AYESHA MARRY MUHAMMAD (P.B.U.H), THE PROPHET OF ISLAM, AT THE
AGE OF 6?
By Abdul H. Fauq
Quran has not given names and other details of Prophet's wives
but it has confirmed that all marriages of the Prophet (pbuh)
were lawful (33:50). The age of Hadrat Ayisha(r), wife of
the prophet, is disputed on the basis of a calligraphic error
in history books. Narrated history, however sacred, is not
above scrutiny, particularly where dignity and honour of the
prophet is at stake. The following article is an attempt to
dig out reality from the same history.
Jerry Vines while speaking to the Pastors’ Conference of the
Southern Baptist Convention, St. Louis, Missouri on June 10,
2002, called the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (pbuh) a pedophile
and demon-possessed. The Muslims all over the world
were deeply offended by his remarks, as were many people of
other faiths. While certainly both of these allegations
about the person of the Prophet of Islam can be effectively
rebutted, the author of this article proposes to present the
Qur’anic concept of marriageable age as well as an in-depth
analysis of the issue of Ayesha’s age at the time of her marriage
with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). This critique is
based on many historical reports as documented in the history
books of Islam.
First, I would like to point
out that according to the faith of Islam the vast majority of
the Muslims professes, there are two sources of the Divine
Guidance--the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The Quran is the actual
Word of Allah (God) revealed by the archangel Gabriel to
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) over a period of 23 years during the
period 610-632 A.D in the Arabian Peninsula. The Qur’an that
was revealed as Guidance and Light (17:9) for all mankind was
written and properly documented by some forty scirbes during
the lifetime of the Prophet. There is historical as well as
the Qur’anic internal evidence to that effect (80:11-16 and
25:5) as well as God’s personal guarantee against any possible
corruption in the Scripture (15:9). Additionally, the Qur’an
was not only written and documented but it was committed to
memory in its entirety during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh).
This noble tradition of memorization of the Qur’an continues
to this day. One can find hundreds of thousands of
individuals around the world who know the entire Qur’an by
heart. It is noteworthy that although there are several sects
in Islam, the Qur’an remains perfectly preserved to the letter
in its original Arabic language and recited, understood and
referred to for explanations by all sects the same way. Thus,
while the interpretations may vary, the original Arabic text
has remained the same without sectarian bias.
The Qur’an enjoined Muhammad
(and all believers) to strictly follow the Quran (6:106;
10:109; 33:2) and it stands witness to the fact that Muhammad
and his followers did exactly that all their lives (7:203;
46:9; 6:50). In fact, Muhammad 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
Muhammad (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 Muhammad’s
teachings and accept him as a final authority in all their
The Second generally accepted
source of Islamic faith is the Sunnah. The Sunnah
is the summation of Islamic teachings related to faith and
code of conduct as personally practiced and perpetuated by
Muhammad (pbuh) for all believers to implement and follow in
their personal lives as well as in proper Islamic governance.
The Sunnah protocols related to articles of Islamic faith and
rituals are continuous from the day of the Prophet but a great
many others are largely derived from a huge body of
compilations of oral narrations referred to as Hadith.
The Hadith, commonly known as traditions of the
Prophet, consists of many books of compilations of reported
accounts of Muhammad’s sayings, actions, and tacit approvals.
There are six books of Hadith (Sihah Sita) that
are considered authentic by the main stream Sunni Muslims.
There is also a different set of four Hadith books for
the Shia Muslim community. All these books were written
200-300 years after the death of Muhammad (pbuh). The
documentation of these books proceeded based on collection of
hundreds of thousands of stories from the then living people
who transmitted accounts or stories about Muhammad or his
companions as they heard from earlier generations. Thus, the
process of oral transmission (word of mouth) made the basis of
all these collections. This process commonly known as
‘Isnaad’ or ‘chain of narration’ comprised a chain of 4-6
or more narrators in time going back to the companions of
Muhammad and to Muhammad himself over a period of 250-300 or
more years. These accounts seek to portray the Muslim culture
and history during the lifetime of the Prophet of Islam.
Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that the only true
surviving book, call it Islamic history or Divine Guidance,
that was memorized by thousands of Companions of the Prophet
and written in a completely and carefully documented form is
none other than the Qur’an itself. The first non-Qur’anic
history book, ‘Seerat Rasoolallah’ (Seerah), by Ibn Ishaq (d.
767 A.D) was written more than 90 years after the death of
Muhammad. That book of history was also based on oral
transmissions. Ibn Ishaq was severely criticized by some
notable scholars of Islam such as Malik bin Anas, the
originator of the Maliki
of though in Islamic jurisprudence mainly practiced in
The majority of Muslims
considers two of the six Hadith books, those authored
by Al-Bukhari (d. 870 A.D) and Al-Muslim (d. 875 A.D) most
authentic after the Qur’an despite the fact that they were
written 200-300 years after the advent of Islam. These
scholars of Islam exercised great caution in selecting what
they called correct traditions and proceeded with
purest of intentions but one must not lose sight of the fact
that they still collected ‘narrations’ from living people who
were not primary or even secondary and tertiary sources of the
accounts of the life and sayings of Muhammad (pbuh) and his
companions. Some Islamic historians (and/or exegetes of the
Qur’an) whose books about early Islamic history are considered
of high importance and who derive their history of early Islam
from Ibn Ishaq’s Seerah include Tabari (d. 923 ), Ibn
Katheer, Ibn Hisham (d. 827 A.D) and Ibn Hajar Al-asqalani, to
name a few.
The introduction given above
of the two sources of Islam (the Qur’an and the Sunnah/Hadith)
is necessary for the reader to understand the issue at
hand---the age of Ayesha, the third wife of Prophet Muhammad
at the time of her marriage.
How does the Qur’an define
There are several Hadith
reports 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 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 judgment in them, release their property to them;
This verse is taking about
two concepts here: First of all, 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. Thus, the Qur’an gives a clear definition
of adulthood or marriageable age as the one when one has
attained a good measure of mental maturity. This should raise
the question: Does a 6- or 9-year old have that level of
quality of sound judgment? The answer is a resounding NO. If
Muhammad married a 6 year old girl (and consummated her
marriage at age 9), one wonders if he actually followed the
Qur’anic guidelines regarding this issue. Please recall that
the Qur’an states that Muhammad is a model for all mankind and
that he himself followed the Qur’an in its entirety while
ordering the same for his devout followers.
The Qur’anic guidelines as
described clearly in 4:6 tell us that Muhammad 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 for husband-wife
relationship the same composition “meethaqan ghaleezan”
has been used 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 definition of marriage,
which later, when developed and nourished, gives rise to love,
tranquillity and mutual feelings of caring (30:21), as well as
to our offspring as comfort of our eyes (25:74).
These verses, as far as the
author of this article is concerned, should suffice and bury
the issue of the age of Ayesha’s marriage with the Prophet of
Allah (pbuh) for good. Ayesha could not have been 6 years of
1. She could not have
been an adult woman capable of making her own sound decisions,
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
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 of moral pedestal.
Even if child marriages were common in his community, 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 paedophilia by Rev. Vines rested solely on some Hadith
reports and not on any of the Qur’anic verses, the attention
is now turned to those Hadith accounts and many other
observations related to Ayesha’s age, and their in-depth
Was Ayesha really 6 years old
when she married Muhammad?
A few comments about
Muhammad’s marriages are in order. Muhammad married his first
wife, Khadijah, several years before his announcement as a
prophet of Islam. Khadijah was a reasonably well-to-do woman
of Makkah and was 15 years his senior. 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. 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’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 any
human wild sexual desires. In 620-621 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 closest
companion, Abu Bakr, in the 3rd Hijrah (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 Ayesha could have been at
least 16-19 of age at the time of her marriage with Muhammad (pbuh).
The following is the detail of the analysis of these
historical and Hadith accounts.
Several books of Hadith (Al-Bukhari
and Al-Muslim, Abu Dawood, among others) and Islamic history (Tabari,
among others) report that 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 has more
credibility if it is narrated by more people independently
from diverse chains of narrators. In this case, there is
basically only one source.
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’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.
Yaqub ibn Shaibah is reported
to have said, “narratives reported by Hisham are reliable
except those that are reported through the people of Iraq".
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).
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).
Even though 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 54th chapter
of the Qur'an which came 9 years before Hijrah (around 612 A.D).
Thus, according to this tradition, Ayesha was a young 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 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
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
(Sahih Bukhari, kitabu'l-tafsir, Arabic, Bab Qaulihi Bal al-sa`atu
Maw`iduhum wa'l-sa`atu adha' wa amarr).
According to many narratives,
Ayesha participated in the battles of Badr and Uhud. No one
older than 15 was allowed to accompany the Prophet’s army in
the battle of Uhud. This applied across the board to all
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
Most historians have
consensus on the age of one of the oldest female companions of
the Prophet, namely, Asma, the elder sister of Ayesha that 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 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 was
17 at the time of Hijrah and 19 at the time of consummation of
her marriage with Muhammad.
(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).
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 Ayesha
to be at least 14 years of age at the time of her marriage
around 613-624 A.D.
Al-Tabari, Vol 4, Pg 50, Arabic, Dara'l-fikr, Beirut, 1979).
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).
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 happened 8 years
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 2nd Hijrah (623-624
A.D), she could not be less than 19 years of age (a secondary
reference for this argument is: Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e
Ka'inat, Habib ur Rahman Kandhalwi, Urdu, Pg 38, Anjuman Uswa
e hasanah, Karachi, Pakistan).
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: Either Muhammad could marry a virgin (bikr),
or he could go for 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,
13. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has reported that
Fatimah, 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 Muhammad
was 40 and consummated her marriage when he was 54 or 55.
That makes Aysha at least 15-16 years of age.
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 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 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
conclusion, this article is an attempt to prove that
the books written 200-300 years after the death of Muhammad,
while providing a good deal of historical information about
him are not free from faulty, less than perfect and self-contradictory
materials. These should not be taken as the final word
for a Muslim. There is a Final Word for a Muslim and
that is the Book of God, 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 Muhammad is a model
for mankind, if he followed the Qur’an all his life, if Allah
stands witness to his rock-solid character, there is no way
that he could have taken a 6-9 year old, immature young, playful
girl as a responsible wife.