Muhammad (P)

prophetmSAWSWriting about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, the Orientalist scholar W Montgomery Watt wrote:

"Of all the world's great men, none has been so much maligned as Muhammad."

His quote seems all the more poignant in light of the Islamophobic film Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked riots from Yemen to Libya and which, among other slanders, depicts Muhammad as a paedophile.

This claim is a recurring one among critics of Islam, so its foundation deserves close scrutiny...

In seventh-century Arabia, adulthood was defined as the onset of puberty. (...And was also the case in Europe: five centuries after Muhammad's marriage to Aisha, 33-year-old King John of England married 12-year-old Isabella of Angoulême.) Interestingly, of the many criticisms of Muhammad made at the time by his opponents, none focused on Aisha's age at marriage.

According to this perspective, Aisha may have been young, but she was not younger than was the norm at the time. Other Muslims doubt the very idea that Aisha was six at the time of marriage, referring to historians who have questioned the reliability of Aisha's age as given in the saying. In a society without a birth registry and where people did not celebrate birthdays, most people estimated their own age and that of others. Aisha would have been no different. What's more, Aisha had already been engaged to someone else before she married Muhammad, suggesting she had already been mature enough by the standards of her society to consider marriage for a while...

What we do know is what the Qur'an says about marriage: that it is valid only between consenting adults, and that a woman has the right to choose her own spouse. As the living embodiment of Islam, Muhammad's actions reflect the Qur'an's teachings on marriage, even if the actions of some Muslim regimes and individuals do not.

...The Islamophobic depiction of Muhammad's marriage to Aisha as motivated by misplaced desire fits within a broader Orientalist depiction of Muhammad as a philanderer. This idea dates back to the crusades. According to the academic Kecia Ali:

"Accusations of lust and sensuality were a regular feature of medieval attacks on the prophet's character and, by extension, on the authenticity of Islam."

Since the early Christians heralded Christ as a model of celibate virtue, Muhammad – who had married several times – was deemed to be driven by sinful lust. This portrayal ignored the fact that before his marriage to Aisha, Muhammad had been married to Khadija, a powerful businesswoman 15 years his senior, for 25 years. When she died, he was devastated and friends encouraged him to remarry. A female acquaintance suggested Aisha, a bright and vivacious character.

Aisha's union would also have cemented Muhammad's longstanding friendship with her father, Abu Bakr. As was the tradition in Arabia (and still is in some parts of the world today), marriage typically served a social and political function – a way of uniting tribes, resolving feuds, caring for widows and orphans, and generally strengthening bonds in a highly unstable and changing political environment. Of the women Muhammad married, the majority were widows. To consider the marriages of the prophet outside of these calculations is profoundly ahistorical.

What the records are clear on is that Muhammad and Aisha had a loving and egalitarian relationship, which set the standard for reciprocity, tenderness and respect enjoined by the Qur'an. Insights into their relationship, such as the fact they liked to drink out of the same cup or race one another, are indicative of a deep connection which belies any misrepresentation of their relationship.

To paint Aisha as a victim is completely at odds with her persona. She was certainly no wallflower. During a controversial battle in Muslim history, she emerged riding a camel to lead the troops. She was known for her assertive temperament and mischievous sense of humour – with Muhammad sometimes bearing the brunt of the jokes. During his lifetime, he established her authority by telling Muslims to consult her in his absence; after his death, she went to be become one of the most prolific and distinguished scholars of her time.

A stateswoman, scholar, mufti, and judge, Aisha combined spirituality, activism and knowledge and remains a role model for many Muslim women today. The gulf between her true legacy and her depiction in Islamophobic materials is not merely historically inaccurate, it is an insult to the memory of a pioneering woman.

Those who manipulate her story to justify the abuse of young girls, and those who manipulate it in order to depict Islam as a religion that legitimises such abuse have more in common than they think. Both demonstrate a disregard for what we know about the times in which Muhammad lived, and for the affirmation of female autonomy which her story illustrates.

Source: The Guardian

rasoolAhmed Deedat claimed that Muhammad is mentioned almost verbatim in the old testament, the Song of Solomon, chapter 5, verse 16:

"Hikko mamtakim ve'khulo machamadim zeh dodi ve'ze re'ee b'not yerushalaim".

These could be translated as:

"His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem".

In Hebrew language im is added for respect. Similarely im is added after the name of Machamad to make it Machamadim. In English translation they have even translated the name of Machamad as "altogether lovely", but in the Old Testament in Hebrew, the name of Machamad is yet present as Machamdim.

According to Hebrew language, the term machmadimt is a plural form of the word machmad, which means something precious, or beloved, The word machmad in Hebrew comes from the root CH.M.D, the root of words such as "coveted", "delightful", "delightful", "desirable" where in Arabic, the root H.M.D is the root of words such as "praised", "decent", "praiseworthy" etc, and this is also the root of the name Muhammad.

King Richard’s Wife, Isabella

flowerofinnocenseRichard II, King of England, married Isabella, a princess of France who after her marriage to Richard II became the Queen consort of England from 1396 to 1399. Although the marriage was a move for peace due to the political tension between France and England, their marriage actually later developed into a mutual respectful relationship and later, when Richard II died, Isabella mourned his death and refused to yield to Henry IV’s efforts to marry his son to her, the future Henry V of England.

What is noteworthy here is that Isabella was only six years old when she was married to King Richard. Young to get married, isn’t it? But not too young to have a crush, a boyfriend or a childish fling?

Today, youngsters as young as 8 and 9 are dating in primary schools; many bump into unknown strangers through forums, facebook, twitter and MSN. Young girls are falling pregnant outside of wedlock and as a consequence of having multiple partners such women may not ever know who the real biological father of their child is. But it’s strange, isn’t it? We still continue to be proud. Are we proud of our nation’s huge increase in illegitimate offspring from unmarried couples? Are we proud of children who for life will have to live with the fact that they have dubious lineage? Let’s think about it: do unrestricted, uncurbed and untied relations outside of marriage really equate to freedom and happiness? Is it really liberty and personal freedom from servitude, confinement and oppression to make marriage so difficult for our youth, and to make dating and relations outside marriage so easy and widely accepted? It really is strange how we cry out for a ban against segregation between men and women, frown upon young marriages and yet still allow our eyes to mischievously glitter at the mention of adolescents dating…

Muhammad’s Wife, Aa’ishah

quran-illumunatedThe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) married the daughter of his close friend Aboo Bakr, a friend who was more than happy to marry his daughter off to him. This is because the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a man who was known for his integrity, high standing, lofty morals and upright character even by those who didn’t have the courage to accept his message, but still bore testimony to his upright lofty morals. In fact, it won’t be far-fetched to suggest that when learning about the marriage of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Lady Aa’ishah, many women today wish that they too could enjoy such a unique companionship with their partners and husbands…even if such men are much older.

Yes, it’s true that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) consummated his marriage to Lady Aa’ishah when she was nine years of age. But this marriage was founded on a solemn contract, as prescribed by the Qur’aan: a contract to look after her, take care of her rights, and to keep her best interests in mind. And this is exactly what their marriage was - it was an accumulation of pure unselfish love, merged with respect and defined by clear roles and responsibilities. It was an accepted norm of the time, a shining transcending example for all couples in all times. For example, did you know that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would do house chores? This is just one example out of the many accounts which show that Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was showered with great love, care and attention even though the Prophet (peace be upon him) was so actively involved in educating his nation and uplifting them towards high morals and obligations that our society is still in dire need of even in today’s world. These rights were not only for men, but more so for women, as girls were being buried alive back then just as children are being aborted today; women were being used and abused, raped and misused, just as we have ‘date rape’ and men playing women today, and proper marriage was frowned upon and made difficult, just as it is today.

It is significant to note that the Prophet Muhammad wasn’t just the love of Aa’ishah’s life. He was her teacher, her mentor, her best friend and close companion. Her biography clearly attests to the fact that Lady Aa’ishah wasn’t a poor oppressed woman who couldn’t think for herself. In fact, she didn’t feel shy to challenge and question Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in matters she was concerned or unsure of and he in turn didn’t ridicule her or put her down for being so inquisitive. In fact the questions Lady Aa’ishah posed prove that she was an extremely wise, sharp and intelligent woman, for she had knowledge of medicine, poetry (she would memorize long verses of poetry on the spot) and deep insight into the various Islamic sciences, even in such difficult sciences such as the law of inheritance. In fact, in the past, and even today, great Islamic scholars, thinkers and the Muslims at large attest to the fact that she was the greatest female scholar of Islaam this world has ever witnessed. She was eloquent in speech and could have easily spoken out if she felt that she was being wronged, abused or forced to stay with a “pedophile”. On the contrary, she wholeheartedly accepted his message and exerted all efforts to spread the final Prophet’s teachings. She voluntarily, and by her own will, with great zeal and unflinching determination, helped spread his words, his message and the knowledge that she had acquired from him even after he passed away - right until her heart ceased to beat. This is because her heart throbbed out of love for him, as her teachings and poetry clearly allude to. In truth, she loved Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a way that only few men in history were lucky enough to be loved. But even then, the honor was truly hers.

That is why it is a great injustice to falsely paint the biography of such an illustrious woman with the dark colors of oppression, abuse and torture. It is our young, half-naked girls in the cold streets during the chilly nights of winter that tell stories of pain, misuse and abuse. Sad indeed is their state as they are women who freely exhibit and allow strange men to partake of their modesty and liberty. They are women who allow all sorts of men (including pedophiles, rapists, stalkers, lesbians and psychologically disturbed people) to stare at them on billboards, adverts and movies whenever and however they like, and then still somehow they believe that they are truly free and liberated… What a loss to our society, what a shame on our society. This “freedom” is destroying the very moral fabric of the society, a “freedom” which takes away the rights of women, strips them of loyalty, true love and care, and confuses their minds away from leading a clean and respectable life.

Sadly, despite all of this, many in the West continue to view the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Lady Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) as an old Arab custom, an issue of child abuse, pedophilia and misuse. If only such people would be sincere and come to realize that not only was this an accepted norm about 1500 years ago in Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) time, but it was also practiced in the west as recently as 1396 in England, as is the case of Isabella’s marriage to King Richard (II).

In conclusion, we need to take a hard long look at our own backyards and the days we live in before we point fingers at those who passed away before us, men who were sincere, loyal and loved their wives and were loved by their wives, and had the decency to declare their marriage to the world.

photos-of-Splendid-Light-picturesThe age of 'A’ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr, when she married the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is something that has only recently become controversial. The traditional account is that the marriage was consummated when she was nine years old, which naturally appears strange, if not uncomfortable, to many in a modern, western context. Hence, some recent Muslims (of varying levels of intellectuality, motivations and scholarly qualifications) have re-visited the sources. They have discovered some evidence in the classical historical texts, and reinterpreted the traditionally adduced narrations, to suggest that 'A’ishah may actually have been older (with various ages suggested). My aim, in this brief piece, is not to analyze the arguments for and against a young marriage age for 'A’ishah, but rather to contextualize the entire discussion with a bird’s-eye view that remains intact regardless of which view (if either) an individual chooses to commit to.

The first (and most) important point to note is, as indicated above, is that the controversy is a relatively recent one. The Prophet’s own contemporaries took no issue with the Prophet’s marriage to 'A’ishah; it was not problematic in their eyes. This includes both his disbeliever antagonists and his believing followers. Certainly, his antagonists were ever eager to discredit him, and the Qur’an itself records details of this. They accused him of being a sorceror, a madman or a soothsayer. They objected to his marriage to Zaynab, remonstrating that (according to pre-Islamic Arab culture) a man may not marry the divorcee of his adopted son just as he may not marry the divorcee of his biological son. Yet they did not attempt to discredit him on the basis of his marrying a girl too young for him. Neither in the Qur’an nor in any historical source is there any mention of such an objection having been raised, despite the fact that these sources do mention numerous other strategies used by the Prophet’s opponents.

So, if the Prophet’s contemporaries did not object to 'A’ishah’s age of marriage, then we conclude with certainty that her age was within the norm. Logically, this in turn implies one of two things: either it was acceptable, in 7th century Arab culture, for older men to marry younger girls (even as young as 9), or the reason for their non-objection was that `A’ishah was in fact older. Once again, my aim here is not to prove one or the other, but to put the whole issue in perspective. The age of 'A’ishah is not a central tenet of Muslim faith, nor should it eclipse the core message and teachings of Islam. Muslims contemplating the issue of 'A’ishah’s age might find it beneficial to recall that, ‘Part of the excellence of a person’s Islam is his/her leaving aside what does not pertain to him/her.'

Non-Muslims would serve themselves better by contemplating the Prophet’s teachings of monotheism and righteousness, and the Book he presented as God’s revelation, rather than dwelling on what is, at most, a socio-culturally historical oddity.

The general character of the Prophet, and his marital history, speak clearly against the notion that he was other than upright. His first marriage, at age 25, was to a widowed woman (Khadijah) who was 15 years his senior, and he remained in a happy and solid monogamous marriage to her for a quarter-century (twenty-five years), the marriage ending only with Khadijah’s death, aged 65. If we are extrapolating general lessons from the Prophet’s life, then his marriage to Khadijah is far more relevant for paradigmatic value. It was only subsequent to that, and often under specific circumstances (as others have discussed) that he married other women, and all of them (other than 'A’ishah) were either widows or divorcees. Some historical sources even record that one of the strategies his antagonists tried, to dissuade him from his preaching, was to offer him whatever wealth or wives he desired, but he refused this initiative.

Hence, without necessarily putting the two possibilities (regarding 'A’ishah’s age) on equal footing, and without stifling those who wish to delve deeper into the scholarly (and sometimes non-scholarly) arguments on either side, it is sufficient for the Muslim to defer the issue to God, saying, “I believe whichever of the two is the truth before God.” There are many more useful and pressing issues for us to occupy ourselves with.

The modern option of upgrading 'A’ishah’s age might offer a more immediate appeal, and an ‘easy’ and convenient solution, for which little further explanation or reasoning would be necessary. Indeed, in the absence of birth certificates, records of ages prior to the modern era can be expected to have some margin of error. However, it is worthwhile to look at the issue in a larger perspective, and to avoid viewing the veritable tapestry of human culture, across space and time, through the colored lenses of modern, western culture. A slight familiarity with anthropology is sufficient to convince one that there has been, and still is, remarkable variety in human cultural practices and norms. The Catholic Encyclopedia observes about the Virgin Mary (peace be upon her) that,

“It is possible that Mary gave birth to her Son when she was about thirteen or fourteen years of age.”[1]

In Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet was only thirteen, yet her mother tells her that “ladies of esteem” younger than her are already mothers.[2] According to the “Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society,” both Christian Canon law and European civil law considered seven years as the age of consent, but judges in medieval England would approve marriages based on mutual consent at ages even lower than 7.[3] As recently as the nineteenth century, ages of consent of 13 to 14 were common in Western countries.[2] Now, we are responsible for acting in accordance with our conscience, and our own societal norms may well factor into this, but it may be a bit presumptuous to pass judgment on people of the past and future, and those of other cultures. People in the future may well look on some of our mores as bizarre.

The bottom line, is: God knows best about all the details of things. And, it remains well-established that Islam’s central message is one of monotheism, decency and morality. It is to this that our energies can be more profitably devoted.


[1], accessed 06/11/2010
[2] Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene 3.
[3], accessed 06/15/2010
[4], accessed 06/11/2010