Author Topic: Your prophet married a nine-year old girl. Isn’t this pedophilia and child abuse  (Read 797 times)

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By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

Question:

Your prophet married a nine-year old girl. Isn’t this pedophilia and child abuse?

Answer:

Scholars disagree concerning the age of Aisha when she married the Prophet, the earliest estimate being that she was nine-years old. This means that the marriage contract was ratified after Aisha reached puberty, which was considered adulthood in ancient Arab society. A marriage between an older man and a younger woman was customary and socially appropriate in that era, considering that such marriages were an important means of survival in a harsh desert environment and that people had much lower life expectancies than they have today.

Colin Turner of the University of Durham Middle East Studies department explains the context of the Prophet’s marriage:

    A marriage between an older man and a young girl was customary among the Bedouins, as it still is in many societies across the world today. It was not unheard of in Muhammad’s time for boys and girls to be promised to each other in marriage almost as soon as they were born, particularly if the union was of direct political significance to the families concerned. However, such marriages were almost certainly not consummated until both parties had entered adulthood, which Arabs in the 7th century tended to reach at an earlier age than Westerners today. It is highly unlikely that Muhammad would not have taken Aisha into his bed until she was at least in her early teens, which was wholly in keeping with the customs of the day, and in context not in the least improper.

    [Turner, C. (2006). Islam: the basics (pp. 34-35). London: Routledge]

Christian tradition records a similar marriage between the much older Joseph to the young Virgin Mary. The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

    A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates…

Christians cannot possibly use the Prophet’s marriage to condemn Islam, for if they do so then they would have to condemn Saint Joseph, the husband of Virgin Mary. This they can never do.

Furthermore, marriage in Islam is not simply about sex. Marriage is a spiritual agreement based upon “love and mercy” (30:21). Ratifying a marriage contract does not necessitate sex. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Prophet had sex with Aisha before puberty. The Prophet prohibited the Muslims from discussing their bedroom secrets.

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

    إِنَّ مِنْ أَشَرِّ النَّاسِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ مَنْزِلَةً يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ الرَّجُلَ يُفْضِي إِلَى امْرَأَتِهِ وَتُفْضِي إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ يَنْشُرُ سِرَّهَا

    Verily, the most evil of people in front of Allah on the Day of Resurrection is a man who is intimate with his wife and then spreads her secrets.

    Source: Sahih Muslim 1437 Grade: Sahih

Therefore, it cannot be said that there is any evidence at all that the Prophet committed pedophilia.

In fact, it is well-known that the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, was contracted for the furtherance of his spiritual mission. She was a scholar and one of his principle disciples. She is the top narrator of the Prophet’s traditions among women and she transmitted more of his traditions than most of the male narrators. The male companions of the Prophet would go to her seeking her spiritual and religious advice.

Abu Musa reported:

    مَا أَشْكَلَ عَلَيْنَا أَصْحَابَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَدِيثٌ قَطُّ فَسَأَلْنَا عَائِشَةَ إِلَّا وَجَدْنَا عِنْدَهَا مِنْهُ عِلْمًا

    We never had a new problem occur to us – the companions of the Messenger of Allah – but that we would ask Aisha and find with her some knowledge concerning it.

    Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 3883 Grade: Sahih

Neither can it be said that the Prophet ever abused her or harmed her. As Aisha herself says:

    مَا ضَرَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ خَادِمًا لَهُ وَلَا امْرَأَةً وَلَا ضَرَبَ بِيَدِهِ شَيْئًا

    The Messenger of Allah would not strike a servant or a woman, and he never struck anything with his hand.

    Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 1984 Grade: Sahih

It might now be argued that because the Prophet is the best example of character in Muslim theology, therefore, Muslims should copy him in the most literal sense by marrying a nine year-old girl. The answer to this is that the Quran does not prescribe the legal age of marriage, because the customs (‘urf) of a people change over time and place. One of the five foundational principles of the school of Ash-Shafi’ee states:

    الْعَادَة مُحَكَّمَةٌ

    Customs are a basis of judgment.

    Source: Al-Ashbah wa Natha’ir 7-8

Therefore, Muslims are free to modify worldly customs in accordance with Islamic ethics and the changing situation of developed societies. In this regard, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

     أَنْتُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِأَمْرِ دُنْيَاكُمْ

    You are more knowledgeable about the affairs of your world.

    Source: Sahih Muslim 2363 Grade: Sahih

For a number of reasons owing to the circumstances of modern life, the Muslims in practice have imposed a legal age limit upon the marriageable age. The vast majority of Muslim countries have set the marriageable age between sixteen and eighteen years.

In conclusion, the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha was appropriate considering the circumstances of life in ancient Arabia. Their marriage was not based upon lust or abuse, but rather upon their shared spiritual mission to deliver the teachings of Islam to humanity.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

 


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