Saudi journalist Saleh Ibrahim Al-Turigee, who writes for the Arabic newspaper Okaz (his article is available here), is upset that the Saudi Ministry of Justice is unwilling to ban the marriage of young girls. A spokesman from the Ministry announced they were only prepared to study "stipulations and limitations on marriages to minors".
"What does the phrase stipulations and limitations mean?" Saleh asked indignantly. "Does it mean they will never forbid these marriage, but will simply lay down some regulations before signing the marriage certificate of a little girl to a man in his thirties, or sixties, or eighties?"
"Many argue," Saleh continued, "That the Apostle of Allah married Aisha when she was nine. OK, let's look at Islamic history and see how old Aisha really was when Muhammad married her."
Saleh then quoted a study he had apparently just come across that has been floating around the Internet for several years. Entitled Hazrat Aishah Saddiqah, the study uses flawed evidence to suggest Aisha was 19 or even 24 when Muhammad married here. Articles at numerous websites, including here, have painstakingly proven the study false.
Following Saleh's presentation of the evidence that he seems to believe has eluded Islam's greatest scholars for the past 1400 years, he continued, "We need to reexamine our history. Perhaps we will discover there were some who wanted to introduce harmful customs and traditions into religion. We also need to ask ourselves what it means to rape and molest a child. Does it not mean that a man in his 30's who engages in sex with a child, with or without the permission of her father, is raping and violating the rights of that child?"
I don't think Saleh understands the dilemma he faces. He acknowledges that sex with a young girl is rape. He realizes this was as true 1400 years ago as it is today. But he cannot - he is not allowed - to take the next logical step and consider the possibility that his Prophet was guilty of this crime, and this same Prophet was the one who introduced those "harmful customs and traditions into religion". All he can do is float a bogus theory that Aisha was older than nine and therefore the Prophet cannot be accused of child molestation and rape (about which I have written here).
I have a theory. It is that many thinking Muslims and Muslimahs - perhaps millions - are beginning to recognize the answer is not to be found in this or that theory justifying Muhammad's behavior, but instead in honestly confronting that behavior. They have been taught all their lives that the practical definition of being a Muslim is to defend Muhammad at any cost. For the first time in Islamic history, these intelligent young people might realize there is more to faith than defending their Prophet.