Sunday, July 28, 2013

How old was Aisha (AS) at the time of her marriage to the Prophet (Pbuh)?

It's been a while since I updated my blog. This at least gives me a chance to update.

So a sister from Twitter pinged me in regards to an article she'd read with a link to an essay written in Arabic about the age of Aisha (AS) when she married the Prophet (pbuh).

The article she linked was "Salah al-Din al-Idlibi on the Age of ‘Aisha (R) When She Married the Prophet (S)" which detailed his meeting with a prominent muhaddith named Salah Al Din Al Idlibi.

The pdf article he linked was titled "الحديث الوارد في مقدار عمر السيدة عائشة
يوم العقد ويوم الزواج"
Or "The narration (hadith) relating the age of Aisha on the dates of her engagement and marriage."

So Alhumdulilah I was able to translate the article and send it to sister Rachel, below is the translation for this very beneficial and insightful article.

The narration (hadith) relating the age of Aisha on the dates of her engagement and marriage.

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
We give great blessed praise to Allah as He pleases. All praise is due to Allah with whose bounty all goodness occurs. Oh Allah send down your favour upon us and make our end a goodly end, with your innumerable kindness and mercy. Most giving.

A narration was related about the prophet (pbuh) that he was betrothed to Aisha (AS) while she was 6 years old, and that he married her while she was 9. Was this narration sound in its line of narrators and its text? There is a need to research the answer to this.

I read an article about this important issue by a researcher in discussing the weakness of this narration in regards to its chain of narrators and text. I found it would be possible to make use of some of the scholarly ideas while avoiding the weaknesses, to come out with a position established with evidence and methods that get closer to the truth by the blessing of Allah.

Due to the importance of clarifying the facts in the honourable prophetic seerah and the hadeeth narrations, this will be a research based on the evidence of the date of birth of Aisha (AS), and in the age at the time of her betrothal to the prophet (pbuh) and her age at the time of her zafaaf (marriage/consummation). There are two opinions in this matter:

The first Mash-hoor position (mash-hoor means dominant, but in hadith methodology it’s a term meaning a hadeeth narration by 3 or more narrators, so I’m not sure what exactly he means by it)
: That the prophet (pbuh) was betrothed to her while she was 6 years old and married her while she was 9. This is taking from what she narrated in Bukhari and Muslim and other collections, which would mean that she was born 4 years after the message .

The second position: That he betrothed her while she was 14 and married her while she was 18, meaning that she was born 4 years before the message

The evidence behind the first position:
Bukhari and Muslim (and other collectors of hadith by way of Hishab Bin Urwa, by way of his father, by way of Aisha), that the prophet married her while she was 6 years old and consummated the married while she was 9. Muslim narrated this by way of Mu’ammar Alzuhri, by way of Urwa, by way of Aisha.

It was also narrated by Ibn Hanbal and Muslim by way of Alaswad bin Yazeed Al-Nukha’i by way of Aisha, the world used here “Tazzwajaha-married her” means the contract of marriage and that it was it meant here.
This narration is therefore authentic, and it is wrong to claim that Hisham bin Urwa was alone in this narration or that it was wrongly narrated by him.

The evidence of the second position:
Aisha is ten years younger than her sister Issma (RA).
Issma was born 27 years before the Hijrah, meaning she was born 14 years before the message, which also means that Aisha would have been born 4 years before the hijrah.
Ibn Asaakir narrated in his book "The History of Demascus" relating from Ibn Abu Alzinad that he said "Issma bint Abu Bakr is 10 years older than Aisha"
Abu Naeem wrote in his book “The knowledge of the Sahabah according to Issma”
:She (Issma) was born before history (I think before history means before the Hijrah) by 27 years, and died in 73 in Mecca a few days after the murder of her son Abdullah bin Alzubair. She was 100 years old.

What confirms this narration in knowing the age of the birth of Issma is also the narration of Abu Naeem that she (Issma) had said “I saw Zaid bin Amr bin Nufail resting on the wall  of the Kaaba saying “Oh people of Quraish, none of you are on the religion (deen) of Ibrahim other than I”. Zaid had passed away while Quraish was building the Kaaba, before the arrival of the Angel Gabriel upon the prophet (pbuh) by 5 years. This was also narrated by Ibn Saad in his book (Al Tabaqaat) by way of Saeed bin Almusayeb. Meaning this was before the Hijrah by 18 years. So then her age at the time of hearing this would be 9 years. This would make sense, since whoever would have seen this incident and recollected it would not have been younger than 9 years.

Ibn Al-Atheer mentioned in his book (asad alghaaba- The lion of the Jungle) : Abu Na’eem said “She was born before History by 27 years”. Ibn Abdul Bir in his book (Alisti’aab- The coherence) “Issma passed away in Mecca in Jumadi Alawwal in 1973, she ha passed away at the age of 100.
Narrated Bukhari, by way of Aisha that she said “while I was a jaaria playing in Mecca, the verse “But the Hour is their appointment [for due punishment], and the Hour is more disastrous and more bitter.” Was sent down to Muahmmad, while the chapter of Albaqara and Alnisaa’ was revealed to him while I was with him ( meaning part of his household)

Al Qurtubi in his interpretation said “Ibn Abbas said ‘Between the revelation of this verse and the battle of Badr was 7 years’”. If that were the case, that means this verse was revealed before the Hijrah by 5 years and 8 years after the message.

Ibn Saidihi in Almuhkam and Ibn Mandhur in Lesaan Al3arab both relate that “Jaaria” means the young woman, this is a term given to the girl when she is at the beginning of her youth and the end of her childhood, and she would running here and there.  

So how old was the age of Aisha during the revelation of this verse
But the Hour is their appointment [for due punishment], and the Hour is more disastrous and more bitter.
That was revealed after the message by 8 years?

As for the position that she was 4 years old, this is not possible because a 4 year old is not called a jaaria so the first position is wrong.
However in regards to the second position, her age at the time of the revelation of this verse would be 12 years old, which would make fit with the term jaaria which she used to describe herself. 

Bukhari narrated by way Aisha that she said “by the time I could make out the world, my parents were Muslim, during that time, no day would pass except with the visit of the prophet during the day and the night. So when the Muslims were tested (prosecuted), Abu Bakr left in migration towards Alhabasha (Ethiopia), and when he reached the area of Alghimad he was met by Ibn Aldaghna…”

There are two arguments to be made from this narration:
1-   A child would generally not comprehend something as intangible as religiosity of others by the age of four. Had Aisha been born in the 4th year before the message,  and her first comprehension would have been at 8 years old, she statement “I was aware of my parents’ religiosity” irrelevant. Since Abu Bakr was known to have been one of the earliest converts to Islam, and Um Ruman became Muslim in Mecca long before, as narrated by Ibn Saa’ad.

However if she was born before the Message by 4 years, and her first comprehension of the world at the first year of the message, that statement would make sense. That her first comprehension of the world was that of both her parents’ religiousity rather than just one parent. This proves that she was born before the message by four years, and this is confirmed in other evidences and sources.

2-   Her statement “When the Muslims were tested, Abu Bakr left for Abysinia” this was following her earlier statement that she was aware of her parents’ Islam, meaning that she was aware at that age. The exodus of the Companions prior to Abysinia was during the 5th year of the message, and their migration to it (Abysinia) was during the end of the 5th and beginning of the 6th year of the message.
Had Aisha been born during the 4 year of the message, she would not have been old enough to comprehend these events by the 6th year of the message. If however she was born 4 years before the message, she would then be able to comprehend and clearly recollect these events.

Ibn Ishaq said in the prophet seerah in mentioning the names of the first converts “Then some people from the Arab (beduin) tribes became Muslim, of them were Saeed bin Zaid bin Amro bin Nufail, and his wife Fatimah bint Alkhattab, and Issma bint Abu Bakr, and Aisha bint Abu Bakr, and the latter was a child…. Then Allah swt ordered the prophet to go public with his message, and to call the people with the order of Allah, and to call to Allah swt, and he (the prophet) had perhaps somewhat hidden the message till this order was sent down to him. Allah swt revealed
Then declare what you are commanded and turn away from the polytheists.”

Ibn Katheer narrated some of this text with in meaning, he said “Ibn Ishaq said ‘Then Allah ordered his prophet (pbuh) 3 years after the message to submit to what he was ordered to do, and to be patient with the harassment of the polytheists’ ”

Ibn Ishaq means here that Aisha became Muslim during the time of the private call (dawa) after the message was revealed, and that she was young, and if that time period was 3 years, Aisha may have been brought in to some of the gatherings of the Muslims towards the end of this three years. So according to the position that she was born 7 years after the message is nonsensical, because she would not have been born then.
In regards to the second position however. Her age would be 6 or 7 years. Perhaps Ibn Ishaq mentioned her as being amongst the first converts in spite of her young age as a measure of respect for her father Abu Bakr (RA), and because he has mentioned her sister Issma who was ten years old than her.  

Al Tabari mentioned in his History “During Al Jahilia (the time of Ignorance) Abu Bakr married Qateela bint Abdul Uzza, who bore him Abdullah and Issma, also during Al Jahilia he married Um Roman bint Aamer who bore him Abdulrahman and Aisha, those were his four children, born of his two wives during the Jahilia as we mentioned”

This is a clear historical account affirming that Aisha was born before the prophetic message

Ibn Abi Aasem in his “Aahaad wal Mathaani”, Al Tabarani in his “Al Mu’jam Alkabeer” and Al Haakim in his “Almustadrak” all narrated that Aisha narrated that Khawla bint Hakeem, the wife of Uthman bin Madhghoon (RA) while in Mecca, said to the prophet (pbuh) “Oh prophet of Allah, will you not marry?”
He said “Who then [would you suggest]?”
She said “If you wish, a young woman, and if you wish, an older lady”
to which he replied “What of a young lady?”
She said “The daughter of the most beloved of Allah’s creation to you, Aisha bint Abi Bakr”
He said “and what of the older lady?”
She said “Sawda bin Zam’a”.
He said “So then go and mention me to them”.

That occurred soon after the passing of lady Khadijah “RA”, as affirmed by other narrations.

The context here indicates that Khawla (RA) wanted to get the prophet married after the passing of Khadija, because he had no wife. So it would be implausible that she would think of someone aged 6 for that purpose. However if she (Aisha) was closer to 14 years of age. That would be more logical, and it seems this was closer to the truth.

There is no doubt that the evidences and narrations mentioned are a strong indication that Aisha was 18 years old at the time of her marriage to the prophet.

And in regards to the argument that Aisha married the prophet at 9 years old, that position must be based on delusions. Aisha (RA) lived (according to most narrations) to be 75 years old, so it may be that due to old age or forgetfulness she related a narration with some error. Therefor we are compelled to invalidate this narration related by Aisha because the majority of narrations and evidences go against its text. 

In conclusion. 
Based on a number of evidences and narrations. It is most probable that Aisha (AS) was born 4 years before the message, that she was betrothed to the prophet (pbuh) in the 10th year of the message while she was 14 years old. This would have been three years before the Hijrah. He (pbuh) would have married her at the end of the 1st year of the Hijra, when she would have been 18 years old.  
The narration that relates the age of Aisha at 6 at the time of betrothal and 9 at the time of marriage is an authentic narration, however it goes against the majority of other narrations, historical accounts and evidences, so in spite of its authenticity, this narration is ma’lool (unsound) because it is a delusion (wahm)

The Imams (May Allah have mercy on them) stated that if the text  of a (hadith) Narration goes against clear evidence from other narrations or historical accounts, it must then be rejected, because it would be clear that it is in some way unsound because of an error on part of one of the narrators in the chain.

And Allah knows best.

And all praise is due to Allah.  


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. My question is not directly related to the article, but supposing we can definitively verify her age of marriage at six, and consummation at nine, what is the problem from a historical point of view? Even in the later middle ages in the time of Charlemagne, you have brides as young as 12 being given to him in marriage. Through all regions in the premodern era, we see both boys and girls wedded to one another at ages we'd consider far too young today.

To me, a lot of Muslim revisionism concerning the age of Ayesha and other similar queries is merely a fairly transparent attempt to read history in ways that do not offend our modern moral-ethical assumptions and "givens." As a modern, I may struggle ethically with "child marriage," but historically, I am simply guilty of projecting modern categories backwards in time to a completely dissimilar context.

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Anonymous said...

"To me, a lot of Muslim revisionism concerning the age of Ayesha and other similar queries is merely a fairly transparent attempt to read history in ways that do not offend our modern moral-ethical assumptions and "givens.""

You hit the nail on the head.