More Answers (Aisha) (ra)
Reader comment on item: How the West Could Lose
Submitted by moderate Muslim (United States), Mar 11, 2007 at 21:06
So, since I'm not a coward, I'm going to address the marriage of Aisha (ra) to the Prophet (pbuh).
I am not a scholar, so I have looked for essays or evidence which shed more light on the subject.
In any discussion on the age of Aisha (ra: may Allah be pleased with her) at the time of her marriage with the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him), it is of the greatest relevance to note the pivotal role she played as a teacher, exponent and interpreter of the religion of Islam. Aisha was an exceptionally intelligent and astute woman, a young prodigy, and this was the main reason why she was got married to the Holy Prophet, as is clearly proved by events after the Holy Prophet's life. She entered his household, shortly after his emigration to Madina, just at the time when the teachings of Islam in all fields of life for the Muslim community were starting to be revealed to the Holy Prophet and demonstrated by him by his example and practice. An intellectually gifted person was required who would have daily contact with the Holy Prophet at the closest and most personal level, so as to absorb the teachings that he was giving on all aspects of life by his words and actions. Such a person would need to possess the following qualities:
That Aisha possessed all these qualities and carried out this mission is an absolutely positive and undeniable, historical fact. After the Holy Prophet's death, she acted as a teacher and interpreter of Islam, providing guidance to even the greatest of the male Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. They made a special point of going to her to gain knowledge and seek her opinion. A vast number of sayings and actions of the Holy Prophet are reported from her in books of Hadith. She not only quoted his sayings and reported her observations of events, but interpreted them to provide solutions to questions. Whenever necessary, she corrected the views of the greatest of the Companions of the Holy Prophet. She made rulings and judgments on which Islamic law is based.
The following are two examples of what the Holy Prophet's male Companions said about her:
In the famous compilation of the lives of saints in Islam, Tadhkirat-ul-Auliya, the author Farid-ud-Din Attar, who lived eight centuries ago, introduces the life of the early female saint Rabia of Basra as follows:
It is thus recognised, from the earliest times in Islam, that some two-thirds of Islamic Sharia is based on reports and interpretations that have come from Aisha.
In view of these exceptional qualities of Aisha and the towering role played by her in the transmission of the teachings of Islam, it is simply preposterous and outrageous to suggest that she was the victim of some form of child and marital abuse. We ask in particular the Christian and Jewish critics of Islam, who are reviling the Holy Prophet Muhammad on the basis of his marriage with Aisha, whether they can point out any example of a woman in their religions who played a role like that of Aisha in learning the religion from its founder and becoming the teacher and instructor of all his followers, including men, after his death.
Age of Aisha at time of marriage with Holy Prophet Muhammad
It is believed on the authority of some Hadith reports that the marriage ceremony (known as nikah, amounting to betrothal) of Aisha with the Holy Prophet Muhammad took place when she was six years of age, and that she joined the Holy Prophet as his wife three years later at the age of nine. We quote below from two such reports in Bukhari.
As to the authenticity of these reports, it may be noted that the compilers of the books of Hadith did not apply the same stringent tests when accepting reports relating to historical matters as they did before accepting reports relating to the practical teachings and laws of Islam. The reason is that the former type of report was regarded as merely of academic interest while the latter type of report had a direct bearing on the practical duties of a Muslim and on what was allowed to them and what was prohibited. Thus the occurrence of reports such as the above about the marriage of Aisha in books of Hadith, even in Bukhari, is not necessarily a proof of their credibility.
Determination of the true age of Aisha
It appears that Maulana Muhammad Ali was the first Islamic scholar directly to challenge the notion that Aisha was aged six and nine, respectively, at the time of her nikah and consummation of marriage. This he did in, at least, the following writings: his English booklet Prophet of Islam, his larger English book Muhammad, the Prophet, and in the footnotes in his voluminous Urdu translation and commentary of Sahih Bukhari entitled Fadl-ul-Bari, these three writings being published in the 1920s and 1930s. In the booklet Prophet of Islam, which was later incorporated in 1948 as the first chapter of his book Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, he writes in a lengthy footnote as follows:
To facilitate understanding dates of these events, please note that it was in the tenth year of the Call, i.e. the tenth year after the Holy Prophet Muhammad received his calling from God to his mission of prophethood, that his wife Khadija passed away, and the approach was made to Abu Bakr for the hand of his daughter Aisha. The hijra or emigration of the Holy Prophet to Madina took place three years later, and Aisha came to the household of the Holy Prophet in the second year after hijra. So if Aisha was born in the year of the Call, she would be ten years old at the time of the nikah and fifteen years old at the time of the consummation of the marriage.
Research subsequent to the time of Maulana Muhammad Ali has shown that she was older than this. An excellent short work presenting such evidence is the Urdu pamphlet Rukhsati kai waqt Sayyida Aisha Siddiqa ki umar (‘The age of Lady Aisha at the time of the start of her married life') by Abu Tahir Irfani.[4a] Points 1 to 3 below have been brought to light in this pamphlet.
1. The famous classical historian of Islam, Ibn Jarir Tabari, wrote in his ‘History':
Being born before Islam means being born before the Call.
2. The compiler of the famous Hadith collection Mishkat al-Masabih, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, who died 700 years ago, has also written brief biographical notes on the narrators of Hadith reports. He writes under Asma, the older daughter of Abu Bakr:
This would make Asma 28 years of age in 1 A.H., the year of the Hijra, thus making Aisha 18 years old in 1 A.H. So Aisha would be 19 years old at the time of the consummation of her marriage, and 14 or 15 years old at the time of her nikah. It would place her year of birth at four or five years before the Call.
3. The same statement is made by the famous classical commentator of the Holy Quran, Ibn Kathir, in his book Al-bidayya wal-nihaya:
Apart from these three evidences, which are presented in the Urdu pamphlet referred to above, we also note that the birth of Aisha being a little before the Call is consistent with the opening words of a statement by her which is recorded four times in Bukhari. Those words are as follows:
This is tantamount to saying that she was born sometime before her parents accepted Islam but she can only remember them practising Islam. No doubt she and her parents knew well whether she was born before or after they accepted Islam, as their acceptance of Islam was such a landmark event in their life which took place just after the Holy Prophet received his mission from God. If she had been born after they accepted Islam it would make no sense for her to say that she always remembered them as following Islam. Only if she was born before they accepted Islam, would it make sense for her to say that she can only remember them being Muslims, as she was too young to remember things before their conversion. This is consistent with her being born before the Call, and being perhaps four or five years old at the time of the Call, which was also almost the time when her parents accepted Islam.
Two further evidences cited by Maulana Muhammad Ali
In the footnotes of his Urdu translation and commentary of Sahih Bukhari, entitled Fadl-ul-Bari, Maulana Muhammad Ali had pointed out reports of two events which show that Aisha could not have been born later than the year of the Call. These are as follows.
1. The above mentioned statement by Aisha in Bukhari, about her earliest memory of her parents being that they were followers of Islam, begins with the following words in its version in Bukhari's Kitab-ul-Kafalat. We quote this from the English translation of Bukhari by M. Muhsin Khan:
Commenting on this report, Maulana Muhammad Ali writes:
Again, this would make her more than fourteen at the time of the consummation of her marriage.
2. There is a report in Sahih Bukhari as follows:
Maulana Muhammad Ali writes in a footnote under this report:
If, as shown in the previous section above, Aisha was nineteen at the time of the consummation of her marriage, then she would be twenty years old at the time of the battle of Uhud. It may be added that on the earlier occasion of the battle of Badr when some Muslim youths tried, out of eagerness, to go along with the Muslim army to the field of battle, the Holy Prophet Muhammad sent them back on account of their young age (allowing only one such youngster, Umair ibn Abi Waqqas, to accompany his older brother the famous Companion Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas). It seems, therefore, highly unlikely that if Aisha was ten years old the Holy Prophet would have allowed her to accompany the army to the field of battle.
We conclude from all the evidence cited above that Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was nineteen years old when she joined the Holy Prophet as his wife in the year 2 A.H., the nikah or betrothal having taken place five years previously.
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