There have been a lot of questions regarding the prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah ﷻ be upon him) which have led to lots of doubts as well as controversies. With a rise of attacks on the character of our prophet ﷺ at breakneck speed by European white nationalists, atheists, neoliberals as well as the Hindutva, many Muslims have been engaging in discussions in hopes to clear misunderstandings and misconceptions. While the intentions are often good, the execution is often times extremely harmful for a truthful and honest discourse as well as preventing distortion of historical evidences and consensus which indirectly hurt the credibility of the Quran and Sunnah in the eyes of Muslims.
In light of the above mentioned concerns, it needs to be noted that Islam is a faith that provides guidance for all, regardless of religion, culture, faith, economic or ethnic background. With this in mind, I would also like to address the hate friars and charlatans that try to attack the morals of the prophet ﷺ in order to further their selfish and individualistic political agenda that harms communal harmony as well as leading to direct alienation of Muslims. If you have a problem with Islam and our beliefs as Muslims, come talk to us instead of trying to slander and throw dubious retorts where we are not present to engage in dialogue.
Not engaging with us in conversations and debates is the biggest sign of hypocrisy and cowardice as it insinuates that your views and opinions are fragile and are subject to valid criticism by the allegedly morally inferior Muslims.
Age of Ayesha (رض)
Among the myriad of criticisms against the prophet ﷺ, the most popular one to date has been the age of Ayesha رضي الله عنها when she was betrothed. This has been a topic of huge controversy among Muslims and non Muslims alike. There are lot of contrarian views owing to which are used by both Muslims and non Muslims when it comes to addressing , as Muslims, we are obliged to stick to the Quran and Sunnah when investigating evidences.
The marriage of Aisha رضي الله عنها can be observed in a multitude of different sources with different narrators across different books of hadith. These hadith are testification to the age of Aisha indeed being 6 during her bethrotal. However, despite the presence of overwhelming evidences, there are some Muslims and scholars that question the authenticity of these narrations (Which we will address in the later reports)
Narrated Aisha: That the Prophet (ﷺ) married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that Aisha remained with the Prophet (ﷺ) for nine years (i.e. till his death).” Grade: Sahih
Reference: Sahih al-Bukhari 5134
It was narrated from ‘Aishah that the Messenger of Allah married her when she was six years old, and consummated the marriage with her when she was nine.Reference : Sunan an-Nasa’i 3255
Grade: Sahih (Darussalam)
‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported:Reference : Sahih Muslim 1422b
Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house when I was nine years old.
Justification of her age being 18 during marriage
The primary argument brought up in order to justify this view is regarding the alleged contradiction of the hadith to the teaching of the Quran itself is concerning the fact that marriage in Islam is a civil contract as per Quran 4:21, which can only be finalized between those who are intellectually and physically mature enough to understand and perform the responsibilities of such a contract.” And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach age for nikah (marriage), . Then if you perceive in them rushdh (sound judgement), release their property to them,” says the Quran. (4:6). It’s worth noting that the Quran uses intellectual maturity (which always occurs after puberty) as a criterion for determining marriage age. (Addressed under heading: “Prepubertal marriage in light of Islamic scriptures”)
The premise of the argument is that the prophet ﷺ’s actions cannot contradict the Quran and as a result, the narrations regarding the age of Aisha (رض) present in ahadith are unreliable and invalid. To further legitimise and authorise this view, historical contradictions are taken into account as well as the reliability of the narrator of some of these ahadith.
The narrator associated with narration of hadith regarding Aisha (رض)’s age is Hisham Ibn Urwa. It is said that the Hadith was narrated when he moved from Madinah to Iraq during the time when his memory was weak and his narrations were questionable according to many scholars. To add to this, Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi al Zinad mentiones that Asma was ten years older than Aisha and that she died during 73AH/692AD. By calculating with this in mind, Aisha’s age is derived to be 17 during hijra. It is well known that she married the prophet (ﷺ) around two to three years before hijrah and hence this would mean that she was fourteen to fifteen years old when the marriage was consummated.
Others even cite Ibn Kathir’s Bidaya wal Nihayah to prove that Asma was 10 years older than Aisha.
Problems with the revisionist view
Although it may be true that Hisham ibn Urwa’s memory began weakening while he was in Iraq, it is disingeuous and dishonest to question the reliability of the hadith provided that there are other narrators that quote the same hadith as well (while being independent from Hisham in isnaad) such as Abi Salama ibn Abdal Rahman who narrated around 1100 hadith and has been deemed trust worthy by the likes of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban and Bukhari himself.
Ibn Abi al Zinad’s narration regarding Asma’s age in comparision to the age of Aisha, although can be a good argument, is still unreliable according to many scholars that considered him to be a weak narrator. He has notably been criticised by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Abu Hatim, Abu Ahmad al Hakm among many others.
Abd al-Malik al-Maymuni said: “I asked Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal about Ibn Abī al-Zinād. He said: ‘He is considered to be weak in ḥadīth.'” Al-Nasa’i also considered him weak and unreliable. Consequently, citing Ibn Kathir becomes counterproductive since Ibn Kathir does not seem to mention any isnaad to trace the seniority of Asma with respect to Aisha.
Prepubertal marriage in light of Islamic scriptures
Although the Quran does seem to recommend children to be given for marriage upon reaching adulthood (“حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا “بَلَغُوا۟), the word بَلَغُوا۟ (pronounced balaghu) meaning hitting the age of puberty which is traditionally considered adulthood universally across the world, there does not seem to be any indication of prohibition of prepubertal marriage.
A fundamental principle in fiqh is that acts are considered halal if there is no evidence of prohibition in the Quran and Sunnah. This is based on the ayah of the Quran:
And do not utter falsehoods by letting your tongues declare: “This is lawful” and “That is unlawful,” thus fabricating lies against Allah.Quran 16:116
From this we understand that prepubertal marriage is not forbidden in Islam (However there are certain guidelines) and trying to prove otherwise would be considered heresy. To further at to this, the view prohibiting prepubertal marriage also contradicts the ayah which states:
“And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ‘Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise, except in case of death]”.Quran 65:4
Sayings of Islamic scholars regarding prepubertal marriage
Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The scholars are unanimously agreed that the father may arrange a marriage for his young daughter without consulting her. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) married ‘Aa’ishah when she was six years old.End quote from at-Tamheed, 19/98
An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: It should be noted that ash-Shaafa‘i and his companions said: It is recommended for the father or grandfather not to arrange a marriage for a virgin until she reaches the age of puberty and he seeks her consent, lest she find herself trapped in a marriage that she resents.
What they said is not contrary to the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah, because what they meant is that he should not give her in marriage before puberty if there is no clear and real interest to be served by that for which there is the fear that it will be missed by delaying marriage, such as the story of ‘Aa’ishah. In that case (i.e., if there is a clear and real interest to be served) it is recommended not to miss the opportunity to marry that husband, because the father is enjoined to take care of his children’s interests, not to neglect them.End quote from Sharh Muslim, 9/206
Is prepubertal marriage recommended?
Read previous heading
The context of the prophet ﷺ’s marriage to Aisha (رض)
The elucidation of events portraying the prophet ﷺ’s marriage in the context of lust is deceitful and is a grim revisionism far from what the seerah and primary Islamic sources indicate. People slanderously presume that the prophet ﷺ misuses his status and manipulates his best friend and companion, Abu Bakr (رض) into marry his daughter Ayesha off to satiate his carnal desire.
However, the actual truth is that Aisha was already engaged with Jubayr ibn Mut’im at least a year before the prophet ﷺ. The suggestion to marry Aisha was given to the prophet ﷺ by Khawlah Bint Hakim [who is a woman (This elaboration is to make it easier for non Muslim readers to understand)].
After the death of Lady Khadeejah, the prophet ﷺ’s first wife and mother of his children, the story of Lady ‘Aisha’s marriage began. Khawlah bint Hakim, the wife of ‘Uthman ibn Madhz’un, one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions, approached him and proposed that he marry Lady ‘Aisha, describing her as the daughter of Prophet Muhammad’s most cherished person. Prophet Muhammad accepted and instructed her to inform Abu Bakr and his wife, Umm Ruman, of the prophet’s marriage proposal. “What do you suppose God has chosen you out to bestow from his benefits and bounties?” Khawlah went over to Abu Bakr’s house and asked Um Ruman.
So Um Ruman questioned, “And what would that be?” Khawlah said, “the Messenger of God sent me here to offer you his marriage proposal to ‘Aisha,” so Khawlah told her to wait until Abu Bakr arrived. “And would she be lawful to him and he is my brother?” Abu Bakr said when he heard of the Prophet’s marriage proposal. So Khawlah returned to the Prophet with his question, and the Prophet said, “We are brothers in Islam, and your daughter is lawful to me.”
The marriage and its effect on Muslims
The marriage between Aisha and the prophet ﷺ is arguably the most important marriage to take place in Islamic history. This is especially provided that the successor to the prophet ﷺ (Khalifah of the prophet) was none other than Abu Bakr (father of Aisha) himself. Marriage plays a crucial role in strengthening familial, tribal and imperial bonds through blood relation in Islamic culture and hence this served a very crucial role that possibly shaped the early Islamic political dynamics.
Needless to say, it also served other greater benefits to the exclusion of geopolitical roles. Aisha (رض) is one of the largest narrator of Hadith. She is also the Muslim woman with the highest authentically recorded narration of Hadith. And this also extends to her narrating the largest number of isolated and unique hadith that have not been narrated by other narrators of hadith.
Her narration plays an important role in fields of fiqh, hadith, tarikh and also provides guidelines for Muslim women most importantly and her contribution to the Islamic tradition is indispensable.
Bad faith arguments against Aisha
The reason why the issue of the marriage has been gathering dirt due to recently formed social stigma against early marriage. Arguments range from age dynamics, physical, mental and sexual abuse by someone with more power, trauma and so on.
However, many hadith show that the opposite is true.
‘Urwah reported: Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “I never felt so jealous about any woman as I did for Khadijah. She had died three years before I married the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. I heard him mentioning her so often, and his Lord ordered him to give her glad tidings of her palace in Paradise made of reeds. The Prophet would slaughter a sheep and distribute its meat among her friends.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5658, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2435
Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi (authenticity agreed upon) according to Al-Bukhari and Muslim
There may also be many that argue that Aisha had stockholme syndrome. To that I say, if all these evidences are not enough, maybe Allah azzawajal might never cease withholding his guidance from you.
There are lots of deliberate concoctions by many Muslims and Non Muslims concerning the actual events of the marriage. Muslims say that the narrations regarding her age being 6 are inauthentic are actually using even weaker narrators to justify that she was a teenager during marriage. Appealing to authorities such as Ibn Kathir is fruitless since he does not provide an isnaad (chain of narration). There are also other trustworthy narrators beside Hisham Ibn Urwa that narrated the hadith of her age being 6 and hence arguing against Hisham does not work out well either.
Non Muslims that interpret the events from a malicious, polarised and extreme understanding of Islam are charlatans are infamous for making sexually depraved comics of the prophet ﷺ defiling Aisha (رض). Their track record of ethics is not really all that promising for us to take their moral concerns seriously but even then, the events that took place are the polar opposite of what they want you to believe. The fact that the Aisha (رض) already being engaged with Jubayr ibn Mut’im shows that this was not an exception but the norm. To add to this, the marriage was not something the prophet ﷺ thought of in the first place. To the contrary it was recommended by Khawlah Bint Hakim who was a woman companion of the prophet. To add to this, Aisha (رض) also played an instrumental role in Islamic discourse as well as Islamic politics. Her knowledge of hadith and fiqh made the religion more inclusive for women since there are not many notable female Muslims that were famous for being knowledgeable in Islamic arts.
Moral arguments regarding abuse, harassment and so on made against the prophet ﷺ falls on the back of slanderers especially due to the presence of mutual love within the marriage as narrated by none other than Aisha herself in various hadith. In fact, she was even jealous of how the prophet ﷺ loved Khadijah (رض) more.
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