Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Needless Controversy over the Age of Marriage of Ummul Mu'mineen Hazrat Ayesha (ra) With Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh): Tracing the Possible Source of a Misconception about Her Very Early Marriage

By MV Muhammad Saleem Moulavi 29 November 2022 (Translated from Malayalam by: V.A. Mohamad Ashrof, New Age Islam) Ayesha (ra): Born CE 606; Died: CE 678 Father: Abu Bakr Abdullah bin Abi Quhafa (ra); Mother: Umm Ruman. She lived nine years in the Prophet's house and has narrated 2210 hadiths. Of these, 316 hadiths were reported by Bukhari and Muslim. Marriage with the Prophet It was during CE 620 that the Prophet married Hazrat Aisha. She was married at the age of fifteen. Honeymoon was at the age of eighteen. 1 She was the most knowledgeable person about Islam in the early Islamic era; a reference for them to seek the opinion of the Companions of the Holy Prophet in the interpretation of the Holy Qur'an and also the art of human moral life. Umar (ra) used to send people to Aisha to understand the religious rules related to women and matters related to the personal life of the Holy Prophet. There was no one else who could compete with Aisha in any of these matters. Famous Arab jurist and traditionist Zuhari (d.741 CE) commented thus: Ayesha's knowledge was superior to that of all women. Leading traditionalist Al-Hakim al-Nishapuri (d.1014 CE) says in his ‘Al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihayn’: Umm al-Mu'minin Aisha (ra) was a great personality, well versed in the Arabic language, in Halal and Haram, and in medicine. Abu Musa al-Ash'ari (d.665 CE), a companion of Prophet Muhammad and an important figure in early Islamic history, says: Whatever doubts we, the disciples of the Prophet, were in, we would get a clear answer from Aisha. When a scandal was spread about reverent Aisha, it was Revelation from Heaven (Q.24:11-12) that has finally established her sanctity. This should be taken as her greatest glory. Ayesha's life was a great example of leading Muslims in all fields during their lifetime. In the field of knowledge as well as in the field of action, that unassuming personality shined brightly. The curtain fell on that eventful life in CE 678, 58 AH on the seventeenth day of Holy Ramadan. She was about 73 years old then. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: “Despite The Highly Sexualized Image of Him in the West, The Multiply Married Muhammad Was Celibate” - Lesley Hazleton: A Fresh Insight Into Prophet Muhammad’s Conjugal Relations With His Later Wives That Has Spawned A Great Deal Of Controversy ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Why this Study is Significant? Scholars need to conduct research and correct some misconceptions that are widely prevalent in the Muslim community in a venture to find out the reality. By reconsidering in this way, an attempt is being made here to explore a widely prevalent misunderstanding. This is also a topic of contemporary importance that has been debated by many eminent scholars and proposed to correct public perception about Islam. Let us go through the evidence cited by many researchers such as Abbas Mahmood Al Akhad, Dr. Hussain Munis and a group of historians, Salahuddin Ahmad Al Idlibi, Allama Kanthalavi, etc. Like in other areas, the family life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is also a model for the entire human race. Prophet Muhammad must be the paragon in all spheres. This can be discussed from multiple angles. The Prophet's first addresses were a polygamous society. The Prophet taught to change that system of polygamy with a broader liberative outlook for the destitute (Q.4:3). Child Marriage? One thing is particularly noteworthy here. The world will not discuss the child marriage of an emperor, a socio-political leader or a tribal chief. People just bluff it off arguing that it was a widely prevalent custom during their time. Here the protagonist is a prophet who is a Role Model for mankind till the end of the world. After him no other prophet would come to guide mankind on the basis of divine teachings. The connection of the inhabitants of the earth with the heavenly world ended with the revelation of the Qur'an through the Prophet Muhammad, the final Prophet. He is the receiver and interpreter of the Qur'an. Therefore, it is necessary that his model of life should be unique and superior to all others. Therefore, it is not correct to cite the examples of other leaders to justify the story of child marriage spread in the name of the Prophet. He is the great benefactor who determined the rights of women to remain till the end of the world and taught it to the world through his great exemplary life. We must not forget that his teachings should be superior to everyone else. We can say that all other marriages of this wonderful man were exemplary if we evaluate them with those considerations in mind. But there is no possibility that the Prophet (pbuh) would ever take a position that is not in accordance with the Quran, ignoring all the principles in a specific marriage. It is sad that the followers themselves believe and propagate that there was an incident in the life of the Prophet to discredit the exemplary life of the Prophet at a time when the guidance of Islam is most necessary for the world, which has tried all man-made ideologies in futile. It is against this backdrop that we must evaluate the research we are attempting here. Just because an idea remains uncorrected for a long period of time does not make it true. Believers should accept good wherever they see it, and never be willing to accept falsehood and immorality. Child marriage is widely recognized in the world. Even in the modern era, many child marriages take place. Islam does not teach the acceptance of some widely held practices. The followers of Islam, who have taught women to select their husbands out of their own free will, should not take away the rights of women by giving too much freedom to parents. Therefore, it is important to note that this discussion and explanation should be critically evaluated to form a considered opinion. Let us examine the married life of the Prophet from the basic level. Then only we can clearly understand the manner in which the Prophet behaved till the end of his life. It is only in that light that we must judge this particular incident of marriage of Aisha (ra). The Prophet started his marital life at the age of twenty-five. He married a woman who was 15 years older than him as his first wife. That marital relationship continued till the Prophet reached the age of 50. He did not think of another marriage until the death of his beloved wife Khadija (ra), who gave all her support in his activities. But after her demise, the Prophet accepted polygamy as part of Islamic teaching. The Prophet had nine wives when he left this world. This large family played an important role in the fulfilment of the Prophet's mission. It was through this huge family that the divine instructions related to women and the family, who were half of the society and a prominent element, were taught. The family of the Prophet set a great example to find solutions to the problems that are always faced in family life. Umm al-Mu'mineen Ayesha (ra) played the most significant role in the execution of this great mission. Among the wives of the Prophet (pbuh), there was only one virgin; all the rest were either widows or divorcees. Aisha, the youngest daughter of Abu Bakr, his best friend and closest follower, was the only virgin married by the Prophet. It is generally believed that the Prophet (pbuh) married in her infancy. Many Muslims also hold this view, without recognizing the intensity of damage to the personality and image of the Prophet Muhammad. Now, let us scrutinize the story of that marriage in detail. Khadija (ra) passed away when the Prophet was fifty years old. The mother of his children died. A family woman became necessary to protect their children and take care of the households. The followers saw the plight of the Prophet and represented Khawlah bint Hakim to the Prophet to persuade him to arrange a marriage relationship. ----------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: Was Hazrat Aisha Married to the Prophet in Her Childhood? ----------------------------------------------------------- The Engagement Happened Thus: "Would you like to get married?" Khawlah asked the Prophet. "Who?" inquired the Prophet. 'Virgin?' she asked. "Who is the virgin?" Holy Prophet enquired. "Your best friend's daughter Ayesha” said Khawlah.'' Widow?'' asked the Prophet again. Sawdah d/o Zam'ah, after it was indicated that Aisha was too young to rule the family, the Prophet asked to enquire about Sawdah bint Zam'ah. (Narrated by Tabarani, Hakim and Ibn Abi Asim on the authority of Aisha). Sawdah was a mother of five children at that time and was 55 years old. The Prophet was fifty years old then. Sawdah (ra) did raise the doubt that she would be a burden to the Prophet with her children at an age when male could not arouse interest. But the glorious position of the Prophet's wifehood is what every believer desires! It was after the marriage with Sawdah that the Prophet (pbuh) married his third wife Aisha (ra). Sawdah (ra) was helping Ayesha at every level. When Khawlah (ra) came with the marriage proposal, the mother of Aisha told her thus: A close friend of Abu Bakr (ra) Mut'im bin Adiy was looking for Aisha for his son Jubair. Usually, Abu Bakr does not reject Mut'im's request. I will reply only after knowing his opinion. When Abu Bakr (ra) went to meet Mut'im bin Adiy, his wife asked: "Is this marriage to join our son to the new religion?" Abu Bakr was willing to give his daughter in marriage to the Prophet only after knowing that Mut'im also had this disagreement. One thing is very clear: The Prophet did not show any excessive enthusiasm for marrying a virgin for the first time. It was three long years after the marriage that the Prophet had physical relations with Aisha. The Prophet was about 54 years old when he came in intimate contact with Aisha. The Prophet, who was the leader of a nation and the apple of the eyes of the believers, had many followers who were willing to accomplish whatever he wanted. All of them would come forward willingly to offer any beautiful maiden to the Prophet in marriage. However, that was not what happened. The Prophet married widows and divorcees again, for bestowing protection of the destitute. The divine revelation came to the Prophet when his wife Khadijah was fifty-five years old. And a year later, the Quraysh came up with a formula to turn the Prophet away from the new liberation movement. The key item in the formula was this: "The most beautiful young woman in Arabia can be married to the Prophet, if only this new propaganda is stopped." The Prophet said to his uncle: "Dear uncle, even if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand, I will not turn back from this mission." Aisha herself narrated the story: “I was six years old when the Prophet (pbuh) married me and consummated when she was nine years old. When the Ansari women were preparing me for my honeymoon, I was in a state of fever, hair loss, and poor health.” The rest of the story is that the Prophet died when Aisha was eighteen years old and she spent the rest of her life as a widow. There are many reasons to assume and circulate this story as a true account. It is placed in Bukhari and Muslim, who took great care to codify only the authentic hadiths. It has been reported in many history books through many series. Apart from this, child marriage was widespread in Arabia during that time. The age difference between the spouses was not a problem for anyone at that era. It was even common for best friends to use marriage to cement their relationship. ----------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: In Defence Of The Prophet's Marriage With Hazrat Ayesha Even If She Was A Minor, According To A Hadees Report Narrated By A Single Person, That Too A Senile Old Man ----------------------------------------------------------- Islam and Child Marriage This marriage of Aisha is often cited as proof that Islam accepts child marriage. An interpretation of a Qur'anic verse (Q. 65:4) is also used as corroborative evidence for the purpose. In the fourth verse of Surah Talaq, we read: “As for your women past the age of menstruation, in case you do not know, their waiting period is three months, and those who have not menstruated as well. As for those who are pregnant, their waiting period ends with delivery.” Some Qur'anic commentators have noted that the Qur'anic expression ‘of not menstruating’ refers to ‘young girls’. Many people have fallen into that notion. But there is a small percentage of women who are sexually mature and do not menstruate. It is quite clear that these particular women are meant in this verse (Q.65:4). The reason is that the specific verse is the explanation of Iddah. (Iddah is the period a woman must observe after the death of her husband or after a divorce, during which she may not marry another man). Iddah is obligatory only after intercourse. Iddah does not apply to little girls as is evident from the explicit verse: "Believers, you have no right to expect a waiting period when you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have touched them: make provision for them and release them in an honourable way." (Q.33:49) Therefore, the said verse (65:4) cannot be cited as evidence for child marriage in any manner. Child marriage is not compatible with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah regarding marriage. The Qur'an says in the fourth chapter: "And test the orphans [in your charge] until they reach a marriageable age; then, if you find them to be mature of mind, hand over to them their possessions.” (4:6). The time for restitution of orphans' property is fixed in this verse on the basis that there is a legal age for marriage. The commentators of the Qur'an have explained this age limit as follows: Marriageable age is when the physical signs of puberty appear or when one reaches the age of fifteen. While the majority said this, Imam Abu Hanifa (ra) commented: The age of marriage or puberty is eighteen for boys and seventeen for girls. Fiqh scholars have different opinions about puberty. From this it is very clear that the teaching of the Quran does not favour child marriage. Now Let's See What Is the Instruction on This Subject in Sunnah At that time in Arabia, women had no voice in matters of marriage; her opinion had little validity. Marriages were often most done according to parents’ intention. Arabia came to know the fact that women have rights and freedom of expression only after the advent of Islam. Umar ibn al-Khattab said: “In Jahiliya (period of ignorance), we used to have no regard for women whatsoever. But when Islam came and Allah made mention of them, this caused us to realize that they have rights upon us…” (Bukhari, Hadith 5505) Choosing a life partner is the most important right of women. No one has the power to force her to spend her life with someone she doesn't like. This is what the Prophet (pbuh) taught. Islam has given women the right to choose their life partner and reject them if they do not like them. A hadith reported by Bukhari and Muslim: Aisha (ra) said: “I asked the Prophet. O Messenger of Allah, should women's permission be sought for marriage? The Prophet said 'Yes'. I said: If you ask the virgin for her consent, she might shy away and keep silent. Then he replied: "Her silence is her consent." But if she is divorced or a widow, she must express her consent. (Bukhari 5136) The Prophet's expression means that the matter of marriage should be consulted with her. If any person wants to have any opinion about marriage, he or she should attain a certain age. Infants do not know the merits and demerits of their prospective spouse. They are the same whether they agree or not. Therefore, the marriageable age taught by the Qur'an and the requirement of consent taught by the Prophet are the same concept. It is an essential part of marriage in Islam. The Prophet gave his daughter Fatima (ra) in marriage to Ali Ibn Abitalib at the age of twenty. The marriage occurred only after obtaining his daughter's consent. ----------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: Hazrat Aisha’s Controversial Age at Marriage: Nine or Nineteen? ----------------------------------------------------------- Ayesha's Age of Marriage through History Now let's do a historical check on Aisha's marriage. This is to understand whether the age mentioned in the hadiths is correct or incorrect. That might be the right way. The Prophet received Prophethood when he was 40 years old. It was in CE 610. The Prophet preached in Mecca for 13 years. In CE 623 the base was shifted to Madinah, after migration. He was engaged in preaching activities there for 10 years. His death was in CE 633. This is an established history and there can be any dispute over these dates. The Prophet married Aisha three years before the journey to Madinah. If Aisha was 6 years old then, her birth would be in CE 614; four years after receiving Prophethood. This is inconsistent with historical facts. All the historians record that the elder sister Asma (ra) was 10 years older than Aisha. Asma (ra) was 27 years old at the time of the migration to Madinah. So Asma (ra) would have been 14 years old when the Prophet received Prophethood. It is clear from this that Aisha (ra) was a 4-year-old girl at that time. Aisha was born in 606 and not in CE 614. Naturally, Aisha was 15 years old when the Prophet married her in CE 621. It was a year after the Hijra, the Prophet had sexual contact with Aisha. She must have completed 18 years of age. We can examine the various aspects of the subject through a detailed study of historical facts. The first thing to check is the information to confirm Asma's age. Asma’s son Abdullah bin Zubair (ra) was martyred in 73 AH. Asma (ra) passed away the same year. All historians agree that she was 100 years old when died. So it is clear that she was 27 years old at the time of Hijra (100-73= 27). At that time younger sister Aisha was 17 years old (27-10= 17). From this it is very clear that Aisha was born four years before the attainment of the Prophethood (17-13=4). Now check the evidence that Aisha was born four years before Prophethood. Ibn Jarir Al Tabari in his book Tariqul Umami wal Muluk (Tariq Al- Tabari) records as follows: “Abu Bakr married Khatila, daughter of Abdul Uzza before Islam (during Jahiliyyah). They gave birth to Abdullah and Asma. Before Islam he married Amir's daughter Umm Ruman. They gave birth to children Abur Rahman and Ayesha. These four progenies of Abu Bakr were born before Islam.” Here Tabari has said that Abu Bakr married both his wives before the inception of Islam. So again to say that they were married before Islam would be a meaningless utterance. Therefore, the meaning of what he recorded is that these four children of Hazrat Abu Bakr were born before Islam from the wives mentioned. Ibn Ishaq, in his famous narrative, records the names of the early converts to Islam: Later, a number of Arab tribes embraced Islam. Among them were Sa'id bin Sa'id, his wife Fatimah bint al-Khattab, Asma bint Abibakr, Aisha bint Abibakr - she was young - and others." And Ibn Abi Khaysama in Al Tariq A-Kabir recorded this event without any criticism of Ibn Ishaq. It has been quoted in Baihaqi, Dalailunbawwa, Ibn Abd al-Barr in his Addurar Fiqtisar Maghazi Wassir, Al Kala'i in his Al Iqtifa'il, Ibn al-Kazir al-Bidaya Wanniha' and al-Mukhrisi in Imta Ulma'il. Here, Ibn Ishaq is arguing about the people who came to Islam during the time of secret preaching. This method of secret instruction continued for about three years during the early days of Islam. After that, the Prophet was ordered to preach openly. The motivation to include the name of the little girl Aisha here may be her father's position and the association of her with her elder sister Asma. Another incident reported by Bukhari is as follows: Aisha (ra) said. "My parents were converts to Islam from the time I could remember. The Prophet (pbuh) used to come to our house every morning and evening. When the Muslims were persecuted, his father Abu Bakr fled to Absinia (Ethiopia)”. Young children may not be aware of their parents' religious beliefs or ideological positions. Abu Bakr's family embraced Islam in the early years of the Prophethood. So this statement only makes sense if Aisha had the maturity enough to understand Islam early on. Aisha did not say that she was born and brought up in a Muslim family. A phrase that compares both Islam and Jahiliyyah (Age of Ignorance) meant that the parents were converts to Islam. The first exodus to Ethiopia was in the fifth year after receiving the Divine Enlightenment. It is clear from this report that Aisha was old enough to remember exactly what happened that day. At the correct count Aisha must have been nine years old at that time. Aisha (ra) clearly remembers the revelation of Al-Qamar, the fifty-fourth chapter of the Qur'an. In the Tafsirs, it is said that the said chapter was revealed in the fifth year of the Prophethood. If she was merely six years old at the time of the marriage in CE 621, would she not have been a weaned little girl at the time of this chapter? The bare fact is that she was born four years before Prophethood and was nine years old at that time. Khawla (ra) came to seek permission to discuss marriage and described Aisha (ra) as a virgin (bikr). Khawla was looking for a family woman who can fill the void in every sense in the house of a man whose wife has died! This epithet of ‘bikr’ applies to a grown woman (there is no doubt that a six-year-old girl cannot control a family). Saying that Aisha was young even though she was 15 years old, the Prophet asked Khoula (ra) to look for Sawdah and later married her. We have seen that Aisha (ra) was considering marriage alliance with Jubair son of Mut’im while the proposal with the Prophet was made. It is also correct to assume that this wedding proposal took place before the inception of Islam. Ayesha (r) reported that the Prophet (pbuh) prayed for Umar (ra) to convert to Islam. Umar embraced Islam in the sixth year of Prophethood. The Prophet’s prayer was done before that. Born four years after Prophethood, Aisha would not have been weaned then. Actually she can remember all this just because she was born four years before the Prophethood of Muhammad. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: Hazrat Aisha's Contribution In The Spread, Propagation And Legacy Of Islam ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is well-known that Ayesha (ra) was with Umm Sulaym and Umm Ammara who served the soldiers at the Battle of Uhd. (See Bukhari, Jihad 64) A ten-year-old girl cannot serve on the battlefield. In a hadith reported by Anas (ra), Aisha (ra) is described as running to give water to thirsty soldiers with a goat skin filled with water on her shoulder. He recounts that she lifted her skirt to run so her legs were visible. It takes a lot of strength to lift a goat skin full of water. Nine or ten year olds can't carry it and run the way it was described. Aisha (ra) narrated the hadiths of what Khawlah bint Hakim said to the Prophet (pbuh) about marriage. A girl cannot hear and understand all such discussions at the age of six. Immediately after this incident, the Prophet married Sawdah. Later he married Ayesha (ra). In short, saying that the Prophet married Aisha (ra) at the age of six and married her at the age of nine is inconsistent with many brute historical facts. This will further create more anachronisms. (Anachronism means the action of attributing something to a period to which it does not actually belong.) The hadiths based on child marriage are not therefore trustworthy. It is necessary to examine how such a hadith entered Bukhari and Muslim. These hadiths were reported 184 years after the Prophet's marriage. In these narratives, there are expressions that deliberately slander great Ayesha. Some vested interests tried to cheapen that young gem who has excelled in reporting hadiths and explaining Islamic jurisprudence. For that reason, they might have used a series of fabrications of hadiths. There is a hadith reported through the same chain that Aisha (ra) reported to have said that the Prophet was afflicted with Sihr (black magic). Bukhari, Muslim, etc. may have been wrongly tempted to assume that it was also a reliable chain. There can be certain situations when the chain of reports is acceptable but the content contradicts with the historical facts (anachronism). The historical facts explained above are sufficient proof that the contents of these child marriage hadiths are false. To determine the authenticity of the hadith, the content should be checked along with the series of other reports. The content of the child-marriage hadith is also contrary to the teachings of the Qur'an and the established Sunnah as we have already established. The age of marriage is taught in the Qur'an as a definite basis. The Prophet emphasized that a woman should be married only with her consent. He could not have broken that noble directives. If we study the facts in detail, we can reach the following conclusion: Prophet (pbuh) married Aisha (ra) when she was 15 years old. It was only after the completion of 18 years, that the Prophet made a marriage alliance with Aisha. That marital relationship continued till her age of 27. The Prophet breathed his last while lying on her lap. That great virtuous woman journeyed to Allah in the year 58 Hijra leaving an indelible mark on Islamic history. She was 73 years old. May Allah's mercy be upon her forever. Ameen! References 1. Al Kamil, Tariq Dimashq, Siyru Aulaminnubalai, Tariq al-Tabari, Albidaya Vannihaya, Tariq Baghdad, Wafayat al-Aeyan, etc. 2. See Tafseer Al Qurtubi Volume 5, Page 35 for explanation 3. Al Tabari Vol. 3, pp. 425-426 4. Hakim Mustadrak, Volume 3, Page 83 ----- MV Muhammad Saleem Moulavi is the President of Ithihadul Ulema, a prestigious Islamic scholarly body of Kerala. (Translated from Malayalam by: V.A. Mohamad Ashrof) URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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