5. “Could you comment on Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha when she was nine years old?”
Azzi: “Oh my goodness. What makes you think Aisha was nine years old?”
Questioner: ”It says so, in the Hadith of Bukhari, 5, Book 58, number 234.” (A look of anguish passes quickly over Azzi’s face, as he realizes he’s now dealing with someone Who Knows Too Much.)
Azzi: Do all you folks know what the Hadith are? No? Okay, let me explain. They’re the stories about Muhammad, what he did and what he said. There are many different collections of Hadith, and some are considered more reliable than others. Buhkari is considered to be one of the two most reliable Hadith scholars.
Bukhari wrote what he did about Aisha being nine, but there’s several things to consider. First, marriage had to be between consenting adults. Marriage in Islam is a civil contract — the Arabic word is meesaaq (4:21), and it can only be between persons who are intellectually and physically mature enough to understand and fulfill the responsibilities of such a contract. That means they both had to be adults. And the girl certainly had to have reached puberty. Some Muslim scholars believe, on the basis of all the evidence, including the age of Aisha’s sister Asma, that Bukhari miscalculated Aisha’s age, and that she was, in fact, 19.