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
insistence and excitement are unknowingly attacking the Qur'an itself.
person on the internet has been insisting to his opponent, if you think
Sunnah to marry so many women, why don't you do so yourself. Evidently
Qur'an in Surah Ahzab makes it very clear that the Prophet, pbuh, could
many women, though other Muslims are not allowed to marry more than 4
and that too in special circumstances. Also, women could and would
themselves to him. When the same thing appears in the Hadith, these
start shouting, not knowing that the Hadith is only a reflection of the
(The Prophet, pbuh, was not an ordinary person. In addition to
dynamic qualities, he had tremendous sexual vitality. One Hadith
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
Prophet, pbuh. They think his job was only to deliver the book and that
it. They don't notice his jihad and his all-night prayers. They have
been revolutionaries or jihadists and they can't understand that the
Prophet's love and compassion was so powerful that women sought refuge
him: In fact he had to stop them from offering themselves to him in
The Qur'an is the book of Allah, the perfect and complete
But a book, however great, needs human interpretation and and human
models to make it of practical use to human beings.
Human productions can never be perfect like the Qur'an but the
books of Hadith come the nearest that human production can come to
perfection. For instance, out of the 2531 hadith collected by Imam
about 4 or 5 can be criticized and that also because of a
the methodology of Hadith. This comes to a small decimal point of
it can be called error.
In hadith, there are Hadith-e-Nabawi and hadith about the sahaba
times and age in which they lived. Also, Imam Bukhari also provides
subheadings quoting the Qur'an as well as headings about the issues
which he wanted to collect the Hadith.
He very honestly brought together Hadith narrated by people of
character and with proper chains of narration. Books of other religions
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
which Hadith should be read, reduce this margin of error.
AN IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE OF HADITH STUDY is that Hadith on the
subject should be brought together for understanding the entire subject
One Hadith collected by Imam Bukhari which can be criticized is
about hazrat 'Ayesha's age. INSTEAD OF MAKING SUCH A HUE AND CRY OF
AGAINST HER AGE AS GIVEN IN ONE HADITH, let's study the Hadith and find
more about hazrat 'Ayesha. And we do need this study because Ayesha
(ra) has played a key role in Islam and Islamic history.
Here is a book review I wrote for New Trend magazine. Inshallah,
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
Hafiz Qari Habibur Rahman Siddiqui Kandhalwi, published in the Urdu
by Anjuman-e-Uswa-e-hasana Karachi, Pakistan, 64 pages, no date.
This book is essential reading for those who want to know the
about the greatest personality of Islam after the Prophet: 'Ayesha
on whom are Allah's blessings. I first heard of this book in 1987 and
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
to understand Hadith.
According to Bukhari's hadith, narrated by Hisham, supposedly
hazrat 'Ayesha herself, she was only 6 years old when the Prophet
and only 9 years old when she went to him as his wife! Another
Bukhari from Hisham alleges that she was so young at the time of her
that she took her dolls with her!
These narrations, being in Bukhari, are blindly accepted by
are a staple of books about the life of hazrat 'Ayesha. Many people
exploited these hadith from Hisham to support child marriages and
Those who oppose hazrat 'Ayesha's role in Islam owing to
reasons have used these hadith to cast doubts on the importance of her
in Islam. (What could such a young female understand, they imply and
sometimes say outright.)
Among "modern" doubters of Hadith, such narrations about Hadith
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
important to teach about Islam, they say.
Also this was cause for the enemies of Islam to attack the
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
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
without attacking Hadith as a source of true knowledge. Thus Habibur
is in the line of the true scholars of Islam, starting with hazrat
herself, who criticized Hadith narrations, NOT TO CONDEMN HADITH as a
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
according to which Hadith should be understood.
For instance: one hadith by itself is not sufficient to decide on
matter if there are related Hadith available in other narrations. There
narrations in Bukhari itself, for instance in Bukhari's kitabut
which show that hazrat 'Ayesha was older than Hisham's narrations
Then there are Hadith in other books of Hadith about her age, about her
and understanding at various points during the Prophet's life, and
age of other young companions of the Prophet as compared to her age.
Habibur Rahman also brings in classical books of the study of
(the narrators of Hadith after the sahaba) to make his point. Finally,
brings proofs from the classical books of history which, though not as
in narration as the books of Hadith, do provide details on the issue
discussion. He then uses reasoning and physical facts to prove his
The conclusion he comes to is that at the time hazrat 'Ayesha
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
During the course of his investigation, Habibur Rahman gives 22
arguments or proofs, and also provides some facts which are known to
owing to the generally careless reading of Hadith. It is well-known,
instance, that in the battle of Uhud, hazrat 'Ayesha participated in
the wounded and carrying water to the injured.
What is not so well known is that 'Ayesha Siddiqa, whom Allah
exalted in the Qur'an (Sura Noor), was the only female Islamic
the battle of Badr. This the writer proves from an authentic hadith in
And which Muslim does not know the status of those who
the battle of Badr! No wonder hazrat 'Umar (as Caliph) gave a bigger
to hazrat 'Ayesha than to anyone else in the Prophet's family. Some
are malicious enough to accuse 'Umar (ra) of favoritism to his
friend; others claim that it was because she was most beloved of the
Prophet. Now we know that 'Umar (always strictly just) was giving her
simply because of her participation in Badr, because he placed the
Badr over all others.
After reading Habibur Rahman's book, one wonders why Muslims
the facts which are before their very eyes. For example, could the
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
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
often ignore the fact that 14-year old males were not allowed by the
to participate in the battle of Badr. Could he have allowed
'Ayesha to do so?
As the Allama very rightly pointed out, 'Ayesha (ra) was not one
play with dolls. She played with swords and her participation in
the result of her youthful training in battle arts.
She was a young woman when she came to Madina and she knew the
gamut of classical Arabic poetry which she recited when she visited
and her father Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with both) who fell sick soon
arriving in Madina.
The Allama's comparison of the ages of Fatima, Asma, Osama (Allah
pleased with them) with that of 'Ayesha from authentic narrations
doubt that he is correct and Hisham's narration is incorrect. About
the Allama documents that he became weak in his narrations when he
Iraq in his 71st year. That's when he narrated about hazrat 'Ayesha and
dolls. His Iraqi narrations are not accepted by Imam Malik who accepted
earlier ones. There are indications that old age and other factors had
impact on Hisham.
From tasa' ushra (19 in Arabic), he forgot or managed to drop
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
companion rather than just his wife. (They had no children.) HER
MISSION FROM ALLAH WAS TO BREAK THE CHAINS OF FEMALE SLAVERY and to
frank and honest portrait of the Messenger's private and personal life
billions of human beings who would follow the uswa of Muhammad (peace
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
exalted) is an essential part of the example of Muhammad (salAllaho
Published in New Trend magazine, Zulhijjah 1409/July 1989
2001-05-24 Thu 20:20ct