Saturday, October 07, 2006

At what age did Ayesha marry?

With the insurgence of Islamophobia perpetuated by ultra-right wing evangelicals via talk radio and the blogosphere, our community has been summoned to defend our Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) from slurs, insults, and campaigns of misinformation. Polemical Islamphobes have been launching attacks against our Prophet (SAAS) using Islamic texts as a source for their criticisms although they have little knowledge of the veracity of the information within each text and context of historical narrations therein. This polemic can be clearly seen when it comes to the charge leveled against the Prophet (SAAS) of pedophilia in the context of his marriage to the Mother of the Believers `Ayesha bint Abi Bakr (ra).

The allegations that the Prophet (SAAS) was a pedophile are based upon narrations such as the following:

Narrated `Ayesha that the Prophet (SAAS) wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old, and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said, I have been informed that `Ayesha remained with the Prophet for nine years. [Sahih Al-Bukhari]

Based upon contemporary American law, sexual relations with or without parental consent between a fifty-four year old man and a nine year old girl would constitute pedophilia. And although many Muslims scholars attest to the veracity of reports such as the previously stated, many contemporary Muslims have difficulty digesting the thought of a middle aged man consummating with a girl of such age, even if it was the Prophet (SAAS). In reconciling this concern, some apologists take the stance that such marriages were normative during that era with adding that `Ayesha (ra) could have reached the age of puberty by the age of nine.

The opinion, however, of some of the scholars and imams of the varying schools of thought in Metro Detroit is that in fact `Ayesha (ra) was a teenager at the age of consummation, not nine years old. Based upon reports such as in Tarikh At-Tabari that both Asma (ra) and `Ayesha (ra), daughters of `Abu Bakr (ra), were born before Abu Bakr (ra) accepted Islam and the reports such as in Sirah Ar-Rasul by Ibn Hisham that `Ayesha (ra) was a Muslim before `Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra), it is mathematically impossible that `Ayesha (ra) was nine years old at the time of consummation. In fact, this calculation would place her as being nine years old during the lifetime of the Prophet╝s first wife, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (RA) before her demise.

Interpretation of our history should not be primarily motivated by societal pressures; however, the latter interpretation of the Prophet (SAAS) marrying a teenager between the ages of sixteen to possibly nineteen also contains a degree of contemporary acceptability, even legally. In the United States , a sixteen year old can be married with parental consent as Islam teaches that virgins need parental consent before marriage. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the vast majority of teenage girls have begun puberty at the age of sixteen, unlike the average nine year old.

Of course, this subject has always had more than one opinion attached to it. As Muslims, we should respect differing opinions that have legitimate basis without being belligerent in our disagreements. And ALLAH (SWT) knows best.

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