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Switch to Forum Live View The Prophet Muhammad and marriage to Aisha - What is the Baha'i perspective on this?
5 years ago  ::  Apr 08, 2010 - 5:21AM #1
Upstream
Posts: 71

Hi all,


Whilst discussing the worlds big questions with two friends recently, a Christian friend mentioned that he disliked Islam. When I probed further he gave a number of reasons, one being that apparently, the prophet Muhammad had married a six year old girl and had consumated the marriage when she was only nine.


Initially I thought that this was untrue however after doing a few searches online, it appears that this may actually be the case.


My question is what is the Baha'i stance on this? Is it believed that this did actually occur? and if so - do Baha'is just accept this or is there some other explanation?


Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated here as I am struggling to understand how (assuming this to be true) a prophet of God could act in this manner.


Thank you in advance,


George.

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5 years ago  ::  Apr 08, 2010 - 2:20PM #2
Sen_McGlinn
Posts: 102

Of course there is no historical evidence that the marriage was consummated at that age. Aisha never had children by Muhammad, although Muhammad did father children, at least when he was younger, so there is no evidence that the marriage was ever consummated. If it was, why no children? The marriage cemented a political alliance, it did not need to be consummated to be effective.


The age of the marriage is given differently in the same source (Bukhari), it ranges from 6 to 13 years. There are more details and quotes in 'Age of Aisha' on my blog. 


 

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5 years ago  ::  Apr 09, 2010 - 9:46PM #3
Kalzera
Posts: 260

I guess there are a couple ways you could look at it:


Assuming the marriage did happen, it doesn't really mean anything. The Arabian Peninsula at the time of Muhammad was a very different world from the one we live in today. Just like any event in history, it must be interpreted in its context.


This is really no different from many violent passages found in the Old Testament, or the entire idea of animal sacrifice (especially one as wide-ranging as that which developed in early Hinduism). It seems really strange by our modern, "civilized" standards, but if you look at such things in context they truly were "civilized" for their time.


And Muhammad wouldn't have been the only Prophet to do something people look down on. Moses, for example, was a murderer, as attested to by the Bible, Qur'an, and Baha'i Writings.  


Now I know these are sort of "straw-man" arguments that draw attention away from the point you raised, but I'm basically trying to say that there isn't really anything to Muhammad's marriage to Aisha. What people read into it can easily be read into other situations, and you also have to understand that no event can be properly understood without putting it into historical context. 


Historically, Muhammad had six children with his first wife, Khadija, and none through most of the women that came after her (including Aisha). Due to the many events taking place in his life, such as defending the early Muslims, establishing a lasting order, and revealing/maintaining the religion of Islam, he wouldn't have had very much time to even pursue sexual activities. Its very likely that he never had sexual relations with Aisha. 


 


So, take my random, all-over-the-place points for what whatever you think they're worth. I don't think Muhammad's marriages, however, are all that big of deal. 

However men try to reach me, I return their love with my love; whatever path they may travel, it leads to me in the end - Bhagavad Gita 4:11

"Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth" - The Four Valleys; Hadith
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5 years ago  ::  Apr 10, 2010 - 2:23AM #4
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Posts: 71

Hi Kalzera,


Thank you for your response. I understand and agree in part with your statement about the conditions in history being significantly different to those of today. Based on that I can quite easily accept that the marriage of girls (who were considered little better than animals at the time) afforded them some protection thus ensuring that they would not end up as beggars.


What had concerned me most was where I had read that the marriage had been consumated when she was a nine year old. Thus far I have been unable to find a definitive answer on this however I plan to read Sen's blog on this shortly.


George.

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5 years ago  ::  Apr 10, 2010 - 11:25AM #5
Kalzera
Posts: 260

The only texts I can find online to support the idea of Muhammad having sexual intercourse with Aisha are Hadith.


Baha'is accept the Qur'an as Revelation, but not the Hadith. Only those quoted by Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi have significance to Baha'is. Otherwise, whether or not a Hadith is true is really a personal opinion. 


Historically, I don't think many, if any, Hadith can be proven. They're really nothing more than traditions. Even Shi'as and Sunnis have their own set of Hadith that sometimes contradict each other. 


So I wouldn't get to worried about the Hadith. I mean, there's a Hadith for a lot of things. Some are quite violent and go against what Baha'is see as the spiritual foundation to the Qur'an. 


 


Now I haven't really explored the Hadith that much, and since I think this question ties in more with the Baha'i view of the Hadith than social customs of Muhammad's time, I'll leave any other comments about them to someone more familiar with the Islamic traditions. 

However men try to reach me, I return their love with my love; whatever path they may travel, it leads to me in the end - Bhagavad Gita 4:11

"Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth" - The Four Valleys; Hadith
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5 years ago  ::  Apr 10, 2010 - 12:56PM #6
world citizen
Posts: 5,633

George ~


Always good to see you here with informed questions...  Smile


I've wondered myself on occasion about Aisha's marriage to Muhammad.  I've also pondered whether "consummated" had the same connotation 1300 years ago.  I question this because it's my understanding that the simple words "begat" and "begotten" as understood by the average Christian today did NOT have the same meaning for the Greeks who translated the Bible from its original Hebrew.  Today those words are viewed as metaphysical, whereas the ancient Greeks knew the words to mean "unique" and "one of a kind."  This was why Israel (all 12 tribes!) were named in the Tanakh as the "first begotten son" (singular) of God.  Word meanings have a tendency to change over a course of time.  The word "gay," for instance, had a completely different meaning only a few decades ago.


The following is the only specific reference to Aisha that I could locate in anything remotely Baha'i that may/may not be helpful.  It is excerpted from Muhammad and the Course of Islam (p.92) by Hand of the Cause and Baha'i scholar Hasan Balyuzi:


Sir John Glubb points out that 'It is, however, worthy of note that of all his wives, only Aisha was a virgin when he married her.  Zainab bint Jahash was a divorced wife and all the rest were widows, some of them, it would seem, not particularly attractive. Moreover, the Apostle had married Khadija when he was twenty-five and she was a widow considerably older than he was. He had remained completely faithful to her for twenty-four years until her death.'[1] And Sir John further states: 'It is noticeable that the Apostle, when a young man, had six children by Khadija, yet he had no children by the twelve women who followed her, except for a son by Mary, the Egyptian concubine.  Most of his wives, though not in their first youth, were capable of bearing children.  In Medina, Muhammad had less and less leisure time and must often have been mentally and physically exhausted, especially as he was in his fifties and latterly over sixty.  These are not the circumstances under which men are interested in the indulgence of extreme sexuality.'[2]
[1 - The Life and Times of Muhammad, p.237]
[2 - Ibid. p.239]

Professor Montgomery Watt's comment is: 'Most of Muhammad's own marriages, as well as those he arranged for his daughters and close associates, are found to have political (emphasis mine) reasons of one kind or another.'[1]
[1 - Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman, pp.102-3.]


  


Blessed is he who mingleth with all men in a spirit of utmost kindliness and love. ~Baha'u'llah
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5 years ago  ::  Apr 11, 2010 - 3:40AM #7
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,996

There is a statement, perhaps Qur'anic, that goes something like "O wives of Muhammad do not expect from Him what women expect from their husbands." It has been interpreted to mean that all of His wives except the first, were only taken into His household out of charity and did not participate in sexual relations with Him at all.


Some were known to be doing things of which He did not approve. He was well known for His kindness and would have concealed those matters and rather than shamed, humiliated and driven them away.


Sen, are you familiar with that quotation or something like it? If, so; would you please, tell where have you seen it?

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5 years ago  ::  Apr 11, 2010 - 3:50AM #8
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,996

Moses was not a "murderer" He slew in defense of the life of a slave.


In any case the Manifestations of God are the Embodiments of God's Justice. Whatever They do is right, though by our conventions, limitations and ignorance it may not seem so at a particular time.


God is our Judge. We have no standing except over our own souls.

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5 years ago  ::  Apr 11, 2010 - 5:30AM #9
Sen_McGlinn
Posts: 102

Apr 11, 2010 -- 3:40AM, in_my_opinion wrote:


There is a statement, perhaps Qur'anic, that goes something like "O wives of Muhammad do not expect from Him what women expect from their husbands." It has been interpreted to mean that all of His wives except the first, were only taken into His household out of charity and did not participate in sexual relations with Him at all.




 


No, I have never seen that. The Wikipedia article on Muhammad's wives is quite informative, but doesn't mention that he had no children by any of the later wives. It is clear that several were quite old at the time of marriage, and were taken into his household as a form of charity. Several of the marriages were political and had good effect.


 

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5 years ago  ::  Apr 11, 2010 - 7:23AM #10
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,996

Thank you, Sen.


Perhaps someone else has seen something to that effect?


On another note. Among some Jews in Iran there was a tradition of a form of early marriage. A daughter would be wedded (to an often much older young man) and would move into his parent's household, where he was living (as in those days extended families would live close together) just like another sister, until she was thirteen or fourteen, when they would be considered fully married and could consumate their marriage.


This betrothal was completely respectable and seen as formal, in that if she were taken back, or sent back, due to some conflict, she might not be able to find as good a match later. One example of which have heard, was in the Hakim family that were physicians to the king (shah) of Iran at that time. Some of them became Bahá'ís later and the earliest one was the first Jew to become a believer having heard a talk given by Táhirih.


Also, in one great African tribe, husbands were required to keep from consumating their marriage for a whole year, after being married and living together, as a sign of strength and discipline. That might have been the Zulu.


So, consummation does and has had different meanings over history and across cultures. There are far more familiar examples of this, that are not appraised here as they are somewhat sordid. 

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