Note that the spelling variations of Aisha are typical when translating Arabic names (or words) into English. The following question and answer was located at

Q: What was Ayesha's (r.a) age at the time of her marriage? It is normally believed that she was nine years old at the time that her marriage with Mohammad (p.b.u.h) was consummated. I think it was according to the traditions of the Arab culture, otherwise people would have objected to this marriage. But unfortunately, the modern day man is not satisfied with an answer as simple as that.

A: To begin with[1], I think it is the responsibility of all those who believe that marrying a girl as young as nine years old was an accepted norm of the Arab culture, to provide at least a few examples to substantiate their point of view. I have not yet been able to find a single reliable instance in the books of Arab history where a girl as young as nine years old was given away in marriage. Unless such examples are given, we do not have any reasonable grounds to believe that it really was an accepted norm.

In my opinion, the age of Ayesha (r.a) has been grossly misreported in the narratives of this incident. Not only that, I think that the narratives reporting this event are not only highly unreliable but also on the basis of other historical data, the reported event is quite unlikely. Let us look at the issue from an objective standpoint. My reservations in accepting the narratives, on the basis of which Ayesha's (r.a) age at the time of her marriage with the Prophet (p.b.u.h) is held to be nine years, are:

         Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibnurwah reporting on the authority of his father. An event as well known as the one being reported should logically have been reported by more people than just one, two, or three.

         It is quite strange that no one from Medinah, where Hisham ibnurwah lived the first seventy-one years of his life, has narrated the event, even though in Medinah his pupils included people as well-known as Malik ibn Anas. All the narratives of this event have been reported by narrators from Iraq, where Hisham is reported to have shifted after living in Medinah for seventy-one years.

         Tehzeeb al-Tehzeeb, one of the most well-known books on the life and reliability of the narrators of the traditions ascribed to the Prophet (p.b.u.h) reports that according to Yaqub ibn Shaibah: "narratives reported by Hisham are reliable except those that are reported through the people of Iraq". It further states that Malik ibn Anas objected to those narratives of Hisham, which were reported through people of Iraq (Vol. 11, pg. 48 - 51).

         Meezaan al-Ai`tidaal, another book on the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) reports that when he was old, Hisham's memory suffered quite badly (Vol. 4, pg. 301 - 302).

         According to the generally accepted tradition, Ayesha (r.a) was born about eight years before Hijrah[2]. However, according to another narrative in Bukhari (Kitaab al-Tafseer) Ayesha (r.a) is reported to have said that at the time Surah Al-Qamar, the 54th chapter of the Qur'an, was revealed, "I was a young girl". The 54th Surah of the Qur'an was revealed nine years before Hijrah. According to this tradition, Ayesha (r.a) had not only been born before the revelation of the referred Surah, but was actually a young girl (jariyah), not even only an infant (sibyah) at that time. Obviously, if this narrative is held to be true, it is in clear contradiction with the narratives reported by Hisham ibnurwah. I see absolutely no reason that after the comments of the experts on the narratives of Hisham ibnurwah, why we should not accept this narrative to be more accurate.

         According to a number of narratives, Ayesha (r.a) accompanied the Muslims in the battle of Badr and Uhud. Furthermore, it is also reported in books of hadith and history that no one under the age of 15 years was allowed to take part in the battle of Uhud. All the boys below 15 years of age were sent back. Ayesha's (r.a) participation in the battle of Badr and Uhud clearly indicates that she was not nine or ten years old at that time. After all, women used to accompany men to the battlefields to help them, not to be a burden upon them.

         According to almost all the historians Asma (r.a), the elder sister of Ayesha (r.a) was ten years older than Ayesha (r.a). It is reported in Taqreeb al-Tehzeeb as well as Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah that Asma (r.a) died in the 73rd year after Hijrah when she was 100 years old. Now, obviously if Asma (r.a) was 100 years old in the 73rd year after Hijrah, she should have been 27 or 28 years old at the time of Hijrah. If Asma (r.a) was 27 or 28 years old at the time of Hijrah, Ayesha (r.a) should have been 17 or 18 years old at that time. Thus, Ayesha (r.a) – if she got married in 1 AH (after Hijrah) or 2 AH – was between 18 to 20 years old at the time of her marriage.

         Tabari, in his treatise on Islamic history, while mentioning Abu Bakr (r.a), reports that Abu Bakr had four children and all four were born during the Jahiliyyah the pre-Islamic period. Obviously, if Ayesha (r.a) was born in the period of jahiliyyah, she could not have been less than 14 years in 1 AH – the time she most likely got married.

         According to Ibn Hisham, the historian, Ayesha (r.a) accepted Islam quite some time before Umar ibn Khattab (r.a). This shows that Ayesha (r.a) accepted Islam during the first year of Islam. If the narrative of Ayesha's (r.a) marriage at seven years of age is held to be true, Ayesha (r.a) should not even have been born during the first year of Islam.

         Tabari has also reported that at the time Abu Bakr (r.a) planned on migrating to Habshah (8 years before Hijrah), he went to Mut’am – with whose son Ayesha (r.a) was engaged at that time – and asked him to take Ayesha (r.a) in his house as his son's wife. Mut’am refused, because Abu Bakr had embraced Islam. Subsequently, his son divorced Ayesha (r.a). Now, if Ayesha (r.a) was only seven years old at the time of her marriage, she could not have been born at the time Abu Bakr decided on migrating to Habshah. On the basis of this report, it seems only reasonable to assume that Ayesha (r.a) had not only been born 8 years before Hijrah, but was also a young lady, quite prepared for marriage.

         According to a narrative reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, after the death of Khadijah (r.a), when Khaulah (r.a) came to the Prophet (p.b.u.h) advising him to marry again, the Prophet (p.b.u.h) asked her regarding the choices she had in her mind. Khaulah said: "You can marry a virgin (bikr) or a woman who has already been married (thayyib)". When the Prophet (p.b.u.h) asked about who the virgin was, Khaulah proposed Ayesha's (r.a) name. All those who know the Arabic language are aware that the word "bikr" in the Arabic language is not used for an immature nine-year old girl. The correct word for a young playful girl, as stated earlier, is "Jariyah". "Bikr" on the other hand is used for an unmarried lady, and obviously a nine-year old is not a "lady".

         According to Ibn Hajar, Fatimah (r.a) was five years older than Ayesha (r.a). Fatimah (r.a) is reported to have been born when the Prophet (p.b.u.h) was 35 years old. Thus, even if this information is taken to be correct, Ayesha (r.a) could by no means be less than 14 years old at the time of Hijrah, and 15 or 16 years old at the time of her marriage.

These are some of the major points that go against accepting the commonly known narrative regarding Ayesha's (r.a) age at the time of her marriage.

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 (p.b.u.h) marry Ayesha (r.a) 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.

End Notes:

[1] The answer to this question is primarily based on the research by Habib ur Rahman Kandhalwi as presented in his Urdu booklet, "Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka'inat", Anjuman Uswa e hasanah, Karachi, Pakistan.

[2] That is, the migration of the Prophet (p.b.u.h)


Webmaster’s note: The following excerpt is from Maulana Muhammad Ali’s book “Muhammad The Prophet” (pages 183/184) and concurs with the above Q&A.

Aisha's age

The popular misconception as to Aisha's age may be removed here. That she had not attained majority is clear enough, but that she was not as young as six years of age is also true. In the first place, it is clear that she had reached an age when betrothal could have taken place in the ordinary course and must therefore have been approaching the age of majority. Again, Isabah, speaking of the Holy Prophet's daughter Fatimah, says that she was about five years older than Aisha. It is a well-established fact that Fatimah was born when the Kabah was being rebuilt, i.e., five years before the Call. Aisha was therefore born in the year of the Call or a little before it, and she could not have been less than ten years at the time of her marriage with the Holy Prophet in the tenth year of the Call. This conclusion is borne out by the testimony of Aisha herself who is reported to have related that when the chapter entitled, "The Moon" (the 54th chapter) was revealed, she was a girl playing about and that she remembered certain verses then revealed.

Now the fifty-fourth chapter could not have been revealed later than the fifth year of the Call, and therefore the report which states her to have been six years old in the tenth year of the Call when her marriage ceremony was gone through cannot be correct, because this would show her to have been born about the time of the revelation of the 54th chapter. All these considerations show her to have been not less than ten years old at the time of her marriage. And as the period between her marriage and its consummation was not less than five years, because the consummation took place in the second year of the Flight, it follows that she could not have been less than fifteen at that time. The popular account that she was six years at marriage and nine years at the time of consummation is decidedly not correct because it supposes the period between marriage and its consummation to be only three years, and this is historically wrong.

Posted April 1, 2010