I would like to see your response to the following, which is relevant to Ayesha‘s age question of your site.
An Intermediate Response
I have read the referred article. I really do not think that it needs any response from my side, as it relies on the very sources that I have presented my reservations upon. In case it has raised any questions in your mind, I shall be glad to answer them. However, without any specific questions, I really don’t see any reason why I should write any thing else on the issue.
You state in your article that the hadith of Ayesha‘s age is narrated by only one narrator, Hisham ibn `urwah, after he moved to Iraq at the age of 71.
But according to Robert Squires:
… two were narrated from ‘Ayeshah (7:64 and 7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236) and one via ‘Ursa (7:88). All three of the ahadith in Sahih Muslim have ‘Ayeshah as a narrator. Additionally, all of the ahadith in both books agree that the marriage betrothal contract took place when ‘Ayeshah was “six years old”, but was not consummated until she was “nine years old”.
I would like to see some clarification on this point.
I would first of all like to make a small (part) correction to the first point in my article. I had written:
Most of these narratives are reported only by Hisham ibn `urwah reporting on the authority of his father. An event as well known as the one being reported, should logically have been reported by more people than just one, two or three.
In fact, although it is Hisham ibn `Urwah who is reporting most of these narratives, however, it is not him, but his father `Urwah who is common in all these narratives. It should be kept in mind that when I say that all these narratives have been reported through `Urwah, it actually implies that it is only the narratives of Urwah in which the chain of narrators is generally considered to be acceptably reliable. Besides the narratives of Urwah, there do exist five other chains of narrators reporting the same incident. However, those chains include people who have been criticized by some of the scholars and compilers of the lives of the reporters of Hadith.
Even though this correction of names from Hisham ibn `Urwah to his father, `Urwah does not have much of an effect on my arguments, as my statement: “…An event as well known as the one being reported, should logically have been reported by more people than just one, two or three” holds good in both the cases. Other facts that do not change include that there is not a single tradition that comes with an all-Medinan1 chain of narrators, where Ayesha (and even Hisham) spent most of her life. There is hardly (if at all) any exception to the fact that all the chains of this report include one or more Iraqi or one or more Basri in them. This makes the credibility of the reports ascribed to `Urwah somewhat questionable too.
Now, let us take a look at the article you have referred to. Besides the point that you have raised, I wish to present my reservations on one more point of this article, that is, giving the narratives describing Ayesha‘s age the status of Sunnah. Nevertheless, let us first take up the point you have raised.
I had stated previously and have reiterated here again that all the narratives of this report, generally considered reliable, come through one person – `Urwah. Mr. Robert Squires, on the other hand states:
Of the four ahadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, two were narrated from ‘Ayeshah (7:64 and 7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236) and one via ‘Ursa (7:88). All three of the ahadith in Sahih Muslim have ‘Ayeshah as a narrator.
I think there is a spelling error in this statement of Mr. Squires. It seems that the name of the third narrator should be `Urwah or `Urwa rather than `Ursa. However, I request Mr. Squires to correct me, if I am wrong. Another thing that needs to be clarified is that Abu Hishaam and `Urwah are the same person. `Urwah, because of his son Hishaam, was also called Abu Hishaam, according to the Arab tradition.
In response to your question on the apparent contradiction in my statement when compared to that of Mr. Squires’, I would only like to say that it is just a case of a simple misunderstanding. This misunderstanding can easily be removed by a little more understanding of the two statements.
When Mr. Squires states that these reports come to us from different sources, he is really considering only the first person (sahabi2 or ta’bi`iy3 in the chain of narrators of these reports. On the other hand, when I say that these reports are only (or mostly) reported by one narrator, it means that even though the first person in the chain of these reports changes there is a common narrator in all these reports. Just to clarify, take the example of the four reportings of Sahih Bukhari. According to Mr Squires: “Of the four ahadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, two were narrated from ‘Ayeshah (7:64 and 7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236) and one via ‘Ursa [`Urwa or `Urwah??] (7:88).” Now if you consider Mr. Squires’ statement, he is only referring to the first person in the chain of narrators in his statement. The statement is not wrong or misquoted. Nevertheless, if you take a look at the chain of narrators of the four reportings of Sahih Bukhari, you shall see that in the first two cases, Ayesha‘s (ra) statement has been quoted by none other than `Urwah – Abu Hishaam (the father of Hishaam). In the later two cases, it is (Mr. Squires is requested to correct me if I am mistaken) `Urwah – Abu Hishaam – who is being referred to by Mr. Squires.
I think the above explanation should suffice as clarification that you desired.
Mr. Squires has also implied in his referred article that these narratives describing Ayesha‘s (ra) age are a part of the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). He states:
At this point, it should be mentioned that it is absolutely pointless from an Islamic standpoint to say that the age of ‘Ayeshah is “not found in the Qur’an “, since the textual sources of Islam are made up of both the Qur’an and the Sunnah – and the Qur’an tells us that.
Mr. Squires has also referred to an article by Mr. Suhaib Hasan (http://home.att.net/~r-squires/Sunnah.htm) in which Mr. Hasan has defined Sunnah as:
… the Sunnah includes the sayings of the Prophet , peace be upon him, known commonly as hadiths (i.e. sayings), his practices, and actions which gained his approval.
In my view, the above statement, though commonly accepted by Muslims, does not accurately describe Sunnah. However, for the purposes of this discussion, let us take this to be an accurate explanation of Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). Even then, the narratives describing Ayesha‘s (ra) age at the time of her marriage do not fall under the scope of Sunnah. Obviously, the narrative of Ayesha‘s (ra) age at the time of her marriage is not a part of “the sayings of the Prophet, (peace be upon him)”, it cannot be termed as the Prophet’s “practices” and neither can it be included in the “actions which gained his approval”. The narrative of Ayesha‘s age is just a narrative of a historical event. Just because it has been reported by Bukhari and Muslim, does not change its status from being a narrative of a historical event to a Sunnah. Because of this fact, this narrative should be seen in the light of all other narratives of historical events, which have been reported by Bukhari, Muslim and other historians of Islam. This is exactly what I have tried to do in my article from point number 5 to 12.
In the presence of all these historical narratives that contradict the narrative of Ayesha‘s age at the time of her marriage, any one who wants to prove that Ayesha (ra) was nine years at the time of consummation of her marriage has the responsibility of telling others why is he rejecting all the other historical narratives and accepting only the one that states Ayesha‘s age to be nine at the time of her marriage.
4th June 1998