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Which classical scholars disputed Aisha was 6 or 7 when she married the prophet?

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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in the English language. I also studied at Temple University in the US.
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In a Nutshell:
According to the classical jurisprudential literature, none of the classical scholars disputed this. The consensus of scholars is narrated by a number of scholars. Some contemporary scholars have started to argue against this consensus following the British Orientalist Historian David Samuel Margoliouth's criticisms of the marriage in 1905.


Classical Scholarship View

The classical Sunni scholars argue Aisha (ra) married the Prophet (saw) at the age of six or seven, but the marriage was consummated when she reached the age of nine. This does not mean she was a child when the marriage was consummated - that is determined by the social and biological circumstances at the time.

The outstanding mufassir of the late eight-century ibn Kathir narrated the Ijma' on Aisha's marriage aged nine:

تَزَوَّجَهَا وَهِيَ ابْنَةُ سِتِّ سِنِينَ، وَبَنَى بِهَا وَهِيَ ابْنَةُ تِسْعٍ مَا لَا خِلَافَ فِيهِ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ
"(The Prophet) married her when she was six-years-old and consummated the marriage at the age of nine. There is no dispute among anyone on this matter." (Ibn Kathir, as-Seera al-Nabawiyah, Vol. 2, p. 141, similar in Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol 3, p. 161)

The same Ijma' was narrated by the great historian Imam Ibn Abd al-Barr who said:

وعائشة بنت ابي بكر الصديق رضى الله عنهما تزوجها بمكة قبل سودة وقيل بعد سودة واجمعوا على أنه لم يبن بها إلا في المدينة ... وهي ابنة تسع سنين وكانت حين عقد عليها بنت ست سنين وقيل بنت سبع سنين
"He (the Prophet) married Aisha the daughter of Abu Bakr (ra) in Mecca before Sawdah – or possibly after her.
They (scholars) unanimously agreed he did not consummate the marriage except in Medina … when she was nine years old; she was six or seven years old when he married her." (Ibn Abd al-Barr, al-Isti'ab, Vol. 1, p. 44)

In another place he added:

لا أعلمهم اختلفوا في ذلك
"I am not aware they disputed this." (Ibid, Vol. 4, p. 1881)

The same view was held by all the classical scholars across the centuries and there is no one in the history of Sunni classical scholarship who differed in this matter except some researchers in the 20th century.

Examples of such discussions by influential scholars include:

  • Ibn al-Athir, Asad al-Ghabah, Vol. 7, pp. 205-208,
  • Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, Vol. 8, p. 16,
  • Dhahabi, Siyar 'A'lam an-Nubala', Vol. 2, pp. 139-152 and others.


Evidences Cited

The main evidence for this opinion is the testimony of A'isha herself, who said the Prophet (saw) married her at the age of six-seven and consummated the marriage at the age of nine. Naturally she is going to be more aware of such an issue than anyone else - thus her personal testimoney and witness narration carries significant weight.

The ahadith narrating this matter are at a very high level of authenticity and it was narrated through the best way of transmission; namely tawatur (group to group).

It was narrated Aisha (ra) said:

تَزَوَّجَنِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَأَنَا بِنْتُ سِتٍّ وَدَخَلَ عَلَىَّ وَأَنَا بِنْتُ تِسْعِ سِنِينَ
"The Messenger of Allah (saw) married me when I was six, and consummated the marriage when I was nine." (Sunan an-Nasa'i 3378)

Similar narrations are historically documented in almost all the books of Seera, Hadith, Fiqh and the Islamic literature.

See for example the testimonies of Aisha (ra) in: Bukhari 3894-3896, 5133, 5134, 5158, Muslim 1422, Ahmed 24587, Musnad Ibi Ya'li 4600, Abu Dawud 4933, 4937, Ibn Majah 1876, Nasa'i 3379, Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 3. pp. 161-164, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 7, p. 281, Suhili, ar-Rawq al-Aneef, Vol. 4, 427 and others.

It was narrated by numerous narrators of the companions and the students of Aisha (ra), contrary to what some contemporary writers argue that there is only one narrator who might have been misunderstood or fabricated the age.

For example, the narrations are narrated by Abi Salamah ibn Abd ar-Rahman, 'Urwah ibn az-Zubayr on the authority of his father Zubayr, al-Aswad ibn Yazeed, al-Qasim ibn Abd ar-Rahaman, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Umrah bint Abd ar-Rahman, Yahaya ibn Hattib, Hisham ibn 'Urwah, al-Aswad and others.

Objections

Some contemporary writers have differed with scholarly consensus arguing A'sha was older at the time of her marriage, around 14-16 years of age. The arguments they present however are at best speculative and weak and of little merit.

Conclusion

There is a consensus of scholars of all the Islamic fields that the Prophet (saw) married Aisha (ra) at the age of six or seven and consummated the marriage at the age of nine. She was not a child, rather she was old and mature enough to carry the responsibility of marriage like her peers in her contemporary time.

References

Dhahabi, Siyar 'A'lam an-Nubala', Vol. 2, pp. 139-152

Ibn al-Athir, Asad al-Ghabah, Vol. 7, pp. 205-208

Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, Vol. 8, p. 16

Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 7, p. 281

Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 3. pp. 161-164

Suhili, ar-Rawq al-Aneef, Vol. 4, 427


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