With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful


Abridged translation from Islam Bahiri, Aisha’s marriage to the Prophet aged nine – a big mistake in the books of Hadith (in Arabic), Al-Yawm al-Sabi’, 15th July 2008. With additions from Salahi (2013).

Translation and editing by Usama Hasan


Aisha was about 18 years old when her marriage to the Prophet was consummated, and not nine.  The narrations of Bukhari and Muslim saying otherwise are dubious in their texts and chains of transmission.  They contradict the law (Sharia), the intellect, authentic hadiths, and the customs, habits and ethos of the age of Prophethood.  Furthermore, they are completely incongruous with the timeline of the Prophetic mission.

1   The hadith of Bukhari about the age of Aisha at marriage

Imam Bukhari included this hadith with five slightly-different chains of narration in his Sahih:

Aisha said: The Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, married me when I was six years old. We then came to Medina and I gave myself to him: I was nine years old then.

2         Timeline of the Prophetic Mission

The foundational sources of Islamic history and of the life of the Prophet overwhelmingly agree on the following timeline of the Prophetic mission:[1]

570-1 CE: Birth of the Prophet

610: Beginning of the Prophetic mission (aged 40)

623: Migration (Hijrah) to Medina, after 13 years of the mission in Mecca

632-3: Death of the Prophet in Medina, after 10 years of his mission there.

3         Historical critique of the narration of Bukhari

According to the narration of Bukhari, the Prophet married Aisha in 620 when she was six, and the marriage was consummated in 623 when she was nine. This would mean that she was born in 614, four years into the Prophet’s mission. This is a glaring error, as we shall now show.

3.1        Comparing Aisha’s age to that of her older sister Asma

The above historical sources are unanimous that Asma was 10 years older than Aisha, and that Asma was born 27 years before the Hijrah, i.e. in 596.


Asma was born in 596: she was 14 when the Prophetic mission began and 27 at the time of the Hijrah.

Aisha was born in 606: she was 4 when the Prophetic mission began and 17 at the time of the Hijrah. She was married at 14; the marriage was consummated when she was 17, or 18 if we allow for a few months after the Hijrah.

The historical sources are unanimous that Asma died soon after a famous historical incident, the death of her son Abdullah bin Zubayr at the hands of Hajjaj bin Yusuf in 73 H, when she was aged 100.

Thus, she was born in 596 and died c. 693-696.[2]

3.2        Tabari: all of Abu Bakr’s children were born before the Prophetic mission

The previous point is in agreement with Tabari’s statement that all of Abu Bakr’s children, including Asma and Aisha, were born before the Prophetic mission.

When the Prophetic mission began, Asma was 14 and Aisha was 4. This further confirms the weakness of Bukhari’s narration.

3.3        Comparing Aisha’s age to that of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter

Ibn Hajar, author of the premier commentary on Bukhari, mentions a narration in his Al-Isabah that Fatima was born in the year of the rebuilding of the Ka’bah, when the Prophet was 35 years old, and that she was 5 years older than Aisha.

According to this, Aisha would have been born around the time of the Prophetic mission. She would then have been 13 at the time of the Hijrah, and not 9 as the narration of Bukhari says.

This again illustrates that the narration of Bukhari is unreliable and suffers from what is known as idtirab (inconsistency) in Hadith terminology.

[NB: Ibn Hajar does not appear to have noticed this inconsistency, because in his same work Al-Isabah, he repeats that Aisha was born four years into the Prophet’s mission, even though other narrations, some of which he himself mentions, indicates that she was born several years before this. – U.H.]

3.4        Aisha’s age when she accepted Islam

Ibn Kathir mentions in Al-Bidayah wa l-Nihayah that “amongst the females who accepted Islam during the first three years of the Prophetic mission were Asma and Aisha. This was whilst the Prophet’s preaching was covert. Then, in the fourth year of his mission, God commanded him to announce his mission publicly.”

This again contradicts the original narration of Bukhari, since the latter implies that Aisha was born in the fourth year of the Prophetic mission.

However, according to the correct calculation, Aisha was born 4 years before the Prophetic mission began and so was 7 when she accepted Islam, being just about old enough to do so.

[Salahi (p. 204) further adds that Aisha is mentioned in Ibn Ishaq’s Sirah, the earliest book on the biography of the Prophet, amongst the first fifty people to accept Islam.  She is nineteenth on the list. There are no children on the list, although Ibn Ishaq mentions that she was young.  Salahi estimates that she must have been at least ten, making her 18 at the time of her marriage. – U.H.]

3.5        Aisha’s early memories of Islam

Imam Bukhari himself narrates in a chapter, “Abu Bakr’s neighbouring the Prophet” that Aisha said:

“My earliest memories are of my parents already practising Islam. The Prophet would visit us daily, morning and evening. When the Muslims were persecuted, Abu Bakr left, intending to migrate to Abyssinia.” [He was persuaded to return from the outskirts of Mecca. – U.H.]

The historical sources are unanimous that the first Muslim migration to Abyssinia was in Year 5 of the Prophetic mission. If Aisha was born in Year 4 of the Prophetic mission, there is no way she could have remembered her father heading towards Abyssinia. But the correct date for her birth is 4 years before the Prophetic mission: this is consistent with her remembering her father’s attempted journey, when she would have been around 9 years old.

3.6        The appropriate age of marriage

In his Musnad, section on Aisha, Imam Ahmad narrates that when the Prophet’s first wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid died, Khawlah bint Hakeem, wife of Uthman bin Maz’oon, came to the Prophet and suggested that he should remarry. When the Prophet asked to whom, she said,

“A virgin or a matron, as you wish.”

The Prophet replied, “A virgin.”

Khawlah then recommended Aisha.

This establishes that Aisha was ready for marriage at this time, and that the Prophet did not need to wait for a few years.

The Qur’an (Women, 4:6) confirms that the minimum age of marriage is the same as that for financial responsibility.

Therefore, there is no way that Aisha could have been only 6 years old at this time.

3.7        Aisha’s previous engagement

In his Musnad, Imam Ahmad also narrates from Khawlah bint Hakeem that Abu Bakr had already agreed with Mut’im bin Adi that Aisha would marry the latter’s son, Jubayr bin Mut’im.  Abu Bakr then called off this engagement so that she could marry the Prophet.

Now, there is no way that Abu Bakr would have engaged her to Jubayr after the beginning of the Prophet’s mission, because Mut’im and his family were polytheists; Jubayr even fought against the Muslims at the Battles of Badr and Uhud.  Thus, this engagement must have been when Jubayr and Aisha were both children, before the Prophet’s mission began.  This again confirms that Aisha could not have been born four years into the Prophet’s mission; in fact, she was born four years before it began, as we have established above.

3.8        Aisha remembering the revelation of a Qur’anic verse as a child

Imam Bukhari narrates that Aisha said: “I was a little girl playing when this verse was revealed to Muhammad: Nay, the Hour is their appointed time; the Hour is more calamitous and more bitter.[3]

Now, it is established that Surat al-Qamar was revealed c. 614 CE, around four years into the Prophet’s mission.  This again is consistent with the correct view that Aisha would have been around 8 years old at this time: this fits with her saying, “I was a little girl playing then.”

3.9        A virgin must not be married without her permission

Imam Bukhari also narrates from the Prophet that he said, “A virgin must not be married without her permission.” 

It is impossible that the Prophet could say such a thing and do the opposite, for if the original hadith is to be believed, Aisha was six years old and playing with her friends and dolls when she got married – there is no mention of her permission being asked.  And even if it had been, it would have no Sharia acceptability, since it was before her age of responsibility, puberty and intellectual maturity.

3.10    Aisha nurses the wounded at the Battle of Uhud

[Salahi reminds us that Imam Bukhari also quotes that Aisha, along with Umm Salamah, nursed the Muslim soldiers at the Battle of Uhud, which took place 18 months after her marriage.[4]  Had she been nine upon marriage, she would have been only eleven at this time.  The Prophet did not allow anyone under 15 to join the army as a soldier – would he have allowed a girl of 11 to come along?  (Abdullah bin Umar turned 15 between the Battles of Badr and Uhud: he was not allowed to participate at Badr, but was allowed at Uhud.)]

4         Criticism of the chain of transmission

The original hadith has five routes of narration in Sahih Al-Bukhari.

4.1        The narrations in Bukhari are all suspect, because they are those of Hisham bin ‘Urwah to the people of Iraq

The five different chains of transmission (isnad) given by Imam Bukhari all have two narrators between him and Hisham bin ‘Urwah, who narrates from his father ‘Urwah from Aisha.  Thus, the hadith is singly-narrated by Hisham, Urwah and Aisha.  The two narrators between Bukhari and Hisham in each case are all people of Iraq:

  • Farwah bin Abi l-Mighra’ and Ali bin Mishar
  • ‘Ubayd bin Isma’il and Abu Usamah
  • Mu’alla bin Asad and Wuhayb
  • Muhammad bin Yusuf and Sufyan [bin ‘Uyaynah]
  • Qabisah bin ‘Uqbah and Sufyan [bin ‘Uyaynah]

Hisham appears to be the weak link in this chain.  Ibn Hajar narrates in his Hady al-Sari as well as in his Tahdhib that Imam Malik did not approve of Hisham’s narrations to the people of Iraq. Imam Malik said that Hisham went to Kufa in Iraq three times to narrate hadiths: the first time, he said: “My father narrated to me that he heard Aisha …” The second time, he said: “My father informed me on the authority of Aisha …”  The third time, he said: “My father, on the authority of Aisha …”

In other words, Imam Malik did not accept Hisham’s narrations in Iraq, since he went there to narrate in his old age when his memory had faltered somewhat, and he practised tadlis, i.e. obscuring or omitting the mode of transmission, making the narration suspect. 

4.2        Hisham never narrated these hadiths in Medina: the Muwatta omits them completely

Furthermore, Imam Malik learnt hadiths directly from Hisham in Medina for many years, but the age of Aisha at marriage is not mentioned in the Muwatta at all.  Thus, Hisham never mentioned this narration at all in Medina, but only in Iraq where his narrations are suspect anyway.  These considerations strengthen the earlier historical ones, confirming that the hadith about the age of Aisha is seriously flawed.

5         Conclusion

Islam Bahiri concludes:

Aisha was about 18 years old when her marriage to the Prophet was consummated, and not nine.  The narrations of Bukhari and Muslim saying otherwise are textually corrupt and dubious in their chains of transmission.  They contradict the law (Sharia), the intellect, authentic hadiths, and the customs, habits and ethos of the age of Prophethood.  Furthermore, they are completely incongruous with the timeline of the Prophetic mission.

Thus, we are not obliged to revere Bukhari and Muslim more than the Prophet, peace be upon him.  We have the right to reject what they accepted and accept what they rejected.  Islam is neither confined to the scholars of Hadith and Fiqh, nor to their time.  Thus, we are able to critique, correct and evaluate the books of Hadith, Fiqh, Sirah and Tafsir.  We are able to reject the numerous mistakes and fabrications found in them. In the end, these books are a purely human heritage: we are not obliged, and in fact it does not befit us, to imbue them with sacredness or divinity.  We are equal human beings to the people of our history.

6         References

  1. Islam Bahiri, Aisha’s marriage to the Prophet aged nine – a big mistake (or lie) in the books of Hadith (in Arabic), Al-Yawm al-Sabi’, 15th July 2008. Reproduced in Jamal al-Banna, Tajrid al-Bukhari wa Muslim min al-ahadith allati la tulzim [Expunging Bukhari and Muslim of non-binding hadiths], Da’wah al-Ihya’ al-Islamiyyah, Cairo, Dhu l-Qi’dah 1429 / November 2008.

  2. Adil Salahi, Muhammad – His Character and Conduct, Islamic Foundation, Markfield, 2013, pp. 203-5

[1] Al Kamil fi l-Tarikh by Ibn al-Athir; Tarikh Dimashq by Ibn ‘Asakir; Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ by Dhahabi; Tarikh by Tabari; Al-Bidayah wa l-Nihayah by Ibn Kathir; Tarikh Baghdad by Khatib Baghdadi; Wafayat al-A’yan by Ibn Khillakan and many others.

[2] The three years’ uncertainty in her date of death is simply due to uncertainty between the pre-Islamic lunisolar Arabian calendar and the Islamic lunar calendar: over a century, the two differ by three years. – U.H.

[3] Qur’an, Surat al-Qamar, The Moon, 54:46

[4] Bukhari, Sahih, Kitab al-Jihad wa l-Siyar (Book of War and Military Expeditions), Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1423/2002, p. 530, no. 2880.

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