The popularly believed notion is that Hazrat Aisha was 6 years old when her Nikah was performed in Mekkah; and 9 years old when she moved in to live with the Prophet (PBUH).
However, an in-depth study of historical facts and authentic ahadith actually reveals that this information can not be true, and Hazrat Aisha was atleast 16-19 years old when she was married to the Prophet (PBUH).
We will prove this fact in two parts:
- Invalidating the authenticity of the narration(s) that state Hazrat Aisha's age to be 9 years at the time of her marriage.
- Proving the actual age of 16-19 years via several ahadith from the AUTHENTIC books on ahadith
First, we must consider that there is ONLY ONE HADITH reported by Hisham bin Urwah that states Hazrat Aisha's age to be 9 when she moved in. (Note: Although this information is widely quoted and found in many Hadith and history books, it must be noted that this information has come from a single person, i.e. Hisham bin Urwah, who is the last narrator in this Hadith's chain of narrators, on the authority of his father. Thus, this Hadith is primarily a single Hadith. In general, a Hadith has more credibility if it is narrated by more people independently from diverse chains of narrators. In this case, there is basically only one source.)
Hashim bin Urwah lived for 71 years. In the first part of his life, he lived in Madina. Following 131 AH, he moved to Iraq. Hashim had a huge number of students at Madina, and NONE of them - not even the most famous ones like Malik ibn Anas - reported to have learnt any such hadith from him. Practically, all the narrators of this Hadith were Iraqis.
- It is reported that Hisham bin Urwah's memory suffered in his later years in Iraq - to the extent that some of the traditions reported from Hisham bin Urwah could not be trusted for authenticity. (Mizanu'l-ai`tidal, by Al-Zahbi , Arabic, a book on the life sketches of the narrators of the Hadith, Al-Maktabatu'l-athriyyah, Sheikhupura, Pakistan, Vol 4, pg 301).
- Yaqub ibn Shaibah is reported to have said, "narratives reported by Hisham are reliable EXCEPT those that are reported through the people of Iraq".
- Even Malik ibn Anas, the most popular student of Hisham, discredited all narratives of Hisham that were reported through people of Iraq. (Tehzibu'l-tehzib, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Arabic, Dar Ihya al-turath al-Islami, one of the most well known books on the life and reliability of the narrators of the traditions of the Prophet (PbuH), vol 11, pg 48 - 51).
There are ahadith from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, and also from earlier Islamic histories, that suggest that Hazrat Aisha must have been older than nine when married. We list some of them below:
- According to ahadith in Bukhari and Muslim, Hazrat Aisha is said to have joined the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the raid that culminated in the Battle of Badr, in 624 CE. However, because no one below the age of fifteen was allowed to accompany raiding parties, Hazrat Aisha should have been at least fifteen in 624 CE and thus at least thirteen when she was married following the Hijra in 622 CE.
- The earliest surviving biography of Hazrat Muhammad PBUH (Ibn Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rashul Allah), records Hazrat Aisha as having converted to Islam before Hazrat Umar ibn al-Khattab, during the first few years of Islam around 610 CE. In order to accept Islam she must have been walking and talking, hence at least three years of age, which would make her at least fifteen in 622 CE.
- According to many Ahadith in Bukhari, it is believed Hazrat Aisha participated in the battle of Badr and Uhud. Also in Bukhari (Kitabu’l-maghazi) Ibn `Umar states that the Prophet did not permit me to participate in Uhud, as at that time, I was 14 years old. But on the day of Khandaq, when I was 15 years old, the Prophet permitted my participation. So if it was not allowed to participate in Uhud for people younger than 15, then Hazrat Aisha would be atleast 15 in those battles, indicating she could not be 9 at the time of her marriage.
- Tabari (an authentic and early history of Islam) reports that Hazrat Abu Bakr wished to spare Hazrat Aisha the discomforts of a journey to Ethiopia soon after 615 CE, and tried to bring forward her marriage to Mut`am’s son. Mut`am refused because Hazrat Abu Bakr had converted to Islam, but if Aisha was already of marriageable age in 615 CE, she must have been older than nine in 622 CE.
- Tabari also reports that Hazrat Abu Bakr’s four children were all born during the Jahiliyyah, the pre-Islamic period, which could be said to have ended in 610 CE, making Hazrat Aisha at least twelve in 622 CE.
- According to Ibn Hajar, Hazrat Fatima was five years older than Hazrat Aisha. Hazrat Fatima is reported to have been born when Muhammad (PBUH) was thirty-five years old, meaning Hazrat Aisha was born when he was forty years old, and thus twelve when Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) married at fifty-two.
- According to the generally accepted tradition, Aisha was born about eight years before Hijrah. However, according to another narrative in Bukhari (Kitaab al-Tafseer) Hazrat Aisha is reported to have said that at the time Surah Al-Qamar, the 54th chapter of the Qur’an , was revealed, “I was a young girl”. The 54th Surah of the Qur’an was revealed nine years before Hijrah. According to this tradition, Hazrat Aisha had not only been born before the revelation of the referred Surah, but was actually a young girl, not even only an infant at that time. So if this age is assumed to be 7 to 14 years then her age at the time of marriage would be 14 to 21.
- According to almost all the historians, Hazrat Asma (the elder sister of Hazrat Aisha), was ten years older than Hazrat Aisha. It is reported in Taqreeb al-Tehzeeb as well as Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah that Hazrat Asma died in the 73rd year after migration when she was 100 years old. Now, obviously if Hazrat Asma was 100 years old in the 73rd year after Migration to Medina, she should have been 27 or 28 years old at the time of migration. If Hazrat Asma was 27 or 28 years old at the time of hijrah, Hazrat Aisha should have been 17 or 18 years old at that time. Thus, Hazrat Aisha – if she got married in 1 AH (after Migration to Medina) or 2 AH – was between 18 to 20 years old at the time of her marriage.
THE ABSOLUTE VERDICT:
In the light of the above discussion, it is quite certain that Hazrat Aisha could not have been 6 years old at the time of her Nikah; or 9 years old when she moved in to live with the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She was about 18-19 years old at the time of Nikah Prophet’s house and around 21 when she moved in to live with him.