Child Marriage and Muhammad's Companions

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Alongside Muhammad himself, who consummated his marriage to nine year old Aisha when he was 54, his companions also engaged in child marriage.

Umar's Marriage to Umm Kulthum

Umar ibn al-Khattab was the 2nd Rightly Guided Caliph of Islam and married Umm Kulthum, the daughter of Ali ibn Abu Talib (the 4th Caliph), in 637–638 AD while she remained pre-pubescent, aged 10-12 years old (some sources suggest even younger). Umar was approximately 58 years old at the time.

'Umar asked 'Ali for the hand of his daughter, Umm Kulthum in marriage. 'Ali replied that she has not yet attained the age (of maturity). 'Umar replied, 'By Allah, this is not true. You do not want her to marry me. If she is underage, send her to me'. Thus 'Ali gave his daughter Umm Kulthum a dress and asked her to go to 'Umar and tell him that her father wants to know what this dress is for. When she came to Umar and gave him the message, he grabbed her hand and forcibly pulled her towards him. 'Umm Kulthum asked him to leave her hand, which Umar did and said, 'You are a very mannered lady with great morals. Go and tell your father that you are very pretty and you are not what he said of you'. With that 'Ali married Umm Kulthum to 'Umar.
Tarikh Khamees, Volume 2, p. 384 ('Dhikr Umm Kalthum') and Zakhair Al-Aqba, p. 168
Getting married at an early age is something that is confirmed by the book of Allah, the Sunnah of his Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam), the consensus of the scholars and the actions of the companions, and the Muslims who came after them...

There are many Ahadith which confirm that marriage at an early age was widespread among the companions and no one denied its permissibility. Getting married at an early age was not peculiar to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) as some people think, but it was general for him and for his Ummah.

The following are some of the actions of the Sahaba (companions):

1. Ali Ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, married his daughter, Um Kulthum to Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, and she mothered a child before the death of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam). Omar got married to her while she was young before reaching the age of puberty. This is reported by Ibn Saad in 'Al-Tabaqat'.

2. From Urwa Ibn Zubair: that Zubair, may Allah be pleased with him, married his daughter when she was very young. Reported by Saeed Ibn Mansour, in his Sunnah, and Ibn Abi Shaibah, in Al-musannaf, with a Sahih chain of narration.

Al-Shafie said in the book of Al-Um: "Many companions of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) married their daughters while these were still young."

Delaying the marriage of girls in many Muslim countries is something new and contradictory to what Muslims used to do over many centuries.
Child marriage in Islam
Islamweb, Fatwa No. 88089, June 24, 2004

Shi'ite viewpoint

The majority of Shi'ites acknowledge Umar's marriage to Umm Kulthum bint Ali.

The Shi'ite authors Muhammad Al-Hassun and Umm 'Ali Mashkur stated in their book A'lam al-Nisaa al-Mu'minat:

The marriage of Umm Kulthum to Umar ibn al-Khattab is counted amongst the important issues presented to us by Islamic history, and as one of those matters around which debate and research has continued at length—and still continues. Those who regard this marriage as an authentic fact use it to prove the righteousness of her husband [Umar] and Ali’s acceptance of him. Otherwise, why would he give him his daughter in marriage? As for those who reject the historic occurrence of the marriage, or are of the opinion that it took place under pressure which Umar brought to bear upon Ali use this issue to justify the unrighteousness and viciousness of Umar, and that Ali u did not approve of him[1]
A'lam al-Nisaa al-Mu'minat

Also, the famous Shi'ite website states the following in a commentary to the hadith in Furu al-Kafi:

[Regarding] Umm Khulthum, who is the daughter of Ameer al-Mu’mineen Ali, Umar proposed to Ali for her hand in marriage during his [Umar’s] caliphate, and at first Ali refused him. So then Umar said what he said, and did what he did [2]

The original Arabic text is: ام كلثوم هذه هى بنت امير المؤمنين عليه السلام قد خطبها اليه عمر في زمن خلافته فرده اولا فقال عمر ماقال وفعل مافعل

The Shi'ite scholar Abul Qasim al-Kufi (died 352 AH) also believed that it was Umm Kulthum bint Ali who married Umar, but stated that:

When Umar asked for the hand of Umm Kulthum, Ali thought to himself: "If I say no, that thing would come to pass which Rasul-Allah tried to prevent, and for which reason he asked me to exercise patience, which is that people will fall into apostacy". "Thus, it was better to hand over Umm Kulthum to him"
al-Istighathah fi Bida' ath-Thalathah, p.90

Shaykh Tabarsi also believed that Umm Kulthum bint Ali married Umar. He wrote the following in his book I‘lam al-Wara bi-A‘lam al-Huda:

As for Umm Kulthoom, she is the one whom Umar ibn al-Khattab married. Our associates say that he (Ali) only married her to him after putting up a lot of resistance, severe refusals and finding excuses. Ultimately he was forced by circumstances to turn her matter over to Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib who married her off.[3]
I‘lam al-Wara bi-A‘lam al-Huda - Shaykh Tabarsi

Other notable Shi'ite scholars who believed that the marriage took place are also:

  • Agha al-Tahrani [4]
  • Al-Hurr Al-'Amily [5]
  • Al-Muhaqqiq al-Ardabili [6]
  • Sheikh Abu Jaafar al-Tusi [7]
  • Fadil al-Hindi [8]
  • Mohamad Soleiman-Peneh [9]

While the above scholars believed that the marriage took place, all of them held the opinion that Imam Ali was forced to give away his daughter - not that he happily married her off, as claimed by the Ahl al-Sunnah.

Sunni viewpoint

Most Sunnis believe that it was Umm Kulthum bint Ali that married Umar, as stated by Sunni and Shi'ite narrations mentioned above. This view is, among many others, held by the following prominent Sunni scholars:

See Also

External Links


  1. “A‘lam an-Nisa al-Mu’minat” (p. 182) by Muhammad al-Hassun and Umm ‘Ali Mashkur
  3. I'lam al-Wara bi A'lam al-Huda by al-Tabarsi p.204
  4. Al-Dhari'ah 5:184
  5. Wasa'il al-Shi'a aal al-Bayt 15:19, 17:594, 21:263, 26:314
  6. Majmaa al-Fa’ida vol.11 p.530
  7. al-Mabsut vol.4 p.272
  8. Kashf al-Litham vol 2 pp.312
  9. Mohammad Soleiman Panah - Silence of Imam Ali (AS) - 'Aalim Network QR, May 10, 1996
  10. Tarikh al-Yaqubi vol. 2 pp.260
  11. Tarikh al-Madina vol 2 p654
  12. Tarikh al-Saghir vol. 1 p. 102
  13. Ma'arif p. 107
  14. Sunan al-Kubra vol. 4 p. 33
  15. Siyar Aalam al-Nubalaa 5:22-24
  16. Tahdhib al-Asmaa wa al-Lughat 2:267 #1219
  17. al-Hawi lil Fatawa 2:179
  18. Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah vol. 8 p. 14
  19. Tarikh Dimasqh|Tarikh al Dimashq 42:555
  20. Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain, by Hakim al-Nishaburi|al-Hakim al-Nishaburi, 3/142
  21. al-Istiab fi ma'rifat al-Ashab vol 4 p 509