Another one bites the dust
It seems all there is to blog about is Muslims, or anti-Muslims for that matter: sometimes you can’t see the difference. This time it’s another Dutch politician: Ehsan Jami (an Iranian by birth). Until a few days ago he maintained he was going to produce yet another anti-Islamic movie, one that he predicted would stirr as much unrest as the Danish cartoon controversy. It would if you depicted the prophet of Islam with an erection, about to consumate his marriage to a nine year old in a mosque (why in a mosque????).
The movie -a cartoon- was planned for April 20th, better known to Germans as Führergeburtstag. Pressure from the Dutch government has caused Jami to decide not to make the movie. If any muslims from the Middle East are reading this: the Dutch government does try to prevent unnecessary insults to Muslims, sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s an unfortunate side effect of having a system of government where nobody, not even the government is above the law (but by far not as unfortunate as having a system of government where some people are). But I digress.
It may be good that one cartoon has been cancelled, but meanwhile this whole ‘Muhammad did a nine year old’-thing keeps buzzing around in the west. It’s an unfortunate side effect of two developments. Ideas about at what age, and under what circumstances men can have sex with children have vastly changed since the 7th century and Muslims in the west -in an attempt to fight prejudices about Islam- have insisted people should get better acquainted with Islam, and a lot of westerners have.
The problem is hadiths, anecdotes about the life and times of the prophet, collected in the three centuries after his death with a legal purpose: if the qur’an couldn’t decide on an issue, maybe the example of the prophet could. A few hadiths from the most reputable collectors tell in unequivocal terms about the age of Aisha -the girl in question- at the time she was married to Muhammad. The Uzbek Bukhari collected no less than five hadiths on the subject: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. The Persian Muslim has three: 1, 2, 3 and the Afghan abu Da’ud two: 1, 2. The question seems settled then: a prophet and a nine year old. Well, so it seems…
Because the very same collections of hadiths were also used to collect data on biographies of the prophet, history-books on islam and to compile commentaries on the qur’an, so called tafsirs. If you read those carefully enough to pry out any chronological information, a whole new image appears.
The islamic historian Tabari has two tales that are unrelated to the issue, but still have significance. According to the first tale Aisha was first betrothed to another man in the year 614/615, but she married Muhammad in 622. She can’t have been six or seven in 622 when she was already there -and betrothed- in 614/615. According to the second tale, Aisha and her three siblings were all born in the pre-islamic period. That’s before 610, the year Muhammad started preaching. In 622 she must have been at least 12.
According to the earliest biography we have of Muhammad, Aisha accepted islam before Umar, who was one of the first men to do so. This means she must have converted in 610 or 611. If that is true, in 622 she must have been 11 or 12 plus the age a child needs to have to be able to become a Muslim (when does a child speak?).
Then there’s the story of the battle of Badr in 624, to which no one was allowed to go below the age of 15. Since Aisha went, she must have been born before 609 and at least 13 at marriage. To conclude there’s Asma, her sister who was ten years older. She died in 692 at the age of one hundred. This would mean she was born in 592 and Aisha in 602, making her no less than 20 at her marriage in 622.
There’s but one conclusion we can draw: about the age of Aisha at her marriage to the founder of Islam we know absolutely nothing. I doubt if the pressure the Dutch government put on Jami was about hadith, but it’s still a good reason for not bringing out the film.