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History and Seerah

Understanding the ‘Problematic’ Age of Aisha’

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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53 Comments

53 Comments

  1. Avatar

    broAhmed

    October 13, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    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:

    Sources

  2. Avatar

    TruthSeeker

    October 13, 2010 at 1:13 AM

    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

      Amad

      October 13, 2010 at 2:49 AM

      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?

      http://www.hindubooks.org/sudheer_birodkar/hindu_history/practices1.html

      Is it a Jewish problem?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_marriage_in_Judaism#Child_marriage

      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.

      http://womensissues.about.com/od/violenceagainstwomen/tp/TenFactsAboutChildBrides.htm

      • Avatar

        TruthSeeker

        October 13, 2010 at 4:49 AM

        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

          Amad

          October 13, 2010 at 5:03 AM

          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!

          • Avatar

            TruthSeeker

            October 13, 2010 at 5:48 AM

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

            Right…

            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!”

          • Avatar

            Kashif

            October 13, 2010 at 6:10 AM

            “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

            Amad

            October 13, 2010 at 8:57 AM

            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.

    • Avatar

      The Thinking Muslim

      October 13, 2010 at 10:47 AM

      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

    • Avatar

      leena :)

      June 11, 2011 at 7:00 PM

      @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. Avatar

    Asalaam alaikum warahmatulah wabarakatuh.

    There is no refutation after this, alhamdulillah.


    Introduction:

    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.

    (HerWord.com,
    http://www.herword.com/healthdesk/ot…s10.28.03.html)

    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;
    http://www.islamic-life.com/forums/quran-hadith-prophet-muhammad/book-refuting-islamaphobes-claim-prophet-muhammad-pedophile-1441

    • Avatar

      TruthSeeker

      October 13, 2010 at 4:56 AM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Response

        October 13, 2010 at 6:26 AM

        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.

        Peace.

      • Avatar

        Rifai

        October 13, 2010 at 11:40 AM

        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.

      • Avatar

        blah blah blah @ TruthSeeker

        October 15, 2010 at 9:17 PM

        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’!

        • Avatar

          Jeff

          October 17, 2010 at 9:17 AM

          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.

          • Avatar

            rifai

            October 17, 2010 at 3:09 PM

            “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.

          • Avatar

            Danesh Juyandeh

            November 11, 2010 at 10:07 PM

            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.)

      • Avatar

        critic

        November 23, 2010 at 9:33 AM

        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. Avatar

    akhuk

    October 13, 2010 at 2:52 AM

    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).

    .: A MUST SEE FOR EVERYONE :.

    “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. Avatar

    Kashif

    October 13, 2010 at 6:32 AM

    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. Avatar

    Sa`id

    October 13, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    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. …

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent

  7. Avatar

    Omar

    October 13, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    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?

    • Avatar

      Tyler

      October 13, 2010 at 2:21 PM

      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. Avatar

    Xiaahmad

    October 13, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    Salam,

    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. Avatar

    Student

    October 13, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    salamu’alaikum

    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.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb8RcFHF6lM

    wAllahu ‘alam

    -Edited

  10. Avatar

    Sam

    October 14, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Sadeeq

      October 14, 2010 at 10:17 AM

      its truth my friend. There just trying to insult our deen. And that God ll punish dem

  11. Avatar

    Sidiq

    October 14, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    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. Avatar

    Shahzad

    October 14, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    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. Avatar

    Danesh Juyandeh

    October 14, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    @TruthSeeker:
    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. Avatar

    Bin Muhsin

    October 14, 2010 at 10:42 PM

    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?

    • Avatar

      Danesh Juyandeh

      October 14, 2010 at 10:47 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      Asim

      October 15, 2010 at 3:57 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      jawab

      November 24, 2010 at 11:53 PM

      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. Avatar

    Danesh Juyandeh

    October 14, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    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. Avatar

    Mezba

    October 15, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    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. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    October 15, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    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. Avatar

    Jeff

    October 17, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Rifaie

      October 17, 2010 at 9:20 PM

      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. Avatar

    Brother

    October 17, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    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. Avatar

    Jeff

    October 17, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    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!)

    • Avatar

      Sabour Al-Kandari

      October 17, 2010 at 11:11 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Jeff

        October 18, 2010 at 8:40 AM

        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!

    • Avatar

      Rifaie

      October 18, 2010 at 9:09 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      Rifaie

      October 18, 2010 at 9:19 PM

      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.

      http://www.islamic-life.com/forums/quran-hadith-prophet-muhammad/book-refuting-islamaphobes-claim-prophet-muhammad-pedophile-1441

      • Avatar

        Jeff

        October 18, 2010 at 9:42 PM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Danesh Juyandeh

          November 11, 2010 at 9:42 PM

          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. Avatar

    Danesh Juyandeh

    November 11, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    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. Avatar

    Jeff

    November 11, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    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. Avatar

    Ridhwan

    June 8, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    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. Avatar

    Mohammed Tahir

    July 22, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    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… :)

    Wasalaam

    Mohammed

  25. Avatar

    Best Refutation

    July 9, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    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.

    Conclusion

    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.

    Marriage-of-aisha.blogspot.com

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Dr Yaseen Mazhar Siddiqui: An Obituary Of A Scholar of Seerah

Meraj Din

Published

A leading scholar of Islamic studies with focus on Seerah literature and history, he unconventionally broke many stereotypes—both orthodox and modern and all his life epitomized the cause of Islam on the intellectual front.

With the death of Yaseen Mazhar Siddiqui, at the age of 76, Muslims in South Asia lost one of the most respected and leading scholars of Islam. A graduate of, and now professor at Aligarh University is less known in the West for his 29 books than for his Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts at the Aligarh Muslim University, India, published in London in 2002 by the Furqan Heritage Foundation. An eminent Muslim religious scholar, academic and historian who served as director of the Institute of Islamic Studies at Aligarh Muslim University. Siddiqui was a well-placed and reputed figure of great spiritual and intellectual insight recognized on national as well as international level. Siddiqui was instrumental over the past 30 years in the framing, development and streamlining the influence of Islam in Aligarh Muslim University. To commemorate the outstanding services of Hazrat Shah Waliullah and to promote the Islamic values, the Institute of Objective Studies instituted an Award known as “Shah Waliullah Award” to honour eminent scholars who have done outstanding work in Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Islamic Studies. The fifth Shah Waliullah Award was rightly conferred on Prof. Mohd Yasin Mazhar Siddiqi, as the renowned scholar for his contribution to Sirah and Historiography in Islamic Perspective in 2005.

Siddiqui was an exceptionally modest and humble man, with an intellectually engaging and honest commitment to Islam, away from self-eulogizing claims of pseudo-intellectualism. His commitment to Islam, which occupied him for his whole life, left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of people across territorial boundaries. One thing all this illustrates is Siddiqui’s intense sense of duty — a sense that he unthinkingly expected his colleagues to share. Siddiqui’s well-stocked mind, clarity and unflinching intellectual honesty devoted to respond the questions of Orientalist scholarship on Sirah literature and subsequent other corollaries. He had little time for Islam’s own accounts of its origins rather his interest revolved around “Qurʾān and Sirah” and its role in shaping the worldview of Muslims who are struggling to makes sense of their identity amid the challenges emerging from dominant discursive colonial Eurocentric episteme. Leaving the conventional hollow claims, without efforts to prove how and why so much sanctity is attached to Islam and its sources—Qurʾān and Sunnah/Sirah being the primary one, he reckoned, to fill the gap using contemporary sources and knowledge of Hadīth, from orientalist and now its pedigree of modernist claims. This task required both personal and intellectual bravery. As he knew the central beliefs of Islam, such as the way the Quran took shape, the place of Sirah, its underlying methodology, he was equally aware how outside scrutiny has tempered the flare, especially when the conclusions are expressed in a witty and sardonic style. His soft way of speaking, affectionate manner and hospitable nature made him a much-loved figure. Because of his erudition most people who came in contact with him thought of him as a teacher; many saw him as a spiritual mentor. With his humble appearance, it was easy to mistake him for a country bumpkin.

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Born in India in 1944 in the Lakhimpur Kheri district of United Provinces of British India. He graduated in the traditional Dars-e-Nizami (pure religious textual studies of Islamic texts) studies from Nadwatul Ulama in 1959, and Master’s in literature from the University of Lucknow in 1960. He passed the intermediate exams from the Jamia Milia Islamia in 1962 and then acquired a B.A. in 1965 and B.Ed. in 1966 from the same University. In 1968, Siddiqui recieved a M.A. degree in History, M.Phil. in 1969, and Ph.D. in 1975 from the Aligarh Muslim University. Yasin Mazhar Siddiqui benefited from great teachers like Maulana Rabi Hasni Nadvi, Maulana Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Maulana Ishaq Sandelvi K. A. Nizami, Abd al-Hafīz Balyāwi and Rabey Hasani. Anwar was welcomed as an independent member of various advisory committees and expressed pride in the research done in the field of Sirah.

Professor Siddiqui wrote more than 40 books and 300 research articles in Urdu, Arabic and Persian. His publications and presentations have reverberated throughout the discipline of Islamic studies and social sciences, profoundly shaping the scholarship of a new generation of scholars as they develop a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and critical approach to Seerah and history. He was well known for the great quality and high calibre of his originality of research in Islamic studies and all related subjects. He was recognized as one of the compelling and intellectually grounded voice on Seerah studies.  As a scholar and teacher, he embodied and followed strong moral and political principles, and formulated new ways of understanding the subject of Seerah, history, religious freedom, and the rights of religious minorities. His writings on the Prophet and his teachings garnered wide acclaim. He wrote extensively in reputed literary journal, ‘Nuqoosh’ and got international ‘Nuqush Award’, ‘Seerat-e-Rasool Award’ and ‘Sirah Nigari Award’. Two of his most popular works are Muslim Conduct of State and Introduction to Islam. The first book was Ehd-e-Nabwi mai Tanzīm-e-Riyāsat-o-Hukūmat and the second book The Prophet Muhammad: A Role Model for Muslim Minorities has gained such wide acclaim—mainly for the reason that its contents are divided into chapters (which stand on their own as a monograph) which deal with related specific subject matter. It is easy to understand how his style of presentation has endeared the book not only to common folk, but also to the people who would like to gain a reasonable insight into the true spirit of the teachings of Islam.

Almost every country outside the traditional Muslim “heartlands” asserts Siddiqui in his book ‘The Prophet Muhammad—A Role Model for Muslim minorities is home to a Muslim minority population today. For such Muslim communities, the political perspectives reflected by the corpus of traditional fiqh are of little or no relevance, and can even be hugely problematic. Siddiqui therefore takes it upon himself to develop an understanding of Muslim jurisprudence that is particularly suited to their context, making a valuable contribution to the limited, but slowly expanding, corpus of writings on fiqh al-aqalliyat or fiqh for [Muslim] minorities. Siddiqui argues that the basis of fiqh for Muslim minorities must lie in the Makkan period of life of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his companions, a period of around thirteen years when the Muslims were a minority and did not enjoy political domination. In many senses, their position resembled that of Muslim minorities today. Muslim minorities need to see the role of the Prophet and the early Muslims in that period as a model for them to emulate, Siddiqui suggests:

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had close personal ties with several non-Muslims in Mecca, and Muslim minorities, Siddiqui advises, must emulate him in this regard and must have “excellent social relations with non-Muslims” (p. 194).

As Siddiqui succinctly puts it:

Muslims all over the world, especially Muslim minorities, have to prove that they are the best community, devoted to the cause of protecting mankind against suffering and blessing everyone with happiness, regardless of caste, colour or creed. Their position is of the best community and their duty is to serve mankind […] Their presence must guarantee help for everyone, especially of their non-Muslim country. However, this cannot be affirmed merely verbally or by recounting old stories. They have to prove it by their conduct. (p. 194)

This monograph and his other works are a brilliant contribution to the on-going debates about fiqh for Muslim minorities. It provides valuable insights for developing new and more relevant understandings of Islamic jurisprudence in Muslim minority contexts, envisaging the possibility of reconciling Islamic commitment with Muslim minority-ness, an issue that has largely escaped the attention of Islamic scholars but one that has sometimes been, and continues to be, a troubling one for many Muslims living as minorities. Siddiqui’s diverse and intellectually engaging work that speaks eloquently to a wide spectrum of readers with different backgrounds and interests. To use terms such as “monumental”, “one-of-a-kind”, and “exceptional” to describe this work is not exaggeration. A committed Muslim, throughout his career Siddiqui maintained the principle of genuinely evidence-based research. Dapper and courteous, he was a highly effective communicator, quoted widely in the local context  as well as cited in academia.

A direct criticism to his work also emerges from scholars who assert that in his Introduction of The Prophet Muhammad—A Role Model for Muslim minorities’ Siddiqi (p. 62) formally describes himself as a humble and error-prone human being. However, he then proceeds to negate the worth of all previous biographies of the Prophet, claiming that these ‘conventional’ authors used ‘outdated methodology and lines of argument’. Consequently, according to him, all previous studies of the Makkan period were ‘markedly inadequate’ and ‘the entire life history of the Prophet remains to be analysed’ since ‘no biographer of his has ever given thought to this obvious fact that the Makkan period of his life represents the phase of subjugation’. Therefore, Siddiqi considers the conventional treatment of the Makkan and Madinan periods of Islamic history as ‘downright pernicious’ (p. ix). One wonders indeed whether the author is aware of some of the most popular biographies of the Prophet—beyond the classical ones: Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham, and Ibn Kathir—including the works by Muhammad Hamidullah, Muhammad Haikal, Martin Lings, Karen Armstrong, and Tarik Jan, all contradicting his assertions.

With quite a serious criticism on his assertions about various aspects of mis-reading the Seerah of the Prophet there still remains a lot to be talked about his contribution to diverse areas of Islamic Studies. And though he is no longer here to share his thoughts, he has done enough to enable us to think with him. Certain towering intellectuals become integral to the vey alphabet of our moral and religious imagination. They live in those who read and think them through-and thus they become indexical, proverbial, to our thinking. Siddiqui lived so fully, so consciously, so critically through the thick and thin of our times that he is definitive to our critical thinking, just like Mustafa Azami, Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, or other Muslim luminaries are. He was – and remains – a brilliant intellectual, whose legacy of rethinking certain conventional assertions around Islam and efforts still reverberate today and will continue to do so.

He cultivated with joyous attention her relationships with family and friends. He mentored, as one of his students mentioned once, with remarkable care and intensity, demanding their best work, listening, responding with a sharp generosity, coming alive in thought, and soliciting others to do the same. He immersed himself, in illness and heath, in reading the Quran post morning prayers and transformed himself and transmitted the values of thought and love, leaving now a vibrant legacy that will persist and flourish among all whose lives were touched by his life and work.

May Allah Almighty bless him with the loftiest of abodes in the Gardens of Firdaus in the company of Allah’s beloved Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and grant all those who cherished him patience.

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#Current Affairs

Racism And The Plagues of Egypt – Coronavirus And Racism: America’s Two Pandemics

Dr Amina Darwish, Guest Contributor

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Introduction

The fight against anti-Blackness has once again hit the global stage, and American Muslims have a central role to play in the movement of racial justice. The spiritual history of America is a history of Black Muslim voices. Mansa Abubakari, a West African King, landed in South America almost 200 years before Columbus began the massacre of the indigenous population.[1] The biggest migration of Muslims to America was the slave ships where scholars fought to teach Islam to their enslaved communities. Modern Islamophobic attacks such as the Muslim Ban of 2016 are not just Islamophobic, but also deeply racist because it denies the humanity of the previous generations of Muslims. Black Muslims have carried the mantle of preserving Islam in America and have fought for racial justice for last four centuries. The immigrant Muslims who arrived during the last 50 years were a direct result of the civil rights movement that allowed immigration from Muslim majority countries. The fight for racial justice is a Muslim fight. We owe it to the generations of Muslims before us to continue their work.

The 400 years of struggle for racial justice in America can be compared to the Children of Israel’s fight for emancipation from Pharaoh’s Egypt 3000 years ago during which the country was hit by a number of plagues. Sheikh Mendes and Imam Dawud Walid have recently referenced the story of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), whose demand to Pharaoh to, “Let my people go[2]” is well known in many religious circles fighting for racial equality in America. [3] The Quran discusses of the plagues of Egypt in the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in Surah Al-A’raf. “So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people.” [7;133] The plagues of Egypt are similar to the current coronavirus pandemic in that they made systemic oppression clear for all to see. The goal here is to explain the relationship between the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

First, the name of the surah will be discussed. Then, the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will be put into context with the story of the other prophets mentioned in the surah. The events leading up to the Plagues of Egypt are explained and compared to the current American pandemics. Finally, there are recommendations for how to make our community spaces antiracist. A few Black scholars have been quoted throughout as to elevate their voices, and to provide some much-needed groundwork for readers who might be unfamiliar with these great American Muslim scholars. For further reading, Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler compiled a far more exhaustive list of Black Muslim narratives in the BlackIslamSyllabus.

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To put this verse into perspective we must first reflect on Surah A’raf as a whole, and I encourage everyone to read and contemplate the surah in depth. The A’raf, mentioned in ayah 46, are an elevated place on the Day of Judgement where people of no consequence get stuck. They watch as others are sorted towards Heaven or Hell. The people of the A’raf are not evil, but they also would not leave their comfort zones to actually commit to righteousness. Their comments to the people of Paradise and the people of the Fire are mentioned in the Surah, but do not earn a response because they are then, as they are now, people of no consequence.

The surah begins by telling Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to not feel distressed by forcing people out of their comfort zones, and warns of previous peoples who were destroyed as they slept in their heedlessness. And how many cities have We destroyed, and Our punishment came to them at night or while they were sleeping at noon. [7;4] We cannot go back to the previous norm when Black people were suffering alone, while non-Black people could comfortably enjoy their lives whilst ignoring—and even benefiting from a system built on—the suffering of their Black brothers and sisters. A critical mass of people must refuse the continued oppression and the suffering of others for the current system to change. American Muslims should do more than give lip service to their Black brothers and sisters.

Anti-Blackness in Human History

The first prophet mentioned in the surah is our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), whose name indicates his dark black skin. And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”, so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated. [7;11] [Allah] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from mud.” [7;12] Satan hated our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) for the form Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave him, which included dark black skin. Anti-Blackness is as old as humanity itself. Dr. Bilal Ware has spoken extensively about the satanic nature of racism. Claims of superiority based on a birthright are rampant throughout human history. Egyptians claimed superiority over the Children of Israel based on where they were from centuries before. Jahili[1] Meccan society claimed superiority based on lineage. The American system claims superiority based on proximity to whiteness. These are characteristics determined at birth and are beyond any human being’s control. Such claims of superiority are counter to the Islamic ethos that sets the value of individuals based on their relationship with God alone. And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” [7:172] Many other prophets and their specific fights against the oppressive power structures are referenced in the surah, which illustrates the continuity of the struggle between the children of Adam and Satan.

A series of prophets (peace be upon them] are briefly discussed with striking similarities in the messages they delivered to their people. All the prophets teach their people about the Oneness of God and called them to rectify the vices that were specific to their society. The mala’a, or the elites, in each of their societies were mentioned as those who fought the prophets. They did so to maintain their chokehold on power, not because of a theological difference. The elites in Meccan society did not fight Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) until he began publicly preaching. They did not care that he prayed differently from them. They feared that his message would make them equal to people they belittled and disparaged. Similarly, it was the elites in Pharaoh’s court who demanded he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. This was a direct result of the magicians publicly declaring their belief and turning public opinion against Pharaoh’s magic, one of the pillars of his power. Similarly in America, the institutional structures of racism need to be dismantled.

Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)

The story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) begins with the demand mentioned in the introduction, “so send with me the Children of Israel.” [7;105]. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) shows Pharaoh and his elites the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has sent him with. So Moses threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent, manifest. [7;107] And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white [with radiance] for the observers. [7;108] They refuse his message and demand a public contest with magicians in hopes of spinning the narrative in their favor. They fail miserably when the magicians recognize the truth and publicly declare their belief in the Lord of Prophet Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) despite Pharaoh’s threats of torture. Pharaoh said, “You believed in him before I gave you permission. Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city to expel therefrom its people. But you are going to know.” [7:123]

This now leads us to the discussion of the plagues, and how they came about. After that public humiliation, the elites around Pharaoh demanded that he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. [Pharaoh] said, “We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them.” [7;127] Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a book specifically addressing how the White supremacist system feared a successful Black presidency and responded with an increased level of racism. As a spiritual response to this heightened oppression, Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) preached patience during the struggle because he knew Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would deliver them.  The people of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) complained about the increased pain they were now experiencing as they had been suffering for years before a messenger was sent to them. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) asked them to develop their spiritual strength and prepare themselves for a time when they would be empowered and would need spiritual discipline. Shaykha Ieasha Prime has recently called on the ummah to be increasing its spiritual strength as they organize against anti-Blackness.

The Economic Downturn

Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tested the people of Pharaoh with an economic downturn. “And We certainly seized the people of Pharaoh with years of famine and a deficiency in fruits that perhaps they would be reminded.” [7;130] These circumstances are very similar to the economic recession of 2008, and as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Whenever something good would happen, the people of Pharaoh would claim credit for it, and whenever something bad happened, they would blame Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his people. But when good came to them, they said, “This is ours [by right].” And if a bad [condition] struck them, they saw an evil omen in Moses and those with him. Unquestionably, their fortune is with Allah, but most of them do not know. [7;131] And they said, “No matter what sign you bring us with which to bewitch us, we will not be believers in you.” [7;132] This rhetoric is very similar to the wave of nationalism that took over the world in the last few years. It is used by nationalist political leaders, who blame marginalized groups for the economic recession. However, the oppression of those marginalized communities was a preexisting condition that was exacerbated and exploited by nationalist leaders.

The Plagues

Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent them the plagues, “the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood” [7;133]. These were such overwhelming tests for Pharaoh. He was a man that claimed to be a god, but the True God was now sending him something that destroyed the riches he had built and could not be blamed on someone else. It revealed all of his lies. The plagues sent to Pharaoh were specific to the land of the Nile that depended on the production of agriculture and built imposing monuments. It is difficult to look grand when your fields are flooded or consumed by locusts, your water turns to blood, and you and your monuments are covered in lice and frogs. Similarly, the coronavirus pandemic exposed the faults in our health care system, the shortcoming of our food supply, the fragility of the economy, and the deep racism that is embedded into the entire system. The people who were deemed essential to work were treated as sacrificial and were forced to choose between paying for food and rent or risking exposure. They were offered empty platitudes that did not include the protective equipment they needed, increased financial compensation, or health care if they were to fall ill.

Coronavirus attacks the body’s ability to breathe, and it has been widely reported to have affected communities of color far harder than any other group. Black Americans are far more likely to have asthma due to highways going through their neighborhoods, and therefore more likely to die from Covid-19. This is a direct link to a racist system of redlining and highway construction that took away their ability to breathe. Black Americans are imprisoned at disproportionally high rates where social distancing is impossible. There are many false assumptions about the imprisoned population. The truth is that more than 90% of all cases never go to trial, and an accused person’s ability to defend themselves is almost impossible with exorbitant amounts of money. Many Muslims now claim affiliation to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mercy on him. Covid-19 could be killing the next Malcolm X in prison this very moment. All that without even discussing the economic impact of coronavirus on communities of color that if left unchecked will widen the racial wealth gap. The scarcity of food and resources that were created by the plagues undoubtedly affected the Children of Israel and not just their oppressors; however, the end result of plagues was justice for the oppressed.

From Eric Garner to George Floyd, Black Americans have been fighting to breathe in America. The Arabic word nafs which is usually translated to a soul/self has the same root word as nafas, which means a breath. So, a more accurate translation of nafs is actually a breathing soul. Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a nafs (breathing soul) unless for a nafs or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he/she had slain humankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he/she had saved humankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. [Surah Al-Ma’idah; 32] American Muslims have tended towards the medical profession as a means of fulfilling the above verse in saving people. We should be focusing the same level of energy at saving populations by fighting both the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

Naming the Oppression

The coronavirus epidemic and the recent public murders of Black Americans created a tipping point that did not exist before. Former NBA player and prolific author, Kareem Abdul Jabbar said, “it feels like hunting season is open on blacks.” The murder of George Floyd was so egregious that groups dedicated to preventing police accountability called for Derek Chauvin to be held accountable. America was force to collectively acknowledge the murder of a Black man at the hands of a police officer. Corporations who peddled in racism were issuing apologies when they saw the tide of public opinion turn. The murder of George Floyd made America look the ugliness of racism in the eye. Of course, police brutality and racism did not begin with George Floyd nor did it end with him. Many more people lost their lives at the hands of the police during the protests. For every name we know, there are countless others we do not know. Police brutality is a leading cause of death for Black men in America. Even if we do not know their names, every victim leaves behind a family to mourn their loss while knowing that the murderer not only walks free, but wears a uniform that allows him to continue to kill without consequence. May the brave young woman who took the video receive Divine reward and healing for her bravery. May the burning in the heart of every mother who lost a child be granted Divine patience and healing.

In Surah A’raf, the people of Pharaoh also acknowledged their oppression of the Children of Israel, and they vowed to stop oppressing them. And when the punishment descended upon them, they said, “O Moses, invoke for us your Lord by what He has promised you. If you [can] remove the punishment from us, we will surely believe you, and we will send with you the Children of Israel.” [7;134] We know that the people of Pharaoh reneged after the plagues were lifted. But when We removed the punishment from them until a term which they were to reach, then at once they broke their word. [7;135] So We took retribution from them, and We drowned them in the sea because they denied Our signs and were heedless of them. [7;136] Pharaoh in his arrogance witnessed all of the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) including the staff, his hand, and the plagues. He then witnessed the Red Sea split, and still he followed Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) into the sea until he was drowned. His hatred blinded him, and his racism killed him.

America is now at the same moment of realization. Of course, Black Muslims have never been unaware of racism. It is a privilege for non-Black Muslims to learn about systemic racism rather than experience it firsthand. The ability to see right from wrong is not guaranteed for us. Arrogance can blind us as it has blinded Pharaoh and his army. I will turn away from My signs those who are arrogant upon the earth without right; and if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. And if they see the way of consciousness, they will not adopt it as a way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as a way. That is because they have denied Our signs and they were heedless of them. [7;146] The ability to see the racism is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). May we be protected from spiritual blindness. No Muslim in America should be able to claim a lack of awareness of systemic racism any longer. No should they continue to favor their comfort zones over our love for our Black brothers and sisters and assume they will be forgiven. And they were succeeded by generations who, although they inherited the Scripture, took the fleeting gains of this lower world, saying, ‘We shall be forgiven,’ and indeed taking them again if other such gains came their way. Was a pledge not taken from them, written in the Scripture, to say nothing but the truth about God? And they have studied its contents well. For those who are mindful of God, the Hereafter is better. ‘Why do you not use your reason?’ [7;169]

Fighting the Oppression

Pharaoh claimed to be god, and White supremacy is the false god of our time. It is built into our psyches, our financial systems, and our power structures. Statues were erected to idolize those who upheld it. White supremacy is a system where lighter skin makes people smarter, more trustworthy, and more beautiful. We know this is a lie on its face, and yet it breads anti-blackness that is deeply engrained into everyday life. Fighting anti-blackness is a spiritual struggle, and we should make sincere intentions to fight it in all its forms. We must stand with the people of righteousness who fought for the abolition, civil rights, and an end to colonialist exploitation.

White supremacy in America is in a housing system that segregates people and exposes them to pollutants in their air and their water. It is in an education system that funds or defunds schools based on that segregated housing, and uses the police as an extreme punishment for a child’s infractions. It is in a judicial system that criminalizes poverty and imprisons those who cannot afford bail. It is in a prison system that forces people to work without financial compensation and is protected by the Thirteenth Amendment. Plans to fight the coronavirus pandemic were halted because communities of color were more likely to be affected in yet another disturbing attack. White supremacy is so deeply engrained that it leads some to harm themselves by bleaching their skin and burning their hair in hopes of appearing more like their oppressors. It is everywhere including our spiritual spaces.

Muslims often quote ayah 48:13 and the last sermon of Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) with pride that the tradition stands firmly against racial injustice. While Islam itself does, Muslims often unfortunately do not. One of my community members recently shared a story about entering a masjid in hijab, and being asked if she was Muslim. What was even more egregious is that after a discussion, the family that asked concluded that because of her black skin, she was in fact NOT Muslim despite praying in a masjid. Many of the non-Black Muslims were shocked to hear this, but the truth is that I have never met a Black Muslim who did NOT have a racism in the masjid story. Ask the Black Muslims in your circle about their experiences, and the flood gates will open. You will also see the hurt and betrayal in their eyes for having to endure racism inside their places of worship. Apologize to them for not listening sooner and thank them for being willing to teach you and trust you to want to be better despite their trauma.

Call to Action

It is not enough for anyone to not be racist; we must be anti-racist. Acknowledge the anti-blackness you have internalized within yourself and have those difficult conversations with your family members. Ustadha Zaynab Ansari speaks about the pathological ideologies of how black bodies are viewed in America.  Join and support organizations like the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Muslim Alliance of North America. Embrace a Black Muslim ethos of viewing Islam as a theology of liberation. Support Black scholars and the Black masajid. Invite them to speak not just about anti-Blackness, but on their areas of expertise in Islam, history, community development, etc. Demand that the immigrant masajid be antiracist. Black Muslims should be on the Board of Directors and on the Zakah committee to ensure the equity of those spaces. Hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert to have a difficult conversation about race in your organization. If the Black Muslims do not share their experiences of racism in the masjid, it is not because they did but happen, but because they do not trust the community to care to change it. Build that trust and build coalitions of communal healing to end the segregation of masajid into Black and immigrant masajid in the first place. The way out of the pandemic is to take care of those who are most vulnerable. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “You are given rizq sustenance based on the most vulnerable among you.” Communities who have turned the tide have done exactly that. Learning to be anti-racist is one of many steps we can take to lift the difficulty our communities are facing. We need at least be as non-discriminatory as the virus that only sees a human body.

Anyone who is not Black has benefited from the theft and subjugation of generations of Black Americans. We should not meet Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) having sided with an oppressor. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) says, “Oppression is layers of darkness on the Day of Judgement.” We can choose to follow the prophetic path, or we can choose to let our racism destroy us. And for every nation is a [specified] term. So when their time has come, they will not remain behind an hour, nor will they precede [it]. [7;34] There will be an accounting for our society as a whole, and there will be an individual accounting. Those who follow Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will enter eternal gardens and those who follow Pharaoh will enter an eternal fire. And the people of no consequence, those who choose to do nothing, will sit on the A’raf.

[1] This story is mentioned in West African oral histories

[2] “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5-1: NIV)

[3] The plagues of Egypt are discussed differently in the different Abrahamic faiths. “The Christian and Jewish traditions discuss the angel of death taking the life of the first-born son from every family in Egypt except those who left a marking on their doors so the angel of death could pass over them.”

[4] Jahili is a Quranic descriptor for Pre-Islamic Arab society. It is derived from a root word meaning ignorance.

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#Current Affairs

Will The Real Aya Sofia Please Stand Up?

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

Published

They say history is the biography of great men and women. Well, history is also the story of great buildings. This case is rarely more painfully obvious than when it comes to identity of The Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofia (“the Holy Wisdom”).

Church, Mosque, Museum: the Aya Sofia has lived under many guises over the years and each transformation came hand-in-hand with momentous political change. This year, it was no different.

By reverting to the previous designation of Aya Sofia into a mosque, the Turkish courts have set off a firestorm of controversy across the world. It is understandable that faithful Christians would object. The sense of loss they must feel is the same feeling that many Muslims get when they see the Grand Mosque of Cordoba’s conversion into a cathedral. However, what is confusing is that some Muslims are also conflicted – or even downright hostile – to the idea of the Aya Sofia being used as a mosque.

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Why are they upset? Is there weight to their feeling that this was an act that was against the laws and spirit of Islam? How true is it that this was pure political theatre?

A summary of the arguments are detailed below as each point reveals a great deal about us as Muslims today and our current mentality:

The Vatican – a clear example of Museum and Church buildings in one

1. “It should just remain a museum…”

The Aya Sofia IS remaining a museum. The ruling states and the government echoes that it is a mosque and museum but, unfortunately, if you read the headlines you will be given the impression that the museum is being destroyed. This is not the case.

The world is full of buildings with dual functions. The White House is the seat of government and the residence of the President. The Vatican is a museum, a church and the home of the Pope. St Paul’s Cathedral is a tourist attraction as well as functioning church. If Muslims alone were somehow exempt from the ability to combine museum and mosque in one building, then that would be very strange indeed. Yet that is exactly what opponents of the mosque designation are saying.

What opponents for the reversion of the building are arguing for is not for the preservation of the museum – in fact, it will be more accessible than ever by becoming free and open till the late evening – but for the prevention of worship in a building that was built and intended for that very purpose.

2. “It was illegal to turn it into a mosque in the first place…”

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing: many Muslims quote the example of Umar (R) and his treatment of the Church of The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In fact, this is the number one excuse used by many so-called Muslim intellectuals who lazily have projected their own biases on to our pious predecessors. They say, not without a little pious sanctimony, that Umar (R) exemplified that Islam is not a triumphalist religion and – though he could have converted the church into a mosque – he chose not to.

For most of history, it was common practice that any conquering army gained full ownership of the conquered lands. Islamic law was actually quite progressive in this regard, stipulating that property in surrendered lands would remain with their owners and not the conquerors. It was only if a land was taken without surrender, according to Imam Al Qurtubi amongst others, should their properties be forfeit. Jerusalem surrendered and Damascus surrendered. Constantinople – despite multiple attempts requesting it to do so – did not. Therefore, Islamically and according to the norms of the time, the conversion of the Church into a mosque was legal.

This is highlighted by the case of a district of Constantinople called Psamatya (present day Koca Mustafa Pasha) whose residents surrendered to Muhammad Fatih separately. The area had the highest density of extant churches, since none were touched or taken over.

Muhammad Fatih and The Patriarch Genaddios discussing the patriarchate

3. “But it has been a museum for so long now, so why turn it back?”

Some sources say that they have found evidence of the Church being purchased by Muhammad Fatih with his own money. The evidence has yet to be verified by external sources although it is accepted by the Turkish authorities, but even if you withhold it, the established status of the entire complex as a Waqf (Islamic endowment) is definitive. Waqfs cannot be unilaterally taken over or converted to another use.

The reality is that the conversion of the Aya Sofia from mosque to museum was a highly contentious decision taken in a manner that went against the then legal, moral and spiritual standards. It was a state sanctioned action to satisfy a political objective of the hyper-secular post-war Government. This was an injustice and it is not a good look to say that an injustice should be allowed to continue because it has been there for over eight decades.

4. “We don’t need more mosques in Istanbul…”

Would anyone think it reasonable if their local mosque was taken over unilaterally by the Government and then, when they ask for it back, they are brushed off by officials saying, “there are lots of mosques in the city and many are half empty: we are keeping this one.” Of course not. So, if it is not good enough for you, why should it be good enough for anyone else? In fact, this was the argument used by the RSS in taking over the Barbari mosque in India.

A mosque is not a property like every other. It is owned by Allah and not something we are allowed to rationalise or barter away. Allah has no need for even one mosque, but that does not mean we should stop building them or start giving them away. To go by the utilitarian argument, then anything that is not in full use by its owner is fair game for someone else to usurp. We would never accept this for our possessions so how can we accept it for something that does not belong to us?

The hadith about the conquest of Constantinople and praising Muhammad Fatih

5. “This is all a politically motivated…”

Every decision in a public sphere is political, or can be construed to be political, in some way. Building the Aya Sofia into a magnificent cathedral was a political decision by Justinian. Turning it into a mosque upon conquest was also a political decision by Muhammad Fatih. Stopping prayers in the mosque and converting it into a museum was a political decision by Mustafa Kemal. And now, returning the building to use as a mosque and museum is also a political decision by the current Turkish state.

The question is not whether it is a political act to convert the building: it will always have a political dimension. The question is whether you like the politics of someone who was praised by the Prophet ﷺ in a hadith and turned it into a mosque (Muhammad Fatih) or someone who insulted that same Prophet ﷺ as an “immoral Arab” and turned it into a museum (Mustafa Kemal.)

Pick a side.

The Grand Cathedral of Cordoba – formally the Grand Mosque

6. “This will hurt the feelings of non-Muslims and make us look bad.”

This is perhaps the only real argument of them all that has any weight to it. All the previous arguments are intellectual (and less than intellectual) smokescreens for the desire to not hurt the feelings of others – especially when we need all the friends we can get. This is understandable given our current geopolitical situation. This is also why you are more likely to find those Muslims living as minorities objecting to the change of status, reflecting their own precarious situations in their respective countries.

However, if looking at it objectively, we see that this argument also has limitations. Muslims are equally if not more hurt at the ethnic cleansing that took place in Andalusia. Does that mean we get the Al-Hambra or the Cordoba Mosque back? What about the Parthenon – since that used to be a mosque – conquered by the same Muhammad Fatih? What about the Kremlin, where St Basil’s Basilica was made from bricks of a Tatar mosque? And can we have the Philippines back while we are all trying to not offend each other?

Making decisions such as these on the highly subjective grounds of causing offence is not only impractical, but untenable. Many expressions of Islamic faith outside a narrow paradigm of what is palatable to specific audiences, can be seen as offensive to some. If we were to make decisions based first and foremost to protect the comfort of others, you would end up with a set of groundless rituals rather than a faith. It is the equivalent of changing your name to Bob instead of Muhammad since you were worried that even Mo was too exotic. Sometimes, the proper practice of our faith and upholding of our cultural and historical traditions will upset others not because what we are doing is deliberately offensive or wrong, but because we have different values and different standards.

Conclusion

What is most upsetting about the change of use for the Aya Sofia is the double standard at play. Athens has not even one mosque whilst Istanbul has hundreds of churches and synagogues: yet the Greeks are calling the Turks intolerant. The Roman Catholics plundered the Aya Sofia of all treasures and took them to St Marks church in Venice (where they still are to this day): yet it is the Pope that says that he is distressed at the Muslims – who preserved the Byzantine inheritance- for turning it into a mosque and Catholic churches calling for a day of mourning.

All the commentators calling for it to not be converted back into a mosque are also correspondingly mute regarding the Granada Cathedral built on site of a mosque, or the Barbri Mosque turned temple in India, or the Al Ahmar Mosque turned into a bar in Palestine.

But this is human nature and they will shoot their shot. Nonetheless, as Muslims, if we are against the reversion of the Aya Sofia to be a mosque again, then we really need to take a long hard look at ourselves. Just as Muhammad Fatih conquered Constantinople, we need to conquer our own ignorance, our own inferiority complex and our own insecurities.

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