Q. I recently learnt that the Prophet of Islaam, Mu’hammad, married a nine-year old girl, exactly my age. I cannot possibly imagine a girl my age getting married. Isn’t this wrong?
A. Sarah, you are a smart girl, because when you don’t understand something, you ask.
My great grandmother, Sarah, was married when she was eleven years old. She was very young indeed. Wasn’t she?
I have to admit that when I first learnt this I was appalled, possibly because I was almost eleven when my grandmother told us. My grandmother explained to me that every young woman from her mother’s generation were married between the ages of eleven to twelve. This was during the later part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. A woman was considered a spinster then, my grandmother told me, if she reached the age of eighteen without getting married.
This really got me thinking about whether ‘Aa-ishah (the nine-year old wife of the Prophet) was an exception in the sense that she was betrothed (engaged) too young in comparison to her contemporary brides.
I found out, to my surprise, that many a woman was betrothed in Arabia between the ages of six to ten, before and after Islaam. This was common due to the fact that life expectancy of women at that time was relatively short, so they married as early as possible to have as many children as possible.
Three of the Prophet’s four daughters were betrothed before the age of ten, and this took place before Islaam. His fourth daughter was married at eighteen after Islaam. There are numerous records of other women who were also married very young, both before and after Islaam.
The bottom line at that time was that whenever a girl became pubescent, then she would be wedded. Historical records show that the first betrothal for young women in Arabia – at the advent of Islaam – took place when their age was six to ten years.
‘Aa-ishah was undoubtedly very young when she married the Prophet. She was not, however, an exception. That was the norm then.
Yours in humanity,
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