Q. I am a devout Muslim but I get deeply disturbed at the thought of 53 year old prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) marrying Hazrat Ayesha who was just nine years old. We are unable to explain this in the present society. Surely the reason for this marriage cannot be blatant sensuality. But please tell me how can we explain this to non-Muslims? The age difference defies all logic. It involves questions of pre-puberty alliance, question of psychological incompatibility.
Answered by Allama Syed Abdullah Tariq: It is widely believed that Hazrat Ayesha’s age was seven years when she was married to the Prophet (Pbuh) and she was 9 when she came to live with him but this is wrong. The fact is that she was 17 when married and 19 at the time of her rukhsati (departure from her home to the husband’s house). There are too many indisputable evidences in favour of this. A few of those are listed below:
1. Imam Waliuddin Muhammad Abdullah Al-Khateeb, the author of famous work on Hadith, namely Mishkaat was also an acknowledged expert of Asma-ur-Rijal (the unique art of research on people). He registered the following about Hazrat Asma at the end of Mishkaat.
“She is Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr Siddiq…She is the mother of Abdullah Bin Zubair…
She was 10 years older than her sister Ayesha..
.She died at the age of 100 in Makkah in 73AH…”(Mishkaat, Asma-ur-Rijal)
There is unanimity among all the scholars of Asma-ur-Rijal and historians on the above-mentioned facts.
It can be easily computed from above that being 100 years old in 73 AH, Hazrat Asma, daughter of Hazrat Abu Bak’r was at least 27 (100-73) years old at the time of Hijrah of the Prophet (Pbuh). If she died in the beginning of 73 AH, then her age was (100-72) 28 years at Hijrah. It is stated above that she was 10 years older than Hazrat Ayesha. It means Hazrat Ayesha was 18 years old at Hijrah. She came into the Nikah of the Prophet (Pbuh) one year before Hijrah and she shifted to the Prophet’s house two years later. Clearly, she was 17 at the time of nikah and 19 at her rukhsati.
2. The historians have placed Hazrat Ayesha between No. 17 and 20 in the list of those who were earliest to embrace Islam. Ibne Ishaq, the earliest authentic Islamic historian has placed her at No. 18. We also know that Hazrat Umar was the 40th person to embrace Islam and he entered into the faith in the first year of prophet hood. It means Hazrat Ayesha was among those few who embraced Islam almost immediately after the declaration of prophet hood. She must have been at least 5 years old to be categorized in the list of those who embraced Islam. Therefore her age was 18 when Hijrah came about 13 years later.
Examination of Hazrat Ayesha’s biography through accounts of Asma-ur-Rijal reveals that she was 17 when married to the Prophet and 19 when she came to live with him
Now imagine this. The saying goes that she was 7 at her nikah i.e. 8 at Hijrah that occurred 13 years after the declaration of prophethood. If it were true the declaration of prophethood occurred 5 years before her birth. Did she embrace Islam 5 years prior to her birth?
3. There are indications that she was among those who went to war of Badr’ but her presence in the battleground of Uhad is beyond doubt. It is in many authentic books of Hadiths and history that she was among those women in Uhad who were carrying water to the injured Sahaba. Now remember the incident of two young boys Rafe and Samra who were 13 and the Prophet (Pbuh) was not permitting them to join forces for their age but later agreed to their pleading as they were very enthusiastic. If Hazrat Ayesha was 10 when Uhad came about in 2 AH, was it possible that a new bride of 10 would have been permitted while the young boys of 13 were refused permission to go to battle ground of Uhad? On the contrary if she was 18 at Hijrah her age was 20 and fit to take care of the injured in the battlefield when Uhad took place.
There are quite a number of other irrefutable evidences of her age being 19 when she entered into the Prophet’s home 2 years after her Nikah to him.
The wrong notion of her being 7 at marriage is widely accepted (and many Fiqh deductions are erroneously made on its basis) as there is a false report narrated by Hashsham bin Urwah in all the six most authentic collections of Hadith i.e. Sihah-e-Sittah.
Hashsham bin Urwah was a very reliable narrator according to all scholars but this fact skipped the scrutiny of the famous Muhaddiseen of Sihah-e-Sittah that Hashsham became forgetful and unbalanced at his old age when he shifted to Iraq. The said report was narrated by him while he was in Iraq.
Hashsham was the teacher of Imam Malik and he has accepted a number of Hadiths narrated by him in his collection of Hadith, Muatta. It was none other than Imam Malik, Hahsham’s disciple who declared after Hashsham shifted to Iraq that none of his former teachers’ statements were reliable anymore because of his mental condition. The compilers of Sihah-e-Sittah, all being non-Arabs were not aware of it.
Now you know that when Hazrat Ayesha came to the Prophet’s house she was a major. The age difference is still considerable but no law of any land objects to the union of mutual willful consent of two majors. Remember also that the Prophet (pbuh) possessed exceptional health at 53 with all his hair black and he being stronger than most youngsters. Besides he was an ideal husband and the history testifies to his ideal care of his young wife with all the psychological considerations.