Strictly speaking, Islam Hassan is wrong: Muhammad married Aisha when she was six, and consummated the marriage (i.e., raped her) when she was nine. Hassan’s admission is unusual, as usually Islamic apologists in the West deny that Aisha was nine at all. The principal reason why this matters is because Muhammad is the “excellent example” for Muslims (Qur’an 33:21), to be imitated in all things. And so child marriage, which means the physical and psychological abuse of young girls, is widespread in some areas of the Islamic world.
Turkey’s directorate of religious affairs recently stated that the legal age of girls for marriage was nine. The Diyanet wouldn’t approve of child marriage if it weren’t Islamic, as it explains in its own defense. And child marriage has abundant attestation in Islamic tradition and law.
“Islam has no age barrier in marriage and Muslims have no apology for those who refuse to accept this” — Ishaq Akintola, professor of Islamic Eschatology and Director of Muslim Rights Concern, Nigeria
“There is no minimum marriage age for either men or women in Islamic law. The law in many countries permits girls to marry only from the age of 18. This is arbitrary legislation, not Islamic law.” — Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-‘Ubeidi, Iraqi expert on Islamic law
There is no minimum age for marriage and that girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle.” — Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council
“Islam does not forbid marriage of young children.” — Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology
Hadiths that Muslims consider authentic record that Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad wedded her and nine when he consummated the marriage:
“The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death)” (Bukhari 7.62.88).
Another tradition has Aisha herself recount the scene:
The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (Bukhari 5.58.234).
Muhammad was at this time fifty-four years old.
In April 2011, the Bangladesh Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini declared that those trying to pass a law banning child marriage in that country were putting Muhammad in a bad light: “Banning child marriage will cause challenging the marriage of the holy prophet of Islam, [putting] the moral character of the prophet into controversy and challenge.” He added a threat: “Islam permits child marriage and it will not be tolerated if any ruler will ever try to touch this issue in the name of giving more rights to women.” The Mufti said that 200,000 jihadists were ready to sacrifice their lives for any law restricting child marriage.
Likewise the influential website Islamonline.com in December 2010 justified child marriage by invoking not only Muhammad’s example, but the Qur’an as well:
The Noble Qur’an has also mentioned the waiting period [i.e. for a divorced wife to remarry] for the wife who has not yet menstruated, saying: “And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women, if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated” [Qur’an 65:4]. Since this is not negated later, we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl. The Qur’an is not like the books of jurisprudence which mention what the implications of things are, even if they are prohibited. It is true that the prophet entered into a marriage contract with A’isha when she was six years old, however he did not have sex with her until she was nine years old, according to al-Bukhari.
Other countries make Muhammad’s example the basis of their laws regarding the legal marriageable age for girls. Article 1041 of the Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran states that girls can be engaged before the age of nine, and married at nine: “Marriage before puberty (nine full lunar years for girls) is prohibited. Marriage contracted before reaching puberty with the permission of the guardian is valid provided that the interests of the ward are duly observed.”
According to Amir Taheri in The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (pp. 90-91), Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini himself married a ten-year-old girl when he was twenty-eight. Khomeini called marriage to a prepubescent girl “a divine blessing,” and advised the faithful to give their own daughters away accordingly: “Do your best to ensure that your daughters do not see their first blood in your house.” When he took power in Iran, he lowered the legal marriageable age of girls to nine, in accord with Muhammad’s example.
“Cleveland Imam Islam Hassan: The Prophet Muhammad Was Not Marrying a Child When He Married 9-Year-Old ‘Aisha,” MEMRI, November 3, 2017:
Speaking at the Islamic Center of Cleveland, Ohio, Egyptian-American imam Islam Hassan defended the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to ‘Aisha, mentioning various Christian personalities, from St. Augustine to the kings of England, who, he claimed, had taken child brides, and saying that the Prophet’s marriage was in line with the customs and traditions of his day. Islam Hassan, who served as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Vermont for the past seven years, further said that the age of puberty was between 9-15 years and concluded that ‘Aisha had already reached puberty at the age of nine, when she was married off to the Prophet. “So he did not marry a child,” he said. The address was his debut appearance as the imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, and it was posted on the center’s YouTube channel on November 3.