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What was the actual marriage age of SYEDA AYESHA (RA)?

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AGE OF SYEDA AYESHA (RA) – A MODERN CONTROVERSY

During the worldly life of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, his enemies would search for any possible way to harm or defame him.They called him names,spread false rumours and tried to martyr him on multiple occasions.However,they never used Syeda Ayesha(RA)’s age at the time of her marriage in propaganda against him,nor was this done by any non-Muslim scholar in the past 14 centuries.Thus, the controversy over the age of Syeda Ayesha(RA) is a recent phenomenon.It has a blasphemous design to denegrate the Holy
 Prophet ﷺ by questioning his judgement in marrying someone so young.The rhetoric also seeks to paint all Muslim men as inherently in want of restraint and Muslim women as inherently in need of rescue.
The article aims to present research that Syeda Ayesha Siddiqua(RA) was at least 17 or 19 years old at the time of her blessed marriage

ONE OF THE EARLIEST MUSLIMSMost eminent early Muslim historians either state explicitly or imply that Hadrat Ayesha (RA) was born before the declaration of the commisioning of Prophet Muhammadﷺ as the Messenger of God,  which transpired thirteen years before the Hijrah.1> Ibn Hisham enlists the first converts to Islam and includes Syeda Ayesha(RA) in the list, adding that she was minor (sagheerah) at that time.Syeda Ayesha(RA) embraced Islam, according to Ibn Hisham, at the time when Ubaydah Ibn al-Harith, Saeed ibn Zaid & his wife,  Khabbab b. al-Art(RA) confessed faith.[Ibn Hisham ,al-Sira al-Nabawwiya 2:92]. If the ‘six-nine year’ hadith reports were taken literally and are regarded as fine, Syeda Ayesha(RA) would not be considered as even born at that time.

2> According to al-Tabari ,Syeda Ayesha(RA) was born at least fifteen years before the marriage was consummated.The early prophetic biographers,both Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham, mention that Syeda Ayesha(RA) was amongst the earliest converts to Islam.  Corroborating Tabari’s opinion, it implies that she was much older than the ‘six-nine year’  reports indicate.


3> These opinions of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham clearly indicate that Syeda Ayesha(RA) had already been of an age , able to understand and accept the new faith.Therefore she would have been well in her late teens when the marriage was consummated.

1> Al-Nawawi mentions in Tahdhib  al-Asmaa wa al-Lughat, quoting Ibn Abi Zinad, that “Syeda Asma(RA) was ten years older than Syeda `Ayesha(RA), and was born twenty-seven years before the migration of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him)…”[Ibn Hajar Asqalani,Al-Isaba 4:230;Ibn Hisham al-Seerah an-Nabawiyah 1:271;Ibn al-Athir Kamil Fi Tarikh 4:358;al-Dhahabi Tarikh al-Islam 5:30]2> According to this report, Syeda Ayesha(RA)’s birth would have been four years before the declaration of the commissioning of Prophethood.This signifies that she would have been nineteen years old when the marriage took place. This is further supported by Ibn Kathir who states that Syeda Asmá(RA), the sister of Syeda Aisha(RA), was ten years older than her and died in 73 A.H. at the age of one hundred years: “Of the notables who were killed with Ibn al-Zubayr in 73 [A.H]…was Syeda Asma daughter of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq(RA)…She was older than her sister, Syeda Aisha, by 10 years…and she reached the age of 100 years, not having lost any of her teeth, and her mind still sharp, may God have mercy on her.”[Ibn Hajar Asqalani Tahdhib al-Tadhib 12:426;Ibn Jarir al-Tabari Tarikh Umam wa al-Muluk 5:31;Abu Nuaym Hilya al-Awliya 2:65]

Simple mathematics proves that this also equates to nineteen years of age for Syeda Ayesha(RA) in the second year of hijrah when the blessed marriage was consummated.

 

HISTORIC EVENTS IN HER LIFEOther clues to Syeda Ayesha(RA)’s real age can be found in reports of historical events in which Syeda Ayesha(RA) participated, examining her given description and seeing if it correlates to her expected age if the ‘six-nine’ hadiths  are considered accurate. We can be sure that these descriptions of  Syeda Ayesha(RA) are accurate because they are anchored in the witness’s memory of the events in question.

1. Al-Bukhari narrates that Hadrat Ayesha(RA) said, “I was a girl when the verses, ‘But their [actual] promise is the Last Hour,and the Last Hour is extremely terrible and most agonizing’[Q 54:46], were revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace and mercy of God be upon him”.[Sahih Bukhari,Book of the Virtues of the Quran,Hadith #4707] According to the tafsir of Ibn Ashur, this surah was revealed five years before the hijrah.The use of the term ‘girl’ (jariyah) in this hadith (rather than ‘child’ (sabyy) for example) is significant as ‘jariya’ in classical Arabic means a young woman around adolescence or older.According to this, Syeda Ayesha(RA) would already have been an adolescent seven years before the marriage took place.

2. Another hadith in Sahih al-Bukhári states that Syeda Ayesha(RA) participated in the Battle of Uhud.As Uhud took place about a year after the marriage, this would prove her only ten year old if we follow the ‘six-nine year’ narration. The description however does not seem to be that of a ten year old girl; it is extremely unlikely that a girl of ten would have been allowed onto the scene of battle. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not even permit several boys to join the army, as they were too young(the minimum age of participating in a battle would be 15 years according to some reports).The description of Syeda Ayesha (RA) in Uhud battle does fit a young woman in her late teens or early twenties.


3. The widely-cited narration (hadith), recorded by al-Bukhari in which Syeda Ayesha(RA) stated that she was married when she was six and the marriage was consummated when she was nine,is contradicted by historical evidence, including other narrations of Sahih Bukhari and also the Seerah reports.Hadith reports about Syeda Ayesha(RA)’s age related by such authorities as Ibn Ishaq ,al-Nawawi, al-`Asqalani ,Ibn Hisham,al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir place her in her late teens at the time of marriage.
Scholars agree on the fact that the marriage of Sayyida Ayesha(RA) was consummated after the Hijrah[migration to Madina]. Hadith specialist, al-Nawawi, places it definitively in the second year, after the Battle of Badr.This provides a solid ground on how memorable events, in this case, the Battle of Badr, were used as reference points for other events.CONCLUSION
 
The reports that relate Syeda Ayesha(RA)’s age to major events, such as the building of the Ka`ba, announcement of prophet-hood, and the Prophetic battles are likely to be a far more reliable indicator than the ‘six-nine year’ hadith.A careful research makes it clear that her age at the time of marriage was 16 years or above.This article is not an apologetic response, but a sincerely held research opinion about the issue concluded after investigation based on historical evidence. 
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