Islamic History and the Women You Never Hear About: A’isha

Okay, so we do hear a lot about A’isha, the Prophet’s third wife–but not the same woman. The A’isha the world knows today is very different than the A’isha who existed in reality. With patriarchy purposefully modifying Islamic history, we have false information about even her age.
A’isha was nineteen when she married the Prophet (not nine), advised civil disobedience, led troops to war and won, contributed an enormous number of ahadith (nearly 250), and legislated Shari’ah law. Oh yes. She wrote religious law. (Not the same one that’s used today, of course. You have patriarchy to thank for that.)
And today her memory has been corrupted. Said ‘al-Afghani spent ten years writing A’isha and Politics to “prove” that women should not be allowed to become political leaders (never mind that she was hugely successful.)
Looking back at a long, Islamic tradition, we have no problem seeing clearly that the roles that women played were exactly the same as men–few of the women closest to the Prophet were only known for being mothers and daughters. In addition to these, they were businesswomen and warriors. Women’s seclusion in current “Islamic” society has nothing to do with dictations or tradition, but is all the result of contemporary conservative ideology–the forging of a false memory and the attempt to keep the true history a secret.

A video explaining the process of the erasure of Aisha’s true age, requested, though want this post to be about her and not her age.

Update 4/17/11: Tazaqqa disagrees with me about A’isha’s age, but has a very interesting post.

We had the following conversation (which can be viewed on the post after my comment is out of moderation [Tazaqqa’s comment is more relevant anyway]):


[…]The first problem with this video is that it is untrue that most of the hadiths about Aisha’s age are transmitted by Hisham al Urwa. There is this hadith. There is also this one and this and this.

The other problem is that there are other hadith that indirectly shed light on her age like the first link I provided above and this one. Either Aisha was a young girl who liked to play on swings with her friends and with her dolls and Solomon’s Horses with her clay horses while married or she was nineteen years old and severely immature.

The third issue is that Bukhari is not the only one to report hadiths that Aisha was a young girl. There is Muslim here and here. It is also reported seven times in Sunan Abu Dawood. One link is here. Tabari mentions her age to be nine as well in Tabari, Volume 7, Page 7 and Volume 9 p. 129-131. There is one hadith in Sunan Nasa’I, Sunan Ibn Majah, narration in Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Kathir and several other compilations.

That being said I think everyone has the right to believe what they want. If someone cannot like Muhammad while believing that he married a child then obviously it is important for them to believe that he married Aisha when she was 19. Why 19? Because it is a modern legal age for marriage of course, and hence it satisfies our modern feelings about a man who lived 1400 years ago. […] However, I have nothing against anyone who thinks that she was 19 years old or even 23 years old. To each their own.


[…]I’m a little offended […] that you would suggest those of us who believe she was 19 would be doing so because we *need* to believe it. Believing is not a choice. There are a lot of things I would *choose* not to believe except I know for a fact that they are truth and believe them against my will. Rather, I have an issue with the way that hadiths are collected, I have an issue with the fact that they were collected at all, and I believe that the very fact that they were collected contradicts the purpose of their existence, as the Prophet did not wish them to be written in the first place because he feared they would be held to a degree of undeserving importance. I am not* trying to apply a modern legal age to the past, I would have no problem accepting Muhammad as a Prophet of God if I DID believe A’isha was nine, and I am certainly not being apologetic.

I think I’ll probably have to do another post on A’isha’s actual life, since this one has been taken over by her age debate.

Also, I don’t think playing with clay horses at 19 is “severely immature.” Clay horses are awesome. And it’s possible to play with dolls and maturely kick ass at the same time.

13 thoughts on “Islamic History and the Women You Never Hear About: A’isha

  1. This is very interesting. Many of the bad things that I hear said about the Prophet are based on this "fact" that he married a nine-year-old girl.Could you say more about where the idea that she was nine comes from and how you know that it was in fact nineteen?


  2. Of course! In fact there is a video on youtube accessible to everyone (otherwise I could give you a list of books that are pretty hard to find) that explains the whole process of how the misinformation came to exist. What happened is that there is one hadith from Hisham ibn Urwa who was very revered stating that Aisha was nine, except that when he gave the hadith he had begun losing his memory. The hadith was collected from him when he was 70, after he moved to Iraq, and the Prophet himself reported that any hadith collected from Hisham ibn Urwa after he moved was unreliable.Also, those who were actually PRESENT to narrate events around Aisha's life–when she went to war, when she wrote, etc. took place years and years before she normally would have been able to if she had been nine when she married the Prophet.Normally this would make the narrative claiming that Aisha's age was 9 invalid… but strangely, it wasn't, most likely because people needed an excuse for child marriage.If you want to watch the whole video, it's here: should have embedded it into the post actually. I'll do that now.


  3. I have a feeling we'll be arguing about this forever.Whatever age she was, she did amazing things. I still disagree with Tazaqqa but that post made some really good points about how the immense focus on her age is distracting from the entire message, and that to dismiss the entire religion based on one notion that is a shortcoming only if we apply the standards of modern time is practically fallacious.


  4. Oh! You mean in the complete comment on the post, where Tazaqqa mentions the person who made the video doesn't speak Arabic? Yeah, I don't know. And I'm not sure how ze knew that the person who made the video didn't speak Arabic. I also don't think it's unlikely at all that Muslims had incorrect information for eons if they did it purposefully for an excuse. After all, a lot of history itself has been modified.


  5. inayahcupcake12

    Almost all the lines of narration involving Aisha being 6 or 9 involve a man from Iraq named Hisham, who was sorta known for maybe not being reliable. *cough*

    The dates also don’t add up. A more reasonable conclusion from the dates is that she was 14-15 at marriage and 17-18 at actual consummation.

    As for the idea that our Prophet married a kindergarten-age child, going against the Quran? I call it slander.


  6. Darya

    Amazing. Did Aisha actually participate in the battle when she led it. I’m saying this because I’ve heard some scholars say that Aisha didn’t participate and rather just sat on the camel and watched. They go on to continue to use this as an example of why women shouldn’t get involved in politics! So I’m curious to see how that played out in reality. Thx



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