: No other Medina narrators
Hisham ibn ‘Urwah lived in Medina for 70 years and then moved to Iraq. Why did no one else from Medina narrate that A’isha was eight or nine? Also the other narrators are all from Iraq.
Response to 2: This is an argument from silence: many people did not report anything about A’isha’s age of her consummated marriage. Also, Iraq would be a good source, because both A’isha and many companions moved to Iraq by ‘Uthman’s time. Of course, we can assume A’isha remembered when she got married, and told others.
Objection 3: Did Arabs have child marriages?
There is [allegedly] no reference to child marriage in the history of the Arabs, so if Mohammed did this, one would expect this out of the ordinary incident to be reported by large numbers of people. No one would object to this young marriage if in fact it never happened.
Response 3: While this was reported by a number of people, there is in fact at least one reference to child marriage (and consummation) in Mohammed’s time. A lady [presumably married] became a grandmother at 21 years old according to Bukhari vol.3 book 48 ch.18 no.831 p.514. Finally, no one objected to the reporting of this young marriage, because the Muslim scholars agreed that it did happened.
Objection 4: Young girl when Sura 54:46 written
A’isha said she was a young girl when Sura 54:46 [al-Qamar on the splitting of the moon] was written, which [allegedly] was about 9 years before Hejira. She did not say infant [sibyah], but young girl [jariya]. (taken from http://www.understanding-islam.com/ri/mi-004.htm)
This is according to Bukhari, kitabu'l-tafsir, Arabic, Bab Qaulihi Bal al-sa`atu Maw`iduhum wa'l-sa`atu adha' wa amarr.
Response to 4: There are three parts to answer.
1a (word use): This argument hinges on allegedly not being able to use jariya as a generic word for any girl who is pre-teen. Yet many narratives said the A’isha still played with dolls when she was married to Mohammed.
1b (wrong Sura): It is easier for a few narrators to forget the correct sura than for a great many narrators to forget she was a child wife.
1c (wrong time for Sura): It might be the correct sura, but we do not really know when Sura 54:46 was written. Both Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Baariy and Maudid say it was about 5 years before Hejira, not 9 years before.
Objection 5: Aisha at Badr and Uhud
Some narratives said that A’isha accompanied the army at the battles of Badr and ‘Uhud (both in 3 A.H.). The hadiths also show that boys under 15 years old were allowed to take part in the Battle of ‘Uhud. al-Tabari vol.12 (A.H. 14) p.75 says a boy participated in the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah only after attaining puberty. The narratives mentioning A’isha at ‘Uhud are: Bukhari, Kitabu'l-jihad wa'l-siyar, Arabic, Bab Ghazwi'l-nisa' wa qitalihinna ma`a'lrijal. References that boys below 15 could not participate are: Bukhari vol.3 book 48 ch.18 no.832 p.514, Kitabu'l-maghazi, Bab ghazwati'l-khandaq wa hiya'l-ahza'b.
Response to 5: A’isha, being a girl, never fought in any battles. The age of 15 "is the limit between childhood and manhood". So what would a girl be there for?
An 10/11-year old, besides keeping Mohammed company at night, had many things to do. The women and young children went on the battlefield after the battle and gave water to the wounded Muslims and finished off the enemy wounded. al-Tabari vol.12 (A.H. 14) p.127,146. During the days of the battle, the women and children were there to dig graves for the dead. al-Tabari vol.12 (A.H. 14) p.107
Finally, young A’isha was considered an adult, for Muslims called a girl an adult when she first started her period according to the English translator’s note in Bukhari vol.3 book 48 ch.18 prior to no.832 p.513.
Objection 6: A’isha’s ten-year older sister ‘Asma died in 73 A.D. when she was 100 years old.
Taqri’bu’l-tehzi’b and Al-bidayah wa’l-nihayah say that ‘Asma died in 73 A.H. when she was 100 years old. Since Asm’a would have been about 26/27 in 1 A.H., that would make A’isha 16/17 in 1 A.H., not 8-9 years old. (References to Asm’a age at death are: ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Taqri'bu'l-tehzi'b p.654 and ibn Kathir in Al-bidayah wa'l-nihayah vol.8 p.372 Arabic. References to ‘Asma being ten years older are: Abda'l-Rahman ibn abi zanna'd, Siyar A`la'ma'l-nubala', Al-Zahabi, vol.2, p.289, Arabic, Mu'assasatu'l-risalah, Beirut, 1992, ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol 8, Pg 371, Arabic, Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933)
Response to 6: Assuming these books are reliable on this point, people can report the age of someone incorrectly after they died.
For example, if you trust ibn Hajar on the previous slide on when ‘Asma died, you should trust him ibn Hajar’s Isabah IV, p.359-360 when he shows A’isha was married by the time she was 9 years old. (footnote in al-Tabari vol.11 (A.H. 13) p.141 footnote 766)
What about the dolls? Contrary to Objection 6, a writer reported that many Muslim sources refer to A’isha still playing with her dolls when she was married. (Sahih Muslim vol.2 book 8 ch.548 no.3310,3311 p.716; Sahih Muslim vol.4 book 29 ch.1005 no.5981-5982 p.1299; Sunan Abu Dawud vol.3 book 36 ch.1769 no.4913 p.1373, ibn Hanbal.
Objection 7: al-Tabari said Abu Bakr had four children in the pre-Islamic period.
Since A’isha was one of the children, she would have to be at least 13 or 14 years old when the marriage was consummated.
Response to 7: al-Tabari vol.11 (A.H. 13) p.141 footnote 766 says that al-Tabari is contradictory here. He also said A’isha was 8-9 when the marriage was consummated. Tabari reported a great number of things, and he or his sources were mistaken on something. However, a person would remember something important better than something unimportant. Al-Tabari had three places where A’isha would be 8-10 when the marriage was consummated, and only one place that would make her somewhat older.
Objection 8: A’isha accepted Islam before ‘Umar bin Khattab according to Ibn Hisham in Sirah al-Nabawiyyah vol.1 p.227-24 (Arabic). She was the 20/21st person while ‘Umar was the 41st (ibid vol.1 p.295). Thus one Muslim claims this proves A’isha had to have accepted Islam during the first year (c.610 A.D.)
Response to 8: Three parts to the answer.
1. Nobody today really knows the order. In general there is lengthy disagreement on the order of who accepted Islam, as al-Tabari vol.5 (Holders of Power after Ardashir b. Babak) p.80-87; vol.12 (A.H. 14) p.38 discuss. If they cannot even agree on the first five men, how can they know the 21st?
2. A’isha never converted to Islam, because she never remembered a time when Mohammed did not come by twice a day and her parents were not Muslims. This is prior to the first migration to Ethiopia (617 A.D.) (Bukhari vol.5 book 58 ch.44 no.245 p.158).
3. ‘Umar became a Muslim just after the first migration to Ethiopia (617 A.D.) according to Ibn Ishaq p.155,156. So what Ibn Hisham counts as A’isha’s "conversion" could be between birth and three years old.
Objection 9: According to al-Tabari, Eight years before Hejira, when Abu Bakr planned on migrating Habshah, A’isha was engaged to marry Mut’am. Abu Bakr asked Mut’am to take Aisha into his house, but Mut’am refused because Abu Bakr had become a Muslim. Thus A’isha had to be old enough to be a wife eight years before Hejira. Another reference is Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka'inat, Habib ur Rahman Kandhalwi, Urdu, p.38, Anjuman Uswa e hasanah, Karachi, Pakistan
Response to 9: Even if this account is accurate, Arabs both then and today often betrothed girls soon after they were born. Abu Bakr had other daughters and it might have been one of them.
Objection 10: According to the Islamic jurist Ahmad ibn Hanbal, before A’isha was married, she was called in Arabic a bikr, which means virgin or unmarried lady. (Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, v.6, p. 210, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-`arabi, Beirut.
Response to 10: The word bikr means virgin and is not age-specific. If she was already a young lady, why would Mohammed wait for three years after marrying her before consummating the marriage? Also, the English translator’s note in Bukhari vol.3 book 48 ch.18 prior to no.832 p.513 says they called a girl an adult when she first started her period.
Objection 11: Ibn Hajar reported that Fatima, Mohammed’s daughter, was born when Mohammed was 35 years old, which would make her five years older the A’isha. That would make A’isha 15/16 years old when they consummated their marriage. (Al-isabah fi tamyizi'l-sahabah, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Vol 4, Pg 377, Arabic, Maktabatu'l-Riyadh al-haditha, al-Riyadh, 1978)
Response to 11: Sunan Nasa’i vol.1 #29 p.115-116 (English material at the front) actually says that Fatima was 29 years old when she died (six months after Mohammed), which makes her ten years older than A’isha. So either Ibn Hajar, or else everybody else made a mistake. The authoritative hadiths would be trusted by most Sunni Muslims more than Ibn Hajar. Regardless though, A’isha was younger.
What If Mohammed Did Not After All?
Let's assume for a second, that some westernized Muslims are correct on this; all the hadith sources and most al-Tabari references on this are wrong, and A’isha was not 8 or 9 but a teenager when Mohammed consummated his marriage to her. If these many hadiths are all wrong then there are four questions to ask Muslims.
1. What does "Sunni" mean if not the Muslims’ tradition of the hadiths?
2. Why Would Allah Let the Hadiths Warp Islamic Society for over 1,200 years?
Consider the already mentioned prevalence of child brides today in Nigeria and other Muslim places, and the medical horrors of girls who just started menstruating but are too young to give birth. Regardless of whether some modernist Muslims are right or the substantial body of Islamic scholarship is right, everyone agrees that the authoritative hadiths of Sunni Islam give the example of Mohammed consummating his marriage to A’isha when she was only 8/9 years old and playing with dolls.
If all these hadiths were wrong, do you agree that these hadiths are giving a bad example, and lending support to this cruel practice?
"Allah is the best of schemers/deceivers". Sura 3:54. Was this deception one of Allah’s schemes, Satan’s schemes, or was this sex with a nine-year old not a scheme?
3. According to Islam, What Happens If You Follow the Wrong Sect?
a) misled people horribly
4. Might the Correct Path be Called Something You Did Not Expect?
Four Questions for Traditional Muslims Only
Everyone has to agree that the hadiths and the vast bulk of Islamic scholarship both in the past and present teach that Mohammed had sex with a young eight or nine year old girl.
Here are four questions, but these questions are only for Muslims who teach that the hadiths are reliable.
1. Why do many Muslim teachers say that Sharia Muslim law is good, yet cover up this part?
2. When you say that Mohammed is sinless, does merely mean that anything he did and condoned you will not call wrong? If not, is there any rape or other sexual practice that you would condemn, even if Mohammed permitted or practiced it?
3. Why do so many westernized Muslims fail to follow the teachings of the hadiths? What do they see that perhaps you do not?
4. If you tell people to follow the hadiths, and you have still or moving pictures of people in your home (including TV), have you read the numerous things the Qur’an and hadiths say about hypocrites?
For reference hadiths banning all pictures of people or animals (including photographs and TV) are:
Bukhari vol.3 book 34 ch.41 no.318 p.180-181; vol.4 book 54 ch.45-46 no.447-450 p.297-299; vol.8 book 73 ch.75 no.130 p.82-83; vol.9 book 93 ch.56 no.646 p.487
Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 22 ch.5382 no.5246-5252 p.1157-1158; vol.3 footnotes 2519-2520 p.1160-1161
Abu Dawud vol.1 book 1 ch.92 no.227 p.55-56; vol.3 book 36 ch.1769 no.4913-4914 footnote 4288 p.1373.
Sunan Nasa’i vol.1 book 1 ch.169 no.264 p.240; vol.1 book 9 ch.454 no.764 p.471
Ibn-i-Majah vol.4 book 29 ch.56 no.3359 p.481; vol.5 book 32 ch.44 no.3649-3651 p.108-109. (no.3652 also mentions it, but 3652 is considered a weak (daif) hadith.
In the late 1960’s there were violent actions in Saudi Arabia when pictures of people were shown on TV.
Conclusion: Do not pay attention to a traditionalist, unless you find a consistent traditionalist. If you cannot find a consistent traditionalist, then… reject those who tell you to follow what they themselves do not.
Conclusion for Sunni Muslims who would like to reject the Sunnah
For modernized Sunni Muslims who reject the hadiths, here are the four questions again.
1. What does the word "Sunni" mean?
2. Did Allah deceive his followers for centuries?
3. What does Islam say about those in the wrong sect?
4. Could the correct way be one you overlooked?
Conclusion: Many times even knowledgeable historians make little mistakes, but this is no little mistake. If all these Muslim historians said this terrible thing about Mohammed, what can you trust about the Mohammed of Muslim history? Yet if even the Qur’an allows sex with whom your right hands possess…
The Alternative : Follow the True God
Leave bad tradition. In fact, do not place your love and loyalty with any tradition. Seek only God. Even Muslims have respect for the Torah and Bible, though few have read them. Why not read the gospels and see how different was the teaching of Jesus?
Appendix: Various Cultures
The Christian writer Tertullian, writing 200-240 A.D., in On the Veiling of Virgins ch.11 p.34 mentions that even barbarians did not dispatch to their businesses girls until they were 12, and boys until they were 14 years old. The context here is betrothal in marriage, though one might argue it is consummating a marriage. Now a twelve-year old and an eight or nine-year old are rather different, and Mohammed consummated his marriage with A’isha so much earlier than even the barbarians.
Lest someone think all Muslim countries are the same on this issue, in Tunisia polygamy is banned, and the minimum age for marriage for girls is 17 according to http://www.law.emory.edu/IFL/legal/tunisia.htm.
www.Answering-Islam.org is a very extensive web site presenting and debating many aspects of Islam.
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