“Do not measure the Prophet (pbuh) up to the yardstick either you or society have and find him lacking. Rather, measure what you and society are against the yardstick that is the perfection of the Prophet (pbuh).”
Imam Al Sha’rawi
I had a really tough time with the lesson on tuesday. We were discussing, at my request, the Prophet’s marriage to Saydina Aisha, more commonly known to Western society as his nine-year old bride. I hadn’t, until very recently, realized that I on some level I objected to this marriage. [For anyone who doesn’t know, Aisha was at the time nine years old. The Prophet (pbuh) was fifty]. I did NOT believe that Aisha was coerced into the marriage, or that it was in any way against her will. I did believe that she was happy and satisfied and that she wouldn’t change anything for the world. I just felt unsure about it. My gut reaction was, to put it plainly, queasy. What I wanted was to quell the feelings of uncertainty in me, rather than find a reason to validate the marriage.
So the teacher started with the reasons of the marriage. The story goes like this: The Prophet (pbuh) had a dream in which Gabriel gave him a rich, green cloth. When he opened it, he seen therein the picture/image of Aisha. So he went to his good friend Abu Bakr and asked for his daughters hand in marriage. She was, at the time seven years old. And she was engaged. So the Prophet (pbuh) went home, feeling slightly confused. And therein we have one point. 1) The Prophet (pbuh) was not a solitary, lustful, pedophiliac, abusing his Prophethood and out to get some innocent child because at 7 the girl was already engaged. It was customary to betroth children at such an early age! And not only in Asian culture. If you look at Europe in the Middle Ages, it was common to be married by the age of 11 or 12. Why the age difference? you may ask. Because according to statistics, the closer one is to the equator the earlier the onset of puberty.
Now, I must admit, that didn’t totally convince me. Because that wasn’t my problem. My issue wasn’t with the Prophet’s (pbuh) intentions or motives. My problem was with myself. Why on earth was I feeling this way, recently, towards something that had never before caused me second thought? And, subhanAllah, how sometimes the answer to your question is right there. It was quite simple really. Up until very recently, the issue of girls being married at a young age weren’t that big of a problem. As the teacher was talking I vividly remember the time I was obsessed with the Middle Ages, and read anything and everything about it. One book’s heroine was seven, if my memory serves me, and her father was dying. So he called to his good friend, a thirty-some year old man and pleaded with him to marry his daughter so that the some-one (sorry sketchy details but I believe it was an uncle who wouldn’t hesitate to use and abuse the child and swindle her of her fathers money). So the friend agreed and married her, and they lived together happily every after, and consummated the marriage once the girl reached the age of puberty (12 I think, sorry!) My point? At the time I didn’t even give it a second thought. Because it was presented in a way that made it not only completely normal and morally correct but also a logic solution to the problem!
And that is the crux of the matter. Therein lay my problem. The quote at the top of this page was what hit the nail home for me. I realized that I had let society, the proverbial ‘they,’ into my head where they were happily wrecking havoc with my beliefs, morals, and principles. ‘They’ were now my yardstick against which I measured my Prophet (pbuh). I feel like a complete idiot.
On top of all these feelings of stupidity and ignorance, you know just to dig it in a little deeper, the sister highlighted something that, well, got me thinking. In our western, modern society, there is the very serious problem of the every increasing pregnancy and abortion statistics on girls aged nine, ten, and eleven! In the UK the answer is apparently educating them on the use of contraceptives. “Teenagers don’t want to hear that sex is against the law. Sex happens and emotions run high which means that emergency contraception should be made available.” So as long as they’re having safe sex and society doesn’t have to deal with the messy aftereffects of a pregnancy or abortion its fine? But if 1500 years ago a man married a mature, intelligent woman that’s classified as pedophilia? And yes, I did call a nine-year old a woman. Where did this whole concept of teenager, tween, and young-adult come from anyways? According to the sister giving the lesson, the idea of teenager was originally coined by an early psychologist following the publish of the book “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin. He believed that humans had evolved psychologically as well as physically and that one of the ‘stages’ they had gone through was the teen-age stage, full of turmoil and conflict.
So society has us convinced that teenagers are troubled not quite children but not quite adults, struggling to find their little niche in a world of conflict and turmoil. Because according to their body they are no longer children. They are adults. But according to society, they are treated as though they are children with all their legal rights, marriage, driving, working, living along, leaving school, gambling, drinking, smoking, postponed. So they have to contradict their basic nature which is telling them that yes, you are an adult, and conform by societies standards and rules. And on top of all that they’re spoon-fed all this crap about rebellion, independence, freedom of choice when in reality they’re hands are tied. How could they not be troubled? Yeesh. So glad I got out of that one alive.
Which makes it clear that, unlike today, children of the recent past were raised in a way were they accepted responsibility much earlier than they do today. The concept of childhood, teenager, young adult, adult didn’t exist to them. They had childhood the transitional occurrence of puberty, and then adulthood. Period, pun not intended =P. I wouldn’t for a second condone the marriage of any nine year old today, or even an 18 year old for that matter. The way we are raised, or programmed if you will, by society is not in such a healthy, mature manner that encourages early marriage and reproduction, yahnahmean?
But it’s all good. Glad that I finally got it straight. Thanks, as always, to the sister that set it straight. There are a multitude of other reasons that she gave as to the early marriage which I didn’t include because this is my catharsis, and I wanted to talk about my problems =D. Jp. I just really got to go study