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What do Islamic sources say about the age of Aisha at the time of her marriage?

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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:
Classical Sunni scholars argue A'isha (ra), daughter of Abu Bakr (ra), married the Prophet (saw) at the age of six, but he consummated the marriage when she reached puberty at the age of nine.
This by no means suggests she was a child, rather that is determined by the social and biological facts of the time, which suggest she was a young adult capable of dealing with the responsibility of marriage.

Background

This notion is widely documented in the Islamic literature, narrated by many companions and the students of A'isha (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-Rahman, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Umrah bint Abd ar-Rahman, Yahaya ibn Hattib and Hisham ibn Urwah, al-Aswad.

The testimonies of A'isha (ra) herself is mentioned in

  • Bukhari 3894-3896, 5133, 5134, 5158,
  • Muslim 1422,
  • Ahmed 24587,
  • Musnad Ibn Ya'li 4600,
  • Abu Dawud 4933, 4937,
  • Ibn Majah 1876,
  • Nisa'i 3379,
  • Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 3. pp. 161-164,
  • Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 7, p. 281,
  • Suhaili, ar-Rawq al-Aneef, Vol. 4, 427 and others.

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

ِوعَائِشَةَ بِنْتَ اَبِي بَكْرٍ الصِدِيقَ رَضْىَّ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا تَزَوَجَهَا بِمَكَةَ قَبْلَ سَوْدَةَ وقِيلَ بَعْدَ سَوْدَةَ واَجْمَعُوا عَلَى أَنَهُ لَمْ يَبْنِ بِهَا إِلَا فِي المَدِينَةِ ... وَهِيَّ ابْنَةَ تِسْعِ سِنِينَ وَكَانَتْ حِينَ عَقَدَ عَلَيْهَا بِنْتْ سِت سِنِينَ وقِيلَ بِنْتِ سَبِعِ سِنِينَ

"He (the Prophet) married A'isha the daughter of Abi Bakr (ra) in Mecca before Sawdah – or after her.
They (scholars) unanimously agreed he did not consummate the marriage except in Medina … when she was nine years old, while she was six or seven years old when he married her." (Ibn Abd al-Barr, al-Isti'ab, Vol. 1, p. 44)

Imam Umar ibn Ali Ibn Mulaqqin al-Shafi'i mentions regarding Mutawatir in his Tadhkirah fī Úlūm al-Ĥadīth the narration regarding the nikah of A'isha being performed with the Messenger when she was aged 6 and consummation aged 9 is without doubt mutawatir, “It is a report by a group which in itself warrants for its being truth.” It is a narration reported by group at every level, so well known, inconceivable they have conspired a lie.

Various sources record marriages routinely taking place around puberty. Mu'awiya bin Abi Sufyan married his nine year old daughter Hind to Abdullah bin Amir bin Kuraiz. Abu al-Asim al-Dhahak mentions his mother was twelve years older than him. Shafi'i mentioned women in Tihama (Western Arabia) reached puberty as early as nine years of age whilst in San'a (Yemen) he saw a twenty-one year old grandmother Various sources record marriages routinely taking place around puberty. Mu'awiya bin Abi Sufyan married his nine year old daughter Hind to Abdullah bin Amir bin Kuraiz. Abu al-Asim al-Dhahak mentions his mother was twelve years older than him. Shafi'i mentioned women in Tihama (Western Arabia) reached puberty as early as nine years of age whilst in San'a (Yemen) he saw a twenty-one year old grandmother also noted by al-Hasan bin Salih. Males often married at a young age, Abdullah bin Amr bin al-As was twelve years younger to his father Amr.also noted by al-Hasan bin Salih. Males often married at a young age, Abdullah bin Amr bin al-As was twelve years younger to his father Amr.


Evidences

The main evidence is the testimony of A'isha (ra) herself, who said the Prophet (saw) married her at the age of six-seven and consummated the marriage at the age of nine. She is the only one best aware of such an issue. The aḥadith are at a very high level of authenticity and it was narrated through the strongest means of transmission, namely tawatur - similar to the transmission mechanisms for the Qur'an itself.

It was narrated A'isha (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 with me when I was nine." (Sunan an-Nasa'i 3378)

This hadith was also narrated in (Muslim 3310, Dhahabi, Tarikh al-Islam, Vol. 1, p. 279 and others)

A'isha (ra) herself mentions she was 18 when the Messenger (saw) left this world:

It is narrated from A'isha that the Messenger married her when she was 6, and he consummated with her when she was 9, and he passed away when she was 18.” (Muslim)

A'isha (ra) herself and others narrated the story:

لَمَّا هَلكَتْ خَدِيجَةُ جَاءَتْ خَوْلةُ بِنْتُ حَكيمٍ... فَقَالَت: يا رَسُولَ اللهِ، ألَا تَزوَّجُ؟ قال: مَن؟ قالت:ابنة أَحبُّ خَلْقِ اللهِ إليكَ، عائِشةُ ابنةُ أبي بَكرٍ ... فَدَخَلَتْ بيتَ أَبي بَكرٍ، فَقَالَت: يَا أمَّ رُومَان ... قَالَت: أَرْسَلَنِي رَسُولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ أَخْطُبُ عليه عائِشةَ ... قالت أمُّ رُومانَ: إنَّ مُطْعِمَ بنَ عَدِيٍّ قد ذكَرَهًا على ابنِه ... فقال لخَوْلةَ: ادْعي لي رسولَ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ، فدَعَتْه فزوَّجَها إيَّاهُ وعائِشةُ يومَئذٍ بنتُ سِتِّ سِنينَ ... فجاءَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ فَدَخَلَ بَيتَنَا واجْتَمَعَ إِلَيْهِ رِجَالٌ مِنَ الأنْصَارِ ونِسَاءٌ، ... ثمَّ دَخَلَتْ بِي فَإِذا رَسُولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ جَالِسٌ عَلَى سَرِيرٍ في بَيْتِنَا وعِنْدَه رِجالٌ ونِسَاءٌ مِنَ الأنصارِ،... وأنا يومَئذٍ ابنةُ تِسعِ سِنينَ.
"When Khadijah (ra) passed away, Khawlah bint Hakeem … said, 'O Messenger of Allah, do you want to marry?' He replied, 'Whom?' … She said, 'the daughter of the most beloved creature of Allah, namely A'isha bint Abu Bakr' …
She (Khawlah) entered the house of Abu Bakr and said to (the wife of Abu Bakr) O Umm Ruman … The Messenger of Allah sent me to engage A'isha to him. …
Umm Ruman said, Mut'am ibn Adi had engaged her to his son. (and after that the engagement was broken because the other party rejected Islam and A'isha was a Muslim)...
Abu Bakr told Khawlah, 'call the Messenger of Allah (saw) to attend.' She called him and he married her when A'isha was at that time 6 years old... (three years later) The Prophet (saw) came one day and entered our house where many men and women gathered for him...
Umm Ruman (ra) entered me (to the Prophet) who was sitting on a bed in our home and around him men and women of al-Ansar... (then the marriage was consummated) and I was at that time nine years old.'"
(Ahmed 25241, Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, Vol. 3, pp. 161-162, Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 3, p. 129)

In another narration in Bukhari and Muslim, she narrated the whole story of her marriage.

تَزَوَّجَنِي النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَأَنَا بِنْتُ سِتِّ سِنِينَ، فَقَدِمْنَا الْمَدِينَةَ فَنَزَلْنَا فِي بَنِي الْحَارِثِ بْنِ خَزْرَجٍ… أَدْخَلَتْنِي الدَّارَ فَإِذَا نِسْوَةٌ مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ فِي الْبَيْتِ فَقُلْنَ عَلَى الْخَيْرِ وَالْبَرَكَةِ، وَعَلَى خَيْرِ طَائِرٍ‏.‏ فَأَسْلَمَتْنِي إِلَيْهِنَّ فَأَصْلَحْنَ مِنْ شَأْنِي، فَلَمْ يَرُعْنِي إِلاَّ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ضُحًى، فَأَسْلَمَتْنِي إِلَيْهِ، وَأَنَا يَوْمَئِذٍ بِنْتُ تِسْعِ سِنِينَ‏.‏
"The Prophet (saw) married me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani al-Harith bin Khazraj…
she (her mother) took me into the house. There in the house, I saw some Ansari women who said, "Best wishes and Allah's Blessing and good luck."
Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage).
Unexpectedly Allah's Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age." (Bukhari 3894)

It was also narrated in Muslim 3309, Ibn Majah 1950, al-Arna'ut, Takhrij al-Musnad 26397, Ibn Hiban 7097 and others.

It was narrated in Muslim:

عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، عَنْ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم تَزَوَّجَهَا وَهْىَ بِنْتُ سَبْعِ سِنِينَ وَزُفَّتْ إِلَيْهِ وَهِيَ بِنْتُ تِسْعِ سِنِينَ وَلُعَبُهَا مَعَهَا وَمَاتَ عَنْهَا وَهِيَ بِنْتُ ثَمَانَ عَشْرَةَ
"'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (saw) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Prophet) died she was eighteen years old." (Muslim 3311)

It was narrated in Bukhari:

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم تَزَوَّجَهَا وَهْىَ بِنْتُ سِتِّ سِنِينَ، وَأُدْخِلَتْ عَلَيْهِ وَهْىَ بِنْتُ تِسْعٍ، وَمَكَثَتْ عِنْدَهُ تِسْعًا‏
"The Prophet (saw) married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death)." (Bukhari 5133, 5158)

It was narrated in Ibn Majah on the authority of Ibn Abdullah:

تَزَوَّجَ النَّبِيُّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ عَائِشَةَ وَهِيَ بِنْتُ سَبْعٍ وَبَنَى بِهَا وَهِيَ بِنْتُ تِسْعٍ وَتُوُفِّيَ عَنْهَا وَهِيَ بِنْتُ ثَمَانِي عَشْرَةَ سَنَةً
"The Prophet married A'isha when she was seven years old and consummated the marriage with her when she was nine, and he passed away when she was eighteen." (Ibn Majah 1951, Muslim 1422)

Bukhari also narrated:

تُوُفِّيَتْ خَدِيجَةُ قَبْلَ مَخْرَجِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِلَى الْمَدِينَةِ بِثَلاَثِ سِنِينَ، فَلَبِثَ سَنَتَيْنِ أَوْ قَرِيبًا مِنْ ذَلِكَ، وَنَكَحَ عَائِشَةَ وَهْىَ بِنْتُ سِتِّ سِنِينَ، ثُمَّ بَنَى بِهَا وَهْىَ بِنْتُ تِسْعِ سِنِينَ‏
"Khadijah died three years before the Prophet (saw) departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married `Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old." (Bukhari 3896, Bukhari 5134)

In Tabarani, A'isha narrated:

تزوَّجني رسولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم وأنا بنتُ سِتِّ سِنينَ وأُدخِلْتُ عليه وأنا بنتُ تِسْعِ سِنينَ ومكَثْتُ عندَه تِسْعًا فهلَك رسولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم وأنا بنتُ ثماني عَشْرةَ
"The Messenger of Allah (saw) married me when I was six, and consummated the marriage with me when I was nine. I stayed with him for nine years, so the Prophet (saw) passed away when I was eighteen." (Tabarani, al-Mu'jam al-Waseet, Vol. 7. p. 94)


Conclusion

The classical Sunni scholars argue A'isha (ra), daughter of Abu Bakr (ra), married the Prophet (saw) at the age of six, but he consummated the marriage when she reached the puberty at the age of nine.

This by no means suggests she was a child, rather that is determined by the social and biological facts and standards of her time, which concur she was a young adult capable of dealing with the responsibility of marriage.

References

Tabarani, al-Mu'jam al-Waseet
Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah
Ibn Abd al-Barr, al-Isti'ab


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