Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why Aisha is Important

“Dr. Al-Faruqi,” asked my I-refuse-to-be-a-dhimmi Jewish classmate one day when we were learning about the “ideal relationship” between the Prophet and his favorite wife, “Wasn’t Aisha only nine years old when Muhammad married her?”

It was the only time I ever saw my Professor look flustered. He cleared his throat a few times and then replied slowly, enunciating almost every word, “You must remember that in the Middle East women mature younger than in the West.”

Dr. Al-Faruqi knew Islam. Among his many academic achievements was the translation into English of Muhammad Haykal’s “The Life of Muhammad”. He was well aware of how old Aisha was when she left the swing at her mother’s home to go to the house of the Prophet where she and her friends played with dolls on his floor.

Thanks to the internet, you can now know almost as much about the child bride in a few minutes as Dr. Al-Faruqi learned in a lifetime. Just google “Aisha” or “Ayesha” and read the results. Information that was available about her in Arabic for over 1200 years is there for you to see. You can read the numerous hadith in the Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim collections that refer to her engagement at the age of six and the consummation of the marriage three years later. You can read the stories about her swing and her dolls that I noted above.

Not only Dr. Al-Faruqi, but many other Islamic scholars regularly acknowledge the young age of Aisha. So why do modern, young, Western-educated Muslim writers such as Reza Aslan and Ed Husayn tell us differently? In “No god but God” Reza states that she “did not consummate her marriage to Muhammad until reaching puberty”. He gave no evidence for that conclusion, probably realizing that few of his Western readers would even question the assertion. In a London debate with Aayan Hirsi Ali, Ed addressed the issue as follows, “Something that you and others talk about repeatedly is that the Prophet married a girl who was nine years old. He didn’t, and I hope that somehow tonight it’s rectified and it’s not repeated again. In the Battle of Badr, which took place after the Prophet and his Companions moved to Medina from Mecca, Aisha took part in that battle. Those who took part in the battle were all adults, post-pubescent. There’s a very strong narrative to say that this girl, who the Prophet allegedly married, was not nine, but may very well have been post-pubescent, perhaps 15 or 16.”

Follow Ed’s thinking:
1. Aisha was at the Battle of Badr that occurred within a year or two of her marriage.
2. Only people fifteen or older could take part in Muhammad’s battles.
3. Aisha therefore must have been a young adult.

That is the logic of, “All bananas are yellow, this is yellow, so this is a banana.” The more unpalatable probability for Western Muslims to accept is that Aisha was at Badr not as a teenage Ninja warrior but as a much younger nighttime companion to her husband. She herself gives evidence of this in Ibn Ishaq’s “The Life of the Prophet”. On p. 494 he records Aisha saying, “When the apostle intended to go on an expedition, he cast lots between his wives which of them should accompany him. He did this on the occasion of the raid on Beni Al-Mustaliq and the lot fell on me, so the apostle took me out.” Aisha then went on to explain that in these situations the wives would not eat much, so they would not be overly heavy and a burden to the men who had to lift their howdah onto the camel. The clear image given is not of her and Muhammad’s other wives accompanying him as warriors, but as companions.

It’s easy to understand why Reza and Ed deny the young age of Aisha. Not being Muslim, I’m not sure what they think of a 54-year old religious Prophet ejaculating into a nine-year old girl, but they certainly know that it makes many Western non-Muslims feel very uncomfortable


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