In my many years of being a Muslim, the one thing that always surprised me was the silence around the discussion of Aisha, the Mother of all Believers. Aisha Bint Abu Bakr was one of the many wives of Prophet Muhammad; what makes her a huge controversy in Islam was her age when she married the prophet. See the thing is, Aisha was married off to 53 year old Muhammad at the age of 6 and had it consummated when she was 9. The age of her consummation is hotly debated among Muslim scholars, was she 9 or 10? To me, both are equally messed up. Aisha was basically a political offering meant to strengthen Muhammad’s ties to her father, Abu Bakr, a powerful man who ended up becoming the 1st Caliph (ruler) of the Muslim world. It’s important to note that Muhammad and Abu Bakr were best buds. I think that as rational and decent human beings, we can all agree that a 53 year old sleeping with a 9 year old is an absolute crime. Aisha was a victim of patriarchy, stripped from the right to having a childhood. One of the most common excuses that Muslims give about her age is that people during the prophet’s time aged differently; she was considered a woman at the age of 9 because (and this is also fiercely debated) she began to menstruate. It is in my (and many others) opinion that her menarcheal status has nothing to do with whether or not she was too young to get married. The fact that she played with toys ( as can be seen in many historical accounts) is already indicative of her psycho-developmental status. What does a little girl playing with dolls know about marriage let alone sex? Can you just imagine how terrifying (and PAINFUL) it must have been during her consummation? Also, physiologically speaking, a girl that young is not fit for sex or reproducing and this can be summed up in 2 words: obstetric fistula which according to the United Nations Population Fund is defined as “a hole in the vagina or rectum caused by labor;” most victims of fistula are young girls.
I love how many Muslims talk about the sexism that existed within Arab society before the rise of Islam, specifically when they choose to mention the practice of female infanticide while ignoring child marriages. Both were atrocities. Both deserve to be criticized. Some of you may ask why the age of Aisha matters today. Her age matters because in many Muslim countries (especially Yemen), girls as young as 8 are being married off to grown ass men. Let me be clear: the notion of “consent” does not exist in such transactions. The issue of obstetric fistula is rampant in these countries! In some cases, increasing the minimum age of marriage is deemed un-Islamic. For example, when a motion was passed to move the minimum age of marriage to either 15 or 18 in Yemen, the Sharia Legislative Committee blocked it. I feel as though there isn’t enough discussion about this issue within the Muslim community because in some ways, condemning child marriages would also be a form of condemning Muhammad for his actions. It is; therefore, critical to look at Muhammad as a human not free from imperfection, because that way we can have real and critical discussions about Aisha.