Did Aicha marry the Prophet at the age of nine?


 Did Aicha marry the Prophet at the age of nine?* 


According to a majority of the Muslim tradition narratives, the prophet became betrothed to Aicha in Mecca when she was six years old and married her in Medina when she was nine[1].

Was Aicha really married at the age of nine? Is this story a myth or a reality?

To answer this question, we will try to undertake a critical analysis of the historical versions available to us, while being aware of the difficulty of such an analysis.  In fact, biographical information, particularly that concerning the dates of birth and death at that time, is very often fragmentary, equivocal and sometimes really discordant. Nevertheless, we will try to highlight, within this historical ambiguity, some contradictions in relation to the exact age of Aicha and thus, question the infallibility of this assertion widely disseminated in Muslim orthodoxy.

Let us admit it from the start, the marriage of the prophet when he was almost fifty years old with a nine-year-old girl is hardly acceptable, and even deniable and not only according to our contemporary vision. First, from an ethical point of view, from a man, the father of four daughters at the time, who was also a prophet, known for his values of honour, deference and humanism. We can quote a hadith of the prophet which forbids the validation of a marriage without the prior agreement and consent of the bride-to-be, especially the one who has never been married before (bikr)[2]. Yet, consent and agreement can only come from a person who is old enough to consciously make such a decision. How could Aicha, who was, according to the traditionalists, six years old at the time, have given an informed opinion at that age?

Aicha’s age at marriage is also questionable from the point of view of the socio-anthropological data of the time. The marriage of “minors” under the current legal approach was undoubtedly very common by then, but it concerned those with an average age of more or less fourteen years old, and was practiced at the time on a universal scale[3]. It may be that marriage with girl-children under the age of twelve could also have taken place every now and then, however the classical Islamic history has not specified it though it seems to have focused on the very young age of Aicha, to the point of making it almost a religious dogma.

The age of more or less fourteen years for the cultural environment of that time would be acceptable or at least understandable, since the socio-anthropological conditions were completely different and even recently at the beginning of the 20th century, our grandmothers married very young.

Aicha's presumed age of nine is also highly questionable, especially in terms of classical historical codification. Indeed, despite the quasi-normative consensus established regarding the story of Aicha’s age at the time of her marriage, there are, as many contemporary Muslim scholars have found, many confusions and even real contradictions concerning the different dates on this subject within the various classical compilations[4].

We can cite here as examples some contradictory narratives between different historical works, sometimes by the same historian, which allow us to seriously doubt the veracity of the version of the age of Aicha's marriage at nine years old.

According to tradition, Aicha was married at the age of nine in Medina during the first year of the Hegira, in year 622. This means that she would have been born around the year 613, more or less a year after the revelation (elwah'y) which took place according to the versions, between 610 and 612. However, in the official Sira of Ibn Hicham, one of the first works on the prophet’s life, Aicha is mentioned among the first eighteen people to convert to Islam in the chapter on the early Muslims[5]. In other words, she was among the people who entered Islam, concealing their faith, during the period prior to the official proclamation of the message of Islam (albi'tha from 612). Therefore, if we have to rely on the classical biography of Aicha stating that she was born around the year 613, then she must have been either not born at all or still an infant or less than a year old during the period between 610 (the beginning of the revelation) and 612-613 (the beginning of the preaching). How can one appreciate the religious conversion of a baby of this age and mention it among the other adult persons converted at that time?  Especially since, according to the classical biography, it was recommended during this early period before the preaching of Islam to conceal one’s faith and to keep the prophetic mission a secret. How could a one year old –or less- infant be responsible for such an obligation?

 It is also worth noting that in this same narrative of Ibn Hicham, which is repeated in other classical history books, we find a precision in the list of the first Muslims, concerning Aicha describing her as being at that time «young» (Aicha, wa hya saghira)[6]. But what does young or «saghira» mean in this story? If we were to follow the logic of the classical biography, the term infant (radhi'a) would be more suitable. Indeed, the difference between young «saghira» and infant «radhi'a» is quite important. This confirms that Aicha was certainly young at the time, but not an infant as stated in classical historiography.

Another story, in Ibn Hicham’s Sira, evokes a long hadith of Aicha in which she recounts in a very precise way the frequent visits of the prophet during the early years of revelation to her father Abu Bakr's house and the preparations for her father's journey with the Prophet on the eve of the night of emigration to Medina (Hijra circa 622)[7]. How can one conceive and validate such a precise narrative (riwayat el hadith) coming from a child who, according to classical historiography, was at that time less than six years old? 

Tabarî, one of the first recognized historians of Islam, relates two contradictory stories of Aicha’s age in his encyclopedia The History of Prophets and Kings. Indeed, in a first narration, he mentions the known version of Aicha’s marriage at the age of nine around the year 622 (first year of the Hegira), which assumes as it has already been quoted, that she was born around 613, in other words, after the Revelation[8]. However, in the same book, there is an extract concerning the life of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Aicha’s father, in which the historian states that all his children – mentioning Aicha – were born before the advent of Islam (fi al-jahylia)[9]. In other words, and according to Tabarî, Aicha was born before the year 610, the year of revelation and not in 613 and therefore could not have been nine years old in the year 622 as recorded in the «classical» tradition.

Another narrative of the tradition reveals that Aicha was engaged to a certain Jabir Ibn al Mutim, before the prophet’s proposal. Indeed, tradition reveals that as soon as Abu Bakr became aware of the prophet’s proposal, he rushed to the family of the first fiancé to apologize and cancel the engagement. Abu Bakr, known for being a man of honour, wanted this moral contract with the family of the first fiancé to be annulled according to convenience[10]. If Aicha was, according to tradition, six years old when she was engaged to the prophet (bsl), at what age did she become engaged to Jabir?

On the other hand, hadiths mention the active participation of Aicha, alongside other women, in various battles at the time, including Badr (624) and Uhud (625). “Anas announces that on the day of Uhud, the shameful people were hiding so as not to fall under the gaze of the prophet and I saw Aicha and Umm Soulaim, in the middle of battlefield, they had pulled their robes over their feet (muchamiratan)” and in another version: “Aicha and Oum Soulaim ran in all directions, giving drinks to the wounded and going to the aid of others.”[11].  According to the official version, Aicha must have been more or less eleven years old during this battle of Uhud. However, according to common sense, but also according to the rules of war of the time and which were imposed by the prophet himself (bsl) only those over fifteen years of age were admitted and had the right to participate in the battles of war. This is confirmed by a hadith transmitted by Ibn Omar who says: “The prophet did not allow me to participate in the Battle of Uhud because of my age, I was fourteen, but on the day of the Battle of al-Khandaq, I was fifteen, the prophet allowed me to participate.[12]

Another important criterion in assessing Aicha’s age is the age gap between her and her sister Asmaa Bint Abu Bakr. According to the majority of historians, Asmaa was about ten years older than Aicha.  The historians Al-Dhahabi and Ibn Kathir claim that Asmaa was older than Aicha by about ten years (kanat asan min ‘aicha bibad’ achar sanawat)[13]. According to Ibn Kathir, as well as Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Asmaa lived to approximately 100 years of age and died in the year 73 or 74 of the hegira, in 695[14].

According to this calculation, in the year 620 (the year 1 of the Hegira) and at the marriage of her sister Aicha with the prophet, Asmaa had between 27 and 28 years old.  And if, as the majority of historians claim, the age difference between the two sisters was more or less ten years, then Aicha should have been 17 or 18 years old at the time she married the prophet.

These are some of the findings on the contradictions between the different historical compilations regarding the age of Aicha when she married the prophet. One can certainly not claim certainty as to the age of Aicha at the time of her union with the prophet, however and according to the various historical data, one can assure that Aicha could not have been nine at the time, but much older. No doubt Aicha was young at the time of her marriage but she was not a child and according to the majority of recent critical studies done currently, she must have been between 15 and 19 years old when she married the Prophet[15].

Some argue that this issue is not important, that it should be accepted as such without trying to understand so as not to question the heritage of the Muslim tradition and take the risk of spreading doubt in the minds of Muslims. To discuss this subject, according to the same vision, is to justify oneself and make an act of subordination, or even abdication, to those who criticize Islam and who seek justifications to undermine it from within.

However, just because some "opponents" of Islam point to this or other issues, does not mean that this is systematically false and that one can cry conspiracy and deny historical reality as a childish act of resistance. The historical deconstruction of this kind of narrative is imperative today, in the name of Islam and its principles of intellectual probity and universal wisdom. This kind of incoherence can no longer be accepted in the name of a mythical preservation of religious heritage and for fear of losing one's identity markers.

We are all too often confronted with such arguments whenever we want to sincerely question the veracity of certain historical facts. Nowadays, some refuse to debate this topic just because the hadith on the age of Aicha is mentioned in the works of Bukhari and Muslim and that it would be, according to this approach, indisputable, even untouchable.

The two great works (Sahih) of Bukhari and Muslim, which are recognized as being among the most reliable in terms of their historical legitimacy, are nevertheless not free from errors, contradictions, dubious hadiths or even hadiths that have proven to be completely false. Moreover, many theologians and scholars of different generations have frequently criticized these works, in a constructive and objective way, without questioning their entire work, which remains undoubtedly of great scientific and historical value[16].

It is therefore necessary to know how to question in a serene way, this kind of contradictions, which most often harm the image but also the ethics of the message of Islam and which go against common sense, reason and universal morality. Muslims are forced to admit these contradictions in the name of the sacredness of historical sources and a thousand questionable arguments, even ridiculous arguments are put forward about the maturity of nine-year-old girls at the time, according to the geographical environment, culture, early puberty, to legitimize an unacceptable custom. The age of Aicha’s marriage at the age of nine is also sometimes used, in some preaching and religious speeches, to endorse the marriage of minors in many Muslim countries. 

Aicha’s marriage to the prophet at the age of nine is therefore more a myth of the historical transmission of Islam than a reality and the historical deconstruction of this issue, like so many others, is today a moral and ethical requirement in the name of the very principles of this religion.


 Asma Lamrabet

February 2022

*Translated by Dr Houda Zekri


[1] Tabarî, tarikh, p. 340. Sahih Boukhari n°3894, Sahih Muslim n°1422.   

[2] Hadith reported by Abu Hurayra, Sahîh Bukhari n°5136.

[3] Let us recall, for example, that the age of marriage in France was 12 for girls and 14 for boys, until the application of the Napoleonic code in 1804, when the age of marriage became 15 for girls and 18 for boys, Code civil des Français (Livre I, Titre V : Du Mariage, 1804, pp. 39-56). Other contemporary critics, very aggressive towards Islam, focused on this issue by reducing the whole vision of Islam to that of the image of a prophet supposedly barbaric because of his marriage to a nine year old girl. Without making an apology for this kind of unacceptable customs, it should be remembered that in the Middle-Age some of the non-less illustrious kings of France, to name but a few, married very young girls. What to think of the first fiancée of King Louis XV, the Infanta Marie-Anne-Victoire of Spain, when she was only three years old? Or Louis XI who married Marguerite of Scotland, aged eleven, daughter of James the First of Scotland; Jean Favier, Louis XI, Fayard 2001, re-ed. Tallandier 2012, p. 78.



[4] Dr. Mahmoud el-Akkad, (a famous Egyptian writer and philosopher who died in 1964) believes that Aicha must have been more or less 15 years old when she married the Prophet in "asedika bint assedik", Nahdat Misr Publishing, 2005, pp. 46-47. See also, on this subject, Mohammed Hassan Badreddine: "Aicha, oum al mu'minin: bayna khayal elrou'ya wa waq'I elhayat"; baht muhakam, Center for Islamic Research, December 15, 2016; Mominun without Borders (well-documented article with a chronology of all the dates); and Dr. Suhaila Zin el-Abidin Hammad (Saudi writer and theologian), Article on marriage of minors, in:

[5] Ibn Hicham, tahdib sira ibn Hicham, Arissala, 1992, Beyrouth, p. 48.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Op. cit. Ibn Hicham, p. 93

[8] Tabarî, Tarikh al umam wa almuluk, Bayt al afkar, Amman , Jordanie, p. 340.

[9] Tabarî, vol. 2, p. 616.

[10] Tarikh Tabarî 3/ 186.

[11] Sahih Bukharî hadith de Anas Ibn Malik, Kitabu'l-jihad wa’l-siyar, Bab Ghazwi’l-nisa ’ wa qitalihinna ma ` a’lrijal - n°2880.

[12] Sahih Bukharî ; (Kitabu'l-Maghazi, Bab hiya'l wa Ghazwati'l-Khandaq-ahza'b).

[13] Al-Dhahabi, Siyar a’lam 'al-nubala’, chapter on Asmâa bint Abi Bakr, vol. 2, p. 289, Muassasatu'l-Risalah, Beyrouth, 1992. Ibn Kathir, Al- bidayah wa al-nihayah, vol . 8, p. 371, Dar al-Fikr al- Arabi, Al-Gizeh, 1933.

[14] Ibn Kathir, op. cit. Taqribe el-tehzib, Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, p. 654, arabe, Bab fi’l-nisa ’, harfu’l al-alif.

[15] See conclusion of the detailed analysis on this subject, Mohammed Hassan Badreddine, op. cit.

[16] Among the ancient theologians who have elaborated a critical work of Sahih al-Bukhari we can quote, for example, Imam ibn Hajjar al-Askalani, in his Fath al-bari' bi charh sahih al-Bukhari; Dar al-Rayane li-thurat, 1986, as well as Imam Abu al-Hassan Adaraktani in his critical work of the hadith, Sunan al-daraktani (Riyadh, Dar al-ma'uid, 2001). Among modern theologians, two can be mentioned: Al-Albani, Silsilatu al-ahadith al-da'ifa (Riyadh, Maktabat al-ma'arif, 2008), and Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali, Al-Suna al-nabawiyya bayna ahl al-fiqh wa ahl hadith (Cairo, Dar al-Shuruq, 1989).


À propos de l'auteur


Native de Rabat (Maroc), Asma Lamrabet, exerce actuellement en tant que médecin biologiste à l’Hôpital Avicennes de Rabat. Elle a exercé durant plusieurs années (de 1995 à 2003) comme médecin bénévole dans des hôpitaux publics d'Espagne et d’Amérique latine, notamment à Santiago du Chili et à Mexico.

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