Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Muhammad’s Marriage to a Prepubescent Minor

A Quick Response to a Common Muslim Objection

Sam Shamoun

There are some internet dawagandists who quote the following English rendering of al-Bukhari in order to prove that Aisha was past the age of puberty when she married and had sex with Muhammad, who was approximately 54 years old at that time:

Narrated Aisha: I had seen my parents following Islam since I attained the age of puberty. Not a day passed but the Prophet visited us, both in the mornings and evenings. My father Abu Bakr thought of building a mosque in the courtyard of his house and he did so. He used to pray and recite the Qur’an in it. The pagan women and their children used to stand by him and look at him with surprise. Abu Bakr was a softhearted person and could not help weeping while reciting the Quran. The chiefs of the Quraish pagans became afraid of that (i.e. that their children and women might be affected by the recitation of Quran).” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 465)

Muslims assume that since Aisha claims to have been pubescent when her parents became Muslims, which was many years before she married Muhammad, they take this as proof that she wasn’t a physically immature child who wasn’t ready for sexual consummation when Muhammad took her to bed to be his wife.

The problem with this claim is that these polemicists are basing their entire argument on an English translation of the foregoing hadith, which they take to be correct. However, the proper understanding of the hadith becomes clearer when we compare it with the following narration:

“Narrated Aisha: (wife of the Prophet) Since I reached the age WHEN I COULD REMEMBER THINGS, I have seen my parents worshipping according to the right faith of Islam. Not a single day passed but Allah's Apostle visited us both in the morning and in the evening..." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 37, Number 494)

Now compare how Muslima Aisha Bewley renders the first hadith in her translation of al-Bukhari:

LII: A mosque should not be built in a thoroughfare if that would be detrimental to people

Al-Hasan, Ayyub and Malik all said this.

464. It is related that 'A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, said, "I have no recollection of my parents doing anything but following the deen of Islam. No day would pass without the Messenger of Allah visiting us at either end of it, both morning and evening. Then it occurred to Abu Bakr to build a mosque in the forecourt of his house. He used to pray and recite Qur'an in it. The pagan women and children would stand there amazed, staring at him. Abu Bakr was a man who wept easily and could not control his tears when reading the Qur'an and this was a matter of great concern to those nobles of Quraysh who worshipped idols." (Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 11: Mosques)

And here is her translation of the second narration:

IV: The protection and promise granted to Abu Bakr during the time of the Prophet

2175. It is related that 'A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, said, "I only remember my parents following the deen."

It is related that 'A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, said, "I ONLY REMEMBER my parents following the deen. Not a day passed by without the Messenger of Allah coming to us at the two ends of the day, morning and evening…” (Ibid., Chapter 42: Book of Sureties (Kafala); capital and underline emphasis ours)

The foregoing makes it abundantly clear that the hadith isn’t speaking to the issue of Aisha’s puberty whatsoever. Rather, the point of the narration is on Aisha’s recalling the fact of her parents being Muslims from the time she was able to mind her surroundings. However, one doesn’t have to reach puberty in order to be able to be cognizant of the things taking place around them.

Besides, al-Bukhari provides evidence that Aisha hadn’t attained puberty when Muhammad had sex with her:

XXXIX. A man giving his YOUNG CHILDREN in marriage

By the words of Allah, "that also applies to those WHO HAVE NOT YET MENSTRUATED" (65:4) and He made the 'idda of a girl before puberty three months.

4840. It is related from 'A'isha that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and consummated it when she was nine, and she was his wife for nine years. (Bewley, The Sahih Collection of Al-Bukhari, Chapter 70. Book of Marriage; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Al-Bukhari mentions Aisha’s marriage to Muhammad at the age of 9 to illustrate the meaning of Q. 65:4, a text which permits grown men to marry and have sex with young prepubescent girls. Now this only makes sense if Muhammad married Aisha before the latter had reached maidenhood.

In fact, Muhammad’s marriage to a minor set the precedence for other men to follow suit, and became enshrined in the Quran:

And if you are in doubt as to the prescribed period for such of your women as have despaired of monthly courses, then know that the prescribed period for them is three months, and also for such AS DO NOT HAVE not have their monthly courses YET. And as for those 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. S. 65:4 Sher Ali

The surrounding context deals with the issue of the waiting period for divorce, and remarriage. The Quran is basically informing Muslims to wait for a certain period of time before making the divorce final or deciding to forego it. The Quran exhorts men to wait a period of three months in the case of women who either are no longer menstruating or haven’t even started their menstrual cycles! Thus, Islam permits men to marry prepubescent girls and even divorce them if they so choose!

This is further confirmed by the fact that according to Quran 33:49, there is no waiting period for a woman whose marriage hasn’t been consummated by sexual intercourse. Here, once again, is al-Bukhari:

Narrated Sahl bin Sad:
 While we were sitting in the company of the Prophet a woman came to him and presented herself (for marriage) to him. The Prophet looked at her, lowering his eyes and raising them, but did not give a reply. One of his companions said, “Marry her to me O Allah’s Apostle!” The Prophet asked (him), “Have you got anything?” He said, “I have got nothing.” The Prophet said, “Not even an iron ring?” He said, “Not even an iron ring, but I will tear my garment into two halves and give her one half and keep the other half.” The Prophet; said, “No. Do you know some of the Quran (by heart)?” He said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “Go, I have agreed to marry her to you with what you know of the Qur’an (as her Mahr).” ‘And for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature). (65.4) AND THE ‘IDDAT FOR THE GIRL BEFORE PUBERTY IS THREE MONTHS (in the above Verse). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 63)

Now let us see how some of Islam’s greatest scholars and expositors interpreted Q. 65:4. We start with Ibn Kathir:

“… There is a third type of divorce, which is neither a Sunnah nor an innovation where one divorces A YOUNG WIFE WHO HAS NOT BEGUN TO HAVE MENSES, the wife who is beyond the age of having menses, and divorcing one’s wife before the marriage was consummated…” (Q. 65:1; bold, capital and italicized emphasis ours)


The `Iddah of Those in Menopause and Those Who do not have Menses

Allah the Exalted clarifies the waiting period of the woman in menopause. And that is the one whose menstruation has stopped due to her older age. Her `Iddah is three months instead of the three monthly cycles for those who menstruate, which is based upon the Ayah in (Surat) Al-Baqarah. [see 2:228] The same for THE YOUNG, WHO HAVE NOT REACHED THE YEARS OF MENSTRUATION… (Q. 65:4; bold, capital and italicized emphasis ours)

And here are a few more:

(And for such of your women as despair of menstruation) because of old age, (if ye doubt) about their waiting period, (their period (of waiting) shall be three months) upon which another man asked: “O Messenger of Allah! What about the waiting period of those who do not have menstruation BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO YOUNG?” (along with those who have it not) because of young age, their waiting period is three months. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; bold, capital and italicized emphasis ours)

“… Abu Ishaq al-Muqri’ informed us> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hamdun> Makki ibn ‘Abdan> Abu’l-Azhar> Asbat ibn Muhammad> Mutarrif> Abu ‘Uthman ‘Amr ibn Salim who said: “When the waiting period for divorced and widowed women was mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, some women of Medina are saying: there are other women who have not been mentioned!’ He asked him: ‘And who are they?’ He said: ‘THOSE WHO ARE TOO YOUNG [SUCH THAT THEY HAVE NOT STARTED MENSTRUATING YET], those who are too old [whose menstruation has stopped] and those who are pregnant’. And so this verse (And for such of your women as despair of menstruation…) was revealed’.” (Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi; bold, capital and italicized emphasis ours)

{and those who have not menstruated yet} Meaning the young girl. (Tafsir Al-Qurtubi)

Here the Arabic word for “young” (as-sagheerah) denotes a girl who did not reach the age of puberty yet. Finally:

“… Women who do not menstruate, BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT YET ATTAINED PUBERTY, or because they have attained menopausal age…” (Maariful-Qur'an, by Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi', translated by Prof. Muhammad Hasan Askari & Prof. Muhammad Shamim, revised by Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Volume 8, p. 494; bold, capital and italicized emphasis ours)

“… Likewise, ‘‘iddah for a woman who does not menstruate ON ACCOUNT OF MINORITY OF AGE, or because she has attained menopausal age, is computed on monthly basis. Their ‘‘iddah is three months. (Ibid., pp. 495-496; bold, capital and italicized emphasis ours)

This now raises two major problems for the Muslims to wrestle with. Muhammad is said to be a role model for all peoples at all times. Therefore, why wouldn’t he abolish this practice of marrying and having sex with female minors? Why enshrine and engage in such a vile practice that leaves girls traumatized sexually, emotionally and physiologically? After all, didn’t Muhammad abolish adoption, which benefits both orphans and couples who cannot have children of their own? Why not enshrine such a humane practice which brings great emotional healing and love to so many human lives, as opposed to sanctioning the sexual abuse of minors?

Moreover, the Quran condemned anyone who would even think of marrying Muhammad’s women after his death:

“… And it is not (right) for you that you should annoy Allah's Messenger, nor that you should ever marry his wives after him (his death). Verily! With Allah that shall be an enormity.” S. 33:53 Hilali-Khan

This means that all of Muhammad’s wives were left to remain widows for the rest of their lives, especially Aisha who was widowed at the young age of 18. Thus, Aisha was robbed of the joy of having children or having a husband to love and care for her for all the days that she lived.

Far from being a mercy to mankind, Muhammad was nothing more than a curse upon humanity. May our gracious and merciful Lord Jesus save precious Muslims from the misery that Islam has brought to the world, and bring them to his perfect love and compassion.

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