The Prophet Muhammad Oxford study sheds light on Muhammad's "underage" wife Aisha
As a historian of early and medieval Islam, the Oxford University scholar Joshua Little spends much of his time studying old texts – yet his trailblazing research has real-world significance in the here and now. Few aspects of the life of the Prophet Muhammad stir as much debate and controversy as the claim he married his third wife, Aisha, while she was a minor. It is into this explosive terrain that Little has chosen to wade, with results that may change our understanding of Islamic history.
Earlier this year, protests erupted in various Muslim-majority countries after two officials of the BJP, India's ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist party, made disparaging comments about Muhammad, to the effect that he married and had sex with an underage girl.
A decade ago, the Islamophobic film "Innocence of Muslims", which similarly depicted Muhammad as a pedophile, caused not only global protests and riots but also political rows between countries. The alleged child bride of Islam's prophet is invoked by anti-Muslim critics of all stripes – Hindu nationalists, Christian polemicists and atheists – as well as by some Muslim fundamentalists. However, according to Little's unpublished doctoral thesis – which he recently defended successfully – the charge is without foundation. According to Little's findings, the report of Aisha's young marital age is an eighth-century historical fabrication.
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