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The Age and Marriage of Aisha(ra)

The Age of ‘Aisha(‏(رضي الله عنها is overwhelmingly supported by extensive evidence. She was six years old when the marriage contract was established with the Prophet (ﷺ). Additionally, the marriage was consummated when she reached the age of nine. First, It is crucial to establish the authenticity of her age, and then give a comprehensive explanation as to why the marriage was completely acceptable. It is important to note that this information is not a subject open to personal interpretation (ijtihad) among scholars, where differing opinions could be entertained. Rather, it is a widely accepted historical narration firmly substantiated by compelling evidence, leaving no room for debate regarding its authenticity and the need to acknowledge it.

The authenticity of ‘Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage to the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is supported by a unique and significant factor. The narration regarding her age was not reported by a third party, historian, or hadith scholar. Instead, it was directly conveyed by ‘Aisha herself (‏رضي الله عنها). She personally spoke about her age in the context of discussing her own life. This firsthand account adds an additional layer of credibility to the information, as it comes directly from the individual involved, ensuring accuracy and reliability [Sahih Bukhari 3894 and Sahih Muslim 1422a]:

The account provided by ‘Aisha (‏رضي الله عنها) regarding her age is documented in the most authentic and reliable sources, second only to the Qur’an. It can be found in the renowned Sahih collections of Al-Bukhari and Muslim. Furthermore, it is important to clarify that this narration has been transmitted through multiple chains of narration (isnads), ensuring its validity and credibility. It is necessary to address the misconception spread by some uninformed individuals who falsely claim that the narration relies on a single chain of narration. Such claims are baseless and lack understanding of the meticulous process of hadith authentication.

Some people assert absurd claims suggesting that ‘Aisha (‏رضي الله عنها) forgot her own age or that all narrators conveniently misrecorded 16 as 6 and 19 as 9. These assertions lack any credible evidence and seem like feeble attempts to evade criticism from certain Western circles who disapprove of these hadiths . The notion that ‘Aisha (‏رضي الله عنها) could forget her own age but memorized over 2000+ ahadith is nothing short of an insult to the esteemed Umm al Mu’minin (Mother of the Believers), and could put in question any other hadith she has narrated.

To continue, one of the most widely recognized chains of narration for this account is through Hisham ibn ‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr, who narrated from his father ‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr, who in turn narrated from ‘Aishah (‏رضي الله عنها). This narration holds significant credibility due to the close relationship between ‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr and ‘Aishah, as she was his maternal aunt. ‘Urwah’s proximity to her ensured a deep understanding and familiarity with her life, making this narration particularly reliable [Sahih Bukhari 5158 and Sahih Muslim 1422c]:

There are individuals who assert that Hisham ibn ‘Urwah succumbed to confusion in his later years. However, even if we entertain the possibility of Hisham experiencing confusion towards the end of his life, it is important to recognize that this accusation originated solely from Abu’l-Hasan ibn al-Qattan’s work, Bayan al-Wahm wa’l-Iham. Nevertheless, it is crucial to highlight that Abu’l-Hasan was mistaken in making such a claim.

This allegation is debunked with the support of Adh Dhahabi. Who refutes the notion of Hisham ibn ‘Urwah’s alleged confusion. Thus, we can conclude that this claim lacks substance and should not be given credence, as proven by Adh Dhahabi [Mizan al-I‘tidal, 4/301-302]:

Hishām bin Urwah is one of the great luminaries, an authority and a leader. When he aged, his memory slightly decreased however he never became a Mukhtalit (one who lost memory and errs in Hadīth). There is no consideration for what Abu’l-Hasan ibn al-Qattan claimed regarding Hishām that he became a Mukhtalit.

Nevertheless, for argument’s sake, even if we do consider Hishām’s narrations to be weak, there are plenty of other authentic chains of narration without Hishām that prove ‘Aisha’s(‏(رضي الله عنها age to be six at the time of marriage and nine at the time she started to reside with the Prophet(ﷺ).

It is worth noting that some claims suggest a ten-year age difference between ‘Asma and ‘Aisha (‏رضي الله عنهم), and use mental gymnastics and rejection of Sahih hadith to calculate that ‘Aisha was at least 19 when she married the Prophet(ﷺ). However, it is important assess the reliability of these claims as it comes from two chains of narration from the same individual, Abdulrahman bin Abi al-Zinaad, who is regarded as a weak narrator by most scholars, and weak narrations do not take precedence over the authentic narrations, especially when it’s something contrary to what is well-known in the books of Sunnah and history.

Furthermore, scholars unanimously agree on the well-established age of ‘Aisha (‏رضي الله عنها), and only recently in the 18th century did this claim of her being older start to come up. Additionally, this hadith holds the status of being Mutawatir [mass transmitted], or it is very close to it:

Imām Kamāluddīn ibn al-Humām al-Hanafī in [Fat’h al-Qadīr 3/265] writes:

“The marriage of Aisha by Abu Bakr [to the Prophet ﷺ] , may Allāh be pleased with them both, when she was 6 is a text that is close to mass-transmission [mutawātir], and Qudāmah ibn Mażúūn marrying the daughter of Zubayr [ibn al-Áwwām] the day she was born, with the knowledge of the Companions, may Allāh be pleased with them, is a text regarding the Companions understanding that there is no exclusivity in the marriage of Aisha.

Ahmad Shaker in [Jumhurat maaqalat 1/357 and 355]:

“Then why does he disregard the authentic and widely transmitted [Mutawatir] narrations, relying only on anomalous or fabricated ones that contradict every reliable narration? Authentic narrations are available to him in books like Ibn Saad’s and others, narrated by Az-Zuhri, Hisham ibn Urwah, and others, stating that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) married Aisha when she was six years old, and consummated the marriage when she was nine years old.”

“This whole argument is based on established historical facts and the reliability of narrators. However, it conveniently ignores any facts that contradict personal biases. The claim is made that there are different opinions regarding the age of ‘Aisha(‏(رضي الله عنها at the time of her marriage to the Prophet, peace be upon him, in the second year of Hijrah. Some estimate her age to be nine, while others suggest it to be a few years older. However, the notion that some suggest she was even older than that is an unfounded and innovative claim not endorsed by any scholars or supported by any authentic narrations. It seems to be an attempt to exceed reasonable bounds and achieve a specific agenda.”

Ibn Abd al-Barr al-Maliki in [Istiāb fī Ma’rifah al-As’hāb, 8/188]:

He (ﷺ) consummated with her when she was 9, I do not know them [i.e. the scholars] to have differed regarding that.

Ibn Katheer in[Sīrah al-Nabawīyyah 2/141 and al-Bidaayah wa’l-Nihaayah 3/140]:

[He (ﷺ)married her when she was 6 years old, and consummated with her when she was 9 years old] there is no difference of opinion between the people about it.”

His saying: [He (ﷺ) married her when she was six years old, and he consummated the marriage with her when she was nine years old] is something about which there is no difference of opinion among people – and it has been proven in the Sahih books and elsewhere – and his marriage to her, peace be upon him, took place in the second year of the migration to Madinah”

al-Tabari in [Tārīkh al-Tabari 2/398-399]:

“In [that year] RasūlAllāh ﷺ consummated [his marriage] with Áisha, eight months after his arrival in Madīnah, in Dhu’l Qaádah, according to some and according to others, seven months after his arrival in Madīnah, in Shawwāl. He married her in Makkah three years prior to the Hijrah, after the passing away of Khadījah, and she was a girl of six years, and it has been said that he married her when she was a girl of seven years.

There are nine unique qualities in me [‘Aisha] that have not been in any other woman, except what Allāh bestowed to Maryam bint Ímrān. By Allāh, I do not say this to boast over any of my companions.” Ábdullāh ibn Safwān asked her, “What are these?” To which she رضي الله عنها replied: ‎“The angel brought down my likeness, RasūlAllāh ﷺ married me at seven [or six] years, I was given to him [for consummation] at nine years, and he married me when I was a virgin; no man having shared me with him, revelation would come to him whilst I and him were were under a single blanket, and I was of the most beloved of people to him, and a verse of the Qur’ān was revealed regarding me whilst the Ummah was nearly destroyed, and I saw Jibrīl when none of his other wives saw him, and he was taken [from this world] in my house; nobody was with him except the angel and I.”

Ibn Abd al-Bar in [Al-Isti’ab fi ma’rifat al-ashab 1881]:

Aisha bint Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), is mentioned alongside her father in his lineage. Her mother was Umm Ruman bint ‘Amir ibn ‘Awaimir ibn ‘Abd Shams ibn ‘Utaybah ibn Adhina ibn Sibyah ibn Dahman ibn Al-Harith ibn Ghanm ibn Malik. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) married her in Makkah two years before the Hijrah. This is the statement of Abu ‘Ubaidah. Others said it was three years, while she was six years old, and some said she was seven. He consummated the marriage with her in Al-Madinah when she was nine years old. I am not aware of any differences of opinion regarding this matter.”

Ibn al-Mundhir in [Wal-ishrāf ʿalā madhāhib al-ʿulamā’ 5/19]:

“The scholars unanimously agree that it is permissible for a father to marry off his young, virgin daughter if she is suitable for marriage. This is the opinion of Malik, Ath-Thawri, Al-Laith bin Saad, Al-Awza’i, Ubaidullah bin Al-Hasan, Ash-Shafi’i, Ahmad, Ishaq, Abu Ubaid, Abu Thawr, and the proponents of this view. Their evidence in this matter is the narration of Aisha [married at six and consummated at nine].”

Ibn Hazm in [Ḥujjat-l-Widāʿ, Page 435]:

So this is the age of Aisha, a specified age in which she was not burdened, and there is no disagreement among any of the people of knowledge.”

The marriage of ‘Aisha (‏رضي الله عنها) to the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) has only recently become a controversial issue. Historically, there was no widespread objection to their union. The marriage proposal to ‘Aisha from the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) took place after the passing of Khadijah, his previous wife. It was Khawla bint Ḥakīm who approached him [Fath al-Bari 15/246] and asked if he was interested in remarriage. Upon receiving an affirmative response, she presented him with two options: Sawda bint Zamʿa and ‘Aisha bint Abī Bakr, both Muslims at the time. The Prophet (ﷺ) pondered over the choices. However, Allah blessed him with a dream, not once but twice, confirming that ‘Aisha was destined to be his spouse. This profound dream served as a clear sign for the Prophet, guiding his decision to marry ‘Aisha [Sahih Bukhari 7012]:

Khawla then visited the home of Abū Bakr and requested ‘Aisha hand in marriage on behalf of the Prophet ﷺ. However, Abū Bakr (رضي الله عنه) had concerns regarding this proposal. Firstly, he had been referred to as the Prophet’s brother in the context of their bond in Islam, and he wondered if this would pose any issues in terms of marriage. Khawla relayed these concerns to the Prophet ﷺ, who clarified that their brotherhood was solely in the realm of faith, thus making the marriage permissible [Sahih Bukhari 5081]:

‘Aisha (‏رضي الله عنها) was not only one of the most beloved wives of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), but also one of the most brilliant scholars of Islam. Her wisdom and knowledge were highly respected by even the most esteemed companions, who would seek her guidance and answers to their questions. The Prophet (ﷺ) recognized her exceptional qualities and virtues, while she also recognized his noble character and the deep love he had for her father, Abu Bakr (‏رضي الله عنه).

Some non-Muslims often argue that the Prophet’s marriage to ‘Aisha is wrong because it justifies marrying young individuals, incorrectly imposing their Western notions of marriage onto Islamic teachings. However, it is essential to clarify that their understanding of age and marriage does not align with our beliefs. As Muslims, we rely on the Qur’an and Sunnah, following the understanding of the salaf, to guide our understanding of marriage. We do not endorse their flawed perspective.

In the Islamic understanding of marriage, the emphasis is placed on the maturity of individuals rather than solely relying on their age as a determining factor. In Western societies, there seems to be an inconsistency in the perception of maturity based on age. While someone at 17 is considered too young, as soon as they turn 18, they are suddenly seen as mature. The question arises: does a mere one-year difference really make such a significant impact? Does it automatically grant them the capability to engage in adult responsibilities and decisions?

For muslims, age is determined based on the comprehensive assessment of an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional maturity. Rather than fixating solely on a specific age, the focus is on evaluating one’s readiness for marriage, taking into account their overall development. If a person exhibits the necessary maturity and understanding of their rights and responsibilities, it is considered valid for them to enter into marriage, regardless of their age. [Qur’an 4:6]:

Ibn kathir in [Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓīm 2/210]:

And His statement, exalted be He: “Test the orphans” – Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, As-Suddi, and Muqatil ibn Hayyan said: It means to test them until they reach the age of marriage. Mujahid said: It means experiencing wet dreams. The majority of scholars agreed that reaching puberty in boys is sometimes accompanied by wet dreams. Abu Dawood narrated in his Sunan from Amir al-Mu’minin Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: I memorized from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): “Completion of the marriage contract is not permissible until after experiencing wet dreams”

The correct view is that it [pubic hair growth] indicates puberty for everyone because it is a universal matter that applies to all people

Al-Qurtubi in [Tafsīr al-Qurtubi 6/60-62]:

“Scholars have differed in the interpretation of “testing” (al-ikhtibar). Some say it means that the guardian should observe the character of the orphan, listen to their concerns, and thereby gain knowledge of their competence, ability to pursue their interests, manage their affairs, and handle their finances. Alternatively, it could refer to neglecting these responsibilities. When signs of goodness become apparent, our scholars and others have said that it is permissible for the guardian to give the orphan a portion of their wealth, allowing them to exercise some control over it. If the orphan demonstrates growth and responsible behavior, the test has been successful, and it becomes obligatory for the guardian to hand over all of their wealth to the orphan. However, if the orphan proves to be irresponsible, the guardian must retain custody of their wealth.

No one says that if the child is tested and found to have good judgment, guardianship is automatically removed and his guardian must give him his money and allow him to deal with it since the Almighty says: ‘until they reach a marriageable age.’ (Quran 4:6). A group of fuqahā’ [jurists] say that the child must either be a boy or girl. If it is a boy, he is tested by being allowed to spend on the household for a month, or is given a small amount to deal with to see if he can manage it well. Nonetheless, he is overseen while doing that to ensure he does not misspend it. If he does misspend it, his guardian is not liable. When the guardian sees that he is able to act correctly, he should hand over his property to him in the presence of witnesses.

If it is a girl, her guardian should give her what would normally be given to the lady of the house to manage, for instance, the spinning process and oversee the spinners in terms of buying and paying for cotton and completing the spinning process in full. If he sees that she has sound judgment, he should give her her property. Otherwise orphans should remain in care until their good judgment is ascertained. Al-Ḥasan, Mujāhid and others said that they should be tested in respect of their minds, their dīn and their ability to make their property grow

“There are five signs of puberty. Three are common to men and women and two apply to women alone, namely, menstruation and pregnancy. Scholars do not disagree that menstruation or pregnancy indicates puberty and then the obligations and rulings dependent on that are obliged for her. They disagree about the other three.

So, the age of marriage for Muslims varies based on the signs of maturity and the individual’s ability to fulfill their obligations within the marriage. If an individual demonstrates the signs of maturity and is capable of handling their marital responsibilities, they may marry. Conversely, if they are unable to fulfill these obligations, they are deemed unfit for marriage. While ‘Aisha’s(‏ رضي الله عنها) capability for marriage at her age was considered normal during the time of the Prophet (ﷺ), it is important to remember that maturity evolves over time and so muslims will judge based on the individuals in this time period and continue to adhere to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and ‏الله اعلم.

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