Myth #3: Prophet Muhammad married Ayesha when she was underage
Did Muhammad marry A’isha when she was only six years old?
Contemporary critics have repeatedly claimed that Prophet Muhammad married A’isha when she was not of age. Facts indicate that A’isha was no younger than 12-13 at the time of her willing marriage with parental consent. We invite the reader to consider several factors before formulating a final opinion.
Before we delve into Islamic history, consider that the age deemed “acceptable” for marriage is not an objective standard across time, culture, and religion—but a subjective standard based on social construct. For example, the Catholic Encyclopaedia reports regarding Mary, mother of Jesus:
… the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice of God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place.
Likewise, the Talmud states, “Marrying off one’s daughter as soon after she reaches adulthood as possible, even to one’s Slave.” In fact, the Talmud presents some shocking guidance on marriage, also stating, “A maiden aged three years and a day may be acquired in marriage by coition, and if her deceased husband’s brother cohabits with her, she becomes his.” So while the Catholic Encyclopaedia tells us that Mary and Joseph were married at the ages of 12-14 and 90, respectively, the Talmud permits marrying girls as young as three years and one day. Lest this seem like an attack on Christianity and Judaism—which it is not—we present marriage laws in the West.
For centuries in Scotland, the age of consent for girls was 12—and parental consent was unnecessary. Only in 1929 was the age raised to 16 for girls. But in America even today, A’isha’s consenting marriage to Prophet Muhammad would be considered valid. For example, in New Hampshire, the legal age for girls is 13 with parental consent. In Massachusetts, the legal age for girls is 12 with parental consent. In Mississippi, there is no age minimum for girls, as long as there is parental consent. In California, there is no age minimum for girls, as long as there is parental consent.
Granted, the American state laws were passed in the 19th and 20th centuries—not today. And granted, American’s aged 12 or 13 do not typically get married today. The point still stands, however, that even in recent American history, American’s found value—not objection—in marrying at 12 or 13, or even younger, and passed laws through their state legislatures to affirm their value. This exercise in no way argues for a return to such marrying ages. Rather, it merely establishes the point that “appropriate” marriage age is based on social construct—not some supposed objective, advanced contemporary standard. Therefore, if we are to accuse Prophet Muhammad of any impropriety in marrying A’isha even if she was 12-13, then we must also condemn the Old Testament, New Testament, the Europe, and numerous American states.
Above discussion demonstrates that A’iha’s marriage to Prophet Muhammad, even if she was 12 or 13, was not by any means unusual when compared across time and culture—even to contemporary standards. Now we shall demonstrate that the assertion that A’isha was only six is meritless.
In determining authenticity of the related tradition (Hadith), it is necessary to consider how many different narrators can relate a Hadith back to the original source—be that source Prophet Muhammad, A’isha, or a companion. The more narrators exist and the more in agreement they are with one another—the more authentic we may consider the Hadith.
Virtually every narration that relates A’isha’s age at six is tied to Hisham ibn ‘Urwah, who then reports on his father’s authority. This is problematic for several reasons.
First, Hisham ibn ‘Urwah is the only person to narrate this Hadith. This is problematic because now, no opportunity exists for corroboration. Next, Hisham related this Hadith in his old age—a time during which he admits he suffered severe memory loss. For example, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, a premier book on the credibility of Hadith narrators cites Ya‘qub ibn Shaibah to report, “Narratives reported by Hisham are reliable except those that are reported through the people of Iraq.” Likewise, “Malik ibn Anas objected on those narratives of Hisham which were reported through people of Iraq.” History records that Hisham emigrated to Iraq in his old age and suffered severe memory loss, after living in Medina for the first 71 years of his life. More specifically, Yaqub ibn Shaibah relates, “He [that is, Hisham] is highly reliable, his narratives are acceptable, except what he narrated after shifting to Iraq.”
The Hadith that relate A’isha’s age at six are from Hisham ibn ‘Urwah after he immigrated to Iraq. Thus, such Hadith are not only isolated in their claim, but also unreliable due to his old age and extensive memory loss. Most critics wholly disregard these substantive inconsistencies.
On the contrary, several historical events and Ahadith narrations demonstrate that Hadhrat Ayesha was likely 15-16, or as old as 19-20 at the time of her consenting marriage to Prophet Muhammad. For example, Hadhrat Ayesha’s marriage to Prophet Muhammad took place one year after Hijrah (emigration to Medina), or around 624 A.D. She was the daughter of Hadhrat Abu Bakr. Tabari reports, “All four of [Abu Bakr's] children were born of his two wives—the names of whom we have already mentioned—during the pre-Islamic period [i.e. pre-610 A.D.].” Therefore, even if Hadhrat Ayesha were born in 609 A.D., only a year before Prophet Muhammad claimed prophethood, she would be roughly 14 at the time of emigration to Medina in 623, and therefore no less than 15 at the time of her marriage to Prophet Muhammad. Both are a far cry from the age of six that Wilders’ asserts.
Likewise, most historians report that Hadhrat Asmara, Hadhrat Ayesha’s elder sister, was ten years her senior. The books, “Tahzibut Tahzib” and “Al-Bidaayah wa an-Nihayah,” both report that Hadhrat Asma died at the age of 100, in 73 A.H. or 695 A.D. This means that Hadhrat Asmara must have been no younger than 27 at the time of emigration. Hadhrat Ayesha’s marriage to Prophet Muhammad was in 1 A.H. when Asma was 28. This means that at a minimum, Hadhrat Ayesha was 18 upon her consenting marriage to Prophet Muhammad.
The above examples are not exhaustive. Several other authentic Hadith and well-recorded events discredit allegations that Prophet Muhammad married A’isha when she was six. The examples we have presented, however, should more than suffice that A’isha was not six, but instead, that she was a mature adult who married Prophet Muhammad of her own free will.
 The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Reference of Work on the Constitution, Doctrine, Dicipline, and History of the Catholic Church, New York Robert Appleton Company, Vol. VIII, Pg. 505.
 Talmud, Pesachim 113a.
 Talmud, Sanhedrin 55b.
 G T Bisset-Smith. 1st edition. Edinburgh: William Green & Sons, (1902).
 New Hampshire Title 53, Chapter 457, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g.
 Massachusetts Title III, Chapter 207, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g.
 Mississippi Title 93, Chapter 1, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g.
 California Family Code §§ 300-500, available at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage#g.
 Tahdhib al-Tahdhib Vol. 11, pg. 48 – 51.
 Tahdhib al-Tahdhib Vol. 11, pg. 48 – 51.
 Mizan al-I‘tidal, Vol. 4, pg. 301 – 302.
 Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalani, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Islami, Vol. 11, pg. 50).
 Tarikh al-umam wal-mamloo’k, Al-Tabari, Vol. 4, pg. 50 (Arabic, Dar al-fikr, Beirut, 1979).
 Siyar A`la’ma’l-nubala’, Az-Zahabi, Vol. 2, pg. 289 (Arabic, Mu’assasatu’l-risala’h, Beirut, 1992).
 Al-Bidaayah wa an-Nan-Nihaayah, Ibn-e-KathirIbn-e-KathirIbn-e-Kathir, Vol. 8, pg. 372, Arabic, Dar al-fikr al-`arabiy, Al-jizah, 1933 and and Al-Bidaayah wa an-Nan-Nihaayah, Ibn-e-KathirIbn-e-KathirIbn-e-Kathir, Vol. 8, pg. 371 (Arabic, Dar al-fikr al-`arabiy, Al-jizah, 1933).
Learn more at a "Muhammad, Messenger of Peace" event in your area. Click here.