Revisiting the Issue of Puberty and Marriage

Examining Muhammad’s Marriage with Aisha in light of Jewish Tradition
And Addressing One Muslim Dawagandist Defense of his prophet’s marriage

Sam Shamoun

Just recently I wrote a response to Jalal’s critique of my article concerning my use of a Biblical parable to establish the fact that the Holy Bible presupposes that the starting age for marriage in the case of girls is some point after puberty (*). I then demonstrated how Muhammad violated this Biblical tradition by marrying a minor who hadn’t reached maidenhood and for allowing his men to do likewise.

For additional details please consult the following articles: 1, 2, 3

In this article I will source a Jewish reference to show that the Jews before Muhammad’s time believed that once a girl passed the age of twelve she was a maiden who could get married. From there I will reference a narrative where Muhammad is said to have accepted this Jewish tradition and even went so far as to claim that this was actually prescribed in the Torah itself!

Here is the Jewish source:

With regard to a girl, it was urged that the father's duty was to secure a husband for her at an early age. The verse, ‘Profane not thy daughter to make her a harlot’ (Leviticus 19:29) was applied to a man ‘who delays in arranging a marriage while she is of suitable age’ (Sanhedrin 76a). She was considered to have arrived at this stage when she passed her twelfth birthday. According to Talmudic law, ‘A man is forbidden to give his daughter in marriage while she is a minor, until she is grown up and says, I wish to marry so-and-so’ (Kid. 41a). If he married her in her minority she could repudiate the marriage on reaching the age of twelve, and have it annulled without a divorce. (Abraham Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud – The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages [Schoken Books, New York 1995], Chapter V. Domestic Life, II. Marriage and Divorce, pp. 162-163)

Now notice what Muhammad is reported to have said:

Abu Sa‘id and Ibn ‘Abbas reported God’s messenger as saying, "He who has a son born to him should give him a good name and a good education and marry him when he reaches puberty. If he does not marry him when he reaches puberty and he commits sin, its guilt rests only upon his father."

'Umar b. al-Khattab and Anas b. Malik reported God's messenger as saying that it is written in the Torah, "If anyone does not give his daughter in marriage when she reaches twelve and she commits sin, the guilt of that rests on him." Baihaqi transmitted both traditions in Shu'ab al-Iman. (Mishkat Al-Masabih English Translation With Explanatory Notes by Dr. James Robson, [Sh. Muhammad Ahsraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters, Lahore-Pakistan, Reprint 1990], Volume I, Book XIII. – Marriage, Chapter III. The Guardian in Marriage, and asking the Woman’s consent, section III, pp. 666-667)

Muhammad is obviously referring to what the Talmud teaches concerning this subject, which he must have heard from his dealings with the Jews.

Now this places Jalal in a dilemma. According to his false prophet, it was God who revealed in the Torah that the marriageable age for a girl starts at twelve. Thus, if Muhammad is correct that this is God’s prescribed Law for marriage then he stands in stark violation of it for marrying a nine-year old who was still a minor in the eyes of God, and for allowing others to marry minors as well!

Yet Jalal thinks he has a response to this since this is what he writes in the booklet he produced for his debate with David Wood:

  1. The Torah today is not the Torah of Moses.
  2. The Old Testament is not the Torah of Moses.
  3. The OT was written by Jews during the exile to Babylon; they added fabricated stories to it. (Is Muhammad a Prophet?, pp. 26-27; source)

Muhammad was evidently ignorant of these facts since he clearly testifies that the Old Testament which the Jews of his time possessed was the very revelation which God gave through the prophets:

Yet how will they make thee their judge seeing THEY HAVE the Torah, wherein is God's judgment, then thereafter turn their backs? They are not believers. Surely We sent down the Torah, wherein is guidance and light; thereby the Prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment for those of Jewry, as did the masters and the rabbis, following such portion of God's Book as they were given to keep and were witnesses to. So fear not men, but fear you Me; and sell not My signs for a little price. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down - they are the unbelievers. And therein We prescribed for them: 'A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation'; but whosoever forgoes it as a freewill offering, that shall be for him an expiation. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down -- they are the evildoers. S. 5:43-45

Here, a command is given to the Jews of Muhammad’s day to consult the Torah, the Book of God, since it contains God’s judgment. It even quotes a verse from that very Torah which helps us to identify it, a citation which can still be found today:

"But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." Exodus 21:23-25

This isn’t the only place where the Quran quotes from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures:

For We have written in the Psalms, after the Remembrance, 'The earth shall be the inheritance of My righteous servants.' S. 21:105

The above is a direct quotation to the following Psalm:

"But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace… the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever." Psalm 37:11, 29

What makes the above Quranic references to the Torah and the Psalms all the more interesting is that they presuppose a very high view of the Bible’s authority and inspiration. Contrary to the assertions of many a Muslim polemicist such as Jalal, these specific texts assume that the very words of the Scriptures are actually God’s, despite the fact that these writings fully incorporate the distinct personalities of the various human agents that were involved in their production. The Quran’s author didn’t think for a moment that God’s use of human authors to reveal his Divine truths somehow undermined the Scripture’s inspiration. The author didn’t assume that the Holy Bible wasn’t as divine or authoritative as the Islamic scripture simply because the former was communicated through various human authors who used different literary genres whereas the latter was allegedly dictated word for word.

Returning to the issue at hand, namely the availability and the precise identity of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Quran further states that Jesus was sent to confirm the Torah which he possessed:

And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah THAT IS BETWEEN HIS HANDS (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrat) and We gave to him the Gospel, wherein IS guidance and light, and confirming the Torah THAT IS BETWEEN HIS/ITS HANDS (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrat), as a guidance and an admonition unto the godfearing. S. 5:46 our translation

With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, which contained copies of all of the OT books with the exception of Esther, we definitely know what the Torah looked like during Jesus’ time. The Dead Sea Scrolls conclusively prove that the Torah that Jesus confirmed as the inspired, inerrant Word of God is virtually identical to what we have in the OT today.

The Quran, at this point, is merely repeating what the NT states concerning Jesus’ view of the Hebrew Bible:

"But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." Matthew 22:31-32

Here, the Lord quotes Exodus 3:6 as God speaking to the people of his time. In other words, whenever a person reads the Scriptures he is listening to the very voice of God who speaks through these inspired writings. Thus, Jesus held a very high of the Hebrew Bible.

With this in view if Jalal is right concerning the production of the Old Testament then this means that Muhammad was wrong since he has Jesus basically confirming a Book which was only compiled during the Babylonian exile, one that had been corrupted by the Jews! But if Muhammad is correct then the Jews did not corrupt their Torah and the Old Testament that they possess is definitely the very inspired Word which God gave them through his prophets. Therefore, Jalal is wrong and is either lying about what the Quran says or is ignorant concerning what his own book teaches on such matters.

Jalal proceeds to commit the fallacy of false analogy:

  1. Protestants do not believe the Catholic Bible is the true Word of God, object to Muslims using against them the Catholic Bible or the Gospel of Barnabas, saying these are Non-Canonical Apocryphal. Yet, they insist on using what Muslims consider as Non-Canonical Apocryphal.

Jalal’s statements are brimming with errors which we need to be refuted. First, sourcing a tradition that is found in an acceptable collection of Islamic narratives is not the same as a Muslim quoting from a fourteenth-sixteenth century medieval forgery to prove that Jesus announced the coming of Muhammad! (*)

Second, Protestants do accept the Catholic Bible as the true Word of God since the Catholic edition contains all sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible. Where we disagree is concerning the seven Apocryphal books and additional chapters to specific canonical writings, called Deutero-canonical by the Catholics which they accept as inspired and authoritative.

Now in order to know whether these books are part of the OT canon one needs to follow the advice of the NT writers and consult the Jews to see if they ever recognized these writings as inspired. After all, the Christian Greek Scriptures teach that the Jews were entrusted with God’s revelations, his law and covenants:

"What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with THE VERY WORDS OF GOD." Romans 3:1-2

"For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; THEIRS IS the divine glory, THE COVENANTS, THE RECEIVING OF THE LAW, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." Romans 9:4-5

The NT is echoing what the OT says concerning this issue:

"He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the LORD." Psalm 147:19-20

Moreover, the Quran itself says that God placed prophecy, the covenant and his Book among the Jews:

We gave Moses the Book, and made it a Guide to the Children of Israel, (commanding): "Take not other than Me as Disposer of (your) affairs." O ye that are sprung from those whom We carried (in the Ark) with Noah! Verily he was a devotee most grateful. And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Book, that twice would they do mischief on the earth and be elated with mighty arrogance (and twice would they be punished)! S. 17:2-4

We did aforetime give Moses the Guidance, and We gave the Book in INHERITANCE to the Children of Israel,- A Guide and a Reminder to men of understanding. S. 40:53-54

We did aforetime grant to the Children of Israel THE BOOK, the Power of Command, AND PROPHETHOOD; We gave them, for Sustenance, things good and pure; and We favored them above the nations. And We granted them Clear Signs in affairs (of Religion): it was only after knowledge had been granted to them that they fell into schisms, through insolent envy among themselves. Verily thy Lord will judge between them on the Day of Judgment as to those matters in which they set up differences. S. 45:16-17

The similitude of those who were entrusted with the Taurát, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands them not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah: and Allah guides not people who do wrong. Say: "O ye of Jewry! If ye think that ye are friends to Allah, to the exclusion of (other) men, then express your desire for Death, if ye are truthful!" S. 62:5-6

The Muslim scripture also encourages people to ask the Children of Israel about their history, especially regarding the Exodus:

And certainly We gave Moses nine clear signs; SO ASK THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL. When he came to them, Pharaoh said to him: Most surely I deem you, O Moses, to be a man deprived of reason. S. 17:101

Hence, both Christians and Muslims must turn to Jewish history if they want to know what the canon of the OT is, and once they do so they will soon discover that these additional Jewish writings, which the Catholics accept, are NOT part of God’s revelations to the Children of Israel. For more on this point we suggest reading the following articles: 1, 2, 3.

Jalal tries to undermine the veracity of this hadith from Miskhat Al-Masabih:

  1. Al-Baihaqi, the same Hadeeth Scholar who collected and quoted the Hadeeth, stated that both the text and the chain of narration for this Hadeeth are ‘Shadeed an-Nakarah’, indicating fabrication.
  2. One should be honorable in his opposition and not hide essential parts of what he quotes from others. Christian critics show a talent for omitting crucial parts of Ayat and Hadeeths.

What is fabricated about this narrative? That the Jews set the starting age for marriage in the case of girls at 12? That can’t be it since we have provided the documentation which conclusively shows that this was the position taken by the Jews long before Muhammad’s time.

That Muhammad would not have known or taken such information from the Jews? This, too, can’t be the case since the Quran is filled with fables that Muhammad "borrowed" from non-canonical Jewish sources:

Muhammad is even reported to have stated that the Muslims could narrate stories from the Jews:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr:
The Prophet said, "Convey (my teachings) to the people even if it were a single sentence, and tell others the stories of Bani Israel (which have been taught to you), for it is not sinful to do so. And whoever tells a lie on me intentionally, will surely take his place in the (Hell) Fire." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 667)

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: relate traditions from the children of Isra'il; there is no harm. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 25, Number 3654)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) used to relate to us traditions from the children of Isra'il till morning came; he would not get up except for obligatory prayer. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 25, Number 3655)

Moreover, seeing that the Talmud does say that fathers should marry off their daughters once they pass the age of twelve this suggests that some Muslim must have been aware of this tradition. If not Muhammad, then someone from the Islamic community heard or read this and obviously agreed with it since he put these words in the mouth of his own prophet, claiming that God had revealed this in the Torah!

Whatever the case may be, the fact is that this tradition shows that even at the time of Muhammad people knew and took for granted that the starting age of marriage should be puberty, which in the case of girls meant when they passed the age of twelve. Muhammad clearly violated this cultural norm in order to marry and sleep with a nine-year old minor who, according to Islamic tradition, hadn’t even attained puberty! To make matters worse, he even condoned this for his followers, granting them the right to marry prepubescent minors if they so choose. For the details please see the above links which we provided at the start of our discussion.

Responses to Jalal Abualrub
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page