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Aisha (‘Ā’ishah, c. 613/614 –c. 678) or عائشة, (also transliterated as A'ishah, Aisyah, Ayesha, A'isha, Aishat, or Aishah) was married to Muhammad at the age of 6 or 7, and the marriage was consummated by Muhammad, then 53, at the age of 9 or 10 according to numerous sahih hadiths. Due to concerns about child marriage this topic is of heavy interest in the apologetic literature and public discourse.
Marriage at a young age was not unheard of in Arabia at the time, and Aisha's marriage to Muhammad may have had a political connotation, as her father Abu Baker was an influential man in the community. Abu Bakr, on his part, may have sought to further the bond of kinship between Muhammad and himself by joining their families together in marriage via Aisha. Egyptian-American Islamic scholar, Leila Ahmed, notes that Aisha's betrothal and marriage to Muhammad are presented as ordinary in Islamic literature, and may indicate that it was not unusual for children to be married to their elders in that era.
In the Quran, a rule concerning marriage to those who have not yet reached menstruation appears in Chapter 65 "Al Talaq" verse 4. The tafsir (exegesis) of al-Jalalayn is one of the most respected commentaries on the Quran. In the Jalalayn exegesis for this verse it describes "those you have yet to menstruate" as "those who have not yet menstruated, because of their young age, their [waiting] period shall [also] be three months."
In the modern era, Aisha's age at marriage has been a source of controversy and debate. Some Muslims have attempted to revise the previously-accepted timeline of her life. All biographical information on Muhammad and his companions was first recorded over a century after his death, but the hadith and scripture provide records of early Islam through allegedly "unbroken chain of witnesses". Various hadiths stating that Aisha was either nine or ten at the time of her consummation come from collections with sahih status, meaning they are regarded as reputable by the majority of Muslims. Some other traditional sources also mention Aisha's age. The sira of Ibn Ishaq edited by Ibn Hisham states that she was nine or ten years old at the consummation. The historian al-Tabari also states that she was nine.
Association with child marriage
No age limits have been fixed by Islam for marriage according to Persian Professor at the University of Cambridge, Reuben Levy, and "quite young children may be legally married". The girl may not live with the husband however until she is fit for marital sexual relations. The Hanafi school of jurisprudence of Islamic fiqh maintains that a wife must not be taken to her husband's house until she reaches the condition of fitness for sexual relations.
In Islamic legal terminology, Baligh refers to a person who has reached maturity, puberty or adulthood and has full responsibility under Islamic law. Legal theorists assign different ages and criteria for reaching this state for both males and females. In marriage baligh is related to the Arabic legal expression, hatta tutiqa'l-rijal, which means that the wedding may not take place until the girl is physically fit to engage in sexual intercourse. Some Hanafi scholars hold the opinion that sexual intercourse may take place before puberty, as long as it's not injurious to one's health. In comparison, baligh or balaghat concerns the reaching of sexual maturity which becomes manifest by the menses. The age related to these two concepts can, but need not necessarily, coincide. Only after a separate condition called rushd, or intellectual maturity to handle one's own property, is reached can a girl receive her bridewealth.
According to Abu Ja‘far (Al-Tabari): The Messenger of God married her, so it is said, in Shawwal, and consummated his marriage to her in a later year, also in Shawwal.
The majority of scholars today agree that Aisha was 9 when her marriage to Prophet Muhammad was consummated. This has been the mainstream Muslim understanding throughout Islam's 1,400 year history. The first recorded objection raised to Aisha's age was by Maulana Muhammad Ali who lived from 1874 to 1951. However, he is not considered credible to the Sunni sect since he belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect whose beliefs drastically differ from mainstream Islam. The Ahmadiyya and their writings are also heavily focused on missionary work.
Adding to Ali's objections, there is Habib Ur Rahman Siddiqui Kandhalvi (1924-1991) who in his Urdu booklet, "Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka'inat" (English trans. 1997), laments that he is "tired of defending this tradition" that is "laughed" at and "ridiculed" by English-educated individuals he meets in Karachi who claim it is against "sagacity and prudence" and "preferred English society to Islam over this", and he readily admits his "aim is to produce an answer to the enemies of Islam who spatter mud at the pious body of the Generous Prophet". A posthumous fatwa was issued against him in November 2004, labelling him a "Munkir-e-Hadith" (hadith rejector) and a "Kafir" (infidel) on the basis of being a rejector of hadith.
Deriving arguments from both Habib Ur Rahman and Muhammad Ali, Moiz Amjad (who refers to himself as "The Learner") is the most recent reference to online apologetic. Moiz admits to having lifted his arguments from them, summarizing and presenting them in response to a Muslim asking him how he can respond to critical Christians. With Moiz's restructured response the arguments originating from the Ahmadiyya in the 1920s and 1930s finally achieved a little popularity among a few orthodox Muslims. However, this popularity seems to be strictly limited to articles or arguments on the Internet and not between contemporary sheikhs and scholars.
In July 2005, Shaykh Dr. Gibril Haddad responded to Moiz Amjad's polemics with, "Our Mother A'isha's Age At The Time Of Her Marriage to The Prophet." Shaykh Haddad was listed amongst the inaugural "500 most influential Muslims in the world" and is considered a Muslim scholar and muhaddith (hadith expert). Haddad included many facts that are easily verifiable for those who have access to the hadith and sira literature. For example, his analysis highlighted the fact that many of the arguments were based solely on faulty assumptions taken from hadiths completely unrelated to Aisha's age, or were misrepresenting the sources that were being cited (i.e. hadiths actually in support the idea that Aisha was 9). His reply has not yet been answered by Moiz Amjad.
However, Haddad's response did not stop Amjad's arguments from being rehashed by apologists on the Internet with the same missionary and apologetic focus. Other transmitters of these arguments include, but are not limited to; T.O Shavanas, “Imam” Chaudhry (word-for-word plagiarism of Amjad's work), Zahid Aziz, Nilofar Ahmed, and David Liepert.
Modern revisionary perspectives
Some Muslim authors have eschewed the traditionally-accepted ahadith and attempted to calculate Aisha's age based on details found in other ahadith and some biographies, though Kecia Ali labels these attempts as "revisionist".
Not enough narrators
This claim objects that there is only one narrator, Hisham ibn `urwah, and that although it is a sahih (authentic hadith) he alone is not enough to consider the hadith reliable. However, many of the chains of narration for these hadiths do not involve Hisham (for example, Sahih Muslim 8:3311), and in any case, there is no requirement in Islam for multiple narrations. Even a single sahih hadith is sufficient to establish Islamic laws and practices.
Shaykh Haddad also refutes the claim that most of these narrations are reported only by Hisham: "Try more than eleven authorities among the Tabi`in that reported it directly from `A'isha, not counting the other major Companions that reported the same, nor other major Successors that reported it from other than `A'isha."
Details of some of these other chains of narration that do not include Hisham ibn 'Urwah ibn az-Zubayr can be found in the first half of an article by the IslamQA website.
Locality of narrations
A related claim is that Hisham's hadith is not narrated by Medinans, despite him living there for most of his life. However, Shaykh Haddad responds with examples of Medinans reporting the narration:
Revelation time of surah al-Qamar
This arguments uses the Sahih Bukhari hadith in which Aisha explains she was a young girl when Surah (chapter) al-Qamar of the Quran was revealed. With the rough estimation that this chapter was revealed nine years before hijrah (c. 622) some conclude that this makes Aisha older than other hadiths claim.
However, the precise date of the revelation of Surah al-Qamar is unknown. Ibn Hajar, Maududi, and other traditionalists said it was revealed 5 years before Hijrah (BH). Zahid Aziz said it was revealed before 6 BH. Alternatively there is no reputable source that claims this chapter came about 9 BH.
Shaykh Haddad confirms this as he argues that the traditional estimate of the revelation of Surah al-Qamar is consistent with Aisha’s age being nine years.
Battle of Badr and Uhud
This apologetic argument aims to make the claim that Aisha was at the Battles of Badr and Uhud, and that since standard practice at the time disallowed anyone under 15 from joining the battlefield, she could not have been younger than this.
However, there are no sources that can be found mentioning Aisha's participation in the Battle of Badr. A few hadiths highlight Aisha's involvement in the Battle of Uhud, but only to the extent that she was not involved in the battlefield and merely carrying water skins to the combatants. Women and young children were allowed to perform such functions during battles.
Shaykh Haddad responds to this apologetic argument:
Age of Asma
One da'if (weak) hadith narrated from al-Zinad and recorded in the works of some medieval scholars, including al-Dhahabi, states that Aisha's older sister Asma was ten years older than her. This has been combined with information about Asma's age at the time of her death and used to suggest that Aisha was over thirteen at the time of her marriage.
Shaykh Haddad and the IslamQA website both independently criticise this approach as relying on a single narrator, who most scholars regard as weak, and note that a hadith by a more reliable chain from the same narrator gives a broader range for the age difference between the sisters. Both also note that al-Dhahabi too gave the vaguer opinion that Asma was "ten or more" years older than Asma.
Tabari's account of Abu Bakr's children and wives
Furthermore, Shaykh Gibril Haddad says that the initial passage mentioned is misinterpreted, stating "Al-Tabari nowhere reports that 'Abu Bakr's four children were all born in Jahiliyya' but only that Abu Bakr married both their mothers in Jahiliyya, Qutayla bint Sa`d and Umm Ruman, who bore him four children in all, two each, `A'isha being the daughter of Umm Ruman."
Time of Umar's conversion to Islam
However, even if the claim Aisha converted to Islam before Umar were true it, does not mean this took place during the first year of Islam, since Umar converted in 617 AD, about 4 years after Aisha’s birth in 613 AD. Furthermore Aisha never accounted converting to islam as hadiths show she never remembered a time before when her family wasn't Muslim.
Besides disputing the claim that Ibn Hisham reported that Aisha accepted Islam quite some time before `umar ibn al-Khattab, Shaykh Haddad also casts doubt on the claim stating:
Tabari's account of Abu Bakr's migration to Habshah
This argument claims that al-Tabari states that when Abu Bakr was planning to migrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), he spoke to Mut`am, with whose son, Jabayr, Aisha was engaged. This migration occured eight years before hijrah, at which time Aisha had only just been born if she consumated her marriage to Muhammad at the age of 9 or 10.
Proponents of this claim admit they have no primary source, which originated in Kandhalvi's Urdu booklet. Shayk Haddad responds that "there is no mention of emigration in Tabari's account of Abu Bakr's discussion with Mut`im" and "there had been only some preliminary talk, not a formal arrangement".
The meaning of bikr
This argument cites a hadith in Ibn Hanbal's Musnad saying that Khaulah suggested Aisha to Muhammad as a virgin (bikr) he could marry. The claim is that bikr would not be used for a young girl.
However, there are multiple sahih hadith narrations of a highly relevant conversation between Muhammad and Jabir in which bikr (virgin) is clearly compatible with jariyah (young girl).
Shaykh Haddad says regarding the claim, "This is ignorant nonsense, bikr means a virgin girl, a girl who has never been married even if her age is 0 and there is no unclarity here whatsoever.".
Fatima's age difference
This claim is that according to ibn Hajar, Fatima was five years older than Aisha and Muhammad was 35 years old when Fatima was born. Therefore, based on this claim, Aisha must have been a teenager at the time her marriage was consummated.
However, the proponent of this claim has combined and selectively quoted conflicting sources. Shaykh Haddad responds:
Hadith saying Aisha had reached puberty
This argument is based off a mistranslated haidth, Sahih Bukhari 1:8:465, which reinterprets to the idea that Aisha had seen her parents follow islam since the age of puberty, and not a day passed by without Muhammad visiting them.
However, the word أَعْقِلْ means thoughts or reasoning, but the translator, Muhsin Khan, has used the word 'puberty'. The meaning rather is simply that 'Aisha was aware that her parents were following Islam. A literal translation would be "I was not aware of my parents other than that the two of them both acknowledged the religion". The exact same Arabic phrase is translated correctly in another hadith by the same translator.
- A version of this page is also available in the following languages: Czech. For additional languages, see the sidebar on the left.
- Shaykh Gibril Haddad - Biography of Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad at SunniPath, The online Islamic Academy
- Responses to "The Learner" (Moiz Amjad) and others - Collection of Answering Islam articles
This article is greatly indebted to the following:
- Dr. Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, scholar and muhaddith (hadith expert), for Our Mother A'isha's Age At The Time Of Her Marriage to The Prophet
- The Muslimhope website, for A’isha: Mohammed’s Nine-Year Old Wife
- Al-Nasa'i 1997, p. 108
- Narrated Hisham's father:
Khadija died three years before the Prophet (ﷺ) 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.
Sahih Bukhari 5:58:236
- 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).
Sahih Bukhari 7:62:64
- '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.
Sahih Muslim 8:3310
- Aisha said, "The Apostle of Allah married me when I was seven years old." (The narrator Sulaiman said: "Or six years.")
Sunan Abu Dawud 2116 (Ahmad Hasan Ref)
- Most sources suggest age at consummation as nine, and one that it may have been age 10; See: Denise Spellberg (1996), Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha Bint Abi Bakr, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231079990, pp. 39–40;
- Afsaruddin, Asma (2014). "ʿĀʾisha bt. Abī Bakr". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett. Encyclopaedia of Islam (3 ed.). Brill Online. Retrieved 2015-01-11
- Ahmed, Leila (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. Yale University Press. p. 51-54. ISBN 978-0300055832.
- And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women - if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah - He will make for him of his matter ease.
- Tafsir al-Jalalayn is one of the most significant tafsirs for the study of the Qur’an. Composed by the two “Jalals” -- Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli (d. 864 ah / 1459 ce) and his pupil Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911 ah / 1505 ce), Tafsir al-Jalalayn is generally regarded as one of the most easily accessible works of Qur’anic exegesis because of its simple style and one volume length. For the first time ever Tafsir al-Jalalayn is competently translated into an unabridged highly accurate and readable annotated English translation by Doctor. Feras Hamza. altafsir.com
- And as for those of your women who read allā’ī or allā’i in both instances no longer expect to menstruate if you have any doubts about their waiting period their prescribed waiting period shall be three months and also for those who have not yet menstruated because of their young age their period shall also be three months — both cases apply to other than those whose spouses have died; for these latter their period is prescribed in the verse they shall wait by themselves for four months and ten days Q. 2234. And those who are pregnant their term the conclusion of their prescribed waiting period if divorced or if their spouses be dead shall be when they deliver. And whoever fears God He will make matters ease for him in this world and in the Hereafter. Tafsir al-Jalalayn, trans. Feras Hamza Quran 65:4
- Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith and Jurisprudence. OneWorld. p. 173-186. ISBN 978-1780743813.
- Kadri, Sadakat (2012). Heaven on Earth. Farrar, Straus, Giroux. p. 30.
- When the Prophet married Aisha she very young and not yet ready for consummation. Al-Tabari, Vol. 9, p. 128
- According to Abd al-Hamid b. Bayan al-Sukkari - Muhammad b. Yazid - Ismai'il (that is Ibn Abi Khalid) - Abd al-Rahman b. Abi al- Dahhak - a man from Quraysh - Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad: "Abd Allah b. Safwan together with another person came to Aishah and Aishah said (to the latter), "O so and so, have you heard what Hafsah has been saying?" He said, "Yes, o Mother of the Faithful." Abd Allah b. Safwan asked her, "What is that?" She replied, "There are nine special features in me that have not been in any woman, except for what God bestowed on Maryam bt. Imran. By God, I do not say this to exalt myself over any of my companions." "What are these?" he asked. She replied, "The angel brought down my likeness; the Messenger of God married me when I was seven; my marriage was consummated when I was nine; he married me when I was a virgin,no other man having shared me with him; inspiration came to him when he and I were in a single blanket; I was one of the dearest people to him, a verse of the Qur’an was revealed concerning me when the community was almost destroyed; I saw Gabriel when none of his other wives saw him; and he was taken (that is, died) in his house when there was nobody with him but the angel and myself." According to Abu Ja‘far (Al-Tabari): The Messenger of God married her, so it is said, in Shawwal, and consummated his marriage to her in a later year, also in Shawwal. Al-Tabari, Vol. 7, pp. 6-7
- Levy p.106
- John Esposito, "The Oxford Dictionary of Islam", p.35, Oxford University Press 2004
- Public » Askimam" www.askimam.org.
- Masud, M et. al. "Islamic Legal Interpretation, Muftis and Their Fatwas" p.136, Harvard University Press, 1996
- Hashmi, Tariq Mahmood (2 April 2015). "Role, Importance And Authenticity Of The Hadith". Mawrid.org. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
- Zahid Aziz - Age of Aisha (ra) at time of marriage - Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha`at Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A.
- Who are the Ahmadi? - BBC News
- All Habib Ur Rahman Siddiqui Kandhalvi quotations are taken from the Preface of the 2007 English translation of his Urdu booklet, "Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka'inat", translated by Nigar Erfaney and published by Al-Rahman Publishing Trust under the title, "Age of Aisha (The Truthful Women, May Allah Send His Blessings)"
- The original fatwa and the English translation branding Habib Ur Rahman Siddiqui Kandhalvi's beliefs outside of Islam, thus making him a 'kafir', can be viewed here: Fatwa's on hadith rejectors?
- See: "What was Ayesha's (ra) Age at the Time of Her Marriage?", by Moiz Amjad.
- Shaykh Gibril F Haddad - Our Mother A'isha's Age At The Time Of Her Marriage to The Prophet - Sunni Path, Question ID:4604, July 3, 2005 archive 1 archive 2
- Edited by Prof. John Esposito and Prof. Ibrahim Kalin - The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World (P. 94) - The royal islamic strategic studies centre, 2009
- T.O Shanavas - AYESHA’s AGE: THE MYTH OF A PROVERBIAL WEDDING EXPOSED - Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
- Imam Chaudhry - What Was The Age of Ummul Mo'mineen Ayesha (May Allah be pleased with her) When She Married To Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)? - Islamic Supreme Council of Canada
- Nilofar Ahmed - Of Aisha’s age at marriage - Dawn, February 17, 2012
- Dr. David Liepert - Rejecting the Myth of Sanctioned Child Marriage in Islam - The Huffington Post, January 29, 2011
- Quran, Hadith, and Scholars on Aisha's Age at Consummation and Marriage
- 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (ﷺ) married her when she was seven years old, and he 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 8:3311
- Narrated Yusuf bin Mahik: I was in the house of `Aisha, the mother of the Believers. She said, "This revelation: "Nay, but the Hour is their appointed time (for their full recompense); and the Hour will be more previous and most bitter." (54.46) was revealed to Muhammad at Mecca while I was a playfull little girl." Sahih Bukhari 6:60:399
- The incident of the shaqq-al-Qamar (splitting of the moon) that has been mentioned in it, determines its period of revelation precisely. The traditionists and commentators are agreed that this incident took place at Mina in Makkah about five years before the Holy Prophet's hijrah to Madinah. Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an
- The Moon,the fifty-fourth chapter, was revealed, she was a girl playing about and remembered certain verses then revealed. Now the fifty-fourth chapter was undoubtedly revealed before the sixth year of the Call. Zahid Aziz
- Narrated Anas: On the day (of the battle) of Uhad when (some) people retreated and left the Prophet, I saw 'Aisha bint Abu Bakr and Um Sulaim, with their robes tucked up so that the bangles around their ankles were visible hurrying with their water skins (in another narration it is said, "carrying the water skins on their backs"). Then they would pour the water in the mouths of the people, and return to fill the water skins again and came back again to pour water in the mouths of the people.
Sahih Bukhari 4:52:131
- 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 p.127,146.
- al-Dhahabi. "Siyar a`lam al-nubala'". IslamWeb. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
قال عبد الرحمن بن أبي الزناد : كانت أسماء أكبر من عائشة بعشر" (Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi al-Zunad said: Asma was older than Aisha by ten years.)
- Fatwa 124483 - IslamQA.info
- All four of his [i.e. Abu Bakr's] children were born of his two wives - the names of whom we have already mentioned - during the pre-Islamic period. Tarikh al-umam wa al-mamloo'k, Al-Tabari, Vol. 4, Pg. 50, Arabic, Dar al-fikr, Beirut, 1979
- The angel brought down my likeness; the Messenger of God married me when I was seven; my marriage was consummated when I was nine; he married me when I was a virgin, no other man having shared me with him Al-Tabari, Vol. 7, p. 7
- I was then brought [in] while the Messenger of God was sitting on a bed in our house. [My mother] made me sit on his lap... Then the men and women got up and left. The Messenger of God consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old. Neither a camel nor a sheep was slaughtered on behalf of me. Al-Tabari, Vol. 9, p. 131
- The Messenger of God saw 'A'ishah twice-[first when] it was said to him that she was his wife (she was six years old at that time), and later [when] he consummated his marriage with her after coming to Medina when she was nine years old. Al-Tabari, Vol. 9, p. 131
- [The Prophet] married her three years before the Emigration, when she was seven years old, and consummated the marriage when she was nine years old, after he had emigrated to Medina in Shawwil. She was eighteen years old when he died. Al-Tabari, Vol. 9, p. 131
- The Prophet married Aishah in Shawwal in the tenth year after the [beginning of his] prophethood, three years before Emigration. He consummated the marriage in Shawwal, eight months after Emigration. On the day he consummated the marriage with her she was nine years old. Al-Tabari, Vol. 39, pp. 171-173
- According to Ibn Hisham, Ayesha (ra) was the 20th or the 21st person to enter into the folds of Islam. While `umar ibn al-khattab was the 41st. Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Ibn Hisham, Vol. 1, Pg. 227 - 234, Arabic, Maktabah al-Riyadh al-hadithah, Al-Riyadh
- 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." Sahih Bukhari 5:58:245
- Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol 6, Pg 210, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-`arabi, Beirut, cited by Moiz Amjad What was Ayesha's (ra) Age at the Time of Her Marriage?
- Narrated Aisha:
(wife of the Prophet) Since I reached the age when I could remember things, I have seen my parents worshipping according to the right faith of Islam. Not a single day passed but Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) visited us both in the morning and in the evening...
Sahih Bukhari 3:37:494