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Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun’s article “The Age of Marriage”

 

Shamoun wrote:

The Quran, in at least one passage, presupposes that there is an age which a girl must attain before she can be considered marriageable:

And try orphans (as regards their intelligence) until they reach the age of marriage; if then you find sound judgement in them, release their property to them, but consume it not wastefully, and hastily fearing that they should grow up, and whoever amongst guardians is rich, he should take no wages, but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable (according to his work). And when you release their property to them, take witness in their presence; and Allah is All Sufficient in taking account. S. 4:6 Hilali-Khan

Note that the expression "until they reach the age of marriage" takes it for granted that there is an age that girls have to reach before a man can marry them. Presumably, that age would be puberty, a point accepted by Muslim expositors.

 

My response:

 

Marriageable age refers to puberty as you also say. No problem so far.

 

 

 

Shamoun wrote:

Here are three commentaries regarding the meaning of the above text, taken from some of Islam’s greatest scholars and exegetes:

(Prove orphans) test the intelligence of orphans (till they reach the marriageable age) the age of puberty; … (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; source; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Try, test, well the orphans, before reaching maturity with regard [the duties of] religion and [before] they can [legally] manage their own affairs, until they reach the age of marrying, that is, until they have become eligible for it through puberty or [legal] age, which, according to al-Shafi'i, is the completion of fifteen years; … (Tafsir Al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

<until they reach the age of marriage>, the age of puberty, according to Mujahid. The age of puberty according to the majority of scholars comes when the child has a wet dream. In his Sunan, Abu Dawud recorded that `Ali said, "I memorized these words from the Messenger of Allah,

 

My response:

 

This is a very good trick, quote different scholars and try to create division to make allegations.

 

Note the above words carefully, it says that “according to al-Shafi”. This means that he considers the age to be 15 and it is not the absolute figure for everyone. It varies between men and women and even among men and men or women and women. The age for each person can be different.

 

 

 

Shamoun wrote:

<<There is no orphan after the age of puberty nor vowing to be silent throughout the day to the night.>>" In another Hadith, `A'ishah and other Companions said that the Prophet said …

<<The pen does not record the deeds of three persons: the child until the age of puberty, the sleeping person until waking up, and the senile until sane.>> Or, the age of fifteen is considered the age of adolescence. In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that Ibn `Umar said, "I was presented in front of the Prophet on the eve of the battle of Uhud, while I was fourteen years of age, and he did not allow me to take part in that battle. But I was presented in front of him on the eve of the battle of Al-Khandaq (The Trench) when I was fifteen years old, and he allowed me (to join that battle)." `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz commented when this Hadith reached him, "This is the difference between a child and an adult." There is a difference of opinion over whether pubic hair is considered a sign of adulthood, and the correct opinion is that it is. The Sunnah supports this view, according to a Hadith collected by Imam Ahmad from `Atiyah Al-Qurazi who said, "We were presented to the Prophet on the day of Quraizah, whoever had pubic hair was killed, whoever did not was left free to go, I was one of those who did not, so I was left free." The Four Sunan compilers also recorded similar to it. At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Sahih." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

 

 

All three of the above commentators agree that puberty is the right age for a girl to consider marriage, with both Ibn Kathir and al-Shafi placing that age at fifteen. Al-Shafi happened to be one of the greatest Islamic scholars and jurists and even has an Islamic school of jurisprudence named after him.

 

 

My response:

 

This is partly correct. The examples you gave above are all of boys and you apply this to girls. This is strange of you. Before going further, let’s analyse each of the above mentioned scenario.

 

1.     Ibn `Umar said, "I was presented in front of the Prophet on the eve of the battle of Uhud, while I was fourteen years of age, and he did not allow me to take part in that battle. But I was presented in front of him on the eve of the battle of Al-Khandaq (The Trench) when I was fifteen years old, and he allowed me (to join that battle)."

 

The battle of Uhad was a different kind of battle. The pagans were raging with the desire for revenge and the battle required one to one battles where power mattered much.

 

The battle of Trench required the Muslims to dig a trench around them from three sides to protect them from the enemy as they were outnumbered and had very little weapons. Ibn Umar was allowed into the battle but do you read any Hadith where he had a one to one contact with the enemy? The answer is no. The allowing of a 15 year old was something that was allowed by the Prophet upon the circumstances that existed.

 

2.     This is the difference between a child and an adult

 

I suggest that you read this sentence in Arabic and you will know that the child and the adult use tenses that refer to a male.

 

 

Shamoun wrote:

Once again, Muhammad is found violating his very own command since he married a girl who was nine years old:

 

 

My response:

 

This is an absurd comment and only shows ignorance. The age of puberty depends from a person to person and the above mentioned Hadith only talk about boys. You also say that Muhammad is found violating his own command, this is also your ignorance or your tricks. The age that you gave is being said by Imam Shafi, how can it be the command of the Prophet? Imam Shafi never met the Prophet.

 

Secondly, your allegation of the age of Ayesha (R.A) are also absurd.

 

Below you will find the truth on this matter as explained by Dr. Jamal Badawi.

 

I think that the narratives reporting this event are not only highly unreliable but also that on the basis of other historical data, the event reported, is quite an unlikely happening. Let us look at the issue from an objective stand point. My reservations in accepting the narratives, on the basis of which, Ayesha's (ra) age at the time of her marriage with the Prophet  (pbuh) is held to be nine years are:

·         Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibn `urwah 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 ibn `urwah 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.

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·         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  (pbuh) 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 on 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  (pbuh) reports that when he was old, Hisham's memory suffered quite badly (Vol. 4, pg. 301 - 302).

·         According to the generally accepted tradition, Ayesha (ra) was born about eight years before Hijrah. However, according to another narrative in Bukhari (Kitaab al-Tafseer) Ayesha (ra) 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 (ra) 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 ibn `urwah. I see absolutely no reason that after the comments of the experts on the narratives of Hisham ibn `urwah, why should we not accept this narrative to be more accurate.

·         According to a number of narratives, Ayesha (ra) 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 (ra) 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 (ra), the elder sister of Ayesha (ra) was ten years older than Ayesha (ra). It is reported in Taqreeb al-Tehzeeb as well as Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah that Asma (ra) died in the 73rd year after hijrah[1][2] when she was 100 years old. Now, obviously if Asma (ra) 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 (ra) was 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah, Ayesha (ra) should have been 17 or 18 years old at that time. Thus, Ayesha (ra) - 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 (ra) reports that Abu Bakr had four children and all four were born during the Jahiliyyah - the pre Islamic period. Obviously, if Ayesha (ra) 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 (ra) accepted Islam quite some time before Umar ibn Khattab (ra). This shows that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam during the first year of Islam. While, if the narrative of Ayesha's (ra) marriage at seven years of age is held to be true, Ayesha (ra) should not even have been born during the first year of Islam.

·         Tabari has also reported that at the time Abu Bakr (ra) planned on migrating to Habshah (8 years before Hijrah), he went to Mut`am - with whose son Ayesha (ra) was engaged at that time - and asked him to take Ayesha (ra) in his house as his son's wife. Mut`am refused, because Abu Bakr had embraced Islam. Subsequently, his son divorced Ayesha (ra). Now, if Ayesha (ra) 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 (ra) 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 (ra), when Khaulah (ra) came to the Prophet  (pbuh) advising him to marry again, the Prophet (pbuh) 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 (pbuh) asked about who the virgin was, Khaulah proposed Ayesha's (ra) 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 (ra) was five years older than Ayesha (ra). Fatimah (ra) is reported to have been born when the Prophet  (pbuh) was 35 years old. Thus, even if this information is taken to be correct, Ayesha (ra) 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 (ra) 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  (pbuh) marry Ayesha (ra) 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.

 

 

 

 

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