Resolving Misconceptions Regarding A’isha Bint Abi-Bakr’s Age at Marriage
The issue of A’isha Bint Abi-Bakr, Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife, has arisen purely due to the fact that she happened to be much younger than him unlike his other wives most of whom were even older than him (a point to be noted for those who try to slander him as a “pedophile”). There have been misconceptions and controversy regarding her exact age at the time of her marriage partly because we are dependent on reported information and even with accurate reporting, it is difficult to sustain 100% accuracy all the time regarding the exact time period, and partly because this issue has been misappropriated by the enemies of Islam who have popularized the wrong accounts to defame the Messenger of God.
Ibn-e-Sa’d has stated in at-Tabaqat al-Kubra that when Abu Bakr (A’isha’s father) was approached on behalf of the Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair and that he would first have to settle the matter with him. This shows that A’isha must have been approaching maturity at the time. Prophet’s daughter Fatimah is also reported to have said that she was born five years before the Call (Revelation) and was about five years older than A’isha. This shows that A’isha must have been about ten years at the time of her betrothal to the Prophet and not six years as she is generally supposed to be. This is further borne out of the fact that A’isha herself is reported to have stated that when the fifty fourth chapter of the Qur’an entitled ‘The Moon’ (Al Qamar) was revealed, she was a girl playing about and remembered certain verses then revealed. The said chapter was undoubtedly revealed before sixth year of the Call. All these considerations point to but one conclusion that A’isha could not have been less than ten years of age at the time of Nikah (the marriage contract) which was virtually only a betrothal.
If we dig deeper, we find that the great Islamic historian Ibn-e-Jarir at-Tabari in his History of the Prophets and Kings writes: “In the time before Islam, Abu Bakr married two women. The first was Fatila, daughter of Abdul Uzza, from whom Abdullah and Asma were born. Then he married Umm Rumman, from whom Abdur-Rahman and A’isha were born. These four were born before Islam.” Looking at A’isha’s own impressions of her early life, we can indeed see that she was born before the Call. The famous classical commentator on the Qur’an Ibn-e-Kathir wrote in Al Bidaya Wan Nihaya: “Asma died in 73 After Hijri at the age of one hundred years. She was ten years older than her sister A’isha.”
Another report regarding the matter mentions that A’isha was nine years of age at the time of Nikah. Again it is a fact admitted on all accounts that the Nikah of A’isha took place in the tenth year of the Call in the month of Shawwal. There is also preponderance of evidence as to the consummation of her marriage having taken place in the second year of Hijrah in the same month, which shows that full five years had elapsed between the Nikah and the consummation. Hence there is not the least doubt that A’isha was atleast nine or ten years of age at the time of betrothal, and fourteen or fifteen years at the time of marriage.
It might be worth noting that pubescence is characterized by the proliferation of sex cells which begins with the menarche, or first menstruation in girls. Menarche doesn’t happen until all the parts of a girl’s reproductive system have matured and are working together. Moreover, puberty comes from the Latin word ‘pubertas’ which means “adult”. In this sense also, a girl thus reaches adulthood after menarche, and no more remains a ‘minor’. The average age for menarche varies by geographical region, culture, race, ethnicity and various other factors such as biological, genetic, environmental and nutritional that can influence it. Moreover, there are possibilities of variation in it from age to age as recent research has noted that the average age for menarche has been decreasing among the Western/European girls and apparently among the girls of the United States and Canada. This implies that we should try to avoid generalizations about the age at which menstruation begins. It can be as early as 8 years and as late as 18 years.
It all depends on what one wishes to recognize − the laws of nature or the social laws constructed by man. Aisha married willingly under circumstances that supported that marriage in an age when it was not an unusual thing and at an age when a girl normally reaches puberty. But in today’s bigoted and hypocrite world where the same aged girls can freely opt for illicit sexual relationships under the progressive tags of ‘free sex’ or ‘right to sex’ and as ‘individual choice’ and ‘freedom’, her issue is made as something out of the world. The youngest “mothers” of the world (married or unmarried) mostly happen not to be Muslims, but from amongst those who are most critical of A’isha’s young age at marriage, i.e. from the West. World needs to check the earliest ages of pregnancy before doing propaganda about A’isha’s minor age and all facts will be on the table. Or is there some rule according to which a thing is fine if done illicitly, as an expression of sexual freedom but is worth condemning when done within the legal framework of marriage? It shows the degree of moral degradation of the West and the westernized minds that they have no objection about having boyfriends and indulging in illicit sex at an early age but it is not acceptable to marry and have a husband at the same age to perform the same act legally with moral and religious sanction.
For those who exploit this issue to declare the Prophet of Islam a pedophile: A’isha certainly was his only wife who was young and unmarried when she was taken into marriage by the Prophet while others had been married previously (some even a number of times) but she was not his only wife. He had had ten other wives also and most of them were even older than him. Now how can it be justified if he was a pedophile? His first wife Khadija with whom he spent the prime of his youth and whom he loved immensely was almost 15 years older than him. How can such a person be called a pedophile? It only shows the bigotry of the enemies of Islam that they discuss the age of only his one wife out of eleven whom they intentionally ignore because discussing them will nullify their allegation to charge him as a pedophile!