Did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) really marry Aisha when she was only 9 years old?

The first thing you should know is that the thought of marrying Aisha had never crossed Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) mind. Aisha reports that it was a command from God. 

Aisha reported: Gabriel came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, with her image on a green, silken cloth and he said, “Verily, this is your wife in this world and in the Hereafter.”

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3880

Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani

Today we understand that the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha was  crucial as she played a major roll in Islam.  Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) occupies a huge place in the Islamic tradition. Being the second most prolific narrator of the prophetic sunnah means that approximately a quarter of what we know about the prophet (peace be upon him) has come directly through her. The person who would have had to fill this roll would have needed to be an intellectually gifted person who would have daily contact with the Holy Prophet at the closest and most personal level, so as to absorb the teachings that he was giving on all aspects of life by his words and actions. Such a person would need to possess the following qualities:

  • an excellent, precise memory to retain a vast amount of detail accurately,
  • the understanding to grasp the significance and the principles of the teachings,
  • powers of reasoning, criticism and deduction to resolve problems on the basis of those teachings,
  • the skills to convey knowledge to a wide range of audience,
  • and, finally, have the prospect of living for a considerable period of time after the death of the Holy Prophet in order to spread his message to distant generations.

Aisha possessed all these qualities and carried out this mission in an absolutely positive and undeniable manner is an historical fact. After the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) death, she acted as a teacher and interpreter of Islam, providing guidance to even the greatest of the male Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They made a special point of going to her to gain knowledge and seek her opinion. A vast number of sayings and actions of the Holy Prophet are reported from her in books of Hadith. She not only quoted his sayings and reported her observations of events, but interpreted them to provide solutions to questions. Whenever necessary, she corrected the views of the greatest of the Companions of the Holy Prophet. She made rulings and judgments on which Islamic law is based. Aisha was and is referred to as the Mother of the believers.

The following are two examples of what the Holy Prophet’s male Companions said about her:

“Abu Musa said: Whenever there was any hadith that was difficult [to understand] for us, the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, and we asked Aisha we always found that she had knowledge about that hadith.”

“Musa ibn Talha said: I never saw anyone more eloquent than Aisha.”

Report in Tirmidhi, Abwab-ul-Manaqib, i.e. Chapters on Excellences, under ‘Virtues of Aisha’

In the famous compilation of the lives of saints in Islam, Tadhkirat-ul-Auliya, the author Farid-ud-Din Attar, who lived eight centuries ago,introduces the life of the early female saint Rabia of Basra as follows:

“If anyone says, ‘Why have you included Rabia in the rank of men?’, my answer is that the Prophet himself said, ‘God does not regard your outward forms’. … Moreover, if it is proper to derive two-thirds of our religion from Aisha, surely it is permissible to take religious instruction from a handmaid of Aisha.”

Reported in Muslim Saints and Mystics, abridged English translation of Tadhkirat-ul-Auliya, by A.J. Arberry, p. 40.

The age of Aisha at the time of her marriage

The age of Aisha when she married the Prophet (pbuh) was never an issue prior to 911 but since, Christians and other Westerners were looking for any type of criticism against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). If the age of Aisha was frowned upon during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) then certainly his enemies (the Makkan idolaters) would have been the first to use this to slander the Prophet (pbuh) but there was nothing ever mentioned by his enemies proving that society back then did not find any issue with Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage.  This is the first proof that these accusations are baseless. 

The story of the marriage of Aisha started after the death of lady Khadeejah, the prophet’s first wife and the mother of his children. Prophet Muhammad asked Khawlah bint Hakim who was the wife of ‘Uthman ibn Madhz’un to mention the prophet’s marriage proposal to Abu Bakr and his wife after Gabriel came to him, Um Ruman. Khawlah went over to Abu Bakr’s house and said to Um Ruman (Abu Bakr’s wife) “what do you think God has singled you out to bestow you with from his blessings and bounties?” so Um Ruman replied “and what would that be?”, Khwlah said in response “the Messenger of God sent me over to offer you his marriage proposal to ‘Aisha” so Khawlah asked her to wait till Abu Bakr comes over. When Abu Bakr heard about the Prophet’s marriage proposal he said “and would she be lawful to him and he is my brother?” so Khawlah went back asking the Prophet and he replied “we are brothers in Islam and your daughter is lawful to me”.

When Abu Bakr received an affirmative answer from the Prophet, he went over to Mut’am ibn ‘Addey because he offered to marry his son to lady ‘Aisha and she was about to betrothed to him. Abu Bakr was a man of his promise so he went over to Mut’am house asking him if he still wanted to marry off his son to ‘Aisha. So the wife of Mut’am said ” O Abu Bakr you might want to lead our son to your religion if he got married to your daughter”. So Abu Bakr looked at Mut’am and asked him “Do you concur with what she says?” and Mut’am affirmed her opinion. Abu Bakr went out of Mut’am’s house feeling comfortable about not breaking his promise and at ease that his daughter is free from any commitments of engagement to Mut’am’s son.

The fact that Aisha had received a proposal prior to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) proposing shows that she was at marriable age. Would any parents willingly give their six year old daughter for marriage to anyone? That was certainly not the case with Aisha as everyone would want you to believe. 

Although the widely-cited hadith states that Aisha was nine years old when her marriage to the Prophet (upon him be peace) was consummated, this is contradicted by strong historical evidence. Tabari, the famous historian and hadith expert, states that Aisha was born at least fifteen years before the marriage was consummated, and both early prophetic biographers, Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham, mention that Aisha was amongst the earliest converts to Islam, once again making her much older than the ‘six-nine’ reports indicate, and corroborating Tabari’s opinion. Also, reports of Aisha’s age in works by such authorities as Nawawi, `Asqallani and Ibn Kathir all place her in her late teens at the time the marriage was consummated.

Moreover, historical reports in books such as Saheeh al-Bukari contain descriptions of Aisha in which she appears much older than the ‘six-nine’ narrations would suggest. Pre-modern people were typically not aware of age or birth dates as we are in modern bureaucratised society, and conceptualisation of numbers was also very different in the past. Pre-modern people would often approximate their age when asked, and numbers were often expressed as descriptors rather than intended to be chronologically precise.

An article written by Shaykh Dr Ridhwan Ibn Saleem argues that Al-Sayyida Aisha was at least between fifteen and nineteen years of age when her marriage to the Prophet (peace be upon him) was consummated, and not nine as is often assumed. 

The widely-cited prophetic narration (hadith), recorded by al-Bukhari and others, in which Aisha stated that she was betrothed when she was six and the marriage was consummated when she was nine[1], has become the basis of personal attacks on the character of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This article argues that the ages mentioned in this hadith are contradicted by historical evidence, including other hadiths and historical reports. The author also suggests that the actual numbers stated in the hadith were never meant to be precise, and Arabs of the time, like many other pre-modern people, did not have a calendar system and chronological accuracy was simply not a feature of their culture.

It is almost certain that Aisha did not know her precise age and, in fact, it was not a feature of her socio-cultural milieu to be accurately aware of one’s age in the way that one is accustomed to in today’s bureaucratised society. The authenticity of this hadith is not questioned but, rather, the argument is that the figures mentioned are not chronologically precise. Several traditional Muslim scholars[2] and western academics[3] have also questioned that Aisha was only nine years old when the marriage was consummated.

Orientation to Dates:

Commencement of prophecy was in year 609 CE, when the Prophet (upon him be peace) was in his fortieth year of age. The Hijrah, or emigration to Medina, took place thirteen years later in 622 CE, and the marriage to Aisha was consummated in 623 or 624 CE (in the second year after the hijrah).

Awareness of Age in Pre-Modern Societies

Perusing the extensive classical Islamic biographical literature[4] reveals that birth dates, which were important in the authentication of hadith transmission, are almost always disagreed upon, even for the most famous personalities. Almost all biographical notes mention several opinions regarding the subject’s year of birth. This is the case even following the introduction of the Islamic calendar during the caliphate of Sayyiduna Umar. Of course, it would not have been known at birth that a person was destined to become a hadith transmitter, and that his birth date would become an important item of information. A hadith transmitter, just like any other medieval citizen, would not be expected to know his year of birth or age except in an approximate sense.

This demonstrates that in medieval Arab civilisation, even following the introduction of a formal calendar system, people were not aware of their precise birth dates. Pre-modern people, in general, simply did not measure and record time in the way we do today. This still exists, as it is not difficult to find people in less ‘developed’ countries who have only very approximate ideas of their age. The way pre-Islamic Arabs referred to the chronology of events was to relate them to particularly memorable occurrences.

For example, the ‘Year of the Elephant’ referred to the year in which Abraha’s army tried to invade Makkah. We know when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was born because biographers mention that he was born in the ‘Year of the Elephant’. Only relatively recently, as modern societies became more bureaucratised, were people in general required to be aware of their exact ages. In ancient Rome, for example, according to historian, Karen Cokayne,“… the Romans’ knowledge of age was often imperfect and many of the uneducated would have been unaware of their correct calendar age. Age-rounding, when age was rounded up to the nearest unit of 5 or 10, was also common, especially on the funerary epigraphy.”[5]

Looking at England as another typical case, historian Pat Thane, writes: “Accurate, large-scale, systematic recording of births and deaths began in England only in 1837… Individuals were only gradually required to know their own exact ages as society became bureaucratized and official records increasingly required such information. Before the nineteenth century precise age was rarely required of people of any age…most could certainly offer an age when required, sometimes quite precisely, though some would ‘round up’ their possible age to a plausible round number or add years as they reached later ages.”[6].

Even today, in rural communities in developing countries, one finds ordinary people do not know their age, and will typically approximate or ‘round’ up or down when questioned. A villager may tell you his age when questioned, only to give you a completely different figure when asked again some time later. It is not that he is trying to mislead, but this is actually the culturally ‘normal’ way of expressing age.

Evidence that Aisha was Between Fifteen and Nineteen Years of Age when the marriage was consummated

The marriage of Sayyida Aisha was consummated after the Hijrah. Hadith specialist, al-Nawawi, places it definitively in the second year, after the Battle of Badr.[7] This provides a good example of how memorable events, in this case, the Battle of Badr, were used as reference points for other events. Despite the ‘six-nine’ hadith mentioned in the introduction, most eminent early Muslim historians either state explicitly or imply that Aisha was born prior to prophecy, which commenced thirteen years before the Hijrah. Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalláni states in al-Isábah, citing al-Wáqidi, on the authority of al-`Abbás (uncle of the Prophet ), that “Fatima was born while the Ka`ba was being built… and the Prophet was thirty-five years of age… and she [Fatima] was about five years older than Aisha.”[8] We can assume that this statement of al-`Abbas is reliable as he remembers the birth of his nephew’s daughter taking place while the Ka’ba was being rebuilt.

This was an event of major spiritual significance for Quraysh, and thus firmly etched in their memories. For example, most people can tell you what they were doing the day President Kennedy was assassinated (if they are old enough), the first man walked on the moon or, to take a more recent event, the day the September 11th attacks in New York took place. This report indicates that Aisha was born approximately when the Prophet was forty, ie at the commencement of prophecy. Therefore, she would have been at least fifteen when the marriage was consummated in the second year after Hijra.

Early Islam’s most renowned historian, al-Tabari, states: “In the Age of Ignorance [pre-Islamic period], Abu Bakr married Qutaila daughter of `Abd al-`Uzza…and she bore for him `Abdullah and Asmaa…he also married, in the Age of Ignorance, Umm Ruman daughter of `Amir…she bore for him `Abd al-Rahman and `Aisha. All four of these children were born in the pre-Islamic period.”[9] This statement of al-Tabari, a scholar renowned for his accuracy and critical methodology[10], clearly asserts that Aisha was born before the beginning of prophecy. However, we know that al-Tabari is aware of the ‘six-nine’ hadith as he quotes it in the same book.[11] This apparent contradiction can be understood when the methodology of the early hadith scholars is taken into account.

Early works, like al-Tabari’s, were careful to differentiate between transmitted reports from earlier authorities and the compiler’s own opinion. For example, in his famous tafsir work, Tabari’s format is to cite the opinions of earlier scholars (with the corresponding chain of narrators) before giving his own opinion on the quranic verse in question. Often he will agree with one of the transmitted reports and give his reasoning as to why he believes it is stronger than other opinions. This method constituted the scholarly responsibility to preserve faithfully the knowledge of preceding generations even if it contradicted one’s own opinion. We can assume that where Tabari states that she was born prior to prophecy, he is expressing his own opinion based upon all the evidence in his possession, having taken into account the ‘six-nine’ narration.

The earliest biographers of the Prophet , Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham, both state explicitly that Aisha was amongst the earliest people to embrace Islam. Ibn Ishaq, as quoted by Al-Nawawi in Tahdheeb al-Asmaa wal-Lughaat, states that Aisha “embraced Islam when she was young, after eighteen others had become Muslim.”[12] Ibn Hisham lists the first converts to the new religion and includes Aisha as one of them, adding that she was young (sagheerah) at the time.[13] Aisha embraced Islam, according to Ibn Hisham, at the same time as the likes of Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah, Saeed ibn Zaid, Khabbab, and al-Arqam. If the ‘six-nine’ reports were taken literally, Aisha would not even have been born at this time.

Clearly, the opinions of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham indicate that Aisha must have already been of an age where she was able to understand and accept the new faith; therefore she would have been well into her late teens when the marriage was consummated. Al-Nawawi mentions in Tahdheeb al-Asmaa wal-Lughaat, quoting Ibn Abi Zinad, that “Asma was ten years older than `Aisha, and…was born twenty-seven years before the hijrah of the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)…”[14] According to this, Aisha’s birth would have been four years before the commencement of prophecy, so she would have been nineteen years of age when the marriage was consummated. This is further supported by Ibn Kathir who states that Asmá, the sister of Aisha, was ten years older than her and died in 73 A.H. at the age of one hundred years: “Of the notables who were killed with Ibn al-Zubayr in 73 [A.H]…was Asma daughter of Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq…she was older than her sister, Aisha, by 10 years…and she reached the age of 100 years, not having lost any of her teeth, and her mind still sharp, may God have mercy on her.”[15] Simple mathematics shows that this also equates to nineteen years of age for Aisha in the second year of hajrah when the marriage was consummated.

Other clues as to Aisha’s real age can be found in reports of historical events in which Aisha participated, by examining the description that is given of her and seeing if it correlates to her expected age if the ‘six-nine’ hadiths are accurate. We can be sure that these descriptions of Aisha are accurate because they are anchored in the witness’s memory to the event in question. Al-Bukhari narrates that Aisha said, “I was a playful girl (jariyah) when the verses, ‘Nay, the Hour (of Judgment) is the time promised them…’, were revealed to Muhammad, peace and mercy of God be upon him”.[16] According to the tafsir of Ibn Ashur, this surah was revealed five years before the hijrah.[17]The use of the term ‘girl’ (jariyah) in this hadith (rather than ‘child’ (saby) for example) is significant as ‘jariyah’ in classical Arabic means a young woman around adolescence or older.[18] According to this, Aisha would already have been an adolescent seven years before the marriage was consummated.

This also concords with the age of approximately nineteen at consummation of the marriage. If we took the ‘six-nine’ hadith literally, it would mean that she was only two years old when these verses were revealed. However, the term ‘jariyah’ is not appropriate for a two year old according to the authoritative lexicons, and secondly, the fact that Aisha remembers the verses being revealed is important as this is not possible for a two-year old. Psychological studies have shown that we are amnesic for our early childhood, and do not retain active memories of events occurring before the age of about four.[19]

Another hadith in Sahih al-Bukhári states: “On the day (of the battle) of Uhud when (some) people retreated and left the Prophet, I saw Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, and Umm Sulaim, with their robes tucked up so that the bangles around their ankles were visible, hurrying with (in another narration it is said, ‘carrying’) water skins on their backs. They would pour water in the mouths of people, and return to fill the water skins again, and came back again to pour water in the mouths of people.”[20] As Uhud took place a year after the marriage was consummated, this would make Aisha only ten if we follow the ‘six-nine’ narration. The description however does not seem to be of a ten year old girl, and it is extremely unlikely that a girl of ten would have been allowed onto the scene of battle. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not even permit several boys to join the army, as they were too young. The description does fit for a young woman in her late teens or early twenties.

Three years later, when the Muslim community faced its most difficult trial yet at the Battle of the Trench, Aisha was there again at the side of the Prophet . One bitter cold night, the Prophet himself was guarding a potential breach point along the trench. When he would become overwhelmed by the cold, he would come to Aisha who would warm him in her embrace, and he would return to guarding the trench. Finally, the Prophet called out for someone to relieve him and was answered by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas.[21] This description certainly does not fit for a thirteen year old which would have been her age if we accepted the age of nine at consummation. All of the early authorities quoted above concur that Aisha was born before the commencement of prophecy (ie at least thirteen years before hijrah), although they knew of the ‘six-nine’ reports. It seems likely that they were aware of the chronological imprecision inherent in such reports, and as historians, were basing their conclusions on a survey of all the evidence available to them.

In summary, pre-modern people typically did not have accurate knowledge of their ages, especially those who had no formal calendar system. There is no reason to believe that Aisha was exceptional in this regard. The reports that relate Aisha’s age to major events, such as the building of the Ka`ba, commencement of prophecy, and the prophetic battles, are likely to be more reliable than Aisha’s own statements regarding her age.

Chronological Imprecision in the Prophetic Biography

Aisha was almost certainly no exception to the rule that the medieval Arabs did not keep track of their birth dates or the accurate passage of years. In fact, the chronology of many famous events in the life of the Prophet himself, peace be upon him, are the subject of difference of opinion. Even for something as important as the length of the Makkan period, we find that Ibn `Abbas states that “the Apostle of Allah… remained in Makkah for thirteen years…then migrated to Medina…”[22] However, Rabia ibn Abi Abd al-Rahmán says, “He stayed ten years in Makkah receiving revelation, and stayed in Medina for ten years…”[23] Both hadiths are recorded in Saheeh al-Bukhari. This demonstrates that even a hadith in Saheeh al-Bukhari need not be taken as precise with respect to chronological matters, despite its authentic transmission. In fact, few major events in prophetic biography have complete consensus as to their chronological occurrence.

Conceptualisation of Numbers in Primitive Societies

An overlooked aspect of this issue is how numbers were conceptualised by people in the past. Many people today grow up learning to use and manipulate numbers from an early age. Understanding numbers in an abstract way soon becomes second nature for us, and our minds are able to conceptualise a huge range of numbers. We can easily forget that our modern system of counting which utilises place-value notation to generate an abstract number sequence able to extend ever upwards to infinity, was only introduced to Europe at the turn of the sixteenth century. India was the land where, uniquely, the essential component that makes such a number sequence possible, the zero, was first invented.

No other civilisation is known to have taken this critical step and develop a symbol for the zero. The advanced Indian system of numerals was adopted by the medieval Islamic civilisation, and later the ‘Indian-Arabic numerals’ spread to the rest of the world. Historians such as German scholar, Karl Menninger, have shown that in previous civilisations, conceptualisation of numbers varied depending on how developed the number system.[24] In primitive cultures, numbers were closely associated with the actual things counted. People in such cultures found difficulty in ‘abstracting’ numbers from real objects. For such people, the first ten digits were often of special significance as this is the number of fingers on the two hands. Numbers up to ten were easily ‘visualised’ and tangible; above ten were often inaccessible to the primitive mind. The Roman poet, Ovid, wrote: “…ten…This number was of old held high in honour, for such is the number of fingers by which we count.”[25]

The fact that numbers are still called ‘digits’ in English hearkens back to the time when fingers were the basis of counting. According to Menninger, “Early man wants to see numbers, they must remain visible to him, and he must be able to touch them if he is to grasp them with his mind. For this reason he breaks down larger numbers into smaller ones, if he can…[for example] the answer given by an aged Sicilian woman when asked how old she was: tre vvote vinti cincu anni, “3 times 20-5 years” (=75).”[26]

Although the Arabs were very sophisticated in their language (and hence thought), when it came to numbers, however, there are indications that they were quite simplistic. Although the Quraysh were notable traders, most of the Arabs, including the Medinans, were simple farmers or bedouins. The grammatical structure of Arabic number-words gives clues to the historical development of the use of numbers by the ancient Arabs, and offers a glimpse of a time when the first ten digits may have been the limit of their number system. The counted object following any number up to ten is in the plural form and genitive case, e.g. thalathatu rijaalin ‘three (of) men’. Above ten, a clear change takes place, and the counted object begins to appear in the singular and accusative case, e.g. thalathata `ashara rajulan ‘three’ten (13) man’. We see that the Arabic number-word for twenty, ‘`ishruna’, is in fact not the dual form of ten, but the plural, literally ‘many tens’. This may be remnant from an ancient time when ten was the limit of the Arabs’ number sequence, and anything over ten simply considered ‘many’.[27]

The structure of number-words in Arabic is also instructive. For example, the number 34 is spoken as ‘four and thirty’ [araba` wa thalathun]. The single unit, four, comes first as this is most tangible, and then, thirty, thalathun, which is probably shortened from ‘three tens’ – early man’s attempt to break a difficult number, 34, into conceivable parts, ‘four and three tens’. That the thousand, alf, was their highest number shows how limited the Arabs were in dealing with higher numbers.

This object-based understanding of numbers is beautifully illustrated by the hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to some Companions, “We are an unlettered people; we do not write or calculate. The number of days in the month is thus or thus.”[28] Upon the first ‘thus’ he displayed his ten fingers twice, and nine fingers once (withdrawing his thumb), i.e. indicating twenty-nine days. And upon the second, he displayed his ten fingers three times, i.e. thirty days.[29] Numbers such as twenty-nine and thirty may have been difficult for his audience to grasp, without a visualised ‘supplementary quantity’, in this case the Prophet’s fingers (peace be upon him).

The translation of counted objects into supplementary quantities indicates a primitive stage of handling numbers. A chieftain on the island of Celebes was sentenced by the colonial authorities to pay a fine of twenty buffaloes. Someone expressed surprise at the severity of the punishment. Quite astonished, the chieftain asked: “Do you consider the fine that high?” and began to count out nuts from a pouch, one for each buffalo. Only when he had ‘grasped’ the number in the truest sense of the word did he become incensed at the punishment.[30]

Consider also the ayah of Quran in Surah al-Muzzammil which magnificently states: “Over it are nineteen” (referring to Hell). The text goes on to explain: “And We have set none but angels as Guardians of the Fire; and We have fixed their number only as a trial for Unbelievers…”[31] Fakhr al-Deen al-Razi, the famous exegete, explains that it was the actual number itself (nineteen) which was the trial. The disbelievers of Quraysh were astonished at a number as “unusual” as nineteen being mentioned in the Quran. In fact, “they mocked the revelation, asking why the number of Guardians was not twenty” [32], a far more ‘acceptable’ number for the primitive mind to grasp.

In summary, pre-modern people would often offer an age when asked, but this would be an approximation as they did not typically keep accurate records of birth dates. Such expressions of one’s age were not meant to be taken as chronologically precise, and it is possible that for Aisha the first ten digits were familiar and larger numbers difficult to conceptualise.

Differences in the ‘six-nine’ narrations

Examination of the various narrations of the ‘six-nine’ hadith confirms that the numbers are approximations. For example, al-Bayhaqi reports that Aisha said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) married me…when I was six or seven years old…”[33] Ibn Sa`d relates from two of the leading authorities on Aisha’s hadith narrations, al-Zuhri and Hisham ibn `Urwah, who both said that she married the Prophet (peace be upon him) when she was nine or seven years of age.[34] This shows that even the narrations from Aisha are not consistent, and the age at which the betrothal took place varies between six, seven and nine years of age.

The Arabs’ conceptualisation of numbers was primitive, and the single units, i.e. one, two, three…nine, were closer to their understanding. Aisha is unlikely to have known her age, and her intention was to emphasise that she was young at the time of her marriage, as is clear from the context of her speech. In mathematically-naive societies, numbers were often not used in a precise numerical sense, but as adjectives. The most primitive numbers, one and two, still take the grammatical form of adjectives in Arabic to this day.

More Evidence that the Relationship was not Inappropriate

It is noteworthy that the marriage was not consummated immediately in Makkah. In fact it was about five years later that Aisha was sent to the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him). There was no reason for Aisha’s parents to send her to her husband before the appropriate time, and all biographical reports indicate that they were loving and responsible parents who would have no reason to do anything contrary to their daughter’s best interests. In fact, after five years had passed and the Prophet (peace be upon him) was showing no signs of taking Aisha into his household, it was her father himself who came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, “What prevents you from consummating the marriage with your wife?” Only then was the marriage consummated and she was taken into the prophetic household.[35] This well-authenticated report refutes those who imply that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was slave to his passions with respect to this marriage. In fact, he appears to have been not particularly concerned about taking Aisha into his house, only doing so on the insistence of his father-in-law. Secondly, there is no evidence to show that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was attracted to young girls.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the ruler of a city, and later a nation, with followers who were absolutely devoted to him. If he wished, he may have had any woman of his choosing. His first wife, Khadeeja, was fifteen years his senior, and he did not marry another while she was alive. After her demise, all of the women he married were widows except Aisha. The marriage to Aisha was an important political alliance between two noble families of Quraysh and a cementing of his relationship with his closest friend and ally, Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq. Abu Bakr later asked for the hand of the Prophet’s daughter in marriage for himself, proving that significant age differences between spouses was not contrary to their socio-cultural norms.

The heinous accusation that was only raised by some ill intentioned orientalists regarding the young age of lady ‘Aisha at the time of her marriage to Prophet Muhammad was not raised by the vehement enemies of Islam like the Prophet’s tribe, Quraysh, during the time of Prophet Muhammad nor later along the Islamic history. Even historians like Ibn Ishaq and many others who reported the story of the marriage of lady ‘Aisha did not stop and wonder about her young age nor they had to justify the Prophet’ position of marrying her because simply at that time girls were getting married at such young age. The fact that lady ‘Aisha was about to be betrothed to another man before the prophet’s proposal means that this was customary practice and not a source of shame or a denigration of morality. Prophet Muhammad since time immemorial was well known among his people of Quraysh to posses the highest moral characteristics and won the hearts of people through the perfection of his manners.

Islamic scholars and historians agreed that Lady ‘Aisha had so many virtues as her intellectual discernment and excellent memory served her well in transmitting the large prophetic heritage and set her par excellence as one of the top religious scholars of her time. She happened to live for fifty years after the death of the Prophet and the companions used to seek her juristic opinion on issues which seemed intricate to them. Lady ‘Aisha practiced Ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) and was singled out by her unique narrations of prophetic traditions that was not collected by other companions. The eminent scholar al Zmakhshari compiled all the prophetic traditions which lady ‘Aisha solely narrated in a valuable book titled “al Ijabah fi Ma Istadrakathu ‘Aisha ‘ala al Sahabah” or the collection of what ‘Aisha has added and was missing by the companions”

One of the unique incidents which shows the profundity of her religious scholarship is that the Ka’bah used to be covered with a white covering which was changed by the companions every year and replaced with a new one. The companions used to dig a hole to bury the old covering out of reverence to it. Lady ‘Aisha was the only one among the companions who differed in her opinion in this matter and suggested that it would be more suitable to cut the old covering of the ka’bah into pieces and sell it and use the money to set up a fund for the benefit of the sacred house of God. The companions unanimously concurred with her insight and followed her scholarly opinion.

One of the Prophet’s companions named, ‘Attaa ibn Abi Rabah said “Aisha was the top of all jurists and the most knowledgeable among them and had the best opinion in public matters”. Hisham ibn ‘Urwa narrated that his father said about ‘Aisha “I haven’t seen any one more knowledgeable with jurisprudence or medicine or poetry than ‘Aisha”. The renowned historian Al Zuhri said that if all the knowledge of the Prophet’s wives were measured along with the knowledge of all women, the knowledge of ‘Aisha would weigh more. The virtues of lady ‘Aisha reached its highest when God chose for his beloved Prophet to die within her arms as a commemoration of their love story.

[1] al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari: Chap. ‘Marriage of the Prophet, peace be upon him, to Aisha, and her Arrival at Medina…’, Publ. Dar al-Salam, Riyadh (1999), pg. 654, no. 3894

[2] These include Muhammad Ali [Living thoughts of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)] and Abu Tahir Irfani [Urdu pamphlet Rukhsati kai waqt Sayyida Aisha Siddiqa ki umar: ‘The age of Lady Aisha at the time of the start of her married life’], both of the deviant Qadiyani sect. Hakim Niaz Ahmad and Habib-ur-Rahman Kandhalwi both reportedly have booklets in Urdu on this issue which I have not been able to obtain, and Ruqaiyyah Maqsood has a booklet in English (published by IPCI), which she states is based on work by Muhammad Farooq Khan.

[3] Spellberg, D., Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: the Legacy of A’isha bint Abi Bakr, Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 4

[4] For example, the classic biographical encyclopaedia: Dhahabi, Siyar i`lam al-nubul. Publ. Mu’assasah al-risalah, Beirut. (1993).

[5] Karen Cokayne, Experiencing old age in Rome, (pg 2), Routledge (2003)

[6] Pat Thane, Old age in English history: Past Experiences, Present Issues, (pp. 19-20), Oxford Uni Press (2000)

[7] Nawawi, Kitab Tahdhib al-asmaa wal-lughaat: Chap. Biography of Aisha Mother of the Believers, Publ. Dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyya, Lebanon, vol. 2, pg. 351

[8] Ibn Hajar al-`Asqallani, al-Isaabah fi tamyeez al-sahabah, Publ. Dar al-Jeal, Beirut (1412H), vol. 8 pg. 54 (Biography of Fatima al-Zahraa)

[9] Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari: Chap. Year 13, Section ‘Mention of the Names of the Wives of Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq’. Publ. Dar al-Ma`arif, Egypt (1962), vol. 3, pg. 425-6

[10] Zaimeche (2001), Early Muslim Historians, Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization, Nov 2001

[11] Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari. Retrieved from internet site: Ya`sub, vol. 2, pg. 413.

[12] Nawawi, Kitab Tahdhib al-asmaa wal-lughaat: Chap. Biography of Aisha Mother of the Believers, Publ. Dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyya, Lebanon, vol. 2, pg. 351

[13] Ibn Hisham, Al-seerah al-nabawiyya, [Chap. ‘Mention of those of the Companions who became Muslim by the invitation of Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him]’, Publ. Dar al-Khayr, Damascus (1999), vol. 1, pg. 604

[14] Nawawi, Tahdheeb al-Asmaa wal-Lughaat: under ‘Asmaa Bint Abi Bakr al-Siddeeq’, Publ. Dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyyah, Lebanon, vol. 2, pg. 328-9

[15] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidyah wal-nihayah: under ‘Year 73’, Publ. Dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyya, Lebanon (1985), vol. 8, pg. 351-2

[16] Bukhari, al-Saheeh, [Kitab al-Tafsir, Bab Bal al-sa`atu maw`iduhum…], Publ. Dar al-Salam, Riyadh (1999), pg. 863, no.4876

[17] Ibn Ashur, al-Tahreer wal-tanweer, Publ. Muassas al-tarikh, Lebanon, vol. 27 pg. 161

[18] See Lisan al-Arab and al-Fayruzabadi, al-Qamus al-muhit

[19] BRUCE, D., DOLAN, A., & PHILLIPS-GRANT, K. (2000). On the transition from childhood amnesia to the recall of personal memories. Psychological Science, 11, 360-364.

[20] Bukhari, al-Saheeh, [Kitab al-jihad wal-Siyar, Bab Ghazwi al-nisaa wa qitalihinna ma`a al-rijal], Publ. Dar al-Salam, Riyadh (1999), pg. 476, no.2880

[21] Waqidi, al-Maghazi, Vol. 1, pg. 463. Retrieved from www.al-islam.com

[22] Bukhari, al-Saheeh, [Kitab Manaqib al-Ansar, Bab Mab`ath al-Nabi, salla-Allah alaihi wa-sallam], Publ. Dar al-Salam, Riyadh (1999), pg. 646, no.3851

[23] Bukhari, al-Saheeh, [Kitab al-Manaqib, Bab Sifat al-Nabi, salla-Allah alaihi wa-sallam], Publ. Dar al-Salam, Riyadh (1999), pg. 596, no.3547

[24] Menninger, Number Words and Number Symbols, A Cultural History of Numbers, Dover Publications Inc., NY (1992)

[25] Ovid, Fasti III

[26] Menninger, Number Words and Number Symbols, pg. 72

[27] Meninger, ‘Number Words…’, pg 14 [28] Bukhari, al-Saheeh, [Kitab al-Sawm, Bab Qawl al-Nabi, salla-Allah alaihi wa-sallam, la naktub…], Publ. Dar al-Salam, Riyadh (1999), pg. 307, no.1913

[29] Al-`Asqallani, Fath al-Bari, Publ. Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut, vol.4, pg. 127

[30] Menninger, Number Words and Number Symbols, Dover Publications Inc., NY (1992), pg. 34

[31] Quran, Surah al-Muddath-thir, Chap 74, ayah 30-31

[32] al-Raazi, al-Tafsir al-Kabeer, Publ. Dar Ihyaa l-turaath al-`Arabiy, Beirut (1997), vol. 30, pg. 709-711

[33] Bayhaqi, Dalail al-nubuwwah, Chap “Marriage of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Aisha”, Publ. Dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyyah, vol. 2 pg 409

[34] Ibn Sa`d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubara: chap. ‘Mention of the Wives of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)’, Publ. Dar Saadir, Beirut, vol. 8, pg.61

[35] Hasan (well-authenticated) Hadith, cited by al-`Asqallani, Fath al-Bari: Chap. ‘Marriage of the Prophet, peace be upon him, to Aisha, and her Arrival at Medina…’, Publ. Maktaba al-Qahira, Cairo (1978), vol. 15, pg. 78

[36] Spellberg, D., Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: the Legacy of A’isha bint Abi Bakr, Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 40

[37] Ahad narration is one which does not reach the level of tawatur (multiple-source), and thus contains the possibility of error.

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