[Updated] Aisha (raa) Marriage to the Prophet Muhammad {saw} of Islam.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

A simple answer to a Judaic – Christian attack on the truth of Al Islam

To begin with, two facts must be established. Aisha (ra) was:

  • Six (6) years of age when the marriage contract was done.
  • Nine (9) years of age when the marriage was consummated.

We can establish this information, from a hadith, narrated by, Aisha (ra) herself:

Narrated ‘Aisha (ra):

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).[1]

It is important to state who the narrator of this hadith is. It is directly from the lips of Aisha (ra). The person at the very heart of this great debate.

It is best to enter into the following sets of information with an objective mind. Removing all bias and applying proper academic principles to the information that is about to bestowed upon you, the reader. Take note that all quotes are cited. This has been done so that you can do research yourself and see the reality of the situation, rather than depending on hearsay. In order to proper understand the validity and purpose of the marriage we must first ask ourselves some very basic questions:

  • Who are the people that we should focus the research on?
  • Where did they live?
  • What kind of society did they have?
  • When was this society in existence?
  • Why did they do this marriage?

These five (5) questions form the basis of our research which employs critical thinking. Critical thinking can be summarized as:

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth and fairness. [2]

Therefore we must ask ourselves, what field of study, which by using critical thinking, can we seek to answer the five (5) questions listed above? The answer is anthropology. What is anthropology you might ask?

Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. To understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history, anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences. A central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems. Historically, anthropologists […………] have been trained in one of four areas: sociocultural anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Anthropologists often integrate the perspectives of several of these areas into their research, teaching, and professional lives.[3]

To summarize, we’ll look at this issue from a biological/ physical anthropological perspective and a sociocultural perspective. I’ve also added the dimension of secular law into the equation so that the subject matter’s relevance in our times can be properly digested.

(1) Anthropology –  Biological/ Physical.
(2) Anthropology –  Sociocultural.
(3) Secular law.

Biological/ Physical Anthropology.

The first major issue commonly associated with this marriage, is that Aisha (ra) is commonly referred to as a child, prepubescent, a girl. This draws into the plot that this was a child marriage. Yet, are these adjectives properly being applied to the person of Aisha (ra)? We must then ask, what is a child? A child is one who has not entered into the age of sexual maturation (the age at which one is able to begin sexual reproduction).[4]

A child is defined as:
child (chīld)
n. pl. chil·dren (chĭl’drən)

1. A person between birth and puberty.
2. A person who has not attained maturity or the age of legal majority.
3. An unborn infant; a fetus.
4. An infant; a baby.

Aisha (ra) reached this age, thus she was not a child nor prepubescent.

“Puberty is the stage of life during which you become biologically and sexually mature. It is the entry into adolescence, a period of tremendous changes in the body, emotions, attitude, values, intellect and relationships. This is the transition from the world of the child that gives way to the world of the adult.”[5]

So the question asks itself, did Muhammad (saw) consummate the marriage when her menses began?

Narrated ‘Aisha {ra}: (the wife of the Prophet) I had seen my parents following Islam since I attained the age of puberty. Not a day passed but the Prophet visited us, both in the mornings and evenings. My father Abii Bakr thought of building a mosque in the courtyard of his house and he did so. He used to pray and recite the Qur’an in it. The pagan women and their children used to stand by him and look at him with surprise. Abu Bakr was a soft hearted person and could not help weeping while reciting the Quran. The chiefs of the Quraish pagans became afraid of that (i.e. that their children and women might be affected by the recitation of Quran).”[6]

What to the scholars of Islam also say on the age of marriage?

The fact that it is permissible to marry a young girl does not mean that it is permissible to have intercourse with her; rather that should not be done until she is able for it. For that reason the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) delayed the consummation of his marriage to ‘Aa’ishah. Al-Nawawi said: With regard to the wedding-party of a young married girl at the time of consummating the marriage, if the husband and the guardian of the girl agree upon something that will not cause harm to the young girl, then that may be done. If they disagree, then Ahmad and Abu ‘Ubayd say that one a girl reaches the age of nine then the marriage may be consummated even without her consent, but that does not apply in the case of who is younger. Maalik, al-Shaafa’i and Abu Haneefah said: the marriage may be consummated when the girl is able for intercourse, which varies from one girl to another, so no age limit can be set. This is the correct view. There is nothing in the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah to set an age limit, or to forbid that in the case of a girl who is able for it before the age of nine, or to allow it in the case of a girl who is not able for it and has reached the age of nine. Al-Dawoodi said: ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) was reached physical maturity (at the time when her marriage was consummated).[7]

Therefore in terms of a biological stand point, if we were to accept scientific principles (upon which our “modern” society operates), we must conclude that she was not a child, not prepubescent nor physically immature.

Sociocultural Anthropology.

In Semitic cultures, the age at which one is suitable for marriage begins with sexual maturation. For Jews, the boys have the Bar Mitzvah, indicated by puberty (sexual maturation). The Muslims judge the woman, by menstrual cycle, with sexual maturation, one earns the ability to have a menstrual cycle, also referred to as menses. This was the standard way to tell a girl from a woman, the known world has used this standard for ages, dating back to the most primitive of cultures. They judged a woman by her individual characteristic of having her menses which signalled adulthood.

Almost all primitive cultures pay attention to puberty and marriage rituals, although there is a general tendency to pay more attention to the puberty rites of males than of females. Because puberty and marriage symbolize the fact that children are acquiring adult roles, most primitive cultures consider the rituals surrounding these events very important. Puberty rituals are often accompanied with ceremonial circumcision or some other operation on the male genitals. Female circumcision is less common, although it occurs in several cultures. Female puberty rites are more often related to the commencement of the menstrual cycle in young girls.[8]

We can further see this historical fact, present in freely and easily available Jewish literature:

The Age of Maturity.

The Rabbis, however, reckoned the age of maturity from the time when the first signs of puberty appear (Nid. 52a), and estimated that these signs come, with women, about the beginning of the thirteenth year, and about the beginning of the fourteenth year with men. From this period one was regarded as an adult and as responsible for one’s actions to the laws of the community. In the case of females, the rabbinic law recognized several distinct stages: those of the “ḳeṭannah,” from the age of three to the age of twelve and one day; the “na’arah,” the six months following that period; and the “bogeret,” from the expiration of these six months. In the case of males, distinction was made in general only between the period preceding the age of thirteen and one day and that following it, although, as will be seen below, other stages were occasionally recognized.

The attainment of the age of majority, however, did not of itself render one an adult; the prescribed age and the symptoms of puberty together were necessary to establish the majority of a person. If there were no signs of puberty at the age of majority (i.e., at the beginning of the thirteenth year in a female and at the beginning of the fourteenth in a male) the person retained the status of a minor until the age of twenty. If after that period signs of impotence developed, thus explaining the absence of the signs of puberty, the person was admitted to the status of an adult; if such signs did not develop, the person remained in the status of a minor until the age of thirty-five years and one day—the greater part of the time allotted to man on earth (comp. Ps. xc. 10). In the case of a woman, the bearing of children was regarded as sufficient to establish her majority (Yeb. 12b; Maimonides, “Yad,” Ishut, ii. 9; comp. “Maggid Mishneh” and “Leḥem Mishneh” ad loc.; for the whole subject see Nid. v. 3-8; vi. 1, 11-12; “Yad,” l.c. ch. ii.).

Marriage of Minors.

The ḳeṭannah might be given in marriage by her father, and the marriage was valid, necessitating a formal divorce if separation was desired. Her earnings and her findings, also, belonged to her father, and he could annul her vows and accept a divorce for her (Nid. 47a; Ket. 46b). In the absence of her father, her mother or her brothers might contract a marriage for her, but such a marriage might be annulled by her without any formality before she reached the age of maturity (see Mi’un). Illegitimate intercourse with her carried with it the regular punishment for the transgressor, although she could not be punished (Nid. 44b). The na’arah, however, although still under the control of her father (Ḳid. 41a), was considered a responsible person; her vows were valid (Nid. 45b). The bogeret was regarded as entirely independent of her father’s will and was looked upon as an adult in all respects (Nid. 47a).

The Rabbis recognized in males a stage similar to that of the ḳeṭannah. A boy nine years of age was regarded as being of a nubile age, so that if he had illegitimate intercourse with a woman forbidden to him she would be liable to punishment, although he could not be punished until he reached the age of maturity—thirteen years and one day (Nid. 44a). His marriage, however, was not valid (Ḳid. 50b; “Yad,” l.c. iv. 7), although he could acquire a “yebamah” through intercourse (Nid. 45a; B. B. 156b). A stage similar to that of the na’arah was recognized by the Rabbis in the case of the rebellious son (Deut. xxi. 18-21). The period during which one might become liable to the punishment inflicted upon the rebellious son was extended to include the three months (six months in Yer. Sanh. viii. 1) immediately succeeding the age of maturity (Sanh. 69a). After a boy had reached the age of maturity he was regarded a responsible person in all ritualand criminal matters, and the court inflicted punishment upon him for any transgressions. The Rabbis entertained the belief that heavenly punishment was not visited for sins committed before the age of twenty (Shab. 89b; comp. B. B. 121b; Maḥzor vitry, ed. Hurwitz, p. 550; Ḥakam Ẓebi, Responsa, § 49; but comp. “Sefer Ḥasidim,” ed. Wistinetski, § 16, where the opinion is expressed that the heavenly punishment does not depend on age but on the intelligence of the transgressor; see also Asher ben Jehiel, Responsa, xvi. 1).[9]

Secular Law.

Secular law states that all girls become women at a legally fixed age. Although biologically absurd, the concept behind this is related to a filed of politico-economic studies termed “adult suffrage”. Adult suffrage essentially guarantees under a sovereign nationa’s legislative system, that at a particular fixed age, members of society earn certain rights, one such being that of voting. It may also refer to a citizen’s right to legally have a driver’s permit, have an identification permit, earn the authority to sign contracts with institutions etc. While I could go more into adult suffrage, that topic escapes the purpose of this article. However, I do encourage you, the reader to continue investigations into that subject matter. Secular law can state that females become legal or earn adult suffrage when they are 18, 16, or in some cases, like France, at the age of 14. Usually the age of sexual consent is commonly associated with the age of adult suffrage.

The Purpose of the Marriage:

1 – He saw a dream about marrying her. It is proven in al-Bukhaari from the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to her: “You were shown to me twice in a dream. I saw that you were wrapped in a piece of silk, and it was said, ‘This is your wife.’ I uncovered her and saw that it was you. I said, ‘If this is from Allaah then it will come to pass.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 3682). As to whether this is a prophetic vision as it appears to be, or a regular dream that may be subject to interpretation, there was a difference of opinion among the scholars, as mentioned by al-Haafiz in Fath al-Baari, 9/181.

2 – The characteristics of intelligence and smartness that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had noticed in ‘Aa’ishah even as a small child, so he wanted to marry her so that she would be more able than others to transmit reports of what he did and said. In fact, as stated above, she was a reference point for the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) with regard to their affairs and rulings.

3 – The love of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) for her father Abu Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with him), and the persecution that Abu Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with him) had suffered for the sake of the call of truth, which he bore with patience. He was the strongest of people in faith and the most sincere in certain faith, after the Prophets.

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 Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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].[10]

– Hope this answers the issue.

wa Allahu Alam.

[1] – Sahih Bukhari :: Book 7 [Wedlock, Marriage, Nikah] :: Volume 62 :: Hadith 64.

[2] – http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/define_critical_thinking.cfm

[3] – http://www.aaanet.org/about/WhatisAnthropology.cfm

[4] – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/child

[5] –  http://www.ifsha.org/yp/puberty.htm

[6] – Sahih Bukhari :: Book 1 :: Volume 8 :: Hadith 465

[7] – http://islamqa.com/en/ref/22442/age%20of%20consent

[8] – “An Overview of the World’s Religions” – http://www.theology.edu/relig02.htm

[9] – http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=91&letter=M&search=age+of+maturity#ixzz0u6JujGf1

[10] – Excerpt from: [ Zaad al-Ma’aad, 1/106; By Imam Ibn al Qayyim al Jawziyyah]