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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