The man Muslims regard as their prophet (named Mohammed) had many wives, the youngest of them was called Aisha. This is a well trodden subject, but I suspect that many of my readers may be ignorant to some degree especially of the impact that it has in Islamic societies and even increasingly in our own Western countries. The human race is going backwards despite all the huge advances that were made in thought, science, medicine and technology in the last few centuries. Even if you are aware of the marriage already, please take the time to read to the end of this post as I am pretty sure you will find some information that is new to you here.
WHAT DO THE ISLAMIC TEXTS SAY ABOUT THE MARRIAGE?
There are quite a few references in the hadiths to Aisha’s age when she married Mohammed:
Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:58:234, 5:58:236, 7:62:64, 7:62:65, 7:62:88, Sahih Muslim, 8:3309, 8:3310, 8:3311, 41:4915, Sunan Abu Dawood, 41:4917
They all say the same thing – essentially that Mohammed married Aisha when he was 53 and she was 6. They also say that he consummated the relationship when she was only 9. That is what the texts say. Here is a page showing all these passages from the texts:
Note this one particularly:
The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with ‘Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).
The language is absolutely clear – not only did he marry Aisha when she was 6, he also consummated the marriage when she was only 9. What is more the Koran also says this:
Yusuf Ali: Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses (it is the same): for those who carry (life within their wombs), their period is until they deliver their burdens: and for those who fear Allah, He will make their path easy.
In the modern world we would regard this marriage as child abuse. In fact in most countries in the world (including many Muslim majority countries), such a “marriage” is illegal under the state law. The Koran states that Mohammed’s life is a “beautiful pattern” or an “excellent example” for Muslims to follow:
YUSUFALI: Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.
SHAKIR: Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much.
WHY WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT THIS?
All criticism of the behaviour of Mohammed is strictly prohibited not just by Islamic tradition, but by the very core religious texts and sayings of Mohammed himself, for example:
Quran (33:57) – “Lo! those who malign Allah and His messenger, Allah has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter, and has prepared for them the doom of the disdained”
Quran (33:61) – [continues from above] “Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter.”
So joining all the dots here we have the supposedly most perfect example of a life including child abuse and nobody is allowed to criticize the behaviour. It is difficult to criticize such a marriage occurring now because to do so would be implicitly to criticize Mohammed. In Pakistan currently (in 2016) the punishment for blasphemy is death by hanging.
WHAT IS BAD ABOUT SUCH A MARRIAGE?
At the age of 6 a girl cannot properly even understand what marriage is, and so a child marriage is also a FORCED marriage. A forced marriage may end up being a happy marriage in time, but it could just as easily become an unhappy marriage. Such an unhappy marriage can lead to MARITAL RAPE and WIFE BEATING which is also condoned by the Koran (4:34). If the husband decides to consummate the marriage before the girl is old enough then he is committing the crime of CHILD RAPE.
REAL WORLD IMPACT ON MUSLIM BEHAVIOUR
The fact that Mohammed married a girl so young has a real impact on attitudes in the Muslim world and even in Muslim populations in non-Muslim majority countries.
In Iran childhood officially ends at age 9 for girls, 16 for boys. Why such a difference? Well yes, you guessed it, Mohammed consummated the marriage to Aisha at 9, so it must mean that girls are grown up at age 9, otherwise we are criticizing the one who cannot be criticized.
The official age of consent for “women” may be much higher at 13, but with the permission of a court girls much younger can be married:
As many as 42,000 children aged between 10 and 14 were married in 2010, according to the Iranian news website Tabnak. At least 75 children under the age of 10 were wed in Tehran alone.
An attempt has also been made in parliament to lower the age of consent to 9 (from the already low current age of 13):
Then there are the harrowing individual stories such as this one:
In Pakistan the age of consent is 16, there have even been attempts to raise the age to 18. However there has also been pressure to reduce the age of consent as well, for example:
In a recent series of rulings, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body which gives Islamic legal advice to the Pakistani Government, declared that Pakistani laws prohibiting child marriage are un-Islamic. The rulings were widely criticised.
A lot of child marriages take place in any case.
Unfortunately there are no reliable statistics as to how widespread the practice is in Pakistan:
Lets be clear there is a problem with child marriage in India generally (not just among Muslims) if these figures are correct:
They show an actually slightly higher percentage of child marriage among Hindus than Muslims in India.
In Saudi Arabia a Grand Mufti said there was nothing wrong with girls marrying under the age of 15:
OTHER ISLAMIC COUNTRIES
We could go on but I think the above are enough examples to illustrate the point – that religious authorities in Islamic countries tend to press for lowering the age of consent because they are aware of the age of Aisha when Mohammed married her.
In the UK there is a problem with child marriage, not necessarily solely in the Muslim population, but since the Muslim population is already large (and growing rapidly) compared to other religious minorities it is sensible to assume that it is largest in that population as a percentage of the UK population overall.
From a UK government report into forced marriage in the UK (27% of their cases involve victims below 18 years of age):
The five highest volume countries in 2015 were
Pakistan – 539 cases (44%)
Bangladesh – 89 cases (7%)
India – 75 cases (6%)
Somalia – 34 cases(3%)
Afghanistan – 21 cases (2%)
In 2015, 175 (14%) of the cases handled by the FMU had no overseas element, with the forced marriage activity taking place entirely within the UK.
Note that obviously these statistics may be the tip of a much larger iceberg as they are just the numbers of forced marriages reported to the Forced Marriage Unit.
An ITV documentary appeared to show a willingness to perform child marriage ceremonies among significant numbers (a third of those approached) of imams in the UK:
The majority refused to entertain the idea but from a number the reasoning was that it was against UK law rather than that it was immoral. Of course an imam is in dangerous territory if he challenges the truth of religious texts.
Then there are the harrowing individual stories:
The pressure to reduce the age of consent never goes away in Muslim societies, usually coming from religious leaders and organisations. The problem is also growing in the West thanks to the politically “correct” (read incorrect) policy of turning a blind eye to ethnic minority cultural norms that break UK laws.