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This is not Zakir Naik's research
Madam Aishah, a
Study of her age at the time of her marriage with Prophet
Aishah was a great Muslim lady,
the daughter of the Prophet’s closest companion Abdullah ibn
Abi Quhafah, better known to us as Abu Bakr, and his second
wife, Umm Ruman. She was the ‘second beloved’ of the
Prophet, the joy of the last years of his life. She was so
famous that it seems quite extraordinary that some of the
best-known facts about her should be challenged. This,
however, is what this pamphlet proposes to do.
As a writer, I have been obliged to come to terms with two
unfortunate but apparently unshakeable facts of life; the
first is that no matter how hard one tries, or pays
attention to the work one is doing, it is impossible to
avoid slips in one’s work creeping in – through tiredness,
momentary lack of concentration, interruptions, mind too
full of racing thoughts, etc. Once the slip is in, it may
lie there unnoticed, even by the original author, through
many proof-readings. The second fact of life is that once
things have been written down and appeared in public, they
get repeated and copied by others, ad infinitum – often
without question, and usually without consulting the
original sources to check accuracy.
In this concise booklet, we consider what may possibly be
the most serious piece of mis-information in the whole of
Muslim history – the long-unchallenged notion that the
Prophet’s third wife Aishah, the daughter of his dear friend
Abu Bakr, was only six when she accepted nikah with the
Prophet, that she married him physically when she was around
nine years old, and was around eighteen when he died. One
can find these ‘facts’ quoted again and again; moreover,
they appear to be based on the most trustworthy of
authorities – the hadith collections of Bukhari, Muslim, Abu
Dawud, an-Nisa’i and Ibn-e-Majah.
However, there are many points to consider. Firstly, all of
these authorities seem to have based their conclusions
solely on the work of Aishah’s relative, the historian
Hisham ibn Urwah, the grandson of Aishah’s sister Asma. One
might think, therefore, that they were extremely accurate.
However, Hisham’s accuracy in other matters was challenged.
The matters pertaining to Aishah were supposedly obtained
from Hisham’s father, but apparently these particular
hadiths were offered only in Iraq and were unknown to the
people of Madinah, and must necessarily, therefore, be
regarded as not entirely trustworthy. (The reasons are given
in the booklet).
In order to help the reader form his or her own judgment,
certain fixed dates and terms should be placed before them.
- The birth of the Prophet was in 570 CE.
- His Call to the Prophethood occurred in 610 CE.
- The year his wife Khadijah died was 619 CE.
- The most likely year of his nikah to Aishah was 620 CE.
- The Hijrah to Madinah took place in 622 CE.
- The Prophet’s full marriage to Aishah was in 2 AH/623-4
- The Prophet died in 10 AH/632 CE.
- Most authorities agree that Aishah died in 50 AH/672 CE.
The conclusions formed about the dates and age of Aishah
rest on three separate theories. The first, and most widely
accepted throughout the Muslim world, is that she was born
in the fourth year of the Prophethood (ie 614 CE). This is
based on one reference in Ibn Sa’d’s work, which seems to be
contradicted by many of his later statements. If this was
true, it would mean she was indeed five when Khadijah died,
six when her nikah was performed, nine in the year of her
full marriage, and eighteen when the Prophet died. However,
it would also mean that if she did die in 672 CE she was
only fifty-eight, and not sixty-seven as most authorities
The second theory is that she was born some four years
before the Prophethood, in 605-6 CE. This would mean she was
4/5 when he was called to his mission, 14/15 when Khadijah
died, 15/16 at her nikah, 19 in the year of her full
marriage, and 27/28 when he died. She would have indeed been
sixty-seven when she died in 50 AH. (Sometimes one has to be
flexible with the years, because people tend to ‘round
things up’ and take into account the number of months in any
year as a complete year – ie, if someone was sixteen years
and eight months old, people might well say she was nearly
The third theory is that she was five years younger than
Fatimah, who was said to have been born five years before
the Prophet’s call, therefore making the year of Aishah’s
birth in that very year, 610. If this was true, she would
have been 9 when Khadijah died, 10 at her nikah, 12 in the
year of Hijrah, 14 when she married him, 22 when he died,
and 62 when she died.
The argument based on the age of Fatimah has a further
complication, however, since her own dates are disputed.
Isaba, for example, agreed that she was born in 605 since
when she married Ali in 625 she was 20. Yet she was said to
have been 29 when the Prophet (and she herself) died in the
year 632 – which pushes her birth year back to 603.
The concept of nikah of a six-year-old Aishah has given
ammunition to the enemies of Islam – which cannot be helped
if it is true. However, so many given facts make this
suggestion seem debatable.
My own personal conclusion from it all would be that Aishah
was born in 605-6, and that Ibn Sa’d had been cursed by a
glaring example of writer’s slip which went unnoticed and
got repeated ad infinitum by those who used him as a primary
source. The slip, I believe, was that he stated that Aishah
was born in the fourth year of the Prophethood, when what he
actually meant was that she was born four years before the
This makes all the points raised by the author in this
booklet completely sensible, and of prime importance to our
own generation of Islamic scholars.
Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
29 September 1996
01 | 02 |
This is not Zakir Naik's research