Understanding the ‘Problematic’ Age of Aisha’

By Danesh Juyandeh

The age of `A’ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr, when she married the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is something that has only recently become controversial. The traditional account is that the marriage was consummated when she was nine years old, which naturally appears strange, if not uncomfortable, to many in a modern, western context. Hence, some recent Muslims (of varying levels of intellectuality, motivations and scholarly qualifications) have re-visited the sources. They have discovered some evidence in the classical historical texts, and reinterpreted the traditionally adduced narrations, to suggest that `A’ishah may actually have been older (with various ages suggested). My aim, in this brief piece, is not to analyze the arguments for and against a young marriage age for `A’ishah, but rather to contextualize the entire discussion with a bird’s-eye view that remains intact regardless of which view (if either) an individual chooses to commit to.

The first (and most) important point to note is, as indicated above, is that the controversy is a relatively recent one. The Prophet’s own contemporaries took no issue with the Prophet’s marriage to `A’ishah; it was not problematic in their eyes. This includes both his disbeliever antagonists and his believing followers. Certainly, his antagonists were ever eager to discredit him, and the Qur’an itself records details of this. They accused him of being a sorceror, a madman or a soothsayer. They objected to his marriage to Zaynab, remonstrating that (according to pre-Islamic Arab culture) a man may not marry the divorcee of his adopted son just as he may not marry the divorcee of his biological son. Yet they did not attempt to discredit him on the basis of his marrying a girl too young for him. Neither in the Qur’an nor in any historical source is there any mention of such an objection having been raised, despite the fact that these sources do mention numerous other strategies used by the Prophet’s opponents.

So, if the Prophet’s contemporaries did not object to `A’ishah’s age of marriage, then we conclude with certainty that her age was within the norm. Logically, this in turn implies one of two things: either it was acceptable, in 7th century Arab culture, for older men to marry younger girls (even as young as 9), or the reason for their non-objection was that `A’ishah was in fact older. Once again, my aim here is not to prove one or the other, but to put the whole issue in perspective. The age of `A’ishah is not a central tenet of Muslim faith, nor should it eclipse the core message and teachings of Islam. Muslims contemplating the issue of `A’ishah’s age might find it beneficial to recall that, ‘Part of the excellence of a person’s Islam is his/her leaving aside what does not pertain to him/her.’

Non-Muslims would serve themselves better by contemplating the Prophet’s teachings of monotheism and righteousness, and the Book he presented as God’s revelation, rather than dwelling on what is, at most, a socio-culturally historical oddity.

The general character of the Prophet, and his marital history, speak clearly against the notion that he was other than upright. His first marriage, at age 25, was to a widowed woman (Khadijah) who was 15 years his senior, and he remained in a happy and solid monogamous marriage to her for a quarter-century (twenty-five years), the marriage ending only with Khadijah’s death, aged 65. If we are extrapolating general lessons from the Prophet’s life, then his marriage to Khadijah is far more relevant for paradigmatic value. It was only subsequent to that, and often under specific circumstances (as others have discussed) that he married other women, and all of them (other than `A’ishah) were either widows or divorcees. Some historical sources even record that one of the strategies his antagonists tried, to dissuade him from his preaching, was to offer him whatever wealth or wives he desired, but he refused this initiative.

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Hence, without necessarily putting the two possibilities (regarding `A’ishah’s age) on equal footing, and without stifling those who wish to delve deeper into the scholarly (and sometimes non-scholarly) arguments on either side, it is sufficient for the Muslim to defer the issue to God, saying, “I believe whichever of the two is the truth before God.” There are many more useful and pressing issues for us to occupy ourselves with.

The modern option of upgrading `A’ishah’s age might offer a more immediate appeal, and an ‘easy’ and convenient solution, for which little further explanation or reasoning would be necessary. Indeed, in the absence of birth certificates, records of ages prior to the modern era can be expected to have some margin of error. However, it is worthwhile to look at the issue in a larger perspective, and to avoid viewing the veritable tapestry of human culture, across space and time, through the colored lenses of modern, western culture. A slight familiarity with anthropology is sufficient to convince one that there has been, and still is, remarkable variety in human cultural practices and norms. The Catholic Encyclopedia observes about the Virgin Mary (peace be upon her) that, “it is possible that Mary gave birth to her Son when she was about thirteen or fourteen years of age.”[1] In Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet was only thirteen, yet her mother tells her that “ladies of esteem” younger than her are already mothers.[2] According to the “Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society,” both Christian Canon law and European civil law considered seven years as the age of consent, but judges in medieval England would approve marriages based on mutual consent at ages even lower than 7.[3] As recently as the nineteenth century, ages of consent of 13 to 14 were common in Western countries.[2] Now, we are responsible for acting in accordance with our conscience, and our own societal norms may well factor into this, but it may be a bit presumptuous to pass judgment on people of the past and future, and those of other cultures. People in the future may well look on some of our mores as bizarre.

The bottom line, is: God knows best about all the details of things. And, it remains well-established that Islam’s central message is one of monotheism, decency and morality. It is to this that our energies can be more profitably devoted.

[1] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15464b.htm, accessed 06/11/2010

[2] Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene 3.

[3] http://www.faqs.org/childhood/A-Ar/Age-of-Consent.html, accessed 06/15/2010

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent, accessed 06/11/2010

53 / View Comments

53 responses to “Understanding the ‘Problematic’ Age of Aisha’”

  1. broAhmed says:

    I found the following video to be very helpful in addressing this topic from both a modern and historical perspective:

    Prophet Muhammad and Aisha

    The creators of it also took the time to cite all of their sources, which are available here:


  2. TruthSeeker says:

    I guess it wouldn’t make much difference what her age was if Muslims today didn’t continue to emulate that behavior by taking children as brides in Muslim majority countries.
    You’re not doing your religion any favors by ignoring this uncomfortable reality in the Ummah. Just dismissing this issue is far more harmful to the community than having the discussion and forcing this kind of behavior into the light of day and trying to solve this problem by rejecting the people who condone it.

    Egypt: Marriage of government official to 12-year-old girl has inflamed long simmering battle over marriage to minors. http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=41860

    • Amad says:

      The number of “minor” marriages that occur in Muslim countries is not different from non-Muslim majority countries. It is rare and more related to tribal/cultural practices and poverty levels than Islam. You will not find the practice among educated or well-off Muslims. I don’t know of any Muslim (and I know tons and tons) in Pakistan, Qatar or USA who was married under-15. And the two examples I know of 15-yr girls, the husband was like 18. And this is perfectly legal in many states.

      If you really wanted to be fair, you could look at the same child marriage issues in other cultures, like in India and some African countries for instance. So, is it a “hindu problem” in India?


      Is it a Jewish problem?

      Most general studies conclude that child marriage is more often related to developing countries, esp. where there is widespread poverty. Religion is hardly ever a factor.


      • TruthSeeker says:

        I just gave you a link in which a Saudi Government official who married and whose mother pushed him to rape his 12 year old bride, now it’s apparently a “national discussion”. If you think this has nothing to do with the only religion in the world that endorses such actions as a example of exemplary behavior, then I think you need to do a little soul searching and maybe try some critical thinking. What happens in those other countries could be tied into historical customs or backward uneducated single examples.

        If you try to explain away this behavior in the Ummah as just “culture” or try to say well it’s OK because everybody else has done it too. That’s a very childish way of sidestepping the issue, why don’t you rather challenge the people who make excuses for this disgusting and inhumane practice?

        • Amad says:

          In other words, “what Saudi does” should be a standard for what a Muslim does?

          Should we apply Israel’s apartheid policies as a standard for “Jewish” practices too?

          I’ll start my soul searching as soon as you finish your biased reading of the situation.

          There is not a shred of proof for a cause (religion) and effect (child marriage) relationship. Just because some Muslims do it, or just because some Muslim countries allow it doesn’t make this an “Islamic practice”.

          The fact that the vast majority of educated/middle-class+ Muslims don’t do it, is enough proof that there is nothing in Islam to encourage this practice. Personally, I am sick of the generalizations… some Muslim kills his daughter, and now honor killing is a Muslim problem, as if no other non-Muslim has ever killed his child. Find some other dumb guy on the street to sell this argument!

          • TruthSeeker says:

            Just because all Muslims don’t do it means that it has nothing to do with Islam?


            But when you ask the people who marry little girls and the reason is “it’s permitted because the Prophet did it” so that means it has nothing to do with Islam? Sure.

            I think you missed the focus of this article is wasn’t talking about “everyone else” it was specifically talking about Muslims in the Ummah and why this “phenomenon” goes on today and how it makes most Muslims look bad.

            It wouldn’t be a problem in any Muslim country if they outlawed it. Why won’t they? Because of the same people here making excuses. They won’t outlaw it because enough people don’t see anything wrong with it, and the reason is IN THE QU’RAN.

            I thought it would be reasonable to hold yourselves to a higher standard rather then, “well don’t look at me I’m not so bad other people do bad things too!”

          • Kashif says:

            “Should we apply Israel’s apartheid policies as a standard for “Jewish” practices too?”

            Why not? Isn’t the Israeli government actively working to synonymise “Israel” and “Jewish”

          • Amad says:

            Just because it’s allowed doesn’t mean its appropriate for today’s world. There is nothing in Islam that is encouraging it or forbidding it (as long as the rules are met (including consent of both sides). Flexibility in Islam allows it to accept that circumstances change with time and culture, and in today’s time, it is not something that is normal so it doesn’t happen.

            It’s funny the same people who are so insistent about this issue would gladly accept homosexuality… maybe incest tomorrow between 2 consenting adults? And of course it’s okay for 2 teenagers, 12 and 13 to have sex? What do you think? Relative values aren’t the solution, because what man thinks is right today will be wrong tomorrow and vice-versa.

    • So let me get this straight. If Muslims do it then it’s because of religion but if non-Muslims do it, then it’s a cultural and poverty problem? Completely hypocritical! Firstly, in Muslim countries where this is usually practiced, already come under the poeverty and high rate of illetracy umbrellas. I don’t know where such people get their logic from or how high there IQ is but using double standards to try and refute Muslims is not going to work!

      As far as saying that Muslims point to their prophet when they DO do it as an excuse is just laughable. I don’t know any Muslim who actually does that rather it’s just a cultural thing! That’s like saying that some of the Muslims still ride camels and avoid cars because they point to their prophet as the reason for doing it! That’s ridiculous! Some cultures just haven’t caught up to the western perspective of what is right and wrong culturally. And there is NO GUARANTEE whatsoever that this practice will AGAIN be made OK in a few hundred years as cultures change with time and place. So if any Muslims are pointing to their prophet for doing it, I guess from now on they can use the prophet ISAAC (since Muslims believe in him too) as an excuse as accordiing to the Jews he married his wife when she was THREE! There are so many narrations in the judo-Christian hitorical and religious literature regarding their saints and prophets marrying young girls that it’s shocking how hypocritical they are about this topic.

      Finally, I would recommend my brothers and sisters to look into a book called “Islamophobe’s glass House” by Hashimi. In it he goes into very details regarding the jewish, christian, hindu and other religous LAWS on child marriages. Very fascinating book! He also names Christian and Jewish saints and prophets marrying young girls from their own sources. You can download it here: http://www.islamic-life.com/forums/quran-hadith-prophet-muhammad/book-refuting-islamaphobes-claim-prophet-muhammad-pedophile-1441

    • leena :) says:

      @truthseeker I don’t get it! What is your aim!? Is it to make me realize what ur saying is the complete truth and u have opened my eyes :) I am going o leave this religon because YOU my openmindd friend just showed me the way? WHO do u think u are??? You’re not even important !!! What in the world made u think any Muslim cares what u think? Honestly you’re not changing any of our opinions and I beleive it is in everyones best intrest that YOU GET A LIFE and stop searching Islam nd commenting because you’re not changing our minds and u are looking prettttty pathetic see if u we confused or not sure and we were logically debating it would be ok but sadly you’re trying to prove to us one thing……..that u don’t have a brain and I’m happy to tell u it worked :)

  3. Asalaam alaikum warahmatulah wabarakatuh.

    There is no refutation after this, alhamdulillah.


    1- One can have intercourse with ones own wife if she is physically/mentally/emotionally fit for it.

    2- If she is not fit for it, you cannot.

    3 – Aisha was fit for it. She said about herself:

    إذا بلغت الجارية تسع سنين فهي امرأة
    “If a girl is 9 years old, she is a woman”

    (Sunan at-Tirmidhi”, Kitab al Nikah [Book on Marriage] #1027).

    (Aisha implied): A woman defined as not just menstruating, but physically a woman too
    (i.e. grown breasts, physically able to have intimate relations and bearing children without harm coming to her).

    Proof from Modern Research

    Aisha’s statement is proven by modern Research. Referring to the whole of puberty:

    In the book Women: An Historical, Gynecological, and Anthropological Compendium, we read:

    The average temperature of the country or province is considered the chief factor here, not only with regard to menstruation but as regards the whole of sexual development at puberty.

    (Herman H. Ploss, Max Bartels and Paul Bartels; Woman: An Historical,
    Gynecological, and Anthropological Compendium, Volume I, Lord & Bransby,
    1988, p.563;

    HerWord.com says:

    There was a study conducted showing that girls who live in countries close to the equator started their menstruation earlier.


    The book Women and Health Psychology says:

    Many factors have been reported to affect age at menarche and/or the regularity of menstruation—[such as] climate, altitude, race, height, weight, hereditary, stress/psychological factors, light, and nutrition.

    (Women and Health Psychology,
    Women and Health Psychology … – Google Book Search

    Differences between Menses and Physical Maturity in Islamic Rulings:

    Mufti Maulana Husain Kadodia explains:

    In reality, puberty has two usages (in Islam).

    The first usage is with regards to physical development, whereas the second usage is with regards to menses:

    For (sexual) intercourse, [physical] developmental puberty is a precondition.

    Whereas for other rulings—such as being ordered to pray (and being responsible for ones deeds)—the menses usage applies.

    (Maulana Mufti Husain Kadodia, Ask Imam.com with Mufti Ebrahim Desai

    Married to a man who’s 54?

    What we see is that the age of the man is largely irrelevant to the question, so long as he is still reasonably within the age of marriage. Prophet Muhammad had only around 12 white hairs when he passed away at the age of 63, and his description [see Shama’il Al Tirmidhi] proves he was not a senile old man like some people may think. Rather, he was strong and was even able to participate in expeditions well.

    Any marriage by a people is based on the cultural norms of the time. The marriage should be based on social norms. The Prophet Muhammad married according to the social norms of his society (marriage of younger women to older men was the norms), and we marry according to the social norms that we live in.
    Social norms are not a problem, so long as they do not contradict firmly set ethics, and it has been proven above that this marriage did not cause any harm to Aisha whatsoever, but caused a great deal of good. Every other marriage should be judged individually based on its own circumstances.

    Aisha played with Dolls, so she was a child?

    “It was with great reluctance that I packed up my Barbie dolls in their doll trunk
    for the last time at 14.”
    Back in Barbie’s early heyday, in the 1960s and 1970s, my
    story wasn’t unusual—girls often played with Barbie until their early teens.

    (About.com, Why Do Girls Outgrow Barbie Dolls At Such a Young Age?)

    So we see that in the 1970s, girls as old as 14 were playing with Barbie dolls. And in other parts of the world, this is still the norms for teenage young women.

    Please click here for a more detailed Refutation;

    • TruthSeeker says:

      That was a very thorough and exhaustive excuse for some of the most disgusting behavior of what should correctly be categorized as pedophilia.

      In the days we live in today people don’t just live into their 40’s 50’s or 60’s, there is no reason whatsoever to ever need to marry a girl under 18 years old, if you marry a child it’s because you don’t see something wrong with it, and that is just vile.

      • Response says:

        The word ‘Paedophilia’ is a subjective term. Some countries legalise marriage at the age of 16, others legalise it earlier and and others later. So in one country your a paedophile and in another your not?

        There needs to be one firm ethical rule; If there will be harm in a marriage and intimate relations, such a person should not have intimate relations. If there will be no harm – then it is perfectly suitable for such a young adult to get married of their choice.

        If you question how one can figure this out, it is clear from seeing signs of their physical growth, aswell as seeing how this young adult is mentally and emotionally. If they are suited for it – then it is their right to go ahead with such a marriage relationship.


      • Rifai says:

        What defines “disgusting” beahviour – whatever you say?
        What defines who is or is not a child?? Again ,whatever you say?

        If you were born 500 years ago, in a Christian Europe that had nothing against such a practice, could we have realistically expected that you would be up in arms about this “disgusting” practice?Since you no doubt have such “children” as mothers in your lineage should we condemn your male ancestry as a bunch or perverts?

        The rationale for this practice in olden times is deeper than just a desire to “exploit” innocent little girls.Maybe the people of those time should have held off getting married and having kids when the average life expectancy was 30 – 40 years…Wonder what the population density would have ended up looking like then…

        As noted before, just because it is allowed doesn’t mean its appropriate for this day and age.If you have a problem with it, dont do it.

      • blah blah blah @ TruthSeeker says:

        This so-called TruthSeeker is not really seeking the Truth. He/she has been seen around other Muslim blogs always bickering about the silliest of things. I don’t know how hard it is for you to understand — not even the enemies (chrisitians, jews, idol worshipers, fire worshipers and whatever other religions) of the time of Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ever raised a word against his marriage to ‘Aa’ishah.

        I guess all those Anti-Islam folks were much less informed about the socially acceptable actions of their own culture & time than you…o wise one…who has come more than a thousand years later…
        Anyways man see you around at some other blog…and make sure you bring the usual garbage because you just gotta’ keep stinkin’!

        • Jeff says:

          In biblical times, people held slaves without the rebuke of their friends or enemies. However, society eventually matured to the point where people realized slavery was wrong. As such, I find the “no one objected to it at the time” argument a little weak. Now I do agree that it is futile, by and large, to judge the past by 21st century morality. However, when someone–be it Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, etc. (peace be on them all)–claims to be a representative of God, I think it’s fair to hold him to a higher standard.

          That’s just my opinion. No offense intended.

          • rifai says:

            “I think it’s fair to hold him to a higher standard.”

            I understand the logic of this statement and agree but it does raise the question – who determines the standard?

            I believe the Ottoman empire had actually banned slavery within its borders when they were still a dominant force (dont have a link to back this up) – maybe someone can give us a link to a historical reference.

          • Danesh Juyandeh says:

            Jeff, to pick up on the slavery thread. Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owner. Does this detract from his positive ideas and contributions to society, or the values expressed in the US Declaration of Independence? We should not lose sight of the humanness of great men, and should be able to distinguish their core message and teachings from the specifics of their personal and socio-cultural circumstances.
            (This is aside from the issue of whether and to what extent there are absolute moral standards in issues such as this one. It is also aside from my belief that all the Prophets of God were respectable and righteous people.)

      • critic says:

        true seker and not accepting the truth, you are there just for criticism without accepting any truth, your heart and mind is locked and doesnt accept any truth, i suppose homosexuality is ok with you as per ur cultural norms, pedophelia is ok with you as the practice of bishops in your churches at least and yet all this vices is not objectionable at least in your point of view but marrriage with the consent of both matured parties is not acceptable!!! where is that mind which is seeking the truth??? or you r just cheating yourself????????

  4. akhuk says:

    Prophet Muhammad’s (s) Marriage to Aisha (ra) – Dr. Ali Shehata http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYpH3QL0i9w

    The Definitive Word on the Marriage of the Prophet Muhammad (s) to Aisha (r)
    An amazing lecture with PowerPoint given by Dr. Ali Shehata on Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Marriage to Aisha (ra). Dr. Ali discusses the noble character of the Prophet (pbuh), the authentic historical record of this matter, the cultural views in his era, the medical aspects related to puberty, a better understand of what constitutes pedophilia and the reasons behind the recent surge of relentless attacks on the Prophet (pbuh).


    “Of all the world’s great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad.” – British author and University of Edinburgh professor emeritus, W. Montgomery Watt

  5. Kashif says:

    About 10 years ago Shibli Zaman wrote an excellent piece on this topic. From what i remember, he covered the subject from a similar angle as this one, but went into much more detail.

    It was actually the best treatment of this topic that i’ve ever read.

    I wonder if anyone possesses a copy of it?

  6. Sa`id says:

    In the United States, by the 1880s, most states set the age of consent at ten or twelve, and in one state, Delaware, the age of consent was only seven. …


  7. Omar says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    I think most of us have heard the arguments before, but this is the first time I have seen them supported with Western scholarly references, good job masha Allah. However, to get to someone who is staunchly against the idea, and bombarded day in day out with stories in the media about thousands of deviants in his society raping children, we need dozens of very detailed credible references for each point, not one or two.

    On an intellectual level though, I find it very interesting that as Muslims, we defend this issue (and others like polygamy) essentially by saying it was a different time and we would not do it today, but we don’t accept this same argument from culture, relativism, or “nobody got hurt” when it comes to issues we consider disgusting, like fornication and homosexuality.

    I suppose the difference is we have an absolute reference and secularists don’t, but it seems to me it is virtually impossible to convince someone of “rightness or wrongness” without reference to God’s command, and even then, they need high Iman and trust in God to accept it if it does not fit with their social mores. Somehow we must be able to reference the fitra as well in support of good and evil, but it is lost in a sea of desires and difficult to distinguish from inclinations.

    Anyone have any ideas to share about this?

    • Tyler says:

      Assalamu Alaykum-

      “On an intellectual level though, I find it very interesting that as Muslims, we defend this issue (and others like polygamy) essentially by saying it was a different time and we would not do it today, but we don’t accept this same argument from culture, relativism, or “nobody got hurt” when it comes to issues we consider disgusting, like fornication and homosexuality.”

      I think the difference between accepting different ages of consent based on cultural practice back then and accepting fornication and homosexuality based on cultural norms of today is that the law doesn’t say marry at such n such an age, but the law does say do not fornicate. So there is a prohibitive command in one of these which can not be dismissed by culture, Allah Knows Best

  8. Xiaahmad says:


    Thing is till 19th century the age on consent in delaware was 7 years.
    so this whole issue has been created just coz of changing standard of the world.

    also she was engaged before marriage to Prophet Muhammad (PUBH) which shows further that marriage at that age was ok and not a issue

  9. Student says:


    Just a sincere advice and call to priorities..

    Given that people here are not separating 9-12 female bride practices in some countries with the ‘academic’ discussion of the age of our mother ‘Aishah radyAllahu anha..

    And also to the fact that there is a GIVEN – just because we’ve grown in our stay in the west and developed socially and spiritually to accept certain customs, does not necessitate that we impress the same standards on others and not give them the time to grow as well.

    Given these things.

    While we argue a NON-issue. I ask a simple question

    A blog that is dedicated to discussing muslim… matters and prides itself on talking about every taboo under the sun and claims open discussion on all topics related to muslims in the “west” – why does it consistently not discuss or, what seems like, systematically avoid other than your political stances here and there and neglect major issues in the world?

    Our MOTHER ‘Aishah radyAllahu ‘anha was cursed in the most atrocious of ways and this blog wishes to discuss her age?

    It’s utterly saddening.

    I hope we can prioritize ‘responses’ such as this and really DEAL with ‘muslim matters’ rather than continuing to chastize muslims, draw attention away from subjects that are too “hot”, and pretend other major issues don’t exist.

    I hope insha’aAllah someone translates this khutbah given by Sh.Muhammad al ‘Araify last jumu’ah about the disgusting events that took place by the Rafidhi, disgusting, Yasser (gair) al-Habib la’natullahi ‘alaih – so that we may bring attention to a real problem that we neglect or we are fired up about and lead to no action.


    wAllahu ‘alam


  10. Sam says:

    I thought age and size did not matter, but for some it does:)
    Those who focus on Aisha(ra) age are those who are most ignorant of Islam and it is because they have a disease which in modern times called “narrow minded syndrom” and they only focus on issues with no relevance rather than analyzing the message of islam.

    They also tend to be lonely, have disfunctional family and they take pride in using big words without understanding their proper meaning (this is the only way they can pretend to be scholarly). And yes I am also allowed to make generalization.
    And my message to them is to accept and declare that “there is no god worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger and slave and so is Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and theyl have a wonderful and happy life.

  11. Sidiq says:

    Assalamu alaykum,

    Great piece. Anybody that publicizes text defending the Mother of the believers obviously cares for Islam and you clearly have done your background reading on this.

    However, you did not do yourself any favours by appearing to be ignorant with regards to authentic statements about the matter in a bid to gain support from as wide a pool as possible. But no worries, this article will not turn out to be one where its comments below outstrip the quality of the actual article.

  12. Shahzad says:

    The fact that the title of this article contains the word “problematic” assumes there is a problem here. There is no problem. Nor is it an “historical oddity”. Marriage practices 1,400 years ago were completely different. The Prophet (saws) also married for political purposes and advised his sahabah to do the same. I’m sure westerners would have a problem with that too. None of the even most vehement opponents of the Prophet (saws) during his time criticised him for marrying young Aisha. This was an accepted practice at that time.

    The loving relationship of the Prophet (saws) with Aisha cannot in any way be compared to the ugly pedophiles that exist in the West and elsewhere these days. Aisha grew to be a scholarly woman and a leader.

    Christians who may criticise the Prophet (saws) over this should look no further than their own Bible and history to see how biblical prophets conducted their marriages.

  13. Danesh Juyandeh says:

    This article was focussed on the historical side of things. The fact that one (dominant) interpretation of the historical facts is abused and taken out of context by some people is not sufficient grounds to revise (i.e. change) history. Yes, if one has other, internal grounds to reject a purported historical fact, that is a different matter. To cite a Christian parallel, the fact that some Christian men solemnly recite verses from the Book of Ezekiel while beating their wives, is probably not going to be solved by just trying to prtetend the Book of Ezekiel doesn’t exist in the Bible. Rather, one needs to engage the text, contextualize it, etc. — basically show why it does not justify wife-beating. Of course, one could conceivably dispute the status of the Book of Ezekiel as genuine divine revelation, but assuming one does not manage to convince some abusive men of that, wouldn’t it make sense reason with them on their own terms, in the interests of protecting the battered women? Similarly, my point is that regardless of which view one takes on the age of Sayyidah Aishah, it does not diminish from the rank of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him). My intent is certainly not to ignore the social abuse of the common view of her young age. I did mention that the marriage to Khadijah “is far more relevant for paradigmatic value.” Perhaps, a separate article, on social ills such as the one you mention, would be useful, if Allah grants the time and tawfiq to myself or someone else.

  14. Bin Muhsin says:

    This is something that has and continues to baffle me.

    When confronted by staunch critics of Islam I’ve found it difficult to know how or even if I should respond vehemently to their attacks on the faith.

    I’m not sure if we should defend Islam by saying, for example, “Alcohol is not allowed because it’s bad for your health”. Someone who drinks alcohol can counter this by saying “Well I drink but not in excess. It’s actually good for your liver if drunk in moderation.” In reality we as Muslims abstain from alcohol simply because we were told by the Prophet of Allah that it is forbidden, not because its bad for our health. The fact is that we trust that whatever comes from the Prophet is revelation from Allah. So we don’t question it. Now this principle can apply to a host of other Islamic rulings.

    Maybe our dawah should resemble sort of like this – “There is a host of benefits in following this religion, but ultimately we accept the judgment of God when it comes to how we live our lives whether we understand it or not”. And I think we should follow this up with dawah about Allah and Rasullulah. If Allah is realized, and Rasullulah is found, there will be no need of “logical” debate.

    What do people think?

    • Danesh Juyandeh says:

      I think your last paragraph sums up the answer: We should try to keep the focus on the real issues when discussing Islam with non-Muslims: tawhid, prophethood, accountability; Not to be sidetracked too much into matters of ahkam.

    • Asim says:

      It is well acknowledged historically, that Aisha (R) was engaged before the Prophet (S), meaning she was well fit for marriage. Are people going to argue that she was an infant when she was engaged? It is also well acknowledged, per Tabari that she was born in the period of Jahilliya to Abu Bakr. The math obviously does not add up and the Arabs were not people who were keen on recording birth-dates.

      There were groups who were intent on casting Aisha (R) as immature and one unfit in her decisions, such that she played with dolls, and the majority of these groups resided in Iraq, the center of political turmoil.

    • jawab says:

      Many questions are already answered by Qur’an & Sunnah.

      A side note, from the Qur’an, 2:219 :
      They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit…”

      The married life of Aisha to the Prophet was perhaps better suited for a Shakespeare play, read numerous ahadiths concerning it, how they drink from same cup, racing each other, one combing the other’s hair, etc. Before her death, she has attained a position most women and even most men today can only dream of.

      Those that attacked the message (of Islam) will also attack the messenger (the Prophet).

  15. Danesh Juyandeh says:

    There are convincing grounds for asserting that the default is for spouses to be of similar age.
    – Both the men and women of Paradise, according to various accounts in the books of hadith and tafsir, are the same age of 33yrs.
    – Imam Nasai has a chapter in his Sunan entitled, “Marriage of a woman to someone comparable to her in age.”
    – The Prophet himself generally married women of a similar age to himself or older; Aishah was an exception.

    Hence, particularly if people in society are abusing the rights and welfare of younger females in terms of marriage, I feel it would be quite legitimate for Muslim authorities, in the interests of the greater good, to regulate such marriages closely (i.e. institute a system for checks and balances, and for raising and following up on grievances that arise), and perhaps even to forbid them as a matter of siyasah.

    In any case, education of the masses is undoubtedly an essential ingredient in the solution. Sadly, there is so much ignorance in our Muslim societies / countries nowadays. Marrying off younger girls (indeed, perhaps even selling them off) without consideration for their welfare is but one example of the consequences. We could mention many others: honor killings, corruption, racial and toher ethnic discrimination, ….

  16. Mezba says:

    Those who believe the Prophet did wrong by marrying Aisha at a young age will continue to believe no matter what you say.

    Those who believe the Prophet is the best example to mankind will believe no matter what others say.

    The Prophet is a mirror on which people cast their own images and stereotypes.

    Most of the attacks on the Prophet come from societies where girls lose their virginity by high school (grade 9).

  17. Mansoor Ansari says:

    Marriageable age was not a issue even 50 yrs yrs back in Middle East & South Asia. On my dad’s side my grandparents got married when they were 16 (gf) & 13 (gm) and on my mom’s side my grandad was 25+ while grannie was 14. They lived quite happily in the years I saw them. 3 of them of passed away last year, may grant them jannah and in the last years all they did was praise each other & tell how good their spouse was. I doubt ppl who r abused would do so.

    The ages i gave r approx as they never had birth certificates and have guessed it according to events that occurred around their birth. Age was not issue when they were growing up. Age… celebrations & depressions associated with r something our generation care too much abt, my parents don’t care abt it either.

    My brother got married when he was 30 to a 18 yrs old girl, if 50 -100 yrs from now, the elites of the society decide to change the legal age from 18 to 25, would my brother now be classified as a pedophile. Absurd!

    This society has huge issues with 14 yrs getting married & is illegal but 14 yrs old are indulging in fornication & r having children out of wedlock.. this is completely legal!!!

    If a 40 yrs old man has intercourse with a girl who turned 18 today it would fine & legal and he would not be classified as a pedophile but if were do the same yesterday then he would have been charged under statuary rape & labelled a pedophile…. totally senseless!

    Humans for centuries had puberty as the milestone for deciding when a person become adult & is eligible for marriage but it’s not even 100 yrs since this retarded laws were introduced… it surely stopped ‘under age marriage’ but gave rise to ‘under age’ premarital sex’.

  18. Jeff says:

    The basic premise of the defense presented in this piece is flawed. We cannot assume that a practice is moral simply because it is not questioned by others living at the same time. I was only using slavery as an example.

    • Rifaie says:

      I agree that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make something moral and vice versa.But you have not provided us the yardstick with which you arrive at the morality of an action.
      For us it is religion and perhaps you derive it from some branch of philosophy.I believe that there would be convergence of quite some matters, but I expect that there will be a few conflicts at least.

  19. Brother says:

    Ok, I got an idea. Why don’t you guys who have an issue with Ayesha’s age look at your own lineage and find out at what age your great, great… grandma got married at. And it doesn’t matter if your lineage traces back to the Pilgrims who came to America.

  20. Jeff says:

    Hi, Rifaie. I don’t mean to join in with those who bash Muslims over this issue. It’s just that someone sent me a link to the article, and I found the main point questionable. But the issue you raise is a good one: who decides the standards?

    In this case, especially since there are children involved, I want to be practical but sensitive to the children as well. It seems that if the female is old enough to procreate, then we should not be imposing our modern standards on the situation (as long as the female is willing, of course). But if she isn’t, it’s hard for me to see it as anything but child abuse.

    So, in this case, I disagree with the author: the age of the female involved is the central issue. And I understand that there is a wide range of disagreement over that.

    And again, I don’t mean to insult Islam. (Or, at least, when it comes to religions, I should prefer to be an equal-opportunity offender… or better still, not an offender at all!)

    • Sabour Al-Kandari says:

      Don’t worry about insulting anyone Jeff, you’re coming off as very reasonable and respectful. Believe me, we’ve dealt with the insulting type lol!

      Your points are also well taken. I think part of what the author is saying is that as we are taught in anthropology, social customs are not necessarily standards for morality. As an example, if you find some medieval Persian poetry, some of the descriptions they use for women speak of “attractive hair over the lip”. I think everyone would be disgusted by that today, but that’s exactly the point. Anyone who is disgusted by using social-norm standards of today would be vehemently approving of it at that time – so it’s not really a firm standard for morality.

      Another approach would be to think about it this way: bad things have bad consequences (for someone eventually) and good things have good consequences (for someone eventually). If the marriage to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) really was something bad, then the obvious victim would be Aisha herself. But rather we see the opposite, she really thrived in the marriage and spending those years with the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) lead her to become one of the greatest female scholars and activists of Islamic history.

      Of course, its applications today don’t necessarily entail “permission with no strings attached”. Strings are almost always attached in Islamic jurispudence. Even something like eating pork may become mandatory on a Muslim in a life or death situation, so it’s important to deal with individual cases with the care, scrutiny and critical thinking they deserve.

      I hope you feel welcome here Jeff, feel free to share your insight with us on other articles as well.

      • Jeff says:

        Hello, Sabour. Thanks for your kind words, and I certainly do feel welcome. It’s an odd situation in the US today. I tend to be critical of all religions and, when asked, I express myself as such. But nowadays there is such a concerted effort to ostracize and demonize Islam that it’s hard to express an honest opinion without appearing to be hopping on the anti-Muslim bandwagon. I appreciate that the people on this forum are able to tell the difference. In your shoes, I don’t know if I’d find it so easy.

        I came across this article as such: I have a friend who has been trying to convince me that Islam is particularly bad among world religions. We have had long and interesting discussions, but for him it always comes down to this issue with Aisha. Aware of this, my wife forwarded me a link to this article so that I’d be able to discuss the point with him more intelligently. It really is hard in 2010 to debate something that happened around 1400 years ago!

    • Rifaie says:

      Hello Jeff, Its clear from your tone that you are not trying to antagonize anyone. If only there were more who shared such sensitivity!

      “But if she isn’t, it’s hard for me to see it as anything but child abuse.”

      I cant blame you – given what we are all exposed to regarding Islam in the media – if you thought that such marriages can take place forcibly , that is , without consent on either side. However, in our tradition it is necessary to get approval from both parties to a marriage – a forced marriage is not valid.I fear even stating this fact sounds overly apologetic, but research into what classical medieval Islamic scholars have to say on this subject essentially yields as much.

      Sadly though, because of family pressures , you might come across cases of both men and women who have been married to someone against there will.

    • Rifaie says:

      A very detailed look into this whole issue comes from an e-book that you might be able to skim though at least.It might give you more perspective than you already have regarding this subject to decide where we stand.


      • Jeff says:

        Hi, Rifaie. Thanks for the links! I would like to think I have a decent idea of Muslim marriages, at least in modern times… I have a niece, a Muslim from the U.A.E. who has just gotten engaged. I know that “arranged marriage” does not equal “marriage without consent.”

        One notion behind an “age of consent,” however, is that before a certain age, you’re not considered capable of making a fully rational rational decision. Sabour Al-Kandari brings up a good point with the “was any harm done?” standard. My view is still that Aisha’s actual age is the central issue. But I agree with many here that millions of people who know nothing about Islam use this point to attack it, having probably learned about it from a Google search or something like that. It’s probably a very tired issue for Muslims.

        I will check out the e-books when I have a sec. Thanks again.

        • Danesh Juyandeh says:

          Hi, Jeff
          As others have said, you are welcome to ask/comment respectfully.
          I recognize your point about capability for consent. In Islam, there are means available to the wife to end the marriage if she is not happy. So, even if one did assume that Aisha was too young to consent, she was still able to make up her own mind when she got older. The Prophet Muhammad was also ordered by God, in the Qur’an, to give all hi wives the option to stay with him, or to leave. (Being married to a Prophet of God was not a materially well-off life; he and his family lived very humbly). When the choice was given, neither Aisha nor any of the other wives opted to leave. And Aisha was not a timid, helpless woman either. She would often speak her mind to the Prophet himself, and was from a wealthy and respected family. In one of the conflicts after the Prophet’s death, she even participated in a battle on a camel, a a result of which the battle was famously named “The Battle of the Camel.”

  21. Danesh Juyandeh says:

    Jeff, to pick up on the slavery analogy you raised. Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owner. Does this detract from his positive ideas and contributions to society, or the values expressed in the US Declaration of Independence? We should not lose sight of the humanness of great men, and should be able to distinguish their core message and teachings from the specifics of their personal and socio-cultural circumstances.
    (This is aside from the issue of whether and to what extent there are absolute moral standards in issues such as this one. It is also aside from my belief that all the Prophets of God were respectable and righteous people.)

  22. Jeff says:

    Hi, Danesh. It’s funny you say that; I was thinking about the same thing just today. At first I thought Muhammad should be held to a higher standard than, say, the American founding fathers because of his “man of God” status, but the more I think about your comment (“We should not lose sight of the humanness of great men”) the more I agree. Thanks for the food for thought.

  23. Ridhwan says:

    According to a survey of all the evidences available, it is clear that Sayyida Aisha was not 9 years old but actually between 16 to 19 years of age when the marriage was consummated.
    Please see my article http://www.wlsis.org/multimedia/Age%20of%20Aisha.nov2010.htm
    for a convincing argument and decide the facts for yourself,
    was salam

  24. Salaam,

    This comes up again and again. You know, I was watching a programme on Peace TV with Dr Laurence Brown and he was reading out the statements from people that really hated Islam. These were statements from centruries ago about the prophet Muhammad (pbuh). What he was trying to show was that those who really despised Islam, when they studied the life of the Muhammad (pbuh), they could only heap praise upon him. We know that this goes right the way back to the Prophet’s time. It was reported by Dr Brown that 200 years ago in England to say anthing positive about the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was putting your life at risk – but they still wrote it. This is what his enemies think of him. What about those who admire him? From Mahatma Gandhi, published in “Young India”, 1924: “…It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission… When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.”

    We also know that Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) is one of our greatest scholars. She is revered by hundreds of millions of men and women around the world. Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) was already regarded as a Muslim scholar at the age of 18 years, when Muhammed (pbuh) passed away. For the next 50 years, until her own death, senior companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and Muslims consulted Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) for her extensive understanding of the Qur’an (she had memorised the entire Qur’an), Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and the Traditions (Sunnah). She was such an eloquent speaker. You can write volumes on this most brilliant of Muslim woman. What an example for both men and women.

    The first thing not to do is impose your culture on the one you’re observing. It doesn’t take much research to discover that the age of consent was different in years gone by. There was a campagn in 1885 in the the US to raise the age of consent from what was mostly 10/12 years to 16. In the state of Delaware, it was the 7 at that time. You will find similar stories from the around the world. What people do today is try to read modern prejudices and assumptions about what the proper age of consent should be into the past.

    Throughout her childhood, Mary I, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon and King Henry VIII, had future potential marriages negotiated for her by her father. When she was only two years old she was promised to the the infant son of King Francis I of France, but after three years the contract was repudiated. Isabelle of France (1389-1409), oldest daughter of King Charles VI, was around seven years old when she married Richard II as his second wife in 1396. Their engagement was announced the previous year. Some 700 years earlier, the marriage of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) to prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when Aisha was 6 (the marriage was not consummated until she reached puberty at 9) is considered by the modernists to be shocking!

    People know this history. They only object to this one marriage: the marriage of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) to prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Why? Because they have to find something to malign the Prophet’s (pbuh) character and they can’t find anything. No-one objected to prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) marriage to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), not even his enemies. Yet, all of a sudden, in the 21st century, almost 1500 years later, it’s an issue. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was engaged to Jubayr, son of Mut’im, before prophet Muhammad (pbuh) married her. It was Aisha’s (may Allah be pleased with her) father, Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), who broke off that engagement. Clearly she was considered ready for marriage at the time.

    Whether it’s Isabelle or Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), that was their culture at the time. Its easy to brandish about numbers but what about their maturity at the time, their development and their environment? Why do we assume that they were ‘little girls’? Are all 12 years at the same maturity level, across all cultures, for all times? You can’t find two 12 years at the same maturity level in the same street. Islam doesn’t go by the man-made age of consent, instead it goes by when that person is physiologically and mentally ready for marriage, as everyone is different. Not only is puberty a requirement before you can consummate your marriage, you also have to be of a mental capacity to understand you are entering a marriage contract. That might not happen until several years later. Does this not apply to both men and women? This is the beauty of Islam.

    Where there is an age of consent set, for example, 13 as in Spain (used to be 12 before it was changed in 1999), if a person 1 second before their 13th birthday is considered to be immature and irresponsible, 2 seconds later, 1 second into their 13th birthday, they can engage in sex. The minimum age of marriage in Spain is 18 although you can marry at the age of 14 if you have special permission from a judge. This is the insane logic that is prevalent today: you can engage in sex when studies are showing the emotional and physiological damage it can cause when you are not ready, but you can’t get married which is about love and commitment, the perfect companions for sex. It’s the lack of commitment and the feeling of being used that is being reported.

    I started with the something of the characters of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) and the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to show you the calibre of the people we are dealing with. And look what the marriage produced – one of the truly great women in history. Is this an example of someone who has ’emotional and physiological’ damage? There is nothing for us to defend. Why do Muslims feel they have to hide anything? God Almighty gave you the gift of reasoning. How you can you reason without knowledge? Go and study, gain knowledge, men and women, as directed by God Almighty and let those who attack the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) consume themselves with their own hate. As someone once said, when the liquid coming out of barrel is diseased, so is the barrel.

    This is a short clip (about a minute), http://vimeo.com/26015814, from the seminar, ‘Legacy of Ibrahim – The Universal Model for Families & Nations’, which took place in Cambridge and is part of a series known as the ‘Cambridge Islamic Sciences Seminars’. This is what we should be focused on… :)



  25. Best Refutation says:

    Aisha said;

    إذا بلغت الجارية تسع سنين ف هي امرأة

    “When a girl [jaariyah] reaches [balaghat] 9 years old [tis’a sineen], then she is [fa hiyya] a woman [imra’ah] ”

    (Recorded in Sunan al “Tirmidhi”, Kitab al Nikah [Book on Marriage] 1027).

    Imam Al-Nawawi said:

    Aisha said;

    (تَزَوَّجَنِي رَسُولُ اللهِ-صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَسَلَّمَ- لِسِتِّ سِنِينَ، وَبَنَى بِي وَأَنَا بِنْتُ تِسْعِ سِنِينَ

    وقال مالك والشَّافعيُّ وأبو حنيفة: حدُّ ذلك أن تطيق الجماع

    قال الدَّاوديُّ: وكانت عائشة قد شبَّت شباباً حسناً- رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهَا‘

    Aishah said: “The Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) married me when I was six years old and was with me (i.e. began to live together) when I was 9 years old.”

    Malik (Ibn Anas), Imam Abu Hanifa and Ash-Shafi’ie (ALL respected scholars of Islam) have said: A Restriction Limit [arabic: hadd] (should be placed between marriage partners until maturity) that is able for (tuTeeq = able to handle) Sexual intercourse. (al jamaa’)

    “Al-Dawudi said: “And Aishah’s body had been matured. [i.e. reached ‘good Youthfulness’ (Shabaaban husna)] – may Allah be pleased with her“

    (“Sharh al-Nawawi” 9/207 [Explanation of Sahih Muslim]).

    LiveScience.com says:

    There is a range, and this has been part of the problem of establishing the “normal” age of puberty. Girls might enter full-blown puberty anytime between ages 9 and 15. (LiveScience.com, The Truth Behind Early Puberty | LiveScience)

    Young women will differ in Balaaghah (physical maturity) depending on a range of factors, especially depending on Where they Live and their Biological makeup;

    The average temperature of the country or province is considered the chief factor here, not only with regard to menstruation but as regards the whole of sexual development at puberty.

    Reference: (Herman H. Ploss, Max Bartels and Paul Bartels; Women: An Historical, Gynecological, and Anthropological Compendium,Volume I, Lord & Bransby, 1988, p.563;Woman.
    An historical, gynaecological and anthropological compendium.
    Volume 3 only by PLOSS, Herman Heinrich, BARTELS, Max & BARTELS,
    Paul Find or Buy Book Now!)

    Marriage to a Man who is 54?

    What we see is that the age of the man is largely irrelevant to the question, so long as he is still reasonably within the age of marriage. Prophet Muhammad had only around 12 white hairs when he passed away at the age of 63, and his description [see Shama’il Al Tirmidhi (Shamâ´il al-Muhammadiyyah (Description of Prophet Muhammad) by Abû ‘Isâ at-Tirmidhî)] proves he was not physically frail like some people may think.

    Any marriage by a people is based on the cultural norms of the time. The marriage should be based on social norms.
    The Prophet Muhammad married according to the social norms of his
    society (marriage of younger women to older men was the norms), and
    we marry according to the social norms that we live in. Social
    norms are not a problem, so long as they do not contradict firmly
    set ethics, and it has been proven above that this marriage did not
    cause any harm to Aisha whatsoever, but caused a great deal of
    good. Every other marriage should be judged individually based on its own circumstances.


    The word ‘Paedophilia’ is a subjective term. Some countries
    legalise marriage at the age of 16, others legalise it earlier and
    and others later. So in one country you’re a paedophile and in
    another you’re not? Who decides?

    There needs to be One firm ethical rule; If there will be harm in a marriage and intimate relations, such a person should not have intimate relations. If there will be no harm – then it is perfectly suitable for such a young adult to get married of their choice.

    If you question how one can figure this out?, it is clear from seeing signs of their physical growth, aswell as seeing how this young adult is mentally and emotionally. If they are suited for it – then it is their right to go ahead with such a marriage relationship.


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