Muhammad’s child bride

Aisha bint Abu Bakr (died 678) (Arabic عائشة Transliteration: ʿāʾisha, [ʕaːʔɪʃæh] “she who lives”; also transcribed as A’ishah, Ayesha, ‘A’isha, Aishah, or ‘Aisha) was the last wife of Muhammad. She has been repeatedly called and praised as the “Mother of the Believers” (Arabic: أمّ المؤمنين umm-al-mu’minīn), and has been given Qur’anic justification as being equal to Mary or other special women (see: Qur’an 33.6). The child adopted Islam at the instance of her father before moving to Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in 615 C.E. Today it is the common belief of many faithful Muslims that Aisha narrated 2210 hadiths out of which 316 hadiths are mentioned in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim although there is no historical proof of validity of this hagiographic claim.

Originally betrothed to Jubayr ibn Mut’im, a Muslim whose father, though pagan, was friendly to the Muslims, ‘Aisha caught Muhammad’s eye and lust when she was between the age of six and seven (While this age is shocking for many people in the west, it was considered acceptable among Bedouins, and later among Muslims, given the brevity of life, and that men could have multiple wives. See: Colin Turner, Islam: The Basics, Routledge Press, p.34-35). Whether or not it was an erotic lust or the lust for further victories and lands, as Muhammad needed to strengthen his ties with Abu Bakr and win over the hold-out Arabic nations. (see: D. A. Spellberg, Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: the Legacy of Aisha bint Abi Bakr, Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 40) The child’s age was of paramount importance, for at age 6 to 7 most girls were still virgins, and Muhammad need to marry a virgin to show to the Arab world that he was the chosen one of the tribal god Allah–who in time, much like Yahweh, would become the supreme god of the Arabs, and ultimately, like Jesus, the only god or son of god–common in all theological myths.

According to Muslim apologists, the child bride, however, did not consummate the marriage until she was about nine years of age–still young even by the standards of the day. But it was necessary to further cement the fiction that Muhammad  (of whom there is no contemporary historical record) was the elect one of god. Following the initial intercourse, stories grew into legends which took on the substance of fact, similar with the legends of saints in the Roman Catholic church, with Muhammad almost becoming a born-again St. George. It was claimed that the warrior apostle/prophet, like Pope Julius II, took up sword to vanquish god’s foes and his own enemies who had betrayed their god by not accepting the prophet of that god. Muhammad used the curtain from his child bride’s tent as his battle standard, bringing medieval romance into a tale of blood and cruelty. (see: Norman Mosley Penzer, The Harem : an account of the institution as it existed in the palace of the Turkish sultans, with a history of the Grand Seraglio from its foundation to the present time (Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott, n.d).

‘Aisha was accused, several times, of adultery–with males her own age. But Muhammad announced that he had received a revelation from God confirming Aisha’s innocence and directing that charges of adultery be supported by four eyewitnesses–none that dared to come forward for fear of decapitation. Those who had brought the initial accusations against ‘Aisha, Muhammad ordered each to receive forty lashes, even when each testified to the veracity of the details in private sessions. Muhammad, like most Christians would not accept any claim other than what he wanted to hear. His bitterness and cold-bloodedness were legendary and most were surprised that the accusers were not executed immediately.

It must be remembered that ‘Aisha was considered specially chosen by Allah to be Muhammad’s wife. When Muhammad died, being far older than she, ‘Aisha was not allowed to remarry as a passage in the Qur’an forbids any Muslim to marry a widow of Muhammad:

Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy God’s Apostle, or that ye should marry his widows after him at any time. Truly such a thing is in God’s sight an enormity.
—Qur’an 33:53

Instead of remarrying and finding happiness, ‘Aisha would listen to tales of her life being told as if they were true. The problem with this, as it is with Muhammad and the Qur’an is that none are reported during or immediately after the death of the prophet, and do not appear for at least two hundred years in script. Since history is written by the victors and not by the vanquished, the history of the child bride was quickly sanitized. Arab historians claim that ‘Aisha was a learned woman, who tirelessly recounted stories from the life of Muhammad and explained Muslim history and traditions–but that is in keeping with the genre of the literature of the day where the ruler was hailed as a god or as a high priest or prophet of a god–quite common in Egyptian lore.

‘Aisha is considered to be one of the foremost scholars of Islam’s early age with some Moslem historians accrediting up to one-quarter of the Islamic Sharia (Islamic religious law), based on the collection of hadiths that she was accredited as creating. There is no substance in real history to prove this claim.

What is known from the scrolls that have survived is that ‘Aisha was not a happy child nor a contented wife. She has been accused of stirring up trouble in Muhammad family and among his relatives. She took an active role in provoking the rebellious people to kill Uthman Ibn Affan in 644 CE. There are tales that she wanted the Caliphate for herself, but Ali took it at the urging of the rebels who did not feel it right to be led or governed by a woman. Aisha raised an army which confronted Ali’s army outside the city of Basra directing her forces from a howdah on the back of a camel–and was soundly defeated for few would listen to the call of a woman–much as the hierarchy of the French church could tolerate Jean d’Arc, or the earlier crusaders ride into battle for the Holy Land led by a bare breasted Eleanor of Aquitaine. Ali sent her back to Medina under armed escort. How much is true is difficult to ascertain. But it did cost women any significant rights in being treated equal with men. It remains so to this day–as is the goal of all evangelical fundamentalists of all religions of the world.

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