A common accusation and attempt to defame the beautiful character of Prophet Muhammad PBUH comes in contemplation of his judgment and ethics in marrying his wife, Aisha R.A, given that she was of a young age. Authentic narrations of Aisha R.A. state that she was six years old when the marriage took place in Mecca and nine years old when she moved into the house of Prophet Muhammad PBUH in Medina and consummated her marriage.
Aisha was the daughter of Prophet Muhammad PBUH’s best friend, Abu Bakr R.A, who stood by Prophet Muhammad PBUH when others did not. Abu Bakr R.A. was the first man to accept the message of Islam and stood as a source of continuous support for Prophet Muhmmad PBUH throughout his journey of spreading the message of God to the people.
The attempt to defame the character of Prophet Muhammad PBUH for his marriage of Aisha R.A at a young age fell flat, like other attempts to attack his character. The controversy regarding the age of Aisha is a recent phenomenon — one that people had never had an issue with in the past, and for a good reason. During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his enemies would attack his character by calling him a sorcerer, a madman, a magician, a soothsayer, and much more, but they never mentioned the fact that he married someone of a young age.
Why didn’t his enemies lodge a fact that would assist them in defaming and attacking the character of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, you ask? Because the age of Aisha R.A. at that time and place was deemed acceptable and the norm for marriageable women. Muslim historians who reported the story of Prophet Muhammad PBUH’s marriage to Aisha R.A. never felt the need to justify her age because, at that time, some young ladies did marry. Aisha R.A. had been engaged to someone else before Prophet Muhammad PBUH, which tells us that she was old enough for marriage at that time and place.
Taking our current-day 21st-century cultural norms and projecting them onto the auspices of 7th-century Arabian society is not fair nor logical; in fact, it is considered a fallacy of presentism. One should not judge a person who lived more than 1400 years ago by today’s standards, especially when doing something acceptable and normal at their time. Note each society has its own set of norms.
Throughout history, different cultures and ethnicities set different ages considered appropriate for marriage. The people in Arabia in the 7th century were married off early because, in the hot climate of the Arabia desert, young boys and girls matured at an early age, given that they had to assume family responsibilities. The typical age of marriage today in some countries is 13–15. In 12th-century Europe, some young girls would marry at the age of nine or ten. We shouldn’t judge people of the past for marrying spouses of a young age, just like we wouldn’t judge famous figures of history for owning slaves because it was accepted at that time as the norm.
Islam does not specify a minimum age for marriage. The requirement to marry someone is that they must be mentally and physically ready for the union. The phrase “mentally ready” means they are prepared to shoulder the responsibility of motherhood and fulfill the duties of raising a family. Being physically prepared implies that one has reached the state of puberty. Islam looks at the local customs and traditions of the land at that time and place. The age of consent for marriage will vary depending on time, place, culture, and society. A particular 12-year-old may be ready for marriage, whereas a person of 24 years may not. Some lifespans ran only 30 to 40 years, so they would marry early to accommodate an abbreviated lifetime. One can argue that the 16-year-old of today is mentally equivalent to the 10-year-old of the past. The age of marriage in many Islamic countries today is 18.
It’s imperative to note that because Prophet Muhmmad PBUH married Aisha R.A. at a young age, she lived many years after the death of her husband and dedicated her life to teaching others about the religion of Islam and Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Many of the companions of the Prophet PBUH came to her to gain a better understanding and clarity of Islamic rulings. She stands among the greatest scholars of Islam, who narrated more than two thousand Hadiths (saying of the Prophet PBUH), providing us with insights into Prophet Muhammad PBUH’s behavior inside the home and how he dealt with his wives, how he slept, and his other actions inside the house.
Aisha R.A. was very fortunate to marry the best person who ever lived. She was pleased with her life, loved her husband, and never complained. Their marriage was based on love, compassion, and mercy. Aisha R.A. narrated many tender details regarding their romance. Among the many beautiful narrations, Aisha R.A shared was the love and tenderness Prophet Muhammad PBUH would display to her. She told how he would insist that she drink from a cup first, then drink from the same spot where Aisha R.A would place her lips.
Their marriage was based on God’s command. Aisha R.A narrated that the Angel Gabriel came to Prophet Muhammad PBUH with the image of her on a piece of green silk cloth and said, “This is your wife in this world and next.” (At-Tirmidhi). It’s only logical to accept that God made the right decision, as He is All-Wise. It’s also important to note that many of the women Prophet Muhammad PBUH married were older divorcees; indeed, Aisha was the only virgin.
From a biblical perspective, Mary was twelve when she married Joseph, who was ninety years old. But this is a Christian viewpoint that Muslims do not believe. According to Church fathers, Rebekah was three years old when she married Isaac. A second early source states her age as ten.
Islamic scholars do not believe we should replicate the standard age of marriage of the past in today’s world. Muslim scholars state that a minimum age of consent could be imposed in modern times and places.
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