Real Age Of Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (R. A.) At The Time Of Her Marriage with Prophet (P.B.U.H)

Real Age Of Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (R. A.) At The Time Of Her Marriage with Prophet (P.B.U.H)

AYESHA’s AGE: THE MYTH OF A PROVERBIALWEDDINGEXPOSED                                    

T.O Shanavas MD
Vice President
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462

           A Christian friend asked me once, “Will you marry your seven year old daughterto a fifty year old man?” I kept my silence. He continued, “If you would not,how can you approve the marriage of an innocent seven year old, Ayesha, withyour Prophet?” I told him, “I don’t have an answer to your question at thistime.” My friend smiled and left me with a thorn in the heart of my faith. MostMuslims answer that such marriages were accepted in those days. Otherwise,people would have objected to Prophet’s marriage with Ayesha. However, such anexplanation would be gullible only for those who are naïve enough to believeit. But unfortunately, I was not satisfied with the answer.

           The Prophet (PBUH) was an exemplary man. All his actions were most virtuous sothat we, Muslims, can emulate them. However, most people in our Islamic Centerof Toledo, including me, would not think of betrothing our seven years daughterto a fifty-two year-old man. If a parent agrees to such a wedding, most people,if not all, would look down upon the father and the old husband.

           In 1923, registrars of marriage in Egypt were instructed not to register andissue official certificates of marriage for brides less than sixteen and groomsless than eighteen years of age. Eight years later, theLaw of theOrganization and Procedure of Sheriah courts of 1931 consolidated the above provision by not hearing the marriagedisputes involving brides less than sixteen and grooms less than eighteen yearsold. (REF: Women in Muslim Family Law, John Esposito, 1982). It showsthat even in the Muslim majority country of Egypt the child marriages areunacceptable.

           So, I believed, without solid evidence other than my reverence to my Prophet(pbuh), that the stories of the marriage of seven-year-old Ayesha (ra) tofifty-year-old Prophet are only myths. However, my long pursuit in search ofthe truth on this matter proved my intuition correct. My Prophet was agentleman. And He did not marry an innocent seven or nine year old girl.

The age of Ayesha (ra)has been erroneously reported in the hadith literature. Furthermore, I thinkthat the narratives reporting this event are highly unreliable. Some of thehadith regarding Ayesha’s age at the time of her wedding with prophet areproblematic. I present the following evidences against the acceptance of thefictitious story by Hisham ibn `urwah and to clear the name of my Prophet(pbuh) as an irresponsible old man preying on an innocent little girl.

EVIDENCE # 1  Reliability of Source

 Mostof these narratives printed in the Hadith books are reported only by Hisham ibn`urwah reporting on the authority of his father. First of all, more people thanjust one, two or three should logically have reported. It is strange that noone from Medinah, where Hisham ibn `urwah lived the first seventy one years ofhis life has narrated the event, even though in Medinah his pupils includedpeople as well known as Malik ibn Anas. The origins of the report of thenarratives of this event are people from Iraq, where Hisham is reported to haveshifted after living in Medinah for seventy-one years.

           Tehzibu’l-tehzib, one of the most well known books on the lifeand the reliability of the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh)report that according to Yaqub ibn Shaibah:

“He [Hisham] is highly reliable, his narratives are acceptable, except what henarrated after moving over to Iraq.” (REF: Tehzi’bu’l-tehzi’b, Ibn Hajar Al-`asqala’ni, Dar Ihya al-turathal-Islami, 15th century. Vol 11, p. 50).

Itfurther states that Malik ibn Anas objected on those narratives of Hisham whichwere reported through people of Iraq:

 “Ihave been told that Malik [ibn Anas] objected on those narratives of Hishamwhich were reported through people of Iraq.” (REF: Tehzi’b u’l-tehzi’b, Ibn Hajar Al-`asqala’ni, Dar Ihya al-turath al-Islami, Vol.11,p. 50)

            Mizanu’l-ai`tidal, another book on the life sketches of the narrators of thetraditions of the Prophet (pbuh) reports:

“Whenhe was old, Hisham’s memory suffered quite badly” (REF:Mizanu’l-ai`tidal, Al-Zahbi, Al-Maktabatu’l-athriyyah, Sheikhupura,Pakistan, Vol. 4, p. 301)

CONCLUSION: Based onthese references, Hisham’s memory was failing and his narratives while in Iraqwere unreliable. So, his narrative of Ayesha’s marriage and age are unreliable.


           Now let me state some of the pertinent dates in the history of Islam:

           Jahilliyya                                                                     Before Revelation

           FirstRevelation                                                               610 CE

           Abu Baker acceptsIslam                                                  610 CE

           Publicpreaching                                                               613 CE

           Emigration toAbyssenia                                                   615 CE

           Umar bin al Khattab acceptIslam                                     616 CE

           Generally accepted betrothal ofAyesha                              620 CE

           Hijarah                                                                            622 CE

           Generally accepted year of Ayesha living

           withProphet                                                                623 or 624CE (1 or 2 AH)


EVIDENCE # 2 Betrothal

           According to Tabari (also according to Hisham ibn ‘urwah, Ibn Hunbal and IbnSad), Ayesha was betrothed at seven years of age and began to cohabit withProphet at the age of nine years. However, in another work, Al- Tabari says:

“Allfour of his [Abu Bakr’s] children were born of his two wives — the names of

whom we have alreadymentioned — during the pre-Islamic period.”(REF: Tarikhu’l-umam wa’l-mamlu’k, Al-Tabari (died 922), Vol. 4, p. 50, Arabic, Dara’l-fikr,Beirut, 1979)

IfAyesha was betrothed in 620 CE (at the age of 7 years) and started to live withProphet in 624 CE or 2 AH (at the age of nine years), she was born in 613 CE{(Year of living with Prophet MINUS Ayesha’a age at that time of living withProphet EQUALS the date of birth of Ayesha (624CE – 9 yrs = 613 CE)}. So,based on one account of Al-Tabari the numbers show that Ayesha must have born(613 CE) three years after the beginning of revelation (610 CE). And yetanother place Tabari says that Ayesha was born in Pre-Islamic time (inJahilliyyah). If she were born in pre-Islamic time (before 610 CE), shewould have be at least 14 years old. So, Tabari contradicts himself.

CONCLUSION: Al-Tabari is unreliable in the matter of determining Ayesha’s age.

Contradicting Reports

EVIDENCE # 3 TheAge of Ayesha in Relation to the Age of Fathima.

           According to According to Ibn Hajar,

“Fatimah (ra) was born at the time the Ka`bah was rebuilt, when the Prophet(pbuh) was 35 years old… she (Fatimah) was five years older that Ayesha(ra).” (REF: Al-isabah fi tamyizi’l-sahabah, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Vol. 4, P. 377, Maktabatu’l-Riyadh al-haditha, al-Riyadh, 1978)

So,based on Ibn Hajar, Fathima was born when Prophet was 35 years old and Ayeshawas 5 years younger than Fathima. If Ibn Hajar’s statement is factual, Ayeshawas born when Prophet was forty years old (Prophet’s age at the birth ofFathima PLUS 5 years = 40 years). If Ayesha was married to Prophet whenhe was 52 years old, Ayesha’ age at marriage would be 12 years {(Prophet’s ageat the time of marriage MINUS Prophet’s age at Ayesha’s birth (52 yrs – 40years = 12 yrs)}.  

CONCLUSION: Ibn Hajar,Tabari an Ibn Hisham and Ibn Humbal contradict each other. So, themarriage of Ayesha at seven years of age is a myth.

EVIDENCE # 4   The Age of Ayesha in Relation tothe Age of Asma

           According to Abda’l-Rahman ibn abi zanna’d:

“Asma(ra) was ten years older than Ayesha. (REF: Siyar A`la’ma’l-nubala’, Al-Zahabi, Vol. 2, p. 289, Arabic, Mu’assasatu’l-risalah,Beirut, 1992)

    According to Ibn Kathir:

          “She [Asma] was elder to her sister[Ayesha] by ten years”. (REF: Al-Bidayah wa’l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol. 8, p. 371, Dar al-fikral-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933)


    According to Ibn Kathir:

           “She [Asma] saw the killing of her son during that year [i.e. 73 AH], aswe have already mentioned, and five days later she herself died. According toother narratives she died not after five days but ten or twenty or a few daysover twenty or a hundred days later. The most well known narrative is that ofhundred days later. At the time of her death, she was 100 years old.”(REF: Al-Bidayah wa’l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir (died 1333), Vol. 8, Pg. 372, Daral-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933)

    According to Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani:

          “She [Asma (ra)] lived a hundredyears and died in 73 or 74 AH.” (REF: Taqribu’l-tehzib, Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Pg 654, Arabic, Babfi’l-nisa’, al-harfu’l-alif, Lucknow)

           According to almost all the historians Asma (ra), the elder sister of Ayesha(ra) was ten years older than Ayesha (ra). If Asma was 100 years old in 73 AH,she should have been 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijra { Asma’s ageMINUS 73 hijrah EQUALS the age of Asma at the time of Hijrah( 100 – 73 or74 = 27 or 28)}.

IfAsma (ra) was 27 or 28 years old at the time of Hijrah, Ayesha (ra), beingyounger by 10 years, should have been 17 or 18 years old {Asma’s age at thetime of Hijarah MINUS the age difference between Asma and Ayesha EQUALS the ageof Ayesha at the time of Hijarh (27 or 28 –10 = 17 or 18 yrs)}. Thus, Ayesha(ra), being 17 or 18 years of at the time of Hijra, she started to cohabit withProphet between 19 to 20 years old (The Age of Ayesha at the time of Hijra +the year of Ayesha cohabiting with Prophet (19-20 + 1-2 Hijra) = The Age ofAyesha when she cohabit with Prophet (19 or 20 years).

           Based on Hajar, Ibn Katir, and Abda’l-Rahman ibn abi zanna’d, age of Ayesha atthe time living with Prophet would be 19or 20 years. In evidence # 3, IbnHajar suggests that Ayesha is 12 years old and in evidence # 4 he contradictshimself with a seventeen or eighteen-year-old Ayesha (ra). What is thecorrect age, twelve or eighteen?

CONCLUSION: IbnHajar is an unreliable source for Ayesha’s age.

EVIDENCE # 5 Battles of Badr and Uhud

Anarrative regarding Ayesha’s (ra) participation in Badr is given in Muslim, Kitabu’l-jihad wa’l-siyar, Bab karahiyati’l-isti`anah fi’l-ghazwi bikafir. Ayesha (ra) whilenarrating the journey to Badr and one of the important events that took placein that journey says: “when we reached Shajarah”. It is quiteobvious from these words that Ayesha (ra) was with the group travelling towardsBadr.

Anarrative regarding Ayesha’s (ra) participation in the battle of `uhud is givenin Bukhari, Kitabu’l-jihad wa’l-siyar, Bab Ghazwi’l-nisa’ wa qitalihinna ma`a’lrijal:

“Anasreports that On the day of Uhud, people could not stand their ground

around the Prophet(pbuh). [On that day,] I saw Ayesha (ra) and Umm-i-Sulaim

(ra), they had pulledtheir dress up from their feet [to avoid any hindrance in theirmovement].”

CONCLUSION: Ayesha (ra)was present in the battles of Uhud and Badr.


           It is narrated in Bukhari, Kitabu’l-maghazi, Bab ghazwati’l-khandaq wa hiya’l-ahza’b:

“Ibn`umar (ra) states that the Prophet (pbuh) did not permit me to participate inUhud, as at that time, I was fourteen years old. But on the day of Khandaq,when I was fifteen years old, the Prophet (pbuh) permitted myparticipation.”

Summary:Based on the above narratives, (a) the children below 15 years were sent backand were not allowed to participate in the battle of `uhud, (b) Ayeshaparticipated in the battles of Badr and Uhud

CONCLUSION: Ayesha’s (ra) participation in the battle of Badr and Uhud clearly indicatesthat she was not nine old but at least 15 years old or older. After all, womenused to accompany men to the battlefields to help them, not to be a burden onthem. This account is another contradiction about Ayesha’s age.

EVIDANCE # 6 Surat al Qamar

Accordingto the generally accepted tradition, Ayesha (ra) was born about eight yearsbefore Hijrah. But according to another narrative in Bukhari (kitabu’l-tafseer)Ayesha (ra) is reported to have said:

“Iwas a young girl (jariyah)” when Surah Al-Qamar was revealed. (REF:Sahih Bukhari, kitabu’l-tafsir, Bab Qaulihi Bal al-sa`atu Maw`iduhumwa’l-sa`atu adha’ wa amarr)

The54th surah of the Qur’an was revealed eight years before Hijrah (REF: TheBounteous Koran, M.M. Khatib, 1985). So, it was revealed in 614 CE {Year ofHijrah MINUS year of revelation of Al Qamar (622 CE – 8 = 614 CE)}. If Ayeshastarted living with Prophet (pbuh) at the age of nine in 623 CE or 624 CE, shewas a newborn infant (a sibyah) {Year of Ayesha living with Prophet MINUS age of Ayesha when shestarted to live with Prophet (623 CE or 624 CE– 9 years=614 0r 615) at the timethe Surah Al-Qamar was revealed.

Accordingto the above tradition, Ayesha (ra) was actually a young girl (jariyah),not an infant (sibyah) in the year of revelation of Al Qamar. “Jariyah”means young playful girl (Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon). So, Ayesha, being a Jariyah not a sibyah (infant), must be somewhere between 6-13 years at the time ofrevelation of Al-Qamar, and thereby she must have been 14-21 years (6-13 + 8=14-21 years) at the time she married Prophet.

CONCLUSION: Thistradition also contradicts the marriage of Ayesha at the age of nine.

EVIDANCE # 7. Arabic Term

Accordingto a narrative reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, after the death of Khadijah (ra),when Khaulah (ra) came to the Prophet (pbuh) advising him to marry again, theProphet (pbuh) asked her regarding the choices that she had in her mind.Khaulah said: “You can marry a virgin (bikr) or a woman who hasalready been married (thayyib)”. When the Prophet (pbuh) asked theidentity of the bikr (virgin), Khaulahproposed Ayesha’s (ra) name.

Allthose who know the Arabic language, are aware that the word “Bikr“in the Arabic language is not used for an immature nine-year-old girl. Thecorrect word for a young playful girl, as stated earlier is “Jariyah”.”Bikr” on the other hand, is used for an unmarried lady withoutconjugal experience prior to marriage, as we understand the word, virgin, inEnglish. Therefore, obviously a nine-year-old girl is not a”lady” (Bikr). (REF:  Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 6, p. .210, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turathal-`arabi, Beirut.)

CONCLUSION: The literalmeaning of the word, Bikr (virgin), in the aboveHadith is adult women with no sexual experience prior to marriage. Therefore,Ayesha was an adult woman at the time of her marriage.

EVIDENCE # 8. TheQur’anic Text

           All Muslims agree that the Qur’an is the book of guidance. So, we need seek theguidance from the Qur’an to clear the smoke and the confusion created by theeminent men of the classical period of Islam in the matter of the age of Ayeshaat her marriage. Does the Qur’an allow or disallow marriage of an immaturechild of seven years of age?

Thereare no verses that explicitly allow such marriage. However, I found a versethat guides us in our duty to raise a child deprived with the death of one orboth parents. I believe that guidance of the Qur’an on the topic ofraising orphans is also valid in the case of our own children. The Versestates:

“And make not over your property (property of the orphan), whichAllah had made a (means of) support for you, to the weak of understanding, andmaintain them out of it, clothe them and give them good education. And testthem until they reach the age of marriage. Then if you find them maturity ofintellect, make over them their property……” (Qur’an 4:5-6).

           In the matter of children who has lost a parent, a Muslim is ordered to (a)feed them, (b) clothe them, (c) educate them, and (d) test them for maturity“until the age of marriage” before entrusting them with management offinances. Here the Qur’anic verse demands meticulous proof of their intellectual and physical maturity byobjective test results before the ageof marriage in order to entrust their property to them.

Inthe light of the above verses, no responsible Muslims would hand over financialmanagement to a seven or nine year old immature girl. If we cannot trust aseven-year-old to manage the financial matters, she cannot be intellectually orphysically fit for marriage also. Ibn Hambal (REF:Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal,vol.6, p 33 and 99) claims that Ayesha at the age of nine was rather moreinterested to play with toy-horses than to take up the responsible task of awife. Therefore, I would not believe that Abu Baker, a great Moimin, wouldbetroth his immature seven-year-old daughter to fifty-year-old Prophet.Similarly, I would not believe that Prophet (pbuh) would marry a seven-year-oldimmature girl.

Anotherimportant duty demanded from the guardian of a child is “to educate them.” Letus ask the question, “How many of us in the Islamic Center believe that we caneducate our children satisfactorily before they reach the age of seven or nineyears?”

The answer is “none.” Itis a logically impossible task to educate a child satisfactorily before thechild attains the age of seven. Then, how can we believe that Ayesha waseducated satisfactorily at the claimed age of seven at the time of hermarriage? Abu Baker (ra) was a better judicious man than all of us. So, hedefinitely would have judged that Ayesha was a child at heart and was notsatisfactorily educated as demanded by the Qur’an. He would not havemarried her to any one. If a proposal of marrying the immature and yet tobe educated seven-year-old Ayesha came to Prophet (pbuh) he would have rejectedit outright because neither Prophet (pbuh) nor Abu Baker (ra) would violate anyclause in the Qur’an.

CONCLUSION: Marriage ofAyesha (ra) at the age of seven years would violate the maturity clause orrequirement of the Qur’an. Therefore, the story of the marriage of theseven-year-old immature Ayesha is a myth.

EVIDENCE # 9. Consent inMarriage

           A women must be consulted and get her permission to make the marriage valid(REF:Mishakat al Masabiah, translation by James Robson, Vol. I, p.665). So, in the Muslimmarriage, a credible permission from women is a pre-requisite for the marriageto be valid. By any stretch of imagination, the permission by a seven-year-oldimmature girl cannot be a valid authorization for marriage. It is unconceivableto me that Abu Baker, an intelligent man, would take seriously the permissionof a seven-year-old girl to marry a fifty-year-old man. Similarly, Prophetwould not have accepted permission given by an immature girl who, according toMuslim, took her toys with her when she went live with Prophet (pbuh).

CONCLUSION: Prophet(pbuh) did not marry seven-year-old Ayesha because it would have violated therequirement of valid permission clause of Islamic Marriage Decree. Therefore, Prophet married intellectually and physically mature Lady Ayesha.

SUMMARY: It was neither an Arab tradition to give awaygirls in marriage at an age as young as seven or nine years, nor did theProphet (pbuh) marry Ayesha (ra) at such a young age. The people of Arabia didnot object to this marriage, because it never happened in the manner it hasbeen narrated.

Obviously,the narrative of the marriage of nine year old Ayesha by Hisham ibn `urwahcannot be held true when it is contradicted by many other narratives reportedabove. Moreover, I see absolutely no reason to accept the narrative of Hishamibn `urwah as true when other scholars including Malik ibn Anas view hisnarrative, while in Iraq, as unreliable.

Thequotations from Tabari, Bukhari and Muslim show they contradict each otherregarding Ayesha’s (ra) age. Furthermore, many of these scholars contradictthemselves in their own records. Thus, the narrative of Ayesha’s (ra) age atthe time of the marriage is not reliable due to the clear contradictions seenin the works of classical scholars of Islam. Therefore, I see absolutely noreason to believe that the information on Ayesha’s (ra) age is accepted as truewhen there are adequate grounds to reject it as myth. Moreover, the guidancefrom the Qur’an is against the marriage of immature girls and boys and alsoagainst entrusting them with responsibilities.

ANSWER TO MY CHRISTIANFRIEND: We do not know the exact age at the time of her marriage due to lack ofreliable records. Based on the evidences presented above, the marriage offifty-two-year-old Prophet (pbuh) with Ayesha (ra) at nine year of age is onlya proverbial myth. On the contrary, Ayesha (ra) was an intellectually andphysically mature Bikr (virgin = adultunmarried woman with no sexual experience) when she married Prophet (pbuh).


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