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Sayyada Ayesha was 19 (Nineteen Year Old) when she married Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): Denounce the false report from Hisham Urwah

This is a powerful argument that each concerned with the facts must memorise in order to denounce those who say prophet PBUH married a six year old girl child.  This write up clearly shows that the prophet PBUH did not violate the Qur'aanic injunction on age of marriage clearly indicated in verse 4:6. As per verse 4:21, prophet could never have entered into a solemn covenant with a 6 year old girl child. We have evidence from the Qur'aan and from Ahadith to show that Sayyada Ayesha when she married  the prophet PBUH  in second Hijri was 19 years old.

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The Author of the Qur’an, Allah, the Most High, enjoined Prophet Muhammad (and all believers) to strictly follow the Quran (6:106; 10:109; 33:2) and it stands witness to the fact that Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers did exactly that all their lives (7:203; 46:9; 6:50).  In fact, Muhammad (pbuh) himself was warned in rather stern terms not to go against the Qur’anic teachings (17:39, 10:94-95, 69:40-48). 

Furthermore, the Qur’an declares the Prophet (pbuh) to be a man of highest moral standards (68:4; 33:21) and the best exemplar for humanity. 

The Qur’an enjoins the believers in scores of verses to follow Prophet Muhammad’s teachings and accept him as a final authority in all their affairs.

There are several Hadithreports that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) married his third wife Ayesha when she was 6 year old and consummated her marriage when she was 9. 

If this is true, then it must be consistent with the Qur’an that tells us that Prophet Muhammad himself followed the Qur’an before he asked others to follow it. 

The Qur’an does not assign a definite number to the age at which a man or a woman becomes ‘adult’ or ready to marry.  However, there is a clear definition of the marriageable age as per 4:6:

[an-Nisa' 4:6] Make trial of orphans until they reach the age of marriage; if then ye find sound judgmentin them, release their property to them;

This verse is taking about two concepts here: First, the trustee of a property should first test the ability of the grown up orphan to see if he or she is capable of managing his or her own affairs well. 

Second, the Qur’an provides guidelines for the trustee as to the time at which the property of the orphans is to be handed over--it is the time when the orphan has attained adulthood or marriageable age and that he or she has attained a good degree of mental maturity. 

In this way, the Qur’an gives a clear definition of adulthood or marriageable age as one when a man or a woman has attained a good measure of mental maturity. 

This should raise the question:  Does a 6- or 9-year old have that level or quality of sound judgment? 

The answer is a resounding NO. 

If the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) married a 6 year old girl (and consummated her marriage at age 9 as reported), one wonders if he actually followed the Qur’anic guidelines regarding this issue. 

Please recall that the Qur’an states that Muhammad (pbuh) is a model for all mankindand the Qur’an stand witness to the fact that he himself followed the Qur’an in its entirety while urging his devout companions to do the same. 

The Qur’anic guidelines as described clearly in 4:6 tell us that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) could not have married a young girl of age 6 or 9

There are other verses where the marriage bond has been described as “solemn covenant/solid contract---Meethaqan ghaleezan” (4:21).

It is mighty revealing to me that in 4:21 the same phrase “meethaqan ghaleezan” has been used for husband-wife relationship as for the covenant that Allah took from all the prophets including our own prophet (33:7). 

Not only that, the same expression was also used when Allah took covenant from the Jews not to violate the Sabbath (4:154). 

Thus, according to the Qur'an 'tying the knot' is going for a "Meethaqan Ghaleezan" (a solemn covenant of mutual trust and faithfulness for each other). 

This a relationship of marriage that, when developed and nourished in time, gives rise to true love, tranquility and mutual feelings of caring (30:21) between us, to the point that our offspring become soothing comfort of our eyes (25:74).

As far as the author of this article is concerned, these verses should suffice and bury the issue of the age of Sayyida Ayesha’s marriage with the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) for good.  In sum, Ayesha (r.a) could not have been 6 years of age because:

  1. She could not have been an adult woman capable of making her own sound decisions, and,
  2. She could not have entered into a ‘solemn covenant’ at the age of 6 with a 55-year old man.  This defies all reasons for a productive and meaningful union.
  3. The Prophet, according to the Qur’an, is a model for all humanity.  The Qur’an tells us that he was at the highest moral pedestal.  Even if child marriages were not uncommon in his day and age, he could not have gone for it because it went against the Qur’anic injunctions of 4:6 and 4:21.

Nonetheless, since the charge of pedophilia by Rev. Vinesrested solely on some Hadith reports and not on any of the Qur’anic verses, the attention is now turned to those Hadith accounts as well as other observations related to Sayyida Ayesha's age, and their in-depth analysis.

Was Bibi Ayesha (ra) really 6 years old when she married Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?

A few comments about Prophet Muhammad’s marriages are in order. Muhammad married his first wife, Sayyida Khadijah (ra), several years before the Call.  Khadijah was a reasonably well-to-do woman of Makkah and was reportedly15 years his senior.  Prophet Muhammad was 25 and Khadijah was 40 at the time of their marriage.

This loving and caring monogamous relationship continued for 25 years until her death. 

Prophet Muhammad, now over 50 years of age, married a relatively aged woman by the name of Saudah

It is thus important to note here that Muhammad (pbuh)’s twenty five prime youth years were spent in purely monogamous relationship with a lady 15 years his senior.

This speaks volumes about this man’s piety and loyalty in spousal matters as well as about the fact that his later marriages could not have been motivated by basal sexual desires.

In 622 A.D, he and his devout companions migrated from Makkah to Medina .

Then a couple of years later, he married Ayesha, a daughter of his companion, Abu Bakr, in the 3rdHijrah (Islamic calendar--623-24 A.D). 

This information coming from diverse historical and Hadith sources is widely agreed upon and therefore can be, a priori, considered authentic. 

Based on this information, and a host of other related bits and pieces detailed below, it can be shown that Sayyida Ayesha could have been at least 16-19 of age at the time of her marriage with Muhammad (pbuh). 

The following is an analysis of these historical and Hadith accounts.

(1)     Several books of Hadith (Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim, Abu Dawood, among others) and Islamic history (Tabari, among others) report that Sayyida Ayesha was married to the Prophet at 6 but her marriage was not consummated until she was 9. 

Although, this information is widely quoted and found in many Hadith and history books, it must be noted that most of this information has come from a single person, Hisham bin Urwah, who is the last narrator of this Hadith Isnaad(chain of narration) on the authority of his father. 

Thus, this Hadith is primarily a single Hadith. 

Some other narratives mention the same Hadith but their narration has been found weak and unacceptable.

In general, a Hadith is considered more credible if it is narrated by more people independently, i.e., from diverse chains of narrators.  In this case, there is basically only one source.

(2)     Despite the abundance of information available during the 71 years that Hisham bin Urwah lived and taught in Medina, it is rather odd that that no one else—not even his famous pupil Malik ibn Anas---reported Ayesha (ra)’s age from Hisham in Medina. 

Furthermore, all the narrators of this Hadith were Iraqis.  Hisham is reported to have moved to Iraq in his later years.

An extensive list of biographical sketches of all narrators including these Iraqis is available in some books.

(3)     Yaqub ibn Shaibah is reported to have said, “narratives reported by Hisham are reliable except those that are reported through the people of Iraq ".

Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 795), a student of Hisham, in fact discredited all narratives of Hisham that were reported through people of Iraq .

(Tehzibu'l-tehzib, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-Islami, one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh), vol 11, pg 48 - 51).

(4)     It is reported that Hisham bin Urwah’s memory suffered in his later years to the extent that some of the traditions reported from Hisham bin Urwah could not be trusted for authenticity.

(Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, by Al-Zahbi , Arabic, a book on the life sketches of the narrators of the Hadith, Al-Maktabatu'l-athriyyah, Sheikhupura, Pakistan, Vol 4, pg 301).

(5)     Even though Sayyida Ayesha is reported to have been born about eight years before Hijrah (around 614 A.D.), one can find another narrative in Bukhari (kitabu'l-tafseer) whereby Ayesha is reported to have said that she was a ‘young girl’ at the time of revelation of the 54thchapter of the Qur'an which came 9 years before Hijrah (around 612 A.D).

Thus, according to this tradition, Sayyida Ayesha (ra) was a young yet grown-up girl (Jariyah—as she calls herself and not an infant in which case she would be sibyah). 

Additionally, this narrative stands in direct contrast to the one reported on Sayyida Ayesha’s age by Hisham bin Urwah.  This puts Ayesha’s age significantly higher than 9 as reported by Hisham bin Urwah—possibly 15 or even higher.

Obviously, if this narrative is held to be true, it is in clear contradiction with the narratives reported by Hisham ibn Urwah.

There is no compelling reason as to why this tradition should be considered less accurate vis-à-vis Hisham’s narrative).
(Sahih Bukhari, kitabu'l-tafsir, Arabic, Bab Qaulihi Bal al-sa`atu Maw`iduhum wa'l-sa`atu adha' wa amarr).

(6)     According to many narratives, Ayesha participated in the battles of Badr and Uhud.  No one younger than 15 was allowed to accompany the Prophet’s army in the battle of Uhud. 

This applied uniformly to all battle participants, men and women alike.

The battle of Uhud took place around the 2nd  Hijrah, a time line close to her marriage with the Prophet.

Obviously, she was at least older than 15 at that time.

(7)     A narrative regarding Ayesha's participation in the battle of `Uhud is given in Bukhari, (Kitabu'l-jihad wa'l-siyar, Arabic, Bab Ghazwi'l-nisa' wa qitalihinna ma`a'lrijal; that all boys under 15 were sent back is given in Bukhari, Kitabu'l-maghazi, Bab ghazwati'l-khandaq wa hiya'l-ahza'b, Arabic).

(8)     Most historians have consensus on the age of one of the oldest female companions of the Prophet, namely, Sayyida Asma (ra), the elder sister of Ayesha, who was ten years older than Ayesha.

It is also reported in Taqri'bu'l-tehzi'b as well as Al-bidayah wa'l-nihayah that Asma had a very long life (she died in 73 Hijrah when she was 100 years old).

Clearly, if Asma was 27 or 28 years old at the time of Hijrah, Ayesha could be obviously 17 at the time of Hijrah and 19 at the time of consummation of her marriage with the Prophet of Islam. (For Asma being 10 years older than Ayesha, see A`la'ma'l-nubala', Al-Zahabi, Vol 2, Pg 289, Arabic, Mu'assasatu'l-risalah, Beirut, 1992.  Ibn Kathir confirms this fact,  [Asma] was elder to her sister [Ayesha] by ten years" (Al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol 8, Pg 371, Arabic, Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933). 

For Asma being 100 years old, see Al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol 8, Pg 372, Arabic, Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933).  Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani also has the same information: 

"She [Asma (ra)] lived a hundred years and died in 73 or 74 AH." Taqribu'l-tehzib, Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Pg 654, Arabic, Bab fi'l-nisa', al-harfu'l-alif, Lucknow ).

(9)     Tabari informs in his treatise on Islamic history that Abu Bakr had four children and all four were born during the pre-Islamic period. 

The pre-Islamic period ended in 610 A.D, a fact that makes Sayyida Ayesha to be at least 14 years of age at the time of her marriage around 613-624 A.D.

Tarikhu'l-umam wa'l-mamlu'k, Al-Tabari, Vol 4, Pg 50, Arabic, Dara'l-fikr, Beirut , 1979).

(10) Ibn Hisham, the historian, reports that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam quite some time before `Umar ibn al-Khattab which only means that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam close to the time of first revelation (around 610 A.D).

This means she must have been at least a young girl at that time. 

Assuming she was barely 6 or 7 at that time this information puts the age of Ayesha at 20 or more at the time of her marriage with Muhammad (623-624 A.D.), (Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Ibn Hisham, vol 1, Pg 227 – 234 and 295, Arabic, Maktabah al-Riyadh al-hadithah, Al-Riyadh).

(11) Tabari reports that before migrating to Habashah, Abu Bakr planned to hand over his daughter, Ayesha to Mut’am’s son to whom she was engaged. 

But fearing persecution by the Quraish, Mut’am refused and his son divorced Ayesha. 

The migration to Habashah took place 8 years or so before Hijra. 

Obviously, at the time she was ready to take on responsibilities as a wife (possibly 9 or 10 years of age). 

If she married Muhammad in the 2ndHijrah (623-624 A.D), she could not be less than 19 years of age (a secondary reference for this argument can be found in Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka'inat, Habib ur Rahman Kandhalwi, Urdu, Pg 38, Anjuman Uswa e hasanah, Karachi, Pakistan).

(12) A famous Sunni imam, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, reports in His Musnad, that after the death of Khadijah, Khaulah came to the Prophet (pbuh) and advised him to marry again.  She had two propositions for the Prophet (pbuh): 

Either Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) could marry a virgin (bikr), or he could go for some woman who had already been married (thayyib)".

Khaulah named Ayesha for a virgin (bikr).

It is common knowledge that the term bikr in the Arabic language refers to a well formed lady and not to a 9 year old, playful, immature lass. 

If she were nine, the word used by Khaulah would have been jariyah and not bikr.

(Musnad, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol 6, Pg 210, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-`arabi, Beirut).

(13) Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has reported that Sayyida Fatimah (ra), Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, was five years older than Ayesha and that Fatimah  was born when the Prophet was 35 years old.

Thus, Ayesha, according to Ibn Hajar, was born when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was 40 and consummated her marriage when he was 54 or 55.  That makes Aysha at least 15-16 years of age.

(Al-isabah fi tamyizi'l-sahabah, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Vol 4, Pg 377, Arabic, Maktabatu'l-Riyadh al-haditha, al-Riyadh,1978)

Finally, it must be pointed out that Sayyida Ayesha’s age at the time of her marriage has never been an issue. 

If it were, his enemies must have picked up on this issue as they did to him on some other issues.

Also, the reader must note that none of these Hadith reports concerning Ayesha’s controversial age of marriage with the Prophet goes back to the Prophet (pbuh) himself. 

In other words, it is not the Prophet himself who said Ayesha was 6 or 9. 

These reports came from a single individual and the Iraqis reported from him when he grew old and his memory was on a downhill slide.

In conclusion, this article is an attempt to prove that the books written 200-300 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), though seeking to provide a good deal of historical information about him, are not free from less than perfect and self-contradictory materials. 

These should not be taken as the final word for a Muslim. 

There is a Final Word  the Holy Qur’an—the book that defines the marriageable age for a man or woman when he or she attains soundness of judgment (Al-Qur’an 4:6).

If the exalted prophet of Islam is a model for all-time mankind, if he followed the Qur’an all his life, if Allah stands witness to his rock-solid moral character, there is no way that he could have taken a 6-9 year old, immature young, playful girl as a responsible wife.

May Allah, the most High, show us the Path that leads to the Truth—the Truth that is Divinely revealed, pristinely preserved forever for the guidance of mankind!


Author Unknown recieved as such from Zinat Khan ,USA

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Tags: Ayesha, Education, Muhammad, Sayyada, children, marriage, prophet, rights

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Comment by IMEDA India on September 14, 2013 at 12:54

This is the most important learning  We need to communicate more for denouncing child marriage .In the intra muslim discussions among the 97 scholars from muslim community, all agree considering the above that report on the age of Sayyada Ayesha being six years of age is false. She must have been between 16 -19. 

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