Age of Prophet's wife Aisha at Marriage


It is said that Aisha رضي الله عنها was six years old when her marriage was performed with Prophet Muhammad in Makkah, and nine years old when she moved in to live with her husband in Madina after Hijra.

This piece of misinformation has led to the wrong view that child marriage has the sanction of Islam. It must be noted that establishing the authenticity of hadiths, the narrators' circumstances and the conditions at that time have to be correlated with historical facts. There is only one hadith by Hisham which suggests the age of Aisha رضي الله عنها as being nine when she came to live with her husband.

Many authentic hadiths also show that Hisham's narration is incompatible with several historical facts about the Prophet's life, on which there is consensus. With reference to scholars such as Umar Ahmed Usmani, Hakim Niaz Ahmed and Habibur Rehman Kandhulvi, I would like to present some arguments in favor of the fact that Aisha رضي الله عنها was at least 18 years old when her marriage was performed and at least 21 when she moved into the Prophet's house to live with him.

According to Umar Ahmed Usmani, in Surah Al-Nisa, it is said that the guardian of the orphans should keep testing them, until they reach the age of marriage, before returning their property (Quran 4:6). From this scholars have concluded that the Quran sets a minimum age of marriage which is at least puberty. Since the approval of the girl has a legal standing, she cannot be a minor.

Hisham bin Urwah is the main narrator of this hadith. His life is divided into two periods: in 131 A.H. the Madani period ended, and the Iraqi period started, when Hisham was 71 years old. Hafiz Zehbi has spoken about Hisham's loss of memory in his later period. His students in Madina, Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifah, do not mention this hadith. Imam Malik and the people of Madina criticised him for his Iraqi hadiths.

All the narrators of this hadith are Iraqis who had heard it from Hisham. Allama Kandhulvi says that the words spoken in connection with Aisha's رضي الله عنها age were tissa ashara, meaning 19, when Hisham only heard (or remembered), tissa, meaning nine. Maulana Usmani thinks this change was purposely and maliciously made later.

Historian Ibn Ishaq in his Sirat Rasul Allah has given a list of the people who accepted Islam in the first year of the proclamation of Islam, in which  Aisha's رضي الله عنها name is mentioned as Abu Bakr's "little daughter Aisha". If we accept Hisham's calculations, she was not even born at that time.

Some time after the death of the Prophet's first wife, Khadija رضي الله عنها, Khawla suggested to the Prophet that he get married again, to a bikrun, referring to Aisha رضي الله عنها (Musnad Ahmed). In Arabic bikrun is used for an unmarried girl who has crossed the age of puberty and is of marriageable age. The word cannot be used for a six-year-old girl.

Some scholars think that Aisha رضي الله عنها was married off so early because in Arabia girls mature at an early age. But this was not a common custom of the Arabs at that time. According to Rehman Kandhulvi, there is no such case on record either before or after Islam. Neither has this ever been promoted as a Sunnah of the Prophet. The Prophet married off his daughters Fatima at 21 and Ruquiyya at 23. Besides, Abu Bakr رضي الله عن, Aisha's father, married off his eldest daughter Asma at the age of 26.

Aisha رضي الله عنها narrates that she was present on the battlefield at the Battle of Badar (Muslim). This leads one to conclude that Aisha  رضي الله عنها moved into the Prophet's house in 1 A.H. But a nine-year-old could not have been taken on a rough and risky military mission.

In 2 A.H, the Prophet refused to take boys of less than 15 years of age to the battle of Uhud. Would he have allowed a 10-year-old girl to accompany him? But Anas reported that he saw Aisha and Umme Sulaim carrying goatskins full of water and serving it to the soldiers (Bukhari). Umme Sulaim and Umme Ammara, the other women present at Uhud, were both strong, mature women whose duties were the lifting of the dead and injured, treating their wounds, carrying water in heavy goatskins, supplying ammunition and even taking up the sword.

Aisha رضي الله عنها used the kunniat, the title derived from the name of a child, of Umme Abdullah after her nephew and adopted son. If she was six when her marriage was performed, she would have been only eight years his senior, hardly making him eligible for adoption. Also, a little girl could not have given up on ever having her own child and used an adopted child's name for her kunniat.

Aisha's  رضي الله عنها nephew Urwah once remarked that he was not surprised about her amazing knowledge of Islamic law, poetry and history because she was the wife of the Prophet and the daughter of Abu Bakr رضي الله عن. If she was eight when her father migrated, when did she learn poetry and history from him?

There is consensus that Aisha رضي الله عنها was 10 years younger than her elder sister Asma, whose age at the time of the hijrah, or migration to Madina, was about 28. It can be concluded that Aisha رضي الله عنها was about 18 years old at migration. On her moving to the Prophet's house, she was a young woman at 21. Hisham is the single narrator of the hadith whose authenticity is challenged, for it does not correlate with the many historical facts of the time.

 

Nilofar Ahmed is a scholar of the Quran and writes on contemporary issues.  nilofar.ahmed5 @ gmail.com


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  9 Comments   Comment

  1. Feroza Atcha-Soliman from USA

    Under Islamic law, marriage is not valid unless both parties agree to the union. The

    bride must freely consent to the marriage on her own. No man is like the

    Prohpet(swas) the parents or guardians cannot force anyone to marry under shariah

    law.

  2. sakinah from USA

    JazakAllah Khair, thank you for this informative article.

  3. SAM from South Africa

    To support the view that our beloved mother Aisha,Allah be pleased with her, was much older because no father with allow his child especially a daughter marry at such an early age of 6 or 9. Her father was none other than Hazrat Abu Bakr(Allah be pleased with him)a rightoeus man and a close companion of the beloved Prophet,upon Him peace and blessings,would not have agreed to his daughter for marriage if she was still a child.Even if Abu Bakr,Allah be pleased with him,allowed this then for sure his wife and mother of Bibi Aisha would have objected.Thus all evidence proves that our mother,Bibi Aisha was not a child but a lady.

  4. Abdirahman from Norway

    Good article.When it comes the issue in question,The Holy Quran is sufficient.The rule of the Quran,which the prophet(peace of ALLAH upon him)undoubtedly followed,is that of full maturity for marriage.When orphans can take over their property is the same time they become mature enough to marry.Much of the social problems among muslims today are results of preferring/following hadiths contradicting the Quran.Among sunnis it is normal to ignore the Quranic ruling and guidance as long as they have hadiths from Albukhari and Muslim.Rajm,coercing of faith,specially their Maz-hab) upon people,and forcing girls to marry men they don,t want are examples of rules that contradict the Quran,but become part of Sharia.When you see muslim sects killing each other is because of hadiths saying the apostate(murtad)should be killed,and because each sect sees others as apostate they justify killing them.No where in the Quran is mentioned of killing apostates or non-muslims.In fact the message of the Quran is quite clear for those who will follow,and that message is full freedom of faith/religion.The prophet has never fought to force faith on people and his sole mission was to deliver the message of Allah.All the wars he engaged with arabs were of military and security purpose,and he signed peace agreements with any tribe that was ready for peace.

  5. Saladin from USA

    Excellent article. Scientific and to the point. But, alas, people will still deny the truth, even if it is poking them right in their eyes.

  6. Naseehat from India

    It's high time we stopped being apologetic about it even if it's true that Ayesha(RA) was indeed 9 years old.

    Let's keep in mind that marriage is considered as legal and successful, if the three conditions hold good, irrespective of time and place;

    1. The marriage should have the blessings of one/both parents.

    2. State/Society should not take any offense and acknowledge the matrimony.

    3. None of the spouses should live to repent or convey his/her displeasure at the decision of his/her parents/guardians to bind him/her in such an alliance, long after the marriage has taken place. The husband and wife should be happy of being married with each other, till they die.

    None of the three and especially the last one, seem to have been defied or negated by the marriage of the prophet with Ayesha (ra). I wouldn't mind marrying off my daughter or sister, if all the three conditions get satisfied and she doesn't live on to repent this decision taken by me on her behalf.

  7. Talha from India

    Absolutely brilliant! Thanks for detailing the historical facts.

  8. Bashir Ahmad Dar from J&K India

    I appreciate the artical through which misconsumption has been cleared. Very Nice

  9. ABUBAKAR ABARI from NIGERIA

    Salam Alaikun

    Our cultural habits and costumes most times creep into the Islamic values.

    Most issues held against Islam particularly on WOMEN were culrural value or beliefs before the advent of Islam.

    Intelectuals should come out more with this type of reviews to correct the sociatal errors.

    Ma salam