There is no doubt that in most countries today it is not acceptable for a 53–year-old man to marry a 9–year-girl. Why? Because it is against the law and against the traditions of the people. This means that if we want to label any action as wrong, then we need to ask: wrong according to what, the law or the traditions?

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never violated the law, the Qur’an descended during his lifetime and never prohibited the Prophet’s acts. Also, the Messenger never violated the traditions and customs of his people, as we all know that he was attacked vigorously by the idolaters, the Jews, and the hypocrites. They lashed out at him boldly and continuously attempted to defame his personality, but they never claimed that he was a pedophile or a child abuser. Why? In fact, using his marriage to `A’ishah, when she was so young, could have been an excellent opportunity to destroy him and to convince his Companions and followers that he was not worthy of following.

The answer is simply because these kinds of practices were the norm at that time of the Prophet. Therefore, he did not violate the traditions of his people in his time. Prophet Muhammad was also married to Safiyyah, the daughter of Huyayy ibn Akhtab, the leader of a Jewish tribe in Arabia. The Prophet married her when she was 16 years old and guess what? He was her third husband; she was married twice before him. So, how old do you think she was when she got married to her first husband? Probably around 9, just like `A’ishah.

It is mentioned in authentic hadiths that our Prophet got engaged to her when she was 7 years old and waited for two whole years until she reached the age of 9. Then, when she reached puberty, he married her. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica—which is a Western source written by non-Muslim scholars and scientists—puberty is “in human physiology, the stage or period of life when a child transforms into an adult normally capable of procreation,” which essentially means “sexually mature.”

Another surprise is that when he got engaged to her at the age of 7, he was not the first man in her life. She was engaged before him to the son of `Uqbah ibn Mu`ait. He was one of the idol worshipers of the Quraish, who had abandoned her because of her father’s strong position in supporting Islam. What I want to say is that it is unfair to sit in air-conditioning, enjoying popcorn in 2006, and to judge the actions of people who lived 1,400 years ago, in a completely different environment.

You can imagine how a girl would feel if she was abused by an old man. This is completely different from the beautiful stories that `A’ishah narrated about the gentleness, kindness, and romanticism of the Prophet of Allah. Whenever you read the story of the Prophet and `A’ishah, you get the feeling that this was a perfect love story, the kind that Shakespeare was trying to write when he wrote Romeo and Juliet. Except that his story had a sad ending since Romeo committed suicide along with his beloved Juliet.

I have never found any evidence that states that the noble Prophet made `A’ishah sit on his lap when she was 5 years old. Please ask those who told you that to give you their references. Make sure to keep in mind the words of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), a Scottish historian, critic, and sociological writer who said, “The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man [Muhammad], are disgraceful to ourselves only.” Many lies were told about God’s Messenger, as well as other messengers and prophets. In addition, our religion tells us that the prophets are the best of mankind, simply because when Allah chose certain people from among His creation, He chose the best.

Regarding your question about how the Prophet could leave `A’ishah some time after they got married—well this is news to me! In all history books it is clearly stated that the Prophet left `A’ishah when he died, not by separation or divorce. He even died in her room, with his head leaning on her chest.

Regarding your friend’s question about the Prophet having 20 wives and leaving many of them who had begged him to keep them—I wish, once again, that you ask your friends about their sources. This statement is also inaccurate. Prophet Muhammad married 11 wives, and never had more than nine at the same time. Most of his wives were either divorcees or widows. This was at a time when the men in the society used to abandon widows and divorcees.

Some of the Prophet’s wives were even older than him. Each marriage had its own story and reasons. For example, one of them was honored by his marriage after her husband had apostatized in Abyssinia by converting to Christianity. But she kept her faith and refused to convert under his pressure, returning back to Arabia to face her dark future as a divorcee.

Regarding slavery, you should know that Islam came in order to free slaves as well all of mankind from tyranny. The main ruling in Islam that deals with prisoners of war is either to free them, to exchange them with Muslim prisoners of war, or else to ransom them for money to compensate for the warfare expenses. This is clearly explained in the Qur’an when it says what means:

*{Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others…}* (Muhammad 47:4)

Slaves were taken only when Muslims entered battles against others who would enslave prisoners of war. Thus Muslims applied the fair ruling of equal treatment. Enemy soldiers would not enter combat with calm nerves because they were fighting gentlemen who did not enslave, while Muslim soldiers would go into combat with the risk of spending the rest of their lives in chains!

Mut`ah marriages (temporary marriages) were allowed in the time of war, although their legality was later annulled. But even when it was allowed, the wife had all the rights as any Muslim wife and the children had the same rights as any Muslim child. Finally, dear sister, you should know that Islam is perfect because it is the religion of Allah, the Creator of existence and the God of all creation. I encourage you not to waste your time in such discussions with those who might only want to instigate a polemic yet are not truth seekers. The best way to refute misconceptions is by becoming an example and role model for others.

**Fadel Soliman