How old was Aisha (R.A) when she got married to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?

After having become a prophet, ten years later, at the age of 50, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) needed wives to help him do the housework, take care of his children, and help him in inviting people into Islam. He wanted to marry both Sawda, who was old and widow, and the daughter of Abu Bakr, Aisha.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made this request ten years after the beginning of the Revelation. Aisha was born 5-6 years before the beginning of revelation. Thus, it appears that the age of Aisha was 17-18 when she got married to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

This point is included in full detail in the book “Asr-ı Saadet (The Era of Bliss)” by Mawlana Shibli. (Ist. 1928. 2/ 997)

We can definitely conclude from the biography on Asma, Aisha’s elder sister, that Aisha was at a marriageable age when she got married to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The old biography books write about Asma as follows: “When Asma was 100 years of age, she died in the seventy third year of the Emigration (Hijrah). During the Emigration, she was exactly 27 years old. Since Aisha was 10 years younger than her sister was, she needs to be at her 17. Besides, she had been engaged to Jubair before she married the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). So she was a girl at a marriageable age.” (Hatemu’l Enbiya (The Seal of Prophets) The Prophet Muhammad and His life, Ali Himmet Berki, Osman Keskioğlu, p. 210)

We advise you to read the following explanations for detailed information regarding the issue.

The narrations that Hz. Aisha was engaged when she was six or seven years old and that she married at the age of ten (1) have been the most important reason so far in the formation of the opinion about her marriage age. It should not be forgotten that the reasons like the fact that marriage at an early age was very common at that time and the fact that the physical development of children was completed at an earlier age due to the influence of geographical structure were determinative in the formation of this opinion. That is why the issue had never been discussed and had never come to the fore until recently.

The people who do not take the conditions of that period into consideration and those who examine Islam "from outside" raise the issue; they criticize the issue by evaluating it from their own viewpoint. The response of the Islamic World to this different stance is not the same; while some insist on the necessity of accepting the matter as it is (2), others, though a few, state that Hz. Aisha was at a more mature age when she married (3). It is a fact that the balance cannot always be maintained, that the narrations regarding the issue are overlooked while the reactions are answered or the other alternatives are overlooked as a reaction to that attitude during these discussions.

As it is known, everyone is the child of the period they lived and should be evaluated by the following generations based on the culture of that era.

Communities act based on the “customs” that are the result of the collective accumulation, and it is difficult or even impossible for those who are in a position to decide about that community to decide correctly when those customs are not taken into consideration.

When this issue is viewed from this viewpoint, it is known that girls were married off at an early age (4) and that the age difference in such marriages was not considered as important (5) in the period when the Messenger of Allah lived. It can be said that this understanding was triggered by the negative attitude adopted by the community related to girls at that time and the pressure formed by this attitude on the families. It is important to note that the climate and geographical conditions were suitable for children to complete their physical development earlier and that girls were viewed as beings who needed to grow up in the house of their husbands. Moreover, this is not an issue involved with girls only; it is understood from the practices of that period that boys were married off at an early age too. For example, the age difference between Amr ibn As and his son Abdullah is only twelve, which means Amr must have been married when he was nine or ten years old.

Acting upon this information, we can say that even if Hz. Aisha married when she was nine years old, there is nothing strange about it. If such an issue had been in question, those who wanted to have a storm in a teacup and those who slandered Hz. Aisha unreasonably while returning from Sons of Mustaliq Expedition would definitely have criticized this marriage when he married Hz. Zaynab. No matter what the result is, this information alone has enough power to prove that there is no negative aspect in the marriage of Hz. Aisha.

- What is the fact regarding the issue? Is the information above the only alternative about determining her age?

In order to get answers to these questions, it is certainly necessary to open the door to those days and to examine the issue based on evidences by entering through that door. Let us see what the evidences that were obtained mean:

1. When the names of the people who became Muslims on the first days of the prophethood are listed, the name of Hz. Aisha is mentioned together with her elder sister Asma. It is remarkable that this mentioning takes place immediately after the Companions like Hz. Uthman, Zubayr ibn Awwam, Abdurrahman ibn Awf, Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, Talha ibn Ubaydullah, Abu Ubayda ibn Jarrah and Arqam ibn Abil-Arqam, who are known as ‘Sabiqun al-Awwalun’  and before the Companions like Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, Abdullah ibn Jahsh, Abu Hudhayfa, Suhayb ibn Sinan, Ammar ibn Yasir and Habbab ibn Arat. (7) It means Hz. Aisha was a little girl but she was in a position to express her will and to be among the first Muslims. The existence of a note stating that “she was little then” confirms it. (8)

2. The state of her elder sister Asma also strengthens this opinion; it is known that she became a Muslim when she was fifteen years old. (9) Another known fact is that she was born in 595. (10) They all show the year 610, the first year of the prophethood. It means Hz. Aisha became a Muslim in 610 though she was a little girl. Therefore, she must have been at least five, six, or seven years old then; When her life of 13 years in Makkah and at least seven months (11) in Madinah are added, it will be seen that she was at least eighteen years old – if we take the possibility of her birth five years before the prophethood as a basis.

3. Hz. Aisha states the following related to her life in Makkah:

"When I was a little girl playing games in Makkah, the following verse was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):   

‘Nay, the Hour (of Judgment) is the time promised them (for their full recompense): And that Hour will be most grievous and most bitter.’ (al-Qamar, 54/46) (12)

This information opens us different doors related to her age:

4. The verse in question is the verse 46 of the chapter of al-Qamar; there are different narrations about when this chapter, which was sent down as a whole in Ibn Arqam's house, sent down: the fourth year of the prophethood in 614 (13), the eighth year of the prophethood in 618 or the ninth year of the prophethood in 619 (14). Some scholars who particularly took into consideration the incident of the splitting of the moon and the need for it at that time hold the view that it was sent down in 614; when this year is accepted, it means Hz. Aisha had not been born yet or had just been born. When 618 or 619 is accepted, the result does not change very much. In that case, it means she was only four or five years old; neither age shows that she had a maturity that could understand the incident and report it years later. Thus, she must have been born on the days when the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) started.

Another point that is noteworthy here is as follows: Hz. Aisha states the following while mentioning that day: "I was a little girl playing games." The word ’jariya‘, which she uses in the sense of little girl, expresses transition to puberty and is used for that period. Ibn Yara, one of the Arab poets, expresses his purpose by referring to a person of that age as follows: "When she is eight years old, she is no longer a jariya; she is a bride to be, whom I can marry off to Utba or Muawiya." Some scholars say this word is used for girls over the age of eleven.

If we accept the year 614 as the year when the chapter of al-Qamar was sent down, it means Hz. Aisha was born at least eight years before the prophethood and it corresponds to the year 606. This shows that she was seventeen years old when she got married. If we accept the year 618 as the year when the chapter of al-Qamar was sent down, it shows that she was born in 610. One the one hand, this proves that Hz. Aisha was fourteen years old on the day of her marriage; on the other hand, it proves that she cannot have been born four years after the prophethood.

When we bring this information together with what is expressed in the first item, it is possible to conclude that Hz. Aisha was born in 606 and married when she was seventeen or seventeen and a half years old.

5. Some reminiscences Hz. Aisha narrates related to her life in Makkah supports it. Examples:

a) She says she saw two people remaining from the Incident of Elephant, which took place forty years before the prophethood and which was used as a criterion in determining dates, begging in Makkah. 

b) She states that the Messenger of Allah came to her father’s house every day in Makkah when they experienced tough days and narrates in detail that her father, Hz. Abu Bakr, who could not put up with those hardships, tried to migrate to Abyssinia.

c) She states that prayer was rendered fard as two rak'ahs first and that it was increased to four rak'ahs afterwards for residents and that it remained as two rak'ahs for travelers.

d) "We heard about Isaf and Naila as a man and a woman who committed a crime in the Kaaba and hence were turned into stone." (20)

Her statements like the ones above about those days and her other reminiscences show that she was at an age that could understand those incidents.

6. The fact that Hz. Aisha was betrothed to Jubayr, who was Mutim ibn Adiyy’s son, when her marriage with the Prophet started to be talked about strengthens this view. Another remarkable point regarding the issue is that the proposal was put forward by someone outside the family: Hawla bint Hakim. This clearly indicates that she was a young girl who reached the marriage age and who could marry.

It is also known that the decision of betrothal was abolished by Ibn Adiyy family thinking that the understanding of their son would change. (21) The question that comes to mind regarding the issue is as follows: When and why did Ibn Adiyy family make such a contract with the family of Abu Bakr if they feared that it would change the understanding of their son? The most reasonable answer to this is that the aforementioned contract occurred before the prophethood or before the proclamation of Islam openly started; in either case, she cannot have been born in the fourth year of the prophethood; furthermore, this suggests that she may have been born earlier.

If the possibility that this decision of the abolishment of betrothal was taken in the period when the proclamation of Islam openly started is considered, it will be seen that this indicates the years 613-614, the years when the house of Ibn Arqam was left, which means to accept that she had not been born yet when she was claimed to have been about to be betrotheded. In that case, it is impossible to mention that decision. Then, it is necessary to accept that she was at least seven or eight years old when the decision of betrothal was abolished; this shows that she was born in about 605. (23)

7. The age difference between Hz. Aisha and her other siblings is also remarkable in terms of shedding light on the issue. As it is known Hz. Abu Bakr had six children.  Asma and Abdullah were born of Qutayla bint Umays; Hz. Aisha and Abdurrahman were born of Umm Ruman; Muhammad was born of Asma bint Umays and Umm Kulthum was born of Habiba bint Kharija. Thus, Asma and Abdullah are siblings born of the same mother, and Hz. Aisha and Abdurrahman are also siblings born of the same mother. The age difference between those siblings will shed light on the issue:

a) Asma, the first daughter of Hz. Abu Bakr, was born in 595, twenty-seven years before the Migration. (24) She was married to Zubayr ibn Awwam during the Migration of the Messenger of Allah and she was six months pregnant that day. In other words, she was twenty-seven years old. (25) Three months later, she gave birth to her son, Abdullah, in Quba while she was migrating to Madinah. She died in 73 H when she was one hundred years old and when she still had her original teeth.

The age difference between Hz. Aisha and her sister Asma is ten. (26) Accordingly, it becomes clear that Hz. Aisha was born in 605 (595 + 10 = 605) and her age during the Migration was 17 (27-10 = 17). Since her marriage took place seven months after the Migration (27), it means that the age of Hz. Aisha passed seventeen and was close to eighteen at that time. If we accept that she got married in the month of Shawwal immediately after the Battle of Badr, it is necessary to accept that she completed the age of eighteen then.

b) Another point that attracts attention here is the age difference between Hz. Aisha and her full brother Abdurrahman. As it is known, Abdurrahman is Hz. Abu Bakr's eldest son and he became a Muslim after the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. Abdurrahman avoided confronting his father at the Battle of Badr; he was twenty years old then. (28) Accordingly, he must have been born in 604. In a community where the age difference between siblings is usually one or two, it is very unlikely for a sibling whose elder brother was born in 604 to be born in 614 and for two siblings to have an age difference of ten years; besides, there is no evidence to support it.

8. The narrations about the year of death of Hz. Aisha also reinforce this view. For, different years (55, 56, 57, 58 or 59 H) and different ages (sixty-five, sixty-six, sixty-seven or seventy-four) are mentioned about the time of her death. (30) This shows that there is no definite acceptance about the year of her death just like her birth.

In the narration stating that she died in 58 H at the age of 74 years old, her day of death is mentioned as Wednesday; it is also stated that her date of death corresponded to the seventeenth night of the month of Ramadan, that she was buried at night in the Cemetery of Baqi after the witr prayer upon her will, that her janazah prayer was led by Abu Hurayra, and that she was placed in the grave by her sister Asma's two sons Abdullah and Urwa, her brother Muhammad’s two sons Qasim and Abdullah her brother Abdurrahman’s son Abdullah (31); this narration has more details than others, which gives the impression that this information is stronger than the others. Thus, if we make a calculation based on this date, we see that she lived forty-eight more years after the death of the Prophet (48 + 10 = 58 + 13 = 71 + 3 = 74), which means she was born three years before the prophethood.

In that case, it is understood that on the day of her marriage, she was seventeen years and seven months old (74 -48 = 26-9 = 17 + 7 months).

In addition to the information above, the fact that she was in the battlefront on the day of Uhud, when even boys who wanted to fight were rejected (32), her deepness in religious (fiqh) issues, her mature attitude and statements in the face of the Incident of Ifk, the age difference between her and Hz. Fatima, her detailed knowledge about the Migration and the incidents that took place later, that her  marriage took place after her father brought it forward and after mahr was determined (33), the position of the Prophet as a model in the eye of the community, the sensitivity of prophethood and the fatherly compassion, the introduction of the requirement of being of age about marriage in the verses that were sent down (34), that the narrations about her age and marriage are not certain since there are differences in them (35) that Hz. Aisha herself used the phrase "six or seven", which is not definite, while mentioning her age, and that the dates of birth and death were not determined very clearly in the communities of that age are to be taken into consideration while evaluating the issue.  

Nevertheless, the result does not change and they all strengthen the opinion that she was born before the prophethood, was engaged at the age of fourteen or fifteen, and married the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) at the age of seventeen or eighteen.

In that case, the narrations that she was 6 or 7 years old when she was engaged and 9 when she got married should be interpreted as follows: ‘I looked that age.’ (36) The information that Hz. Aisha had a weak and thin body strengthens this interpretation. For, she had a body that was quickly affected by physical conditions and that made her look younger than her peers. That she got sick during the Migration to Madinah (37) and her mother tried to heal her by showing great care (38), that people thought she was in the hawdaj (a closed compartment put on the back of camel) and placed the hawdaj on the camel while returning from Sons of Mustaliq Expedition, and that they could not understand whether she was in the hawdaj or not (39) and similar incidences confirm this view.

To sum up, even if Hz. Aisha might have married when she was nine years old, it is very natural and normal according to the understanding of the community of that time but when the issue is viewed from a broader perspective, it is understood that she became a wife of the Prophet when she was seventeen or eighteen.  

The following question comes to mind here: "Why did this issue not come up in this way until recently?" As it was stated at the beginning of this writing, no negative statement was made regarding the issue until recently; neither Abu Jahl, who was an obstinate person like Pharaoh and who used any occasion against Islam, nor Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, who produced mischief and slander from unexpected issues, expressed any objection to this marriage because there is nothing to object to regarding the issue. There is a natural acceptance for both cases according to the understanding of that period; this issue did not arise the need to bring a new perspective to the issue by approaching it differently; therefore, it was not possible for the Islamic scholars in the past to express different opinions about the accuracy of such news or the existence of alternative information.

Footnotes:

1. see Bukhari, Manaqibul-Ansar 20, 44; Muslim, Nikah 71; Fadailus-Sahaba 74; Abu Dawud, Adab 55; Ibn Majah, Nikah 13; Nasai, Nikah 78; Darimi, Nikah 56.
2. see Azimli, Mehmet, Hz. Âişe’nin Evlilik Yaşı Tartışmalarında Savunmacı Tarihçiliğin Çıkmazı, İslâmî Araştırmalar, Volume 16, Issue 1, 2003, p. 28 ff.
3. see Doğrul, Ömer Rıza, Asr-ı Saâdet, Eskişehir Kütüphanesi (Eser Kitabevi), Istanbul, 1974, 2/141 ff; Nadwi, Sayyid Sulayman, Hazreti Âişe, Translated by Ahmet Karataş, Timaş Publications, Istanbul, 2004, p. 21 ff. Savaş, Rıza, Hz. Âişe’nin Evlenme Yaşı İle İlgili Farklı Bir Yaklaşım, D. E. Ü. İlâhiyât Fak. Periodical. 4, Izmir, 1995, p. 139-144; Yüce, Abdülhakim, Efendimiz’in Bir Günü, Işık Publications, Istanbul, 2007, p. 82, 83.
4. It is known that Abdulmuttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet, married Hala bint Uhayb at an early age, that he Prophet’s mother Amina and his father Abdullah also married at an early age, that both marriages took place in the same place and hence there was almost no age difference between the Prophet and his paternal uncle Hz. Hamza.
5. Hz. Umar married Hz. Ali’s daughter Umm Kulthum with the intention of being a relative of the Prophet despite the age difference between them and this marriage was not found odd by the community of that day.
6. see Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, 3/240.
7. see Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 1/271; Ibn Ishaq, Sirah, Konya, 1981, 124.
8. see Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 1/271; Ibn Ishaq, Sirah, 124.
9. Nawawi, Tahdhibul-Asma, 2/597; Hakim, Mustadrak 3/635.
10. Nawawi, Tahdhibul-Asma, 2/597; Hakim, Mustadrak 3/635.
11. It is also stated that Hz. Aisha married not in the month of Shawwal, seven months after the Migration and immediately after the Battle of Badr, but in the month of Shawwal in the year after that. In that case, it means her age of marriage was one year later. see Nawawi, Tahdhibul-Asma, 2/616.
12. see Bukhari, Fadailul-Quran 6, Tafsiru Sura, (54) 6; Ayni, Badruddin Abu Muhammad Mahmud ibn Ahmad, Umdatul-Qari Sharhu Sahihil-Bukhari, Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, 20/21; Asqalani, Fathul-Bari, 11/291.
13. Suyuti, Itqan, Beirut, 1987, 1/29, 50; Doğrul, Asr-ı Saadet, 2/148.
14. The disagreement about the eighth or ninth year originates from the difference of month. For, the phrase the eighth month of the eighth year is remarkable in some narrations.
15. Those who evaluate all that information and calculate the possibilities conclude that when Hz. Aisha married, she was at least fourteen years old and that she could have been twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four or twenty-eight but we did not take those interpretations into consideration because they are not based on any facts. 
16. Ibn Manzur, Lisanul-Arab 13/138.
17. This information is reported only by Asma, her sister, along with her. see Ibn Hisham, Sira, 1/176; Haythami, Majmauz-Zawaid, 3/285; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 4/553; Bidaya, 2/214; Qurtubi, Tafsir, 20/195.
18. see Bukhari, Salah 70, Kafalah 5, Manaqibul-Ansar 45, Adab 64; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 6/198. In that case, Hz. Aisha’s statement "I have always seen my parents as religious people for as long as I can remember" should be interpreted as "I saw Islam around when I started to know my environment" rather than "Islam existed in this house when I was born."
19. see Tabarani, Mu’jamu’l-Kabir, 2/285, 286; Mu’jamul-Awsat, 12/145; Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 1/243. This information is reported to us only by Ibn Abbas, Salman al-Farisi and Saib ibn Yazid along with her. Salman al-Farisi met the Prophet in Madinah and Saib ibn Yazid was born in Madinah three years after the Migration. Ibn Abbas was born in the tenth year of the prophethood, three years before the Migration during the exile of Shi’b Abi Talib. Thus, it is impossible for those three Companions to have seen prayers of two rak'ahs in the first years of Makkah and to have seen the order of five daily prayers and to report it. If it is not an issue that she told us by hearing it from the Prophet, it is something Hz. Aisha experienced and observed. This shows that she saw the first days of Islam and that she was in a position to understand all of those things. 
20. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 1/83.
21. Bukhari, Nikah 11; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 6/210; Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, 9/225; Bayhaqi, Sunan, 7/129; Tabari, Tarikh, 3/161-163.
22. Therefore, some scholars say she was a young girl of thirteen or fourteen years at that time. see Savaş, Rıza, D. E. Ü. İlahiyat Fak. Periodical. 4, İzmir, 1995, p. 139-144.
23. see Berki, Ali Hikmet, Osman Eskioğlu, Hatemü’l-Enbiya Hz. Muhammed ve Hayatı, 210. Another possibility, though weak, can be mentioned here is as follows: she could have been betrothed in the cradle as a result of the agreement of the parents. However, there is no detailed information in the relevant texts confirming this. 
24. Nawawi, Tahdhibul-Asma, 2/597.
25. ibid.
26. Bayhaqi, Sunan, 6/204; Ibn Manda, Ma’rifatus-Sahaba, Köprülü Library, No: 242, Waraq: 195 b; Ibn Asakir, Tarikhu Dimashq, Tarajimun-Nisa, Damascus, 1982, p. 9, 10, 28; Mas’udi, Murujudh-Dhahab, 2, 39; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqatul-Kubra, Beirut, 1968, 8/58.
27. There are narrations stating that this marriage took place six or eight months or one and a half years after the Migration, following the Battle of Badr. see Ibn Sa’d, Tabakat, 8/58; Ibn Abdilbarr, Istiab, 4/1881; Nadwi, Siratus-Sayyidati Aisha Ummil-Mu’minin, Tahqiq: Muhammad Rahmatullah Hafiz an-Nadwi, Darul-Kalam, Damascus, 2003, 40, 49.
28. Ibn Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, 3/467.
29. Ibn Abdilbarr, Istiab, 2/108; Tahdhibul-Kamal, 16/560.
30. see Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 8/75; Nadwi, Siratus-Sayyidati Aisha, 202.
31. Ibn Abdilbarr, Istiab, 2/108; Doğrul, Asr-ı Saadet, 2/142
32. see Bukhari, Jihad, 65.
33. see Tabarani, Kabir, 23/25; Ibn Abdilbarr, Istiab, 4/1937; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 8/63.
34. see an-Nisa, 6.
35. For different narrations like "one and a half, two or three years before the Migration", "when she was six or seven years old", "the year when Hz. Khadijah died or three years after her death", "seven or eight months after the Migration, the first year of the Migration" or "after the Battle of Badr, see Bukhari, Manaqibul-Ansar 20, 44; Muslim, Fadailu’s-Sahaba 74; Ayni, Umda, 1/45; Ibn Abdilbarr, Istiab, 4/1881; Nadwi, Siratu’s-Sayyidati Aisha, 40, 49.
36. Some scholars approach the evaluations regarding the issue with reaction and view the statement "I was six or seven years old" as a mistake of the narrator and state that it should be "I was six or seven years old when Hz. Muhammad was given the duty of prophethood".
37. see Bukhari, Manaqibul-Ansar 43, 44; Muslim, Nikah 69; Ibn Majah, Nikah 13.
38. Bukhari, Manaqibul-Ansar 44; Muslim, Nikah 69; Abu Dawud, Adab 55; Ibn Majah, Nikah 13; Darimi, Nikah 56; Tabarani, Kabir, 23/25; Ibn Abdilbarr, Istiab, 4/1938; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 8/63; Ibn Ishaq, Sirah, Konya, 1981, 239
39. see Bukhari, Shahadat 15; Maghazi, 34; Tafsir, (24) 6; Muslim, Tawba 56; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, (63) 4; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 2/65; Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 3/310.

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