In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, ever Merciful.
This is a controversial topic on which Muslims are not united (Muslims are more or less united on the essentials, such as the expression of belief that the Noble Qur’an is the Word of Allah, the 6 articles of faith, and 5 the pillars of Islam, than on the details and interpretations thereof).
Some Muslims adhere to news reports (ahadith) which give Aisha r.a. a young age of 9 at the time of the wedding, and 6 at the time of the marriage (even though a 6 year old girl is incapable of giving [a valid] consent to her marriage), ignoring other news reports which indicate a higher age.
It is rightly said: ‘don’t believe everything you read/hear.’
I have already explained in the article on the topic ‘Sources of Islam’ that the only ‘sahih‘ (i.e. authentic or genuine) Book is the Qur’an, the word ‘sahih‘ being an incorrect man-made label on books of ahadith, as it does not correctly describe the contents of these books, which were compiled between 200-300 years or so after the time of Prophet Muhammad s.a., six books of which were incorrectly labelled as ‘sahih‘ another 2 centuries or so thereafter.
Just as the message in the so-called ‘chinese whispers’ (which I normally prefer to refer to as ‘human whispers’, as it can otherwise be seen to be ‘racist’ by some) gets distorted even after passing between 5 or 6 persons within 20 minutes, we would expect the amount of distortion to be quite significant over the course of 2-3 centuries.
Let us first consider what the Holy Qur’an, which knowledgeable Muslims believe to be the Best Hadith, as this is stated in the Qur’an [39:24] itself, states on the question of the age of marriage. It was also preserved in writing by officially appointed scribes, as well as memorised by many during the lifetime of the Prophet s.a.
This makes it of prime importance not only to Muslims who believe it to be the preserved revealed Word of Allah, but also of significance in the eyes of non-Muslim scholars, who accept that the Qur’an and is a more accurate indicator of Muslim beliefs and practices, as well as of historical events, than reports compiled and written down over two centuries after the demise of Prophet Muhammad s.a., as per what is known as the ‘historical critical method’.
Please note that the Arabic word for adult females, or women, is ‘Nisaa’, which does not include pre-pubescent girls, and marriage with women i.e. adult females or ‘Nisaa’, is biologically acceptable and considered lawful from the Islamic point of view. I am yet to come across a single verse of the Noble Qur’an that uses the word ‘Inaathun‘, i.e. females in general, which would include pre-pubescent girls, when talking about lawful or permissible marriage/intercourse. The Arabic word ‘Nisaa’, i.e. women or adult females, is always used in this context, never females in general.
Talking specifically about the wives of the Prophet s.a., the Noble Qur’an states:
[33:33] O women (Nisaa) of the Prophet! You are not like any other women if you are righteous. So be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease should feel tempted; and speak a decent speech.
[33:53] It is not allowed to thee to marry women (Nisaa) after that, not to change them for other wives even though their goodness please thee, except any that thy right hand possesses. And Allah is Watchful over all things.
The Qur’an talks generally about marriage with Nisaa, i.e. women, in several verses:
[4:23] And marry not those women (Nisaa) whom your fathers married, except what has already passed. It is a thing foul and hateful and an evil way.
[4:35] Men are protectors and maintainers of women (Nisaa), because Allah has made some of them excel others, and because they (men) spend of their wealth. So virtuous women are those who are obedient (to Allah), and guard the unseen (i.e. they preserve their chastity) with Allah’s protection. …
The following verse talks what is in the wombs of divorced women, something which cannot possibly happen in underage girls:
[2:229] And the divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day; and their husbands have the greater right to take them back during that period, provided they desire reconciliation. And they (the divorced women) have rights similar to those (of their ex-husbands) over them in equity; but the men (in question) have a rank above them. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.
The following verse refers specifically to reaching the age of marriage:
[4:7] And put the orphans to test until they attain the age of marriage; then, if you find in them sound judgement, deliver to them their wealth; and devour it not in extravagance and haste against their growing up.
The above verse can be, and has been used by many, to show that under-age i.e. pre-pubescent marriages, are not lawful, as sound judgement is linked with it. This could simply not refer to pre-pubescent children, as the word nikah can mean marriage and/or intercourse.
Those who adhere to those reports which indicate that Aisha a.s. was around 18/19 years of age as more reliable, also seek support for their view from this verse, as it appears to associate sound judgement with the age of marriage. A very good article in this regard is the following one:
The Qur’anic usage of word ‘Nisaa‘ appears to me to be a very strong argument in this regard. The following verse is erroneously used by some to show that the Qur’an permits marriage to pre-pubescent or underage girls:
[65:5] And if you are in doubt as to those of your WOMEN as despair of monthly courses, then know that the prescribed period for them is three months, and the same is for those (of your WOMEN) as have not had their monthly courses (yet). And as for those (WOMEN) who are with child, their period shall be until they are delivered of their burden. And whoso fears Allah, He will provide facilities for him in his affair.
The above verse tells us that marriage is performed (by men) with women (Arabic – Nisaa), i.e. adult females, not young girls. The wording ‘those as have not had their monthly courses (yet)’ is referring to women (nisaa) with the condition known as ‘primary amenorrhea‘, i.e. having a delayed onset of menses, and not pre-pubescent girls.
A medical website defines primary amenorrhea as follows:
“This is when young women have not had their first period by the age of 15.”
The feminine relative pronoun ‘Allaa’i‘ i.e. those/such, refers to the women mentioned previously. Girls aren’t mentioned anywhere in the verse, preceding verses, or the subsequent verses. Girls are not even mentioned anywhere in the entire Sura/Chapter of at-Talaaq [65:1-13]. The rules of grammar therefore dictate that the pronoun in question refers to women, not to girls.
If however the Arabic word ‘inaathun‘ (females) had been used instead of ‘nisaa‘ (women) in the verse and sura/chapter, then there might have been some scope for arguing it could be understood to refer to girls. The word ‘unthaa‘ (female) is used in the Qur’an 30 times, so it can’t be argued that the word inaathun/females was outside of the vocabulary of the author of the Qur’an! Here is a link which one can follows to check the relevant verses:
The verse [65:5] constitutes firm evidence that the Qur’an is divine revelation, for how would Muhammad s.a. have known about ‘primary amenorrhea’, which scholars didn’t know about for centuries after him? Other views on the verse [65:5] and age of marriage in general can be seen here:
To revert to our topic on the age of marriage, applying the principle that the Qur’an comes first, for it was written down during the lifetime of the Noble Prophet s.a. and hence should be considered more reliable and supreme over any other source that was collected over 200 years after the time of the Noble Prophet s.a., we cannot accept any narration from the ahadith compilations or sira literature which contradicts the words in the Qur’an, for it would constitute an act of kufr or rejection of the Word of Allah.
Those male scholars who erroneously assumed that the wording refers to pre-pubescent girls, should not be followed blindly just because they have authored a commentary, for they were not ‘scholars’ when it came to women’s matters, and did not properly consider the grammar of the verse. In reality, muslim women scholars should have been consulted at least on women’s matters before publishing such commentaries. The Qur’an itself states:
[10:37] And most of them follow nothing but conjecture. Surely, conjecture avails nothing against truth. Verily, Allah is well aware of what they do.
Applying the principle mentioned in the above verse, the Qur’an itself is truth (haqq), whilst the science of hadith literature (which was compiled over 2 centuries after the time of the Prophet s.a.) is based on human conjecture, not on absolute certainty. Thus we do not really need to enter into a detailed examination of various uncertain ahadith in order to determine which is more reliable, and then draw conclusions from them, as to whether she was 12, or 15/16, or 19.
The Promised Messiah a.s. was the first person to question the age of Aisha r.a. being 9 to my knowledge:
“… Aisha r.a. being 9 years of age has only appeared in baseless statements. It is not proven from any hadith or (verses of) the Qur’an.” [Arya Dharam (written & published in 1895), Ruhani Khazain Vol. 10, p. 64]
It appears the Promised Messiah a.s. did not have the controversial/disputed ahadith in mind when he made that statement, or he might have felt that the ahadith could not be used to prove an age of 9, due to their uncertainty (which he states elsewhere), and that the Qur’an only talks of marriage with women; Allah knows best.
The Promised Messiah a.s. also stated:
“First of all, the reference of nine years old is not proven through the words of the Holy Prophet s.a. Neither was there any revelation about it, nor did a series of traditions establish that [Hadhrat Aisha r.a.] was certainly nine years old [at the time of her marriage]. Only one narrator relates it. The Arabs were not used to keeping past years’ almanac because they were ignorant.” (Nurul-Quran Part II, Ruhani Khazain Vol. 9, pp. 377-378)
Further arguments questioning and rejecting the ahadith suggesting the age of 9 appear to have been presented by his Companions r.a. sometime after the Promised Messiah a.s. had passed away.
However, after it has been established from the Qur’an that marriage is to take place between adults, and not pre-pubescent children, a detailed study of the conflicting ahadith on this matter can be seen to be an academic exercise. I personally find this somewhat unnecessary, but those who wish to spend their valuable time indulging in this exercise instead of spending more time and effort pondering over the Noble Qur’an as instructed by Allah Almighty, could start from this link:
There is also an interesting point made by Dr Shabir Ally on this issue starting from 12:05 minutes into the video, concerning the uncertainty of the reported ages of Hadhrat Khadija r.a. and Hadhrat Aisha r.a.:
If anyone still wishes to argue on this matter, I would request them to first show us the required birth and marriage certificates to establish their case, after which we may being to question the accuracy of the Holy Qur’an, the Noble Word of Allah. Until then, we shall continue to abide by our faith in the Holy Qur’an, for we have every reason to place greater value in a Book which was written down in the very lifetime of the Noble Prophet s.a., and be more critical of reports that were compiled some 2-3 centuries later.
It would also be prudent to educate oneself on the case made by some bodies against ‘child marriages’, so that people can make informed decisions using their own reason, keeping in mind that humans are fallible, and not always reliable, for various reasons.
(This article is being developed)
Please check https://the-truths.org/ for other interesting articles.
[19:77] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance.
[20:48] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.