The so-called ‘scandal of the marriage of Aisha to the Prophet Muhammad’ is a favorite topic for Islamophobes and anti-Islam polemicists alike. It is a distorted topic that they luridly present, attempting to create the narrative that Islam allows men to have sex with prepubescent girls and that the Prophet Muhammad was a “pedophile.”
Danios has taken this topic up in a lengthy article that rebutted Rev. Deacon Robert Spencer and his allies’ claims, in the process exposing their faulty arguments and inept understanding of basic Arabic.
To be sure Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage was not an issue or even a point of attack for anti-Islam/Muslim polemicists before the 20th century for the very simple reason that adolescence is a product of the 20th century; Islamic studies professor Jonathan Brown makes this point in response to a question on the topic.
Interestingly enough traditional scholarship is not unanimously in agreement about Aisha’s age despite the report in Bukhari. Recently, Mohammad Fadel, professor of law at the University of Toronto with a background in Islamic law had a conversation with an eminent Syrian hadith scholar by the name of Salah al-Din al-Idlibi who concludes based on all the available historical reports that Aisha was 14 at the time that she contracted her marriage and 18 when she began her married life with Prophet Mohammad. (h/t: Amin S.)
This discussion offered me the opportunity to raise the problem of age generally for the first generation of Muslims, especially since the Arabs before Islam did not have a regular calendar, and the question of Aisha’s age. I mentioned that there was a hadith in Sahih Muslim which stated that she participated in the Battle of Uhud by tending to the wounded and bringing water to the soldiers. I said it seemed implausible that a girl of 10 could be doing these things, especially since we know that the Prophet (S) prohibited ‘Abdallah b. ‘Umar from participating in that battle, even though he was a teenager at the time. In any case, he mentioned to me that he had written a short essay on the question of ‘Aisha’s age and that he would send it to me in due course.
When I woke up this morning, I found that he had sent me, as promised, the short essay he had written on the issue. In it he concludes that based on all available historical reports, ‘Aisha was fourteen at the time her marriage was contracted to the Prophet (S) and that she did not begin her married life until she was eighteen. He concludes that the narration in Bukhari and Muslim in which she reports that her marriage was contracted at the age of six and the she entered the Prophet’s (S) house at 9 is in all probability a mistake (wahm) in transmission, perhaps from Aisha herself if she reported it in her old age. I found the analysis very considered and persuasive. For those interested, here is a link to the essay, which I reproduce with his gracious permission.