Child Sexual Assault, Child Marriage, Society, Religion and the Law, Part II
It is awkward to address this issue in some parts of the Islamic world, when Muslim tradition holds that Mohammed married Aisha when she was 6 for the same justifications, portrayed as altruistic in the texts, due to the poverty of her wards and so that she could be fed. (Although why she couldn’t just have been fed is a mystery.) It’s going to be tough to get traditional religious observers in much of the Muslim world to behave differently than the exemplars and paradigms modelled in the traditional sacred texts and meta-narratives of their religion, especially those exalted and/or privileged in the equation — like the exclusively empowered males in most Muslims societies worldwide, or like the village elder and cleric in this instance.
The majority of traditional sources state that Aisha was betrothed to Muhammad at the age of six, but that she stayed with her mother until she was nine, when the marriage was consummated in Medina with the 53 year-old Mohammed. It is also portrayed as altruistic that the Prophet let her continue to play with her toys, as she was still just a little girl, and that he sometimes played with her. The narratives of both the adult Aisha and her mother agree as to all the details, dates and ages involved.
From Part I of this series: “Most of the traditions surrounding Aisha’s age when married and deflowered are from the Hadiths. There is a wonderfully authentic, and terribly sad, account by Aisha herself, and also one by her mother, which describe how the mother left the little girl outside the Prophet’s house so she could play, while she went in to arrange the consummation, then sent her daughter in to be deflowered. Both accounts are simply and believably given, and agree in all the main points, such as the child’s age. Both accounts describe an unconscionable act from the standpoint of the girl child and her mother. This is all part of the literature.”
Some feminist historians theorize that the alopecia Aisha is documented to have suffered after her ‘deflowering’ was the result of shock and trauma around her sexual treatment at the hands of the Prophet. Again, the sayings of Aisha and her mother are not ‘facts,’ but cultural artifacts and cultural evidence. The only “fact” in evidence is that someone (not the Prophet, not Aisha, nor her mother) wrote something down — the “sayings” or Hadiths. Most were composed long after they were all dead, around 50–200 years after in actual “fact,” as was the Koran. But the Hadiths concerning Aisha were written down immediately after the Prophet’s death, much closer in time to the events being recounted, when Aisha and her mother were still alive and could give their own first-hand accounts. Both Aisha’s and her mother’s accounts in the Hadiths agree in every detail as to the age of Aisha at both her marriage and her deflowering.
Mohammed had run the caravan of his first, older, wealthy wife, Khadija, all through the Levant, north to Syria and beyond and back again, in seasonal circuits, for many years. He increased her wealth with good management and honesty, gaining a good reputation in Mecca. In the north, he witnessed the patriarchal (and, to his mind, orderly, seemly, and male-privileging) social organization of Jews and Christians, Zoroastrians and Manichaeans. He made observations, absorbed their logics, sacred narratives, and origin stories. So, when he retired from public life and became a contemplative, these were the nature of his revelations in the cave with Gibreel. His (by then) elderly wife was his first ‘follower’; she bankrolled his enterprise and the fledgling community. He was illiterate, so the recitations given in the Koran were part of an oral tradition, only written down by subsequent generations of Muslim scholars, starting at around 50 years after his death.
Mohammed had learned of Christ’s harrowing of Hell and ascent into Heaven to sit at the right side of God the Father from popularized early Christian narrations he contacted during his travels in the Levant, but there exists in practically every legitimate shamanic tradition of the Old World the wonder tale of the magical journey throughout the three worlds (lower world, middle world, and upper world) upon the Tree of Life (axial tent pole or celestial ladder, like Jacob’s Ladder in the Old Testament), documented in tribal cultures like the Prophet’s (or Jacob’s) since prehistoric times. Such tales serve to validate the magical/spiritual power, or sacrality, of the prophet or shaman, deity or seer.
It is these narratives — from the Hadiths, the Sunna, and the Koran, not some recent 20th or 21st century scholarly reconstructions and analyses — that are taught in the traditional madrassas across Islam. They are taught by the Wahabists in Saudi Arabia, and by the clerics in fundamentalist Islamic states like rural Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran — which is to say the traditional or fundamentalist Islamic societies, following some version of Sharia Law, where child marriages and abductions still happen. Specifically, in reference to the sad atrocity of the story above, it is common, not rare — a custom, not a fluke. It is not recognized as an abuse, much less an atrocity, in these places where it is practiced, but as traditional and even virtuous, recommended on the best authority, like that of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who said, “It is a beautiful thing when a girl has her first menstruation in the house of her husband,” meaning that it is ideal if she is married BEFORE puperty — or like the example of the Muslim cleric and community elder featured in the account above. And such events are bound to continue to be an issue when you have popular and beloved, hugely sentimentalized Hadiths like this one on the use of toys, or dolls, which are sometimes construed as idolatrous human representations, by girl children: “Aisha reported: I used to play with dolls in the presence of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and my girlfriends would play with me. When the Prophet entered, they would hide themselves but he would call them to join me and play with me.” (Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5779, ‘Sahih’ (authentic) according to Al-Bukhari)
Child marriage is quite simply a feature of foundational Islamic texts and scripture, ascribed to the Prophet in his relations with Aisha, and it is construed as a religious practice in those backward Muslim societies that are ideologically and technologically mired in the past. These are some of the Hadiths recounting the tradition of Aisha’s child marriage to the Prophet:
Narrated Hisham’s father: Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married ‘Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old.
Sahih Bukhari 5:58:236
Narrated ‘Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).
Sahih Bukhari 7:62:64
Narrated ‘Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that ‘Aisha remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).” what you know of the Quran (by heart)’
Sahih Bukhari 7:62:65
Narrated ‘Ursa: 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
Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet was screening me with his Rida’ (garment covering the upper part of the body) while I was looking at the Ethiopians who were playing in the courtyard of the mosque. (I continued watching) till I was satisfied. So you may deduce from this event how a little girl (who has not reached the age of puberty) who is eager to enjoy amusement should be treated in this respect.
Sahih Bukhari 7:62:163
Traditional and scriptural accounts of Mohammed tell of his descent into Hell to witness the tortures of the damned sinners and his ascent into Heaven to stand before the Throne of Allah, riding on the back of the winged centaur with head and neck of a woman, Al-Buraq. In the famous ‘Night Journey of Mohammed,’ he is portrayed as having descended to Hell from the Dome of the Rock, where the Al Aqsa mosque now stands. The Al Aqsa is the oldest mosque, located where the first two Temples of Solomon are said to have stood, and where Evangelical Fundamentalist Christians believe the Third Solomonic Temple is to be built again in the near future, after Israel has triumphed over the Palestinians, the Iranians, and all their enemies. The Third Temple will briefly stand, only to be eliminated from the face of the Earth, along with all the Jews and other apostates, at the Second Coming of Christ in the Apocalypse, according to the Revelations of John in the New Testament. And, of course, not everything one reads in religious texts is factually true — but by traditional, poor, hungry, desperate, rural or otherwise uneducated men and boys being radicalized and politicized in Whabist or ISIL madrassas, Koranic accounts of thousands of ‘virgins’ for the conquering Islamic warriors in Paradise, with rivers of wine (otherwise haram, or forbidden), milk and honey, such accounts (especially in religious texts, especially in Fundamentalist, terroristic regimes, especially where there is need) are TAKEN as true.
Patriarchal theological texts such as these, which lie at the foundations of the Abrahamic, Judeo-Christian tradition, which includes Islam as one of the Three Main Orthodoxies, tracing its lineage from Abraham and Ishmael, with Moses and Christ as prophets who preceded Mohammed, are the reason we abide in Rape Culture as a tacit, unstated but dominant ideology. It is why child marriage is so tenacious in the States in fundamentalist Evangelical Christian and Mormon communities, and why it still occurs, as here, in the underdeveloped rural regions of Islam, or among the fundamentalist branches of the Islamic State — ISIL and Iran as prime examples who follow Sharia Law — or Saudi Arabia, where the fundamentalist Wahabist Muslim religious establishment governs through terror in all but name.
The child pictured above is 12. She had experienced puberty, which is referred as justification for Child Marriage in many patriarchal traditions. But, again, that is not the point. She is a child, a legal minor, and “marriage” or sex with her is a crime. It doesn’t matter what precedents there may be, what toxic religious beliefs, values or practices, patriarchs, prophets or proponents there may be for the crime of child sexual assault. And, as stated elsewhere, I am not the least interested in any attempts to legitimize the criminal inhumane practice by citing 7th, 8th and 9th century ‘holy’ traditions, justifications and accounts. As I have also stated elsewhere:
“Though current story lines portray torture, pillage, and rapine as the especial tactics of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militias, such violent dominance and control strategies have in fact been staples of organized warfare for as long as the institution has existed. It seems important to point out what fundamentally needs to be understood about the West’s historic, institutionalized forms of Rape Culture, before we go into shock over the behaviour of a ‘foreign’ system most of the world agrees to uphold in its less aggressive forms.” (Yvonne Owens, ‘Re-Intentioning Our World: Biblical Rape Culture and The Onus of Being a Conscious Top Predator,’ Coreopsis Journal, Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 2019)
The contemporary term ‘pedophile’ may be anachronistic and not really apply in the case of historical or scriptural accounts, but contemporaneous readings of Mohammed’s statements concerning and behaviour toward Aisha are just plain weird by modern standards, and do indeed tend to sentimentalize what modern assessments would categorize as a pedophilic disposition. Similar sentiments as to ‘purity’ are expressed in the Old Testaments in Mosaic texts like Numbers, Kings, Deuteronomy and Leviticus whereby male followers of Yahweh are enjoined to abduct, rape, and enter into sex slavery or concubinage girl children, which also begs the question of Moses’ pedophilic disposition in modern terms, as the preferred method for avoiding ‘pollution.’ “Kill all the men and all the boys, and all the women who have known a man, but the virgin girl children, who have not known a man, these you keep for yourselves.” (Numbers 31)
“In Mosaic Law (which also provides the basis for Sharia Law via Islam’s Judeo-Christian roots as an Abrahamic tradition), throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the only ‘Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of your ____” (fill in the blank) not accounted for is that of “daughter.” The omission is glaringly conspicuous by its absence, tacitly proffering unimpeded sexual and other access to any and all females, including infant ones, and perhaps, even, particularly one’s daughter, to dominant males. This is the hidden perk proffered dominant males in patriarchy, which — in anthropological terms, is a classic, text-book Cattle Cult — where females are chattel, which is to say ‘property,’ property being an aspect of territory, the ownership, domination and control of which is the whole point of aggressive patriarchy in practice. This ‘tradition’ is the reason why it has recently been ratified as permissible under Sharia Law in Iran for a man to marry his stepdaughter, like Woody Allen did under American Civil Law.”