What Was Aisha's Real age when she married Prophet Muhammad?

                                             Ehteshaam Gulam

I believe this is a very important topic for both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. There is a myth going around Anti-Islamic circles that Prophet Muhammad (the founder of Islam) married a six-year-old girl, Aisha. She then moved into and consumated the marriage when she was only nine-years-old. Because of this false story, it  gives the false notion that Prophet Muhammad married a child or was a pedophiler.

Now it is true that Bukhari and Muslim (Two "reliable" historians on Prophet Muhammad) say that Aisha was nine years old when she moved into Prophet Muhammad's household. However did you know that both Bukhari and Muslim completely contradict each other on what age Aisha was when she married Prophet Muhammad? Bukhari says she was six as this hadith says:

Narrated Hisham's father:Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old. (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 58, Number 236)

While Muslim says she was seven when she married Prophet Muhammad:

'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old. (Muslim Book 008, Number 3310)

So my question is how old was Aisha when she married Prophet Muhammad? Was she six or seven? Obviously someone made a mistake here. Also notice who narrated both hadith. Hisham's father and Aisha. The problem with these two narrators is that Hisham had a bad memory and not everything he said was reliable and Aisha died 150 years before Bukhari was born. Therefore its hard for me at least to take these hadith seriously.  The purpose of this essay is to prove the common misconception of Aisha's age wrong, and to prove that Aisha was NOT a six year old girl when she married Prophet Muhamamd but was in fact much older. I'll prove this by historical facts, why we really can't trust all the hadith from Bukhari, Muslim, etc and why Muslim Scholars and Anti-Islamic writers keep getting her age wrong.

It is believed on the authority of some Hadith reports that the marriage ceremony (known as nikah, amounting to betrothal) of Aisha with  Prophet Muhammad took place when she was six years of age, and that she joined the  Prophet as his wife three years later at the age of nine. We quote below from two such reports in Bukhari.

  Narrated Hisham's father:Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old. (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 58, Number 236)

Narrated Aisha:The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). Unexpectedly Allah's Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234)

However these hadith are false. It really doesn't matter if Bukhari is conisdered to be the most "authentic" source on the life of Prophet Muhamamd. I don't believe everything Bukhari says in his collection about Prophet Muhammad is 100% true. Neither do many Western Scholars on Islam.  Bukhari by his own admission collected several false hadith. It is also claimed by Muslims that Bukhari literally memorized 200,0000 hadiths which is simply impossible. The way how Muslims should view the hadith is that although a lot of it is true-- there are some false statements in the hadith (which is not necessarily Bukhari's falut-- rather its the fault of the people who narrated these weak narrations).

Bukhari lived 200 years after Prophet Muhamamd. By his time a lot of false statements and stories were being said about Prophet Muhammad.  Therefore it is impossible that Bukhari got everything correct about Prophet Muhammad. If one of either Bukhari's hadith contradict other historical events in Islam or other some whate earlier credible Islamic historians (like Ibn Hisham or Al-Tarabi) then there's no need to accept what he says about Prophet Muhamamd. And thats the case with Aisha's age-- earlier Islamic historians indirectly say Aisha was much older than nine when she married Prophet Muhammad--- yet for some reason Bukhari decreases her age to six and nine during the consumation. Sunni Muslims might get mad at me for saying this about Bukhari-- but overpraising him is just non sense. Bukhari was a regular human. Human beings make mistakes. And Bukhari clearly made a historical mistake in presenting Aisha's age when she married Prophet Muhammad.

Maulana Muhammad Ali was the first person to challenge the misconception of Aisha's age. Ali proved that Aisha was around 19 years old when she married Prophet Muhammad and finally put an end to the misconception that she was 9 when she was married to Prophet Muhammad. In fact Ali did such a good job, I'll quote his research below from his site. Note that I am a Sunni (Orthodox) Muslim---- so  I believe in the orthodox interpretations of the Quran.

The reserach proves without a dobut that Aisha was around 14-15 when she was engaged to Prophet Muhammad... and not six or nine.

************ The following was taken from the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement website***************

Determination of the true age of Aisha

It appears that Maulana Muhammad Ali was the first Islamic scholar directly to challenge the notion that Aisha was aged six and nine, respectively, at the time of her nikah and consummation of marriage. This he did in, at least, the following writings: his English booklet Prophet of Islam, his larger English book Muhammad, the Prophet, and in the footnotes in his voluminous Urdu translation and commentary of Sahih Bukhari entitled Fadl-ul-Bari, these three writings being published in the 1920s and 1930s. In the booklet Prophet of Islam, which was later incorporated in 1948 as the first chapter of his book Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, he writes in a lengthy footnote as follows:

   “A great misconception prevails as to the age at which Aisha was taken in marriage by the Prophet. Ibn Sa‘d has stated in the Tabaqat that when Abu Bakr [father of Aisha] was approached on behalf of the Holy Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair, and that he would have to settle the matter first with him. This shows that Aisha must have been approaching majority at the time. Again, the Isaba, speaking of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, says that she was born five years before the Call and was about five years older than Aisha. This shows that Aisha must have been about ten years at the time of her betrothal to the Prophet, and not six years as she is generally supposed to be. This is further borne out by the fact that Aisha herself is reported to have stated that when the chapter [of the Holy Quran] entitled The Moon, the fifty-fourth chapter, was revealed, she was a girl playing about and remembered certain verses then revealed. Now the fifty-fourth chapter was undoubtedly revealed before the sixth year of the Call. All these considerations point to but one conclusion, viz., that Aisha could not have been less than ten years of age at the time of her nikah, which was virtually only a betrothal. And there is one report in the Tabaqat that Aisha was nine years of age at the time of nikah. Again it is a fact admitted on all hands that the nikah of Aisha took place in the tenth year of the Call in the month of Shawwal, while there is also preponderance of evidence as to the consummation of her marriage taking place in the second year of Hijra in the same month, which shows that full five years had elapsed between the nikah and the consummation. Hence there is not the least doubt that Aisha was at least nine or ten years of age at the time of betrothal, and fourteen or fifteen years at the time of marriage.” [4] (Bolding is mine.)

To facilitate understanding dates of these events, please note that it was in the tenth year of the Call, i.e. the tenth year after the Holy Prophet Muhammad received his calling from God to his mission of prophethood, that his wife Khadija passed away, and the approach was made to Abu Bakr for the hand of his daughter Aisha. The hijra or emigration of the Holy Prophet to Madina took place three years later, and Aisha came to the household of the Holy Prophet in the second year after hijra. So if Aisha was born in the year of the Call, she would be ten years old at the time of the nikah and fifteen years old at the time of the consummation of the marriage.

Later research

Research subsequent to the time of Maulana Muhammad Ali has shown that she was older than this. An excellent short work presenting such evidence is the Urdu pamphlet Rukhsati kai waqt Sayyida Aisha Siddiqa ki umar (‘The age of Lady Aisha at the time of the start of her married life’) by Abu Tahir Irfani.[4a] Points 1 to 3 below have been brought to light in this pamphlet.

1. The famous classical historian of Islam, Ibn Jarir Tabari, wrote in his ‘History’:

   “In the time before Islam, Abu Bakr married two women. The first was Fatila daughter of Abdul Uzza, from whom Abdullah and Asma were born. Then he married Umm Ruman, from whom Abdur Rahman and Aisha were born. These four were born before Islam.” [5]

Being born before Islam means being born before the Callng of Islam. This means that it is literally impossible for Aisha to have been six when she was engaged to Prophet Muhamamd. She had to have been around 10 or 11.

2. The compiler of the famous Hadith collection Mishkat al-Masabih, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, who died 700 years ago, has also written brief biographical notes on the narrators of Hadith reports. He writes under Asma,  the older daughter of Abu Bakr:

   “She was the sister of Aisha Siddiqa, wife of the Holy Prophet, and was ten years older than her. … In 73 A.H. … Asma died at the age of one hundred years.” [6]

This would make Asma 28 years of age in 1 A.H., the year of the Hijra, thus making Aisha 18 years old in 1 A.H. So Aisha would be 15 or 16 years old at the time of the consummation of her marriage, and 10 or 11 years old at the time of her nikah. It would place her year of birth at four or five years before the Call.

3. The same statement is made by the famous classical commentator of the Holy Quran, Ibn Kathir, in his book Al-bidayya wal-nihaya:

   “Asma died in 73 A.H. at the age of one hundred years. She was ten years older than her sister Aisha.” [7]

Apart from these three evidences, which are presented in the Urdu pamphlet referred to above, we also note that the birth of Aisha being a little before the Call is consistent with the opening words of a statement by her which is recorded four times in Bukhari. Those words are as follows:

   “Ever since I can remember (or understand things) my parents were following the religion of Islam.” [8]

This is tantamount to saying that she was born sometime before her parents accepted Islam but she can only remember them practising Islam. No doubt she and her parents knew well whether she was born before or after they accepted Islam, as their acceptance of Islam was such a landmark event in their life which took place just after the Holy Prophet received his mission from God. If she had been born after they accepted Islam it would make no sense for her to say that she always remembered them as following Islam. Only if she was born before they accepted Islam, would it make sense for her to say that she can only remember them being Muslims, as she was too young to remember things before their conversion. This is consistent with her being born before the Call, and being perhaps four or five years old at the time of the Call, which was also almost the time when her parents accepted Islam.
Two further evidences cited by Maulana Muhammad Ali

In the footnotes of his Urdu translation and commentary of Sahih Bukhari, entitled Fadl-ul-Bari, Maulana Muhammad Ali had pointed out reports of two events which show that Aisha could not have been born later than the year of the Call. These are as follows.

1. The above mentioned statement by Aisha in Bukhari, about her earliest memory of her parents being that they were followers of Islam, begins with the following words in its version in Bukhari’s Kitab-ul-Kafalat. We quote this from the English translation of Bukhari by M. Muhsin Khan:

   “Since I reached the age when I could remember things, I have seen my parents worshipping according to the right faith of Islam. Not a single day passed but Allah’s Apostle visited us both in the morning and in the evening. When the Muslims were persecuted, Abu Bakr set out for Ethiopia as an emigrant.” [9]

Commenting on this report, Maulana Muhammad Ali writes:

   “This report sheds some light on the question of the age of Aisha. … The mention of  the persecution of Muslims along with the emigration to Ethiopia clearly shows that this refers to the fifth or the sixth year of the Call. … At that time Aisha was of an age to discern things, and so her birth could not have been later than the first year of the Call.” [10]

Again, this would make her more than fourteen at the time of the consummation of her marriage.

2. There is a report in Sahih Bukhari as follows:

   “On the day (of the battle) of Uhud when (some) people retreated and left the Prophet, I saw Aisha daughter of Abu Bakr and Umm Sulaim, with their robes tucked up so that the bangles around their ankles were visible hurrying with their water skins (in another narration it is said, ‘carrying the water skins on their backs’). Then they would pour the water in the mouths of the people, and return to fill the water skins again and came back again to pour water in the mouths of the people.” [11]

Maulana Muhammad Ali writes in a footnote under this report:

   “It should also be noted that Aisha joined the Holy Prophet’s household only one year before the battle of Uhud. According to the common view she would be only ten years of age at this time, which is certainly not a suitable age for the work she did on this occasion. This also shows that she was not so young at this time.” [12]

If, as shown in the previous section above, Aisha was nineteen at the time of the consummation of her marriage, then she would be twenty years old at the time of the battle of Uhud. It may be added that on the earlier occasion of the battle of Badr when some Muslim youths tried, out of eagerness, to go along with the Muslim army to the field of battle, the Holy Prophet Muhammad sent them back on account of their young age (allowing only one such youngster, Umair ibn Abi Waqqas, to accompany his older brother the famous Companion Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas). It seems, therefore, highly unlikely that if Aisha was ten years old the Holy Prophet would have allowed her to accompany the army to the field of battle.

We conclude from all the evidence cited above that Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was nineteen years old when she joined the Holy Prophet as his wife in the year 2 A.H., the nikah or betrothal having taken place five years previously.

The Bible on marriage of young girls with much older men:

As it is Christian evangelists and other believers in the Bible who have been bitterly reviling the Holy Prophet Muhammad on account of his marriage with Aisha, we put to them the practices of the great patriarchs and prophets that are recorded in the Bible itself in this connection. The main accusations regarding the marriage of Aisha are that she was too young in age while the Holy Prophet was a much older man, being fifty years of age, and that consent to marriage was either not obtained from her or she was not capable of giving it.

In the book of Genesis in the Bible it is recorded about Abraham:

   “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. … So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.” (Genesis, chapter 16, verses 1–4, and 15–16, New International Version. Bolding is mine.)

Firstly, it is evident that as Abraham (who then had the name Abram) was 86 years old, Hagar must have been some fifty years younger than him, and probably even younger, to bear a child. Secondly, the Bible speaks of Sarai giving her maidservant Hagar to Abraham. So Hagar’s consent was not obtained but rather she was commanded by Sarai to go and become Abraham’s wife.

The first book of Kings in the Bible begins as follows:

   “When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his servants said to him, ‘Let us look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.’ Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no intimate relations with her.” (1 Kings, chapter 1, verses 1–4, New International Version. Bolding is mine.)

So there seems nothing wrong, according to the Bible, in procuring a young virgin, again apparently without her consent, whose duties include lying with the elderly king in bed. The intention was certainly for sexual enjoyment, otherwise there was no necessity of looking for a young, beautiful virgin. A much older woman, perhaps a widow, could have performed all these duties, including lying with the king to keep him warm.
Mary and Joseph

The most famous marriage in Christianity is no doubt that of Mary, Jesus’ mother, with Joseph. While the following details are not in the canonical Gospels in the Bible, it appears from other early Christian writings (known as apocryphal writings) that Mary was twelve years old when the temple elders decided to find a husband for her. They selected the husband by drawing lots, and Joseph whom they chose was an elderly man, being according to some accounts ninety years old. The husband was selected and Mary was handed over to him, and she played no part in his selection.

These accounts are summed up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition, which is available online, as follows:

   “It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph’s marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children … A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age, Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph …” [13] (Bolding is mine.)

Although these apocryphal accounts are not now accepted by many Christians, and the Catholic Encyclopedia says that they “are void of authority”, yet it also speaks of their influence as follows:

   “they nevertheless acquired in the course of ages some popularity; in them some ecclesiastical writers sought the answer to the well-known difficulty arising from the mention in the Gospel of the Lord’s brothers; from them also popular credulity has, contrary to all probability, as well as to the tradition witnessed by old works of art, retained the belief that St. Joseph was an old man at the time of marriage with the Mother of God.”

However, these accounts are accepted by the Eastern churches. The website of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy has an article on this subject entitled An Elderly Joseph which agrees with the presentation in the apocryphal writings “of Joseph as an elderly man, a widower with adult children”. It concludes:

   “The Christian East’s picture of Joseph as a courageous, faithful, God-centred elderly widower rings true.” [14]

We give below, as Appendix, a quotation from one of these apocryphal books, The Infancy Gospel of James, describing how Mary’s husband was selected.

While the Western Christian churches may not accept these accounts as authentic, the Eastern churches in Europe do accept that Mary was 12 years old and Joseph a widower 90 years old when they married. Moreover, there is nothing in the Gospels of the New Testament to contradict these accounts, and the Gospel stories are not at all inconsistent with these ages for Mary and Joseph.


[1]. Tirmidhi, Abwab-ul-Manaqib, i.e. Chapters on Excellences, under ‘Virtues of Aisha’.

[2]. Muslim Saints and Mystics, abridged English translation of Tadhkirat-ul-Auliya, by A.J. Arberry, p. 40.

[3]. Bukhari, Book of Qualities of the Ansar, chapter: ‘The Holy Prophet’s marriage with Aisha, and his coming to Madina and the consummation of marriage with her’. For Muhsin Khan’s translation, see this link and go down to reports listed as Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234 and 236. (Note these are the same Hadith I quoted above)

[4]. Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, 1992 U.S.A. edition, p. 30, note 40.

[4a]. This Urdu pamphlet was published by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam, Bombay, India. A partial English translation is available at this Lahore Ahmadiyya website.

[5]. Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 50.

[6]. Mishkat al-Masabih, Edition with Urdu translation published in Lahore, 1986, vol. 3, p. 300–301. (Go here to see an image of the full entry in Urdu.)

[7]. Vol. 8, p. 346.

[8]. Those four places in Sahih Bukhari are the following: Kitab-us-Salat, ch. ‘A mosque which is in the way but does not inconvenience people’; Kitab-ul-Kafalat, ch. ‘Abu Bakr under the protection of a non-Muslim in the time of the Holy Prophet and his pact with him’; Kitab Manaqib-ul-Ansar, ch. ‘Emigration of the Holy Prophet and his Companions to Madina’; and Kitab-ul-Adab, ch. ‘Should a person visit everyday, or morning and evening’.

[9]. Muhsin Khan’s English translation of Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 37, Number 494.

[10]. Fadl-ul-Bari, vol. 1, p. 501, footnote 1.

[11]. Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Jihad wal-Siyar, Chapter: ‘Women in war and their fighting alongside men’. See this link in Muhsin Khan’s translation and go down to report listed as Volume 4, Book 52, Number 131.

[12]. Fadl-ul-Bari, vol. 1, p. 651.

[13]. In article St. Joseph, under letter J. Here is a link to this article in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.

[14]. Here is a link to this article An Elderly Joseph.

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Aisha was NOT  a six to nine year old girl at the time of her marriage to Prophet Muhammad. This is a false claim constantly said by Anti-Islamic writers. The Bukhari Hadith which says so is false, because it contradicts earlier Islamic history and historians. We have a lot of good evidnece that Aisha was in fact maybe 15 or 16 when she moved into Prophet Muhammad's household-- that's what I believe.

Further Reading: