At Muslims and Muhammad - the Impossible Task, I posted,"It is impossible that a man in his mid-50's could engage in sexual intercourse with a nine-year-old child, possibly damaging her physically so that she never became pregnant, and be a prophet of God."
On reader responded as follows, "It seems that you have misinterpreted and have been misinformed a lot about the The Prophet Muhammed(pbuh). Regarding his marriage with Aisha, they were engaged when she was about 9-12 years old (Scholars opinion differ greatly) However the marriage was not consummated until she was of the age of puberty. I do not have to tell you that spanning different cultures and religions that the most appropriate age for marriage varies greatly as well. Also just as many Buddhist religions of peace may be interpreted as cults or Mormonism may seem as strict or controlling you have painted the picture that Islam is violent. I would imagine that if a person or religion were under attack that they would be able to defend themselves, you afford Islam and the Prophet Muhammad no such luxury to even be able to fight back when they are being attacked."
I've recently realized something interesting. I believe that modern Muslims writing to a Western audience deliberately misrepresent historical Islam to make it attractive to the Western mind. I would argue, as I did in "Why Aysha is Important", that Muslims in the Middle East have no cause not to believe, as they have believed for the past 14 centuries, that Aisha was telling the truth when she said in the Al-Bukhari Hadith Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64, "that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death)."
In Al-Bukhari 5:234 Aisha describes herself as a little 9-year old girl, playing on the swing in her yard, when Muhammad came for her on the wedding day. In Al-Bukhari8:151 she describes playing on the floor with her dolls and her friends in Muhammad's house after her marriage.
It is well-known that Aisha, at the age of six, had been given in engagement by her father Abu Bakr to a man named Jubayr, son of Abu Bakr's friend Mutim, before Muhammad asked for her hand. When Muhammad did so, Abu Bakr broke the engagement with Jubayr and promised Aisha to Abu Bakr's prophet Muhammad.
Fourteen centuries later, biographer Muhammad Haykal writes in "The Life of Muhammad" that Aisha was eleven whem Muhammad consumated his marriage with her. Tariq Ramadan writes in "In the Footsteps of the Prophet" that Aisha was engaged to Muhammad when she was 9, but the marriage took place "several years later". Numerous other modern writers argue that she "must have" been older than nine. There is no new evidence; it's just the realization that the older Aisha is, the easier it is to justify to a Western audience Muhammad's behavior with her.
In one sense, it doesn't matter whether Aisha was 9, 11, or even 13 when she married Muhammad. The broader and much more important question to me is, How did Muhammad honor her? How did he honor the innocence of her childhood by forcing her into a sexual relationship with him when he was at least 40 years older than she was? What freedom of choice did she really have, as a young girl living in a patriarchal society where her father would give her in engagement to first one man and then another? Muhammad always made it clear that obeying him was the same as obeying God and disobeying him was disobedience to God; what choice was left to Aisha when Muhammad told her father he wanted to marry her? How could Abu Bakr have refused the request of his Prophet? How did Muhammad honor Aisha by taking her as a wife soon after he had married another woman, Sawdah? How did he honor her by marrying numerous other women soon after her?
As a father myself, I cannot imagine giving any of my daughters to be the sexual partner of a man in his mid-50s whether they were 9 or 19. I do not accept the argument that since sexual and social mores in 8th century Arabia were different then they are today, the behavior of Muhammad was acceptable. If Muhammad were truly a prophet, he would have risen above those cultural norms. Muslims see him as the model for behavior for all time. I don't. I cannot believe that a man who would do what Muhammad did with Aisha can be a prophet of God.