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What was Ayesha’s (ra) Age at the Time of Her Marriage?

What was Ayesha’s (ra) age at the time of her marriage?

It is normally believed that she was nine years old at the time of her marriage with
Mohammad (sws) was consummated. I do think it was according to the traditions of the Arab
culture, as otherwise people would have objected to this marriage. But unfortunately, the
modern day man is not satisfied with an answer as simple as that.

Reply*

To begin with, I think it is the responsibility of all those who believe that marrying a girl as
young as nine years old was an accepted norm of the Arab culture, to provide at least a few
examples to substantiate their point of view. I have not yet been able to find a single
dependable instance in the books of Arab history where a girl as young as nine years old was
given away in marriage. Unless such examples are given, we do not have any reasonable
grounds to believe that it really was an accepted norm.

In my opinion, the age of Ayesha (ra) has been grossly mis-reported in the ahadith. Not only
that, I think that the narratives reporting this event are not only highly unreliable but also that
on the basis of other historical data, the event reported, is quite an unlikely happening. Let us
look at the issue from an objective stand point. My reservations in accepting the narratives, on
the basis of which, Ayeshas (ra) age at the time of her marriage with the Prophet (pbuh) is held
to be nine years are:

• Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibn `urwah reporting on the
authority of his father. An event as well known as the one being reported, should
logically have been reported by more people than just one, two or three.

• It is quite strange that no one from Medinah, where Hisham ibn `urwah lived the first
seventy one years of his life has narrated the event, even though in Medinah his pupils
included people as well known as Malik ibn Anas. All the narratives of this event have
been reported by narrators from Iraq, where Hisham is reported to have had shifted
after living in Medinah for seventy one years.

• Tehzibu'l-tehzib, one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the
narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) reports that according to Yaqub ibn
Shaibah: "narratives reported by Hisham are reliable except those that are reported
through the people of Iraq". It further states that Malik ibn Anas objected on those
narratives of Hisham which were reported through people of Iraq. (vol 11, pg 48 - 51)

• Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, another book on the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh)
reports that when he was old, Hisham's memory suffered quite badly. (vol 4, pg 301 -
302)

• According to the generally accepted tradition, Ayesha (ra) was born about eight years
before Hijrah. But according to another narrative in Bukhari (kitabu'l-tafseer) Ayesha
(ra) is reported to have said that at the time Surah Al-Qamar, the 54th chapter of the
Qur'an, was revealed, "I was a young girl". The 54th surah of the Qur'an was revealed
nine years before Hijrah. According to this tradition, Ayesha (ra) had not only been
born before the revelation of the referred surah, but was actually a young girl (jariyah),
not an infant (sibyah) at that time. Obviously, if this narrative is held to be true, it is in
clear contradiction with the narratives reported by Hisham ibn `urwah. I see absolutely
no reason that after the comments of the experts on the narratives of Hisham ibn
`urwah, why we should not accept this narrative to be more accurate.

• According to a number of narratives, Ayesha (ra) accompanied the Muslims in the


battle of Badr and Uhud. Furthermore, it is also reported in books of hadith and history
that no one under the age of 15 years was allowed to take part in the battle of Uhud. All
the boys below 15 years of age were sent back. Ayesha's (ra) participation in the battle
of Badr and Uhud clearly indicate that she was not nine or ten years old at that time.
After all, women used to accompany men to the battle fields to help them, not to be a
burden on them.

• According to almost all the historians Asma (ra), the elder sister of Ayesha (ra) was ten
years older than Ayesha (ra). It is reported in Taqri'bu'l-tehzi'b as well as Al-bidayah
wa'l-nihayah that Asma (ra) died in 73 hijrah when she was 100 years old. Now,
obviously if Asma (ra) was 100 years old in 73 hijrah she should have been 27 or 28
years old at the time of hijrah. If Asma (ra) was 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah,
Ayesha (ra) should have been 17 or 18 years old at that time. Thus, Ayesha (ra), if she
got married in 1 AH (after hijrah) or 2 AH, was between 18 to 20 years old at the time
of her marriage.

• Tabari in his treatise on Islamic history, while mentioning Abu Bakr (ra) reports that
Abu Bakr had four children and all four were born during the Jahiliyyah -- the pre
Islamic period. Obviously, if Ayesha (ra) was born in the period of jahiliyyah, she could
not have been less than 14 years in 1 AH -- the time she most likely got married.

• According to Ibn Hisham, the historian, Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam quite some time
before Umar ibn Khattab (ra). This shows that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam during the
first year of Islam. While, if the narrative of Ayesha's (ra) marriage at seven years of
age is held to be true, Ayesha (ra) should not have been born during the first year of
Islam.

• Tabari has also reported that at the time Abu Bakr planned on migrating to Habshah (8
years before Hijrah), he went to Mut`am -- with whose son Ayesha (ra) was engaged --
and asked him to take Ayesha (ra) in his house as his son's wife. Mut`am refused,
because Abu Bakr had embraced Islam, and subsequently his son divorced Ayesha (ra).
Now, if Ayesha (ra) was only seven years old at the time of her marriage, she could not
have been born at the time Abu Bakr decided on migrating to Habshah. On the basis of
this report it seems only reasonable to assume that Ayesha (ra) had not only been born
8 years before hijrah, but was also a young lady, quite prepared for marriage.

• According to a narrative reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, after the death of Khadijah
(ra), when Khaulah (ra) came to the Prophet (pbuh) advising him to marry again, the
Prophet (pbuh) asked her regarding the choices she had in her mind. Khaulah said:
"You can marry a virgin (bikr) or a woman who has already been married (thayyib)".
When the Prophet (pbuh) asked about who the virgin was, Khaulah proposed Ayesha's
(ra) name. All those who know the Arabic language, are aware that the word "bikr" in
the Arabic language is not used for an immature nine year old girl. The correct word
for a young playful girl, as stated earlier is "Jariyah". "Bikr" on the other hand, is used
for an unmarried lady, and obviously a nine year old is not a "lady".

• According to Ibn Hajar, Fatimah (ra) was five years older than Ayesha (ra). Fatimah
(ra) is reported to have been born when the Prophet (pbuh) was 35 years old. Thus,
even if this information is taken to be correct, Ayesha (ra) could by no means be less
than 14 years old at the time of hijrah, and 15 or 16 years old at the time of her
marriage.

These are some of the major points that go against accepting the commonly known narrative
regarding Ayesha's (ra) age at the time of her marriage.

In my opinion, neither was it an Arab tradition to give away girls in marriage at an age as
young as nine or ten years, nor did the Prophet (pbuh) marry Ayesha (ra) at such a young age.
The people of Arabia did not object to this marriage, because it never happened in the manner
it has been narrated.

I hope I have been of some help.

Best Regards

The Learner

A Response to "What was Ayesha's Age..."

Thanks for the email. But I find it woefully lacking in actual quotes. The response is filled
with "so and so said such and such". That doesn't cut it. In my paper, that deals with Aisha
and her age, I not only say who says what, but I provide the entire quote. You need to do the
same. And, the man which the paper was quoting from refers to Tabari. Well, Tabari also says
Aisha was 9... did your "learned" one miss that? If you need the reference, check my paper.
Further, I also quote from Bukhari, and there are many quotes concerning Aisha's age in that.
Bukhari is the most highly respected hadith, so, you're going to have to do better then
conjecture and assumptions. Finally, there is Abu Dawud's quote as well.... all exclusively
saying Aisha was 9. Don't forget, Islamic custom says men can marry girls after their first
menstruation. Girls today have them as young as age 9. If you could find that actual quotes
from the author's your scholar is quoting from, that would be beneficial. Otherwise, his
arugement is only hot air; it lacks real substance.

Reply

My answer was for your satisfaction, not for a debate, and I therefore avoided all the actual
quotes. I am extremely sorry for that.

In any case, I provide below my references as well as my answers to the "comments" of your
Christian friend:

The First Argument

My first argument was:

Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibn `urwah reporting on the
authority of his father. An event as well known as the one being reported, should
logically have been reported by more people than just one, two or three.

I am sure your Christian friend can see that this argument does not need any reference. It is a
simple fact.

The Second Argument

My second argument was:

It is quite strange that no one from Medinah, where Hisham ibn `urwah lived the first
seventy one years of his life has narrated the event [from him], even though in Medinah
his pupils included people as well known as Malik ibn Anas. All the narratives of this
event have been reported by narrators from Iraq, where Hisham is reported to have
had shifted after living in Medinah for seventy one years.

Again, the argument that all those who heard this narrative from Hisham ibn `urwah were
Iraqis, is a simple statement of fact. This can be checked in the biographical sketches of these
narrators in any of the books written on the narrators.

The Third Argument

My third argument was:

Tehzibu'l-tehzib, one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the
narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) reports that according to Yaqub ibn
Shaibah: "narratives reported by Hisham are reliable except those that are reported
through the people of Iraq". It further states that Malik ibn Anas objected on those
narratives of Hisham which were reported through people of Iraq. (vol 11, pg 48 - 51)

The actual statements, their translations and their complete references are given below:

i.e. "Yaqub ibn Shaibah says: He [Hisham] is highly reliable, his narratives are acceptable,
except what he narrated after moving over to Iraq." (Tehzi'bu'l-tehzi'b, Ibn Hajar Al-
`asqala'ni, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-Islami, Vol 11, pg 50)
i.e. "I have been told that Malik [ibn Anas] objected on those narratives of Hisham which were
reported through people of Iraq." (Tehzi'bu'l-tehzi'b, Ibn Hajar Al-`asqala'ni, Arabic, Dar Ihya
al-turath al-Islami, Vol 11, pg 50)

The Fourth Argument

My fourth argument was:

Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, another book on the [life sketches of the] narrators of the traditions of
the Prophet (pbuh) reports that when he was old, Hisham's memory suffered quite
badly. (vol 4, pg 301 - 302)

The actual statement, its translation and its complete references is given below:

i.e. "when he was old, Hisham's memory suffered quite badly" (Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, Al-Zahbi,
Arabic, Al-Maktabatu'l-athriyyah, Sheikhupura, Pakistan, Vol 4, pg 301)

The Fifth Argument

My fifth argument was:

According to the generally accepted tradition, Ayesha (ra) was born about eight years
before Hijrah. But according to another narrative in Bukhari (kitabu'l-tafseer) Ayesha
(ra) is reported to have said that at the time Surah Al-Qamar, the 54th chapter of the
Qur'an, was revealed, "I was a young girl". The 54th surah of the Qur'an was revealed
nine years before Hijrah. According to this tradition, Ayesha (ra) had not only been
born before the revelation of the referred surah, but was actually a young girl (jariyah),
not an infant (sibyah) at that time. Obviously, if this narrative is held to be true, it is in
clear contradiction with the narratives reported by Hisham ibn `urwah. I see absolutely
no reason that after the comments of the experts on the narratives of Hisham ibn
`urwah, why we should not accept this narrative to be more accurate.

The actual statements referred to in the above paragraph, their translations and their
complete references are given below:

i.e. "Ayesha (ra) said: I was a young girl, when verse 46 of Surah Al-Qamar, [the 54th chapter
of the Qur'an], was revealed. (Sahih Bukhari, kitabu'l-tafsir, Arabic, Bab Qaulihi Bal al-sa`atu
Maw`iduhum wa'l-sa`atu adha' wa amarr)

The Sixth Argument


My sixth argument was:

According to a number of narratives, Ayesha (ra) accompanied the Muslims in the


battle of Badr and Uhud. Furthermore, it is also reported in books of hadith and history
that no one under the age of 15 years was allowed to take part in the battle of Uhud. All
the boys below 15 years of age were sent back. Ayesha's (ra) participation in the battle
of Badr and Uhud clearly indicate that she was not nine or ten years old at that time.
After all, women used to accompany men to the battle fields to help them, not to be a
burden on them.

A narrative regarding Ayesha's (ra) participation in Badr is given in Muslim, Kitabu'l-jihad


wa'l-siyar, Arabic, Bab karahiyati'l-isti`anah fi'l-ghazwi bikafir. Ayesha (ra) while narrating the
journey to Badr and one of the important events that took place in that journey, says:

i.e. "when we reached Shajarah". It is quite obvious from these words that Ayesha (ra) was
with the group travelling towards Badr.

A narrative regarding Ayesha's (ra) participation in the battle of `uhud is given in Bukhari,
Kitabu'l-jihad wa'l-siyar, Arabic, Bab Ghazwi'l-nisa' wa qitalihinna ma`a'lrijal.

i.e. "Anas reports that On the day of Uhud, people could not stand their ground around the
Prophet (pbuh). [On that day,] I saw Ayesha (ra) and Umm-i-Sulaim (ra), they had pulled their
dress up from their feet [to avoid any hinderance in their movement]."

As far as the fact that children below 15 years were sent back and were not allowed to
particpate in the battle of `uhud, it is narrated in Bukhari, Kitabu'l-maghazi, Bab ghazwati'l-
khandaq wa hiya'l-ahza'b, Arabic.

i.e. "Ibn `umar (ra)


states that the Prophet (pbuh) did not permit me to participate in Uhud, as at that time, I was
fourteen years old. But on the day of Khandaq, when I was fifteen years old, the Prophet
(pbuh) permitted my participation."

The Seventh Argument

My seventh argument was:

According to almost all the historians Asma (ra), the elder sister of Ayesha (ra) was ten
years older than Ayesha (ra). It is reported in Taqri'bu'l-tehzi'b as well as Al-bidayah
wa'l-nihayah that Asma (ra) died in 73 hijrah when she was 100 years old. Now,
obviously if Asma (ra) was 100 years old in 73 hijrah she should have been 27 or 28
years old at the time of hijrah. If Asma (ra) was 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah,
Ayesha (ra) should have been 17 or 18 years old at that time. Thus, Ayesha (ra), if she
got married in 1 AH (after hijrah) or 2 AH, was between 18 to 20 years old at the time
of her marriage.

The relevant references required in this argument are provided below:

• For the Difference of Ayesha's (ra) and Asma's (ra) Age

According to Abda'l-Rahman ibn abi zanna'd:

i.e. Asma (ra) was ten years older than Ayesha. (Siyar A`la'ma'l-nubala', Al-Zahabi, Vol
2, Pg 289, Arabic, Mu'assasatu'l-risalah, Beirut, 1992)

According to Ibn Kathir:


i.e. "she [Asma] was elder to her sister [Ayesha] by ten years". (Al-Bidayah wa'l-
nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol 8, Pg 371, Arabic, Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933)

• For Asma's (ra) Age at Her Death in 73 AH

According to Ibn Kathir:

i.e. "She [Asma] saw the killing of her son during that year [i.e. 73 AH], as we have
already mentioned, five days later she herself died, according to other narratives her
death was not five but ten or twenty or a few days over twenty or a hundred days later.
The most well known narrative is that of hundred days later. At the time of her death,
she was 100 years old." (Al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah, Ibn Kathir, Vol 8, Pg 372, Arabic,
Dar al-fikr al-`arabi, Al-jizah, 1933)

According to Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani:

i.e. "She [Asma (ra)] lived a hundred years and died in 73 or 74 AH." (Taqribu'l-tehzib,
Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Pg 654, Arabic, Bab fi'l-nisa', al-harfu'l-alif, Lucknow)

The Eighth Argument

My eighth argument was:


Tabari in his treatise on Islamic history, while mentioning Abu Bakr (ra) reports that
Abu Bakr had four children and all four were born during the Jahiliyyah -- the pre
Islamic period. Obviously, if Ayesha (ra) was born in the period of jahiliyyah, she could
not have been less than 14 years in 1 AH -- the time she most likely got married.

The original statement in Tabari, its translation and reference follows:

i.e. "All four of his [Abu Bakr's] children


were born of his two wives -- the names of whom we have already mentioned -- during the pre-
Islamic period."(Tarikhu'l-umam wa'l-mamlu'k, Al-Tabari, Vol 4, Pg 50, Arabic, Dara'l-fikr,
Beirut, 1979)

The Ninth Argument

My ninth argument was:

According to Ibn Hisham, the historian, Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam quite some time
before `umar ibn al-Khattab (ra). This shows that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam during the
first year of Islam. While, if the narrative of Ayesha's (ra) marriage at seven years of
age is held to be true, Ayesha (ra) should not have been born during the first year of
Islam.

According to Ibn Hisham, Ayesha (ra) was the 20th or the 21st person to enter into the folds of
Islam (Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Ibn Hisham, Vol 1, Pg 227 - 234, Arabic, Maktabah al-Riyadh
al-hadithah, Al-Riyadh) While `umar ibn al-khattab was preceded by forty individuals (Al-Sirah
al-Nabawiyyah, Ibn Hisham, Vol 1, Pg 295, Arabic, Maktabah al-Riyadh al-hadithah, Al-
Riyadh).

The Tenth Argument

My tenth argument was:

Tabari has also reported that at the time Abu Bakr planned on migrating to Habshah (8
years before Hijrah), he went to Mut`am -- with whose son Ayesha (ra) was engaged --
and asked him to take Ayesha (ra) in his house as his son's wife. Mut`am refused,
because Abu Bakr had embraced Islam, and subsequently his son divorced Ayesha (ra).
Now, if Ayesha (ra) was only seven years old at the time of her marriage, she could not
have been born at the time Abu Bakr decided on migrating to Habshah. On the basis of
this report it seems only reasonable to assume that Ayesha (ra) had not only been born
8 years before hijrah, but was also a young lady, quite prepared for marriage.

Unfortunately, I do not have the primary reference to this argument at the moment. The
secondary reference for this argument is: Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka'inat, Habib ur
Rahman Kandhalwi, Urdu, Pg 38, Anjuman Uswa e hasanah, Karachi, Pakistan

The Eleventh Argument


My eleventh argument was:

According to a narrative reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, after the death of Khadijah
(ra), when Khaulah (ra) came to the Prophet (pbuh) advising him to marry again, the
Prophet (pbuh) asked her regarding the choices she had in her mind. Khaulah said:
"You can marry a virgin (bikr) or a woman who has already been married (thayyib)".
When the Prophet (pbuh) asked about who the virgin was, Khaulah proposed Ayesha's
(ra) name. All those who know the Arabic language, are aware that the word "bikr" in
the Arabic language is not used for an immature nine year old girl. The correct word
for a young playful girl, as stated earlier is "Jariyah". "Bikr" on the other hand, is used
for an unmarried lady, and obviously a nine year old is not a "lady".

The complete reference for this reporting of Ahmad ibn Hanbal is: Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal,
Vol 6, Pg 210, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-`arabi, Beirut.

The Twelfth Argument

My twelfth argument was:

According to Ibn Hajar, Fatimah (ra) was five years older than Ayesha (ra). Fatimah
(ra) is reported to have been born when the Prophet (pbuh) was 35 years old. Thus,
even if this information is taken to be correct, Ayesha (ra) could by no means be less
than 14 years old at the time of hijrah, and 15 or 16 years old at the time of her
marriage.

Ibn Hajar's original statement, its translation and reference follows:

i.e. Fatimah (ra) was born at the time


the Ka`bah was rebuilt, when the Prophet (pbuh) was 35 years old... she (Fatimah) was five
years older that Ayesha (ra). (Al-isabah fi tamyizi'l-sahabah, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Vol 4, Pg
377, Arabic, Maktabatu'l-Riyadh al-haditha, al-Riyadh, 1978)

These are all the references for the material I provided in my initial response.

Your Christian friend, besides asking for these references has also briefly commented on my
reply, he writes:

And, the man which the paper was quoting from refers to Tabari. Well, Tabari also
says Aisha was 9... did your "learned" one miss that? If you need the reference, check
my paper.

Further, I also quote from Bukhari, and there are many quotes concerning Aisha's age
in that. Bukhari is the most highly respected hadith, so, you're going to have to do
better then conjecture and assumptions.

Finally, there is Abu Dawud's quote as well.... all exclusively saying Aisha was 9.
It seems that your friend has missed out on my point on Hisham ibn `urwah. He seems to be
unaware of the fact that each one of his quoted statement, whether it is from Tabari, Bukhari,
Muslim or Abu Dawud, is either narrated by Hisham ibn `urwah or is reported to the respective
author by or through an Iraqi. Not even a single narrative is free from either of the two
problems.

I have quoted Tabari, Bukhari and Muslim to show that even their own information contradicts
with the narrative regarding Ayesha's (ra) age. Thus, when the narrative of Ayesha's (ra) age
is not reliable and when there is information in the same books that contradicts the narrative
of Ayesha's age, I see absolutely no reason to believe that the information on Ayesha's (ra) age
is accepted (when there are adequate grounds to reject it) and other (contradictory)
information is rejected (when there is no ground to reject it).

Regards,

The Learner

*The answer to this question is primarily based on the research by Habib ur Rahman
Kandhalwi (urdu) as presented in his booklet, "Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka'inat", Anjuman
Uswa e hasanah, Karachi, Pakistan

More on Ayesha’s Age


I would like to see your response to the following which is relevant to Aisha's age question of
your site.

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/5603/aishah.html

An Intermediate Response…

I have read the referred article. I really do not think that it needs any reply from my side, as it
relies on the very sources that I have presented my reservations upon. In case it has raised any
questions in your mind, I shall be glad to answer them. But without any specific questions I
really don't see any reason why I should write any thing else on the issue.

regards

The Learner

Clarification

You state in your article that the hadith of Aisha's age is narrated by only one narrator,
Hisham ibn `urwah, after he moved to Iraq at the age of 71.

But according to Robert Squires:


"... two were narrated from 'Aishah (7:64 and 7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236)
and one via 'Urwa (7:88). All three of the ahadith in Saheeh Muslim have 'Aishah as a
narrator. Additionally, all of the ahadith in both books agree that the marriage
betrothal contract took place when 'Aishah was "six years old", but was not
consummated until she was "nine years old".

I would like to see some clarification on this point.

Thanks.

Reply
I would first of all like to make a small (part) correction to the the first point in my article. I
had written:

Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibn `urwah reporting on the
authority of his father. An event as well known as the one being reported, should
logically have been reported by more people than just one, two or three.

In fact, although it is Hisham ibn `Urwah who is reporting most of these narratives, but it is
not him, but his father `Urwah who is common in all these narratives. It must be remembered
that when I say that all these narratives have been reported through `Urwah, it means that it is
only the narratives of `Urwah in which the chain of narrators are acceptably strong. Besides
the narratives of `Urwah, there do exist five other chains of narrators reporting the same
thing, but those chains include people who have either been strongly or lightly criticised by the
some of the scholars and compilers of the lives of the reporters of Hadith.

Even though this correction of names from Hisham ibn `Urwah to his father, `Urwah does not
have much of an effect on my arguments, as my statement: "…An event as well known as the
one being reported, should logically have been reported by more people than just one, two or
three" holds good in both the cases. Other facts that do not change include that there is not a
single tradition that comes with an all-Medinan chain of narrators, where Ayesha spent most
of her life. There is hardly (if at all) any exception to the fact that all the chains of this report
include one or more Iraqi or one or more Basri in them. This makes the credibility of the
reports ascribed to `Urwah’s somewhat questionable too.

Now, let us take a look at the article you have referred to. Besides the point that you have
raised, I wish to present my reservations on one more point of this article, that is giving the
narratives describing Ayesha’s age the status of Sunnah. Let us first take up the point you have
raised.

I had stated previously and have reiterated here that all the dependable narratives of this
report come through one person – `urwah. Mr. Robert Squires, on the other hand states:

Of the four ahadith in Saheeh al-Bukhari, two were narrated from 'Aishah (7:64 and
7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236) and one via 'Ursa (7:88). All three of the ahadith
in Saheeh Muslim have 'Aishah as a narrator.
I think there is a spelling error in this statement of Mr. Squires. It seems that the name of the
third narrator should be `Urwah or `Urwa rather than `Ursa. I request Mr. Squires to correct
me if I am wrong. Another thing that needs to be clarified is that Abu Hishaam and `Urwah
are the same person. `Urwah, because of his son Hishaam, was also called Abu Hishaam,
according to the Arab tradition.

In response to your question on the apparent contradiction in my statement when compared


with that of Mr. Squires’, I would only like to say that it is just a case of a simple
misunderstanding. This misunderstanding can easily be removed by a little more
understanding of the two statements.

When Mr. Squires states that these reports come to us from different sources, he is really
considering only the first person (sahabi or ta’bi`y) in the chain of narrators of these reports.
On the other hand, when I say that these reports are only (or mostly) reported by one narrator
only, it means that even though the first person in the chain of these reports changes there is
common narrator in all these reports. Just to clarify, take the example of the four reportings of
Sahih Bukhari. According to Mr Squires: "Of the four ahadith in Saheeh al-Bukhari, two were
narrated from 'Aishah (7:64 and 7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236) and one via 'Ursa
[`Urwa or `Urwah??] (7:88)." Now if you consider Mr. Squires’ statement, he is only referring
to the first person in the chain of narrators in his statement. The statement is not wrong or
misquoted. But on the other hand, if you take a look at the chain of narrators of the four
reportings of Sahih Bukhari, you shall see that in the first two cases, Ayesha’s (ra) statement
has been quoted by none other than `Urwah – Abu Hishaam (the father of Hishaam). In the
later two cases, it is (Mr. Squires is requested to correct me if I am mistaken) `Urwah – Abu
Hishaam – who is being referred to by Mr. Squires.

I think the above explanation should suffice as clarification that you desired.

Mr. Squires has also implied in his referred article that these narratives describing Ayesha’s
(ra) age are a part of the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). He states:

At this point, it should be mentioned that it is absolutely pointless from an Islamic


standpoint to say that the age of 'Aishah is "not found in the Qur'an", since the textual
sources of Islam are made up of both the Qur'an and the Sunnah - and the Qur'an tells
us that.

Mr. Squires has also referred to an article by Mr. Suhaib Hasan (http://home.att.net/~r-
squires/sunnah.htm) in which Mr. Hasan has defined Sunnah as:

… the Sunnah includes the sayings of the Prophet, peace be upon him, known
commonly as hadiths (i.e. sayings), his practices, and actions which gained his approval.

In my view, the above statement, though commonly accepted by Muslims, does not accurately
describe Sunnah. But for the purpose of this discussion, let us take this to be an accurate
explanation of Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). But even then, the narratives describing
Ayesha’s (ra) age at the time of her marriage do not fall under the scope of Sunnah. Obviously,
the narrative of Ayesha’s (ra) age at the time of her marriage is not a part of "the sayings of
the Prophet, (peace be upon him)", it cannot be termed as the Prophet’s "practices" and
neither can it be included in the "actions which gained his approval". The narrative of
Ayesha’s age is just a narrative of a historical event. Just because it has been reported by
Bukhari and Muslim, does not change its status from being a narrative of a historical event to
a Sunnah. Because of this fact, this narrative should be seen in the light of all other narratives
of historical events which have been reported by Bukhari, Muslim and other historians of
Islam. This is exactly what I have tried to do in my article from point number 5 to 12.

In the presence of all these historical narratives that contradict the narrative of Ayesha’s age
at the time of her marriage, any one who wants to prove that Ayesha (ra) was nine years at the
time of consummation of her marriage has the responsibility of telling others why is he
rejecting all the other historical narratives and accepting only the one that states Ayesha’s age
to be nine at the time of her marriage.

I hope this helps.

The Learner
http://www.understandingislam.org/Prophet%20Muhammad%27s%20Wife%20Ayesha-Her
%20Age.htm

Prophet Muhammad’s Wife Ayesha

Her Age at the Time of Marriage

Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Ph.D.

Hafez Muhammad Zaid Malik

Recent attacks upon Islam and Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) by the leadership of a
certain faith tradition has been most unfortunate. Belief in Islam by over 1.2 Billion Muslims, 1/5th
of the total human population is a shiny example of the contributions of Islam and Prophet
Muhammad. With the Grace of God, the number of Muslims and their reverence for Prophet
Muhammad will continue to grow till The Last Day. It is doubtful that the attackers of Islam, and
their contributions will be remembered even as a blip on the vast horizon of human history. Our
time will be much better spent sharing the message of our own faith traditions, in an environment of
mutual respect, rather than making erroneous and hate-filled remarks about others.

Background: Muslims believe that God Almighty has provided the same guidance to all of
humanity, i.e. starting with the first human being Adam, a prophet of God, through the ages to
prophets Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus, and
Muhammad – peace be upon them all. That guidance is Islam or submission to the Will of God.
Muslims believe, not only in The Ten Commandments, but also believe in the authentic teachings
of all of the prophets. They believe that God Almighty gave the ‘Torah’ to Prophet Moses, the
‘Zaboor’ to Prophet David (parts of which are available today in the ‘Psalms of David’), the ‘Injeel’
or the ‘Gospel’ to Prophet Jesus, and the ‘Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an refers to the
Jews, and the Christians as “People of the Book” – because each of them is the recipient of
Guidance from God Almighty in the form of a scripture.

Prophet Muhammad was born in the city of Mecca, currently in Saudi Arabia, in the year 571
A.D. His father died six months before his birth, and his mother died when he was six years old.
After his mother’s death, his grandfather took care of him, and upon his death, Prophet
Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib acted as his guardian. Prophet Muhammad became a merchant and
used to travel with caravans to Syria and to other places. His people, the Pagans of Mecca, gave him
the nickname of Al-Amin or ‘The Trust Worthy’. At age 25, he married a businesswoman who was
forty years old at the time. They had two sons and four daughters. Both of their sons died at a very
early age. In 610 A.D., when Prophet Muhammad was 40 years old, Archangel Gabriel brought him
the first message of The Holy Qur’an, and gave him the news that God Almighty had chosen him to
be His Messenger and servant. The first person to believe in Prophet Muhammad’s appointment as
a Prophet and the revelation received by him was his wife Khadija, and the second person was his
cousin, Ali.

Abu Bakr was the 3rd person to accept Islam. He was a very successful businessman at the time.
He and Prophet Muhammad had been friends since their childhood, and had thus known each
other all of their lives. When Prophet Muhammad told Abu Bakr about Archangel Gabriel’s
visit, Abu Bakr replied that he (Muhammad) was the most honest person he knew, and thus had
no reason to doubt his word.

In 610 A.D., Pagan tribes that believed in many gods inhabited Mecca. It was one of the most
corrupt societies of the time, where the rich exploited the poor, the women were treated as chattel,
and upon the death of their husband, the eldest son inherited his father’s other wives. It was a
common practice of some of the tribes of Arabia to bury their infant daughters alive in sand to get
rid of them.

Prophet Muhammad preached that there was only one God, Allah (Arabic word meaning The
One God), the same name used by the Christian Arabs of the time and of today to refer to God
Almighty, and that he (Muhammad) was a Messenger and servant of God. He also preached that
the rich should not exploit the poor, that there was life after death, that everyone will be held
accountable for his or her deeds of this life, that women were to be treated with dignity and could
not be inherited, that infant daughters ought not to be killed, that all were equal in the sight of God
regardless of their gender or color, and that the best among them were those who practiced piety.
This was a message that threatened the entire fabric of the Meccan society of the time. The leaders
of Mecca tried their best to dissuade Prophet Muhammad from preaching God’s message, but to
no avail. They persecuted him, his family, and his followers. In order to stop him, they offered to
give him any amount of money he desired, the most beautiful girl in the Arabian Peninsula to
marry, and even offered to accept him as their king. Prophet Muhammad’s reply to their offer
was that if they placed the sun on his one hand and the moon on the other, he would not stop
preaching the message of Islam.

In 618 A.D., after eight years of Prophet Muhammad spreading his message regardless of the
persecution, the Meccan leaders decided to get rid of the Muslims, once and for all. They destroyed
all property and homes of the Muslims, and exiled them to the desert outside the city of Mecca. The
Meccans were ordered not to trade with Muslims or have any contact with them. Muslims endured
this hardship of living in the open hot Arabian Desert for three years, with little and at times no
food. It was during this period of exile that many Muslim men, women, and children perished. The
Prophet’s beloved wife for 25 years, his closest friend, confidant, and mother of his children,
Khadija, died in 621 A.D.

Prophet Muhammad was 50 years old at the time of his wife Khadija’s death, and had till then
lived a monogamous life. Sometime after Khadija’s passing, Prophet Muhammad married a
relatively aged woman, named Saudah. It was 622 A.D., when Prophet Muhammad and Muslims
migrated from Mecca to Medina, a city 275 miles North of Mecca. This migration is referred to as
Hijra, and marks the beginning of the Islamic Calendar. The Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar,
which is 10 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar.

Ayesha, the Youngest Daughter of Abu Bakr: Al-Tabari, a famous historian for the era, writes in
his treatise that Abu Bakr, Prophet Muhammad’s Childhood friend, the successful businessman, the
3rd person to accept Islam, and the one that had endured the hardships alongside Prophet
Muhammad, had four children; Ayesha being the youngest, and all four of them had been born
during the Pre-Islamic period, i.e. prior to 610 A.D.1 Al-Tabari also writes, that before the first
migration in 613 A.D., when some of the Muslims were ordered by Prophet Muhammad to go and
live in Abyssinia, under the protection of a Christian ruler in order to avoid persecution by the
pagans in Mecca, Abu Bakr had planned to marry Ayesha to Jubayer bin Mut’im to whom she was
engaged. But fearing persecution from Quraish, the strongest tribe in Mecca and the fiercest enemy
of the Muslims, Mut’im refused and his son Jubayer had to break his engagement with Ayesha.
Obviously at that time (613 A.D.), Ayesha was ready to take on the responsibilities as a wife,
possibly at 9-10 years of age. This would place Ayesha’s year of birth to be 603-604 A.D.2 (It may
be interesting to note here that until 1889, marriage of a 10-year old girl could be registered
anywhere in the United States, at which time the State of California raised the age to fourteen. It
was not until 1913 that this age was raised to eighteen.)

Several other historians also place Ayesha’s year of birth to be between 602- 604 A.D. There is a
consensus among many historians about a narration by Asma, an older sister of Ayesha, that she
was ten years older than Ayesha. It is reported that Asma died at age 100, in 73 Hijra (About 692
A.D.) This places Asma’s year of birth to be 592 A.D., and of Ayesha’s to be 10 year later, around
602 A.D.3, 4, 5

One of the most prominent scholars of Islam, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, (d. 855 A.D.), founder
of the Hanbali School of Thought in Islam, reports that after the death of Khadijah, Khaulah came
to Prophet Muhammad and suggested that he marry again. She had two propositions for the
Prophet: a virgin (bikr), or a woman who had been married before (thayyib). Khaulah named
Ayesha as the virgin (bikr) candidate.6 It is common knowledge that the term bikr in the Arabic
language refers to a well-groomed unmarried lady and not to a little girl.

According to many narratives, Ayesha participated in the battles of Badr and Uhud that took
place during the second and the third year of Hijra respectively. These battles were fought outside
the city of Medina, when Meccan pagans attacked the Muslims who had taken refuge in Medina.
No one younger than 15 was allowed to accompany the Muslim army when they went out to the
mountain site of Uhud, in order to stop the invading army from getting in to the city of Medina.
This applied across the board to all participants, men and women alike. Had Ayesha been younger
than 15 at the time, she would not have been allowed to accompany the Muslim army. Since there
were so few Muslims in those days, it was common for Muslim women to accompany the men to
provide water and to take care of the wounded. The battle of Uhud took place during the 3rd year
after Hijra (About 624 A.D.), and Ayesha’s marriage with Prophet Muhammad took place at the
end of the 2nd year of Hijra (623 A.D.).

Based upon the historic evidence presented above, there can be no doubt that Ayesha was born
between 602-604 A.D., and was 19-21 years old at the time of her marriage to Prophet
Muhammad in about 623 A.D.

Let us look at one final argument that is most compelling about the fact that Prophet Muhammad
could not have married Ayesha had she not been of marrying age.

Ten years prior to Khadija’s death, Prophet Muhammad receives revelation from God, that he,
Muhammad, is the Messenger of God, and that he is to reform humanity. Had he been motivated
by greed or human desires, he would have gladly accepted the most generous offers made by the
leaders of Mecca, of money, women, and even kingship, instead of continuing to convey the
message of Islam and be persecuted. He suffered hunger, humiliation, and the death of two of his
children, his beloved wife, and uncle Abu Talib, during this period of persecution in Mecca. Having
endured all that, and after suffering personal injury and loss of his uncle, Hamza, in the battle of
Uhud, while defending their new home city of Medina, it is inconceivable that he would marry an
under-age girl in direct violation of the divine guidance in Verse 6 Chapter 4 of the Holy Qur’an. In
this Verse, God Almighty clearly defines the “age of marriage” to be such that the parties (male as
well as the female) have reached the “age of sound judgement in them.”
Let us look at it from Abu Bakr’s perspective. According to the Arab tradition as well as the newly
implemented Islamic Law, in order for a marriage to take place, besides an agreement between the
parties, permission of the bride’s father or another guardian was required. This safeguard is
intended to make sure that no one takes advantage of a woman that may not be able to protect
herself or her interest in a marriage. Consequently, Ayesha’s marriage could not have taken place
without her father’s permission and approval. Abu Bakr was no flaky guy either. He had been a
wealthy businessman.

Around the year 623 A.D., during the 2nd year after Hijra, it is highly unlikely that these two old
men in their fifties, who have been friends all their lives, in total violation of the society’s norm,
and of the divine law that they had recently accepted, (that in order for a marriage to take place,
the parties have to be mature enough to have reached the “age of sound judgment” so as to take
care of their interests under the marriage agreement), would decide that one of them is to let the
other marry his youngest under-age daughter. This would have been a sure way to destroy all of
the achievements of the last 14 years, and become a laughing stock of the Arabian peninsula,
instead of continuing to build an Islamic society that could be a model for humanity for all times
to come. No such thing ever took place. It was during the next 8 years that the Muslims took over
Mecca without any fighting, forgave all of their enemies for their excesses, and built an empire
that stretched from Yemen in the south to the border of Syria in the North by the time of Prophet
Muhammad’s death in 11 Hijra (632 A.D.).

Two other facts of history may be of interest to the readers: (1) Ayesha lived for 48 years after
prophet Muhammad, and was the greatest teacher of Islam besides the Prophet. After the
Prophet’s death, Ayesha continued to teach Islam. She narrated two thousand two hundred and
ten (2,210) Hadith (sayings) of the holy Prophet. Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, one of the most
prominent Muslims of the time says: “ We the companions of the holy Prophet used to ask
Ayesha about those matters that were difficult for us to understand”.7 Ayesha died in 678 A.D. at
age 74. (2) Prophet Muhammad did not designate his successor. After his death, the people
chose Abu Bakr as their ruler (what a lesson in democracy in the year 632 A.D.), who ruled until
his death in 13 Hijra (634 A.D.).

What remains to be answered is where did this story of Ayesha’s marriage at age 6 or 9 originate?

Muslims believe that the Holy Qur’an is the actual word of God as it was revealed to Prophet
Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel over a period of 23 years. The Qur’an was revealed to
Prophet Muhammad sometimes in the form of a single verse or at other times as several verses.
Prophet Muhammad dictated these verses to several scribes who recorded them with the utmost
care. The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, the language spoken by Prophet Muhammad, and the
people around him. The Qur’an that is available today anywhere in the world is exactly the same
Qur’an in its entirety in the original language. It has been translated into many languages, and each
of these translations is referred to as the “Translation of The Meanings of The Qur’an,” and not The
Qur’an itself. In Verse 9 Chapter 15 of The Qur’an, God Almighty promises to guard The Qur’an
from corruption. Consequently, Muslims have no doubt about the authenticity of what they find in
the Qur’an.

The word ‘Hadith’or ‘Sunnah’ means ‘traditions’: sayings, actions, and all other things done in
the presence of Prophet Muhammad to which he did not object (tacit approvals). In the early
years of his prophethood, Prophet Muhammad stopped people from writing down his personal
statements and his actions. The Prophet’s concern was that, with the passage of time, a recording of
his personal statements and actions might get mixed with the verses of The Qur’an that were being
revealed to him and were being recorded. However, when the Prophet was certain that enough steps
had been taken to protect the integrity of The Qur’an, then he allowed the recording of his
statements, his actions, and all such things done in his presence to which he did not object.

The Hadith (traditions) recorded during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad can be divided into
the following three groups:

1. The Hadith dictated by the holy Prophet as his formal orders, like the orders and instructions
sent by the Prophet to his governors in Yemen, Najran, Hadramaut, and Bahrain. This group
also includes his important sermons that he delivered at various occasions and the letters that he
sent to the Chiefs of Arabian tribes, and to the rulers of other states and empires of the time.

2. The Hadith that were recorded in the presence of Prophet Muhammad and with his permission,
like the collection by Abdullah bin Amr, namely Sahifa as sadiqah (the Authentic Collection)
and other collections by different companions. Abdullah writes in this collection, “I used to
write each and every thing I heard from the holy Prophet, so much so that some of the elder
companions said to me: the holy Prophet is but a human being, some times he is angry and some
times in a good mood and you write every thing, so I stopped writing. The holy Prophet noticed
that and asked me why I stopped it. I told him the reason and he said: "Write every thing, I
swear by Him in Whose Hand my soul is that nothing comes out of this mouth except the
Truth".

3. The Hadith that were recorded by Prophet Muhammad’s companions after the conclusion of
their meetings with the Prophet, like the collections of Hadith by: Anas bin Malik, Abu
Hurairah, Abu Bakr, Rafi bin Khadij, and many others.
Until the end of the first century of Hijra calendar, there was no problem about the authenticity of
the Hadith literature as majority of the companions of the Prophet lived approximately 3/4th of that
century. The last companion of the Prophet died in the year 93 Hijra (712 A.D. Approx.). The
Prophet Muhammad once said, “My century is the best century, then is one that follows it and
then is one that follows it, and after that people will start lying and taking false oaths.” He also
said, “There will be liars at the end of time and they will relate such Hadith to you that you and
your forefathers would have never heard of. So beware of these people.”

It was shortly after the death of the last of the companions of the Prophet that some people started
fabricating some Hadith and attributing them to Prophet Muhammad. It was during and following
this period that Muslim scholars developed a methodology to validate the authenticity of a Hadith.
Now each Hadith has to be reliably supported by a chain of transmitters leading directly back to the
Prophet himself. The chain must be most stringently examined. And if the chain is broken, or if any
one of its links could be shown to be a weak link, the Hadith must be rejected. Hence a new science
of Asma-ur-Rijaal (Science of the biographies of the transmitters of Hadith) came in to existence,
and some 500,000 biographies were written.

The early Islamic scholars established the following criteria for Sahih (authentic) Hadith:

1. The chain of the narrators must be unbroken.

2. All of the narrators in the chain must be people of integrity and piety.

3. All of the narrators in the chain must be either greatly or acceptably proficient narrators.

4. The narration must not contradict stronger reports or narrations.

5. There can be no hidden damaging defect in the chain and/or in the text of Hadith, e.g. if it
were discovered that a mistake was made by one of the narrators.

Those Hadith that could not meet the above criteria were called Da’eef (weak) Hadith and were
considered suspect. And if it was proven that any of the narrators in any chain had ever told a lie,
while narrating a Hadith, all Hadith coming from that chain were rejected and called Mau’doo
(fabricated) Hadith.

The narration that mentions Ayesha’s age, at the time of her marriage with Prophet Muhammad,
does not meet standard # 5 listed above. That narration had come from a single person, Hisham
bin Urwah, narrating the story on the authority of his father, Urwah. Despite the abundance of
information available during the 71 years that Hisham bin Urwah lived and taught in Medina, it
is rather odd that no one else—not even his famous pupil Malik bin Anas (d.795 A.D), the
founder of the Maliki School of Thought in Islam, reported Ayesha’s age from Hisham in
Medina. Furthermore, all the narrators of this Hadith were Iraqis, since Hisham is reported to
have moved to Iraq in his later years.

Yaqub ibn Shaibah, an early scholar of Islam wrote: “Narratives reported byHisham are reliable
except those that are reported through the people of Iraq". Malik ibn Anas (d. 795 A.D.), a
student of Hisham in one of the most well known books on the lives and reliability of the
narrators of the traditions of the Prophet, discredited all narratives of Hisham that were reported
through the people of Iraq. 8

Al-Dhahabi writes in a book on the life sketches of the narrators of the Hadeeth: “It is reported that
Hisham bin Urwah’s memory suffered in his later years to the extent that the traditions reported
from him could not be trusted.” 9

CONCLUSION: In light of the above discussion, there can be absolutely no doubt that any
narration stating that Ayesha was 6-9 years old at the time of her marriage to Prophet
Muhammad, is inaccurate. On the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence that suggests
that Ayesha was 19-21 years old at the time of her marriage.

REMARKS: The Qur’an provides excellent guidance, for Muslims as well as Non-Muslims, in
regard to respect for each other, and inviting others to whatever one may happen to believe.
Translation of Verse 13 Chapter 49 of The Qur’an reads, “O mankind! We created you from a
single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and

tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you may despise each other). Indeed the
most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you.” And then in Verse 125
Chapter 16 of The Qur’an, God Almighty advises us, “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with
wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for
thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, And who receive guidance.”

Notes

1. Al-Tabari, Tarikh-al-umam wal muluk (History of Nations And Kings), (Beirut: Dar-al-Kutub
al_’Ilmiah, 1987,Vol 2, P351.

2. Habib-ur-Rahman Kandhalwi, Tehqiq-e-umar e-Siddiqah e-Kainat (Research Paper About


Ayesha‘s Age), (Karachi: Anjuman Uswa-e-hasanah) Urdu, p.38

3. Al-Dhahabi, Seyar A`la'ma'l-nubala' (Biographies of Noble Personalities), (Beirut:


Mu’assasatu’l-risalah, 1992) Arabic, Vol. 2, p.289
4. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah (The Beginning And The Ending), Maktabah al-Ma’arif,
no date, Vol 8, P 346.

5. Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Taqribu'l-tehzib, (Lucknow: Bab fi’l-nisa’ harfu’l-alif) Arabic, p. 654

6. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad (A compilation of Hadith or Traditions of the Prohet in sequence
by the narrators), (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-turath al-`arabi) Arabic, Vol 6, p.210

7. Muhammad ibn ‘Isa al-Tirmidhi, Jami al- Tirmidhi, (A great collection of Hadith literature. See
chapter on: Virtues of Ayesha), Nashr al-Sunnah, no date, Pakistan.

8. Ibn Hajar Al-‘asqala’ni, Tehzibu'l-tehzib, (Dar Ihya al-turath al-Islami) Arabic, Vol. 11, p. 48-
51

9. Al-Dhahabi, Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, (Sheikhupura: Al-Maktabatu'l-athariyyah) Arabic, Vol 4, p. 301

Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Ph.D. is the Past-President of The Islamic Society of North America, and is
the Imam/Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County Mosque in Garden Grove, California.

Hafez Muhammad Zaid Malik is the Imam/Director of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, in
Jacksonville, Florida.