It is a common feature that when a person is unable to rebut the arguments or message put forth by another, he resorts to attacking the personality of that other, hoping thereby that somehow it will destroy or convey the impression of destroying that other’s arguments or message. One does not need to attack the other’s personality if indeed one’s own arguments on the issues raised or discussed are adequate to deal with it.
Hence we should not be surprised that critics of Islam centre much of their criticisms on the person of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) rather than the content of the message he conveyed.
One of the favourite criticisms of Western critics of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) relates to his marriage with Aishah. Indeed some of the most hateful allegations have been levelled at the Prophet (pbuh) on this score. He has been branded a child-abuser, a paedophile, a lustful man and a host of other similar unsavoury labels. Some Muslims too, for want of better knowledge and understanding, have been unable to clarify and rebut these false allegations by setting forth the true facts pertaining to his marriage to Aishah. They therefore avoid this issue.
Let us examine whether there is any substance and justification for any of these vile claims made against the Prophet (pbuh).
The Prophet's (pbuh) first marriage was to Khadijah, contracted when he was 25 years old and she was 40 years old. Khadijah was then 15 years older than the Prophet (pbuh). She had been twice widowed when the Prophet (pbuh) married her. For 24 years after the marriage until her death, Khadijah remained his only wife and the Prophet (pbuh) was a devoted husband to her. Does this reflect the conduct of a lustful man? Would a man in his sexual prime at the age of 25 years marry a woman 15 years his senior and then retain her as his only wife for 24 years until her death. This too at a time and in a society where women were downtrodden and it was the custom for men to have numerous wives and concubines?
Those determined at all cost to disparage the Prophet (pbuh) are likely to contend that the only reason he married Khadijah was because she was a wealthy widow. They can however offer no historical facts or records to support this assertion---only conjectures and their prejudice and malice towards him. History however tells us otherwise about the person of the Prophet(pbuh).
The devotion of the Prophet (pbuh) to Khadijah is borne out and illustrated by the hadith which records that years after the death of Khadijah and after the Prophet (pbuh) had remarried and taken several other wives, including Aishah, Aishah is reported to have asked the Prophet (pbuh) who his favourite wife was. To this the Prophet (pbuh) informed her that his favourite wife was indeed Khadijah for when he first received revelation and was himself in some doubt as to his role as prophet, she was the first to believe in him and had comforted and assured him that he was indeed God's messenger. The Prophet (pbuh) could so easily have told Aishah that she (Aishah) was his favourite wife and therefore pleased her without any risk of upsetting Khadijah as Khadijah had long since died. The Prophet (pbuh) however did not waver in his devotion to Khadijah even though it meant disappointing Aishah.
History clearly bears out that the Prophet (pbuh) remained devoted to Khadijah even after her death. Clearly those who call him a lustful man sin but against their own souls. And if they are Christians, they should be forewarned that their own Scripture (The Bible), even in its adulterated state, warns them against blaspheming Prophet Muhammad( pbuh) and that there will be no forgiveness for them if they do so.
After the death of Khadijah the Prophet (pbuh) married his second wife, Sawdah. After that he took Aishah as his wife. Aishah was the daughter of Abu Bakar, one of the Prophet's( pbuh) closest friends and one of his earliest followers. She was then 6 years old. She was the only virgin that the Prophet (pbuh) married, his other wives being mainly widows, those who had been abandoned and those whom he married for political reasons as they belonged to tribes opposed to Islam, thereby neutralizing the opposition..
Albeit that the marriage was contracted when Aishah was 6 years old, Aishah continued to live in the house of her father and the marriage was only consummated when she was 9 years old and had attained puberty.
Aishah narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) was betrothed to her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years”… Sahih AI- Bukhari, , Vol. 7 Book 62 Number 64.
What is the basis for criticism of the Prophet's (pbuh) marriage to Aishah? In all the writings of these critics, the only ground put forth is the young age of Aishah. They contend that it was wrong and immoral for the Prophet (pbuh) to have had sex with a girl aged 9 years. That is the only basis for their criticism.
If one were to ask these various critics what then should be the minimum age at which a girl can have sexual relations, can one expect a uniform answer from all these critics? Most certainly not. Their answers will of a certainty vary. Some may say 14 years, others perhaps 16 years or 18 years and other perhaps even later. If these critics themselves cannot agree at what the minimum age should be, then what right do they have to contend that 9 years of age is too young? And if questioned further as to the basis upon which they contend whatever the right age ought to be, it is inevitable that a measure of arbitrariness will be involved at them arriving at their decision.
As most, if not all, of these critics are Western-based, let us examine their own record on this issue.
Most Americans will be shocked to know that about 120/130 years ago the minimum age of consent based on the common law in the United States of America was 10 years of age.
In the state of Delaware, the minimum age of consent then was 7 years old. It was only after a campaign commenced in 1885 was the minimum age of consent gradually raised to 16 years and subsequently 18 years.California was the first state to raise the age of consent from 10 years to 14 in 1889,and then from 16 to 18 in 1913.The other states followed thereafter.
Are we therefore to conclude that approximately 120 years ago the United States of America officially condoned and sanctioned child-abuse and paedophilia? And what are we to make of the frequent changes to the minimum age of consent? Do not the frequent changes indicate that this is a matter that is not static but changes over time? If it was right 120 odd years age for the minimum age of consent to be 10 years (and 7 years in Delaware) in the United States of America, why do these critics then assume it was wrong 1,400 years ago for a marriage to be consummated when the girl was 9 years old?
To these various critics, I have to ask:
1.What was the prevailing situation 1,400 years ago? Was it not then the custom that a girl was marriageable on attaining the age of puberty? Was it not then a cultural norm in all Semitic societies then for marriage and consummation to take place on attaining puberty?
Wikipedia Encyclopedia under the heading “ The Nativity of Jesus” says:
“In first century Judea, betrothal was a binding contract that might take place while the couple, and in particular the girl, was prepubescent. The contract was for life, but under some circumstances could be broken by a formal divorce. After the ceremony of betrothal, the young bride would remain in her father's house for a year or more until she had reached sufficient maturity. At this time the husband would take the bride into his own home, accompanied by public celebration.”
Do not the findings and records of the Westerner himself confirm that during those times it was common for prepubescent girls to get married and only upon attaining puberty be sent from the homes of their fathers to their husbands ?
At what age do Christian records maintain that Mary, the mother of Jesus,gave birth to him? The Catholic Encyclopedia states that she gave birth to him when she was 13 or 14 years of age. Are they therefore contending that their so-called Holy Ghost was a philanderer and child-abuser?
So why the hypocrisy and double standards?
2. Was the average life expectancy then the same as it is now? Was it not much lower? Did that not then have a bearing on the marriageable age to ensure that the parents of children would be around to bring them up?
3. Can they explain why the father of Aishah, Abu Bakar, remained the Prophet’s (pbuh) closest helper and friend and devoted follower thereafter if indeed the Prophet had abused his daughter?
4.Would a man like Aishah’s father, Abu Bakar, have agreed to assume the position of Caliph and therefore help propagate and secure the teachings of someone who had abused his daughter?
5. Can they explain why, if indeed Aishah was abused by the Prophet (pbuh), she should have spoken so lovingly of him as is recorded in numerous hadith?
6. Can they explain why Aishah herself should relate so many hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) and thereby ensure his teachings survive to this day?
7. Can they explain why, if the Prophet (pbuh) was such a lustful man and a paedophile, he waited 3 long years to consummate his marriage with Aishah? She was his wife and he had every right to sleep with her if he so wished. Why did he wait for her to attain puberty?
8. Is not puberty a biological sign which shows that a women is capable of bearing children? Did the prophet (pbuh) not thereby set forth the principle that there can be no consummation until the onset of puberty even if she were your wife?
9. Why did the followers of the Prophet not then desert him and abandon his teachings if indeed what he did was wrong? Why should they continue to follow and obey him? Why did the number of his followers keep increasing, if indeed he was an immoral man?
These are questions that these critics rightly ought to answer.
They should also pay heed to what has been said by some Westerners themselves about the Prophet (pbuh).
W. Montgomery Watt wrote:
“Of all the world's great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad."
Annie Besant in “The Life and Teachings of Muhammad” wrote:
"It is impossible for anyone who studies the life and character of the great prophet of Arabia, who knew how he taught and how he lived, to feel anything but the reverence for that mighty Prophet, one of the great messengers of the Supreme. And although in what I put to you I shall say many things which may be familiar to many, yet I myself feel, whenever I reread them, a new way of admiration, a new sense of reverence for that mighty Arabian teacher."
Reverend R. Maxwell King wrote:
"I have read in Moslem (sic) writings such deep and tender expressions of respect and reverence for Jesus that for the time I almost forgot, I was not reading the words of a Christian writer. How different, it is sad to say, has been the way in which Christians have spoken and written of Muhammad Let us put it down to it's true cause,ignorance".
Thomas Carlyle in “ Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History” wrote:
"The lies which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man (Muhammad) are disgraceful to ourselves only"
And Norman Daniel in “ Islam and the West” wrote:
"The use of false evidence to attack Islam was all but universal…"
And whilst the Westerner/Christian ponders these passages whilst potraying himself and his Christian beliefs as being the vanguard and defender of women and their rights , he would also do well to consider some passages from his own scriptures and teachings, a sample of which is produced here:
1 Timothy 2:11-14 ( Bible):
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."
1 Corinthians 14:34 (Bible):
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
(St. John Demascene):
"Woman is a daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of Hell, the enemy of peace; through her Adam lost paradise"
"Woman is the fountain of the arm of the devil , her voice is the hissing of the serpent"
"Woman is the instrument which the devil uses to gain possession of our souls"
"Woman has the poison of an asp, the malice of a dragon"
"Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil wasn't valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man."
( St Augustine):
"What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman."
Dare we hope that the hypocrites will answer?