Sunday, 19 April 2009

Analyzing the Claims of Muslim Apologists on Muhammad and Aisha, Part I

A guide for debating

We continue our discussion of  Muhammad’s marriage to nine-year-old Aisha, this time focusing on some of the common arguments and claims made by certain Muslims in their attempts of salvaging Muhammad’s reputation. We will focus on some of the most common points raised to either justify Muhammad’s marriage or outright deny that Aisha was as young as the reports claim, to see whether any of these assertions hold any weight. 

In order to facilitate easier and quicker navigation of our article we have divided the paper into the following sections: 

The Argument from Climate (Aisha had already reached puberty) 
The Argument from Culture (it was acceptable at the time) 
Do Cultural Norms Justify Muhammad's Actions? 
Argument from the Chain of Transmission (you can't trust those hadiths) 

The Argument from Climate

Some Muslims argue that girls, at that time, reached puberty faster due to the hot climate of the Arabian desert. Despite there being absolutely no shred of evidence supporting this far fetched claim, the Muslim sources actually say that Aisha hadn’t reached puberty when Muhammad consummated his marriage with her

Abu Ja‘far [al-Tabari]: The Messenger of God did not marry another woman during the life of Khadijah until she passed away. When she died, the Messenger of God got married, but [opinions] differ as to whom hemarried first after Khadijah. Some say that it was ‘A’isha bt. Abi Bakral-Siddiq, while others say that it was Sawdah bt. Zam‘ah b. Qays b. ‘Abd Shams b. ‘Abd Wudd b. Nasr. As for ‘A’ishah, when he married her she was very young AND NOT READY YET FOR CONSUMMATION, whereas Sawdah was already married before… (The History of al-Tabari,Volume IX, p. 128) 

One Muslim named Robert Squires tries to use al-Tabari’s statement as proof against the view that Aisha hadn’t attained puberty when Muhammad slept with her: 

* The above question is answered directly and unambiguously on page 128 of The History of al-Tabari— Volume IX, where it states that "As for 'A'ishah, when he married her she was very young and not yet ready for consummation"—which clearly proves that they were waiting for her to reach puberty (i.e. to be biologically "ready"). Likewise, the statement that 'A'ishah—radi Allahu 'anha—was "not yet ready for consummation" would undoubtedly be nonsensical in a social context where marriage to prepubescent children was allowed. Thus it both severely undermines the merely circumstantial evidence which has been brought forward in an ineffectual attempt to prove the contrary, and serves as strong proof that the marriage in question certainly did not involve a prepubescent girl. (Source

Al-Tabari’s statement proves no such thing, but simply means that Muhammad married Aisha when she was too young for consummation. It says absolutely nothing about her attaining puberty at the age of nine, or that this was the reason why her parents waited three years. If anything, one can argue that she was physically too young for a grown man to penetrate her and so she had to wait a few more years before she would be able to handle it. More on this later. 

Moreover, the 
hadiths provide further support that Aisha had not reached puberty since they speak of her playing with dolls: 

'A'isha reported that she used to PLAY  WITH DOLLS in the presence of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and when her playmates came to her they left (the house) because they felt shy of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), whereas Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent them to her. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 5981

The reason why Aisha was permitted to play with dolls in front of Muhammad is because she hadn’t attained puberty yet:

Narrated 'Aisha: I used to play with the dolls inthe presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah's Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for'Aisha at that time, as she was a little girl, NOT YET REACHED THE AGE OF PUBERTY.) (Fateh-al-Bari page143, Vol.13) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 151

Narrated 'Aisha: The Prophet was screening me with his Rida' (garment covering the upper part of the body) while I was looking at the Ethiopians who were playing in the courtyard of the mosque. (I continued watching) till I was satisfied. So you may deduce from this event how a littlegirl (who has not reached the age of puberty) who is eager to enjoy amusement should be treated in this respect. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 163

Squires thinks he has a way of undermining the significance that Aisha’s playing with dolls has on establishing the position that she was prepubescent when Muhammad slept with her: 

Now in regards to the various hadiths ([1][2][3][4]) that anti-Islamic apologists have employed in an attempt to prove that'Aishah—radi Allahu 'anha—was still a young girl who was playing with dolls at the time of her marriage. Well unfortunately for them, they've jumped to some hasty conclusions since none of these hadiths ([1][2][3][4]) explicitly indicate whether the marriage had been consummated at this time. Rather, one could just as easily conclude—especially in light of the evidence I've presented above—that the incidents in which 'Aishah—radi Allahu 'anha—was playing with dolls along with her young friends occurred at a time when she was still living with her parents (i.e. after the betrothal and prior to the consummation). Actually, based on the fact that the Prophet—salla Allahu'alayhi wa salam—was known to regularly visit 'Aishah's father Abu Bakr—radi Allahu 'anhu, these events could have taken place anytime during 'Aishah's childhood—radi Allahu 'anha. (Source

Let’s see if Squires’ claim holds any weight: 

'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported thatAllah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven yearsold, 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. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3311

It is rather unfortunate for Squires that he did not read the hadiths carefully since they quite clearly show that 
Muhammad did consummate his marriage with Aisha while the latter was still playing with her dolls at the age of nine.

As if this weren’t bad enough he dares to misquote Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani’s position: 

Even Hafiz  Ibn Hajral-Asqalani concludes that: "To say with certainty 'that she was not yet at the age of puberty' is questionable"—and this view is seemingly based on considering this hadith in isolation without taking textual evidence from other sources in account...but Allahu 'alim. Thus in the final analysis, the so-called "evidence" and "proof" that this hadith provides to those trying to spin a case of prepubescent marriage is anything but decisive. 

This is the same al-Asqalani who stated in 
Fateh-al-Bari, Volume 13,page 143, that the reason why Aisha was even allowed to play with dolls is because she hadn’t reached puberty! This seeming contradiction is easily resolved when we realize that Al-Asqalani’s comments were notmade inr egard to Aisha's age or maturity at the time of her marriage. They refer to this specific hadith: 

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: When the Apostle ofAllah (peace_be_upon_him) arrived after the expedition to Tabuk or Khaybar (the narrator is doubtful), the draught raised an end of a curtain which was hung in front of her store-room, revealing some dolls which belonged to her. 
He asked: What is this? She replied: My dolls. Among them he saw a horse withwings made of rags, and asked: What is this I see among them? She replied: A horse. He asked: What is this that it has on it? She replied: Two wings. He asked: A horse with two wings? She replied: Have you not heard that Solomon had horses with wings? She said: There upon the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) laughed so heartily that I could see his molar teeth
. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 4914

Here is the context of al-Asqalani’s quote: 
Al-Haafiz goes on to say: [43: Fath al-Baaree10/400, Baab (91), related to Hadeeth no. 5954, 5955.] Abu Daawood and An-Nasaa'ee have narrated with another chain (wajh aakhar) from 'Aa'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) that she said:" The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)returned from the battle of  Tabook or Khaibar..."

Here he mentioned the Hadeeth about his (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) tearing down the curtain which she (may Allah be pleased with her) attached to her door. She (may Allah be pleased with her)said:

" Then the side of the curtain which was over the dolls of' Aa'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) was uncovered. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: What is this, O 'Aa'isha? She said: My dolls. She then said: then he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw amongst them a winged horse which was tied up. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: What is this? I said: A horse. He said: A horse with two wings? I said: Didn't you hear that Sulaiman (Solomon - peace be upon him) had horses with wings? Then he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) laughed"[44]. 

Al-Khattaabee said: From this Hadeeth it is understood that playing with dolls (al-banaat) is not like the amusement from other images (suwar) concerning which the threat (wa'eed) of punishment is mentioned. The only reason why permission in this wasgiven to 'Aa'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) is because SHE HAD NOT,A T THAT TIME, REACHED THE AGE OF PUBERTY. 

[al-Haafiz says:] I say: To say with certainty,[that she was not yet at the age of puberty] is questionable, though it might possibly be so. This, because 'Aa'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) was a fourteen year old girl at the time of the Battle of Khaibar -either exactly fourteen years old, or having just passed her fourteenth year[and entering into the fifteenth year], or approaching it (the fourteenth year). 

As for her age at the time of the Battle of Tabook - she had by then definitely reached the age of puberty.Therefore, THE STRONGEST VIEW is that of those who said: "It was in Khaibar" [i.e. WHEN SHE WAS NOT YET AT THE AGE OF PUBERTY], and made reconciliation (jam') [between the apparent contradictory rulings, of permissibility of dolls, in particular, and the prohibition of images, in general] with what al-Khattaabee said (above). 

[al-Khattabee said that images are prohibited,e xcept in the case of dolls for young girls]. This, because to reconcile (makejam') is better than to assume the ahaadith to be in contradiction (at-ta'aarud). Here Shaykh Bin Baaz concludes his quotation from al-Haafiz, saying: The above is the essence of the words of al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar. (The Beneficial Response Concerning the Islamic Ruling of Pictures/ Images, by Shaykh Abdul-Azeez Ibn Abdullah Ibn Baaz, rendered in English by Abu Muhammad Abdur-Ra'uf Shakir; source

Al-Asqalani was not disputing whether Muhammad married Aisha before puberty ,but whether she was still prepubescent during the expedition against Khaybar. 
Al-Asqalani claims that the strongest view is that she hadn’t attained puberty even at that time when she was already 14 years old! Thus, al-Asqalani soundly refutes and exposes Squires’ assertion that Aisha was pubescent when Muhammad married her. 

For a more thorough refutation of Squires’ points we recommend the following link:

There are other narrations which provide additional (albeit implicit) support that Aisha was too young for consummation due to the fact that she was prepubescent: 

Narrated Urwa bin Al-Musayyab, Alqama bin Waqqas and Ubaidullah bin Abdullah: About the story of 'Aisha and their narrations were similar attesting each other, when the liars said what they invented about'Aisha, and the Divine Inspiration was delayed, Allah's Apostle sent for 'Aliand Usama to consult them in divorcing his wife (i.e. 'Aisha). Usama said,"Keep your wife, as we know nothing about her except good." Buraira said, "I cannot accuse her of any defect except that she is still AYOUNG GIRL who sleeps, neglecting her family's dough which the domestic goats come to eat (i.e. she was too simple minded to deceive her husband)."Allah's Apostle said, "Who can help me to take revenge over the man who has harmed me by defaming the reputation of my family? By Allah, I have not known about my family anything except good, and they mentioned (i.e. accused) a man about whom I did not know anything except good." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 48, Number 805

… Buraira said, 'No, by Allah Who has sent you with the Truth, I have never seen in her anything faultyexcept that she is agirl of IMMATURE AGE, who sometimes sleeps and leaves the dough for the goats to eat.' … (Sahih al-Bukhari,Volume 3, Book 48, Number 829

'A'isha said… The women in those days were light of weight and they did not wear much flesh, as they ate less food; so they did not perceive the weight of my haudaj as they placed it upon the camel as I was A YOUNG GIRL at that time… Barira said: By Him Who sent thee with the truth, I have seen nothing objectionable in her but only this much that she is A YOUNG GIRL and she goes to sleep while kneading the flour and the lamb eats that… (Sahih Muslim,Book 037, Number 6673

Many years after Muhammad had married Aisha and she is still described as being young and immature! Obviously, a girl who is described in such a manner is far from being ready for consummation with a grown man. The question that should be asked is what business did a fifty-four year old man have marrying such a girl in the first place? 

To summarizeAt the time when Aisha was taken to Muhammad’s house– which is the time they consummated their marriage –, she took her dolls with her and played with them. The Muslim sources explain this by pointing out that she had not reached puberty at that time. Even more, some sources state that she still played with dolls and had not reached puberty at the age offourteen, i.e. five years later. 

The Argument from Culture

According to certain Muslim polemicists, Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha was acceptable since in that day and culture girls often married at a young age. 

However, not all Muslims agree with this assertion.Moiz Amjad of Understanding Islam says: 

In my opinion, neither was it an Arab tradition to give away girls in marriage at an age as young as nine or ten years, nor did the Prophet (pbuh) marry Ayesha (ra) at such a young age. The people of Arabia did not object to this marriage, because it never happened in the manner it has been narrated. (What was Ayesha's (ra) Age at theTime of Her Marriage to the Prophet (pbuh)? source

T.O. Shanavas agrees with the assessment of the previous writer: 

A Christian friend asked me once, "Will you marry your seven year old daughter to a  fifty year old man?" I kept my silence. He continued, "If you would not, how can you approve the marriageof an innocent seven year old, Ayesha, with your Prophet?" I told him,"I don’t have an answer to your question at this time." My friends miled and left me with a thorn in the heart of my faith. Most Muslims answer that such marriages were accepted in those days. Otherwise, people would have objected to Prophet’s marriage with Ayesha
However, such an explanation would be gullible only for those who are naive enough to believe it. But unfortunately, I was not satisfied with the answer. 
The Prophet was an exemplary man. All his actions were most virtuous so that we, Muslims, can emulate them. However, most people in our Islamic Center of Toledo, including me, would not think of betrothing our seven years daughter to a fifty-two year-old man. If a parent agrees to such a wedding, most people, if not all, would look down upon the father and the old husband. 
In 1923, registrars of marriage in Egypt were instructed not to register and issue official certificates of marriage for brides less than sixteen and grooms less than eighteen years of age. Eight years later, the Law of the Organization and Procedure of Sheriah courts of 1931 consolidated the above provision by not hearing the marriage disputes involving brides less than sixteen and grooms less than eighteen years old.
 (Women in Muslim Family Law, John Esposito, 1982). It shows that even in the Muslim majority country of Egypt the child marriages are unacceptable. 
So, I believed, without solid evidence other than my reverence to my Prophet, that the stories of the marriage of seven-year-old Ayesha to 50-year-old Prophet are only myths. However, my long pursuit in search of the truth on this matter proved my intuition correct. 
My Prophet was a gentleman. And he did not marry an innocent seven or nine year old girl. The age of Ayesha has been erroneously reported in the hadith literature. I think that the narratives reporting this event are highly unreliable. Some of the hadith (traditions of the Prophet) regarding Ayesha’s age at the time of her wedding with prophet are problematic. I present the following evidences against the acceptance of the fictitious story by Hisham ibn ‘Urwah and to clear the name of my Prophet as an irresponsible old man preying on an innocent little girl
. (Was Ayesha A Six-Year-Old Bride? The Ancient Myth ExposedSource)

It is rather intriguing that those who reject the claims of the hadith that Muhammad married Aisha at nine have no problems admitting that such marriages with immature girls were not the norm or morally acceptable. On the other hand, those who accept these narrations as genuine are forced to argue that these marriages were normal during that time and therefore morally acceptable! 

we have evidence that ancient cultures fixed the marriageable ageat puberty

Almost all primitive cultures pay attention to puberty and marriage rituals, although there is a general tendency to pay more attention to the puberty rites of males than of  females. Because puberty and marriage symbolize the fact that children are acquiring adult roles, most primitive cultures consider the rituals surrounding these events very important. Puberty rituals are often accompanied with ceremonial circumcision or some other operation on the male genitals. Female circumcision is less common, although it occurs in several cultures. Female puberty rites are more often related to the commencement of the menstrual cycle in young girls. (An Overview of the World's Religions; source

In fact, one can safely say that most, if not all, Muslims accept puberty as the time when a child attains maturity. A Muslim site, seeking to defend Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha while the latter was nine, nonetheless admits: 

Islam And the Age of Puberty

Islam clearly teaches that adulthood starts when a person have attained puberty. 

From the collection of Bukhari [11], we read the following tracts: 

The boy attaining the age of  puberty and the validity of their witness and the Statement of Allâh: "And when the children among you attain the age of puberty, then let them also ask for permission (to enter)."Qur'ân 24:59. Al Mughira said, "I attained puberty at the age of twelve." The attaining of puberty by women is with the start of menses, as is referred to by the Statement of Allâh

We are further told by this source that: 

...Al-Hasan bin Salih said, "I saw a neighbour of mine who became a grandmother at the age of twenty-one."(1) 

(1) The note for this reference says: "This women attained puberty at the age of nine and married to give birth to a daughter at ten; the daughter had the same experience."[12] 

Thus, it is clear that if the charge of "child molestation" were to be advanced against the Prophet (P), we would also have to include all the Semitic people who accepted marriage at puberty as the norm. (The Young Marriage of `Âishah (R)source

It is indeed true that some girls attain puberty at a younger age, yet this is normally not the case nor was it the case with Aisha as we saw above. And just because a girl has attained puberty faster doesn’t mean that she is physically ready to sleep with a man, especially one who was 54 years old

We also know that Christians certainly looked down upon marriages with immature girls: 

It is not only fornication, but also the giving in marriage prematurely, that is called fornication; when, so to speak, one not of ripe age is given to a husband, either of her own accord or by her parents. (Clement of Alexandria, IX.-Fragment of the Treatise on MarriageEarly Church Fathers - Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume IIsource 

Even Robert Squires must admit that cultures set the age of marriage at puberty: 

According to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, rightand wrong are ordained by Almighty God. As such, morality does not change over time based on our whims, desires or cultural sensitivities. In cultures where there is no Divinely revealed ruling on an issue, what is right and what is wrong is determined by cultural norms. In such cases, a person would only be considered "immoral" if they violated the accepted norms of their society. As we will demonstrate, the Prophet Muhammad's marriage to 'Aishah at such a young age. In case Christian readers are under the false impression that their values today are timeless and somehow reflect those of Biblical times, please consider the following points which are directly related to the question of at what age a person is properly ready to be married: 
Keeping in mind the ideas of "political correctness" and" absolute morality", 
in Biblical times the age at which a girlcould marry was puberty. However, during the Middle Ages it was usually twelve years old. Now in most "Christian" countries it is between fourteen and sixteen years old. I live in country where some states allow partners of the same sex to legally marry, but consider an eighteen year old boy who sleeps with a sixteen year old girl a "statutory rapist". So even though Christians might disagree with much of what is becoming all too prevalent in Western society today—whether it be drug abuse, gay marriages or abortion—they too have been swallowed up (possibly unknowingly) by the ugly monster of "moral relativism". Certainly, they might be giving inless quickly than people who do not believe in a Divine basis for morality, but they're giving in nonetheless. 
Historically, the age at which a girl was considered ready to be married has been puberty. This was the case in Biblical times, as we will discuss below, and is still used to determine the age of marriage in what the culturally arrogant West calls "primitive societies" throughout th eworld. As the ahadith about 'Aishah's age show, her betrothal took place at least three years before the consummation of the marriage. The reason for this was that they were waiting for her to come of age (i.e. to have her first menstrual period). Puberty is a biological sign which shows that a womenis capable of bearing children. Can anyone logically deny this? Part of the wisdom behind the Prophet's Muhammad's "May the Peace and Blessingsof God be upon him" marriage to 'Aishah just after she reached puberty is to firmly establish this as a point of Islamic Law, even though it was already cultural norm in all Semitic societies (including the one Jesus grew up in). The large majority of Islamic jurists say that the earliest time which a marriage can be consummated is at the onset of sexual maturity (bulugh), meaning puberty. Since this was the norm of all Semitic cultures and it still is the norm of many cultures today—it is certainly not something that Islam invented. However, widespread opposition to such a Divinely revealed and accepted historical norm is certainly something that is relatively new! ... 
It is upon reaching the age of puberty that a person, man or woman, becomes legally responsible under Islamic Law. At this point, they are allowed to make their own decisions and are held accountable for their actions. It should also be mentioned that in Islam, it is unlawful to force someone tomarry someone that they do not want to marry. The evidence shows that 'Aishah's marriage to the Prophet Muhammad "May the Peace and Blessings of God be upon him"
 was one which both parties and their families agreed upon. Based on the culture at that time, noone saw anything wrong with it. On the contrary, they were all happy about it... 
"Getting your period" marks a rite of passage for young girls entering womanhood (From the 
Women's Resource Center
Another contemporary reference relating marriage age to puberty is an article on Central Africa, which says: "…women marry soon after 
puberty"4The previous quotations, and plenty of others which were not used, should prove to any intelligent person what anthropologists and historians already know:incenturies past, people were considered ready for marriage when they reached puberty
. (The Young Marriage of'Aishahsource

Squires was quoting from the following source: 

Puberty is defined as the age or period at which a person is first capable of sexual reproduction, in other eras of history, a rite or celebration of this landmark event was a part of the culture. This is true of tribal societies that exist today, but for most of us, puberty as a specific event is part of a much more complicated piece of our lives called adolescence. (Sue Curewitz Arthen, Rites of Passage Pubertysource

Since Squires admits that puberty is the time when a person attains adulthood and is capable of sexual relations then this means 
Muhammad went against this principle since he married Aisha before she had reached that point

In most cases, puberty for girls starts at the age of 12, and it is rare for girls to attain puberty prior to that period. There is even data to support the position that specific cultures placed the age of marriage at alittle over 12 years of age. As one Christian writer states: 

The wife was to be taken from within the largerfamily circle (usually at the outset of puberty or around the age of 13) inorder to maintain the purity of the family line; but she could not be tooclosely related as is shown by Leviticus 18. (James E. West, Ancient Israelite Marriage Customs;source

The Jewish Mishnah sets the age of maturity for a female at twelve years and six months: 

"she won her case in court before she matured [at the age of  twelve years and six months], lo, they belong to the father." (Mishnah Ketubot, 4:1) 

Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible in volume 2, page 1407, under "Marriage", says this about Jewish marriage customs: 

"Subsequently, minimum ages (for marriage) of 13 for boys and 12 for girls were set." 

Interestingly, certain Muslims tend to place the marriageable age even higher, at around 15 years old: 

Try, test, well the orphans, before reaching maturity with regard [the duties of] religion and [before] they can [legally] manage their own affairs, until they reach the age of marrying, that is, until they have become eligible for it through puberty or [legal] age, which, according to al-Shafi'i, is the completion of fifteen years; then, if you perceive in them maturity, that is, right [judgement] in matters of religion and their property, deliver their property to them; consume it not, O guardians, wastefully, without due merit, and in haste, that is, hastening to expend it, fearing, lest they should grow up, and become mature, at which time you will be obliged to hand it over to them. If any man, who is a guardian, is rich, let him be abstinent, that is, let him abstain from the orphan's property and refrain from consuming it; if he is poor, let him consume, of it, honourably, that is, in line with the wage for his work. And when you deliverto them, the orphans, their property, take witnesses over them, that they hav ereceived it and that you are absolved [of the obligation], so that if anyd ispute occurs, you are able to refer to a clear proof: this is a command[intended] for guidance. God suffices as a reckoner, as a guardian of His creatures' deeds and as a reckoner of these [deeds] (the ba' [in bi'Llahi] is extra). (Tafsir al-Jalalaynsource


Puberty - Boys

Puberty is known in Islamic law as al-bulugh,or Tamyeez, (coming of age as a man and woman). There are three signs of puberty (bulugh): 

1. Discharging semen as a result of wet dreams, known as inzaalul-manyyi. Allah (SWT) states: "But when the children among you come of age, let them also ask for permission, as do those senior to them in age..."(Al-Qur'an, 24-59) 

In a hadith, the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: "Friday bath (ghuslul-Jum'ah) is mandatory upon anyone who has experienced a wet dream." (Bukhari/Muslim) The point in this hadith is thatI slamic obligations are not incumbent on anyone until they reach the age of bulugh

2. Appearance of hair around the pubic area is another sign of puberty. If a person sees that even without wet dreams, he or she has attained puberty. This may happen at the age of thirteen or fourteen, and parents should inform girls and boys about these signs. 

Reaching 15 years of age: When the person reaches 15, he OR  SHE is a manOR  A WOMAN, and anything that is obligatory on a man or woman is obligatory on him or her from that time on. 

In a hadith reported by Abdullah Bin Umar (raa), hesaid: "My parents brought me to the Messenger of Allah on the eve of the Uhud Campaign and I was fourteen years old, so the Prophet (saas) did not enlist me in fighting." But a year later in the Campaign of Al-Khandaqq, I was fifteen, so this time the Prophet (saas) enlisted me in combat." (Muslim) 

This hadith indicates the age of 15 is the legal age for a Muslim boy OR GIRL to be responsible for his or her religion as well as worldly responsibilities. Some of us who reside in the western world, seem to think adulthood depends on State laws. In some states it is 18, while in others it is 19, or 21, and so on. This is a very serious mistake, as the juvenile will reach puberty (bulugh) and adulthood, but go on without observing his or her Islamic duties, such as Salat, fasting, or being restrained from that which is prohibited

Puberty - Girls
Girls reach puberty and adulthood when they experience the above three signs. 
However, they have a fourth sign, that is, menstruation (hayd). Whenever a girl experiences it, she is a woman even if she is 12 years old
… (For Whom Fasting Is Mandatory? source

Robert Squires quotes al-Shafi’s position but ends up contradicting himself, or citing contradictory statements, since he writes that: 

The above ruling regarding the age of marriage is mutually supported by an authentic (hassan) narration in Sunanal-Tirmidhi's Kitab al-Nikah, where 'Aishah herself says: "When the girl reaches nine years of age she is a woman". Reason dictates that this is because she was referring to her own experience in which she reached puberty at the age of nine. If this wasn't the case, all of the just mentioned tafsirs would seemingly need to state that "until they reach the (age of) marriage" means "nine" and not "puberty". (source

Yet right before this he quotes: 

The fact that Muslim scholars overwhelmingly agree that the minimum age of marriage is puberty. This can be clearly seen in the Qur'anic exegesis of the phrase "they reach the (age of) marriage "found in Suratal-Nisa' 4:6. In regards to this, four of the well-known classical commentators have the following to say

Tafsir al-Tabari: Clearly states that "And when He said 'they reach the (age of) marriage' then He means they reached puberty (al-hulum)"—and he lists numerous references.
Tafsir al-Qurtubi: In regards to the statement "until they reach the (age of) marriage", Imam al-Qurtubi says, "meaning puberty(al-hulum). And said the Most High, 'When children reach puberty' (al-Nur 59), meaning puberty (al-balugh) and state of marriage (wa halal-nikah)."
Tafsir Ibn Kathir:  In explaining, "until they reach the (age of) marriage", he states that "Mujahid said meaning puberty (al-hulum)".
Tafsir al-Jalalayn: Contains the explanation that: "'And Challenge' test 'the orphans' before they reach puberty in their religion and their conduct 'until they reach the (age of) marriage', meaning they reachpuberty or the age of fifteen years old according to the Shafi'is

Squires quotes Aisha claiming that a girl becomes a woman at the age of nine but then cites al-Shafi who argues that the age of marriage or puberty is fifteen! It is obvious why Aisha said nine (if she in fact did say it) since, as Squires correctly noted, she was referring to her own experience. She may have reasoned that even though she hadn’t reached puberty and wasn’t physically mature for sexual relations she must have been a woman; after all Muhammad married her! 

What the foregoing demonstrates is that many (if not most) cultures fixed puberty as the marriageable age, with 
many agreeing that this age began when a girl became a little older than twelve. Thus, judging Muhammad by the surrounding cultural standards his marriage with a nine year old was sexual intercourse with a minor, a girl not yet ready for marriage. 

More importantly, the problem with the position of Muslims such as al-Shafi and Squires is that
the Qur’an does not make puberty a necessary prerequisite for marriage since it says:

And (as for) those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, if you have a doubt, their prescribed time shall be threemonths, and of those too who have not had their courses; and (as for) the pregnant women, their prescribed time is that they lay down their burden; and whoever is careful of (his duty to) Allah He will make easy for him his affair. S. 65:4 Shakir

The waiting period for divorced women who haven’t even menstruated is three months. This means that these women aren’t even women (they haven’t attained womanhood) but are in fact young girls who haven’t reached puberty! Now a woman can only be divorced if she is married and had her marriage consummated, since the Qur’an expressly teaches that there is no waiting period for marriages that have not been consummated: 

O you who believe: When you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have touched them,  no period of idda (waiting) have you to count in respect of them: so give them a present ands et them free in a graceful manner. S.33:49

What this shows is that 
the waiting period only applies in the case of a prepubescent if her husband has actually slept with her. So it isclear that this injunction assumes that young girls can be married and divorced and remarry before they reach puberty

Even more, the purpose of this waiting period is to ensure that the wife who is about to be divorced is not pregnant or, if she is, to make sure that the true father is known, i.e. that the child is from the current husband, and not a next husband that she may marry afterwards. Thus, this further proves that the 
Muslim men who are married to prepubescent girls have sexual intercourse with them.To put it simply, the Qur’an is allowing men to have sex with minors. 

Lest Squires or any Muslim accuse us of distorting the meaning of this reference note carefully how the following Muslim sources interpret the above text: 

(And for such of your women as despair of menstruation) because of old age, (if ye doubt) about their waiting period, (their period (of waiting) shall be three months) upon which another man asked:"O Messenger of Allah! What about the waiting period of those who do not have menstruation because they are too young?" (along with those who have it not) because of young age, their waiting period is three months. Another man asked: "what is the waiting period for those women whoa re pregnant?" (And for those with child) i.e. those who are pregnant, (their period) their waiting period (shall be till they bring forth their burden) their child. (And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah) and whoever fears Allah regarding what he commands him, (He maketh his course easy for him) He makes his matter easy; and it is also said this means: He will help him to worship Him well. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâssource

And [as for] those of your women who (read alla'ior alla'i in both instances) no longer expect to menstruate, if you have any doubts, about their waiting period, their prescribed [waiting] period shall be three months, and [also for] those who have not yet menstruated, because of their young age, their period shall [also] be three months - both cases apply to other than those whose spouses have died; for these [latter]their period is prescribed in the verse: they shall wait by themselves for four months and ten [days] [Q. 2:234]. And those who are pregnant, their term, the conclusion of their prescribed [waiting] period if divorced or if their spouses be dead, shall be when they deliver. And whoever fears God, He will make matters ease for him, in this world and in the Hereafter. (Tafsir al-Jalalaynsource

The renowned Muslim exegete Abu-Ala’ Maududi, in his six volume commentary on the Qur’an, confirms this by stating the following: 

"Therefore, making mention of the waiting-period for girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl at this age but it is permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Qur’an has held as permissible." (Maududi, volume 5, p.620, note 13) 

Moreover, here is a hadith which clearly says that this verse permits men to marry and divorce prepubescent girls: 

Narrated Sahl bin Sad: While we were sitting in the company of the Prophet a woman came to him and presented herself (for marriage) to him. The Prophet looked at her, lowering his eyes and raising them, but did not give a reply. One of his companions said, "Marry her to me O Allah's Apostle!" The Prophet asked (him), "Have you got anything?" He said, "I have got nothing." The Prophet said, "Not even an iron ring?" He Sad, "Not even an iron ring, but I will tear my garment into two halves and give her one half and keep the other half." The Prophet; said, "No. Do you know some of the Qur’an (by heart)?" H esaid, "Yes." The Prophet said, "Go, I have agreed to marry her to you with what you know of the Qur'an (as her Mahr)." 'And for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature). (65.4) And the 'Iddat fo rthe girl BEFORE PUBERTY is three months (in the above Verse). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 63

This English version of 
Sahih al-Bukhari by Muhammad Muhsin Khan obscures the fact that the statement regarding the waiting period of young girls who haven’t attained maidenhood is actually part of the specific section which mentions Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha! 

XXXIX. A man giving his young children in marriage

By the words of Allah, "that also applies to those who have not yet menstruated" (65:4) and He made the'idda of a girl before puberty three months. 

4840. It is related from 'A'isha that the Prophet,may Allah bless him and grant him peace, married her when she was six years old and consummated it when she was nine, and she was his wife for nine years.
(Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of Al-Bukhari, Chapter 70. Book of  Marriage; source

This suggests that al-Bukhari mentioned Aisha’s marriage as an example of a prepubescent girl who was married, which provides implicit proof that Muhammad married her before she reached maidenhood! 

To Continue on Part II

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