Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting the Age of Aisha Pt. 3

Sam Shamoun

We continue from where we previously left off.

A Role Model for All Times

Even though Brown appeals to cultural norms to justify Muhammad’s marriage to a premature minor, he forgets to mention that fact that his prophet is supposed to be a role model for all peoples at all times. Therefore, why would Muhammad not only condone, but actually engage, in such a cultural practice seeing that he is supposed to be a mercy for mankind?

And We have sent you (O Muhammad) not but as a mercy for the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). S. 21:107 Hilali-Khan

Therefore, wouldn’t it have been more merciful for Brown’s moral and spiritual example to have abolished this practice of marrying and having sex with emotionally and physically immature females? Why then enshrine and engage in such a vile practice that leaves so many girls traumatized sexually, emotionally and physiologically?

Abolishing A Loving and Compassionate Institution

After all, didn’t Muhammad abolish adoption, which benefits both orphans and couples who cannot have children of their own?

Why then abolish such a humane practice, which brings great emotional healing and love to so many human lives, while sanctioning the sexual abuse of minors?

This becomes all the more troubling when we read the reason the Islamic sources give for Brown’s prophet getting rid of adoption. According to Muslim tradition, Q. 33:4-5 and 40 were “revealed” in response to the unbelievers mocking Muhammad for taking his adopted son’s wife in marriage:

“… This verse was revealed about Zayd ibn Harithah. He was a slave of the Messenger of Allah but he freed him and adopted him before he was sent as a Prophet. When the Prophet married Zaynab bint Jahsh, who was the divorcee of Zayd ibn Harithah, the Jews and hypocrites said: ‘Muhammad has married the wife of his son while forbidding people from doing the same!’ And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse. Sa'id ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Nu'aym al-Ishkabi informed us> al-Hasan ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn Makhlid> Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Thaqafi> Qutaybah ibn Sa'id> Ya'qub ibn 'Abd al-Rahman> Musa ibn 'Uqbah> Salim> 'Abd Allah ibn 'Umar who used to say: ‘We did not use to call Zayd ibn Harithah with any other name except Zayd ibn Muhammad until the Qur'an revealed (Proclaim their real parentage. That will be more equitable in the sight of Allah) [33:5]’. This was narrated by Bukhari> Mu'alla ibn Asad> 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn al-Mukhtar> Musa ibn 'Uqbah. ('Alī ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul; bold and underline emphasis ours)

“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you: he is not Zayd’s biological father and so it is not unlawful for him to marry his [former] wife Zaynab [after him]…” (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and underline emphasis ours)

What this means is that Muhammad only abolished adoption in order to save face since he was bothered by the accusation leveled against him that he had pretty much stolen his very own son’s wife, a practice which God’s Word condemns as sexual immorality:

“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law: she is your son’s wife; you shall not uncover her nakedness.” Leviticus 18:15

“If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion, their blood is upon them.” Leviticus 20:12

To make matters worse, both the Quran and traditions indicate that Muhammad had already started lusting after his daughter-in-law while she was still married to his son, and that it was Allah who had decreed this to happen for the express purpose of showing men that they could also marry the divorcees of their adopted sons if they so desired:

And (remember) when you said to him (Zaid bin Harithah the freedslave of the Prophet) on whom Allah has bestowed Grace (by guiding him to Islam) and you (O Muhammad too) have done favour (by manumitting him) "Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah." But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allah has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people (i.e., Muhammad married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave) whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah's Command must be fulfilled. S. 33:37 Hilali-Khan 

However, this raises another major problem. How could Muhammad’s marriage to his daughter-in-law be an example for others when Allah decided to abolish the practice of adoption shortly afterwards? Isn’t this proof that Muhammad was simply looking for a pretext to justify lusting after his daughter-in-law?

No matter how Muslim apologists try to spin this, the fact remains that both Muhammad and his deity stand condemned by the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart… It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:27-28, 31-32

According to Christ, Muhammad was an adulterer who caused his son’s divorced wife to commit adultery with him. This means that Allah is in the business of turning people into sexual deviants and adulterers, a fact which Muhammad candidly admitted:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:
I did not see anything so resembling minor sins as what Abu Huraira said from the Prophet, who said, “Allah has written for the son of Adam his INEVITABLE share of adultery whether he is aware of it or not: The adultery of the eye is the looking (at something which is sinful to look at), and the adultery of the tongue is to utter (what it is unlawful to utter), and the innerself wishes and longs for (adultery) and the private parts turn that into reality or refrain from submitting to the temptation.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Number 609)

Verily Allah has fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in, and which he OF NECESSITY MUST COMMIT (or there would be no escape from it). (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6421)

With this in mind, what kind of god would force people, specifically his own messenger, to commit adultery? And what kind of deity would abolish a loving, compassionate institution such as adoption in order to spare his prophet from enduring further humiliation from the people who rightfully complained and condemned him for taking his adopted son’s former spouse in marriage?

What all of this shows is that, far from being a mercy to mankind, Muhammad brought untold misery, pain and suffering to countless numbers of lives especially to young girls, as well as to orphans and barren couples who will never experience the joy of having a family to belong to, no thanks to Allah and his messenger!

In light of the foregoing, we need to ask Dr. Brown whether he really is okay with his prophet doing away with adoption, which benefits millions of people by placing orphaned children into the arms of loving families, especially couples who can’t have children of their own, while sanctioning the inhumane practice of grown men marrying and having sex with prepubescent minors.

Marrying Minors – A Cultural Practice?

Besides, not all Muslims agree that it was culturally acceptable for grown men to marry and/or have sex with physically and psychologically premature minors. Moiz Amjad of Understanding Islam says:

In my opinion, neither was it an Arab tradition to give away girls in marriage at an age as young as nine or ten years, nor did the Prophet marry Ayesha at such a young age. The people of Arabia did not object to this marriage, because it never happened in the manner it has been narrated. (What was Ayesha's Age at the Time of Her Marriage to the Prophet?; bold emphasis ours)

The following Muslim agrees with Amjad over against Brown:

A Christian friend asked me once, "Will you marry your seven year old daughter to a fifty year old man?" I kept my silence. He continued, "If you would not, how can you approve the marriage of an innocent seven year old, Ayesha, with your Prophet?" I told him, "I don’t have an answer to your question at this time." My friend smiled and left me with a thorn in the heart of my faith. Most Muslims answer that such marriages were accepted in those days. Otherwise, people would have objected to Prophet’s marriage with Ayesha.

However, such an explanation would be gullible only for those who are naive enough to believe it. But unfortunately, I was not satisfied with the answer.

The Prophet was an exemplary man. All his actions were most virtuous so that we, Muslims, can emulate them. However, most people in our Islamic Center of Toledo, including me, would not think of betrothing our seven years daughter to a fifty-two year-old man. If a parent agrees to such a wedding, most people, if not all, would look down upon the father and the old husband.

In 1923, registrars of marriage in Egypt were instructed not to register and issue official certificates of marriage for brides less than sixteen and grooms less than eighteen years of age. Eight years later, the Law of the Organization and Procedure of Sheriah courts of 1931 consolidated the above provision by not hearing the marriage disputes involving brides less than sixteen and grooms less than eighteen years old. (Women in Muslim Family Law, John Esposito, 1982). It shows that even in the Muslim majority country of Egypt the child marriages are unacceptable.

So, I believed, without solid evidence other than my reverence to my Prophet, that the stories of the marriage of seven-year-old Ayesha to 50-year-old Prophet are only myths. However, my long pursuit in search of the truth on this matter proved my intuition correct. My Prophet was a gentleman. And he did not marry an innocent seven or nine year old girl. The age of Ayesha has been erroneously reported in the hadith literature. Furthermore, I think that the narratives reporting this event are highly unreliable. Some of the hadith (traditions of the Prophet) regarding Ayesha’s age at the time of her wedding with prophet are problematic. I present the following evidences against the acceptance of the fictitious story by Hisham ibn ‘Urwah and to clear the name of my Prophet as an irresponsible old man preying on an innocent little girl. (T.O. Shanavas, Was Ayesha A Six-Year-Old Bride? The Ancient Myth Exposed; bold emphasis ours)

It is rather intriguing that those who reject the claims of the hadith that Muhammad married Aisha at nine have no problem admitting that such marriages with premature girls were not the norm or morally acceptable. On the other hand, those who accept these narrations as genuine are forced to argue that these marriages were normal during that time and therefore morally unobjectionable, in order to justify what Muhammad did!

Unfortunately for Amjad and Shanavas, Muhamamd’s marriage to a 9-year-old minor is one of the best-attested “facts” in their prophet’s life since it is found in their earliest and most “reliable” sources. Therefore, these men have no choice but to accept that according to their very own apologetic, Muhammad did something that was deemed to be inappropriate behavior for a grown man to engage even by the cultural standards of that day.  

Here are a few articles that provide a rigorous and thorough refutation of all the arguments set forth by Amjad, Shanavas and others like them who seek to undermine the veracity of the Islamic reports, which attest to the fact of Aisha being a young 9-year-old girl when Muhammad slept with her:  

‘Ā’isha’s Age at the Time of Her Marriage

More on ‘Ā’isha’s Age at the Time of Her Marriage

The Age of Aishah’s Marriage Between Historians and Hadith Scholars

Age of the Mother of the Believers ‘Aa’ishah when the Prophet married her 

Refutation of the lie that the Prophet married ‘Aa’ishah when she was 18 years old

And Muslims still want to call this man a mercy for humanity?

Moreover, the Quran condemned anyone who would even think of marrying Muhammad’s women after his death:

“… And it is not (right) for you that you should annoy Allah's Messenger, nor that you should ever marry his wives after him (his death). Verily! With Allah that shall be an enormity.” S. 33:53 Hilali-Khan

This means that all of Muhammad’s wives were forced to become widows for the rest of their lives, especially Aisha who was widowed at the young age of 18. Thus, Aisha was robbed of the joy of having children or having a husband to love and care for her all the days that she lived. Where, then, is the mercy in all this?

Now does Brown truly want us to think that Muhammad’s marriages were a display of his great mercy and compassion when wives such as Aisha ended up becoming widowed in their late teens or, in some cases, early twenties, and who were then forced to remain unmarried for so many years afterwards? Is this what Brown really believes in his heart? We truly hope not and pray that, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, this learned professor will come to see all of this for what it actually is.

Brown’s problems are still not over as we are about to see in the fourth part of our discussion.