Was Aisha – Youngest Wife of Prophet Mohamed – Really Nine Years Old?

By: Alexandra Kinias

Forcing a woman into marriage is more atrocious than sending an innocent person to jail for life; as some of these women have no chance of parole. What is more outrageous than forcing women into matrimony is forcing minors, as young as eight years old, into marriages. My article “My Deep Condolences for Your Daughter’s Wedding” addressed the issue that minors are forced into marriages in various parts of the world because of cultural and social reasons. However, in some lands such marriages are blessed by religious clerics who licensed this appalling procedure because, according to them, it follows in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohamed who married his wife Aisha at the age of nine.
The subject of Islam and women is a very sensitive issue. In most Muslim societies, the degrading state of women is accepted as part of their belief. Even though it is unjust to women, it can not be refuted or challenged.
However, in the age of satellite and Internet, the distorted views and messages against women, broadcast on television screens by zealot clerics have successfully reached every corner of the globe. These views are stirring enormous clouds of controversies and criticism in the global arena against the religious establishment. Saudi Arabia, the most conservative country in the world, which solely takes credit for the export of the Wahabism ideology, is under tremendous pressure to reform by human rights organizations. The pressure forced King Abdullah to sign a declaration of reform that among its items was to improve the conditions of women.
The battle for reform encouraged intellectual thinkers in the Kingdom to express their critical and opposing views against the religious establishment and to challenge the decisions imposed by the clerics. It came as a surprise to me to read an article by the Saudi writer Saleh Ibrahim where he not only condemned child marriages, but also challenged it. He supported his argument with acknowledging the existence of historical records which provides serious challenges that Aisha, the wife of Prophet Mohamed was at least nineteen years old and perhaps as old as twenty four when the Prophet married her, and not nine years old as it has been presented to Muslims.
The writer concludes the article by saying that [the Saudis] have to re-evaluate what have been written in history books and perhaps [they] will discover that there are those who have enforced obsolete social customs and traditions into the religious practices merely for their benefit. He questions the concept of pedophilia and whether legitimizing it through marriage cleanses it from the crime that is being committed to minors with their father’s consent.
An eight years old girl’s right is being violated when she is forced into marriage even if her father approves. No matter from which angle the situation is looked upon, it still bears rape all over it. However, this article was a small reason for optimism. It proves that there are voices out there that have started to refute, question, challenge and reject the views of religious clerics. Reform of Islam will come from within there is no doubt about that. It may not be a surprise if the issues of the women who have been victimized by its practices trigger this reform.

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14 Comments

Filed under Women's Rights

14 responses to “Was Aisha – Youngest Wife of Prophet Mohamed – Really Nine Years Old?

  1. Fred Rhinehardt

    Alex,
    Thank you so much for your addressing this issue. I hope that you are correct that an uprising within the established community is beginning. Keep up the struggle.

  2. Ed

    Someone recently sent me a similar article, claiming that Aisha was 19 and not 9. I believe it uses a lot of circular reasoning – Aisha was at the Battle of Badr, fighters had to be over 15, therefore Aisha was over 15, etc. It is like the arguement, “All bananas are yellow, this is yellow, therefore this must be a banana.”

    I think the real challenge is for Muslims not to try to change Aisha’s age, but to simply admit that what Muhammad did would be called rape in today’s world.

    Even if they can justify his marriage to Aisha, what about marrying his daughter-in-law Zainab? What about raping Sofiya after torturing and killing her husband? What about lying to Hafsah so he could get her out of the house so he could sleep with her slave Mary the Copy (and then composing an entire Sura, al-Tahreem, blaming Hafsah? What about the fact that he would not believe Aisha when she said she had not committed adultery? There are many stories other than Aisha’s young age that show Muhammad’s true attitude towards women.

  3. Moushka Rahman

    We cannot interpret and judge a person’s actions in 650 AD using our ‘modern’ 2010 AD perspectives. The concept of “having a childhood” is a recent, modern luxury. Even centuries after the Prophet, as soon as a woman was able to menstruate she was – for the most part – pregnant or dead from childbirth. A woman at 30 years of age was worn out and ancient.

    Centuries after the death of the Prophet, in the more ‘civilized’ west, Lady Margaret Beaufort gave birth to the future King Henry VII at the age of 12 in 1457 AD. Saint Brigit of Sweden was 12 at her marriage, her daughter – Saint Catherine – also 12 years of age…there are hundred’s of these early marriage examples. Up until the mid-1700’s Habsburg rulers married their nieces – with full papal blessing. Prince Albert’s (Queen Victoria’s husband) father married his own niece in 1832.

    In order for a family/clan/tribe to guarantee their continuity through the ages, early marriage and conception was required – more like paramount. To our modern ears, it is horrifying. However, that was part of our history and it was considered acceptable at that time. If we lived during that time period – we would have thought it normal.

    In my opinion, Ayesha was nine years old when married – betrothed – just like Elizabeth of York who was betrothed at 5 years of age. After the ceremony, it would be custom for Ayesha to remain with her own family until she was considered old enough to have children. Ayesha remained childless throughout her life.

    Not being an anthropologist I have no interest in the actions ancient societies. The issue of child marriage today is far more important than judging historical figures entirely out of context.

    • Moushka,
      I totally agree with you. What I loath though regarding this whole issue is that the actions of this ancient society is used to justify today the crime of marrying young girls in the name of religion.

  4. Moushka Rahman

    Yes, internally, when Muslims want to emulate the life of the Prophet in every way…its just ridiculous and irrational. Actually, the Koran warns against it…. but who wants to really think? Emulate his characteristics, i.e.: compassion – spending the majority of his wealth on purchasing and freeing slaves (male and female), etc….

    However, external critique without using a historical yardstick is such a waste of time.

    But I believe – in the majority of areas were it is practiced today – it is continued because they know of nothing else. Muslim or not, it would still be the same. They are enslaved to grinding poverty, high infant mortality rates and early death in child bed. Education is the key to their liberation.

  5. Ed

    I posted some comments on Saleh Ibrahim’s article in Okaz. For interested readers, they are available at:

    http://staringattheview.blogspot.com/2010/10/challenge-facing-muslim-youth.html

  6. Moushka Rahman

    Interesting article. Unfortunately, it is totally one-sided and myopic as are the majority of articles dealing with this religion. Personally, I cultivate a healthy suspicion of internet articles/posts/blogs, etc…majority lack complete perspective and prefer to blur the real issues with “hot” words and false conclusions. For example:

    1. The author wrote that sex with a minor is just as much rape today – as it was 1400 years ago. Totally false. 1 400 years ago in the Middle East, Asia and Europe child marriage was commonplace. One cannot judge – rationally judge – historical persons with our 2010 sensibilities. If anyone is interested, please check my post above.

    2. Also, who are these mysterious “experts” that debunked Saleh’s belief Ayesha was 19 rather than 9? Record keeping in the desert in 650 AD must have been sporadic at best, and no one has a time machine. Who really knows? Now, that’s just my conclusion, but it seems more reasonable to simply not know the answer…so, she may have been 4, 16 or 56. I believe she was 9, women were betrothed at very early ages – even before birth – in the Middle East, Asia and Europe in that time period right up to ‘modern’ arranged marriages between wealthy families in the 1900’s.

    3. Again the author wrongly concludes that Muslims have been “taught” to defend the Prophet at any cost. What? Really? … that’s news to this Muslim. We are taught to defend our right to use our brains and to question everything.

    In Egypt, and other more progressive Muslim countries, the marriageable age is over 16, sometimes over 18. The true issue lies beyond all this bickering about Ayesha’s age, potential sexual perversions and European marriage practices: why has Saudi, with all their wealth and influence, opted to maintain this draconian practice? Why are they adamant about keeping their general population lodged firmly in the 12th century?

    I think if we can answer that – we will have a complete and unobstructed view.

  7. Xulfi

    I was very troubled by this fact that prophet Muhammad married a girl which was only 9 at the time of her marriage.without going into details i accept that if this is a fact then it was wrong!! but then as a Muslim i feel really bad so i started to research the matters out and i found that once Aisha was accused of adultery when she was traveling with a caravan, afterwords it was proven wrong by Sunni sect of Islam while shia sect is still uncomfortable with proofs. after finding this out i now confidently say that aisha was more the 14 years when she married Prophet Muhammad. the claim was made after many years by the sunnis of that time to prove the innocence of Aisha as if she was nine at the time of marriage she could hardly be in her early teens when the scandal of caravan took place.its only reasonable that this controversy is also a part of a great conspiracy of Sunni Muslim against shia sect as the Sunnis claim that shias are (infidels) .if you are interested in history you can figure it out by yourselves that their are many big lies in History of Islam from both sides to undermine the justifiability of each other.just like in Christianity between Catholics and Protestants

  8. Moushka Rahman

    I think, Xulfi, the core issue in this post (and the follow-up messages) is an attempt to slander the Prophet by measuring his actions against our standards in 2010. Westerners are trying to call the Prophet a paedophile – an adult who has sexual relations with children. Which is totally ridiculous, but I read it all the time….

    The Prophet lived in appox. 650 AD. At that time, tribal leaders cemented relationships with other tribes through marriage. Ayesha may well have been 9 years old when she was betrothed to the Prophet – we will never know the truth. However, as is Arab custom, after the ceremony she would have returned to her own family. She would remain with her family until she was old enough – until she became a woman able to function as a wife.

    Westerners easily forget their European history is littered with such arrangements – even centuries after the Prophet. King John of England who frequently stayed in bed with his 12 year old bride – Isabella of Angouleme – until past noon in 1200AD. Lady Margaret Beaufort gave birth to the future King Henry VII at the age of 12 in 1457 AD. Saint Brigit of Sweden was 12 at her marriage, her daughter – Saint Catherine – also 12 years of age…there are hundred’s of these early marriage examples. Up until the mid-1700’s Habsburg rulers married their nieces – with full papal blessing. Prince Albert’s (Queen Victoria’s husband) father married his own niece in 1832.

    Woman did not live long in the past. Without the medical attention a woman can receive in hospital today and without birth control – women were either pregnant or dead from childbirth. Early marriage was needed to keep the human race alive. A 30 year old woman at that time, if she made it that long, was worn out and ancient.

    If Ayesha was nine up to 15, Westerners are trying to judge the Prophet by modern standards while ignoring their own history. Total “Bush-speak”, just keep pointing the finger and giving salacious information and people will believe it. The very concept of “having a childhood” is a modern luxury. You must judge people from history using their own time periods as a yard stick.

  9. xulfi

    I totally understand the double standards of the west when they attack a country its their right of preemptive attack before a fictional attack,they attacked 2 countries without any evidence and still backing the war on terror after knowing that Osama(i dont like him or anything) never accepted that 9/11 is done by him,they know that there were never WMDs in Iraq but they are backing the war with their hard earn tax money becuz of their stupidity!! they are always trying to find some flaw in islam.but i presented the explaination that how muslims got the concept on the first place.and its becuse of the shia sunni differences over Bibi Aisha’s chracter(which is a different topic) but its just my opinion not a hard fact! Peace!

  10. Naomi

    God, in GENESIS 2:22, says,GOD CREATED A WOMAN…..! He is GOD, He did not create a child female for ADAM! AM I RIGHT? Did Muhammad have the gift of knowledge of a PROPHET? Would our FATHER GOD not have said a GIRL for Adam. It is a disgraceful man that excuses sexual corruption for tradition. I have a 9 yr old grand-daughter who if ever touched sexually by a male, before she is able to make a mature choice, trust me its not GODS FAULT, its the DEVIL IN YOU! Your standard of being a PROPHET is not like JESUS taught. He would never hurt a little girl for pleasure!Only SICK males excuse their actions. Jesus is your SAVIOR! Accept Him, he would never set a bad example for you to cause pain on a child.Let Muhammad RIP. He will face judgement for his sins, trust m, there were many.

  11. Moushka Rahman

    Perhaps if you read the string of comments above before leaving your reply you would of taken a more educated approach to your obviously racist response. Christ was not a racist – emulate Him.

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