Qur'an Contradiction

The Age of Marriage

Sam Shamoun

The Quran, in at least one passage, presupposes that there is an age which a girl must attain before she can be considered marriageable:

And try orphans (as regards their intelligence) until they reach the age of marriage; if then you find sound judgement in them, release their property to them, but consume it not wastefully, and hastily fearing that they should grow up, and whoever amongst guardians is rich, he should take no wages, but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable (according to his work). And when you release their property to them, take witness in their presence; and Allah is All Sufficient in taking account. S. 4:6 Hilali-Khan

Note that the expression "until they reach the age of marriage" takes it for granted that there is an age that girls have to reach before a man can marry them. Presumably, that age would be puberty, a point accepted by Muslim expositors.

Here are three commentaries regarding the meaning of the above text, taken from some of Islam’s greatest scholars and exegetes:

(Prove orphans) test the intelligence of orphans (till they reach the marriageable age) the age of puberty; … (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; bold and italic emphasis ours)

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; … (Tafsir Al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

<until they reach the age of marriage>, the age of puberty, according to Mujahid. The age of puberty according to the majority of scholars comes when the child has a wet dream. In his Sunan, Abu Dawud recorded that `Ali said, "I memorized these words from the Messenger of Allah, …

<<There is no orphan after the age of puberty nor vowing to be silent throughout the day to the night.>>" In another Hadith, `A'ishah and other Companions said that the Prophet said …

<<The pen does not record the deeds of three persons: the child until the age of puberty, the sleeping person until waking up, and the senile until sane.>> Or, the age of fifteen is considered the age of adolescence. In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that Ibn `Umar said, "I was presented in front of the Prophet on the eve of the battle of Uhud, while I was fourteen years of age, and he did not allow me to take part in that battle. But I was presented in front of him on the eve of the battle of Al-Khandaq (The Trench) when I was fifteen years old, and he allowed me (to join that battle)." `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz commented when this Hadith reached him, "This is the difference between a child and an adult." There is a difference of opinion over whether pubic hair is considered a sign of adulthood, and the correct opinion is that it is. The Sunnah supports this view, according to a Hadith collected by Imam Ahmad from `Atiyah Al-Qurazi who said, "We were presented to the Prophet on the day of Quraizah, whoever had pubic hair was killed, whoever did not was left free to go, I was one of those who did not, so I was left free." The Four Sunan compilers also recorded similar to it. At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Sahih." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

All three of the above commentators agree that puberty is the right age for a girl to consider marriage, with both Ibn Kathir and al-Shafi placing that age at fifteen. Al-Shafi happened to be one of the greatest Islamic scholars and jurists and even has an Islamic school of jurisprudence named after him.

Once again, Muhammad is found violating his very own command since he married a girl who was nine years old:

Narrated Aisha:
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. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234)

Narrated 'Aisha:
that the Prophet married 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 (i.e., till his death). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64; see also Numbers 65 and 88)

A Muslim may say that, contrary to the opinion of Ibn Kathir and al-Shafi, the age of puberty cannot be fixed at fifteen since some girls attain puberty at a younger age. They may further argue that Aisha happened to attain puberty at nine, which means that she was lawful for Muhammad. The problem with this assertion is that it contradicts the express statements of specific Islamic sources that say that Aisha hadn’t attained puberty when Muhammad consummated his marriage with her:

'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, 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)

The reason why Muhammad permitted Aisha to take her dolls to his house and play with them after their marriage was because she hadn’t reached puberty:

Narrated 'Aisha:
I used to play with the dolls in the 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 page 143, Vol.13) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 151)

The problems are just starting for Muslims. Elsewhere in the Quran men are permitted to marry and divorce young girls who haven’t attained sexual maturity:

And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the 'Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise, except in case of death]. And for those who are pregnant (whether they are divorced or their husbands are dead), their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is until they deliver (their burdens), and whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him. S. 65:4 Hilali-Khan

Those who haven’t menstruated yet are girls who haven’t attained maidenhood or puberty. The Quran says that there is no waiting period (iddah) for those women whose marriages have not been consummated:

O ye who believe! When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them, no period of 'Iddat have ye to count in respect of them: so give them a present. And set them free in a handsome manner. S. 33:49 Hilali-Khan

What this means is that Q. 65:4 is referring to young prepubertal girls (girls who haven’t attained sexual maturation) who got married and were divorced sometime after the consummation of their marriages!

Lest a Muslim accuse us of distorting the meaning of the reference, here, once again, are the three exegetes we had cited earlier:

(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 who are 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. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; bold, capital and italic emphasis ours)

And [as for] those of your women who (read alla'i or 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-Jalalayn; source)

The `Iddah of Those in Menopause and Those Who do not have Menses

Allah the Exalted clarifies the waiting period of the woman in menopause. And that is the one whose menstruation has stopped due to her older age. Her `Iddah is three months instead of the three monthly cycles for those who menstruate, which is based upon the Ayah in (Surat) Al-Baqarah. [see 2:228] The same for the young, WHO HAVE NOT REACHED THE YEARS OF MENSTRUATION. Their `Iddah is three months like those in menopause. This is the meaning of His saying…

<and for those who have no courses...> as for His saying…

<if you have doubt…> There are two opinions: First, is the saying of a group of the Salaf, like Mujahid, Az-Zuhri and Ibn Zayd. That is, if they see blood and there is doubt if it was menstrual blood or not. The second, is that if you do not know the ruling in this case, then know that their `Iddah is three months. This has been reported from Sa`id bin Jubayr and it is the view preferred by Ibn Jarir. And this is the more obvious meaning. Supporting this view is what is reported from Ubay bin Ka`b that he said, "O Allah's Messenger! Some women were not mentioned in the Qur'an, THE YOUNG, the old and the pregnant." Allah the Exalted and Most Honored sent down this Ayah

<Those in menopause among your women, for them the `Iddah, if you have doubt, is three months; and for those who have no courses. And for those who are pregnant, their `Iddah is until they lay down their burden.> Ibn Abi Hatim recorded a simpler narration than this one from Ubay bin Ka`b who said, "O Allah's Messenger! When the Ayah in Surat Al-Baqarah was revealed prescribing the `Iddah of divorce, some people in Al-Madinah said, `There are still some women whose `Iddah has not been mentioned in the Qur'an. There are THE YOUNG, the old whose menstruation is discontinued, and the pregnant.’ (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

These scholars weren’t alone in claiming that Q. 65:4 refers to prepubertal girls getting married and divorced by Muslim men. Notice what the modern, late Muslim commentator Syed Abu-Ala’ Maududi wrote regarding this very verse:

They may not have menstruated as yet either because of young age, or delayed menstrual discharge as it happens in the case of some women, or because of no discharge at all throughout life which, though rare, may also be the case. In any case, the waiting-period of such a woman is the same as of the woman, who has stopped menstruation, that is three months from the time divorce was pronounced.
Here, one should bear in mind the fact that according to the explanations given in the Qur'an the question of the waiting period arises in respect of the women with whom marriage may have been consummated, for there is no waiting-period in case divorce is pronounced before the consummation of marriage. (Al-Ahzab: 49). 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, Towards Understanding the Qur’an, volume 5, p. 620, note 13; source; bold emphasis ours)

Moreover, note how the hadith compiler al-Bukhari explained this passage:

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)

The imam al-Bukhari used Aisha’s marriage as an illustration of a prepubescent girl who was married, thereby supporting the fact that Q. 65:4 does permit men to marry prepubescents. Moreover, the imam’s comments provide additional corroboration that Muhammad married Aisha before she reached maidenhood!

So now we have a contradiction between two directives of the Quran, one that presupposes a marriageable age for girls and the other which places no limits on the age a girl can get married!

Hence, no matter from what angle a Muslim tries to examine this, Muhammad still turns out to be guilty of breaking his own commands and of introducing contradictory teachings within his so-called miracle, the Quran.

Further Reading


Contradictions in the Qur'an
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