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Prophet Muhammad's wife A'isha: How Old was She at the Time of her Marriage?
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Summary by Muhammad Khalid Masud

With reference to questions about marriageable age, minor age marriages are justified quoting the precedent of A’isha marrying Prophet at the age of nine. In his book, Tahqiq Umar A’isha al-Siddiqa [(Truth about the age of A’isha the Truthful), Karachi: Mashkur Academy, No date of publication mentioned], Hakim Niyaz Ahmad, a scholar from Pakistan has examined all the report in almost all collections of Hadith and has come to the conclusion that A’isha married the Prophet when she was 19 years old.

His main findings are as follows:

1. The Hadith report about A'isha’s marriage at the age of nine is not reliable because:

a. All Hadith collections report this Hadith on the solitary authority of Hisham

b. Urwa. b. Hisham is generally accepted as a reliable person, but in his old age he had lost this prestige among the scholars in Medina. They do not accept his Hadith narrated in this period. Hisham narrated this story in around 145 AH when he was 84 years old. A’isha’s marriage took place in 2 AH, more than 140 years ago. It was the time when most of those who could verify the facts of his narration had died.

c. A’isha’s marriage was not an ordinary event that only one person would narrate it.

2. Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa’d, and other historical accounts of the life of the Prophet never fail to mention A’isha among the first group of people who embraced Islam. If A’isha were nine years old in 2 AH/624 AC she would be five years old in 610 AC, when Muhammad announced his Prohethood. It is rather more reasonable to assume that she was adult at that time, which means that she was certainly more than nine years old in the year she migrated to Medina.

3. Mishkat al-Masabih, Al-Bidaya wa’lNihaya, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, and al-Isti’ab, among the more well known sources clearly mention that A’isha was 10 years younger than her sister Asma.

4. Most sources, particularly Abu Na’im al-Isfahani suggests that Asma was 27 years old at the time of migration. It means A’isha was at least 17 years old at that time. The author disagrees with Isfahani, and calls it a miscalculation.  This calculation is based on the assumption that Asma is usually reported to have died at the age of 100 years in 73 AH.

Calculating backward and subtracting the period of 13 years of Meccan (100-73-13) she would be 14 years when she accepted Islam. That would mean that A’isha was only four years old when she embraced Islam. It is so unreasonable. Both Aisha and Asma must be old enough to qualify for accepting Islam. Therefore, we have to believe either that Asma was older than 100 years at the time of her death, or that there was not difference in their ages. This is plausible because they were born of different mothers.

5. Asma gave birth to Abdullah b. Zubayr who was the first child born among Muslims at the time of Hijra. The event was celebrated with much happiness. The Prophet suggested A’isha to take the Kunya of Umm Abdullah (Abdullah’s mother). It would be odd for a minor girl to have that Kunya. It suggests that she was old enough to have that Kunya.

6. When the Prophet proposed, A’isha was already engaged to Jubayr b. Mut’am, whose father was the leader of the Quraysh. Jubayr’s family was not happy when A’isha’s family embraced Islam. Both families found it difficult to terminate that engagement. A’isha’s father Abu Bakr had to negotiate for divorce. He requested Jubayr’s family to conclude the marriage contract and take A’isha to Jubayr’s home, as was the custom.

Abu Bakr knew that Jubayr’s family would not agree to the contract and that then he could negotiate for divorce or disengagement. It was after her divorce that she could be engaged to the Prophet. The author argues that the fact Abu Bakr could negotiate for the conclusion of the contract or divorce is an evidence that A’isha was adult and of marriageable age.

7. The author concludes that Aisha was 19 years old at the time of marriage. There is a textual error 19 (tis’at ashar) was misread as nine (tis’ah). He gives several examples of such errors in the reporting in Hadith books.

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