Sunday, May 20, 2012

Aisha’s age at marriage 18 years

Of Aisha’s age at marriage

IT is said that Hazrat Aisha was six years old when her nikah was performed with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Makkah, and nine years old when she moved in to live with her husband in Madina after Hijra.
This piece of misinformation has led to the wrong view that child marriage has the sanction of Islam. It must be noted that establishing the authenticity of hadiths, the narrators’ circumstances and the conditions at that time have to be correlated with historical facts. There is only one hadith by Hisham which suggests the age of Hazrat Aisha as being nine when she came to live with her husband.
Many authentic hadiths also show that Hisham’s narration is incongruous with several historical facts about the Prophet’s life, on which there is consensus. With reference to scholars such as Umar Ahmed Usmani, Hakim Niaz Ahmed and Habibur Rehman Kandhulvi, I would like to present some arguments in favour of the fact that Hazrat Aisha was at least 18 years old when her nikah was performed and at least 21 when she moved into the Prophet’s house to live with him.
According to Umar Ahmed Usmani, in Surah Al-Nisa, it is said that the guardian of the orphans should keep testing them, until they reach the age of marriage, before returning their property (4:6). From this scholars have concluded that the Quran sets a minimum age of marriage which is at least puberty. Since the approval of the girl has a legal standing, she cannot be a minor.
Hisham bin Urwah is the main narrator of this hadith. His life is divided into two periods: in 131A.H. the Madani period ended, and the Iraqi period started, when Hisham was 71 years old. Hafiz Zehbi has spoken about Hisham’s loss of memory in his later period. His students in Madina, Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifah, do not mention this hadith. Imam Malik and the people of Madina criticised him for his Iraqi hadiths.
All the narrators of this hadith are Iraqis who had heard it from Hisham. Allama Kandhulvi says that the words spoken in connection with Hazrat Aisha’s age were tissa ashara, meaning 19, when Hisham only heard (or remembered), tissa, meaning nine. Maulana Usmani thinks this change was purposely and maliciously made later.
Historian Ibn Ishaq in his Sirat Rasul Allah has given a list of the people who accepted Islam in the first year of the proclamation of Islam, in which Hazrat Aisha’s name is mentioned as Abu Bakr’s “little daughter Aisha”. If we accept Hisham’s calculations, she was not even born at that time.
Some time after the death of the Prophet’s first wife, Hazrat Khadija, Khawla suggested to the Prophet that he get married again, to a bikrun, referring to Hazrat Aisha (Musnad Ahmed). In Arabic bikrun is used for an unmarried girl who has crossed the age of puberty and is of marriageable age. The word cannot be used for a six-year-old girl.
Some scholars think that Hazrat Aisha was married off so early because in Arabia girls mature at an early age. But this was not a common custom of the Arabs at that time. According to Allama Kandhulvi, there is no such case on record either before or after Islam. Neither has this ever been promoted as a Sunnah of the Prophet. The Prophet married off his daughters Fatima at 21 and Ruquiyya at 23. Besides, Hazrat Abu Bakr, Aisha’s father, married off his eldest daughter Asma at the age of 26.
Hazrat Aisha narrates that she was present on the battlefield at the Battle of Badar (Muslim). This leads one to conclude that Hazrat Aisha moved into the Prophet’s house in 1 A.H. But a nine-year-old could not have been taken on a rough and risky military mission.
In 2 A.H, the Prophet refused to take boys of less than 15 years of age to the battle of Uhud. Would he have allowed a 10-year-old girl to accompany him? But Anas reported that he saw Aisha and Umme Sulaim carrying goatskins full of water and serving it to the soldiers (Bukhari). Umme Sulaim and Umme Ammara, the other women present at Uhud, were both strong, mature women whose duties were the lifting of the dead and injured, treating their wounds, carrying water in heavy goatskins, supplying ammunition and even taking up the sword.
Hazrat Aisha used the kunniat, the title derived from the name of a child, of Umme Abdullah after her nephew and adopted son. If she was six when her nikah was performed, she would have been only eight years his senior, hardly making him eligible for adoption. Also, a little girl could not have given up on ever having her own child and used an adopted child’s name for her kunniat.
Hazrat Aisha’s nephew Urwah once remarked that he was not surprised about her amazing knowledge of Islamic law, poetry and history because she was the wife of the Prophet and the daughter of Abu Bakr. If she was eight when her father migrated, when did she learn poetry and history from him?
There is consensus that Hazrat Aisha was 10 years younger than her elder sister Asma, whose age at the time of the hijrah, or migration to Madina, was about 28. It can be concluded that Hazrat Aisha was about 18 years old at migration. On her moving to the Prophet’s house, she was a young woman at 21. Hisham is the single narrator of the hadith whose authenticity is challenged, for it does not correlate with the many historical facts of the time.
Courtesy : The writer is a scholar of the Quran and writes on contemporary


Bible: Isaac’s Marriage To 10 Year Old Rebecca?

The Book of Jasher is mentioned in Joshua 10:12–13 and 2 Samuel 1:18. This is interesting – although the Book of Jasher is not part of the canon, the Old Testament does mention it. So, it was in existence. Let’s read Jasher 24:37-45:
37. And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Eliezer, for the sake of his servant Abraham, and he happened to meet with the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, brother to Abraham, and Eliezer came to her house.
38. And Eliezer related to them all his concerns, and that he was Abraham’s servant, and they greatly rejoiced at him.
39. And they all blessed the Lord who brought this about, and they gave him, Rebecca, the daughter of Bethuel, for a wife for Isaac.
40. And the young woman was of very comely appearance, she was a virgin, and Rebecca was ten years old in those days.
41. And Bethuel and Laban and his children made a feast on that night, and Eliezer and his men came and ate and drank and rejoiced there on that night.
42. And Eliezer rose up in the morning, he and the men that were with him, and he called to the whole household of Bethuel, saying, send me away that I may go to my master; and they rose up and sent away Rebecca and her nurse Deborah, the daughter if UZ and they gave her silver and gold , men servants and maid servants, and they blessed her.
43. And they sent Eliezer away with his men; and the servants took Rebecca, and he went and returned to his master to the land of Canaan.
44. And Isaac took Rebecca and she became his wife, and he brought her into the tent.
45. And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca, the daughter of his uncle Bethuel, for a wife.
What we read from Jasher 24:35-45 is that Isaac was 40 years old when he consummated his marriage with 10 year old Rebekah. Some people might raise their eyebrows at the above information. It is noteworthy to mention to viewers that this was common in human history. This type of marriage was customary among all societies and cultures. Most of the time, the man was always older than the girl. It is only in the 20th century where this started changing. Prior to the 20th century, when a girl hit puberty, she was considered to be a ‘woman’, and it didn’t make a difference if she was 9, 11 or 14. Children were classified into adulthood upon reaching the stage of puberty. There are many historical evidences for this. The age of consent in America and most European countries was 10, and in the state of Delaware it was as low as 7, only 100 years ago. Other cultures were the same, as Rabbi Isaac Klein (and other scholars) states in his book: ‘A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice’, child marriages were common and that ‘age was not the factor’ when someone was married off,
“Child marriages were very common in ancient days. Since marriages were arranged by parents and the consent of parties was not necessary, AGE WAS NOT THE FACTOR in coming to an agreement. The physical factor related only to the consummation of the marriage. Hence, there was usually a waiting period between the agreement and the consummation. It is logical to assume that when a boy and a girl reached the age of puberty, and the sex urge demanded satisfaction, ancient society deemed marriage to be the answer. In time, other elements became factor in marriage: climate, social conditions, economic conditions, and even political conditions.” [1]
Old Testament Scholar Gordon Wenham
“In reality social custom and pressures greatly curtailed the sexual freedom of men in the Bible times. First, marriages were customarily arranged by parents, as soon as children passed puberty. This meant that there were few unattached girls: most females of marriageable age were either married or betrothed…” [2]
Dr. Richard H. Lowery
“A typical adult Israelite male had a life expectancy of forty years. Infant mortality rates were high, perhaps as high as 50 percent. So women typically had two pregnancies for every one child who reached age five. Since the economic survival of the household depended on the production of able-bodied children, women married immediately after puberty and were pregnant or nursing for a relatively large portion of their life.” [3]
Additionally, some scholars disprove the Book of Jasher as not being authentic because there are ‘some’ instances where the information in Jasher contradicts the Old Testament or that it did not exist prior to the 16th century. However, this type of reasoning should not negate the whole Book, for there are many parts which agree with the Old Testament. Mordecai Manuel Noah who translated Jasher had this to say on the book:
Without giving it to the world as a work of Divine inspiration, or assuming the responsibility to say that it is not an inspired book, I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a work of great antiquity and interest, and a work entitled, even regarding it as a literary curiosity, to a great circulation among those who take pleasure in studying the Scriptures. – Mordecai Manuel Noah [New-York, April, 1839] [4]
Mordecai states although the book may not be ‘divine inspiration’, he continues by saying that he has ‘no hesitation in pronouncing it a work of great antiquity’.
In addition to what I have already presented, the following passage sheds more light and corroborates with the previous evidences shown that Rebekah was a very young girl when she got married. In fact, she was so young that she needed a nursing woman with her when she was married off:
Genesis 24:57 Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” 58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said. 59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her.
Question: If Rebekah was a grown woman, who attained full womanhood, why would she need a ‘nursing woman’ to accompany her? This shows she was very young and not an age where she can take care of herself. This above verse confirms Jasher 24:35-45 that Rebecca was most probably 10 years old when she was married off to 40 year old Isaac.
Thus, historically speaking, marriages such as Isaac marrying 10 year old Rebekah when he was 40 years old would be culturally and religiously acceptable in those times. Seeing examples such as age of consent in America and Europe gives more weight that such marriages was not uncommon. In addition, as I stated earlier, age was not a factor when a girl hit ‘puberty’, as before the 20th century she was considered to be an adult. Also, in Genesis 24:59, Rebekah having a nursing woman accompany her proves that she was very young – why would she need a nurse with her if she was a fully grown woman?
[1] A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice By Isaac Klein page 396
[2] Story as Torah: Reading the Old Testament Ethically By Gordon Wenham page 84
[3] Sabbath and Jubilee (Understanding Biblical Themes) By Dr. Richard H. Lowery page 8
[4] The Ancient Book of Jasher In a Translation Based on the Original Hebrew With The Original Introductory Notes To The English Edition. The Ancient Book Of Jasher referred to in Joshua And Second Samuel [NEW YORK: Published By M. N. Noah & A. S. Gould, At 144 Nassau-Street – First Edition 1840] page 8


Minimum Age For Marriage In The Bible

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
In this article I will establish that the age for marriage, when someone is allowed to get married Biblically, is when one enters puberty. The Bible makes mention the general age of girl allowed for marriage. The reference is found in a parable where God compares Israel to a baby girl whom YHWH took in and then married her off, later.
Ezekiel 16:4 NIV Translation
4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. 5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. 6 “‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!”[a] 7 I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked. 8 “‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body… – 
As you read the passage, the girl attained the age for lovemaking after her breast had grown and pubic hairs, these are clear signs of puberty. As shown, the Bible does not give explicit age for someone to get married, but what it does give, reading the passage, ‘puberty’ is the minimum age for a girl allowed to get married.
Bible Translations: Ezekiel 16:7-8
Ezekiel 16:7-8 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) And you did increase, you developed, you reached puberty, your breasts appeared, and your hair grew long; but you were naked and exposed. 8 “‘Again I passed by you, looked at you and saw that your time had come, the time for love…
Ezekiel 16:7-8 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) I helped you grow like a plant in the field. You grew and grew. You became a young woman:your periods began, your breasts grew, and your hair began to grow. But you were still bare and naked. 8 I looked you over. I saw you were ready for love…
Ezekiel 16:7-8 Expanded Bible (EXB) I made you •grow [flourish] like a plant in the field. You grew up and •became tall [or matured; developed] and •became like a beautiful jewel [or entered puberty; reached womanhood]. Your breasts formed, and your hair grew, but you were naked and •without clothes [bare; exposed]. “‘Later when I passed by you and looked at you, •I saw that [behold] you were old enough for love…
Ezekiel 16:7-8 New International Version – UK (NIVUK) You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked. 8 ‘“Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love…
Bible Commentary on Ezekiel 16:7-8
John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible
Verse 7 …thy breasts are fashioned; swelled and stood out; were come to a proper size and shape, as in persons grown and marriageable; see Song of Solomon 8:10;
and thine hair is grown; an euphemism, expressive of puberty, which in females was at twelve years of age… [1]
Ezekiel: A Commentary – Dr Paul M. Joyce,
‘You were thrown out in the open field’: the exposure of babies was commonplace in the ancient world. 16:6. “As you lay in your blood, I said to you, ‘live!’”:…The Hebrew word rebaba netattik means ‘I made you a myriad (that is, ten thousand),’ in other words ‘I caused you to flourish’; this does not require emendation. ‘Full womanhood’: the Hebrew cadi cadayim means literally ‘ornament or ornaments.’ …….16:8. ‘you were at the age for love’: puberty; the emphasis here is more on sex than affection… ‘I spread the edge of my cloak over you’: Kruger (1984) explores the meaning of the symbolic gesture here and in Ruth 3:9, not merely an act of charity but a declaration of a new relationship. ‘Entered into a covenant’: a double sensereferring both to marriage and to a theological covenant…. [2]
Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries Ezekiel – Nancy R. Bowen
…The baby girl arrived ‘at full womanhood,’ that is, sexual maturity, as her ‘breasts developed’ and her ‘(pubic) hair had sprouted’ (author’s translation). She was ‘ripe’ for marriage. Between birth and puberty there is no mention of further divine care… [3]
The Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation,
6-7: God wills the abandoned infant to live. She lives and grows to puberty. ‘Live in spite of your blood’, may also be understood as ‘live because of your blood,’ and with this understanding these words are incorporated in the circumcision ceremony. 8: Upon reaching puberty, she is ready for marriage..[4]
In addition to the above Bible commentaries, here are more scholarly discussion on the passage. Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi – Gordon P. Hugenberger,
Although the Old Testament nowhere explicitly states the typical ages for marriage, the mention of the ‘age for (sexual) love’ in Ezek. 16:8 may suggest that women generally married soon after puberty[5]
The Song of Songs: A Continental Commentary – Othmar Keel,
[8:8] Ezek. 16.7 names the development of the breasts and the growth of pubic hair as signs of puberty (when the girl became eligible for marriage). [6]
Berit Olam Studies: In Hebrew Narrative & Poetry The Song of Songs, – Dianne Bergant & David W. Cotter,
Developed breasts and appearance of pubic hair were signs of puberty and signalled the woman’s physical preparedness for marriage (see Ezek 16.7). [7]
In conclusion, the Bible provides no explicit age for when a girl is allowed to get married. But, what it does give us is that YHWH – God of the Bible, allows for marriage to be consummated when a female has hit puberty. Ezekiel 16 proves, once a girl has hit puberty, she can get married.
[1] John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, Ezekiel 16:7-8
[2] Ezekiel: A Commentary [Copyright 2007, 2009] by Paul M. Joyce page 131
[3] Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries Ezekiel [Copyright 2010], by Nancy R. Bowen page 85
[4] The Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation [Copyright 2004], by Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, Michael A. Fishbane page 1068
[5] Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi by Gordon P. Hugenberger page 315
[6] The Song of Songs: A Continental Commentary [Copyright 1986], by Othmar Keel page 278
[7] Berit Olam Studies: In Hebrew Narrative & Poetry The Song of Songs [Copyright 2001], by Dianne Bergant and David W. Cotter, page 100

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