Rock and roll pioneer and notorious wild man Jerry Lee Lewis has died, and from the looks of some of the coverage of his death, the only noteworthy thing he did was marry his 13-year-old cousin when he was 22. The Los Angeles Times asked: What happened to Jerry Lee Lewis’ 13-year-old bride? She’s been here the whole time.” Newsweek went with “Jerry Lee Lewis Ex Myra Said She Never Lost ’13-Year-Old-Child-Bride’ Title.” In the New York Post, we got “How Jerry Lee Lewis’ career was ruined when he married his 13-year-old cousin.” And it’s true: Jerry Lee Lewis’ career was ruined, or at least severely derailed, by this marriage in 1957. This is an intriguing lesson in cultural differences, for in some parts of the world, no one would have looked twice at Jerry Lee Lewis’ marriage to a child. That’s because according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad, the prophet of Islam and “excellent example” for Muslims for all time, married a child himself.
Hadiths, that is, traditions of Muhammad’s words and deeds that are considered normative in Islamic law when judged authentic, record that Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad wedded her and nine when he consummated the marriage:
The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death) (Sahih Bukhari 7.62.88).
Another tradition has Aisha herself recount the scene:
The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (Sahih Bukhari 5.58.234).
Muhammad was at this time fifty-four years old. Sahih Bukhari is generally considered the most reliable (that’s what Sahih means) of all hadith collections. That is why many Muslim clerics today affirm that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with child marriage. Turkey’s directorate of religious affairs (Diyanet) said in January 2018 that under Islamic law, girls as young as nine can marry. Ishaq Akintola, professor of Islamic Eschatology and Director of Muslim Rights Concern in Nigeria, has said: “Islam has no age barrier in marriage and Muslims have no apology for those who refuse to accept this.” Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-‘Ubeidi, Iraqi expert on Islamic law, states: “There is no minimum marriage age for either men or women in Islamic law. The law in many countries permits girls to marry only from the age of 18. This is arbitrary legislation, not Islamic law.” Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, a prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, says: “There is no minimum age for marriage and that girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle.” Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology adds: “Islam does not forbid marriage of young children.”
Shi’ites agree. According to Amir Taheri in The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (pp. 90-91), Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini himself married a ten-year-old girl when he was twenty-eight. Khomeini called marriage to a prepubescent girl “a divine blessing,” and advised the faithful to give their own daughters away accordingly: “Do your best to ensure that your daughters do not see their first blood in your house.” When he took power in Iran, he lowered the legal marriageable age of girls to nine, in accord with Muhammad’s example.
Even more decisive for the acceptability of child marriage for Muslims is the Qur’an itself, which stipulates that the rules for divorcing women apply also to “those who do not yet menstruate” (65:4), indicating that the Muslim holy book regards both the marriage and divorce of prepubescent girls to be perfectly acceptable.
All this makes contemporary Islamic apologists in the West highly uncomfortable, for it renders their prophet and their religion vulnerable to charges that they allow for pedophilia and the sexual exploitation of children. Accordingly, they try various stratagems to give the impression that Islam does not actually allow for child marriage, although it is worth noting that these are universally deployed before non-Muslims, not to Muslims, thus giving the impression that their intention is more to deceive and foster complacency than to further reform efforts.
Among the most common of these stratagems is the claim that Islamic tradition actually teaches that Aisha was much older, but these always founder upon the reputation for reliability that Bukhari enjoys. If a different Islamic source contradicts Bukhari (and none actually do; the claims that Aisha is older are based not on outright statements to that effect, but highly tendentious and creative interpretation of various timelines), the presumption will always be that Bukhari is correct.
Recently, some Islamic apologists have resorted instead to disparaging the reliability of the Hadith as a whole, and thereby removing Aisha’s child marriage as a problem. On that score they’re on very firm ground. I demonstrate in Did Muhammad Exist? that the hadith in general date from two centuries after the time Muhammad is supposed to have lived, and that even in Islamic tradition, the overwhelming majority of them are considered inauthentic: of 600,000 hadith he collected, the imam Bukhari himself is said to have rejected 593,000 as fake. But to reject the hadith as a whole is exceedingly dangerous ground for the apologists to tread, as without this massive corpus, the Qur’an is, in the words of the renowned ex-Muslim scholar Ibn Warraq, “gnomic, allusive and elusive” in the extreme. Most of Islamic law and practice comes from the Hadith, and the Hadith also fills in the circumstances of various events (historical or not) that make sense of the Qur’an’s cryptic statements. Without the Hadith, the Qur’an is largely a collection of decontextualized fragments that often make little or no sense. Thus, like the farmer who rid his barn of mice by burning the barn down, the apologists who are hoping to solve the Aisha problem by rejecting the Hadith may end up doing nothing less than discrediting Islam as a whole.
And all of this is happening because of the increasing acceptance of the Western notion that child marriage harms girls emotionally and physically, an idea that torpedoed Jerry Lee Lewis’ once-meteoric career. It’s unlikely that, given his other vices, Jerry Lee would have been happier in Afghanistan, but at least there, no one would have looked askance at his marriage to young Myra. And if Jerry Lee, and Muhammad, had lived in our own insane age, they both could have shrugged off all objections with the Left’s catchall justification for pretty much any perversion the destructive heart of man has ever devised: “Love is love.”
Mo de Profit says
That’s why the leftist elites love islam, they are just as perverted.
J.J. Sefton says
“But Islamic apologists trying to explain away Muhammad’s child marriage put themselves in a tight spot.”
Phrasing, Robert. PHRASING!!!!
Angel Jacob says
Pedophilia was one of the muhammad’s lesser crimes compared to the murders and genocides.
Perhaps the focus on pedophilia, and then justifying it, is a strategy to distract from his psychopathic murderous personality.
Actually, it was not uncommon in the South for an adolescent female to marry at a very young age. Loretta Lynn, for example, whom we also lost recently, also married at 13. Was that a “scandal?” Nobody seems to think so. And she had a pretty good, if at times tempestuous, marriage to Mooney, replete with six kids, not to mention an excellent singing career.
I, for one, don’t support marriage at that young of an age. People should marry, at the youngest, at age 18. Finish education, live a little and be selective in the mate search. Being a single adult for several years isn’t a crime. But the torrent of contempt toward Jerry Lee Lewis in the wake of his death is out of bounds. It was his music that mattered most, even if his seven marriages — count ’em, seven — didn’t really work out.
Loretta was 15 when she married Oliver Doolittle Lynn. She called him Do.
Islamic law is screwy. I recall reading somewhere that an Islamic scholar responded to the question, what do you do if science proves that something in the Quran isn’t true? His answer was, we will reinterpret the meaning in the Quran to agree what is proven.
Phillip Galey says
Islamic “law” is a misnomer, . . . the imams simply do as they please and as voted in the affirmative, term the thing as ” Islamic law”.
Spurwing Plover says
Is it all possible to get a Liberal to talk without stammering?
Jerry Lee Lewis was a gifted musician and always performed a good show. I was listening to some of his tunes from the 50s and 60s today. Marrying his 13 years old cousin was a fatal mistake for his career. As to his being related to Jimmy Swaggert, well, hopefully the Lord was able to reach Jerry before he passed.
In the olden days, it was more common to marry uncommonly young, and sometimes to a cousin. Peoples lifespans were much shorter in general, with some exceptions. My grandmother from the South was 14 when she wed; born in 1917 and married in 1931. She was a wonderful, loving grandma, who gardened, made crafts, and brought the family together with outstanding holiday meals, including her unmatched coconut cream pie!
Islam seems to me to be another matter entirely. There are many things about that oppressive religion that repulse me, especially the forced marriages of child brides. 9 years old is way too young. I’m thankful that I was born in a Christian nation to Christian parents.