Responses to Islamic Awareness

The Young Marriage of 'Aishah

Abu Imân 'Abd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires attempt to defend Muhammad's marriage to six year old Aishah, which he consummated when she was 9 years old. We are given a verse from the Qur'an:

Surely in the Messenger of God you have a good example (Qur'an 33:21)

and adds:

The Prophet Muhammad(P) was a great example for all of humanity and peoples of different cultures (from "modern" Europeans to the aborigines of Australia).

He continues:

The marriage of the Prophet Muhammad(P) to 'Aishah bint Abu Bakr when she was at quite a young age has been the focus of quite a bit of criticism in the West.

How does he defend the "Prophet" against this criticism?

First, he changes the subject giving us a lot of words that add up to absolutely nothing! After criticizing the west's problems with drug abuse, gay marriages, and abortion, he throws in Neo-Colonialism, Smart bombs, MTV, the Big Mac, Oedipus complex, Freud, and moral relativism. Second, Mr. Squires criticizes the Muslims who are uncomfortable with this issue, calling them "Westoxicated" and the "Uncle Toms of Islam". I have met many good and decent Muslims who are embarrassed by this incident and many attempt to revise Aishah's's age, making her older. The fact that Mr. Squires spends so much time and effort attacking the west and the Bible, in order to divert attention from the issue at hand, suggests the he is also uncomfortable with the entire affair. Even if the west is totally depraved (and in many ways it is) and the Bible is "pornographic" (which it is not), this does not excuse Muhammad of his actions nor does it immunize him against criticism. Mr. Squires concludes (in a rare instance when he returns to the issue at hand):

Regrettably, for those of us trying to spread the truth of Islam in the West, we often have to agree with the Orientalist W. Montgomery Watt when he wrote:

Of all the world's great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad.

Have you ever wondered why?

That a man in his fifties would marry such a young girl - especially a man who is supposed to be a living example of piety - is not only difficult for many "modern" Westerners to come to terms with, but it has even gone so far as to stir up disgusting "sexual misconduct" charges amongst them.

Would you imagine that there are many fathers in the modern Arabian/Islamic world who would allow their six year old daughters to marry 50 year old men? If you had a six year old daughter, would you allow such a thing or would you apply the "double standard"?

The Islamic Evidence Of 'Aishah's Marriage

At this point, it should be mentioned that it is absolutely pointless from an Islamic standpoint to say that the age of 'Aishah is "not found in the Qur'an", since the textual sources of Islam are made up of both the Qur'an and the Sunnah - and the Qur'an tells us that.

'Aishah, may God be pleased with her, narrated that the Prophet(P) was betrothed (zawaj) to her when she was six years old and he consummated (nikah) his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years. (Saheeh al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64)

Of the four ahadith in Saheeh al-Bukhari, two were narrated from 'Aishah (7:64 and 7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236) and one via 'Ursa (7:88). All three of the ahadith in Saheeh Muslim have 'Aishah as a narrator Additionally, all of the ahadith in both books agree that the marriage betrothal contract took place when 'Aishah was "six years old", but was not consummated until she was "nine years old". Additionally, a hadeeth with the same text (matn) is reported in Sunan Abu Dawood. Needless to say, this evidence isñIslamically speaking - overwhelmingly strong and Muslims who deny it do so only by sacrificing their intellectual honesty, pure faith or both.

This evidence having been established, there doesn't seem much room for debate about 'Aishah's age amongst believing Muslims. Until someone proves that in the Arabic language "nine years old" means something other than "nine years old", then we should all be firm in our belief that she was "nine years old" (as if there's a reason or need to believe otherwise!?!).

I agree. She was 9 years old. However, the fact that this bothers the good consciences of many Muslims is a reason to rejoice.

The Prophet's(P) Marriages In Perspective

It should be noted about the Prophet's(P) marriage to 'Aishah was an exceedingly happy one for both parties, as the hadeeth literature attests. 'Aishah, may God be please with her, was his favourite wife and the only virgin that he ever married.

This statement is, according to the Hadith, true.

Narrated 'Aishah, may God be pleased with her: The Messenger of God(P) said (to me): "You have been shown to me twice in (my) dreams. A man was carrying you in a silken cloth and said to me, 'This is your wife.' I uncovered it; and behold, it was you. I said to myself, 'If this dream is from God, He will cause it to come true.'" (Saheeh al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 15)

Thus like everything that the Prophet(P) did, there was wisdom behind it and lessons to be learned from it. The wisdom behind such incidents provides us guidance on the basis of human morality, exposes the double standards of misguided hypocrites from other religions that criticize Islam and much more. But more on that subject below. . .

What "lesson" is to be learned here? Read what the Hadith says and think about it! Here is a man in his 50's having an erotic dream about a 4 or 5 year old girl! All of the " double standards of misguided hypocrites from other religions" combined DO NOT dismiss the fact that these fantasies are ABNORMAL!

Criticism Addressed & Entertained

Myself and many other Muslims should no longer be surprised by the double standard that Christians display when they criticize the conduct of Prophet Muhammad(P)...

Historically, the age at which a girl was considered ready to be married has been puberty This was the case in Biblical times, as we will discuss below, and is still used to determine the age of marriage in what the culturally arrogant West calls "primitive societies" throughout the world

True. I married in my late 20's, my parents married in their early 20's, and my grandparents married in their late teens. Cultural attitudes and economic conditions change over time.

As the ahadith about 'Aishah's age show, her betrothal took place at least three years before the consummation of the marriage The reason for this was that they were waiting for her to come of age (i.e. to have her first menstrual period). Puberty as a biological sign shows that a women is capable of bearing children Can anyone logically deny this?

At age 9? This would be an exceptional case. In any event, she would probably not be able to produce children at that age.

Part of the wisdom behind the Prophet's Muhammad's marriage to 'Aishah just after she reached puberty is to firmly establish this as a point of Islamic Law, even though it was already cultural norm in all Semitic societies (including the one Jesus(P) grew up in).

There are several Hadith which discuss this marriage and NONE OF THEM say that Aishah was pubescent! NONE! The reason that Muhammad waited was probably due to the fact that Aishah's had contracted some disease, in which she, temporarily lost her hair.

Narrated Aishah:

The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became Allright, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, "Best wishes and Allah's Blessing and a 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. (Sahih Bukhari 5.234)

In terms of both physical and metal development, Aishah's was still a child. She played with dolls and was completely unaware of what was happening around her. To make Mr. Squire's case even weaker, Aishah's's playmates behaved as children would behave today:

Narrated 'Aishah:

I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah's Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me.(Volume 8, Book 73, Number 151)

The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for 'Aishah's at that time, as she was a little girl, not yet reached the age of puberty. (Fateh-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13)

None of the Muslim sources report that anyone from the society at that time criticized this marriage due to 'Aishah's young age. On the contrary, the marriage of 'Aishah to the Prophet(P) was encouraged by 'Aishah's father, Abu Bakr, and was welcomed by the community at large. It is reported that women who wanted to help the Prophet(P), such as Khawlah bint al-Hakeem, encouraged him to marry the young 'Aishah. Due to the Semitic culture in which they lived, they certainly saw nothing wrong with such a marriage.

At that time, this marriage refuted the notion that a man could not marry the daughter of a man who he had declared to be his "brother" (even in the religious sense). Since the Prophet(P) and Abu Bakr had declared each other to be "brothers", this notion was done away with. This is demonstrated in the following hadeeth:

Narrated 'Ursa: The Prophet(P) asked Abu Bakr for 'Aishah's hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said, "But I am your brother." The Prophet(P) said, "You are my brother in God's religion and His Book, but she ('Aishah) is lawful for me to marry." (Saheeh al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 18)

Clearly, Abu Bakr thought Muhammad's request was improper, as would any decent father, because, as he said "I am your brother"! He was trying to extricate himself and his daughter from this situation. Muhammad brushed aside Abu Bakr's reservations by saying that it was perfectly lawful for him to marry Aishah. This Hadith has nothing to do with believers marrying the daughters of others whom they called "brother", but it has everything to do with satisfying Muhammad's needs and desires.

From Abraham(P) To "Pick-And-Choose / Feel Good Religion"

Everything that we have discussed above logically frees Muhammad(P) from the unjust criticism that he has received (at least amongst those who can be intellectually honest and fair-minded). One point, however, still needs to be made a bit more clear. Even though we've mentioned it in passing, the hypocrisy and double standards of Christians who criticize Muhammad(P) for his morality needs to be more thoroughly analysed and exposed.

What? Nothing that was discussed absolves Muhammad from his actions. According to the Hadith WHICH YOU QUOTED, there is no evidence that Aishah was pubescent, she behaved as a normal little girl, Abu Bakr politely objected to the union, and Muhammad (who was Abu Bakr's) friend began to have erotic fantasies about this innocent child when she was 4 or 5 years old!

So, in order to provide more words, which do not excuse Muhammad's behavior, Mr. Squires launches the standard Muslim attack on the Bible.

A Case Study In Biblical Morality

Now that we've taken a detailed look at an alleged moral difficulty in the life of Muhammad(P), for the sake of balance, let's take a look at a moral difficulty in the Bible. We've already made statements above concerning the nature of Biblical morality, but many readers may be unaware of some of its "difficulties". For better or for worse, in Sunday school they generally skip the verses which we are going to deal with below. However, these verses certainly are useful tools in putting intellectually honest Christians in the same "moral dilemma" that they think Muslims should be in due to Muhammad's(P) young marriage to 'Aishah, may God be pleased with..

Book of Numbers, Chapter 31

The portion of the Bible that we want to look at begins with the Book of Numbers, Chapter 31, verses 17 and 18. Here, Moses(P), following the Lord's command, orders the Israelites to kill all the Midianite male children. The order continues with the following:

". . . kill every woman who has known man by lying with him, but all the female children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

One can only guess how the Israelites determined who the virgins were. Most probably, they did it based on age and maturity, assuming that all of the female "children" who had not reached puberty were virgins. Keep in mind that this was done, according to the Bible, on God's command to "Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites". Later, God gives Moses(P) instructions on how to divide up the booty, "whether persons, oxen, donkeys, sheeps or goats". Based on this command, "thirty-two thousand persons in all, women who had not known a man by lying with him" were divided up. This was done so that the Israelite soldiers could have these young girls "for themselves". I do not suspect that anyone reading this is either so naive or ignorant of King James English to not know what this means!

Our God is a God of love and a God of JUSTICE. The Midianites, for a little historical perspective, were a semi-nomadic people, descended from Abraham and Keturah, who lived in a tract of country east and southeast of Moab, on the eastern coast of the Dead Sea. They seem to have been the principal instigators of the infamous scheme of seduction, planned to entrap the Israelites into the double crime of idolatry and licentiousness [see Numbers 25:1-3,17,18] by which, it was hoped, the Lord would withdraw from that people the benefit of His protection and favor. Moreover, the Midianites had rendered themselves particularly obnoxious by entering into a hostile league with the Amorites (see Joshua 13:21). The Moabites were at this time spared in consideration of Lot (see Deuteronomy 2:9) and because the measure of their iniquities was not yet full. God spoke of avenging "the children of Israel" (see Numbers 31:2); Moses spoke of avenging the Lord (see Numbers 31:3), as dishonor had been done to God and an injury inflicted on His people. The interests here were identical. God and His people have the same cause, the same friends, and the same assailants. This, in fact, was a religious war, undertaken by the express command of God against idolaters, who had seduced the Israelites to practice their sinful religion.

In conclusion, the slaughter of the Midianitish people and the capture of their women, children, and property and in the destruction of all of their places of refuge, demonstrates the severity of a righteous God whose wrath fell heavily on that base and corrupt race.

Deuteronomy 21:10-14

Moving along to another great example of Biblical morality, . . . in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 the Biblical "God of Love" gives the following command:

"When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands and thoust has taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and had a desire unto her, that though would have her to thy wife, then though shalt bring her home to thine house . . . and after that you may go into her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. But if though have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go".

Explanation: First, we must understand that this is a Mosaic law. Second, we must understand the traditions of that day. According to the war customs of all ancient nations, a female captive became the slave of the victor, who had the sole and unchallengeable control of right to her person. Moses improved this existing usage by special regulations on the subject. He enacted that, in the event that her master was captivated by her beauty and contemplated a marriage with her, a month should be allowed to elapse, during which her perturbed feelings might be calmed, her mind reconciled to her altered condition, and she might bewail the loss of her parents, now to her the same as dead. A month was the usual period of mourning with the Jews, and the circumstances mentioned here were the signs of grief--the shaving of the head, the allowing the nails to grow uncut, the putting off her gorgeous dress in which ladies, on the eve of being captured, arrayed themselves to be the more attractive to their captors. The delay was full of humanity and kindness to the female slave, as well as a prudential measure to try the strength of her master's affections. If his love should afterwards cool and he become indifferent to her person, he was not to lord it over her, neither to sell her in the slave market, nor retain her in a subordinate condition in his house; but she was to be free to go where her inclinations led her.

The bottom line is that morality comes from Almighty God and from Him alone. However, if ones studies the Bible, it is plain to see that it is not a foundation for morality The examples above are just a few that can be provided from both the Old and the New Testament. The people who promote "Biblical morality" pick and choose from the text as they please. Only in Islam can one with good conscience accept "the whole package" without ignorantly or hypocritically denying things that they don't like.

Really? Perhaps you should read the Bible more closely. We Christians believe that our God is a God of love, but we also believe that He is a God of justice. Please remember that, according to the Bible and the Qur'an, God destroyed nearly all life on earth - including children, during the great flood.

Guideposts To Be Thankful For

As Muslims, we should be thankful for these guideposts in our moral journey through life. Reflecting on them aids us in avoiding being led astray into "moral relativism". This is a very dangerous thing, since it can lead to the worst of all sins - associating others with Almighty God in worship, belief and/or Lordship. By knowing the Prophet's(P) life we can see how to stay within the boundaries laid by Almighty God and stay on the Natural Religion of Islam which was made to suit the natural disposition (fitrah)

Moral relativism? Muhammad practiced it on a daily basis! Muhammad often received "revelations" which suited his needs of the moment - making him the father of "situational ethics". Read Sura 33 - it is a study in situational ethics. When Muhammad lusted after the wife of his adopted son, God granted the "Prophet's" wishes. When his wives asked for more jewelry, God threatened them that Muhammad would divorce them and find prettier wives. God allowed men to marry only 4 wives but Muhammad had as many as 13! All widows were permitted to re-marry EXCEPT the widows of Muhammad. Muhammad certainly preached a faith suited to man's "natural disposition" and he personally exceeded many of the limits that he set.

Jesus Christ is my "guidepost" and I am not ashamed of ANYTHING that He did or said. Jesus loved children and once said:

"It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." (Luke 17:2) Once again, God knows best.

Andrew Vargo

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