Hadith Provide Facts on Hazrat 'Ayesha's Age

She Was a Mature Young Woman of Great Understanding and Intellect
by Kaukab Siddique, Ph.D

(In recent days the abusive attacks on Hadith distributed on the internet have gone out of all bounds. So much so that the attackers in their insistence and excitement are unknowingly attacking the Qur'an itself. One person on the internet has been insisting to his opponent, if you think it is Sunnah to marry so many women, why don't you do so yourself. Evidently the Qur'an in Surah Ahzab makes it very clear that the Prophet, pbuh, could marry many women, though other Muslims are not allowed to marry more than 4 women and that too in special circumstances. Also, women could and would offer themselves to him. When the same thing appears in the Hadith, these attackers start shouting, not knowing that the Hadith is only a reflection of the Qur'an,)

(The Prophet, pbuh, was not an ordinary person. In addition to other dynamic qualities, he had tremendous sexual vitality. One Hadith narrator wrote that the Prophet could visit all his wives in one night. This has excited the critics of Hadith because they have a very low opinion of the Prophet, pbuh. They think his job was only to deliver the book and that was it. They don't notice his jihad and his all-night prayers. They have never been revolutionaries or jihadists and they can't understand that the Prophet's love and compassion was so powerful that women sought refuge with him: In fact he had to stop them from offering themselves to him in many instances.)

The Qur'an is the book of Allah, the perfect and complete guidance. But a book, however great, needs human interpretation and and human role models to make it of practical use to human beings.

Human productions can never be perfect like the Qur'an but the Islamic books of Hadith come the nearest that human production can come to perfection. For instance, out of the 2531 hadith collected by Imam Bukhari about 4 or 5 can be criticized and that also because of a misunderstanding of the methodology of Hadith. This comes to a small decimal point of error, if it can be called error.

In hadith, there are Hadith-e-Nabawi and hadith about the sahaba and the times and age in which they lived. Also, Imam Bukhari also provides subheadings quoting the Qur'an as well as headings about the issues under which he wanted to collect the Hadith.

He very honestly brought together Hadith narrated by people of good character and with proper chains of narration. Books of other religions do not have any comparable stringent rules as he used to make sure of the narrations he collected.

However, one weakness of hadith has to do with calendars and time schedules because these were not so exactly available, owing to the technology of that time, as they are now. However the rules according to which Hadith should be read, reduce this margin of error.

AN IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE OF HADITH STUDY is that Hadith on the same subject should be brought together for understanding the entire subject

One Hadith collected by Imam Bukhari which can be criticized is that about hazrat 'Ayesha's age. INSTEAD OF MAKING SUCH A HUE AND CRY OF ABUSE AGAINST HER AGE AS GIVEN IN ONE HADITH, let's study the Hadith and find out more about hazrat 'Ayesha. And we do need this study because Ayesha Siddiqa (ra) has played a key role in Islam and Islamic history.

Here is a book review I wrote for New Trend magazine. Inshallah, it will help those who want to KNOW WHAT HADITH REALLY SAYS ABOUT HAZRAT 'AYESHA's AGE when she married the Prophet (pbuh).


Tahqeeq-e-'umar-e-Siddiqa-e-kainat (salamAllah alaiha) by Allama Hafiz Qari Habibur Rahman Siddiqui Kandhalwi, published in the Urdu language by Anjuman-e-Uswa-e-hasana Karachi, Pakistan, 64 pages, no date.

This book is essential reading for those who want to know the truth about the greatest personality of Islam after the Prophet: 'Ayesha Siddiqa, on whom are Allah's blessings. I first heard of this book in 1987 and finally a friend in Karachi managed to find it and send it to me. It's a very matter-of -fact and to-the-point book. Apart from the basic material it provides about hazrat 'Ayesha's age, it is also a good experience in learning to understand Hadith.

According to Bukhari's hadith, narrated by Hisham, supposedly from hazrat 'Ayesha herself, she was only 6 years old when the Prophet married her and only 9 years old when she went to him as his wife! Another narration in Bukhari from Hisham alleges that she was so young at the time of her marriage that she took her dolls with her!

These narrations, being in Bukhari, are blindly accepted by Muslims and are a staple of books about the life of hazrat 'Ayesha. Many people have exploited these hadith from Hisham to support child marriages and arranged marriages.

Those who oppose hazrat 'Ayesha's role in Islam owing to sectarian reasons have used these hadith to cast doubts on the importance of her role in Islam. (What could such a young female understand, they imply and sometimes say outright.)

Among "modern" doubters of Hadith, such narrations about Hadith are another reason for poking fun at Hadith itself. How could a sane, knowledgeable person think that a girl of 6 or 9 could have anything really important to teach about Islam, they say.

Also this was cause for the enemies of Islam to attack the personality of the Prophet himself who would marry a child!

Most Muslims, however, pass over Hisham's narration about hazrat 'Ayesha's age without comment, taking it for granted just because it is in an authentic book of Hadith.

Allama Habibur Rahman's great achievement is that he has brought evidence from the HADITH LITERATURE ITSELF to correct Hisham's narrations without attacking Hadith as a source of true knowledge. Thus Habibur Rahman is in the line of the true scholars of Islam, starting with hazrat 'Ayesha herself, who criticized Hadith narrations, NOT TO CONDEMN HADITH as a source of Islam second only to the Qur'an but to arrive at real authenticity.

Habibur Rahman carries out his attack on the basis of the principles according to which Hadith should be understood.

For instance: one hadith by itself is not sufficient to decide on a matter if there are related Hadith available in other narrations. There are narrations in Bukhari itself, for instance in Bukhari's kitabut tafseer, which show that hazrat 'Ayesha was older than Hisham's narrations indicate. Then there are Hadith in other books of Hadith about her age, about her role and understanding at various points during the Prophet's life, and about the age of other young companions of the Prophet as compared to her age.

Habibur Rahman also brings in classical books of the study of rijal (the narrators of Hadith after the sahaba) to make his point. Finally, he brings proofs from the classical books of history which, though not as strict in narration as the books of Hadith, do provide details on the issue under discussion. He then uses reasoning and physical facts to prove his point.

The conclusion he comes to is that at the time hazrat 'Ayesha went to the Prophet as his wife, she was at least 19 years old and there is a possibility that she was 25. At the time of her marriage she was at least 16.

During the course of his investigation, Habibur Rahman gives 22 arguments or proofs, and also provides some facts which are known to very few owing to the generally careless reading of Hadith. It is well-known, for instance, that in the battle of Uhud, hazrat 'Ayesha participated in helping the wounded and carrying water to the injured.

What is not so well known is that 'Ayesha Siddiqa, whom Allah has exalted in the Qur'an (Sura Noor), was the only female Islamic participant in the battle of Badr. This the writer proves from an authentic hadith in SAHIH MUSLIM.

And which Muslim does not know the status of those who participated in the battle of Badr! No wonder hazrat 'Umar (as Caliph) gave a bigger stipend to hazrat 'Ayesha than to anyone else in the Prophet's family. Some people are malicious enough to accuse 'Umar (ra) of favoritism to his daughter's friend; others claim that it was because she was most beloved of the holy Prophet. Now we know that 'Umar (always strictly just) was giving her more simply because of her participation in Badr, because he placed the people of Badr over all others.

After reading Habibur Rahman's book, one wonders why Muslims ignore the facts which are before their very eyes. For example, could the Prophet, pbuh, have said this of a 12-year-old girl? (He was consoling Bashr ibn Uqraba who was weeping over the martyrdom of his father in the battle of Uhud. The Prophet said to Bashr:

"Wouldn't you like to have me as your father and 'Ayesha as your mother?" (Could he have said that of a 12-year -old?) Of course many readers often ignore the fact that 14-year old males were not allowed by the Prophet to participate in the battle of Badr. Could he have allowed "10-year-old: 'Ayesha to do so?

As the Allama very rightly pointed out, 'Ayesha (ra) was not one to play with dolls. She played with swords and her participation in battles was the result of her youthful training in battle arts.

She was a young woman when she came to Madina and she knew the entire gamut of classical Arabic poetry which she recited when she visited Bilal and her father Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with both) who fell sick soon after arriving in Madina.

The Allama's comparison of the ages of Fatima, Asma, Osama (Allah be pleased with them) with that of 'Ayesha from authentic narrations leaves no doubt that he is correct and Hisham's narration is incorrect. About Hisham, the Allama documents that he became weak in his narrations when he moved to Iraq in his 71st year. That's when he narrated about hazrat 'Ayesha and her dolls. His Iraqi narrations are not accepted by Imam Malik who accepted his earlier ones. There are indications that old age and other factors had their impact on Hisham.

From tasa' ushra (19 in Arabic), he forgot or managed to drop 'ushra, thus keeping hazrat 'Ayesha's age as 9!

My understanding is that Allah brought hazrat 'Ayesha into the Prophet's household at the age when she was in the prime of youth, intelligence and ability, so that through her the Prophet, pbuh, could educate the young people of all times to come. She was more his friend and companion rather than just his wife. (They had no children.) HER HISTORIC MISSION FROM ALLAH WAS TO BREAK THE CHAINS OF FEMALE SLAVERY and to provide a frank and honest portrait of the Messenger's private and personal life to the billions of human beings who would follow the uswa of Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) as commanded by the Qur'an, for all times to come.

There can be little doubt that the Example of 'Ayesha (whom Allah has exalted) is an essential part of the example of Muhammad (salAllaho alaihi wassalam).
Published in New Trend magazine, Zulhijjah 1409/July 1989

2001-05-24 Thu 20:20ct