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Marital Paedophilia

INTRODUCTION

This is a rebuttal to an e-book titled: Rebuttal to Correct Marriageable Age in Sikhism that was quietly published on the Sikh Sangat forum and attributed to the defunct website www.SikhingTruth.com (inactive).

Sikhing Truth’s rebuttal to our original question: “Provide us with a clear proof from Sri Guru Granth Sahib [SGGS] that establishes when the right time for marriage is”, is, in fact, a response to the accusation made by Sikhs that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was a paedophile. In responding to this particular paper, both Sikhing Truth and Sikh Sangat for publishing this paper are, in effect, defending the claim that the Prophet was a paedophile.

SECOND GUESSING GOD

By cherry picking, Sikhing Truth has committed the Fallacy of Isolation by taking this question out of context in regards to the charge of paedophilia. The context of the above question is what really matters and, more importantly, what it implies. Although Sikhing Truth are careful in not using the term paedophile or paedophilia, perhaps realising what a pickle they would find themselves in if they did, they are, nonetheless, explicit in their objection to the consummation of marriage with children:

It is accepted from both oral traditions of the Sikhs and the Hukamnamas of the Sikh Gurus that they did not accept the harmful social customs of society and they did discourage child marriage involving consummation of marriage with children …. (p.6)

The problem with this line of reasoning is that, firstly, the term “children” or “child” has been left undefined thereby committing the Freshman Fallacy. How Sikhing Truth defines these terms and what type of reasoning and evidences it forwards to make the important differentiation between a child and an adult has been conveniently overlooked.

Secondly, if the argument against Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to ‘A’ishah rests exclusively on consummating a marriage with a child, then this is a strawman. And this certainly seems to be the case given that Sikhing Truth has no qualms with child marriages per se:

In India however, child marriage did not consist of old men marrying minors and instead consisted of 2 young children getting married which is still prevalent in certain parts of India such as Rajasthan. In addition the marriage of 2 children did not involve consummation of the marriage until several years later. (bold ours, p.6)

This is further supported in the conclusion wherein Sikhing Truth affirms:

As we can see all the Gurus who married (except Guru Har Krishan as he was a child) were married at a young age and so were their wives. …

In many cases, engagements were held at 8-12 years of age. The wedding was performed a couple of years after the engagement (10-14 years). Then after the wedding, it would take several years (16+) for the bride to move in with her in-laws and live there and this is when the marriage would be consummated. (bold, underline ours, p.9)

And the reason why this is a strawman is because we clearly stated in our original article:

The next question we ask is:

At what age is it deemed permissible and correct to marry and consummate marriage?

Islam states that a woman is ready for marriage when her body is ready to bear children, i.e. when she reaches puberty and starts her menstrual cycle.

Although no one succeeded in picking up on this, we are compelled to acknowledge, on the basis of being truthful in all matters and in swiftly rectifying mistakes openly and honestly, that this original argument was slightly errant (and has now been appropriately amended) in that the Shari’ah (divine legislation) holds that the consummation of marriage can only take place when the woman is physically mature enough not to be harmed. This physical maturity is known through the following characteristics:

  • When pubic hair grows around the private parts.
  • When vaginal lubrication (maniy) begins to be emitted.
  • When she starts to menstruate.

The basic point is that unlike Sikhism where the Gurus apparently merely “discourage[d] child marriage involving consummation of marriage with children”, Islam was strict in specifically prohibiting the consummation of a marriage with children on the basis of the fundamental Shari’ah (divinely legislative) principle derived from the statement of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

There should be neither harm (darar) nor reciprocating harm (diraar). [1]

Hence, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) only consummated the marriage with ‘A’ishah when she was mature enough so as to guarantee not harming her, which for her was the age of nine. For others, of course, it could be much later in age.

Having put to bed this strawman and before moving on to the only remaining reason for Sikhing Truth’s objection, let us firstly deal with its answer to the following point we originally posed:

There is not a single verse in Guru Granth Sahib that answers the above question (regarding marriageable age for girls). Hence, the Guru’s silence is an acceptance of the social customs of marriage during their time, since if it was wrong, it is safe to assume they would have forbidden it and castigated the practitioners. However, any Sikh looking to contradict the silence of the Gurus is not only claiming greater knowledge than them, but also implying their silent acceptance of such marriages was wrong and that these new post-modern Sikhs are correct.

Sikhing Truth indirectly acknowledges that not a single SGGS edict exists in answering the questions to when the right age for marriage is and, more significantly, how great the age difference should be before marriages are deemed forbidden, by resorting to the use of “both oral traditions of the Sikhs and the Hukamnamas of the Sikh Gurus … [who] did not accept the harmful social customs of society and they did discourage child marriage involving consummation of marriage with children” (p.6).

However, if the Gurus only discouraged child marriages on the sole basis of consummation, then this is a moot point given that Islam preceded the Gurus by almost a millennium in establishing this noble rule. This only leaves the discrepancy over the timing of the marriage vis-á-vis consummation.

As we mentioned in our original article, one of the reasons why Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) married ‘A’ishah at such a young age was out of expediency so as to consolidate the bonds of brotherhood within the ranks of a community that was oppressed and under constant physical and emotional duress at the hands of the powers that be. It is well known that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not marry anyone as young thereafter, though he could have readily done so if he wanted, which ultimately serves as a definitive medical proof against the accusation of him being a paedophile. On this basis, he married her and delayed consummating the marriage for three years until she was physically ready. It served no purpose vis-á-vis strengthening the ties of brotherhood by staving off marriage nor in unnecessarily delaying consummation after ‘A’ishah’s maturation.

According to Sikhing Truth:

Historically in the Punjab, there were three big functions connected with a marriage which included the Engagement, Wedding and Muklawa. Big gatherings and singings were held at all these three functions. In many cases, engagements were held at 8-12 years of age. The wedding was performed a couple of years after the engagement (10-14 years). Then after the wedding, it would take several years (16+) for the bride to move in with her in-laws and live there and this is when the marriage would be consummated. (p.9)

This socio-cultural rule of delaying marriage and consummation seems to be arbitrary. What practical purpose would it serve delaying consummation if the bride had already reached maturity by the age of nine? If anything, such a delay could work against the very wisdom behind the institution of marriage, which is to protect people from falling into illicit sexual relations, by placing the newly married couple in an unnecessarily hazardous position. Is this ill-conceived methodology based on common sense, logic or even science? Certainly not; perhaps it was dreamed up by someone having one of those mysterious subjective divine experiences!

Importantly, no reference or direct citation is given from any oral tradition as evidence to substantiate Sikhing Truth’s claim. Instead, Dr Upinder Jit Kaur is cited as saying that “[c]hild marriage was discouraged” by the sixth Guru, Hargobind. But this is neither here nor there because Upinder is not quoted as defining what she understands by the term “child”. Would she consider both Mata Gujari and Guru Tegh Bahadur, who married at the respective ages of nine and twelve, to be “children”?

This finally leaves us with Sikhing Truth’s only remaining objection: the age difference between Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and ‘A’ishah:

It was almost alien in Indian society to have someone as old as a grandfather to marry someone as young as his grand daughter. (p.7)

We believe Sikhing Truth meant “someone as young as a grand daughter” and not “his grand daughter” since a grandfather marrying his granddaughter would have most plausibly been forbidden or at least a serious social taboo in India at that time. Anyway, Sikhing Truth continues:

So in summary the Gurus did speak against child marriage and were NOT silent about it. The only people in India who may have done this could have been the foreign Islamic community living in India. (p.7)

Looking past the cheap shot, Sikhing Truth needs to be consistent: do they mean the Gurus spoke against the consummation of marriage with children or child marriages per se, since they are not one and the same thing. If they spoke out against child marriages per se, then Sikhing Truth must reconcile this with both the definition of the term “child”, which they failed to do, and the many child marriages that took place throughout India including Guru Tegh Bahadur’s marriage to nine year old Mata Gujari.

CONCLUSION

Sikhing Truth concludes:

  • The Sikh Gurus and their wives did marry young but they were both of similar age.
    The age gap was not 40+ years. [2]

Hence, we look forward to Sikhing Truth objectively proving why this was wrong.

  • The marriages between the Gurus and their wives were consummated when they were physically, mentally and emotionally developed and the Muklawa marked the conclusion of the marriage ceremony.

The same is true of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and ‘A’ishah.

  • As a side note the Gurus did not marry wives belonging to their son-in-laws or have intercourse with concubines. These things could never be associated with Godly people. (p.10)

These two points and those related to the alleged “[o]utdated rules within Quaran [sic] and Hadiths” are all red herrings and, therefore, irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

As we saw, Sikhing Truth conveniently failed to provide a definition of the word “child”.

They also built a strawman by arguing that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah) consummated his marriage to ‘A’ishah who was at the time a child. This is false on the basis that the marriage was consummated only when she was physically mature.

Unlike the claim that the Gurus merely “discourage[d] child marriage involving consummation of marriage with children”, Islam went one step further to strictly prohibit such an action on the basis of the fundamental Shari’ah principle:

There should be neither harm (darar) nor reciprocating harm (diraar). [3]

Sikhing Truth failed to furnish evidence from their oral tradition to prove that the Gurus were not silent over the issue of what constitutes the correct age of marriage and, more relevantly, what constitutes a legitimate marital age gap. Instead, this silence forces the Sikhs to second-guess God’s moral law through the tenuous reasoning that since Sikhs are connected to their “primal core (God)”, all their moral “decisions when performed with oneness are divine by default because God himself guides his beloved congregation”. The problem, as previously mentioned, is that this is connected by Sikhing Truth’s criteria of common sense, logic and science.

Hence, in regards to the veritable age difference between the Prophet and ‘A’ishah, how does Sikhing Truth objectively prove the falsity of a designated age gap for marriage?

Sikhing Truth claims:

So again it is yet another non argument to suggest that if the Gurus as young men/boys married young women/girls of similar age that it is automatically morally acceptable for Prophet Muhammad at the age of 50+ to marry a girl of 6 and consummate his marriage with her when she was 9.

On what basis is this moral judgement deemed to be true? If it is based on social customs then Sikhing Truth will have to objectively show that the moral norms underpinning society during the time of the 10 Gurus was superior and more correct than the moral norms practiced during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him). It will be interesting to see how they intend to do this through their three-fold criteria of: common sense, logic and science!

Additionally, how does common sense prove that the age gap between the Prophet and ‘A’ishah was wrong or sinful? Is there any logical argument or scientific proof for this?

We look forward to their response.

Subhanakallaahuma wa bi hamdika, ash-Shahaadu al-Laa ilaaha illa Ant, astaghfiruka wa atoobu ilayka.

[1] N. Al-Albaani, As-Silsilatul Ahaadeeth As-Saheehah, 250.

[2] In our original article: Charge of Paedophilia, the following question posed has been satisfactorily answered by Sikhing Truth and, thus, removed:

We end with these simple questions that have remained unanswered by Sikhs since we published this article in 2006:

  • How old were the wives of the Gurus when they married? How old was Sulakhni when Guru Nanak married her?

6.1.1 Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Mata Sulakhani Ji
http://www.sikhpoint.com/religion/sikhcommunity/Sulakhni.htm
https://www.allaboutsikhs.com/gurus-family-members/bibi-sulakhni

Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born in 1469 and was engaged in 1485. He was married 2 years later in 1487. Guru Nanak was 18 (1487-1469) years old at the time of marriage. Mata Sulakhani was born in 1473 and was 14 (1487-1473) when she was married to Guru Nanak 

6.1.2 Guru Angad Dev Ji and Mata Khivi Ji
http://www.allaboutsikhs.com/Sikh-History/Today-in-Sikh-History-31st-March.html
http://www.sikhlionz.com/matakhiviji.htm

Guru Angad Dev was born on March 31, 1504 and married Mata Khivi Ji in 1519. Guru Angad was 15 (1519 – 1504) years old at the time of his marriage Mata Khivi Ji was also born in 1504 and was also 15 when she was married  

6.1.3 Guru Amar Das Ji and Mata Mansa Devi Ji

Guru Amar Das Ji was born in the village of Basarke on May 5, 1479 and he was married at the age of 24. Mata Mansa Devi Ji is considered to be a similar age to Guru Amar Das Ji when they were married

6.1.4 Guru Ram Das Ji and Bibi Bhani Ji
http://www.sikhworld.co.uk/page29.html  

Guru Ram Das was born on September 24, 1534 and married at age 20 (1554-1534) on 18th February 1554
Bibi Bhani ji was born on 19 January 1535 and married at the age of 19
 

6.1.5 Guru Arjan Dev Ji and Mata Ganga Ji
https://searchgurbani.com/gurus/guruarjun
http://members.dancris.com/~sikh/chap07.html

Siri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was born on April 15, 1563 and married in 1589 at the age of 26
The birth date of Mata Ganga is not known
 

6.1.6 Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and Mata Nanaki Ji
http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Hargobind
http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Mata_Nanaki  

Guru Hargobind Sahib was born on 19 June 1595 and married in 1613 at the age of 18
Mata Nanaki was born in 1598 and married at the age of 15
 

6.1.7 Guru Har Rai Ji and Mata Kishan Kaur Ji
http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Har_Rai  

Guru Har Rai was born in 26 February 1630 and was married on 19 June 1640 at the age of 10 to Mata Kishan Kaur Ji. Bhai Har Rai became Guru Hari Rai at the age of 14 and two sons were born from this marriage, Ram Rai was born in 1646 when the Guru was 16 years old and Har Krishan was born in 1656, when Guru was 26 years old.  

6.1.8 Guru Tegh Bahadur and Mata Gujari ji
http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php?title=Mata_Gujri  

Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was born on the 1st April 1621 and was married in 1633 at the age of 12 and became Guru in 1665 at the age of 44.
Mata Gujari Ji was born in 1624 and was married at the age of 9 to the Guru.
Mata Gujri had her one and only son in the year 1666 at the age of 44.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Mata Sundari Ji
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gobind  

Guru Gobind Singh was born on the 22nd of December 1666 and was married in 1684 at the age of 18 Mata Sundari Ji was a similar age when she was married to him. (pp.8-9)
During the time of the Gurus, how old, on average, were Muslim, Hindu and Sikh women during their betrothal?

In India however, child marriage did not consist of old men marrying minors and instead consisted of 2 young children getting married which is still prevalent in certain parts of India such as Rajasthan. In addition the marriage of 2 children did not involve consummation of the marriage until several years later. (p.6)

Answer these two questions, O Sikhs, if you are truthful, objective, and seek to have a serious academic discussion on this subject.

[3] N. Al-Albaani, op. cit.

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