The Prophet Muhammad and his young bride

According to information found on Wikipedia, most sources indicate that the girl Aisha bint Abi Bakr was only nine or ten years old when she was married off to Muhammad about AD 622.

This has given occasion for some indignation on the part of western critics. However, before being too scandalised we ought to bear this in mind:

·         Margaret, the daughter of King Béla III of Hungary, was only ten years old when she around AD 1190 was married off to the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II.

·         Constance of Hohenstaufen, daughter of Frederic II of the Holy Roman Empire, was only twelve years old when she in AD 1244 was married off to the Byzantine Emperor John III Doukas Vatatzes.

·         Yolanda, daughter of William V, Marquis of Monferrat, was only eleven years old when she in AD 1284 was married off to the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus.

·         Simonis Palaeogina, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus, was only five years old when she in AD 1299 was married off to Miliutin, King of Serbia.

These people were not Bedouin tribesmen. They belonged to the jet set of Europe. Besides, they called themselves Christians and were living more than five hundred years after the time of Muhammad. And even more examples of this objectionable practice could be mentioned.

One may disagree with the theology of Islam and even believe that Muhammad was in error. One may also dislike his personal lifestyle. Still, while child marriages are not to be defended, we should bear in mind that if we in the West want to criticise the behaviour of people who are children of a different time and a different culture, we ought to take a look at our own past as well.

Otherwise we would easily look like hypocrites.

Source: John Julius Norwich, Byzantium – The Decline and Fall (London: Penguin Books, 1996), 157, 199, 258, 261.

About Antiochene

Writer and translatorliving in Antioch on the Orontes (Antakya, Turkey) and Copenhagen.
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