The Meaning of Consummate
Some Muslims in the West cannot bring themselves to accept the narrations given by Aisha in which she states that she was married to Prophet Muhammad when she was six years old and that he consummated his marriage with her when she was nine lunar years of age, even though these are recorded in Bukhari's sahih ahadith collection.
This article will examine the Arabic language used in the narrations concerning Aisha's marriage to Muhammad, in order to show that Muhammad did in fact have sexual intercourse with Aisha when she was nine years old.
Although there are numerous narrations regarding the age of Aisha when she was married, the one that is most often a point of contention is the following:
that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old.An Ayeshath Radhiyallahu Anha : AnnaNnabiyya Sallallahu Alaihi Vasallama Thazawwajaha vahiya binthu sitha sineen, va udkhilath alaihi vahiya binthu this’in.
In this narration, the word "udkhilath" was translated by Dr. Mushin Khan to mean "consummated his marriage."
Interpretations of "Consummate"
Some Muslims claim that Muhammad "zawaj'ed" Aisha when she was six, and "nikah'ed" her when she was 9 years old.  They claim that "zawaj" means "betrothal" and "nikah" means "marriage." After stating this, they claim that Dr. Mushin Khan's translation is "poor" because he has (allegedly) added "consummation of" to the meaning of 'nikah', instead of simply rendering it as "marriage". Thereby, they claim that Dr. Khan has added a sexual connotation to the narration in question which was not intended.
Other Muslims accept Dr. Khan's translation, but argue as to the meaning of "consummate" as they too, disagree with the implied sexual connotation. The usual reasoning given for this interpretation of the ahadith in question, is that 'consummation' could be interpreted as 'completion' of the marriage or wedding ceremony - as in completion of a business transaction. However this is not correct, as the word 'dakhala' does not simply mean 'consummate' in English, but it actually translates as the English phrase 'consummate the marriage.'
Essentially what Muslims are doing when they attack the meaning of 'consummate' is that they are addressing the English word but not the Arabic (dakhala). While 'consummate' can sometimes mean 'completion' (as in a business transaction), the Arabic word 'dakhala' carries no such meaning or connotation.
Furthermore, a fluent English speaker will never take 'consummate the marriage' to mean 'complete the marriage' or 'enter the marriage', but will always understand it to mean 'sexual intercourse.' It is the only possible way to understand this euphemism. This is what Muslims fail to understand; ie. the meaning of the verb is dependent on the object in question. As the object in this case is marriage, the verb 'consummate' refers to sexual intercourse. This is because of the historical English (or more correctly Catholic) custom in which a marriage is considered to be consummated once the sexual act has taken place.
It used to be that a marriage could be annulled if the sexual act was not performed; ie. if the marriage was not 'consummated.' This has been the definition for centuries. From ancient times until quite recently, the linen from the wedding bed was displayed to the relatives of the couple after the wedding night in order to prove consummation. A bride was expected to be a virgin, and a blood-stained sheet left no doubt as to both the bride's honor and the finality of the marriage contract (through consummation); and there was now no question as to the legality of the marriage.
The Arabic text shows that the claims of Muslims as to their interpretation of the words 'zawaj' and 'nikah' are incorrect. Bukhari uses 'zawaj' and 'nikah' interchangeably as synonyms to mean marriage (as does Quran 33:37, Quran 44:54 and Quran 52:20).
Next, according to the narration in question, the relevant word used is not 'nikah', but 'udkhilath'.
The root of the verb "udkhilath" is "dakhala" - which means to "enter". This is the most common Arabic meaning, although there are other definitions - none of which can be used in this case, given the context of this hadith.
Again, seeking to interpret it in a way that they can feel comfortable with, some Muslims will seek to cast doubt onto the correct meaning of "dakhala" ('sexual intercourse' in the given context) by pointing to these other definitions; often presented and claimed to be a 'complete list' of definitions, yet conveniently omitting the sexual definition:
- insert, enter, thrust, admit, drive in, let in, show in, make or let enter
- turmoil, turbulence, topsy-turvy, abnormality, fuddle, tangle, riot, ruction, restiveness, chaos, fuss, disorder, clutter, confusion, commotion, defectiveness, disturbance, tumult, imperfection
- aberration, imperfection, defect, blemish, abnormality, flaw, fault, vice, shortcoming
- yield, revenue, proceeds, income, earnings, taking
- conscience, innermost feelings, inward thoughts, inner self, soul, design
- doubtfulness, doubt, mistrust, uncertainty, overconcern, peradventure, incertitude, suspicion, extreme solicitude, abnormal anxiety, anxiety
- tie-in, pertinence, concern, connection, connectedness, contact, conjunction, association, business, yoke, nexus, linkup, liaison, linkage, link, relevance, affair
- imperfection, vice, flaw, shortcoming, blemish, aberration, defect, fault, abnormality
Dictionary entries on Dakhala
An English definition for dakhala, which is commonly found on the Internet is as follows:
Some Muslims will attack the Hans-Wehr definition, thinking that each definition is a separate alternative. Unfortunately for them, all the Hans-Wehr definitions are exactly the same.
Just as in the English language, "consummate the marriage" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.
"Cohabit" does not merely mean that you live under the same roof, but that you are actually living together in a sexual relationship.
"Sleeping with a woman" does not merely mean that you share the same bed, but that you are engaging in a sexual relationship.
Applying the meaning of dakhala to the original narration in question, it is clear that the object - "marriage" - is absent in relation to the verb 'dakhala.' The object of this hadith is Aisha herself. This means that Muhammad 'dakhala'ed her - grammatically, he 'udkhilath alaihi'. Therefore it is clear that the meaning is that he "entered" or "had sexual intercourse with" her.
Here are a couple of other translations of the word "dakhala":
It is clear that the only meaning of dakhala applicable to the context of the hadith is 'sexual intercourse.'
Dakhala in the Qur'an
Here is the complete list of the Qur'anic verses containing the word "dakhala":
- dakhala - Quran 3:37, Quran 3:97, Quran 4:23, Quran 4:23, Quran 5:23, Quran 5:61, Quran 7:38, Quran 12:36, Quran 12:58, Quran 12:68, Quran 12:69, Quran 12:88, Quran 12:99, Quran 15:52, Quran 17:7, Quran 18:35, Quran 18:39, Quran 24:61, Quran 27:34, Quran 28:15, Quran 38:22, Quran 51:25, Quran 71:28
- yadkhulu - Quran 2:111, Quran 2:114, Quran 2:214, Quran 3:142, Quran 4:124, Quran 5:22, Quran 5:24, Quran 7:40, Quran 7:46, Quran 12:67, Quran 13:23, Quran 16:31, Quran 17:7, Quran 19:60, Quran 24:27, Quran 24:28, Quran 24:29, Quran 33:53, Quran 35:33, Quran 40:40, Quran 40:60, Quran 48:27, Quran 49:14, Quran 68:24, Quran 110:2
- udkhul - Quran 2:58, Quran 2:208, Quran 4:154, Quran 5:21, Quran 5:23, Quran 7:38, Quran 7:49, Quran 7:161, Quran 12:67, Quran 12:99, Quran 15:46, Quran 16:29, Quran 16:32, Quran 27:18, Quran 27:44, Quran 33:53, Quran 36:26, Quran 39:72, Quran 39:73, Quran 40:76, Quran 43:70, Quran 50:34, Quran 66:10, Quran 89:29, Quran 89:30
- dukhila - Quran 33:14.
- dakhil - Quran 5:22, Quran 66:10
- dakhal - Quran 16:92, Quran 16:94.
- muddakhal - Quran 9:57
- mudkhal - Quran 4:31, Quran 17:80, Quran 22:59.
- adkhala - Quran 5:65, Quran 21:75, Quran 21:86.
- yudkhilu - Quran 3:192, Quran 3:195, Quran 4:13, Quran 4:14, Quran 4:31, Quran 4:57, Quran 4:122, Quran 4:175, Quran 5:12, Quran 5:84, Quran 9:99, Quran 22:14, Quran 22:23, Quran 22:59, Quran 29:9, Quran 42:8, Quran 45:30, Quran 47:6, Quran 47:12, Quran 48:5, Quran 48:17, Quran 48:25, Quran 58:22, Quran 61:12, Quran 64:9, Quran 65:11, Quran 66:8, Quran 76:31.
- adkhil - Quran 7:151, Quran 17:80, Quran 27:12, Quran 27:19, Quran 40:8, Quran 40:46.
- udkhila - Quran 3:185, Quran 14:23, Quran 71:25.
- yudkhalu - Quran 70:38
In all ayats except Quran 16:92 and Quran 16:94 (as dakhal means 'deception'), the meaning is "to enter" or to "gain admittance" or "be granted admission" to some location such as a house, gate, fire, paradise, hell, someone's presence etc.
In the Qur'an, dakhala is never used to mean 'participation'; like the English phrases "enter a transaction" or "enter a marriage" or a "completion" of any activity.
There is only one instance (and that is twice in Quran 4:23 that the verb 'dakhala' is used in relation to marriage or women - and it is clear that the meaning is sexual intercourse. Here is a selection of translations that translate 'dakhaltum' to mean 'sexual intercourse':
Hurrimat AAalaykum ommahatukum wabanatukum waakhawatukum waAAammatukum wakhalatukum wabanatu al-akhi wabanatu al-okhti waommahatukumu allatee ardaAAnakum waakhawatukum mina alrradaAAati waommahatu nisa-ikum waraba-ibukumu allatee fee hujoorikum min nisa-ikumu allatee dakhaltum bihinna fa-in lam takoonoo dakhaltum bihinna fala junaha AAalaykum wahala-ilu abna-ikumu allatheena min aslabikum waan tajmaAAoo bayna al-okhtayni illa ma qad salafa inna Allaha kana ghafooran raheemanDaryabadi: Forbidden unto you are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your father's sisters and your mother's sisters, and your brother's daughters and your sister's daughters. and your foster mothers and your foster sisters, and the mothers of your wives and your step-daughters, that are your wards, born of your wives unto whom ye have gone in, but if ye have not gone in unto them, no sin shall be on you, and the wives of your sons that are from your own loins, and, also that ye should have two sisters together, except that which hath already passed; verily Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.
Ibn Kathir: [وَأُمَّهَـتُ نِسَآئِكُمْ وَرَبَائِبُكُمُ اللَّـتِى فِى حُجُورِكُمْ مِّن نِّسَآئِكُمُ اللَّـتِى دَخَلْتُمْ بِهِنَّ فَإِن لَّمْ تَكُونُواْ دَخَلْتُمْ بِهِنَّ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ]
(Your wives' mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives unto whom you have gone in - but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in unto them,) As for the mother of the wife, she becomes prohibited for marriage for her son-in-law when the marriage is conducted, whether the son-in-law has sexual relations with her daughter or not. As for the wife's daughter, she becomes prohibited for her stepfather when he has sexual relations with her mother, after the marriage contract is ratified. If the man divorces the mother before having sexual relations with her, he is allowed to marry her daughter. 
Therefore we see that the eminent scholars of Islam translate the verb 'dakhaltum' (the root word is dakhala) to mean 'sexual intercourse', because the literal meaning is to "enter", "insert into", "penetrate", or "pierce" a woman. It does not mean "enter a marriage" - it means "enter" the woman.
To further confound the Muslim apologist, the Bukhari ahadith use another phrase to convey the fact that Muhammad had sexual intercourse with Aisha:
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 his marriage when she was nine years old.An Hisham An Abeehi Qala thuwaffiyath Khadijathu qabla makhrajannabiyyi sallallahu Alaihi Vasallama ilal Madeenathi bi thalatha sineenaa falabitha sanathaini ou qareeban min dhalika va nakaha Ayesha vahiya binthu sithi sineena thumma bana biha vahiya binthu this”I sineen.
The Arabic word "bana" means to "build" or "construct." However, if we add "biha" which means 'with her' (biha being a feminine verb in Arabic), then the meaning is entirely different. Literally, "bana biha" means "build with her." This is a phrase that is commonly used to denote intimate sexual relations.
If we say in Arabic: 'Muhammad bana bi Aisha', the meaning is: 'Muhammad had intercourse with Aisha.' This is the only possibly Arabic understanding of the phrase. Therefore, again, it is apparent that Dr. Mushin Khan has used the euphemism "consummated the marriage" to denote the sexual act.
A reading of the relevant Bukhari ahadith make it clear that Muhammad had sexual intercourse with Aisha when she was nine years of age. The terms used are: "udkhilath" and "bana biha", which can only mean "sexual intercourse" in the context of the ahadith.
The confusion from Muslims regarding this comes from their lack of understanding regarding the English phrase "consummation of marriage", their ignorance of Arabic and their unwillingness to admit that their prophet had sexual intercourse with a nine year old child.
Instead of attacking the English phrase "consummation of the marriage", it might better serve Muslim apologists to read the relevant ahadith in the original Arabic before venturing a rebuttal.
- Aisha's Age of Consummation
- Islamic Terms - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Islamic Terms
- USC's Compendium of Muslim texts - translated by Dr. Mushin Khan
- Muslim Answers - 'The young age of Aishah' by Abd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires
- Lane's Lexicon - E.W. Lane, volume three, pp. 858-861
- The Dictionary of the Holy Quran - 1st edition, Abdul Mannan Omar, pp. 174-175
- Islam Awakened - Qur'an 4:23
- Quran 4:23 - Darwish
- Quran 4:34 - Ahmed Ali
- Tafheem ul Quran - Syed Abul Ala Maududi - Quran 4:23
- Tafsir 'Ibn Kathir - Quran 4:23 (excerpt)