The Age of Aishah on her marriage to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Sr Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
Considering the fame and status of this lady, it is somewhat amazing that her dates are not known for certain – a matter which has engendered some controversy.
Most Muslims accept that Aishah was born in the 4th year of the Prophethood, ie 614 CE. This would mean that she was therefore only 6 years old at the time of her nikah (ie. official marriage) to the Prophet, with the physical consummation of their marriage when she was c9 years old. Needless to say, the controversy over the dates for Aishah’s birth and death affect the data concerning her birth and her age on her marriage to the Prophet.
All authorities discussing the birth of Aishah take as the origin of their information one specific hadith recorded by Hisham b. Urwah, the son of Aishah’s own nephew Urwah. In it, Hisham stated that she was born in the fourth year of Prophethood – ie 614. This is taken as absolutely reliable information.
The problem arises when it is realized that the same recorder, Hisham, also stated that she died at the age of 67 in 672/52, after a widowhood of 40 years. Take a moment to do the maths, and one sees that if Hisham is correct that she died in 672, she would only have been 58 when she died and not 67. Therefore, either his date for her birth or his date for her death must be wrong, they cannot both be correct. If it was true that she was 67 when she died in 672, then she was born in 605.
It has also, alternatively, been said that she was 73 when she died. If she was 73 in 678 she was born in 605, and if she was 73 in 672 she was born in 599.
All this affects her part in the narrative of the Prophet’s (pbuh) life in that if she was born in 614, then she would have been 6 when her nikah was performed, 9 in the year of her full marriage, and 17/18 when the Prophet (pbuh) died. But if she was born four years before the Prophethood, she would have been 15/16 at her nikah, 19 at her full marriage, and 27/28 when he died, and would have been 67 if her death was in 672/52, or 72-3 if she died in 678.
Other sources claim she was five years younger than Fatimah, who was born 5 years before Prophethood. In this case Aishah would have been born in 610, and have been 10 at her nikah, 13/14 at marriage, 22 when he died and 62 when she died. (Unfortunately, Fatimah’s dates are also disputed).
According to Ibn Umar, Aishah died on Tuesday 17th Ramadan 58/July 13th 678 at the age of either 64 or 66/67, which would mean she was born either in 614 or 611. If Ibn Umar’s dates are correct, and Aishah died in 678/58 at the age of 64, then she was indeed born in 614. Yet Aishah was claimed to have been one of the first children to accept Islam, and possibly the 19th person overall to have done so (Sirah, Ibn Hisham p.163) This would not be possible if she was not born until 614. Neither would she have been able to state, as recorded by Bukhari, that she remembered the revelation of Surah 54 (al-Qamar) coming when she was ‘quite grown up’ or ‘a playful girl’ (Bukhari 6.399) – since this revelation was given in c615, which would make her a year-old babe if she was only born in 614! I have preferred the date of 606 for her birth. The full case is argued in my booklet ‘Hazrat Aishah, A study of her age at the time of her marriage’, IPCI, Birmingham,1996).
I think we are obliged to conclude about this subject, as indeed for all subjects, that Allah knows best.