There is a lot of hue and cry these days, about the age (6 years) of Aisha Razi Allahu Anha at the time of her marriage with the Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam. Orientalist writers as well as certain Muslim scholars criticize this event of Islamic history. Orientalists present this event to malign the image of the Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam. While those Muslim scholars, unable to mitigate the effect of this criticism, begin to attack the very foundation of the event and claim it to be untrue, so as to ‘disinfect’ the character of the Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam. Their inability is due primarily to their application of contemporary ideas about morality to a society fourteen hundred years away from theirs. This is called Presentism (which is a mode of historical analysis in which present-day ideas, such as moral standards, are projected into the past.). The practice of Presentism is regarded as a common fallacy in historical writing.
This phenomenon of accusing the Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam marrying a minor is rather new if we compare different allegations raised against him throughout the history of Islam. His detractors used every possible slur to belittle him and his mission but did not even consider this to be a sign of moral ‘degradation’ as some would have us now believe; otherwise they must have raised the heavens about this behavior. This allegation surfaced only in the beginning of Twentieth Century in the writings of certain Orientalists.
“The first condemnatory note comes in Mohammad and the Rise of Islam (1905) by the British orientalist David Margoliouth. He calls Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha an ‘ill-assorted union… for as such we must characterise the marriage of a man of fifty-three to a child of nine.’”
This was, perhaps because their moral values were also undergoing a sort of Renaissance regarding the age of consent; the age of consent for girls was 13 years before it was raised to 16 in 1885. But before the Twentieth century there is not a single instance of this accusation, which proves beyond doubt that marriage with a minor had never been a sign of moral turpitude across the cultures.
In the beginning the western authors who wrote about the Prophet’s Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam life “tended to adopt either condescending or condemnatory tones; the latter increase in the frequency and stridency as the twentieth century wore to a close….. These authors were writing before hysteria about child sexual abuse had taken hold in the American imagination. By the last decade of the twentieth century and especially the first decade of the twenty-first, Aisha’s age had become a favorite argument of anti-Islam polemicists, especially but not exclusively online.”
Also the interpreters of Hadith, who have left no stone unturned in explaining the Ahadith in such a manner that is befitting to the immaculate character of the Holy Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam, have done nothing to explain away the Hadith of Marriage Aisha, rather they report scholarly consensus about marriage at early age; had marrying a minor an ugly prospect in the society and a sign of depravity, they must have done everything to discredit or explain away such Ahadith.
I would like to address one observation of the deniers of any tradition/Hadith about early marriage of Aisha Razi Allahu Anha that if marriages of minors were a cultural norm and tradition, why we don’t see many examples of such marriages. I say they are ignorant or oblivious of Islamic History, and they are arguing from their ignorance. If one doesn’t know something, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Here below I mention several instances of early marriages from the Islamic History.
- Amr bin Al Aas became father of Abdullah bin al Amr in the age of eleven years.
- Abdullah bin Aamir bin Kuraiz became father at the age of thirteen years.
- Hazrat Muawiya bin Abi Sufyan married his daughter Hind with the same Abdullah bin Aamir bin Kuraiz when she was nine years old.
- Hisham bin Urwa bin Zubair married his cousin Fatima bint Munzir bin Zubair when she was nine years old. Hisham is one of the main narrators of the Hadith of age of Aisha, so his acting upon this Hadith is a clear sign of the authentication of the Hadith.
- Imam Laith bin Sa’ad narrates that Abu Saalih told him that a person told him that his daughter is pregnant at the age of ten.
- Abu ‘Aasim Zahhaak bin Makhlad said, “My mother was born in 110 AH and I was born in 122 AH”. Which means his mother was twelve years old when he was born.
- Imam Laith bin Sa’ad narrates that Abu Saalih told him that a woman became pregnant in his neighborhood at the age of nine.
- Umar bin Al Khattaab married Umm Kulsoom bint Ali bin Abi Taalib while she was a minor.
- Abu Bakar Jassaas Razi narrates that the Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam married Salamah the son of Umm e Salamah with the daughter of Hamza while both were minors.
- Ali bin Abi Taalib married Umama bint Abi Al ‘Aas [grand-daughter of the Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam] when she was around twelve years of age, give or take two years. As the Prophet Sallallaaho Alaihi Wasallam once prayed while she was sitting on his shoulders; she was a toddler, and this happened after Hijra in Madinah. Ali married her right after the death of his wife Fatimah who died in Ramazan 11 AH.
First six instances were taken from an article by Mufti Muhammad Saeed Khan from his magazine Al Hamid printed in 2011 [Jamadi us Saani, 1432 AH]. These instances, as they have been recorded without any scruple or qualm on the behalf of the concerned writers, are a testimony beyond any doubt that marriage of minors was a norm in the Arab culture.
Not only in Arab but it was a norm across cultures, which have been practiced by some cultures up until very recently. “Whether in India, China or Eastern Europe, in the pre-industrial period (and in many areas, even today) marriage age for women tended to be in the mid-teens, immediately after puberty. Shah Wali Allah married at fourteen, and when a scholar in fifteenth-century Damascus raised eyebrows by becoming a father at eleven it was because folk at the time were impressed, not outraged. In some US states, such as Georgia, the legal age of consent for women was as low as ten well into the twentieth century.”
 Historian’s Fallacies by David H Fischer, 1970, p. 137
 Misquoting Muhammad by Jonathan A. C. Brown, p. 384
 Politics of Sexuality – Identity, Gender and Citizenship by Terrell Carver, Veronique Mottier, p. 24
 The Lives of Muhammad by Kecia Ali, pp. 115,116
 Fathul Baari by Ibn Hajar, v. 9, p. 96
 Siyar A’laam un Nubala by Zahabi, v. 3, p. 79
 Siyar, v. 3, p. 19
 Tareekh Al Dimashq Al Kabeer by Ibn ‘Asaakir, v. 74, p. 138
 Al Kaamil fi Zu’afaa ir Rijaal by Ibn ‘Adi, v. 7, p. 256
 Mutoon e Hadith Per Jadeed Zehan Kay Ashkalat by Dr Muhammad Akram Virk, p. 324
 Al Kaamil, v 5, p 343
 Siyar, v. 9, p. 482
 Al Kaamil, v. 5, p. 343
 Tabaqaat by Ibn Sa’ad, v. 10, p. 429
 Ahkaam ul Qur’an by Jassaas Raazi, v. 2, p. 344
 Tabaqaat, v. 10, p. 39
 Tabaqaat, v. 10, p. 18
 Tabaqaat, v. 10, p. 29
 Kamsin Bachon ki Shaadiyan
 Misquoting Muhammad, p. 392