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What Was the True Age of Aisha at Marriage?

Questioner

Dino

Reply Date

Sep 26, 2016

Question

Dear Scholars, As-Salamu Alaykum. I was wondering what was the true age of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her). Do we know what her true age was? I have read in places that the hadiths that say what her age was at marriage are weak hadiths. Is this true? Thank you for any response.

Consultant

Answer


What Was the True Age of Aisha at Marriage

Salam Dear Dino,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

The issue of Aisha bint Abi Bakr has arisen purely around the fact that she married Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) when she was young and as you said, “Do we know what her true age was?”

The problem is that we are dependent on reports of information. Even with accurate reporting, it is difficult to sustain that level of accuracy 100% of the time, all the time.

The true records that are referred to by Muslims for guidance are the Quran and the Hadiths (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad, the essence of both of which is the religion of Islam. They are not sociology textbooks although Islam covers all aspects of life.

One of the foremost records depended upon is the collection of hadiths of Prophet Muhammad in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari. From the translation of Dr. Amin Al-Masri of Cambridge University, England and Head of Shari`ah at the College of Shari`ah and Islamic Studies in Makkah, we are informed:

Aisha reported that the Prophet wrote the marriage contract with 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 for nine years (i.e., till his death).” (Al-Bukhari 7: 65)

The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death). (Al-Bukhari 7: 88)

Islamic scholar Maulana Muhammad Ali was one of the first to challenge Aisha’s age. In his books Muhammad, the Prophet and Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, he states:

A great misconception prevails as to the age at which Aisha was taken in marriage by the Prophet. Ibn Sa`d has stated in the Tabaqat that when Abu Bakr (father of Aisha) was approached on behalf of the Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair and that he would have to settle the matter first with him. This shows that Aisha must have been approaching maturity at the time.

Again, the Isaba, speaking of the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah, says that she was born five years before the Call and was about five years older than Aisha. This shows that Aisha must have been about ten years at the time of her betrothal to the Prophet, and not six years as she is generally supposed to be.

This is further borne out by the fact that Aisha herself is reported to have stated that when the fifty-fourth chapter [i.e., surah] of the Qur’an entitled “The Moon” [Al-Qamar] was revealed, she was a girl playing about and remembered certain verses then revealed.

Now the fifty-fourth chapter was undoubtedly revealed before the sixth year of the Call. All these considerations point to but one conclusion, viz., that Aisha could not have been less than ten years of age at the time of her nikah, which was virtually only a betrothal.

And there is one report in the Tabaqat that Aisha was nine years of age at the time of nikah. Again it is a fact admitted on all hands that the nikah of Aisha took place in the tenth year of the Call in the month of Shawwal.

This is while there is also preponderance of evidence as to the consummation of her marriage taking place in the second year of Hijrah in the same month, which shows that full five years had elapsed between the nikah and the consummation. Hence, there is not the least doubt that Aisha was at least nine or ten years of age at the time of betrothal, and fourteen or fifteen years at the time of marriage.

If we dig deeper, we find that the great Islamic historian Ibn Jarir At-Tabari in hisHistory iterated:

In the time before Islam, Abu Bakr married two women. The first was Fatila daughter of `Abdul `Uzza, from whom `Abdullah and `Asmaa’ were born. Then he married Umm Ruman, from whom `Abdur-Rahman and Aisha were born. These four were born before Islam.

Looking at Aisha’s impressions of her early life, we can indeed see that she was born before the Call:

Since I reached the age when I could remember things, I have seen my parents worshiping according to the right faith of Islam. Not a single day passed but Allah’s Messenger visited us both in the morning and in the evening. When the Muslims were persecuted, Abu Bakr set out for Ethiopia as an emigrant. When he reached a place called Bark Al-Ghimad, he met Ibn Ad-Daghna, the chief of the Qara tribe, who asked Abu Bakr, “Where are you going?”

Abu Bakr said, “My people have turned me out of the country and I would like to tour the world and worship my Lord.” Ibn Ad-Daghna said, “A man like you will not go out, nor will he be turned out, as you help the poor earn their living, keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the disabled (or the dependents), provide guests with food and shelter, and help people during their troubles. I am your protector. So, go back and worship your Lord at your home.”

Ibn Ad-Daghna went along with Abu Bakr and took him to the chiefs of Quraysh saying to them, “A man like Abu Bakr will not go out, nor will he be turned out. Do you turn out a man who helps the poor earn their living, keeps good relations with kith and kin, helps the disabled, provides guests with food and shelter and helps the people during their troubles?” (Al-Bukhari 3: 37 #494)

570 CE: Prophet Muhammad born
595 CE: Married Khadijah, his first wife
610 CE: Received the revelation that led to his Call to Islam
613 CE: Started preaching publicly
615 CE: His daughter Fatimah born
622 CE: Left Makkah for Madinah
623 CE: Aisha entered the household of Prophet Muhammad
625 CE: Battle of Uhud

The famous classical commentator on the Quran, Ibn Kathir, wrote in Al-Bidayya wan-Nihaya: “Asmaa’ died in 73 AH at the age of one hundred years. She was ten years older than her sister Aisha.”

It might be worth noting that pubescence is characterized by the proliferation of sex cells which begins with the menarche, or first menstruation, in girls. Research has noted that the average age at which the menarche begins has been decreasing among Western European girls and apparently among girls of the United States and Canada, as well, since as far back as 1976.

What this means is that we should try to avoid generalizations about when menstruation begins; this differs from culture to culture as well as epoch to epoch. If you want to take this further: puberty comes from the Latin word pubertas, which means “adult”. The Quran states what means:

{And when the children among you have attained to puberty, let them seek permission as those before them sought permission; thus does Allah make clear to you His communications, and Allah is Knowing, Wise} (An-Nur 24: 59)

It all depends on what one wishes to recognize, the laws of nature or the social laws constructed by man. Aisha married willingly under circumstances that supported that marriage, whichever argument one chooses to follow.

Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.

Salam.




About Hwaa Irfan

Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.

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