Mohammed and Aisha – Answering the Apologists


Apologists for the Islamic religion have created a set of arguments for a Western audience to try and deflect criticism of the marriage and its implications. In general it seems that there is no absolute consensus in the Islamic world about what age Aisha was when she “married” Mohammed, but if anything most Sunni Muslims in the world seem to take the statements in the 6 main hadiths literally when they are actually aware of them. Discovering what the Shia texts say is more difficult, but as I mentioned in the previous post, Islamic authorities in Iran have argued that current age of marriage restrictions are un-Islamic, so it seems the Shia take a similar view. To summarize here are some of the main arguments/claims that apologists usually resort to:

  • Aisha wasn’t really 9 when Mohammed consummated the marriage with her. This argument ignores the rather obvious fact that of the 6 most important hadiths in Sunni Islam 3 of them state she was 9 (or 10) at the time in multiple places in those hadiths. None of these 6 hadiths contradict these statements. A religion is defined by its core religious texts, not what may or may not really happened. This argument is based on the claim that there is contradictory evidence in other texts (such as biographies) that proves that Aisha was a lot older than 6 when she married Mohammed. One problem with this argument is that there is also the evidence of what the texts regarded as the most authoritative by Muslims explicitly say in those multiple places.  There will always therefore be room for doubt in the matter.
  • The marriage was a happy one. However, since Mohammed’s behaviour is an example for Muslims generally there is a big problem – you cannot know when a girl is six how the marriage will turn out. By effectively condoning such marriages, Islam opens the door for very unhappy marriages and much worse – marital rape.
  • The age of puberty varies over time, and perhaps Aisha had already reached puberty by the age of 9. The problem with this argument is that there is a long way from the first signs of puberty to the point where a woman becomes ready for childbirth. Although such variations no doubt exist it is a very long stretch to think that a girl of 9 was ready for childbirth. Worse there seems to be a suggestion in the Koran that a girl who hasn’t yet reached puberty may still be ready for marriage (Koran 65:4). Furthermore many Muslims in the Islamic world do not take such variations into account when deciding if child marriage is moral or not.
  • The marriage was acceptable according to the norms of the 7th century society Mohammed belonged to. Once again, the problem with this argument is that Mohammed’s life is supposed to be an “excellent” or “beautiful” example for Muslims. There is no suggestion made that this “excellent” example only applied to people living in 7th century Arabia. If his example was only applicable in those times then what is the point of following the Sunnah now, in the 21st century?
  • The medieval Kings and Queens argument – that European Kings and queens in the middle ages were just as bad because they also sometimes married children. The problem with this argument is that nobody in the modern West regards those Kings and Queens lives as “excellent” or “beautiful” examples to follow, quite the reverse in many cases.
  • That there is a contradictory statement in the Koran that says that marriage should only occur “between two consenting adults”. In the examples I look at the apologists mysteriously fail to say which statement/verse they are referring to. I think this idea *may* be derived from Koran 4:6 and/or 4:19. 4:6 seems to specifically refer to Orphans (it may be directed mainly at male orphans) and it seems to be mostly about when to release their possessions to them more than marriage. 4:19 seems to be specifically about the wives of deceased relatives (see the Pickthall translation which refers to your deceased kinsmen) who would be unlikely to be particularly young in any case. It also, again, conveniently overlooks 65:4.
  • That the hadiths are unreliable and only the Koran should be viewed as authoritative. This is really a branch of Islam called Quranism. This still leaves the problem of Koran 65:4. The exact number of people who follow this branch of Islam is not known but it is likely to be very small, so the impact of this approach is probably minimal in the Islamic world. Sunni Muslims by comparison make up about 80% of the world’s Muslims.
  • That the Old Testament also condones similarly immoral marriages such as child marriages and forced marriages. This argument is ridiculous for one thing because if Christianity really was also as bad, then that would not make Islam any less bad. Also since Jesus’s message is really the most important message of Christianity it generally overrides the Old Testament barbarity and Jesus did not in any way condone such behaviour. Jesus did not himself marry any children (or anybody) according to the New Testament.
  • That Mohammed’s life was the most perfect example and therefore he could not have done anything as bad as marrying a six-year old girl. The point of religions is usually that they give moral guidance, but this argument seems to work backwards – making a moral judgement about a behaviour first and then deciding that a religion cannot possibly be condoning that behaviour because the behaviour is immoral.



(Note for those not familiar with Mehdi Hasan he is a familiar face on UK political tv shows such as BBC Question Time, he is also a UK political editor for the Huffington Post which is a high profile political website although the UK branch is not so high profile.)

Mehdi Hasan condemns the practice of child marriage here:

Unfortunately he also says in this article that child marriage is not Islamic, quote:

Prophet Muhammad did not, as is often claimed, marry a child bride named Aisha.

Then he says:

Yes, I’ll concede that there is a saying in Sahih Bukhari, one of the six canonical Hadith collections of Sunni Islam, attributed to Aisha herself, which suggests she was six years old when she was married to Muhammad and nine when the marriage was consummated.

– overlooking the fact that it isn’t just stated in one hadith, but in multiple places in 3 of the most important Sunni hadiths. It also overlooks this:

Sahih Muslim hadith 8 3311

Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah’s Apostle (May peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.’

There are other references to Aisha playing with dolls, but in this reference there is a mention both of the dolls and of the marriage age at the same time. Some apologists have attempted to claim that references to dolls come from another time in her life but in this reference it is clear that she was still playing with dolls at the time of her marriage. It is not really normal for a girl of sound mind to be playing with dolls when they have reached an adult age. It is very clear from the mentions of Aisha in general throughout her life that she was of sound mind.

Then he says:

there are plenty of Muslim historians who dispute this particular (Bukhari) Hadith and argue Aisha was in reality aged somewhere between 15 and 21.

There are indeed Muslim historians who have argued this but their arguments undermine the veracity of the core hadiths that most Sunni Muslims believe to be the most authoritative. (Others have discussed the subject of other “historical” accounts at much greater length – I have included some references at the end of this post).

More importantly it also remains inescapable that Islamic authorities in a number of Muslim majority countries TODAY take the view that current marriage age laws are un-Islamic. Mehdi focuses on Saudi Arabia in his article as if this problem is restricted to that country, but the references I gave in the previous post show clearly that Islamic authorities in a number of Islamic countries including Pakistan and Iran also take the view that restrictions on child marriage are un-Islamic. This flies in the face of his claim that:

the vast majority of classical scholars throughout Muslim history agreed on a minimum marriage age of 18

He also claims:

The Quran does not contain a specific legal age of marriage, but it does make clear that men and women must be both physically mature and of sound judgement in order to get married.

Unfortunately he doesn’t give the specific references in the Koran he is referring to. This may be a reference to the two statements in the Koran that I mentioned above 4:6 and 4:19, but we can’t be sure.  Again this claim ignores the problem of Koran 65:4, which he doesn’t mention at all.

A little credit is due to Mr. Hasan as he condemns child marriage himself directly, but unfortunately in his attempts to undermine valid criticism of his religion he is attempting to deflect attempts at a sensible debate of the subject. Islam condones child abuse through the “beautiful example” of Mohammed’s conduct, and through the Koran 65:4 verse. There is no escaping this fact. He is trapped in an immoral mental cage of his own making. It is time for Mehdi to renounce Islam. He already made the first realization. You don’t have to be a Muslim Mehdi, if you’re bothered by what it says about Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha in the Islamic texts you can just give it up.

This whole article was reprinted in the New Statesman:

Mehdi Hasan’s article criticized by another Muslim called Indigo Jo:

Mehdi Hasan’s Phoney Apologetics

Indigo Jo dismisses Hasan’s claims as “da’waganda” which he describes as

material promoting Islam but giving false information about it to make it palatable to a (usually) western reader.

Unfortunately he then goes on to say:

Muslims in the UK have really nothing to answer for in regard to this

which is not what the figures from the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit suggest (see previous post – link at the end of this article).


The well known Muslim convert writes at the Guardian:

She begins her article in attack mode, referring to:

the Islamophobic film Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked riots from Yemen to Libya.

Muslims will often use this kind of tactic – an appeal to the conscience of the reader with the use of emotive words such as “Islamophobe” and suggestions that Muslims are the victims of bigotry which provokes them to riot violently. Of course these riots are not even slightly relevant to a discussion of Aisha’s age of marriage as stated in Islamic texts, and of course they didn’t have to riot violently in any case. They could have simply argued calmly and rationally against the suggestions made in the film, if they really had good arguments to make that is.

She first attempts to use the “consenting adults” argument:

Qur’an states that marriage is void unless entered into by consenting adults, Aisha must have entered puberty early.

as usual not quoting the verses where this is supposedly stated.

She then attempts to use the “Medieval Kings and Queens” argument which is one of the weakest arguments of the lot. We don’t regard medieval kings and queens as paragons of virtue. Never have, never will.

She then attempts to use the “consenting adults” argument again, still not quoting the verses she is referring to:

What we do know is what the Qur’an says about marriage: that it is valid only between consenting adults, and that a woman has the right to choose her own spouse.

Note particularly the phrase – “the right to choose her spouse”, which is particularly laughable considering such verses in the Koran as 33:50 which states:

surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war

Really – “Allah has given to you as prisoners of war”? This is what you think qualifies as the “right to choose her spouse” Myriam? Perhaps as “good” Muslims are supposed to you now think that non-Muslims are not really human beings, that we are the “vilest of animals” (Koran 8:55)?  I feel sorry for you that you should now despise your former self so completely.

She then attempts to attack “Islamophobia” again with this statement:

The gulf between her true legacy and her depiction in Islamophobic materials is not merely historically inaccurate, it is an insult to the memory of a pioneering woman.

I have never read anything anywhere that insulted Aisha in any way in connection to this matter or any other. If Aisha was really married to Mohammed at the age of 6 then she clearly didn’t have any choice in the matter, it does not “insult her memory” to talk about this. This is simply another attempt at deflecting criticism of Islam.


Another attempt from the Huffington Post (note that Myriam Cerrah-Francois has also written at the Huffington Post):

Again we have an apologist in attack mode here with this little rant:

There are really only three reasons to insist — as so many do — that Aisha was only 9 years old when Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) married her: Either you are such a crazy Islamophile that you are willing to go to your grave insisting Muhammad could do whatever he wanted, or you are such a crazy Islamophobe that you want to insist he did, or you are such a weirdly religious sex-crazed pervert that you hope accusing him makes it OK for you to do it too.

There is absolutely no other reason to either make or repeat that disgusting claim.

That would be “absolutely no other reason” except for the fact that Bukhari and 2 other of the most respected Islamic hadiths SAY SO.

I won’t go into this one any further, it is already expertly debunked here:

(Note particularly the answer to the comment about the phrase “Lam Yahidna” in the 65:4 verse and how Liepert’s argument about this phrase is contradicted by every single one of the commonly regarded translations.)


This includes a misquote of Koran 4:19 which is only about women of deceased relatives:

It also makes a lot of the fact that 65:4 doesn’t include the word “yet”, but “those who have not menstruated” could easily mean those who have not menstruated yet.  As usual where there are two possible interpretations the apologists seize on the one that suits their view.  The fact that there is vagueness leading to confusion is a problem in its own right.  However I also found a translation where this is spelled out very clearly:


And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ‘Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise, except in case of death]. And for those who are pregnant (whether they are divorced or their husbands are dead), their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is until they deliver (their burdens), and whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him.

This next article from Australia seems to rely on the debunked Dr. Liepert’s arguments as its source:



Mohammed and Aisha – Why It Matters



11 thoughts on “Mohammed and Aisha – Answering the Apologists

  1. Hi there. A couple of points:

    1) is there an assumption you’re making that though she was nine, she was definitely – beyond any doubt – not of ‘child-bearing’ age? ANSWER: is it possible for at least one woman in this world to be of ‘child-bearing’ age at nine? Yes.

    2) Given the evidence that the Prophet was generally a moral man (conceded by many well-read critics), is it plausible that – because of this evidence that demonstrates him to be against racism, against injustice, etc – that it is plausible that we begin with ‘the benefit of the doubt’ approach, rather than the ‘assume the worst’ approach? ANSWER: It is plausible, it is possible and – I’d suggest – it is actual. Please be balanced in your reading of him.


    Peace be with you.


    • I fear that the gulf between our beliefs about what is moral and what is not are too great for a discussion to be worthwhile. You also have not read this post (and the preceding post) very carefully. However as it is the first time you commented here I will try to answer your points.

      1) I did not make that assumption if you take the trouble to read the post carefully. I think its extremely unlikely that a girl of that age would have reached child bearing age, but I do not deny the possibility – in fact there are apparently cases of even younger girls giving birth:

      These are very rare cases however, so yes its a long stretch as I said, and more importantly such births when they do occur have high risks associated:

      Childbirth is more likely to be difficult and dangerous for an adolescent than for an adult. Babies born to very young mothers are much more likely to die in the first year of life. Young adolescents do not yet have a fully developed pelvis. Pregnancy for them can result in serious consequences, such as eclampsia, premature labour, prolonged labour, obstructed labour, fistula, anaemia (thin blood) or infant and/or maternal death.

      In short, child birth may be POSSIBLE at this sort of age, but its really not a good idea. Of course Aisha could have been some sort of miraculous exception, but the fact she was still playing with dolls at this age suggests she was really not mentally ready for child birth in any case. Furthermore since she was still playing with dolls at the time then she clearly was not ready to make a decision about who she married. This is not a good example to set to people in my view, but perhaps you think child marriages are OK.

      You seem to also have glossed over the problem with Koran 65:4, and the fact that many Islamic authorities in many countries think that child marriage generally is fine – regardless of whether the girl is a miraculous exception or not (see also preceding post). Please read the posts carefully if you want to comment in future.

      2) These are quite astonishing claims you make, but then again as I said, clearly we have very different ideas about what is moral and what is not. Take these cases of murders carried out on behalf of Mohammed for example (the information all comes from the Islamic texts):

      From my perspective these murders are not simply immoral, they are some of the worst kinds of crimes. If he had lived in the modern West he would have been facing a very long prison sentence for his part in these murders. Then there is the Banu Qurayza massacre, where all the men and even adolescent boys were beheaded, and the women and children enslaved. Is this really your idea of morality? Perhaps by “balanced” you mean we should pretend that murder and enslavement are not very bad? Or is this actually what you think?

      I would say peace be with you too but if this is your idea of peace then perhaps we would both be better off without it.


    • I am unaware of Royal child marriage in our medieval times. I do not recall a girl married at 6 or 9. I could be mistaken. Margaret Beaufort was 12 at the time of her marriage, during Wars of the Roses, but this was frowned upon by all and nobody expected the marriage to be consummated for some years. It was and she experienced a difficult pregnancy and birth being also slight of stature.
      If correct, I believe Henry V111’s youngest wife Catherine Howard was seventeen at time of marriage.

      However medieval, and long past, European Royals were never Muslims !


  2. I found your blog to be very helpful especially in the case of Myriam Francois-Cerrah’s article in the Guardian. It has been used recently in a debate so I had to answer to it.
    This is a bit long but I have had the following lies/falsehoods about Mohamed’s paedophilia from Muslims. You can see that that they are running scared on this issue. They must be either brainwashed for not seeing that these are lies/falsehoods or know they are lies/falsehoods and use them to throw non Muslims off the scent of Mohamed’s paedophilia. Whatever, they should be seriously doubting what is in their religion because of having to use these lies/falsehoods. I have been told that Mohamed marrying a 6 year old child was not a problem for Muslims until the 1970s when large numbers of Muslims started living in western countries. Here is the list:

    Aisha was 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 26. For some reason they miss out 21-25. They were madly in love – “awwww” isn’t that sweet? Aisha narrated the most beautiful Hadiths. Girls aged 6 then were like women aged 26 today. Aisha acted and looked like an average woman today. The hot arid climate in the desert made girls have their first period early. They made a mistake in the translation from Arabic to English; they missed out the 1 as in 16 and 19. Aisha lied about her age of marriage and consummation of marriage because she was a liar; Surah Tahrim confirms she was a liar. The Quran forbids the marriage of anyone who isn’t physically and mentally mature. Quran 4:6 states the age for marriage – this is basically a repeat of the previous sentence; it doesn’t give an age for marriage and purely concerns a guardian’s duty to orphans. The age for marriage is also not in Quran 24:59 and Quran 50:17. The Sahih Hadiths are not a reliable source; we only trust the Quran – that would make you a heretic. The Bukhari and Muslim Hadiths are big lies and were written by Jewish Persian Zoroastrians who are enemies of al Quran. It is very clear that marriage to prepubescent children isn’t derived from Islamic sources because the teachings of Islam explicitly forbid the practice of child marriage. Everyone else was doing it otherwise his enemies would have complained about it. Everyone in Europe did it in the Middle Ages. Jews can have sex with a little girl if she is 3 years of age. Shia Muslim books state that Aisha was between 18 and 19 years old when she was married to Mohamed. It’s Saudi Arabia that is to blame; they are really crazy and the only Muslim country that has child brides. Henry VIII in 1500 AD married a 6 year old (see Note 1). Saint Augustine, the Christian philosopher, married a 10 year old in 350 AD (see Note 2). King Richard II married a 7 year old (see Note 3). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Mary was 12 years old when she married a 99 year old Joseph (see Note 4). In the US in Delaware in 1880 the minimum age for marriage was 7 years old (see Note 5).
    The latest falsehood that is making the rounds with Muslims is reliant on an Urdu booklet called “Tehqiq e umar e Siddiqah e Ka’inat”. It tries to portray that Aisha was a lot older at the Battles of Badr and Uhud. The overwhelming vast majority of mainstream Islamic scholars have rejected the pamphlet saying it is heavily flawed. They say it does not replace the true record of Mohamed’s marriage to Aisha when she was 6 years old and Mohamed consummating the marriage when she was 9 years old.

    Note 1: Henry VIII had 6 wives and their ages when they married him were as follows: 24, 31, 28, 25, 22, and 31. Muslims can make one direct comparison with Mohamed’s behaviour and Henry VIII. Henry VIII had 2 of his wives beheaded!!

    Note 2: Although raised a Christian, Augustine left Christianity to follow the Manichaean religion. In 385, Augustine ended his relationship with his lover in order to prepare himself to marry a 10 year old heiress. At this stage he was still a member of the Manichaean religion and not a Christian. He had to wait for 2 years because the legal age of marriage even in the Manichaean religion was 12 years of age for girls. By the time he was able to marry her, he decided to become a celibate Christian priest so the marriage never took place.

    Note 3: Richard II was married to Isabelle of France when she was 7 years of age. It was a marriage “contract” and it is very unlikely that they lived in the same castle. In many of these marriages, they didn’t meet each other until they were a lot older and even then some of them refused the marriage. In Europe in the Middle Ages, royal courts often “contracted” marriages on behalf of young royal children to cement alliances to prevent wars. However, Christian Canon Law decreed that such marriages could not be consummated until both parties were at least 12 for a girl plus puberty and 14 for a boy. So it was only done in royal courts and not the general public. Also, girls had to be at least 12 yrs old plus puberty.

    Note 4: The page referenced by Muslims in the Catholic Encyclopaedia discusses “Apocryphal” documents. Apocryphal means of doubtful authenticity, unreliable, fictitious, false, made-up etc. When the Bible was compiled in the 4th century AD, these documents were excluded from the Bible and classed as “Apocryphal”. The document describing the ages of Mary (12) and Joseph (99) is one of these Apocryphal documents. Let’s apply some commonsense which is a scant rarity with Muslims. King Herod was after the new born baby Jesus so his parents escaped to Egypt. We have a 99/100 year old Joseph crossing the Middle East on foot, running for dear life with a teenage bride and an infant. The distance from Bethlehem to Egypt is at least 700 Kilometres!! When Jesus was12 years old, he was taken to the temple for dedication by his parents. Joseph, Mary and Jesus travelled from Nazareth to Jerusalem for this purpose so now we have a 112 year old Joseph walking about 150 Kilometres. Does any of this make sense?
    Muslims hate St Paul so they try to “wring out” something bad about St Paul from the Gospel of Barnabas which again is an Apocryphal document.

    Note 5: This is the only completely true statement in the whole list. The minimum age for marriage in Delaware in 1880 was 7 years of age. This anomaly was found by The US Women’s League when checking state laws across the US in the early 1920s to ensure that women were not being disadvantaged by state laws. They were horrified when they saw the law and it was struck off immediately. It was likely a mistake and I have never seen any evidence that marriages of girls that age took place in Delaware. I’m not aware of any Prophets in Delaware in 1880 either!!


    • Thanks cymru am byth, I am glad you found it useful.

      they missed out the 1 as in 16 and 19

      I always found that one of the more amusing claims, especially in light of the Sahih Muslim hadith 8 3311 (that I quoted) that says she took her dolls with her when she was taken to live with him:

      married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her

      The Sahih Hadiths are not a reliable source; we only trust the Quran – that would make you a heretic.

      Dr Bill Warner made a brilliant observation about this, that I quoted here:

      “Why the Hadith Can’t Be Ignored”

      If I may make a couple of suggestions in case you find yourself engaging in similar debates in the future. One of the tactics the apologists use is to drag debates out for long periods which leads to participants becoming tired and confused. Both these points should help to thwart these “red herring” tactics by bringing those parts of the debate to a quick conclusion.

      1. Don’t get drawn into the medieval kings and queens arguments, because doing so makes it seem as if you think there is some validity to the comparison. There is none, because as I argued here – nobody in the modern West regards those Kings and Queens lives as “excellent” or “beautiful” examples to follow, quite the reverse in many cases! They are not role models as Mohammed is to Muslims, particularly in the case of Henry VIII I think :-). All you need to do is repeat that point and refuse to be drawn any further on the comparisons.

      I suppose the case of a saint is a little more difficult (although its post-bible anyway), but if you are right about what you say on that then the argument doesn’t work in any case.

      2. I would also be inclined to advise against criticizing Aisha herself, even if such criticisms are valid. Those statements you make about her may be true, but what is more important surely is the fact that in any case she was 6 years old at the time of the marriage, and no-one could hold her accountable for her actions at that age.

      You might also like the preceding post:

      “Mohammed and Aisha – Why It Matters”


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