Be that as it may, the accusation of pedophilia relates to his marriage to ‘Ā’isha, a name sometimes written as Ayesha, which more closely approximates the pronunciation in her Meccan dialect. That he was very fond of her is not disputed, though her own attitude was more nuanced. It is also not disputed that she was his only virgin bride, and was very young when the marriage took place. But how young?
Several ḥadīths in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī state in no uncertain terms that Ayesha was six years old when she was married to Muḥammad, and that he consummated the marriage when she was nine. As I mentioned in Part 1, this book is holy scripture to Islam. To cast doubt on one part is to cast doubt on it all. Muslims can no more reject it than Christians can reject the New Testament. They cannot thus deny that their prophet married and had sexual relations with a prepubescent girl, and this is the justification for such marriages at the present day.
Just the same, it should be noted that her father, Abû Bakr appears to have raised no objection to giving her in marriage, and he was one of Muḥammad's closest friends, who became the first caliph, or leader of the Islamic world after Muḥammad's death. Also, Muḥammad did not face any criticism of this from non-Muslims. He did not need God to provide a revelation allowing him to marry a prepubescent girl the way he did when marrying the wife of his adopted son (after forcing the son to divorce her). In point of fact, child marriages were already acceptable in seventh century Arabia. The Koran even has verses assuming that. The result was that the customs of a barbarian desert society became the laws of an empire.
Such customs were (are) not limited to Arabia. A Hindu law code attributed to the mythical sage, Angiras stipulates that a girl must be married by the time she turns ten, even if it has to be done in a month in which marriage is normally prohibited. Other Hindu codes are similar. One warns that a man will spend a year in hell for every period his daughter has before she is married. Likewise, in some of the Australian Aboriginal tribes such as the Warlpiri a girl moves in with her husband, who is always at least a generation older than her, at the age of eight or nine, although she does not reach menarche until between 13 and 15.
A man who was previously unmarried copulates regularly with a prepubescent wife after she joins his camp. A man who already has a mature and sexually active wife, however, sleeps less often with his second wife until she reaches puberty; then both wives share his bed in turn. [M. J. Meggitt, 1962, Desert People]Now, although we are right to be appalled by such customs, it is important to remember that they are marriages; they are intended to be permanent, and the girl receives all the rights and protections of that estate. This is quite different from the typical predatory behaviour of a pedophile, and it is unreasonable to attribute that vice to Muḥammad.
But how old was Ayesha really?What you have just read would imply what I have stated previously: Muḥammad's faults were those of his society, while his virtues were his own. But was Ayesha really prepubescent when he wedded and bedded her? Most Muslims for most of history have believed so. However, last century an Indian scholar, Maulana Muhammad Ali argued that she was a teenager at the time. He was an Ahmadi, and therefore regarded as a heretic by mainstream Muslims, but that does not mean his historical research was incorrect. His researches have been cited on a number of websites; I shall quote this one.
Some people claim the Bukari and Muslim hadith reporting Hazrat Aisha’s age are “weak” (I won’t call them weak hadiths, in reality they are attack on our prophet pbuh.) There is material from both these hadith writers and earlier Islamic histories suggesting Aisha must have been older than nine when married.These arguments are subject to criticism (for example, here). Nevertheless, I find them reasonably convincing. Certainly, although they are not necessarily consistent with one another, they are sufficient to cast doubt on the official account - the one which Muslims are required to believe, because it is part of their scriptures. They reveal the natural discrepancies which occur in oral tradition and, more importantly, confirm what most Western scholars already believe: that the collections of ḥadīths are bogus.
According to hadith in Bukhari and Muslim, Aisha is said to have joined Muhammad on the raid that culminated in the Battle of Badr, in 624 CE. However, because no one below the age of fifteen was allowed to accompany raiding parties, Aisha should have been at least fifteen in 624 CE and thus at least thirteen when she was married following the Hijra in 622 CE. Ibn Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rashul Allah, the earliest surviving biography of Muhammad, records Aisha as having converted to Islam before Umar ibn al-Khattab, during the first few years of Islam around 610 CE. In order to accept Islam she must have been walking and talking, hence at least three years of age, which would make her at least fifteen in 622 CE. Tabari reports that Abu Bakr wished to spare Aisha the discomforts of a journey to Ethiopia soon after 615 CE, and tried to bring forward her marriage to Mut`am’s son. Mut`am refused because Abu Bakr had converted to Islam, but if Aisha was already of marriageable age in 615 CE, she must have been older than nine in 622 CE. Tabari also reports that Abu Bakr’s four children were all born during the Jahiliyyah, the pre Islamic period, which could be said to have ended in 610 CE, making Aisha at least twelve in 622 CE. According to Ibn Hajar, Fatima was five years older than Aisha. Fatima is reported to have been born when Muhammad was thirty-five years old, meaning Aisha was born when he was forty years old, and thus twelve when Muhammad married at fifty-two. Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibn Urwa reporting on the authority of his father. All the narratives of this event have been reported through narrators from Iraq, where Hisham ibn Urwa is reported to have shifted after living in Madinah for seventy-one years. It is reported in one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the narrators of the traditions ascribed to the Muhammad reports that Yaqub ibn Shaibah said, “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. Another book on the narrators of the traditions of the Muhammad reports that when he was old, Hisham’s memory suffered quite badly. According to the generally accepted tradition, Aisha was born about eight years before Hijrah. However, according to another narrative in Bukhari (Kitaab al-Tafseer) Aisha 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, Aisha had not only been born before the revelation of the referred Surah, but was actually a young girl, not even only an infant at that time. So if this age is assumed to be 7 to 14 years then her age at the time of marriage would be 14 to 21. According to almost all the historians, Asma the elder sister of Aisha, was ten years older than Aisha. It is reported in Taqreeb al-Tehzeeb as well as Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah that Asma died in the 73rd year after migration of Muhammad when she was 100 years old. Now, obviously if Asma was 100 years old in the 73rd year after Migration to Medina, she should have been 27 or 28 years old at the time of migration. If Asma was 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah, Aisha should have been 17 or 18 years old at that time. Thus, Aisha – if she got married in 1 AH (after Migration to Medina) or 2 AH – was between 18 to 20 years old at the time of her marriage. According to many Ahadith in Bukhari, it is believed Aisha participated in the battle of Badr andin Bukhari (Kitabu’l-maghazi) Ibn `Umar states that the Prophet did not permit me to participate in Uhud, as at that time, I was 14 years old. But on the day of Khandaq, when I was 15 years old, the Prophet permitted my participation. So if it was not allowed to participate in Uhud for people younger than 15, then Aisha would be at least 15 in those battles, making her age at least 13 to 14 at the time of marriage. Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, 8:58; Ansab al-Ashraf, 1:410. Opinions are in disagreement concerning her marriage with Muhammad. Their marriage seems to have taken place either two of five years after the Migration (Usd al-ghaba, 5:501).
For that matter, I note that stories about Muḥammad's sexual perversions, such as sleeping in women's clothing and sucking the tongues of boys and girls, mostly originate from the ḥadīths, further adding to the conclusion that the ḥadīth collections are unreliable. Muḥammad was a better man than those who came after him, and who used him to justify their opinions.
Go to: Part 4. Violence
or back to: Part 1. Moon God
Part 2. Demon Possessed