The Young Marriage of Aishah
Mother of the Believers
Abû Imân cAbd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires
© Muslim Answers – Orlando, Florida, All Rights Reserved.
The marriage of the Prophet Muhammad(P) to cAishah bint Abû Bakr when she was at quite a young age has been the focus of quite a bit of criticism in the West. Unfortunately, in this Neo-Colonialist Age of Smart bombs, MTV and the Big Mac, some of those who profess to be Muslims have themselves become critics. Many Muslims, faced with the juggernaut of allegedly “universal” Western liberal values that have permeated almost everyone around them, sheepishly avoid discussion of such “embarrassing” Islamic issues. It is a keenly true observation that even though the European powers have pulled their colonial armies out of Muslim lands and granted them “independence”, an even worse plague continues. This curse is “Colonialism of the Mind” and it is more dangerous since it is much more subtle. Insha’Allah, this article will be a contribution to making both Muslims and non-Muslims aware of not only the objective facts regarding the Prophet’s(P) marriage to cAishah, but how to understand it in light of Islam and life in the “modern” world.
Regrettably, for those of us trying to spread the truth of Islam in the West, we often have to agree with the Orientalist W. Montgomery Watt when he wrote:
Of all the world’s great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad.1
But here, for a change, were are dealing with something that is an authentic part of Islamic history, not an apocryphal or fabricated event that Westerners have been duped into believing is authentic, such as the so-called “Satanic Verses” incident. That a man in his fifties would marry such a young girl – especially a man who is supposed to be a living example of piety – is not only difficult for many “modern” Westerners to come to terms with, but it has even gone so far as to stir up disgusting “sexual misconduct” charges amongst them. In the face of such criticism, Muslims have not always reacted well. In the past century, when so many Muslims were so “Westoxicated” and ready to monkey Europeans in almost anything, the usual reaction was to deny the sources that reported the alleged “embarrassing problem”. To Muslim “modernists”, who argued that only a legal ruling found in the Qur’ân was Islamically valid, brushing aside this aspect of the Prophet’s(P) life was rather easy. They simply denied that it had occurred and attacked the sources which reported it. Fortunately for Muslims, the apologetics of these “Uncle Toms of Islam” has faded to the periphery to a large extent. However, there are still many Muslims out there who try to get around what they see as a problem by ignoring authentic Islamic sources while claiming to be followers of the Ahl as-Sunnah. (which basically means “orthodox Sunni” Muslims, for those unfamiliar Islamic terminology). Many other Muslims possibly wonder whether the story is authentic and how to understand it if it is.
The Islamic Evidence Of cAishah’s Marriage
Due to the apparent ignorance of many Muslims, possibly due to reading “modernist” apologetic literature like that mentioned above, a look at what the authentic sources of Islam say about the age at which cAishah married the Prophet(P) is in order. This way, before we move on to an analysis of the facts, we will first establish what the authentic Islamic facts are. At this point, it should be mentioned that it is absolutely pointless from an Islamic standpoint to say that the age of cAishah is “not found in the Qur’ân”, since the textual sources of Islam are made up of both the Qur’ân and the Sunnah – and the Qur’ân tells us that. For those wanting (or needing) to learn more about the status of the Sunnah in Islam, please read An Introduction to the Sunnah, by Suhaib Hasan. Now in regards to what the authentic Islamic sources actually say, it may come as a disappointment to some “modern” and “cultured” Muslims that there are four ahâdîth in Sahîh al-Bukhârî and three ahâdîth in Sahîh Muslim clearly state that cAishah was “nine years old” as the time that her marriage was consummated with the Prophet(P). These ahâdîth, with only slight variation, read as follows:
cAishah, may God be pleased with her, narrated that the Prophet(P) was betrothed (zawaj) to her when she was six years old and he consummated (nikah) his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years. (Sahîh al-Bukhârî, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64)