Did Mohammed really marry a 6 year old at the age of 50?

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A criticism levelled against Mohammed is that at the age of 50 he married a six year old child named Aisha.

First, lets ask ourselves this – Does this actually matter?

A rather obvious rebuttal is to ask why this might matter today. Mohammed lived back in the 7th Century, not in our modern age, so things such as this should not be a surprise because that was a time in which many abhorrent things were acceptable, for example slavery. In fact Mohammed himself was both a slave owner and also a slave trader. Should we really judge individuals from the 7th century by our modern standards?

This issue matters to us today because Mohammed is believed by some to be the perfect man, Allah’s chosen one, and hence his life is believed to be an example that should be followed. As a result we have a real problem, because we end up with numerous examples of young girls being married off to far older men, and this arrangement is approved by numerous strands of Islamic belief.

More than 1,000 of the 8,000 forced marriages of Britons each year in the UK involve underage girls.

How do we actually know that Mohammed at age 50 married a 6 year old?

The sources for Mohammed’s marriage is not some modern slur, but rather comes from traditional Islamic sources.

Is it simply one obscure minor reference?

No, not at all, it is all over the place, there are in fact many many different references.

Sahih al-Bukhari (is one of the Kutub al-Sittah (six major hadith collections) of Sunni Islam, in some circles, this is considered the most authentic book after the Quran) – 5:58:2345:58:2367:62:647:62:657:62:88,

Sahih Muslim (is the second most authentic hadith collection after Sahih al-Bukhari, and is highly acclaimed) – 8:33098:33108:331141:4915

Sunan Abu Dawood (is one of the Kutub al-Sittah (six major hadiths), collected by Abu Dawud) – 41:4917

Looking at the very first – Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234:

Narrated Aisha:

The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became Allright, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age.

Are these Hadith collections the only sources?

No, there are also other independent sources for this as well, for example al-Ṭabarī (a Persian scholar and historian),  records a slightly different variation and notes that she was ten – Tabari, Volume 9, Page 131; Tabari, Volume 7, Page 7

Do Any strands of Islam Reject all of this?

Yes indeed,  Muhammad Ali, an Ahmadiyya leader, challenged the notion that Aisha was as young as the traditional sources claim; arguing that according to the compiler of the hadith collection Mishkat al-Masabih, Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, Aisha would be nineteen years old around the time of her marriage.

Side Note: The Ahmadiyya are a fringe Islamic sect and are regarded by mainstream Islam as not true Islam (This is perhaps akin to Catholicism asserting that Pentecostals are not “true” Christians). Like most belief systems there is no “true” version, just many different variations that will all declare themselves to be the “true” variation – basically this is the “No true Scotsman” fallacy.

So what exactly is the Ahmadiyya argument presented to verify that that this is not true?

Their argument is presented here … and it is not a new argument but is instead a collection of most objections. Tempting as it might be to write my own rebuttal, I shall resist because others have already done a fine job … for example here is a complete point by point rebuttal.

I will however add a few additional observations …

Argument: There are no examples to verify that this an accepted norm of the Arab culture.

The issue is that it is recorded that Mohammed did do this – the fact that it was or was not the accepted norm is not relevant.

Argument: “In my opinion, the age of Ayesha (ra) has been grossly misreported in the narratives of the incident

And the historical facts presented to verify this “opinion” do not withstand any analysis (see rebuttal).

Rejecting hadith collections as un-reliable is to essentially reject the foundation that vast swathes of modern Islamic thinking is built upon … and that’s fine, it is simply a different variation of Islamic belief that does this and perhaps also partially explains why most Muslims reject the Ahmadiyya and regard them as heretics.

So what is the real truth here?

I have several observations

  • Regarding doubts concerning the source, it should be noted that hadith scholars of that time, such as Ahmad ibn Hanbal(855 CE/241 AH), Yahya ibn Ma’in (847 CE/233 AH), and Ali ibn al-Madini (848 CE/234 AH), accepted the authenticity of his book and did not raise concerns regarding it.
  • It is not the only source – as previously indicated above, others made similar observations – distinctly different chains of narrators are reporting a similar account and that adds a lot of credibility. To refute the idea, you need to debunk them all, not just the most well-known and most popular
  • Why such a young age? For early Muslims, Aisha’s youth demonstrated her virginity and therefore her suitability as a bride of Muhammad. This issue of her virginity was of great importance to those who supported Aisha’s position in the debate of the succession to Muhammad – as Muhammad’s only virgin wife, Aisha was in their eyes, divinely intended for him, and therefore the most credible regarding the succession debate, so this may explain a political need for such a claim.
  • She is also regarded as his favourite wife and it is noted that he would often just sit and watch her and her friends play with dolls, which to be frank is even further evidence of a very young age, not too many 19 years olds tend to play with dolls.

So is it really true?

Given the multiple sources and no objections from the hadith scholars of the time, there is a strong probability that it is indeed true, and no historical sources at all … not one … reject the idea.

The Real Issue for us Today

The big issue, is not “Is this true or not?”. Instead we need to be concerned that it is believed to be true by millions who also happen to truly believe that this is a good example to follow.

The result is that today we see a lot of forced marriages of very young girls to far older men – and that is the true horror here.

Oh and least you doubt the reality of this, the picture at the top is not a historical recreation, but is instead a picture taken of Faiz Mohammed, 40, and his “wife” Ghulam Haider, age 11. It was taken in Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, only a couple of years ago.

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5 thoughts on “Did Mohammed really marry a 6 year old at the age of 50?”

  1. The UN considers child-marriage child abuse. Countries like Yemen have a leading cause of death for girls related to pregnancy/delivery which is tragic.

    Onset of puberty does not mean children are ready for marriage or pregnancy/delivery. It is dangerous to the girls’ health and has many bad socio-economic consequences. The cycle of poverty is perpetuated by child-marriage.

    Political marriages have happened in history. But consummating the marriage with Aisha when she was 9 was done for ‘sexual indulgence’.

    The consequences to girls of child-marriages in India and many middle-eastern and African countries are terrible. https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/ and https://www.livescience.com/19584-10-year-birth.html have more info.

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  2. “The big issue, is not “Is this true or not?”. Instead we need to be concerned that it is believed to be true by millions who also happen to truly believe that this is a good example to follow.”. Very true.

    “”The Prophet Muhammad is the model we follow. He took ‘Aisha to be his wife when she was six, but he had sex with her only when she was nine.”
    https://www.memri.org/reports/saudi-marriage-officiant-it-permitted-marry-girl-aged-one-year-if-sex-postponed-prophet clip https://www.memri.org/tv/dr-ahmad-al-mubi-saudi-marriage-officiant-it-allowed-marry-girl-age-one-if-sex-postponed-prophet

    The whole concept that when a girl starts menstruating she supposedly is ready for pregnancy/delivery/raising children is nonsense. It takes several years after onset of puberty before pelvises etc. are developed well enough to make delivery less unsafe. https://archive.org/details/0325323.nlm.nih.gov/page/n9/mode/2up 1817 edition. Socrates indicates that menses usually starts at 14 or 15 and he indicates “Hippocrates holds, that a youth of fifteen years or between that and seventeen, having much vital strength, is capable of getting a child.” Hippocrates 460-370 BC Socrates 479-399 BC.

    https://www.livescience.com/19584-10-year-birth.html lets health-workers who practiced in Africa speak on the risks of early pregnancies.

    “Just because a girl can get pregnant, though, doesn’t mean she can safely deliver a baby. The pelvis does not fully widen until the late teens, meaning that young girls may not be able to push the baby through the birth canal.

    The results are horrific, said Wall and Thomas, who have both worked in Africa treating women in the aftermath of such labors. Girls may labor for days; many die. Their babies often don’t survive labor either.

    The women and girls who do survive often develop fistulas, which are holes between the vaginal wall and the rectum or bladder.”

    Maybe some Muslims who argue that girls become ‘women’ when they start menstruating or who use terms like “is ready for intercourse”, “Has become a woman”, should consider how they would feel as a 9 or 10 year old risking pregnancy with such terrible odds to their health.

    Nujood Ali was married off by her father on the understanding that early sex was dangerous to her https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmP66xGpjGo&t=2m6s but on the wedding night her mother-in-law held her down while her husband raped her.

    Islam itself has no age-limit on marriage or consummation. One can marry an infant. Consummation is not uniformly interpreted by the 5 main schools of thought, The 4 main schools only mention that the girl has to be able to ‘bear intercourse’ (see Masked Arab’s three clerics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LE3QARjIZg&t=14m20s three clerics arguing that there is no age-limit to marriage in shariah law.)
    and the 5th school (Shia) uses 9 as the age for Intercourse.
    Khomeiny’s book ‘Tahrir al Wasilah’. Translation: Dr. Sayyid Ali Reza Naqavi Pubished 2001 https://archive.org/details/TahrirAlVasilah/0000-tahrir%20j3-nA4/page/n441/mode/2up

    “Problem # 12. Intercourse with a woman is not allowed unless she attains the age of nine years, regardless whether the marriage is permanent or temporary. There is, however, no objection in other enjoyments like touching lasciviously, hugging and rubbing the thighs, even with a suckling infant. If a
    person has had intercourse with a girl before she has attained the age of nine years, but it has not resulted in ifda’ he shall not be subjected to any punishment, except that he shall be considered to have committed a sin. If his intercourse has resulted in Ida’. so that the urinal and menstrual or the
    menstrual and fecal passages have become one she shall be rendered perpetually prohibited to him though, according to the more cautious opinion, it shall be so in the latter case. In any case, according to the stronger opinion, she shall not cease to be his wife. So all the laws relating to her wifehood shall apply to her like mutual inheritance, prohibition on having a fifth wife, and the prohibition for the husband to marry her sister, etc. He shall be bound to maintain her as long as she is alive, even if he divorces her, rather, according to the more cautious opinion, even if she marries another husband after the divorce by the first husband, rather it is not devoid of force, and he shall also be bound to pay the Diyat for Ilda’ to her, and that is equal to the Diyat of a human being. If the wife is a free woman, she
    shall receive half the Diyat of a man in addition to the dower to which she is entitled by virtue of the contract and consummation of marriage. If the husband performs intercourse with his wife after she has completed nine years of age, and it results in Ilda’ , she shall neither be rendered unlawful to him, nor shall he be required to pay her Diyat, but, according to the more cautious opinion, he shall be bound to maintain her as long as she is alive, though, according to the stronger opinion, he is not bound to do so.”.

    Other sources:

    https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/12/17/iraq-parliament-rejects-marriage-8-year-old-girls Iraq: Parliament Rejects Marriage for 8-Year-Old Girls (2017)

    The nine-year-old child forced into marriage in Iraq https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSFfjQ08t_k&t=4m28s clerics are blamed. Sheikh Mustafa Albayati at 4:28 argues “Depends on readiness, Puberty is the threshold. When she’s fit for marriage and worthy of a husband she must marry” where he clearly means that a girls is ready for intercourse when she starts menstruating. Throughout the documentary intelligent, vocal girls object against child marriage.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42558328 Turkish child marriage religious document sparks anger Published3 January 2018

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL5vFqWQU48&t=40s shows
    Mufti Tariq Masood Deobandi “We often ask, if we have girls then how are we going to care for them? We spend so much on their education but someone else takes advantage of it. (i.e. her husband and his family). That’s why Allah says that you don’t have to worry about her education The person who is going to marry her, he has to spend money on her education. This is why Allah has allowed pre-pubescent girls to be married off. A girls is born in in your house but she belongs to someone else. So you can hand over the girl to her rightful owner even in her childhood. This is why Allah allowed you to marry off your pre-pubescent daughters. It’s so difficult to make you understand. Back in the day, it used to happen all the time. A girl is born and a woman will come and say marry this girl too my boy. Do the Nikkah and she’s yours. Once she’s had her period, you can actually hand her over to them. Now it’s their responsibility to spend money on her. ”

    Shaykh Muhammed Al-Hasmi Islamic Scholar and member of Yemen’s Parliament. “No One has the right. Not the president, the parliament or anyone. To restrict something God has allowed. ….. Islam doesn’t specify an age for marriage. Why do they look into something that is not an issue. Why do they make a problem out of nothing. I want to ask: why is early marriage a problem?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmP66xGpjGo&t=676 ‘(Documentary child marriage and rape is still legal in Yeman (2013)’ where this Shaykh as a member of parliament blocks age of consent laws.

    More evidence of Muslim child brides:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/opinion/04kristof.html married at 8 divorced at 10
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8026545.stm 8 year old’s wedding gets annulled from man in fifties.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7579616.stm 8 year old’s files for divorce from 28 year old.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415871/Yemeni-child-bride-8-dies-internal-injuries-night-forced-marriage-groom-40.html 8 years old dies after wedding night sex with 40 year old.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1264729/Child-bride-13-dies-internal-injuries-days-arranged-marriage-Yemen.html 13 year old dies after sex with husband

    Although Teen-brides and Child brides are certainly not only a problem for the religion of Islam, it is evident that Muhammed’s example is followed. For example the general site https://www.al-islam.org/religion-al-islam-and-marriage/age-marriage advise on the marriage age for girls starts with a quote:
    “Marriage Age for Girls
    The Noble Prophet (S) has said: “Virgin girls are like fruits on trees. If not plucked in time, the sun will rot them and the wind will disperse them. When girls reach maturity and their sexual instincts arise, like that of women, their only remedy is marriage. If they aren’t married, they are prone to moral corruption. It is because they are human beings and human beings are prone to making mistakes.”.
    Although the general text allows room for choice, the prophet’s advice is literally copied.

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  3. Hazrat Ayesha RA only went to live with Mohammad SAW when she was nine (9) years old and had reached puberty. Modern science has proven that many girls reach puberty when they are only eight (8) years old. Here is the link to that site:

    https://www.verywellfamily.com/when-should-puberty-start-2632063

    Did you know that the majority of marriages that Mohammad SAW did were for political reasoning. Many Arab tribes used to fight wars for decades over trivial matters. So, Mohammad SAW married women from different tribes to quell that fighting to bring those tribes together, and not for sexual indulgences, that many non-Muslims seem to implement. Also please note that out of the 9 women that Mohammad SAW married, 8 were widows.

    Even in the 21st century, many young boys and girls in India, and many African countries, are getting married when they are only 6 to 10 years old.

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