Aisha’s Young Marriage

Won’t somebody please think of the children (from The Spittoon)

This is an article from a liberal perspective on controversies about publications which find fault with the marriage of the Prophet (صل الله عليه و سلم) with A’isha, which was consummated when the latter was nine years old, as authentic sources confirm. This naturally raises certain hackles, which we are all familiar with, among westerners. This article, by Abdurrahman Squires (formerly of Mere Islam), is an excellent rejoinder to both those critics and to Muslims who can’t face the facts themselves.

The Spittoon article takes up the charge that, in light of the popular judgement against the marriage which would make Islam a depraved religion, no good can come of following it, by saying that the Muslims in general do not emulate this particular aspect of the Prophet’s (صل الله عليه و سلم) character, and that the ages of consent in most Muslim countries are generally as high as they are in the West. “If your claim is that Islam is fundamentally depraved because Muslims seek to emulate Muhammad and he married a six-year-old, then it is entirely shot down by Muslims not emulating Muhammad on this matter.”

My response has always been that, if you want to bring a child abuse case against a historical figure, you need to find your victim, and the “victim” in this case lived well into late middle age and remained loyal to the person they claim abused her for life. She clearly did not think that her marital relations with her husband (صل الله عليه و سلم) were abuse, let alone rape, as noted in the many hadeeths related by her. Along with the other wives, she was given an opportunity to leave the marriage, and decided to stay. There is also an element of “substitute imaginary reality” in the abuse claims: people imagine that it was abusive essentially because they want it to have been, because it justifies their hostility to Islam. They then accept any hadith which is convenient to their prejudice, and discard what isn’t.

A further consideration is that the behaviour of the Prophet (صل الله عليه و سلم) in this marriage was starkly different from the modus operandi of any paedophile; paedophiles typically chew their victims and spit them out when they cease to be attractive, rather than marrying them. Even if marriage offered a socially acceptable outlet for such desires, one would have thought that a man attracted primarily to young girls in early pubescence would have married many such girls and divorced them a few years later, but the Prophet’s (صل الله عليه و سلم) other wives were older. One might also consider that the Arabs of the time were not sub-human or uncivilised to the extent that a man might openly molest his best friend’s daughter, or that the best friend might allow this to happen, and that there is no public censure. Arabia was not Pitcairn Island with a population of about 50.

As for why Muslims nowadays do not “follow the Prophet’s (صل الله عليه و سلم) example” on this matter, it is not a case of disapproving of it, rather of factors such as that the law forbids it (as in most countries), the fact that it is not socially acceptable in every Muslim society (not all of them have Arab or other Semitic cultural heritage), the fact that most girls in fact do not reach puberty at the age of nine, the preference for someone closer to one’s own level of age and experience, and the desire for (and of) girls to complete their education.

When it is considered that some British historians and politicians are reluctant to sit in judgement on much more recent generations of their own people, such as when pardons are demanded for those executed unjustly for cowardice during the First World War, the common accusations of “paedophilia” do begin to look presumptuous and, as the Spittoon article’s author called it, “anthropologically illiterate”. These people know little about either the culture they judge (and care even less), and not much about paedophilia, which is what they allege, either. They are making facile and convenient judgements with scant regard for the facts.

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25 Responses

  1. Jamal says:

    Paedophiles are people who are sexually fixated to pre-pubescent children and that is not the case of Prophet Muhammad (saw). The bible, especially the Old Testament permits marriage to pubescent girls. Read: Yebhamoth 11b: “Sexual intercourse with a little girl is permitted if she is of three years of age” Within the judaic law it is not a sin to marry a 3 yr old girl. Nor is it condemned by the new testament. Abdur Rahman Squires has a good article on this.

  2. Ikram Hadi says:

    They are probably part of the organized dead-ears (see smearcasters) who will say what they have always said no matter what evidence they are shown.

    I have read that the age of puberty is lower in hot climates, starting at 8 and 9, while it is higher in cold climates, with it being 16 and 17 in Finland and Sweden.

  3. s.ali says:

    Ikram thats interesting. Many of my mothers relatives in Asia have married at the ages of 11 and 12. They have also had children within a year of their marriage and have been perfectly capable and mature in their motherhood.

  4. Jamal says:

    Biblical Scholars keep the modern day committed christians ignorant of the fact that many church fathers married girls aged 9-12, whom they also stayed their whole life with. Infact devout christian kings married girls as young as 8 and nobody at that time condemned it. This is recorded history,

  5. Jamal says:

    According to Christian scholars mary (mariam) was 12 years old when she conceived Jesus.

  6. Jamal says:

    In Exodus 21:10, a man can marry an infinite amount of women without any limits to how many he can marry.

    In 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, 14:3, King David had six wives and numerous concubines.

    In 1 Kings 11:3, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In 2 Chronicles 11:21, King Solomon’s son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines.

  7. Jamal says:

    I fear Islamophobia has just began, it will be worse in the near future. Yusuf, what do we do when we face this situations? These inaccurate portrayal of pre-Islamic Arab culture written by a Western writer with little knowledge of Arabic, Arabia, Islam, and Muslims using her own Western, 21st century values, ideals and emotions to portray an unrecognizable version of the well-known and well-documented story of `A’ishah. As the muslim community grows in this land, so will the enemy. Insha ‘Allah, this will not be the case. Many people will read this distorted view of Aisha and Islam, which is not from the muslim perspective. Ya Yusuf, help me, I wish I never read this article. I feel deeply disturbed by this. I never been violent in my life but if I find them in my presence, you know what I’m gonna do.

  8. Old Pickler says:

    She clearly did not think that her marital relations with her husband (صل الله عليه و سلم) were abuse, let alone rape, as noted in the many hadeeths related by her.

    Stockholm syndrome. She would not have the words for “abuse” or “rape”, and where would she have gone if she’d left Mohammed?

  9. LeedsLad says:

    If non-Muslims are not bothered or cannot defend suspect verses, then why should we bother?

    Maybe it is about time Muslims kept these non-Muslims busy, rather allowing them to constantly bludgeon us with one rancour after another. After all, aren’t these “old testaments” considered man made hence free for us Muslims to do exactly what they are doing to us?

  10. Jamal says:

    Age of Consent Laws

    Stephen Robertson, University of Sydney, Australia Age of Consent Laws [Table] Annotation

    Information on the ages used historically in western age of consent laws is not readily available. This table has been compiled from a combination of historical and contemporary sources. By 1880, the first date chosen, many western nations had established an age of consent for the first time, typically of 12 or 13 years. By 1920, when the influence of reform campaigns that established a new link between the age of consent and prostitution had run its course, most had revised their age upward, to 14 or 15 in European nations, and 16 in the Anglo-American world. In the last decades of the 20th century, states and nations with ages below those averages amended their laws to move closer to them. In Europe that growing conformity owed much to moves toward greater European integration. Given that the rationale for the age of consent has remained essentially unchanged in its emphasis on the need to protect ‘immature’ children, the table highlights the shifting and various definitions of childhood employed across time and cultures.

    Read the rest, here.

  11. Jamal says:

    Child Marriage in Europe and America

    If you look at 1880 Age of Consent Laws, you will see that Delaware had it’s consent law At 7, and most others at 10 years of age. This is very important information because prior to 1880 no laws existed preventing “Child Marriages”, because of child prostitution being widespread at that time the lawmakers decided that 10 was the legal and acceptable age of consent and the European society at that time was not shocked by it. This laws existed until 1920 when it was raised a bit higher. This is not 1450 hundred years ago but only 89 years ago that existed in Europe.

  12. Kafirist says:

    All of this is ridiculous. No reasonable person thinks it is satifactory for a 54 year old man to have sex with a 9 year old girl. You can rationalize all you want, but you know deep down that it’s wrong.

    Saying that some other religion did it is not a good excuse. That’s like saying it’s okay to kill innocent people because the Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. did it at some point in their history.

    No one seems to be approving having sex with children today other than Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia.

    Thought for the day: Ignorance is religion’s best friend…Kafirist

  13. Jamal says:

    Mr Kafirist, your anthropologically illiterate and ignorant of history of the human race. Biblical scholars believe the age of Mary when she conceived Jesus was 11 yrs old, some say she was 12. Looking at this from secular perpective, it could be interpreted that Mary had sex when she was 9/10 by someone who was closest to Mary. For your knowledge, as from 2008, Saudia Arabia passed laws that age of consent for marriage to 18 yrs of age, because of a recent incident which happened in the country, which is unheard of even in Saudi Arabia, which was front page news in the country’s newspapers. Most muslim countries has higher age of consent laws than many western countries. look at Spain, denmark and other countries.

  14. Fombo says:

    Western academics and anthropologist differentiate between “paedophillia” and “child marriage”. Child marriage usually refers to two separate social phenomena which are practiced in some societies. The first and more widespread practice is that of marrying a young child (generally defined as below the age of fifteen) to an adult. In practice, it is almost always a young girl married to a man.

    I’m not trying to justify child marriage in any way in urbanized modern society. If you search child marriages on google you will find many unicef reports of “child marriages” being very widespread in Africa, especially Sub-Sahara Africa and many parts of Latin America, but has gradually diminished in urbanized parts of the society.

    How do we living in a modern, industrialized, urbanized society view these people? Kafirist what are your thoughts on this?

  15. Kafirist says:

    Mr. Jamal, before criticizing someone it’s always a good plan to read what they actually say. I said nothing about anthropology nor did I delve in to the history of the human race. Before tossing around words like “illiterate” you might want to investigate the meaning of the term. While you’re at it, why don’t you define “anthropologically illiterate”…as it stands, it makes no sense.

    What you’re basically stating, it appears, is that because you think Mary had sex at 9 or 10, then it’s fine for other religious figures to do likewise. The problem with your argument is that no one in fact knows the date and year of Jesus’ birth. It could have been anywhere between 4 BCE and 6 CE, a span of 10 years. Consequently, there is no way to know how old Mary was so your statement that “Biblical scholars believe…” is meaningless. They can guess and estimate, but the reality is they simply don’t know.

    I won’t bother getting in to the virgin birth thing in which Mary supposedly didn’t have sex at all.

    However, if Mary did have sex (with whomever she was supposed to have had sex) at the age of 9 or 10, it is just as wrong as the Aisha case.

    I appreciate your information concerning Saudi Arabia. I was referring to the 8 year old girl wanting a divorce from her 50 year old husband in 2008. I am happy that Saudi Arabia has changed its marriage age of consent to 18, if true.

  16. Kafirist says:

    Hi Fombo,

    I appreciate that in ancient times marriage to young girls was not uncommon. Apparently, this was often done to secure bonds between families and tribes. As you point out, this is not the same thing as having sex with a child. Aisha, as you know, married Muhammad when she was 6 or 7. (Islam uses the lunar calendar so the age would be different if the solar calendar is used.) Muhammad waited until she was 9 before consummating the marriage. Why he waited is moot and I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.

    As to my opinion about child sex in Sub-Sahara Africa, etc: They are backward, ignorant misogynists who typically treat women in the same manner as they treat their cattle and goats.

    I suppose the politically correct approach would be that they are an emerging civilization maintaining its rich and diverse cultural history. However, I tend not to obfuscate things with political correctness.

  17. Kafirist says:

    Mr. Jamal, I can find nothing on the web that says that Saudi Arabia did in fact pass laws to raise the age of consent to 18. I could only find the following article:

    May 4, 2009 RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia MAY ban marriage for girls below 18…

    The article continues with:

    Many Saudi clerics, including the kingdom’s chief cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh, endorse the practice of marrying underage girls, arguing that in doing so they avoid spinsterhood or the temptation of engaging in relationships outside the wedlock.

  18. Fombo says:

    Mary and Joseph

    The most famous marriage in Christianity is no doubt that of Mary, Jesus’ mother, with Joseph. While the following details are not in the canonical Gospels in the Bible, it appears from other early Christian writings (known as apocryphal writings) that Mary was twelve years old when the temple elders decided to find a husband for her. They selected the husband by drawing lots, and Joseph whom they chose was an elderly man, being according to some accounts ninety years old. The husband was selected and Mary was handed over to him, and she played no part in his selection.

    These accounts are summed up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition, which is available online, as follows:

    “It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph’s marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children … A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age, Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph …” [13] (Bolding is mine.)

    Although these apocryphal accounts are not now accepted by many Christians, and the Catholic Encyclopedia says that they “are void of authority”, yet it also speaks of their influence as follows:

    “they nevertheless acquired in the course of ages some popularity; in them some ecclesiastical writers sought the answer to the well-known difficulty arising from the mention in the Gospel of the Lord’s brothers; from them also popular credulity has, contrary to all probability, as well as to the tradition witnessed by old works of art, retained the belief that St. Joseph was an old man at the time of marriage with the Mother of God.”

    However, these accounts are accepted by the Eastern churches. The website of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy has an article on this subject entitled An Elderly Joseph which agrees with the presentation in the apocryphal writings “of Joseph as an elderly man, a widower with adult children”. It concludes:

    “The Christian East’s picture of Joseph as a courageous, faithful, God-centred elderly widower rings true.” [14]

    We give below, as Appendix, a quotation from one of these apocryphal books, The Infancy Gospel of James, describing how Mary’s husband was selected.

    While the Western Christian churches may not accept these accounts as authentic, the Eastern churches in Europe do accept that Mary was 12 years old and Joseph a widower 90 years old when they married. Moreover, there is nothing in the Gospels of the New Testament to contradict these accounts, and the Gospel stories are not at all inconsistent with these ages for Mary and Joseph.

  19. Kafirist says:

    Nice research, Fombo. I’m not a Christian apologist, but Christians could counter with (source: Wikipedia):

    Saint Joseph (Hebrew יוֹסֵף, also known as Joseph of the House of David, Joseph the Betrothed, Joseph of Nazareth, or Joseph the Worker) is known from the New Testament as the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus.[1] Although according to Christian tradition he was not the biological father of Jesus, he acted as his foster-father[2][3][4] and as head of the Holy Family.

    Hence we’re back to the virgin birth thing.

  20. Kafirist says:

    I believe the Quran says the same:

    19:16 And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, How many angels talked to Mary?
    19:17 And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man.
    19:18 She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God- fearing.
    19:19 He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son.
    19:20 She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste ?
    19:21 He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.
    19:22 And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place.

  21. Fombo says:

    Mary was 12 years old and Joseph a widower 90 years old when they married. What do you say about their marriage

  22. Kafirist says:

    I’m not sure if you’re addressing your post to me, Fombo. But I think I covered that in preceeding posts. If one believes both the New Testament and the Quran, Joseph was NOT the biological father of Jesus.

    In addition, I have a hard time believing a 90 year old man could impregnate anyone, although I suppose anything is possible.

    If such a thing did happen, I would have the same reaction as I do to the Aisha case.

  23. Fombo says:

    The Catholic Church believes from the early apocrypal writings that Jesus was conceived when she was 12yrs old. That is why the age of consent(eligible for marriage) in the vatican is 12. But the church also point out that she was bethrothed to Saint Joseph before that time, according customs on those days. Joseph is not the father of Jesus, but he married his mother when she was a woman child. ( child abuse according to modern western mind-set). Kafirist, are you a christian?

  24. Kafirist says:

    No, I’m not a Christian, Fombo. I simply believe that childhood is precious and innocent. Adults shouldn’t force sexuality upon children. Let them grow up with loving parents and experience the joys of childhood. I’m at a loss as to how grown men, old enough to be their grandfathers, can even be sexually attracted to children, let alone have sex with them.

  1. 4th July, 2010

    […] I have already dealt with the matter of the marriage to A’isha (radhi Allahu ‘anha) in this earlier entry, and one might also see Abdurrahman Squires’s article on the subject, on which I drew for […]