Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting the Age of Aisha: Postscript

Sam Shamoun

In this section we shall cite some of the narrations concerning the second caliph Umar’s marriage proposal to Ali’s daughter in order to highlight the people’s reaction to a 47-year-old man desiring to marry a 10-12 year old girl.

Note what the following sources say regarding Ali’s response to Umar’s request to marry Umm Kulthum:

Umar asked Imam Ali for the hand of Bibi Umme Kulthum in marriage, to which Ali replied, 'O Commander of the Faithful, SHE IS A MILK FED CHILD'. To which Umar replied, 'By Allah! That is not true. You are seeking to avoid me'. 'Ali therefore ordered that Umm Kulthum have a bath and then wear a shawl. 'Ali told her to go to the Khalifa, 'give him my regards and ask him if he likes the shawl, he can keep it, other wise, he should return it'. When she came to Umar, he said, 'May Allah bless you and your father, I like it'. Hence Umm Kulthum came back to her father and told her that Umar did not open the shawl but just looked at me. Ali married her to Umar and they had a child named Zayd. (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra, Volume 8, Dhikr Umm Kulthum, p. 463; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

"'Umar asked 'Ali for the hand of his daughter, Umme Kalthum in marriage. 'Ali replied that she has not yet attained the age (of maturity). 'Umar replied, 'By Allah, this is not true. You do not want her to marry me. If she is underage, send her to me'. Thus 'Ali gave his daughter Umme Kalthum a dress and asked her to go to 'Umar and tell him that her father wants to know what this dress is for. When she came to Umar and gave him the message, he grabbed her hand and forcibly pulled her towards him. 'Umme Kalthum asked him to leave her hand, which Umar did and said, 'You are a very mannered lady with great morals. Go and tell your father that you are very pretty and you are not what he said of you'. With that 'Ali married Umme Kalthum to 'Umar." (Tarikh Khamees, Volume 2, 'Dhikr Umm Kalthum,' p. 384; see also Zakhair Al-Aqba, p. 168; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Now if a 10-12 prepubescent girl is considered too physically immature for marriage, then how much more a 9-year-old minor who was still playing on swings and with dolls?

Certain Sunni narrations indicate that the main reason why Ali even acquiesced to Umar’s marriage proposal is because the latter FORCED him to do so:

"Umar asked for the hand of 'Ali's daughter. 'Ali replied that she is too young. Umar eventually made 'Ali desperate, and he [Umar] climbed the pulpit declaring 'By Allah, I have made 'Ali desperate as I heard Rasulullah say that on the Day of Judgement all family trees shall be severed save those of my family'. By the orders of 'Ali Umme Kalthum was then groomed and sent to Umar. When Umar saw her, he got up, took her in his lap, kissed her, and showered blessings on her. When she got up to leave, he grabbed her ankle and said, 'Tell your father that I am willing'. When she returned home and told her father about what had transpired, Ali married her to Umar". (Sawaiqh al-Muhriqa, p. 280; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Notice Umar’s rather shameful conduct in kissing a young minor and touching her ankle at a time when he wasn’t even married to her. This next report shows us how Umm Kulthum reacted to Umar’s despicable behavior:

"'Umar asked Ali for the hand of Umme Kalthum. 'Ali replied that she was too young. 'Umar said, ‘Marry her to me and do as I say for I wish to attain to that position which no one else has attained. 'Ali then said, 'I shall send Umme Kalthum to you. If you like her then I shall marry her to you.' 'Ali then sent the girl with a cloth and told her to say [to 'Umar] 'This is the scarf that I was talking about'. She conveyed these words to Umar, who said, 'Tell your father that I accept'. Umar then touched the girl's calf. She exclaimed, 'You have done this to me? If it had not been the fact that you were Khalifa of the Muslims I WOULD HAVE BROKEN YOUR NOSE. The girl went home and repeated the episode to her father, stating, 'You sent me TO A FOUL MAN', with that 'Ali said, 'He is your husband'. Umar then attended a gathering of the Muhajireen and said, 'Congratulate me'. They said, 'Why?' He said, 'I have married Umme Kalthum binte 'Ali.'" (Al-Istiab, Volume 4, p. 467; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

One narration even has the caliph rebuking anyone that would have a problem with his marrying a premature minor:

He came to the Muhajirun among the Companions as they sat between the Grave and the Pulpit? their usual place for meeting `Umar to discuss news: "Felicitate this newlywed!" Then he told them he had married `Ali's daughter Umm Kulthum and said: "I heard the Messenger of Allah say: 'Every lineage and means will be severed on the Day of Judgment except my lineage and my means.' I have kept company with him and wished to add this also." Later he again said, on the pulpit: "DO NOT DISPARAGE ME [FOR MARRYING A YOUNG GIRL], for I heard the Prophet say may upon him blessings and peace: 'On the Judgment Day every means will be cut off and every lineage severed except my lineage.'" (G. F. Haddad, The Marriage of `Umar ibn al-Khattab with Umm Kulthum bint `Ali; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The people’s objection to a 47 year old man wedding a 10-12 year old child demonstrates that even folks back then knew that there was something morally objectionable with grown men marrying female children, despite the fact that Muhammad made such relationships lawful in his so-called “revelation.”